Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, December 31, 2012

We Need a ‘New Measure J’ … Are LA’s County Supes Up for It?

 http://www.citywatchla.com/lead-stories-hidden/4267-we-need-a-new-measure-j-are-la-s-county-supes-up-for-it

 Written by Ken Alpern 

31 Dec 2012

 

 

 

 

 GETTING THERE FROM HERE - The results of the November election showed that sentiment to build transportation projects remains very strong, but that hurdles still remain for a transportation measure to pass.  Some political leaders will focus on a lowered voting threshold to passing transportation measures, but another focus still remains unaddressed:  should a “New Measure J” expedite Measure R projects, or should a “New Measure J go “beyond Measure R”?

It’s correct to presume that “only in California” would over 66% of the vote be considered a defeat for Measure J, but an accurate post-mortem not only should highlight the discrepancy between education measures (55%) and transportation measures (66 2/3%), but that Measure J was truly only a “Plan B” for expediting Measure R projects after a sufficient federal/local “America Fast Forward” effort failed. 
 
The “America Fast Forward” involved federal loans and bonds to fund guaranteed projects such as Measure R, and has a better chance of passing Congress this year now that the election cycle is over—should “America Fast Forward” finally be large enough to meet Measure J’s goals, would a “new Measure J” be worth pursuing even if the transportation measure voting threshold was also lowered to 55%?
 
My own answer—and I suspect the answer of many other voters and taxpayers—would be “YES”, provided we had a “new Measure J” that clearly went beyond Measure R.  Based on the grumblings of our County Board of Supervisors, who with the exception of Zev Yaroslavsky, clearly had problems with Measure J (and even Measure R), I’m guessing they would also, under the right circumstances, want a more goal-oriented and visionary initiative.
 
Now that we know the regional percentages of voters who approved Measure J, here are five questions (roughly the same question, but posed to each county supervisor) for the Board to consider:
 
1) To County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who is currently Chair of the Metro Board, what would you do to “fix” Measure R and ensure the San Gabriel Valley and the rest of the county a transportation system that benefits all regions?
 
Supervisor Antonovich, you’ve adamantly insisted upon a Foothill Gold Line Extension to Montclair and Ontario Airport, as well as other projects to ensure a true county-wide transportation network (including an eastern Metro Green Line extension to the Metrolink system at Norwalk and whatever it takes to extend the Desert Xpress high-speed rail project to Union Station).
 
As a Westside Angeleno working in Orange and Riverside Counties, and who grew up in Long Beach, I can relate to your desire for taxpayer funds to help the entire county, and not just Downtown LA and the Westside…but will you come up with a new funding mechanism to promote your greater vision?
 
And can you at least get a Fasana Amendment (part of Measure J, and allowing a region’s Measure R funds to be switched from freeway to rail, or vice versa) approved as a stand-alone measure by the voters while you are in office?  You opposed Measure J, and therefore helped convince SGV voters to block the Fasana Amendment (only 64.5% of SGV voters approved Measure J).
 
Had Measure J passed, you could have been at the forefront of switching funds from the unpopular I-710 freeway extension through Pasadena to the popular projects of the Foothill Gold Line Extension and the Alameda Corridor East (a freight line/surface street grade-separation project of regional and even national economic importance).
 
2) To County Supervisor Gloria Molina, when will you, or merely “will you”, champion the Downtown Light Rail Connector Subway and other regional projects to benefit the Eastside?
 
Your fiscal conservatism on expanding MetroRail might be consistent with your efforts to keep our county budget balanced, but vision is also needed to expand the economy (and, secondarily, expand the county budget).  Also in question is your lingering obsession with not getting an Eastside Red Line Subway decades ago.
 
With a whopping 75.1 percent of East LA voters approving Measure J, don’t they deserve your full-throated support of the Downtown Light Rail Connector?  We’ve heard very few (if any) statements from you in favor of this project, which connects the Eastside Gold Line (a project which you’ve clearly described as an insufficient alternative to an Eastside Red Line Subway) to the rest of the countywide MetroRail system.
 
And if you don’t really think much of the Measure R/J-approved Eastside Gold Line Extension, might a Fasana Amendment be supported by you to switch that extension funding to other, more popular and defined, projects (such as the Downtown Connector, if possible, or a widening of the I-5 freeway between the I-605 and I-710)?
 
3) To County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the greatest supporter of Measures R and J among the County Supes, a more visionary question is to be asked of the man who once opposed, but who now champions, both the Wilshire Subway and Exposition Light Rail Line:
 
If a more expensive, but much more cost-effective, subway rail project option to link the San Fernando Valley (Orange Line Busway and Metrolink) with the Westside (Wilshire Subway and Expo Lines) could be promoted to pass a new Measure J, would you support it?  
 
With the understanding that Measure R provides $1 billion for a Valley/Westside transit project, which is only enough for a Busway, let’s rephrase the question:  if a subway to get commuters under the Sepulveda Pass in less than 10 minutes, and with stops at the SFV, UCLA/Westwood and the Wilshire/Expo Lines), proved more popular than a Busway with the voters…would you recommend it as part of an effort to promote a new Measure J?
 
4) To County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is usually a master consensus-builder, what would you do to long-range Metro planning to support a Measure J that would connect the future Crenshaw Line with the Wilshire Subway in the north and a direct connection to LAX and the South Bay in the south?
 
There’s no doubt that you’ve sorely wanted an underground (and very, very expensive) Leimart Park portion of the Crenshaw Line, but the expense and surface conditions almost guarantees this proposed underground portion of the Crenshaw Line to be against Metro grade-separation policy and past precedence.  
 
No one should doubt your sincerity, but have you helped or hurt consensus-building by your almost singular focus of an underground Leimert Park portion of the Crenshaw Line?  Is it even possible to intensively develop in that region as a way to justify the undergrounding of that line in the near future?  Can we bite the bullet and come up with another, above-ground Leimert Park station?
 
And would the extra money to build that underground portion be put to better use to connect the Crenshaw Line to other areas already considered for that line to be located underground (the Wilshire Subway and LAX connections)?
 
5) To County Supervisor Don Knabe, is your opposition to Measure J consistent with your political support of expediting MetroRail to LAX by 2020?
 
Nowhere did future planned MetroRail extensions get delayed more by the failure of Measure J than the South Bay, where Green Line extensions to LAX, to the South Bay Galleria and to Torrance would have been expedited by decades by passage of Measure J.  Of course, the South Bay had among the lowest voter support of Measure J (61.1%), but still there’s no question that the voting majority favored it.
 
No one suggests you want to be “the man who helped block MetroRail to the South Bay” (or to the Southeast L.A. County Cities, which now also has a delayed rail project), but the cost of connecting the Crenshaw and Green Lines will be at least $1.5 billion, with the $200 million provided by Measure R only seed money for such a major endeavor…and Measure J was the surest and quickest way to fund a MetroRail/LAX connection.
 
I’ve little doubt that analysis will show that a proposed underground connection of the two lines will be commuter/voter-preferred and operationally more efficient and cost-effective for all parties involved (including LA World Airports) , but that’s just my own opinion.
 
The most important issue to be confronted is that the cost will be at least $1.5 billion—regardless of the MetroRail/LAX connection plan—and that both Metro and LA World Airports are now working together to create that expensive-but-necessary project:
 
Both Metro and LA World Airports deserve our support, Supervisor Knabe, and I’ve no doubt you wish to be part of any supportive effort.  So with the near-passage of Measure J, and your Metro leadership of expediting the MetroRail/LAX connection by 2020, do you support a more defined Measure J that includes this connection as a specific earmark, or do you wish to fund that project via some other revenue-raising effort?
 
I again wish all of Los Angeles, including the County Board of Supervisors, a happier commute and a Healthy and Happy New Year in 2013!
 
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org . He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us.   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

 
 
 
 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More on the Mont Blanc Tunnel by Joe Cano

Unintended consequences are never part of any business equation. Variables are frowned on because they provide uncertainty and no guarantee of return. I call them gremlins. The safest tunnel in the world under Mont Blanc in Switzerland was undermined by margarine, human error, design flaws and lives were lost.
 
Mont Blanc Tunnel Fire Video

Posted by Joe Cano on Facebook, Dec. 30, 2012

Here is something to dispute any notion that just by banning 'flammable' materials from entering a tunnel that tunnel is safe. With all the safeguards, all the guarantees, a truck carrying margarine to market proved all assurance to be lies. First blood spilled & all involved in building this tunnel will be on extended vacations in 'non-extradition' countries. Brazil anyone?


Seconds From Disaster - S01E02 - Tunnel Inferno


 http://youtu.be/k0F7fImBiJE


The Last Tattler Sunday News of 2012

 http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/

 Sunday, December 30, 2012

 

 

 

 "Will you just look at the time!"

 

 Where did the year go? Same place all those other years have gone, I suppose. I'm just not certain where that might be. And I have been looking for a couple of them. Personally I think we put a lot of faith in chaining everything to the time it takes this planet to revolve once around the sun. There could have been other criteria, you know. Like maybe the length time it takes an oak tree to reach 25 feet. Or perhaps how long it takes your son to grow a decent beard. Some never do. However, I am going to have to let this go, at least for now. The calendars are already printed, the parties are planned and the caterers have ordered the cases of champagne. It is too late to change things. Maybe next year.

So here is the last news. At least for 2012. Hopefully I'll get this "year thing" all worked out and we won't have to have another one of these for a while.

China Requiring People To Visit Their Parents (click here): Visit your parents. That's an order. So says China, whose national legislature on Friday amended its law on the elderly to require that adult children visit their aged parents "often" - or risk being sued by them.

The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur.

State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.

A rapidly developing China is facing increasing difficulty in caring for its aging population. Three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of the traditional extended family in China, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement or care homes, for the elderly or others unable to live on their own.

(Mod: Now that is frightening. Given the rate new laws are passed in California, someone in Sacramento is likely to hear about this and there go our perfectly good Thanksgivings at the bowling alley. Look at it this way, this could halt the westward migration of young people to California. Think about all the people who moved here just to get away from their folks in New York. And here is something even more scary. What if they're living in the Kensington? Perhaps all of those planned store fronts will end up being rented by lawyers.)

All the new laws enacted in Sacramento for the year 2012 (click here).

(Mod: There are 56 pages of these newly "enacted bills," with approximately 8 to 12 listed on each page. It must have cost millions of taxpayer dollars just to to pass all these damn things. I do have a favorite, though. AB 2274, "vexatious litigants." As opposed to civil litigants, I suppose?)

Pet chicken alerts family about house fire (click here): They say heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and now species. When Brad Krueger raised this chicken on his farm, he never knew it would one day grow up and save his neighbors. "I've heard animals waking people up but not a chicken," he said.

It all started Thursday morning when the fire department says a huge fire broke out at a home in Alma Center. The smoke detectors were not working, the people inside were asleep. That is, until the chicken sensed something was wrong.

"She said she heard the commotion of the chicken and all that stuff," Krueger added.

The people inside the home also told Krueger the cat started making noise. They smelled fire, opened the garage door, and it was full of smoke.

"We were halfway into town and you could look into town and all you could see was an orange glow," said Jeff Gaede, the Fire Chief in Alma Center.

He says the home and everything inside is a total loss. Because the house sits up on a hill beyond a private driveway, we were are not able to show you video of what is left. But even Gaede is surprised how the family got out. "I guess at first I was really amazed, we've never run into a chicken before," he said.


(Mod: Perhaps we were entirely too dismissive of Mayor Moran's efforts to amend our chicken ordinances.)

Caltrans to raise rents on tenants living in the path of 710 Freeway (click here): Caltrans mailed letters out Friday notifying 310 tenants of the homes it owns in the Long Beach (710) Freeway extension path that their rents will increase starting next year.

Rents will begin increasing in 10percent increments starting on March1, 2013, until they reach "fair market" rates, said Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck. Caltrans' other 250 tenants will either pay the same or less rent.

The letters come in response to a state audit released this summer that slammed the transportation agency for "poor management" of the more than 500 properties it purchased decades ago to make way for a surface freeway from El Sereno to Pasadena.

The audit, commissioned by former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, said Caltrans cost the state millions in lost rent revenue.

"The Bureau of State Audits ... noted that many of the Caltrans-owned properties along SR710 were renting below fair market value, in violation of the state constitution's prohibition on providing a gift of public funds," Shuck said. "Subsequent legal advice has concurred with the auditor's view, so the department must revise rental rates to operate the program consistent with the law."

(Mod: Caltrans being, of course, the people we are expected to entrust with the spending of $10s of billions of dollars to dig a truck tunnel under Pasadena. This when they cannot even follow the law on managing rental properties.)


Steven Greenhut: New Year's predictions for California (click here): California's Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the recent election – voter-approved tax increases and two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy who can no longer block tax hikes.

Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing-and-spending spree or will some semblance of a "moderate" Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, it's hard to find good news for taxpayers or business owners, although the state's public-sector unions ought to be stocking up on champagne.

(Mod: Of course I am a big Steven Greenhut fan, who isn't? If you go to the article you/ll see that Greenhut lists his 10 predictions for 2012, none of them particularly sunny. Which is fine with me. The underlying theme being one party government isn't going to be a good thing for our already disastrously governed state.)


Ford C-Max "Fastest selling hybrid vehicle ever at launch" says Ford (click here): Ford Motor Company says its C-Max Hybrid became the fastest-selling hybrid vehicle ever upon its launch, selling one car shy of 9,000 examples through October and November, the first two months the C-Max Hybrid has been on sale in America.

In a press release, Ford was bold enough to predict C-Max Hybrid sales through December would be more than 40% higher than the combined first three months’ sales of the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight hybrids when they were unleashed on the American marketplace in the year 2000.

C.J. O’Donnell, group marketing manager of Electrification at Ford, said, “Dealers are seeing an overwhelmingly positive response to C-MAX hybrids and are excited to finally take on Prius, with some offering comparison test drives right on their lots. Our customers also are excited to have a fresh hybrid option, with leading fuel economy that does not sacrifice driving fun, performance and technology– choices typically not offered with hybrids.”

(Mod: Thank God America now has some credible competition to the Prius.)


Joel Kotkin: California's Demographic Dilemma (click here): It's been nearly 20 years since California Gov. Pete Wilson won re-election by tying his campaign to the anti-illegal immigrant measure Proposition 187. Ads featuring grainy images of presumably young Hispanic males crossing the border energized a largely white electorate terrified of being overwhelmed, financially and socially, by the incoming foreign hordes.

The demographic dilemma facing California today might be better illustrated by pictures of aging hippies with gray ponytails, of legions in wheel-chairs, seeking out the best rest home and unemployed young people on the street corner, watching while middle-age families drive away, seeking to fulfill mundane middle-class dreams in other states.

The vital, youthful California I encountered when moving here more than 40 years ago soon could be a thing of the past – if we don't address the root causes of an impending demographic decline. The days of fast population growth have certainly passed; the state's population growth barely equaled the national average in the past decade. In the urban strips along the coasts, particularly in the Los Angeles Basin, growth has been as little or half that level.

To be sure, particularly in this region, few would want to see a return to breakneck population growth. But there's little denying that California has shifted from a vibrant magnet for the young and ambitious to a state increasingly bifurcated between an aging, predominately white coastal population and a largely impoverished, heavily Hispanic interior. This evolution, as suggested in last week's essay (click here), has much to do with what passes for "progressive" policies – high taxation, regulation and an Ecotopian delusion that threatens to crush the hopes of many blue-collar and middle-class Californians.

(Mod: We're about to become the new Florida? Probably explains the ALF and whatever it is they're about to spring on us at the British Home. Geriatopia Madre. And doesn't "Ecotopian delusion" describe the Green Committee's devious designs rather nicely?)

I hate to end the year on such a negative note. Well, OK, not really that much. But have a Happy New Year anyway.

Year in Review: McDade tragedy, a mission on Mars, 710 stirs debate

 http://www.pasadenasun.com/news/tn-626-year-in-review-in-pasadena-mcdade-tragedy-a-mission-on-mars-rose-bowlnfl-machinations-20121228,0,2038948.story

 

December 28, 2012


 Pasadena residents make clear their opposition to bringing an NFL team to the Rose Bowl during a meeting on Nov. 19, 2012.

 The gunshots that took Kendrec McDade’s life on March 24 have echoed throughout the year in Pasadena.

The Azusa teen was running down Sunset Avenue after allegedly serving as a lookout in a Northwest Pasadena car burglary when he neared two police officers who believed — based on bad information from a 911 call — that they were searching for a man with a gun.

McDade was not armed, though officers say his hand hovered near his waistband as he approached a patrol car. He was shot eight times.

The tragedy occurred shortly after unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida, and it added to cries of racial injustice and outrage. Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson commented on the McDade case in an April appearance in Los Angeles, residents marched in his honor and Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez met with clergy and the public to answer questions.

One difference between the Florida and Pasadena incidents was the role of a third party in McDade’s death. Oscar Carrillo, who saw his car being burglarized on Orange Grove Boulevard, later admitted he lied about seeing a weapon when he called 911.

In December, Los Angeles County prosecutors determined that officers Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin had relied on Carrillo's disinformation, and decided not to charge them with a crime.

Two other inquiries into McDade’s death are ongoing, as is a lawsuit against Pasadena police brought by McDade’s parents. None are likely to heal the wounds of Anya Slaughter, McDade’s mother.

“He was my world,” she said shortly after the shooting.


From Pasadena to Mars

The region’s connection to the heavens made for a sensational story in 2012, as Jet Propulsion Laboratory safely landed the NASA rover Curiosity on the Red Planet.

“Touchdown confirmed. We're safe on Mars,” JPL engineer Al Chen announced to hollers and high-fives at JPL's Mission Control Center at 10:32 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5.

The craft spent more than eight months in space and traveled 354 million miles to reach its destination near the foot of Mars' Mount Sharp, named for the late Caltech geologist Robert Phillip Sharp. Estimated expenses are $2.5 billion.

The rover has since taken its first photos and soil samples in what is expected to be at least a two-year study that may prove Mars once held water — and possibly life as we know it.

Curiosity also left a trail of good publicity back on Earth , which may have been a factor in NASA announcements to announce more Mars missions. Three more craft are slated to reach the Red Planet or its orbit in the next decade. The MAVEN orbiter will launch in 2013.


Ready for some football?

The Rose Bowl will bask in the glow of the 99th Rose Bowl Game on Tuesday, but the stadium is also a center of controversy.

Several times in 2012 leaders of the Rose Bowl Operating Co. upped the estimated costs for ongoing renovation work. The price tag is now expected to total $195 million, $43 million more than first thought.

City officials say bringing an NFL team to the stadium for a few years could help with finances. On the assumption that Los Angeles business investors are successful in luring a team to the area, Pasadena officials want the Rose Bowl to serve as a temporary home. The City Council voted in November to allow more large events at the stadium to clear the way for negotiations with the NFL.

Rose Bowl neighbors vow to fight the plan, recalling a citywide vote against having a resident NFL team in 2006. They say the noise, traffic and impact on the Arroyo Seco would be too much to bear.


Occupy Colorado Boulevard

The Rose Parade had an unscripted finishing act in 2012, as hundreds of Occupy demonstrators danced down Colorado Boulevard immediately after the last official float.

Seeking reforms to the nation's financial and campaign funding systems, Occupy activists were behind several smaller events in Pasadena and San Marino in 2011 and 2012, but made their biggest splash by carrying a giant octopus, representing Wall Street’s many-tentacled influence on politics and the economy, as they followed the parade.

Concerns that the demonstrators would interrupt the big show or clash with police were not realized.


Scandal strikes PCC

Scandal struck Pasadena City College in June when investigators with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office raided the homes and offices of two officials with the power to oversee PCC contracts with outside vendors. Neither Richard van Pelt, the former top finance official at the college nor Al Hutchings, his deputy, have been charged.

The two ran an outside consulting business called Sustainagistics LLC without the school’s knowledge, and as the criminal probe continues they are tangled in civil litigation with a lighting company officials who allege the pair tried to shake them down in a botched bribery attempt. Van Pelt and Hutchings have denied the claims.


710 plan stirs debate

The freeway that doesn't exist sparked growing outrage in 2012. Regional transportation planners studying whether to complete the long-planned extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway from Alhambra to Pasadena already face implacable opposition from cities including South Pasadena, and unwavering support from cities including San Marino. Then in August, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority planners awoke a sleeping giant when they briefly proposed making Avenue 64 through Pasadena a freeway alternative. Hundreds of Pasadenans came to subsequent meetings to shout down the plan. The Avenue 64 idea was withdrawn, but a proposal for a 4.5-mile tunnel under the original route lives on. The study is expected to wrap up in 2014.


San Gabriel Valley makes national headlines in 2012 

 http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_22280917/san-gabriel-valley-makes-national-headlines-2012

 By Maritza Velazquez and Frank C. Girardot, Staff Writers 

 
Updated:   12/29/2012 08:01:20 PM PST
 
 Some of the San Gabriel Valley's biggest stories in 2012 attracted national attention.

Headlines summed up tales of political corruption, inept bureaucracy, brutal police officers and changing times. But they also told stories of triumph, historical legacy and artistic achievement.

Locally the most significant story was the officer involved March 24 shooting of unarmed teen Kendrec McDade by two Pasadena police officers.

Police were called to the scene of an alleged armed robbery on East Orange Grove Boulevard. In the course of their short investigation they encountered two black men running near the area. A pursuit began. When officers reached Sunset Avenue, just North of Orange Grove, they encountered McDade. Believing he was reaching for his waistband, the officers - one on foot and the other in a patrol car - opened fire killing McDade.

Fall out in the community led to several investigations of the event, including one by the FBI. A D.A.'s investigation found the officers acted legally.

Separate probes of the city's homicide bureau resulted in the suspension of an officer whom is alleged to have been involved in incidents of false arrest, evidence suppression, beatings and bribery. That probe continues.

Here's a recap of the Valley's other top stories this year:

Conquest of Mars

Back in March, the future of NASA's Mars exploration program was on extremely shaky ground as federal budget cuts threatened new missions. Then Curiosity landed in August, capturing the public's attention and inspiring plans for a twin rover, possibly one that would store Mars rock samples to bring back to Earth.

Curiosity's mission isn't easily understood. It's searching for signs of life, but only the organic matter that organisms may have left behind billions of years ago; it can't detect anything biological. Just doing that is exciting enough for scientists and other observers, and the ancient riverbed it landed in provided further evidence that NASA was looking in the right spot.

"This is the first roving analytical lab we've sent to any planet," said Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration, just before the landing. "It's amazing that we can do chemistry and we can do mineralogy there on the surface. Any geologist would die to have something like this when they're out in the field. It's a tremendous asset."

Gangnam Style

The city of El Monte found the spotlight when it fired 14 lifeguards for filming a spoof of Psy's "Gangnam Style" Korean Pop music video in their city-issued uniforms at the El Monte Aquatic Center. The move created a media storm and resulting public backlash. Even the man behind "Gangnam Style" - Psy - made a plea to El Monte officials to rehire the ousted mostly college-age city employees.

There were also several local stories that made a huge impact on the region, from political scandals to major transit improvements.

Head of COG arrested

Nick Conway, who served as executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, was arrested in June on four felony counts of conflict of interest. Conway has maintained his innocence and later pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors allege Conway's personal business, Arroyo Associates, Inc. - which was contracted by the COG to serve as its staff - gained financially from contracts and grants obtained for the COG, amounting to a conflict of interest.

The agency's governing board in October parted ways with Conway, paying him $155,000 in severance pay and cutting all contracts with his firm.

Rep. David Dreier retires

After three decades representing the San Gabriel Valley and portions of San Bernadino County in the House of Representatives' 26th District, Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, announced his retirement in February.

The decision came after the redrawing of Congressional maps in the summer of 2011. Those new maps placed Dreier in the 32nd district, which had a majority of registered Democrats.

As California voters were casting their ballots in newly-drawn districts in November, they were also introduced to a new primary system in which the the top two vote-getters in each race, regardless of party affiliation, advanced to the November general election.

Ex-mayor charged with bribery

In March, former Rosemead Mayor and then Assembly candidate John Tran agreed to plead guilty to accepting more than $10,000 in bribes from a developer in exchange for prosecutors dropping extortion and obstruction of justice charges.

But in August, just as the judge prepared to hand down his sentence, which could have resulted in Tran spending up to 10 years in prison and paying $250,000 in fines, the former politician requested to withdraw his guilty plea.

He argued that the government's central informant in the case has credibility issues - something he was unaware of at the time he agreed to plead guilty. A judge granted the request and now Tran is set to head to trial in March.

Eerie van Gogh unveiled

The Norton Simon Museum prepared a special space for an iconic Vincent van Gogh self-portrait on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.,

The piece went on public display at the Norton Simon and will hang there through March 4. The portrait will be flanked by van Goghs from the museum's own collection.

Major transit improvements

Local commuters are preparing to pay to drive as Metro works to complete new toll/carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway, from the 605 Freeway to Alameda Street in Los Angeles. The first-ever toll lanes in Los Angeles County, dubbed ExpressLanes, opened on the 110 Freeway in November.

The 10 Freeway lanes are expected to open in February.

The project is a one-year, $290 million experiment funded primarily through a $210 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to promote and study using pricing to reduce traffic congestion in major U.S. cities.

A portion of that grant money also funded the $60 million El Monte bus station, which opened in October. The modern station replaces the old facility built in 1970, and was designed to increase daily bus passenger capacity by 82 percent.

Earlier this month, Metro also completed the Gold Line Bridge in Arcadia, a vital link to finishing the $735-million, 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line extension, which will extend the light rail line from Pasadena to Azusa by 2014.

El Monte `soda tax' fails

In an attempt to boost dwindling revenues and address obesity, the city in November's election sought to become one of the first in the country to pass a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

But the initiative - Measure H - failed by a long shot, garnering just 23.5 percent of the vote. Richmond's soda tax initiative, in which El Monte's measure was modeled after, also ended in failure, with 66.9 percent of voters striking down the measure.

Supporters of the soda tax argued that it would boost funding for health programs and curb obesity, while the opposition said that it would damage businesses in an already faltering economy.

Rock transported to LACMA

It was a huge spectacle when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art moved a 340-ton exhibit from Riverside to Los Angeles.

On its journey, the rock, part of a $10 million art installation by artist Michael Heizer titled "Levitated Mass," traveled through portions of the San Gabriel Valley, including Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights.

After an 11-day journey, the rock made it to its final destination in Los Angeles in March.





Big Rig Overturns on 710 Freeway

 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/710-SigAlert-185192942.html

Saturday, Dec 29, 2012

 

The Long Beach 710 Freeway was closed at the San Diego (405) Freeway Saturday night after a big rig loaded with asphalt crashed into the center divider and overturned, leaving a smoky mess on the busy roadway, a California Highway Patrol officer said.

The crash was reported at 8:42 p.m. on the southbound 710 at Willow Street, according to Officer Christian Cracraft of the CHP Traffic Management Center.

Smoke from the asphalt led area residents and passersby to report a fire, but there were no flames, Cracraft said.

No injuries were reported.

All southbound lanes and Lanes 1 and 2 of the northbound Long Beach Freeway were shut down while Caltrans workers cleaned up the mess, he said.
SR-710 Study Fact Sheets, Last Revised December 24, 2012

Metro posted the "fact sheets" (links below) for the tunnel, light rail, bus, TSM, and "no build" alternatives on Monday 12/24/12. (they are generally the same five alternatives as "recommended by staff" last August 23). This is NOT the detailed "Alternatives Analysis.


The detailed "Alternatives Analysis" was supposed to be released in December. We are now being told that it's January.

Please email your cities and elected officials (Mayors and City Council Members) and ask them to request a meaningful dialogue besides Open Houses to discuss these alternatives right after beginning of year.  We cannot let this lack of public outreach and non-participation go this time.  It is a waste of public funds given the $3.7 million contract.  They are getting worse instead of better. (Sylvia Plummer)



Freeway Tunnel Alternative (F-7X) Fact Sheet

http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/route_710/images/sr_710_fwy_tunnel_alt_fact_sheet_post_final_2012_1221.pdf

No Build Fact Sheet

http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/route_710/images/sr_710_no_build_fact_sheet_post_final_2012_1221.pdf

Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM) Fact Sheet

http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/route_710/images/sr_710_tsmtdm_alt_fact_sheet_post_final_2012_1221.pdf

Light Rail Transit Alternative (LRT-4X) Fact Sheet

http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/route_710/images/sr_710_lrt_alt_fact_sheet_post_final_2012_1221.pdf

Bus Rapid Transit Alternative (BRT-6X) Fact Sheet

http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/route_710/images/sr_710_brt_alt_fact_sheet_post_final_2012_1221.pdf

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Trone’s District 3 Campaign Announces Jan. 5 Launch

 http://www.pasadenanow.com/main/trones-district-3-campaign-announces-jan-5-launch-event

 Thursday, December 27, 2012

 

 

  Ishmael Trone’s campaign and fundraising efforts to catapult him to the Pasadena City Council will officially kick off on January 5 at the Eden Garden Bar & Grill, 175 East Holly Street, Pasadena.


Assemblyman Chris Holden, who endorsed Trone for his now-vacant City Council seat, will serve as special guest for the campaign kick-off and fundraiser.

The event will be hosted by Robin Salzer, Gordan and Kathleen Hamilton, Sandi Mejia,Ken Chawkins, Renee Hampton and Marguerite Abrams.

Trone will be competing for the City Council seat against John J. Kennedy and the Rev. Nicolas Benson. Trone estimated that he’ll have to raise at least $50,000 to stay competitive.
The Trone for City Council campaign has launched with the slogan, “Smart growth, more jobs, safer streets.”

In a previous interview with Pasadena Now, Trone described Holden as his strongest endorsement thus far. “He (Holden) actually came to me [and] asked me to be his successor because of the long-term relationship that we have working in district.”

“District 3 is a service district,” Trone said. “They want a representative who’s accessible and knowledgeable about what they want to take place.

The kick off and fund raising event will run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.. For more information about Trone’s campaign go to www.troneforcitycouncil.com .

Man badly injured in 210 Freeway crash in Pasadena 

http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/breakingnews/ci_22281117/man-badly-injured-210-freeway-crash-pasadena

Updated:   12/29/2012 04:24:28 PM PST
 
 PASADENA - Rescuers rushed a man to a trauma center in critical condition Saturday after his Ford Mustang was involved in a crash with a big rig, authorities said. The crash was reported about 12:05 p.m. on the westbound 210 Freeway at Allen Avenue, California Highway Patrol Officer Christian Cracraft said.

Firefighters had to cut the man's Ford Mustang apart to free him from the wreckage, which had become entangled with the big rig, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.

He was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena with major injuries, she added. A description of the injured man was not available.

The crash blocked the Allen Avenue offramp of the westbound 210 Freeway, prompting officials to issue a Sig Alert that remained in effect for more than an hour, officials said.

No arrests were initially made at the scene, Cracraft said.

The cause of the crash was being investigated by the CHP's Altadena Office.


Big issues still unsettled at year's end

 http://www.sbsun.com/editorial/ci_22279891

 Editorial

 Posted:   12/29/2012 06:12:15 AM PST

 It's hard to believe another year is over already. It must be especially hard for public officials, who have watched another one come and go without fixing many of the big problems facing our cities, state and nation.
The Opinions staff has been looking back at the issues that commanded the most attention in 2012: Education issues. California fiscal issues. Municipal fiscal issues. Taxes and other economic issues. Immigration. Gun laws. Gay marriage. Medical marijuana. Ethics in government.

A theme jumps out: Whether it's because the issues are just too big to tackle or it's because our lawmakers are too small to handle them, these issues are no more settled now than they were a year ago.

Here are the most talked about themes of the year that was - and will continue to be:


  •  Education: From molestation scandals on Southern California K-12 campuses, to the debate over how to evaluate teachers, to funding problems all the way up to the state university level, it has been a year of crises. It's sad how often the people in charge seemed more interested in protecting their jobs and salaries than in doing what's best for students - witness teachers' unions blocking efforts to fire molesters, and the raises given to new Cal State University presidents even as tuitions were rising. The Proposition 30 tax hikes provide an essential bailout, but much needs to change. 
  • Government finances: The recession and irresponsible spending forced belt-tightening not only in education but in pretty much every local and state government department. San Bernardino was the biggest city to face bankruptcy and may not be the last. Two words for any official who thinks all will be well once temporary tax hikes and an improving economy kick in: pension reform. Unmanageable public employee retirement benefits are the major long-term threat to government solvency, and although state legislators took positive steps here, they kicked the rest of the challenge down the road.

  • Bullet train: Gov. Jerry Brown's vision of a $68 billion high-speed rail system connecting the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas became emblematic of a spendthrift state government. It's not a necessary expense right now. Yet the plan chugs along. 

  •  Local transportation: Efforts to reduce Southern California traffic are moving along as slowly as, well, Southern California traffic. Los Angeles County voters rejected Measure J, which would have extended the Measure R sales tax for 30 years and sped up some transportation projects. The county has adopted toll lanes on some freeways, to the apparent confusion of many drivers. 
  •  Immigration: Federal government inaction on a workable immigration system has left individual states and local law enforcement to wrestle with the issue. It's overdue for deep legislative debate on how best to limit illegal immigration and deal sternly with violators, but also to deal fairly with industries that benefit from migrant labor and families with both legal and illegal immigrants. Notice this said legislative debate - it should not be up to individual police chiefs, as when L.A.'s Chief Charlie Beck and Sheriff Lee Baca decided this year not to cooperate with federal authorities on the Secure Communities program.  
  • Medical marijuana: Another issue where federal, state and local laws collide in confusion. California lawmakers need to produce clear rules on how to control medical marijuana dispensaries in the spirit of the 1996 initiative meant to permit therapeutic use - not to set up for-profit pot shops. 
  •  Gay marriage: Weird to think this hard-fought cultural question may be the one that's closest to an official resolution. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule next year on California's Proposition 8 and other states' marriage restrictions. This editorial board believes constitutional principles demand that gay couples be given the same freedom to marry as heterosexual ones.  
  • Gun laws: If U.S. leaders' failure to act is still in headlines a year from now, it sadly will be because more mass murders have taken place. After Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., the debate over how to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people shows promise of moving beyond "do you favor gun control?" vagueness. It is time for passionate and knowledgeable people to contribute to an official discussion producing new policy. 

Unfortunately, most of these issues will endure. It has been - and will still be - that kind of year.

Support for Re-election of Victor Gordo to the Pasadena City Council
January 5th Reception Benefitting
Councilmember Victor M. Gordo
 
Dear Peggy,
  
Please join Anthony Portantino and me in supporting Victor Gordo's re-election to the City Council of Pasadena.  He's done a great job supporting our neighborhoods and making Pasadena a better place to live and work.  There's a great event on January 5th where you can show your support (details below).
  
-Tim Wendler
Resident of District 5, Pasadena
  
Anthony Portantino
former Assemblymember, 44th District
  
  
Gordo fundraiser


 
                       
 
Portantino banner
Call to Action for the People of El Sereno by Joe Cano
Here is a call to action for the people of El Sereno. Now, this is an inside conflict, or should I say a family dispute between cousins that I will let those not familiar with this issue in on. Because of Cortez's little courtesy stop in Mexico & fucked everything up, there has been a love hate relationship with Mexico & Spain over 'La Conquista'. You will find no monument in praise of Cortez in Mexico. In turn Spain has white washed their participation and their hand in the destruction of the Aztec empire from their history books. Anyone that sparks a renewal of this family feud will be caught in the middle. Those Spanish of our generation that know better, hate with a blind passion this subject ever be be brought up in public, I just did!, & I will continue to hammer these people on it. Share this with all El Sereno. I have woken up my fellow home owners and will be calling neighborhood meetings next week. Everyone I have informed is outraged at Metro'a game of hide and seek with the truth. I am getting more to commit to attending the So. Pasadena meeting in January.
 
  We humbly ask Padrecito Mike to gives El Sereno the vision & strength to take on this evil. Solo esto te rogamos. Como llevantastes nuestros padres, llevanta sus hijos. Ya no estamos dormidos.

Housing should be kept back from freeway

 http://articles.pasadenasun.com/2012-12-09/opinion/35710233_1_freeway-air-pollution-city-leaders

 December 09, 2012

 

Pasadena’s draft General Plan proposes focusing future residential growth in the city around “transit villages,” including three Gold Line stations on the 210 Freeway. Although encouraging transit-oriented development is generally a good idea, doing so along congested highways is not.

In a landmark 2004 study, USC researchers found that children who live within one block of a freeway, 500 feet, suffered from reduced lung development. Since then a growing body of research has found that those who live adjacent to freeways are at higher risk for asthma, heart disease and cancer. There are other health risks too, including increased risk for premature birth and having children with autism for expectant mothers.

 Unfortunately our ability to mitigate air pollution near freeways is limited. Tree buffers and orienting windows away from the pollution source help, but fine particles created by car exhaust, tire rubber, and brake dust, just like tobacco smoke, find their way through the best air filters. Even keeping triple-paned windows closed doesn’t keep the pollution out.

There’s already a surfeit of freeway-adjacent housing in Pasadena, and large multifamily complexes lining parts of the 210 aren’t going anywhere. The question is where the city should encourage future growth. If we listen to the science, it’s clear that placing residents, especially children, close to a freeway is a recipe for poor health.

In 2011, city leaders recognized drifting tobacco smoke as a serious danger to public health and banned smoking in apartments and condos. This choice should be far easier. Air pollution from freeways, like tobacco smoke, can’t be easily contained. City leaders and staff should acknowledge the science and limit further housing density within 500 feet of a freeway.

Wesley Reutimann
Pasadena

Editor's note: The writer is Environmental Prevention director of the community-based nonprofit, Day One.

New air pollution standards restrict soot particles

The Environmental Protection Agency, announcing the limits, predicts that they could save on healthcare costs from respiratory ailments.

 http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/14/nation/la-na-obama-soot-20121215

 By Neela Banerjee

December 14, 2012

 WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced a new air pollution standard Friday that would bring about a 20% reduction in microscopic particles of soot emitted by coal-fired power plants and diesel vehicles that contribute to haze and respiratory ailments.

The new limit, fought by industry and welcomed by environmentalists, marks the first time the Environmental
Protection Agency tightened the soot standard since it was established 15 years ago.

"These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air."

Fine particles from burning fossil fuels can penetrate deep into the lungs and lead to heart attacks, acute asthma and premature death, according to the EPA. The new limit that the EPA set for an annual average of airborne fine particles in a given jurisdiction is 12 micrograms per cubic meter, down from 15 micrograms, a standard established in 1997.

The new standard will have a particular impact on California, due to problems from the burning of diesel fuel. According to the EPA's regional office of the Pacific Southwest, seven California counties may not meet the new standard by 2020: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Kern, Merced and Tulare. Still, over the last decade, soot levels have been cut by almost 50% in the Los Angeles area and almost 30% in the San Joaquin Valley, the office said.

Industry attacked the standard as onerous and of dubious benefit to public health — and a sign of more regulation in the future.

"We fear this new rule may be just the beginning of a 'regulatory cliff' that includes forthcoming ozone rules, the refinery sector rules, pending greenhouse gas regulations for refineries," said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's main lobby. "It makes no sense to risk economic harm when the public health necessity of these regulations is ambiguous at best."

Recent research by the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that reducing fine particle pollution even by small amounts can lead to an increase in life expectancy.

The EPA estimated that by 2030, the reduction in soot "from diesel vehicles and equipment alone" could prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness. The agency estimates that it would cost industry $53 million to $350 million annually to comply with the new standard. But it estimated the annual savings in healthcare and other costs to be around $4 billion to $9.1 billion.

Right now, 99% of U.S. counties are in compliance with the new standard, the EPA said. Of the remaining, many of them will be in California, the EPA said. States have until 2018 to submit their plans to meet the new standards and then until 2020 to comply. Moreover, they could ask for an extension until 2025 "depending on the severity of an area's fine particle pollution problems and the availability of pollution controls," the EPA said.


The new soot limit is the result of a lawsuit brought by several East Coast states, led by New York, against the EPA. Soot pollution in the East is largely from coal-fired plants. California's high levels of soot can be traced to diesel-fueled transportation on its roads and its ports, which can make it harder to meet the new standards.

Paul Cort, a California-based lawyer with the environmental law and advocacy group Earthjustice, said in an email, "We don't have coal power plants in California. The big targets will have to include transportation — trucks, ports, trains — but even that will probably not be enough. These areas are going to have to really look across all industries to find the pollution reductions (a little here, a little there) that will be needed to meet this new standard by the deadline of 2020."

L.A. Traffic Relief Possible If We Targeted Specific Neighborhoods, Says GPS Data

 http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2012/12/traffic_relief_gps_berkeley_study_select_neighborhoods.php

 

freeway traffic eric demarcq flickr law pool.JPG

Remember car pooling, flexible work schedules and "telecommuting."

Yeah, none of that worked as far as our traffic goes. L.A. still has the worst congestion in the nation.

Will anything bring relief? Researchers at UC Berkeley and MIT think they might have come up with something:


These geniuses took advantage of the fact that we all drive around with virtual GPS devices in our cars whether we like it our not: Smartphones.

Looking at anonymous data and really crunching some numbers, they concluded that, rather than telling wide swaths of people to work from home to help traffic, focusing on specific neighborhoods that seem to affect street patters more would do greater good.

In fact, says a summary, ...

   ... canceling the trips of 1 percent of drivers from carefully selected neighborhoods would reduce the extra travel time for all other drivers in a metropolitan area by as much as 18 percent.

Wow. Traffic could be reduced by nearly one-fifth just by telling those douches from Silver Lake to stay off the road? (We kid).

Although the academics focused on the Bay Area and Boston, the technology to figure out which neighborhoods contribute the most to adverse traffic is in-hand and could be applied to L.A. and even developing nations, the researchers say.

The study was published last week in the journal Scientific Reports (http://www.nature.com/srep/2012/121220/srep01001/full/srep01001.html) . Berkeley's Alexandre Bayen:
Reaching out to everybody to change their time or mode of commute is thus not necessarily as efficient as reaching out to those in a particular geographic area who contribute most to bottlenecks.
We can imagine the L.A. equivalent of East Coast snow days for some of our neighborhoods: Stay-home days. Would be cool.

Caltrans to raise rents on tenants living in the path of 710 Freeway

  http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_22278355

  By Lauren Gold, Staff Writer

Friday, December 28, 2012

New laws set for California in 2013

 http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/state&id=8933866

 Thursday, December 27, 2012

 Nannette Miranda

 

Several new laws take effect on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. One raises the sales tax, another helps seniors and another benefits drivers with smartphones.

Shoppers are still getting their fill with those after-Christmas sales. But come January 1, the sales tax will temporarily jump another quarter-cent, bringing the statewide sales tax to 7.5 percent for four years. California voters OKed the tax hike under Proposition 30 last month to save schools from deeper budget cuts.

"I got a 17-year-old daughter and I got grandchildren that are growing up that are going to be in school," said shopper Evangelina Hernandez. "So whatever helps, we got to dig in our pockets a little bit deeper to help."

 Not everyone, though, is happy with another tax hike.

"Not looking forward to it. The reasons for it I know it's to improve things, but I never see it going towards that," said shopper Vicki McAdams.

The new year also brings some help to California's senior citizens. Modeled after the Amber Alert for missing children, a Silver Alert could be activated by police for anyone 65 years old or older who's missing and in great danger because of their medical condition, like Alzheimer's and dementia.
Families typically have to wait 24 hours to file a missing person's report.

"The Silver Alert law supersedes all of that and immediately puts the public and law enforcement into action looking for seniors who are lost," said Gary Passmore, Congress of California Seniors.

And 2013 changes some driving laws to account for technology.

Since lots of Californians are using smartphones these days, you'll be able to whip out your proof of insurance on those devices when a cop pulls you over.

Mike Dobson loves the idea since he just got a new iPhone 5.

"Because you have it with you all the time," said Dobson. "What a wonderful thing if you have your insurance with you all the time. Maybe we can have our driver's license on there, you know?"

One controversial law is still on hold: The ban forbidding the use of gay-to-straight conversion therapy on minors in California is still tied up in court over its Constitutionality.

Another change for drivers on New Year's Day: You'll be able text while you drive if you have "Siri" or some other program on your cellphone that allows you to text hands-free.

Reader poll results: Expo Line opening was the big story of 2012!

 http://thesource.metro.net/2012/12/28/reader-poll-results-expo-line-opening-was-the-big-story-of-2012/

 Posted by Steve Hymon

 

Screen Shot 2012-12-28 at 10.25.40 AM                                                                The results.   Ignore the ‘country’ column — it’s the same as the overall results.




Thanks to everyone who took our poll on the biggest transportation stories in 2012. As the above chart demonstrates, the verdict was pretty clear: the opening of the first phase of the Expo Line was the big to-do in the minds of many readers.
My take on a few of the year’s big storylines:

•Perhaps the biggest overall story of 2012 was the unceasing expansion of transit in Los Angeles County. The first phase of the Expo Line opened, the Orange Line Extension opened, the new El Monte Station opened, the Crenshaw/LAX Line went out to bid, the pace of construction quickened on both the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the environmental studies were completed for the Regional Connector and Westside Subway Extension — with early utility work now underway for both.

Four years after the passage of Measure R, it’s pretty clear that L.A. County is serious about transforming itself and building a transit network to compliment its sprawling road network. It has been a long time coming — and it’s great to see.


•The loss of Measure J was no doubt a significant news story. The ballot measure to extend Measure R another 30 years was obviously backed by Metro staff, the majority of the Metro Board of Directors and 66.1 percent of Los Angeles County voters. But it needed two-thirds of the vote to pass — which everyone knew ahead of time — and wasn’t quite able to reach the finish line.
A few thoughts on this:

1) Given that there are still more than 26 years left in the Measure R program, it’s hard to see the loss of J as soul crushing or the last word when it comes to trying to accelerate transit projects. If the Metro Board chooses, there will certainly be chances in the future to propose another Measure R extension.

2) The loss of J has spurred a public conversation about the two-thirds threshold needed to pass such local transportation measures and at least one state legislator has proposed lowering it to 55 percent.

There is no doubt the two-thirds threshold requires transportation ballot measures to include a long list of projects in order to get the votes needed to pass. My question about the 55 percent threshold: would it make it possible to do more targeted transportation measures – i.e. a measure with only transit projects or road projects?

I know there were transit-minded folks who voted against J because they didn’t like it sending money to road projects (the opposite is also probably true) and wanted to see money spent on existing Measure R projects as well as new ones — for example, Blue Line upgrades.

Spreading the money around makes sense politically and is fair, at least from a geographic perspective. But it also means not all projects are fully funded or lack the dollars they need to build the ideal version of them.

3) I think a few years from now we’ll better be able to judge the State Legislature’s decision to fund the first segment of the state’s bullet train project without having yet secured the tens of billions of dollars needed to build the rest of the line.

I suspect many people feel like I do that high-speed rail would greatly benefit California but worry that the version of it written by elected officials in the state and approved by voters will prove to be far too expensive to implement. If so, would those dollars have been better spent making Amtrak faster, closing the gap in Amtrak service between Los Angeles and Bakersfield or on urban transit that city-dwellers rely on day in and day out? We’ll see.

4) The ExpressLanes opened on the 110 and the world has not ended. The most interesting thing about the new toll lanes is that they weren’t very controversial and there was nowhere near the fuss raised about them that one would expect in the region that put the ‘free’ in ‘freeway.’ Obviously we’re still less than two months into a year-long demonstration project and there’s still a lot of data to be crunched as to how the ExpressLanes are impacting overall traffic flows on the 110. But the ExpressLanes on the 110 are a start and how they perform on the 110 and 10 (slated to open in early 2013) will likely dictate whether the region embraces congestion pricing as a useful strategy in the future.

5) I completely zombied out and forgot to include “Metro adds late-night weekend hours” on the poll. I know that was a big thing for many readers and also showed that Metro is earnestly trying to give people a reason not to have to drive everywhere.

6) The phasing out of paper tickets from Metro ticket machines at rail and Orange Line stations was, I think, a welcome development. As many of you know, the conversion to TAP for Metro and other local agencies has been a long, expensive saga that is still ongoing and there’s a lot more work to be done (i.e. making the taptogo.net website user-friendly, which it definitely is not). On the plus side, I think many people now find TAP something easy and convenient to use most of the time. I do.

The big stories of 2013?

The obvious one is the progress on the five Measure R projects — Expo 2, Foothill Extension, Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector and Westside Subway. Up north, we’ll be watching to see when/if shovels will be hitting the ground for the high-speed rail project.

In D.C., the big story will be whether Congress — and, in particular, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — can come to any kind of agreement on a future transportation bill that would help local transit agencies build big projects. A federal loan program was expanded for the current transportation bill that expires in 2014 and Metro, as part of its America Fast Forward program, will be seeking to continue the loan program and add a bond program that could supply billions more federal dollars.

 We’ll also be looking at ridership both locally and nationally. If the latest job figures are an indicator, both California and Los Angeles County are finally on the rebound from the Great Recession and that hopefully means more people going to work each day. Over the last year, Metro bus ridership has held steady and rail ridership has grown — a trend that will hopefully continue.