Road Charge Pilot Program: Data Points and Changing Behavior
By Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs
**This is the fourth blog post I have written since being enrolled in California’s Road Charge Pilot Program. To read the first three posts, please click here, here and here**
It’s been 27 days since my last post, and in that time, I’ve done a lot of driving. Not only did I take a trip up to Chico (my first long drive since starting the pilot program), but due to kids and soccer and a relatively unsystematic approach to the summer months, there have been multiple extra trips around town.
As I drive, whether short or long distances, I find my mind wandering to the little green Azuga dongle plugged in under my dashboard. Did you know that more than my miles are being recorded? I purposefully chose a device that did not include GPS tracking, but as it turns out, there is still a great deal of data being collected.
As a pilot program participant, I have access to a cool, easy-to-understand online dashboard that reflects my travels-
This week, the California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) began Part 1 of a two-part hearing regarding the California WaterFix project. Without the approval of the Water Board, the WaterFix project cannot move forward, which will leave California’s water system inefficient and ineffective.
The purpose of the public hearings is for the Water Board to hear evidence in order to determine if it should approve a joint petition from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The petition proposes to add three new points of diversion and/or points of rediversion of water to specified water right permits for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project associated with the California WaterFix Project. (See graphic below)
Part 1 of the hearing process began in Sacramento this week and is expected to take several months. The hearings are narrowly focused to take evidence and answer two questions – Do the new points of diversion alter water flows or affect water quality such that there would be injury to any legal user of the water? Does the project in effect initiate a new water right? The public hearings are drawing great public interest as they will determine if the Governor’s proposal to modernize the state’s water delivery system – known as California WaterFix – will move forward.
DWR has presented evidence showing that the proposed change will neither initiate a new water right nor injure any other legal user of water. DWR’s key points include:
- WaterFix would create more flexibility to better balance water quality and water supply.
- DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation do not seek a new or expanded water right or any modifications to the water quality standards upstream or downstream of the proposed diversion points.
- DWR has a proven track record of meeting the Water Board’s Delta water quality standards and WaterFix would operate within the standards established by the Water Board. Meeting existing or future water quality standards would be easier with the flexibility provided by California WaterFix.
- WaterFix will be operated in real-time. While modeling can perform an assessment of potential water operation effects, water project operators handle complex situations on a daily basis to stay in compliance with water quality standards.
Part 2 of the hearings is expected to begin in early 2017 and will address fish and wildlife, recreation, and other public trust issues.
Road Charge Pilot Program: It Works!
By Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs
It’s official! As your friendly Road Charge Pilot Program participant blogger, I am finally connected and being tracked! It’s been a long road to this point, as you can read here, but Azuga took notice and went above and beyond to fix the problem for me. In fact, I was really impressed with the level of customer service, once it became apparent that the initial device I received wasn’t going to work. Good job, Azuga!
To be honest, the level of engagement with Azuga has peaked my curiosity – What is the history of this company? Did they work with Oregon (who recently launched their own Road Charge Program)? Are they based in California? Who developed the technology to monitor my miles?
But I digress…
Azuga overnighted to me a new device and after reading the easy-to-understand instructions, I plugged it in. Within minutes, I got an email saying the device was active. Yeah!
The timing of this initial connection was perfect because I needed to fill up my gas tank. While the State of California tracks my mileage, I’ve decided to keep tabs on how much I really am paying at the pump. On July 17th, I filled up my tank with 22.6 gallons, paying $53.31.
Road Charge Pilot Program Preparation
By Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs
I’ve had a bit of a frustrating start to my participation in the Road Charge Pilot Program, but I remain hopeful that it will be resolved shortly so I can actually participate in the program. Below is a timeline of my first week, in preparation of the actual launch of the program on July 1st.
June 29 – I received in the mail the Azuga device that will plug into my vehicle and wirelessly report my mileage. I hadn’t requested a device that uses GPS (I had a choice when I enrolled), but I admit that there was a small twinge of anxiety as I opened the box and saw this little green electronic device, just waiting for me to plug it in.
I understand the privacy concerns raised by many regarding the government tracking my miles, but I have also had many conversations with Malcolm Dougherty, Director of Caltrans, and trust that the Road Charge Task Force will, in fact, do all they can to protect my private information, as the government does with other information collected, including addresses, social security numbers, drivers license information, etc… Furthermore, with my smartphone, I use Strava GPS to track my runs, WAZE to tell me how to beat the traffic to work and Uber when I am out of town but need to get around. I’m already being tracked (and, odds are, so are you if you use smartphone applications).
Still, I made the decision not to give Azuga and the state of California the ability to locate my vehicle during this pilot program.
It is July 1st and the Legislature is officially out of session until August 1st when the Legislature reconvenes. While the Legislature has taken a number of actions that have garnered significant attention – gun control, new Managed Care Organization tax, and a $176 billion budget – progress on a transportation funding package has been elusive.
This past week, the Governor signed a balanced budget, but the subcommittees in both the Assembly and the Senate shifted the Governor’s proposed $3.6 billion transportation and funding reform package back down to the policy process and did not include the proposals in the budget. This means that we hope to see some movement in August to ensure that badly needed transportation system maintenance funding is addressed.
Of course, even as the Legislature and Governor work together to create a comprehensive funding package, it’s important to remember that whatever package might emerge, it will continue to be a short-term fix. The good news is however, that there will be several local transportation measures on the ballot in November that hopefully will pass. And there are long-term solutions in development to address not only fully funded maintenance, but also capacity. To read more about the Road Charge Pilot program, click here.
By: Kelly Garman, Director of Government Affairs, ACEC California
The gas tax.
As the Director of Government Affairs for ACEC California, it’s something I’ve learned quite a bit about the last three years. Every transportation seminar and conference, every transportation-related bill moving through the legislature, and every time I’ve ever heard Malcolm Dougherty, Will Kempton, Senator Beall or Assembly Member Frazier speak in a public setting, the decline of the gas tax has been front and center.
And understandably so – there are more fuel-efficient cars on the roads these days, contributing to a decline in the gas tax, which is the revenue stream used to fix California’s roads. It’s a big deal. On behalf of ACEC California and as a longtime California resident, I believe this decline translates into a dire need to search for a long-term solution.
There are two major housing proposals making their way through the Sacramento legislative process; Senate Bill 879 by Senator Jim Beall (D – San Jose) and a housing proposal by Governor Jerry Brown and Senate pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles).
Both proposals are working toward providing mechanisms to make affordable housing more available on the market — along with providing additional housing to those experiencing homelessness. Ultimately, it is expected that Legislators will finalize details into one comprehensive legislative package, but until then, it’s important to stay informed on the issues that could be a part of the final deal.
On Thursday, May 19th, the American Council of Engineering Companies, California joined a broad coalition of labor, business interests, and local government in a massive rally outside the California State Capitol to urge the Legislature to move forward with a comprehensive transportation funding package. The rally was organized by the Fix Our Roads Coalition and included the release of a proposal, Roadmap to Consensus, that incorporates elements from the Republican reform proposals, the Governor Brown’s Budget Plan, and components from legislation proposed by Senator Beall and Assembly Member Frazier.
Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his May Budget Revision on Friday, May 13th, and urged the Legislature to approach budget spending with caution as the state is experiencing a slow down in tax revenues. However, Governor Brown did focus significant expenditures on strengthening California’s infrastructure. The May Revision reflected the Governor’s transportation package, which dedicates $36 billion over the next decade to transportation infrastructure maintenance, as well as $737 million to address deferred maintenance needs of levies, universities, community colleges, and other state facilities. In addition, a significant portion of cap and trade funds will also continue to be dedicated to the development of the High Speed Rail project.
Encouraged by the Governor’s focus on infrastructure, ACEC California’s President Bruce Presser issued the following statement in response to Governor Brown’s budget revision:
“We are pleased the Governor is focusing investment on California’s infrastructure. Both the state’s transportation and water system are in critical need of basic maintenance such as fixing roads, bridges, and levies; but are also in need of innovative modernization. Our members support the Governor’s vision for the future of California’s water delivery and storage systems, as well as continued investment in the High Speed Rail project. Further, our members will continue to encourage the Legislature to consider a comprehensive transportation investment package to ensure the state’s infrastructure is able to meet modern needs.”
More information about the May revision can be found by clicking here.
ACEC California has published it’s annual magazine, Engineering and Surveying Business Review. In both print and digital format, the magazine highlights engineering and land surveying hop topics and issue areas, and showcases industry accomplishments.
This spring, the cover of Engineering and Surveying Business Review features the new air traffic control tower at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) by San Francisco-based engineering firm, Walter P Moore. The innovative project was honored with both the Golden State Award by ACEC California, and the Grand Conceptor Award by ACEC National. The modern tower was honored for its unique design that allows the tower to self-right during significant seismic events so that operations can continue in the structure. SFO’s air traffic control tower was one of twenty-seven projects recognized by ACEC California for exceptional engineering achievement.
The issue also features all of ACEC California’s Engineering Excellence Award winners, several articles that follow the magazine’s theme of promoting and protecting the profession, and an in depth review of the need for Duty to Defend Reform.
Some of our guest authors include the Structural Engineers Association of California; The Board of Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists and Stutzman Public Affairs.
Click here to read the 2016 issue of Engineering and Land Surveying Business Review.