Green competition

FedEx Express got a good deal of positive attention when it launched its first two hybrid electric trucks in Sacramento in 2004. Earlier this year, the company released a statement saying that it would deploy a total of 75 FedEx E700 hybrid vehicles across the country by April 2006. The trucks decrease particulate emissions by 96 percent, according to public-affairs representatives Jennifer Colpitts, and travel 57 percent farther than a regular FedEx truck on a gallon of fuel.

But Sacramento is home to more than one delivery service going green. Not only does United Parcel Service (UPS) use 112 compressed-natural-gas vehicles in Sacramento, but also, in September, UPS implemented a new program in its local office called “package flow technology.” The company’s computers design a unique delivery route for each driver daily, mapping out the most efficient loops through the urban area.

If the technology works well, you’ll never see a UPS driver make a left-hand turn against traffic. Right-hand turns, said UPS representative Heather Robinson, not only are safer, but also mean less wasteful idling at stop signs.

Red Angel dragnet

They were famously labeled as “vigilantes” by New York mayor Ed Koch. They were immortalized in song by punk godfathers the Clash.

Now they are coming to save Sacramento.

Curt Sliwa, the founder of the red-beret-wearing Guardian Angels, will be speaking at the North Sacramento School District Auditorium, at 670 Dixieanne Avenue, on Friday, October 21, from 8 to 9 a.m.

And while he is in town, Sliwa will be joined by members of the San Francisco chapter of the Angels to demonstrate how they would patrol light rail and the North Sacramento area of the American River Parkway. Sliwa may even lead a midnight patrol of Del Paso Boulevard, though those plans are still pending.

Barbara Stanton, executive director of Ridership for the Masses (a volunteer group that monitors Regional Transit) said that the event eventually may lead to the formation of a Sacramento chapter of the Guardian Angels.

She acknowledged that when she mentions the Angels, eyebrows go up. “I do get this reaction; people say, ‘Aren’t they vigilantes?'” said Stanton, noting that some are uncomfortable with the Angels’ fondness for citizen’s arrests and paramilitary demeanor.

But she added, “The police are stretched very thin. The lower American River Parkway is almost unusable. I just think there needs to be more of a presence out there.”

Sprawl-busting blues

One of the most effective arguments against trying to rein in runaway development in the Sacramento region and elsewhere has always been that growth controls make home prices go up.

“It’s often cited as a way to knock down anti-sprawl measures,” noted Professor Rob Wassmer, who teaches public policy at California State University, Sacramento. The problem, said Wassmer, is that it’s just not true.

In fact, Wassmer’s own study—"Does a more centralized urban form raise housing prices?"—asserts that median home prices actually go down in places like Portland, Ore., which have strict controls on where new building can occur. That’s mostly because the kind of growth restrictions that Wassmer studied tend to reduce the number of opulent suburban palaces that can be built in the area and lead people to live in smaller houses in more densely concentrated neighborhoods.

The study can be viewed at www.csus.edu/indiv/w/wassmerr and will appear in the spring edition of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Just vote!

Sacramento County has registered 628,440 voters in time for the November 8 special election. If you still need to join the rolls, you’ve got until Monday, October 24, to register at your nearest post office or the voter-registration office at 7000 65th Street. November 1 is your last day to request an absentee ballot be mailed to you.