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National News Roundup – February 21, 2023

Monday, February 27, 2023

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L.A. Suburb Enacts Homelessness Ordinance

Culver City’s approach could face court challenges based on federal ruling.

An intense, emotionally charged debate is raging in a California city that is trying to stop tent-dwelling people from taking up residence after Los Angeles initiated a get-tough program on its homeless population.

Culver City, California, is a suburb sandwiched between Los Angeles and the beachfront city of Santa Monica.

Council members in Culver City, where a new 4.5-acre Apple campus has been proposed and where the median price of a home is just shy of $1 million, voted earlier this month to ban tents and makeshift structures in public spaces, a step other nearby cities have tried only to be stopped by legal challenges.

With more than 170,000 people living in tents and cars and sleeping outdoors on sidewalks and under highway overpasses, California is the epicenter of the nation’s homeless crisis, yet few, if any, communities have been able to make a significant dent in the number of unsheltered residents living within their borders.

A 2018 federal court decision found that criminalizing homelessness, including prohibiting sleeping in public, violates the U.S. Constitution and amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment” if no shelter beds are available.

Proponents of the Culver City ordinance fear an influx of the homeless if they don’t enact a get-tough ordinance. They say the city must stay in lockstep with surrounding communities to prevent more unhoused people from taking up residence on its streets. But opponents say the ordinance has been rushed and will criminalize already marginalized people.

In neighboring Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass has spent much of her first two months in office issuing emergency orders aimed at quelling the ongoing homeless crisis.

A bitterly divided Culver City Council voted 3 to 2 to approve the ordinance. The council also voted to instruct police to temporarily hold off giving fines or citations to those who violate the ordinance.

Culver City Councilman Dan O’Brien argues the ban is not a radical approach, because other cities have taken the same model, which faces repeated challenges in the courts.

(Sources: NBC News, Los Angeles Times)

Electric Buses on the Rise across the U.S.

More cities turning to electric public transit vehicles to address emissions.

Electric-powered public transit buses are grabbing market share at an increasing rate. Some states have seen triple-digit growth in the technology in the last year.

A new report by CALSTART, a national nonprofit charged with advancing clean transportation technology, found that the number of zero-emission buses (ZEB) funded or on order in the U.S. has grown 66 percent since 2021, totaling some 5,480 full-size buses.

There were about 72,700 full-size buses in operation in the U.S. in 2019, the most recent data year available, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The growth is driven, in part, by robust state and federal incentives, policy pressures and cost savings.

The battery-electric bus technology is clearly leading the way among transit agencies, far outpacing hydrogen fuel-cell technology. By 2022, there were about 5,269 battery-electric buses in operation — or soon to be in operation — compared to only 211 hydrogen fuel-cell varieties. Cost is perhaps the largest decider for transit agencies when choosing a technology. The cost of a hydrogen fuel-cell bus is quite a bit higher on average.

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles benefit from being able to travel longer distances than battery-electric vehicles, making them good candidates for the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sector, as well as maritime and aviation. However, battery range technology continues to improve, making the battery bus a workable solution for most transit uses. Other factors that come into play include refueling infrastructure, facilities, access to hydrogen, as well as energy cost, said Mike Hynes, electric bus program manager at CALSTART.

Go here to view or download the CALSTART report.

(Source: CALSTART)

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