Southern California environment news and trends

California cities rank on new U.S. public transportation list

Expo Line Test Run

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

The Exposition Line train at the La Cienega/Jefferson station after finishing a test run.

According to a new report, five California locales placed among the top 25 American cities for public transportation.

The rankings were determined by exceedingly useful website Walk Score through a series of calculations resulting in a “Transit Score” which “measures how well a location is served by public transportation, and is based on data released in a standard open format by public transit agencies.”

In California, San Francisco rated the highest, coming in second overall with a transit score of 80, just one point behind the top-rated city of New York. Los Angeles just missed the top ten, scoring the 11th spot just behind Portland, OR and ahead of Milwaukee, WI. Walks Score considers L.A. the 13th most “walkable” city in America, citing downtown L.A., Koreatown and Mid-City as the best neighborhoods for getting around on foot. Los Angeles is sure to rank even higher on the site’s next survey, given the completion of the new L.A. Metro Expo Line that recently opened for service.


San Mateo County ready to ban plastic bags

Mercer 10060

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Taking a cue from the current battle being waged in San Francisco over plastic bags, San Mateo Country is arranging for an outside firm to conduct a full environmental impact report before moving forward on their own bag-banning legislation.

As we reported earlier this week, a coalition of plastic bag manufacturers filed suit against San Francisco for adopting an ordinance outlawing the use of plastic bags at most retail establishments. The Save The Plastic Bag Coalition is suing on the grounds that the city did so without conducting an environmental study and claiming exemption.

According to the Mercury News, the initial San Mateo draft ban would only apply to establishments in unincorporated areas, but a wide range of cities in the county have already said they would be open to considering similar bans.


Plastic bag coalition fights back at San Francisco ban


In 2007, San Francisco was the first city in America to ban those pesky (and ubiquitous) plastic bags. Targeting large supermarkets and chain drugstores, the ban was expanded earlier this year to include a wider range of retailers and impose a 10-cent tax on all outgoing single bags. Plastic bag manufacturers have had enough.

As reported by Courthouse News Service, the Plastic Bag Coalition (made up of big plastic bag producers like Crown Poly) is asking the city of San Francisco to invalidate the entire law banning single-use plastic bags, claiming that it violates the California Environmental Quality Act and the California Retail Food Code, among other complaints.

“A 10-cent fee is, or may be, far too low to act as an effective incentive to promote the use of reusable bags,” argued attorney Steve Joseph in the motion filed last week on behalf of the Save The Plastic Bag Coalition and reported in Huffington Post. “No one will carry a reusable bag with them for unplanned impulse buying. Very few people will carry a reusable bag to Macy’s or other department stores to save a dime.”


Are electric bikes the future for San Francisco?

San Franciscans Alter Commute On 15th Annual Bike To Work Day

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

File: A sign reads "one less car" on the back of a bicycle at an "energizer station" at San Francisco city hall where bicycle advocates handed out food and drink on Bike to Work Day May 14, 2009 in San Francisco.

Biking in Los Angeles is a precarious business. Given our city’s legendary traffic congestion, maneuvering L.A. on two wheels is definitely not for the faint of heart. Even our own Mayor Villaraigosa felt the unforgiving wrath of street traffic when a short-stopping taxi sent him crashing from his bike to the pavement and ultimately to the hospital with a broken elbow back in 2010.

Up north in San Francisco, biking is additionally challenging given the famously mountainous landscapes. A simple errand to the grocery store at the bottom of the hill can quickly become a much trickier return trip. But what if that bike was electric? It’s the question being asked a new federal grant that will introduce shared electric bikes to the city by the Bay to see if they could potentially help ease traffic congestion and have an environmentally positive impact.


San Francisco goes bigger with plastic bag ban

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You won't be seeing these around S.F. much come October.

Plastic bags, man. Seemingly so innocuous, but what once seemed like a convenience have become like our version of Star Trek's “Tribbles,” those cute, fuzzy-ball creatures that reproduced at such an insane rate they threatened to engulf all of the Enterprise.

The city of San Francisco has had enough. With the full support of Mayor Ed Lee, the S.F. Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new ban on the use of plastic bags in any retail establishment. The rule broadens San Francisco’s previous decision that outlawed big supermarkets and chain pharmacies from using the offending satchels, and would go into effect in October.

The ruling also states that stores charge 10 cents for any bag (paper or plastic) they give customers to use, and pocket the revenue.

There are some exceptions to the rule, including for dry cleaners, the use of fish and my favorite, bulk candy.