Sengupta: Thank you so much for having me today. I'm really excited to be in San Francisco. I don't get to come here that often, which is strange because I live in Los Angeles, but I do like to come whenever I can. For my talk today, I'm going to talk about the future of transportation, specifically on the things that I worked on that I think are kind of the up and coming thing, the thing that I'm working on now and what's going to happen in the future. I think part of my career has always been about just doing fun and exciting new things and all my degrees are in aerospace engineering, ever since I was a little kid, I loved science fiction. I actually am a Star Trek person versus a Star Wars person, but I knew since I was a little kid that I wanted to be involved in the space program, so that's why I decided to go the aerospace engineering route and I wanted to build technology. I got my Ph.D. in plasma propulsion systems. Has anyone heard of the mission called Dawn that's out in the main asteroid belt? My Ph.D. research actually was developing the ion engine technology for that mission. It actually flew and got it to a pretty cool place out in the main asteroid belt looking at Vesta and Ceres. I did that for about five years and then I kind of felt like I had done everything I could possibly do on that front, from a research perspective. My management asked me if I wanted to work on the next mission to Mars. There's very few engineers in the space program who'd be like, "No, I'm just not interested in that." And they're like, "We want you to do the supersonic parachute for it."
In early August, the city council of Hawthorne, California, held a special meeting. It had set aside this time to discuss a major construction project proposed by a high profile company based there in the sprawling Los Angeles basin. The company was Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, the rocket-building offshoot of the electric car company Tesla, run by the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The company had recently purchased a used tunnel boring machine from another California city and had begun testing its capabilities below its parking lot. It's a fairly quotidian infrastructural endeavour, but one tied to a grand vision.
As ridership on Southern California's largest bus network has dropped steadily over the last few years, transportation officials have expressed confidence that the decline was temporary and riders would soon return. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority attributed the drop to factors beyond its control, including more people buying cars, cheap gas and a recent state law that allows immigrants who are in the country illegally to obtain driver licenses. Now, transportation officials are considering another explanation for why riders have stopped taking buses: The service isn't good enough. After months of preliminary research, Metro officials acknowledge that Los Angeles County's sprawling bus system isn't working as well for riders as it once did. Metro bus ridership fell 18% in April compared with April 2015.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration has set aside nearly 300 state-owned properties that may be turned into emergency housing for homeless people, half of which are in the Bay Area. The inventory was completed under an executive order that Newsom signed in January, directing four state agencies to identify excess state land that could be made available for free to local governments for short-term homeless shelters. Newsom said Wednesday during his homelessness-focused State of the State address that his administration had found 286 eligible properties, including vacant lots, fairgrounds and armories. "Those are available today," he said. "Lease templates are ready to go and we're ready for partnerships. There are 148 potential shelter sites listed in the Bay Area, including 49 in Sonoma County, 36 in Alameda County and 25 in San Mateo County. They are largely empty Caltrans-managed parcels next to state highways, many of which the state has previously identified as potential properties for affordable housing development. One is in San Francisco, next to Interstate 280 near 23rd and Indiana streets. Others include the Redwood City Armory, Napa State Hospital and the Sonoma Developmental Center. With the homeless population surging to more than 151,000 people in the latest state count, and recent polls showing that homelessness has become the top concern of California voters, Newsom is under increasing pressure to act. Because the state is merely making the vacant land available to local governments, however, there is no guarantee the sites will be used for temporary housing for homeless people. Justin Berton, a spokesman for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, said the city has no immediate plans for 18 Oakland properties in the state inventory. But he said Oakland would probably take advantage of them eventually, to expand its community cabin program, designate additional safe parking sites for people sleeping in vehicles, or set up more trailers provided by the state in the January executive order. He said the offer of excess state land is "stripping away all the bureaucracy" for cities like Oakland, which has already been leasing properties from Caltrans for minimal amounts to set up housing for homeless people. But Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said "land is the least of the problems" for communities trying to figure out how to get California's growing homeless population off the streets. He said neither of the Richmond sites identified by the state seem to meet the city's needs for homeless shelters. One appears to be in the middle of a cloverleaf interchange connecting to Interstate 80, which would require that people cross an on-ramp to reach. Butt is unsure whether the other, sandwiched between Interstate 580 and the bay, has adequate access to bus lines, grocery stores, health services and other basic amenities. You've got cars whizzing by there all the time," Butt said.
Waze Carpool, the navigation program's carpooling service, announced Tuesday it will expand to several counties throughout the Bay Area, according to Forbes. Through Waze Carpool, users can connect with other people nearby to easily carpool to and from work. While Waze Carpool was originally limited to the San Francisco area when it launched last year, the updated coverage area includes all nine major counties within the Bay Area, Sacramento County and Monterey County. At the moment, Waze aims to roll out Carpool at a slower pace. Drivers can apply for Carpool by providing basic information that includes a LinkedIn profile and vehicle registration details.