Posts Tagged ‘California’

Your Track to Health lists resources for those affected by wildfires

Intense wildfires have affected thousands of people in California, including SMART Transportation Division members.

To help assist those who have had their lives impacted by these disasters, Your Track to Health has compiled a list of services and information for behavioral health, prescription providers, vision, dental and health insurance resources and counseling.

To see the entire list, visit this link.

Smaller transit agencies burning through funds as shutdown goes on

With the partial federal government shutdown in its 35th day on Jan. 25, many small- to mid-sized transit agencies are reporting a financial pinch, reports.

Agencies in North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona and California all say that cuts in service are on the table if the shutdown persists.

And at least one transit provider, Cape Fear Public Transportation Agency in Wilmington, N.C., is considering a plan to not operate in February because of a lack of funds. Its executive director reports that Federal Transit Administration (FTA) reimbursements for the first four months of the fiscal year have not been processed with each reimbursement representing a quarter of its monthly operating budget.

But even if the shutdown ended soon, it would not guarantee that the payments would arrive to fund operations, executive director Albert Eby told

Read the full story at

Calif. governor signs two-person train crew bill into law

two-person_crewGovernor Jerry Brown of California September 8, 2015, signed into law bipartisan legislation requiring that all freight trains and light engines are operated by a crew of at least two individuals.

SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director, John Risch, praised the new law: “I am very pleased that California has joined Wisconsin, Arizona and West Virginia in adopting these sensible requirements. This is a matter of public safety, plain and simple. Freight railroad operations are complex and often entail the transport of highly hazardous materials, such as crude oil, chlorine gas and many other chemicals; two crew members are vital to ensuring that these trains are operated safely and our communities are secure.”

Risch also praised those responsible for crafting and passing the legislation: “Many thanks go to Senator Lois Wolk for her sponsorship and to J.P. Jones and Mike Anderson of the SMART Transportation Division California State Legislative Board for their work explaining the importance of this legislation to California lawmakers.”

The law is supported by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which reports that of all the industries subject to its oversight – energy, water, telecommunications and transportation – rail accidents result in the greatest number of fatalities each year. In advocating for the bill, CPUC Deputy Director of the Office of Rail Safety, Paul King, said, “Senator Wolk’s bill would ensure that freight trains continue to have the safety redundancy that a second person provides. Such redundancy is a fundamental safety principle that is evidenced in certain industries, such as using two pilots in an airplane cockpit, or requiring back-up cooling systems for nuclear reactors.”

Congressman Don Young of Alaska has introduced legislation at the federal level – H.R. 1763, the Safe Freight Act – which would similarly require that all freight trains are operated by a minimum of two individuals, a certified conductor and a certified engineer. On April 14, 2015,

H.R. 1763 was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Railroads sue California over new crude oil rules

oil-train-railCalifornia’s two major railroad companies have filed suit in federal court challenging a state law requiring railroads to come up with an oil spill prevention and response plan.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento, contends federal laws largely prohibit states from imposing safety rules on railroads such as the ones California began imposing July 1 of this year. The plaintiffs in the matter are the Union Pacific Railroad, the BNSF and the Association of American Railroads.

Read the complete story at The Sacramento Bee.

House votes against California high speed rail

high_speed_rail_1WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans this week are trying to drive another spike, or two, into the heart of California’s high-speed rail program.

Daring a presidential veto, GOP lawmakers are deploying a Fiscal 2015 transportation funding bill to effectively block the federal Surface Transportation Board from issuing new permits for the California project.

Hammering home the point, House Republicans on Tuesday approved an amendment by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., that blocks any money from the $52 billion bill from going to California high-speed rail.

Read the complete story from Miami Herald

High-speed rail in Calif., Northeast moving forward

High-speed rail has been given an energy-boosting vitamin B-12 shot by the California legislature and Amtrak for separate projects on the West and East Coasts.

In California, the legislature agreed to spend $6 billion to build the first 130-mile leg of a 520-mile high-speed line – with an estimated cost of some $68 billion — that eventually will connect Sacramento with San Francisco and Los Angeles. Gov. Jerry Brown, who has staked his political reputation on high-speed rail for California, is expected to sign the spending bill into law.

In Washingotn, D.C., Amtrak announced a formal vision for 220-mph travel along the entire Northeast Corridor.

This first 130-mile leg of California high-speed rail, in California’s Central Valley, will connect Madera with Bakersfield. Previously, California voters authorized a $9.95 billion bond measure as a down-payment on the projected $68 billion route, with the U.S. Department of Transportation providing $3.2 billion in federal grants. The funds voted by the state legislature will come from bond sales and be mated with already approved $3.2 billion in federal grants to total $5.8 billion for the Central Valley leg of the project.

The New York Times reported in November 2011:

“[While] for many Californians, struggling through a bleak era that has led some people to wonder if the state’s golden days are behind it, this project goes to the heart of the state’s pioneering spirit, recalling grand public investments in universities, water systems, roads and parks that once defined California as the leading edge of the nation.

“[Gov. Brown] has enthusiastically embraced the plan, no matter that at 73, he seems unlikely to be around for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that is projected to be more than 20 years away. ‘California’s high-speed rail project will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, linking California’s population centers and avoiding the huge problems of massive airport and highway expansion,’ Mr. Brown said.”

President Obama has been the strongest proponent of high-speed rail advances in America, advocating a nationwide 17,000-mile network of high-speed and higher-speed trains that could provide 80 percent of the American population access to train travel by 2036.

Amtrak, meanwhile, unveiled its formal vision for 220-mile train travel – by 2040 – along the 438-mile Northeast Corridor linking Washington, D.C. with Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

The $151 billion improvement plan over the decades-long period of construction would require substantial federal and state financial support to assure – on “NextGen” named trains — 94 minute travel times between Washington, D.C., and New York and between New York and Boston. The Washington-New York trip current requires almost three-hours travel time and almost four hours between New York and Boston.

Some 40,000 new construction jobs annually, for 25 years, would result, says Amtrak.

Amtrak’s vision includes direct rail links to airports at Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., and White Plains, N.Y.

“The vision we will shape with the Northeastern states, Amtrak and all of our stakeholders will outlast the vagaries of politics, budgets and critics,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo.

Baffoni: LACMTA negotiations underway

By Vic Baffoni
Vice president, Bus Department

Negotiations are underway on UTU’s largest bus property, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA).

The UTU negotiating committee, headed by General Chairperson James A. Williams, exchanged contract proposals March 19 with the LACMTA negotiating team.

The first negotiating session was held April 9, and dates have been set for additional meetings. The current contract expires June 30.

A difficult financial climate in California will be an important factor in negotiations.

UTU goals include the closing of wage tiers, protecting current work rules, and preserving of one of the transit industry’s finest health-care and pension packages.

Affected UTU members were sent a comparison of the proposals, with the general committee pledging to protect the members and their families.