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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Metro’s first 20 years: an interactive timeline (part one: the projects)


 Posted by Steve Hymon


 It’s a week of anniversaries at Metro: The Metro Red Line began operating 20 years ago this week just a few days before Day One of Metro on Feb. 1, 1993. The above timeline is the first of two that we’ll post on The Source; you can scroll right and left on the one above or see a larger version here.

The next timeline, which I’ll post next week, will focus on key policy decisions and other milestones for the agency.

Of course, Metro did not begin as “Metro.” In 1993, Metro was known only by its formal name, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The new agency was a merger of two other agencies with clunky names: Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (CTC) and the Southern California Rapid Transit District (RTD). The idea behind the merger was to cut the inherent red tape that came with two government agencies trying to operate and/or plan transit and transportation in one county.

The irony is that there had already been a Los Angeles MTA, a city agency which in 1964 was merged into the RTD. The big idea then was that the region needed a regional transportation agency, an idea that didn’t last very long as separate agencies were subsequently created for Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino counties and last, but not least, Los Angeles County.

A big thanks to the Dorothy Peyton Gray Metro Transportation Library & Archive for doing the research that made assembling this timeline very easy; here also is their page on the history of transportation agencies in Los Angeles County. If you click on the ‘more’ button in most of the timeline bubbles, I’ve included photos, videos or links to media stories about some of the events. If there’s anything you would like me to add, please leave a factoid or link in a comment; photos must be in the public domain.

Letter to Councilman Jose Hulzer on the SR 710 Alternative Analysis Report

January 31, 2013

Pacific Electric Red Car In LA Covered 25 Percent More Mileage Than NYC's Subway Today (PHOTO, VIDEO) 


By Kathleen Miles

January 31, 2013



Los Angeles used to have a public transit system that covered about 25 percent more track mileage than New York City's current subway system.

In its eco-heyday in 1945, LA had more than 900 hydro-electric Pacific Electric "Red Cars" that covered more than 1,100 miles, from Pasadena to downtown LA, Santa Moncia, Long Beach, Balboa and Santa Ana. It connected LA, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. In comparison, New York City's subway today covers 842 miles.

So how did the City of Angels end up with the most pitiful transit system of any major U.S. city? You may have heard a story about General Motors buying the Red Cars and dismantling them in order to force dependency on freeways. But that's just a myth propagated in the 1988 film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

The Red Car system was the brainchild of Henry Huntington, a real estate mogul who is also the namesake and creator behind So Cal's Huntington Beach, Huntington Park and the Huntington Library. Huntington built up the Pacific Electric railroad system as a way of transporting potential residents to and from his own real estate developments. To power all those Red Cars, he went into the Sierras and build an unprecedented hydro-electric power operation.

One of the problems the Red Cars faced is that Huntington never built them to be a comprehensive transit system. It was only meant to be a means of transit to the hundreds of subdivisions he built on the periphery of LA -- one of the reasons LA is so spread out today. As a result, it became easier to get around by driving.

Other factors that doomed the Red Cars, according to LA Metro:

• Same basic business issues both pre and post WWII - huge capital costs to replace aging power substations, catenary wire and rail cars, buses become the economical alternative, rail-to-bus conversions begin in 1925.
No public subsidies for capital or operating costs available from local, state or federal governments.
• Cultural changes - automobile reliability improves, status symbol marketing, and women & minorities enter the industrial workforce.
• Modal improvements - brand new un-crowded highways and freeways.
• Transit service operators believed that the freeway system would accommodate and speed transit buses as a high speed backbone, thereby increasing their attractiveness to passengers.
GM perfects and markets the 45 seat transit bus; air conditioning and air suspension become options.
Diesel is not yet considered to be a component of a new phenomenon called “smog.”
Perhaps the final straw was when Californians rejected a tax in 1926 that would have repaired the Red Cars, which had become dilapidated and mocked as a "slum on wheels." The Red Cars were soon replaced with bus routes and freeways, with the last Red Car running in 1961.

As LA desperately tries to build up its subway system today, remaining Red Car tracks can still be spotted across the city, especially around Santa Monica. Ironically, just as they did in 1926, Angelenos failed to pass a half-cent transportation sales tax last year that would have expedited the city's proposed subway extension. Even though 64.72 percent of Anglenos voted for the measure, California law requires a supermajority vote of 66.66% for any tax increase.

Here is a map of Pacific Electric's railroads in 1925:
The 710 Tunnel: For Commuters or for Goods Movement?


July 31, 2013


All over the map
State Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, should be complimented for bringing Metro and Caltrans together. Perhaps there will be less of “hiding the ball” in the future. With respect to the actual purpose and need being discussed, Mayor Bogaard brought up the germane point of the day: Is the 710 for commuters only or for goods movement as well?
This project’s purpose and need has been all over the map since it has been on the map. First of all, it is a transportation project. Does it contribute efficiencies to commuter traffic? If the answer is no, then one does not need to go further and spend $37 million on an EIR and who knows how much in constructing it. And the answer is no!
If the need is commuter efficiencies, one has to answer the following question: What city traffic is currently being served by the on/off ramp on Valley Boulevard? The answer is Alhambra, San Gabriel, South Pasadena, San Marino, Arcadia, Pasadena and perhaps a few cities farther east. What cities mentioned above would use the toll tunnel to access the 710? The answer is: Very few if any, perhaps the northern regions of Pasadena and Altadena, but that’s about it. Most of the traffic going on or coming off at Valley is the traffic from these cities. Who in their right mind would pay a toll going either north or south and have to deal with a 210/710 interchange and then still thread their way on the same arterials to get to and from these cities? The answer, of course, is the same. Conclusion: It is not for commuter efficiencies, but primarily for goods movement (port traffic).
Second observation: If the tunnel is for commuters (cars), why does the proposed design consist of two 60-foot diameter tunnels when plus or minus 35 feet would do for cars and SUVs?
Conclusion: It is for trucks!

Say Hi to the Pink ‘Stache – Lyft Ridesharing Comes to L.A. 


January 31, 2013

 A Lyft parade...a Prius sports the trademark pink moustache

As part of its Los Angeles launch, Lyft led a parade of cars donning fluffy pink mustaches on their front bumpers through the streets of Santa Monica during the lunch hour today.

Launched by SF-based Zimride, a provider of white-label online ridematching services, Lyft markets
itself as an alternative to a cab and positions itself as the next step in the ongoing evolution in ridesharing.

People can arrange for rides with Lyft drivers in minutes via a smartphone application. The application handles “donations” passengers give drivers in exchange for the ride. Drivers must pass background driving and criminal checks; they also have to carry sufficient insurance. Zimride allowed users to rate one another as drivers and passengers. Lyft allows for the same thing, and will never match a passenger with a driver he/she rated fewer than four stars.

Zimride provides ridematching services on L.A.’s Westside. In the fall 2008 UCLA agreed to offer its Facebook app to users with ucla.edu email addresses. The following summer, UCLA upgraded to Zimride’s white label service, which opened access to non-Facebook users.

Zimride turned out to be more useful for arranging regular commutes and one-time long distance trips. How will Lyft find and meet the demand for impromptu around-town trips in LA? Furthermore, how will Lyft and the technology and behavioral changes it might prompt fit into policymakers and planners’ grander schemes for vehicle mile trip reductions? Will services like Lyft supplant fixed-route bus lines? Will so-called choice riders shift from modes like fixed-route transit and biking to this kind of peer-to-peer ridesharing? Or will it fill a void that it isn’t fiscally or logistically feasible for municipal transit operators to fulfill?

 A Quake-warning System Will Not Give Drivers in the 710 Tunnel Sufficient Time to Escape From It Before the Earthquake Hits


An earthshaking development: State should fund quake-warning system 


 LANG Editorial Board

January 30, 2013

  LIKE death and taxes, California earthquakes are not going away. But just because they aren't preventable doesn't mean we shouldn't be as prepared as possible by having a few seconds warning when they are about to hit.

Unlike other quake-prone regions - Japan, Mexico, Romania, for goodness' sake - California has never had a fully developed system that gives an alert when there is a major seismic event.

But Caltech and the United States Geological Survey, both based in Pasadena, and University of California Berkeley seismologists have long been working on putting together a network of sensors that could give the public some time to get out of harm's way in the event of a major earthquake.

The system would send warnings in the form of text messages, crawls on television screens and radio alerts. When a massive earthquake hit Japan in 2011, about 50 million cellphone users got text-message warnings within seconds.

This week, a group of California geophysicists announced plans to complete that system, and state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, says he will author legislation aimed at funding it.
Skeptics will pounce on the latter suggestion right away. Fund a major state project just as we've got our budget balanced? That's crazy talk, they will say.

There are two reasons it isn't crazy.

First, the estimated price tag of $80 million is not the size of a major boondoggle, especially considering how much money and lives it could save in California. This isn't the beginning of a new project with unknown possible change orders, either; many of the sensors are already in place, in the ground. The money would not be spent all at once but rather over time as the system is completed.

Second, as Padilla noted on Tuesday, his legislation would not be seeking anything like the entire $80 million from general-fund coffers. Rather, he would like to explore getting money from federal grants, from public-private partnerships and from special state funds set aside for such purposes. That includes the state Public Utilities Commission, which has a clear interest in protecting everything from nuclear power plants to the flow of water through California's aqueducts.

Skeptics will also ask: What's the advantage of knowing what we can't do anything to stop?

And the answer to that one is easy. Train engineers given early warning can come to a halt, greatly lessening the danger of derailing. Operating-room surgeons can put down the scalpel and protect staff and patients. Freeway drivers warned by the system of electronic signs Metro and Caltrans have installed can stay clear of overpasses and pull over to the side of the road.

Those at work or at home could use the warning time of anywhere from just a few seconds to a minute to either get under a protective desk or go outside to open spaces where there is less danger from falling objects.

There is no perfect answer to the danger posed to our society by earthquakes. When the Big One strikes, there will be billions of dollars in property damage, and there will be lives lost. But to not take this practical, cost-efficient step toward finishing a protective system for California that is already underway would be foolish.

It's unclear who exactly would even operate it. "Caltech's in the driver's seat now," Padilla says. "University-backed? A state government umbrella? I'll defer to the experts."

But rational Californians will agree with Padilla's bottom line: "I don't want to be sitting at home after the Big One and say, `Why didn't we?"'

 (And drivers in the 710 tunnel can just panic and try to drive as fast as they can out of the tunnel. But never fear, Stephen Klien, the principal-in-charge for Metro's 710 project study, assured the audience at a Metro meeting that any tunnel would be engineered for earthquake safety...  and this is after Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist from Caltech who researches earthquakes, said that "
he has serious concerns about how the tunnel would hold up in an earthquake. He said although many people think a tunnel would be completely safe, many have collapsed or been damaged in recent global quakes." http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_21588582/panelists-blast-710-extension-at-pasadena-forum 

Most of us Californians, who have been through numerous major quakes in the Los Angeles area, are well aware that "earthquake safety" and "earthquake proof" are two different things, the first meaning that with adequate safeguards damage to a structure can be limited but not entirely prevented and the later meaning that no damage will occur from an earthquake, which, in the case of tunnel design, can be determined only after a quake occurs. And don't forget all those aftershocks that occur after a major quake and also the power surges occurring during a quake. So let's build two 4.9-mile road tunnels in earthquake country and then cross our fingers that all will be well. Hopeful way of looking at it, but neither practical or scientific.)

The Chicken Little app: An earthquake! An earthquake!


 By Paul Whitefield

January 29, 2013

Earthquake early warning system

In the movie “Galaxy Quest” (a cult classic comedy; I give it 3 stars and a big thumbs-up), the hero gains access to a device that allows him to reverse time. The catch? It’s for just 13 seconds.

What good would it do to be able to go back in time just 13 seconds, you -- and the “Galaxy Quest” hero -- ask?

Well, see the movie and find out. (No spoiler alert needed.)

Then perhaps you can also explain to me why we shouldn’t get behind the plan to build an early warning system for earthquakes, which a group of California's top geophysicists and seismologists announced Monday.

Because a few seconds can mean a lot. I mean, suppose Chicken Little was right -- wouldn't you want to know?

OK, naysayers, true -- this system will cost money: an estimated $80 million. And no, it doesn’t actually predict an earthquake, which is the Holy Grail of seismology.

So what would it do? As my colleagues Rong-Gong Lin II and Rosanna Xia wrote:

If a temblor erupted near the Salton Sea, for instance, underground sensors along the San Andreas would send off an alert to points north and west, covering population centers in Los Angeles and San Diego. Experts said this would give time to shut off utilities, prepare emergency response personnel and slow trains.

Japan, of course, already has such a system. (So does Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey and -- wait for it -- Romania. Huh? You're telling me we're behind Romania?). And here is how Japan’s worked in a real-world disaster:

In the devastating 2011 Japan earthquake, a sensor embedded in the ground detected the first signs of movement and immediately sent out an alert at the speed of light. Within seconds, text messages warning of impending shaking went out to roughly 50 million people.

Many people in Tokyo, 200 miles away from the epicenter, knew the quake was coming before they felt the shaking about 30 seconds later. Trains were able to slow down or stop, and not a single car derailed.

Having experienced my share of quakes (the 1987 Whittier Narrows temblor was my first “big” shaker, knocking down bricks in my Pasadena home’s chimney and scaring the daylights out of my wife, a SoCal native no less), I say “yes” to getting any kind of warning that a quake is coming.

In fact, one of the scariest aspects of an earthquake is precisely that: You don’t know when it’s coming. One minute you’re watching TV, the next, you’re watching your TV whiz by your head and hit the wall across the room (don’t laugh; this happened to some friends during the 1994 Northridge shaker).

So, having a precious few seconds to brace yourself, or hug the wife and/or kids and/or dog and/or cat -- or perhaps to just go shut off the gas or get out from under that 1,000 pound chandelier or, heck, I don't know, put on some clothes -- certainly couldn’t hurt.

The problem right now isn’t the technology; it’s the cash. California is just digging out from a budget crisis, and money for even worthy causes is still hard to come by. But c'mon, we spend -- or waste -- a lot more money than this all the time. Surely there is $80 million in between the Legislature's couch cushions.

What are the chances this thing gets up and running? Who knows. But the chances are 100% that California is going to have more earthquakes.

And as the next one is about to hit my little patch of heaven, I’d sure like to have a beeping cellphone tell me that.  


'My Jihad' Ads Come to Metro, Opponent Calls Them 'Deceptive and Cynical'


By Martin Austermuhle

January 30, 2013



 Metro seems to be the place to wage the ideological battle over what Islam is and is not, it seems.

A new ad campaign that seeks to redefine the word "jihad" launched at four D.C. Metro stations this week. Sponsored by the by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the ads feature photos of Muslims discussing their religious struggles; "#MyJihad is to not take the simple things in life for granted," says one. The organization hopes that the ads will help change the understanding of jihad in concept and practice:

MyJihad is a public education campaign that seeks to share the proper meaning of Jihad as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims. Jihad is a central tenet of the Islamic creed which means “struggling in the way of God“.

The way of God, being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc (not forcible conversion as wrongly claimed by some).

As Muslims, we are taught to put forth a concerted and noble effort against injustice, hate, misunderstanding, war, violence, poverty, hunger, abuse or whatever challenge big or small we face in daily life, with the purpose of getting to a better place.
Last October notorious anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller bought ads in Metro stations featuring the image of the World Trade Center towers being brought down alongside passages from the Quran. She also purchased ads supporting Israel and pledging to "defeat jihad." A number of organizations teamed up to buy ads protesting Geller's statements.
The ads will be on display for the next four weeks at the Shaw, Waterfront, Rockville, and Dunn Loring Metro stations. They have also run in San Francisco and Chicago.

UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: We reached out to Geller, and here's what she emailed back: "This is a deceptive and cynical campaign designed to mislead Americans into complacency about the jihad threat. The fact that some Muslims understand jihad is a benign way does nothing to negate, challenge, or cancel the fact that other Muslims think of it as involving killing infidels. This is not Islamic reform, it is deception. I've developed a counter-campaign featuring the actual words of actual jihadists, and am working to get it accepted despite official fear and complicity with the Islamic supremacist groups sponsoring the MyJihad campaign. I submitted to WMATA and am still awaiting approval."


First big transpo hearing today - Boxer pushes Villaraigosa to vie for DOT job - Rockefeller backs Hersman - HSR supporters ding CNN


By Adam Snider and Burgess Everett

January 31, 2013

RAMPING UP ACTION: The first transportation hearing of this Congress kicks off today, as Sens. Barbara Boxer and David Vitter convene the EPW Committee for a powwow on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Boxer told MT that she and her ranking member want to get the money in the trust fund — from the harbor maintenance tax’s value-based fee on imported goods — off the sidelines. “It’s not fair. It’s a trust fund, but the money just sits there and it’s building up.”

‘Like a fraud’: The RAMP Act has been reintroduced in the House (H.R. 335; text: http://1.usa.gov/118sMlj) and Boxer hopes to include it in WRDA legislation. That bill would tie yearly port spending to the receipts into the HMTF, though it doesn’t address the multibillion-dollar surplus that’s accumulated over the years. Appropriators have typically given port projects less money than is raised through import fees on shippers, leading to the surplus. Boxer said spending of that money would have to be “offset and that’s always problematic.” Instead she wants look at using it “going forward,” something she and Vitter agree on. “It’s like a fraud to the people paying it that they don’t get to use it.”

BOXER PHONES VILLARAIGOSA — Tells him to go for DOT opening: The EPW chairwoman called up L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Tuesday to ask him to openly vie for the new vacancy at DOT. “I talked to him last night because I wanted to encourage him to pursue this. So I hope he is,” Boxer told MT. “People need to know you’re interested or you’re not going to be in the mix.” She said she does not ascribe to the typical playbook of staying quiet while speculation swirls, though Villaraigosa was not made available for an interview to MT (he’s in South Korea for the winter Special Olympics). But we had a long talk with him in November, when his name first began raising eyebrows, and discovered from biking to high-speed rail, the mayor and current Secretary Ray LaHood are on the same page. But the big thing for Boxer is that AV, as he is known by his aides, knows all about the national transportation funding crisis.

HTF front and center: “We’ve got to fund it. It’s currently underfunded. That’s why we did a two-year surface transportation bill instead of a five-year surface transportation bill,” Villaraigosa said. “Let’s put everything on the table. Let’s not be afraid to fully fund highways, public transportation, operations.” That’s music to Boxer’s ears. “The Highway Trust Fund is running dry, so you need someone in that position who has ideas and who can go around the country and sell those ideas and can work with members of Congress on both sides,” Boxer said. Villaraigosa is “very good at that,” she added. Burgess has more for Pros: http://politico.pro/14sju1x

ROCKEFELLER PREFERS HERSMAN: NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman’s work on the Dreamliner problems is brightening her national spotlight — right as the White House is looking for a new Transportation secretary and vowing Cabinet diversity (http://politi.co/11j45go). Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller is giving her a full-throated endorsement. Hersman, a former Commerce aide, “has the experience and gravitas to be a terrific secretary of Transportation,” Rockefeller said. He called her a “constant reassuring presence” at NTSB and said he has “known her for many years and in every job she has impressed with her deep knowledge of our transportation systems.” Kathryn has more for Pros: http://politico.pro/VxbbBg

SURPRISING NO ONE: Ed Rendell insists that Obama will not select the former Pennsylvania governor for the job, Colby Itkowitz reports. "The president would not be interested. … I'd be too critical of the lack of transportation funding. I want to continue influencing this from the outside." http://bit.ly/VsWrQm

THE LEAST TRUSTED NAME IN HSR NEWS: CNN calls itself "the most trusted name in news.” But high-speed rail advocates beg to differ. Rail supporters are lashing out at a recent report (http://bit.ly/YjfMnr) on “Anderson Cooper 360” that questioned federal spending on high-speed rail, most of which came as an $8 billion allotment in the 2009 stimulus package. “It is now three years later and we can’t find any high-speed rail that’s actually been built,” Cooper said in his introduction of a “Keeping Them Honest” segment by correspondent Drew Griffin that focused on a route in Vermont. “Is it really quote unquote high-speed rail? It’s not, but we have significantly improved mileage,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told MT. Adam’s Pro story has much more on the backlash, context on the HSR program and CNN’s side of the story: http://politico.pro/14smkUh

THURSDAY IS FOUR-FIFTHS OF THE WAY TO THE WEEKEND. Thanks for reading POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and yelling on your cell phone at Capitol Lounge. If it moves, it's news. Email us: beverett@politico.com and asnider@politico.com. Twitter: @AdamKSnider and @BurgessEv. More news: @POLITICOPro and @Morning_Transpo.

“His boat is big and strong and bold; she has a stalwart bow …” http://bit.ly/V57WNm (h/t Keith Lardie)

FUN WITH EXIT INTERVIEWS — So long T&I hearings: As much as we’d like to think Secretary LaHood only wanted to talk to MT on Tuesday, he made himself available to several other media outlets to talk about his decision to leave his post at DOT. LaHood told Chicago Magazine that he still is a Republican and ruled out — again — any interest in future office, except for the aspirations of his son, state Sen. Darin LaHood. He also is not missing the Hill: “I miss nothing about Congress. I don’t miss Congress for one minute. I miss some of the people there, but that’s it,” he said. http://chi.mg/YEGQ4x

Hello HSR: Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein got some good nuggets out of the secretary, who told him that everyone will be driving hybrids or plug-ins by 2025 due to fuel standards. But he also took the gloves off with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who rejected the Obama administration’s high-speed rail money. “My thought was there is only one person in Florida who doesn't want this money. … He is a governor without a vision when it comes to transportation." http://huff.to/127UYEc

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W.H.: INFRASTRUCTURE=GROWTH: White House press secretary Jay Carney responded to a question on the administration shifting from deficit reduction to growth strategies: “Every proposal the president has put forward in these series of negotiations and debates with Republicans about deficit reduction have — every proposal has included significant investments in our economy — in infrastructure, in education, in putting teachers and police officers back on the street. … Investing in infrastructure, for example, doesn’t just create jobs in the near term; it helps build a foundation for sustained economic growth in the decades to come.”

TIFIA APPS TOP $40B: One more big project was added to the list of TIFIA applicants (totaling more than $41 billion now) this month: a request by the Florida DOT for a direct loan for the “I-4 Ultimate Improvements” project. MT stumbled across a PowerPoint describing those improvements, which include managed toll lanes on the Central Florida road, new bridges, new interchanges and SunRail running alongside. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/14sdUfB

ONE COMMITTEE DOWN, ONE TO GO: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan cleared the state’s House Finance Committee on a 14-8 vote — including four Democrats voting in favor. The measure now heads to the full House of Delegates and is also up for a vote in the Senate Finance Committee today. The proposal would replace the state’s 17.5 cent gasoline tax with a 0.8 percent sales tax increase and several other fees that would be dedicated to transportation projects.

Across the Potomac: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley gave his State of the State address and admitted the Old Line State has yet to settle on a new transportation vision. “We have the worst traffic congestion in the country. … We could be creating thousands of jobs and alleviating traffic congestion at the same time. We can either figure this out together, or every citizen in our state will continue to waste more time and more money sitting in more traffic.”

MT HEADS UP — Chemistry Council report: The American Chemistry Council puts out a new report today highlighting how chemical and plastic shippers are paying higher rates thanks to the rules governing freight railroads. ACC is arguing for Surface Transportation Board action that would improve competition and lessen the burden on “captive shippers” — companies that only have one option when moving goods by rail. The report goes live later today.

DAILY DREAMLINER UPDATE: Boeing’s CEO, in a talk about the company’s finances, gave a few thoughts on the troubled Dreamliner line of planes that remain grounded as the NTSB continues its investigation. The company plans to stick to its production schedule doesn’t think any changes are needed in the battery design, the AP reports (http://politico.pro/XKsfxU). W. James McNerney Jr. also said he’s confident investigators will find the cause of the problems and doesn’t regret the decision to use lithium ion batteries, The New York Times said (http://nyti.ms/XKsokR).

MAILBAG — NTSB recommendations: NTSB’s Hersman has sent a letter to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro with safety recommendations stemming from a 2011 crash between a tractor-trailer truck and a train. Read the letter: http://1.usa.gov/XSNuOs


- Dreamliner problems embolden green energy detractors. Pro’s Darius Dixon: http://politico.pro/VpqvKH

- Streetsblog isn’t a fan of the lobbying-state DOT revolving door, including Oklahoma DOT head Gary Ridley, a former asphalt lobbyist. http://bit.ly/VwjWeS

- Honda is bringing Siri to some of its cars. Truth About Cars: http://aol.it/Wg2M3A

- Metro advertisement back and forth continues with #myjihad campaign; response ad on the way. DCist: http://bit.ly/14wbWfh

- DDOT says streetcars are still on track to make triumphant return to D.C. late this year. GGW: http://bit.ly/12a1nyL

- Fog delayed the entire New York subway system on Wednesday. It looked pretty cool though. Gawker: http://gaw.kr/WBNEdk

MT POLL — Help us help you: Our excellent transport team brings you a lot of news each and every day. But what do you want to see more of? Should we devote more coverage to a certain mode (transit, roads, aviation) or take a longer look at some pressing but not necessarily newsy issues (Highway Trust Fund woes, congressional attitudes about transportation)? Please suggest your own ideas at our poll that closes Sunday at noon: http://bit.ly/XKA5bn

THE COUNTDOWN: The new sequestration deadline is in 29 days and DOT funding runs out in 56 days. Passenger rail policy runs out in 243 days, surface transportation policy in 611 days and FAA policy in 973 days. The mid-term elections are in 642 days.

CABOOSE — LaHood and bikes, Part 2: Just a day after we reminded you all of Ray LaHood’s impromptu “tabletop” speech at the Bike Summit a few years ago, the League of American Bicyclists announced at he’ll be at the summit again this year — making him five for five in attending the bike-friendly gathering. Check out LAB’s blog post on him (http://bit.ly/WBGUMp) or, if you’re so inclined, a picture of a less-formal LaHood (shorts instead of a suit) pedaling on a two-wheeler outside the DOT headquarters (http://wny.cc/14wef
Study: People Who Bike or Walk to Work Enjoy Their Commutes the Most


By Angie Schmitt

January 31, 2013

This news will surprise no one who has discovered the joy that is setting off to work on two wheels, but new research out of Portland State University found that people who bike to work enjoy their commutes the most. People who walk to work are close behind on the commute satisfaction scale.

The finding is based on a survey of commuters from the region conducted by Ph.D candidate Oliver Smith. Jonathan Maus at Network blog Bike Portland heard about the study at a happy hour/transportation geek-out put on by Portland State University’s urban planning school, where students shared research they had recently presented at the Transportation Research Board in D.C.:
I met Oliver Smith, a Ph.D. Candidate in Urban Studies at the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at PSU. Smith recently completed a research project titled, Commute Well-being Among Bicycle, Transit, and Car Users in Portland, Oregon (PDF of presentation poster) Based on surveys from 828 people taken during January through February of 2012, he found that commuting to work under your own power “increases commute well-being.” In other words, the happiest commuters are those who walk and bike. Of course I was happy to see that of all modes surveyed, biking made people the happiest (see chart). The lowest measures of commute well-being were recorded by people who drove alone (which is unfortunate because 58% of Portland commuters get to work that way).

Smith’s research also found that people who make over $75,000 per year, and people who are happy with their job and housing situation were more likely to report a high commute well-being. Major factors that dragged down well-being scores included traffic congestion (non-existent for bike riders), crowded transit vehicles, safety concerns (especially for bikers), and travel times longer than 40 minutes (for auto drivers only).
Elsewhere on the Network today: The League of American Bicyclists reports that Atlanta is gearing up to establish itself as a bike-friendly city. Car Free Baltimore shares a list of ideas for making the city more livable in the short term. And Urban Review STL explains why St. Louis needs true high-speed rail to Chicago.

All aboard California's magical bullet train


 By Ted Rall

January 31, 2013

 Construction for high-speed rail through the Central Valley is supposed to start in July. But the state of California still hasn't purchased any of the land along the route. How will the train get from one city to the next? Magic.


The state still needs to buy land for its high-speed rail project

Elderly Woman Gets Shouted Down by Metro Consultant Jim Oswald: video by Joe Cano

January 31, 2013

Our own tax dollars used to abuse us. And a Pasadena Star News reporter implied I starting this ruckus. Last time I looked in the mirror I didn't look anywhere near as pretty as this wonderful lady. This woman reminds me of the mother, tough as nails. (Joe Cano)
More Comments to
 Letters to the Editor: No PR types at the Metro meeting-2


Other comments published on this blog at





 Mr. Quon: Mr. Oswald the man who screamed in our faces he would shut the meeting down, is a PAID CONSULTANT. what more is there to say if he is your mouthpiece?


Mr Quon contends that the engineers, not PR types, at the meeting could answer all the public questions. Unfortunately, that is not the case and in fact, on some subjects, created more questions that didn't get answered, in particular, about cost of the tunnels.

Finally, the cost estimates for the alternatives was released 5 months after they were promised. Then, to add insult to injury, the cost of the most environmentally negative, controversial, expensive alternative, the 2 toll tunnels, is far from accurate and half as much as it should be based on the construction cost of a similar diameter tunnel in Seattle. The construction cost should be $9 Billion, not $5.35 Billion.

And, another thing they didn't do properly during the analysis is to model the tunnels with tolls. Instead of working on the premise of tolls being changed to fund the thing, they looked at it as if it was free when, in fact, Metro has been tell us for ten years that the only way it will get built is if it was tolled to capture revenue. So with no tolls in the analysis, there is no diversion of drivers to not pay the tolls and it appears to relieve the perceived traffic problem. With tolls, $5-15 per one-way trip, there will be many vehicles diverting off onto city streets, more than is there now and how could this possible solve any traffic problems.

In short, there are serious, serious problems with this process so far and the Alternative Analysis is flawed. 


  At a very basic level, there was no one that could answer what criteria went into the scoring for the alternatives. The public cannot adequately evaluate these choices without that information to challenge assumptions. And despite repeated requests from the public as well as numerous elected officials in the region, Metro has been staunchly opposed to providing this detail.

Metro's deliberate lack of accountability breeds mistrust and opposition - so none of this outcry should surprise Metro officials. If theydo not answer to the public or the people we elect - just who are they answering to? On that point, Metro remains silent as well. Meanwhile $780 Million dollars is being wrung dry from Measure R funds to have Metro plead "just give us a chance to study this!". We all should have such access to hundreds millions and not answer for it. The only threat here is from the public exposing this sham.


Funding Important Transportation Infrastructure
in a Fiscally Constrained Environment


By Robert W. Poole, Jr., Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow

January 2013

Go to the website above to view the pdf.

Keeping CNN Honest: 10 Ways Anderson Cooper Got the Rail Story Wrong 

By Tanya Snyder

January 31, 2013 




Last Friday, CNN’s Anderson Cooper ran a segment about high-speed rail as part of his “Keeping Them Honest” series. Reporter Drew Griffin did an “exposé” of a Vermont rail project that spent .00006 percent of the federal stimulus money on needed track improvements and came in on time and under budget. Scandal!

It amounts to a high-profile smear campaign on the high-speed rail program from a mainstream media source trying to expose government corruption and waste where none exists. Cooper makes it clear they’re going to stay on the story; they already did a similar takedown of the California rail program.

I’ve counted ten ways this story was misreported. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any…

1. Higher-speed rail is not a failure. Perhaps the Obama administration could have done a better job making clear that their rail program was split into two halves: one for high-speed rail and one for incremental upgrades to inter-city passenger rail. Not all of the projects were intended to bring speeds up to 110 mph.

“We’ve never been very public about this but, yes, we’ve felt for a long time that the administration has done a poor job around messaging,” said Dan Schned of the Regional Plan Association. “The bulk of the money went to regional projects, but they still had the secretary going around the country and calling this the ‘high-speed program.’”

The crux of the CNN story is that while the Vermont project did everything it set out to do and was a responsible steward of taxpayer money, it’s not “the high-speed rail that you or I think of.” Well, no. There’s a reason for that.

2. It takes more than three years to build high-speed rail. Cooper embarrassed himself when he ominously intoned that three whole years after the passage of the stimulus (actually, it’s been four years), “we can’t find any high-speed rail that’s actually been built.” They show images of almond trees and dairy farms in California along the planned route. “Not a single piece of track on that line has been built.”

True – they plan to break ground this summer in California. But, as House Republicans constantly
complain, highway projects can take up to 15 years to complete. There are lots of reasons for that, which I won’t delve into here. But to expect something as massive and complex as high-speed rail to instantly appear like magic the minute the deal is inked is, well, a little naïve. Szabo calls high-speed rail “a multi-generational effort,” noting that it took “10 administrations, 28 sessions of Congress” to complete the interstate highway system.

3. There is high-speed rail. Cooper says they couldn’t find any high-speed rail. I guess he wasn’t looking in the Midwest, where officials just cut the ribbon on new service between Chicago and Kalamazoo. It’s the second fastest line in the country, nearing Acela speeds of 150 mph. Other trains in the Midwest can reach 110 mph in places.

And that fits the U.S. DOT’s definition of high-speed rail. In 2009, the agency made clear that they defined high-speed rail as “reasonably expected to reach speeds of at least 110 mph.” That’s not the Japanese definition or the French definition, but it’s what DOT committed to, and it’s happening.

And even slower speeds like the Vermonter’s will build the travel market, which will then justify greater investment in higher speeds and enhanced reliability. Amtrak is joining California in buying high-speed rolling stock – clearly they’re preparing for a faster future.
Drew Griffin embarrassed himself by revealing how little he understands transportation.

4. $52 million isn’t enough to turn around decades of neglect. The improvements made on the Vermont segment that was singled out by CNN can be helpful as part of a reinvigorated rail network — but that network still has a long way to go. “Instead of complaining about this, they should be demanding more money spent,” said Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association. “We’ve let rail fall apart in this country to such a state that there are a lot of basic repairs that are needed as well.”

CNN’s Griffin criticized the line for its infrequency — there are only one or two trains a day — and it slowness — one passenger Griffin interviewed said it takes nine hours to get to New York, versus five-and-a-half hours driving. That’s right, Kunz readily admits: Rail in the U.S. is substandard.

“It’s the 21st century, we’re a top country in the world — why do we have such crappy rail service?” Kunz said. “It’s because we have never invested in rail in this country in 100 years.”

5. We’re still waiting for the CNN expose about the $4.7 billion highway to nowhere. The interstate system has been the beneficiary of more than $600 billion in public subsidies over and above what it rakes in from fuel taxes and tolls. Spending on highways and aviation dwarf what that nation spends on rail, and people still suffer through the frustration of congestion and delays on those modes. What if we started pouring equal amounts of cash into inter-city rail? America could have a state-of-the-art system in no time.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation spent most of its $241.2 million in stimulus money on roads.
The $52 million to make some basic efficiency upgrades to its Amtrak line – which resulted in substantial time savings — doesn’t seem like an inordinate amount. And it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the real sources of waste in American transportation spending, like Alabama’s $4.7 billion zombie highway.

6. The only criterion was an environmental impact statement? Wrong. Griffin interviewed just one “independent” source, and it’s railophobe Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute. O’Toole looks at the camera and tells this bald-faced lie: “The federal government had one criteria when it was passing out high-speed rail funds, and that was, ‘Had states done an environmental impact statement, so the projects would be shovel-ready’… It didn’t matter whether the project was worthwhile.”

That’s just “flatly incorrect,” said Dan Schned.

Actually, a GAO report two years ago praised the FRA for following recommended project selection
practices with its high-speed rail grants. Schned notes that while RPA had recommended a highly quantitative model, the FRA’s selection process was more qualitative, but it’s still just a load of hooey to say shovel-readiness was the only thing they looked at. After all, the program was oversubscribed by a factor of 10 to 1. The FRA clearly didn’t just take everyone with an EIS.
7. Griffin’s assertion that the project “only” saved 28 minutes is misleading — in three ways. First, it’s just sloppy reporting that CNN fails to put the 28-minute time savings in the context of the total trip. Is that shaved off a two-hour trip or a 20-hour trip? The FRA finally cleared it up for me: Turns out he’s talking about a 28 minutes savings on a trip that used to take 4 hours and 45 minutes. That’s about a 10 percent time savings – not too shabby.
Second, it’s worth noting that taxpayers routinely shell out billions to save commuters mere minutesseconds, even – on the roadways. So 28 minutes is actually a rather substantial amount of time to save for just $52 million.

Third, stimulus-funded rail projects along the Vermonter line will, when completed, result in a time savings of nearly 70 minutes between New Haven, Connecticut, and St. Albans, Vermont, according to the FRA. That’s currently an eight-hour train trip.

Here’s the breakdown: In Connecticut, improved track and signaling will bring speeds up to 79 mph, saving 10 minutes and, more significantly, increasing capacity. In Massachusetts, they’ll improve track and create a more direct route between East Northfield and Springfield, eliminating the need to change direction, for a savings of 28 to 30 minutes. And in Vermont, they improved 190 miles of track and upgraded the signal system on 16 miles south of White River Junction, to save another 28 to 30 minutes in travel time.

There’s the missing context for those 28 minutes.

8. Of course extending the line to Montréal would boost ridership. Griffin comes across as a know-nothing when he derides the idea that reconnecting Montréal to the Vermonter line will “somehow or another” increase travel along the line.

“It is absurd to imply that extending the train north to a major destination like Montréal would not produce a big ridership increase,” said Ross Capon, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, in a statement. Szabo agrees: “Connecting in a major urban area like Montréal is significant and will exponentially grow ridership.”

The Vermont Department of Transportation projects the extension would generate between 78,000 and 120,000 additional riders annually on the line – roughly doubling the existing ridership.

A Canadian diplomat once blogged about his 11-hour journey between New York City and Montréal – a journey that an Amtrak agent told him could have easily been two hours shorter with “pre-border clearance, upgrading speed, eliminating a stop at Yonkers, a dedicated track on Canadian Pacific line north of Rouses Point and no engine change at Albany.” Basic improvements like this – which still don’t bring the trains up to “the high-speed rail you or I think about” — could easily make the scenic trip fast enough to compete with car travel.

9. Ridership is growing. Griffin acknowledges that ridership in Vermont is up. Amtrak ridership all over the country is up, in fact – by 49 percent over 2000. More people are choosing rail – and that’s with a decrepit, slow, unreliable system. Imagine how people would flock to trains if they were fast, elegant, and on time.

10. Vermont is a reasonable place to improve rail. Cooper and Griffin made it sound like Vermont – “a state with no big cities and little congestion” — is a bad place for rail to even exist. Indeed, it’s a strange place to highlight when you’re doing a news segment about high-speed rail, when the bigger story is what’s going on in California, the Northeast Corridor, the Midwest, and Texas.

But Vermont is a perfectly natural place for rail, and the stimulus-funded improvements didn’t just save travelers time, they enhanced reliability and safety, too. Additionally, short line railroads will be able to haul heavier loads, taking more trucks off the highways and reducing congestion.

“It is likely, at least in the medium term, what I would classify as feeder service,” Szabo told me. “And that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant; in fact it’s a very important part of a network. But it’s about feeding those smaller communities in New England to the Northeast Corridor spine. It’s the level of connectivity that builds up synergy.”

It’s not just Vermont – rail is growing throughout New England. In November, Amtrak extended service north of Portland, Maine, to Freeport and Brunswick, opening to great fanfare in those communities. The service has exceeded projected ridership and sparked new development near the stations.

Exploring the Course of the Future Metro Expo Line: Phase 2


By Eric Brightwell

January 30, 2013 






 This is a very long article and best viewed on the website above. See the website also for more very interesting traveling by Metro in Los Angeles articles by Eric Brightwell.

Crowdfixing: Improving Transit with Social Media


Lucian Go' Blog

January 30, 2013



 Station art in Stockholm, Sweden.

The internet is an integral part of mobility these days, regardless of the method one uses to travel: it can tell you what time your bus or train arrives, and where the nearest stop is. It can find you a ride from San Francisco to L.A. or Portland, or if you’re driving, find someone who can help pay for gas. And as I blogged about last month, it can even connect you with a nearby driver in real-time when you need to get across town. But can the web go beyond just making transportation easier for us, and actually improve the migraine-inducing daily commute?

 The idea of a social, web-based platform that can help get our infrastructure fixed is not brand new. SeeClickFix, which launched in Connecticut in 2008, is a web tool that allows citizens to report neighborhood issues (e.g. graffiti, potholes, litter) and bring them to the attention of local officials, the community, and local media. By sidestepping local bureaucracies and creating accountability, the website has gotten over 125,000 issues fixed across the country. A Wall Street Journal article recently highlighted the power of peer networks like SeeClickFix as a fluid tool for progress.

This “crowdfixing” concept has also been applied specifically to transit, most notably in cities across Europe. FixMyTransport is a UK-based website that uses a similar platform to SeeClickFix, letting residents voice their concerns about underperforming routes and unpleasant stations in British cities. The website’s platform uses critical mass to turn time-consuming transit nitpicking into effective lobbying. Collaborative approaches to improving infrastructure have also gained steam in Amsterdam and Vienna.

In the U.S.,  where vehicle miles travelled (VMT) is steadily declining while transit usage grows, cities should be taking note of the fact that convenient transportation options are becoming a major consideration for prospective residents –particularly younger ones. Thus, investing in keeping public transit reliable and reputable is an economic development strategy that cities can’t afford to ignore.

  ("This “crowdfixing” concept has also been applied specifically to transit, most notably in cities across Europe. FixMyTransport is a UK-based website that uses a similar platform to SeeClickFix, letting residents voice their concerns about underperforming routes and unpleasant stations in British cities. The website’s platform uses critical mass to turn time-consuming transit nitpicking into effective lobbying. Collaborative approaches to improving infrastructure have also gained steam in Amsterdam and Vienna.")
Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard Blog

$92 million underpass could force out businesses

The project, north of Angel Stadium, aims to reduce State College congestion.


By Sarah Tully

January 31, 2013

Article Tab: Rocky Patetta, at left, and grandson, manager Anthony Voss, stand near railroad tracks that abuts their tile company, California Wholesale Tile. Patetta, the long-time tile store founder is upset his business and his property will likely be taken over by the Orange County Transportation Authority or the city of Anaheim by eminent domain.
Rocky Patetta, at left, and grandson, manager Anthony Voss, stand near railroad tracks that abuts their tile company, California Wholesale Tile. Patetta, the long-time tile store founder is upset his business and his property will likely be taken over by the Orange County Transportation Authority or the city of Anaheim by eminent domain.

Thirty-five years ago, Rocky Patetta opened one of the first tile shops near Angel Stadium and soon a bunch of similar stores popped up around him.
Now, that swath and new developments are expected to bring more traffic – traffic that could force out Patetta's tile store and others on State College Boulevard.
Local governments are planning to build a $92 million underpass below the train tracks that run alongside Patetta's California Wholesale Tile. That may lead to the seizure of at least parts of five properties to clear space for the underpass, said Natalie Meeks, Anaheim's public works director.
Under the law, the property owners are supposed to be justly compensated financially.

The underpass would be along a stretch of State College with a cluster of tile businesses, unofficially called Tile Row or Tile Mile.

The city and the Orange County Transportation Authority are designing the underpass and figuring out if they will need to use eminent domain to buy out businesses. By separating the street from the tracks, motorists would no longer have to wait as trains pass by.

"It's like the city is going to destroy me," Patetta said. "It's going to put me out of business."

Underpass project

The City Council approved the underpass in 2010 as part of a larger plan for traffic and infrastructure in the Platinum Triangle – a slow-developing area that the city hopes eventually will turn into an urban village with condos, shops and entertainment near Angel Stadium.

That plan includes a massive transportation station, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, that will serve commuter trains and possibly a high-speed railway.

Projections show that 95 trains a day would cross State College by 2030, Meeks said. Now, about 23,030 vehicles drive through that area daily.

Construction is to begin in 2015, with State College closing there for two years. The city is pursuing the project now because state and county transportation money is available.

"With the development anticipated in the Platinum Triangle, it will become more important," Meeks said.

Some business owners, however, don't believe traffic will be a problem.

"It's a bunch of baloney," said Hatem Hajali, owner of Stone Age. "There is no need for it."

State College businesses

The five businesses that could be affected: three tile stores, Burger Boy and a storage business.
Patetta said he believes his store is the longest-running tile business on the row. A few others were there when he started, but they have since closed.

"I'm the one who started it, and now I'm going to have to leave," Patetta said. "That is not good."

He was unaware of the underpass project until he received a letter in December asking for permission to do soil testing on his property, which led to discussions about the possible taking of his business through eminent domain.

Now 79, Patetta works a few days a week. He groomed his grandson, Anthony Voss, to run the business.

"This was really going to be my career move and my life," said Voss, 34. "Now, I'm unsure what's going to happen."

Relocation possibility

The government would be required to pay for any costs to fairly relocate the businesses. That price tag has yet to be determined.

"I can't tell you we have a solution for this yet, because it's pretty complicated," Meeks said.

Tile store owners say it would be difficult to start over. They all want to stay on Tile Row, but space is limited.

Patetta owns his 20,000-square-foot building, including a 10,000-square-foot showroom, and an adjacent lot.

Across the street, Stone Age's narrow front parking lot would be eaten up by the project, which would dip below the property. Hajali's five children, as well as some of their spouses, work for the business, which includes cabinet manufacturing.

"I have to be on the boulevard. That's the reason we are successful," Hajali said. "There's no other facility that comes close to ours."

Raul Uriostegui, owner of R and S Marble, said he moved to rent a building on State College four years ago. Despite the souring economy, his marble business saw an increase in sales of 35 percent because of the location.
"We're trying to just survive and ride the wave," Uriostegui said. "Now what's going to happen?"

A model for L.A. planning

The Cornfields Arroyo Seco Specific Plan is an example of smart development.


January 31, 2013 



 The area known as the Cornfield is located north of downtown.

How long does it take to revitalize a moribund section of Los Angeles that was zoned and built according to development and land-use patterns that prevailed in the 1940s? How long does it take to recognize civic assets like the Los Angeles River and incorporate them into vibrant communities with modern transit and modern patterns of living, working and playing? How long does it take to get local residents, environmentalists, affordable housing advocates, developers and transportation planners on the same page? How long does it take to find a way to spur economic development without driving out the very people who need new jobs and improved living conditions the most?

Too often, especially in L.A., the answer is "forever."

But not always. At times it may have seemed like forever to Councilman Ed Reyes and his imaginative staff, to the city Planning Department, and to the activists and visionaries who have worked for more than a decade to turn neglected neighborhoods and underused industrial properties next to the former Southern Pacific rail yard north of downtown — known as the Cornfield — into a collection of new urban zones.

They passed an important milestone Tuesday when the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan was approved in the City Council's planning committee. There are two more stops — the city attorney needs to put everything in proper order, and then the full council needs to act. When it's the council's turn, members should spend a few minutes to take note of just what has been achieved, and then adopt the plan without further delay.

To understand what has been achieved, it's important to recall the heady times just before the economy collapsed. In Northeast L.A., right next to the Cornfield — the land that was being turned into the Los Angeles State Historic Park — developers were eyeing parts of Lincoln Heights and Cypress Park for condominiums, business advocates were getting nervous about the loss of rare industrial-zoned land, residents and tenant advocates were gearing up for a fight against eviction and gentrification, and city officials were readying for an all-too-common battle: How much land zoned for one purpose should developers be allowed to use for a different purpose, and what should they be required to give in exchange? How long would each of those negotiations take, and how many developers with investments to make would ultimately give up and walk away as negotiations over variances and incentives dragged on?

That's the way it is, after all, in so much of Los Angeles. The land is zoned for one purpose. The market dictates another, and developers follow, neighbors rebel and everyone leaves angry.

Reyes, having completed a master plan for preservation, enhancement and rational development of the Los Angeles River — only to get stuck in the mire of geographic and political rivalries — focused on the area north of the new park. The stalled economy actually gave him some breathing room as he brought together competing interests, each with their own plans and visions for the area. Was he about to foist onto them some crazy urban hipster zone, with Metro stops but no parking, and plenty of Starbucks but no industrial jobs with livable wages?

A new zone, yes. Four of them, in fact, because the zoning laws under which Los Angeles still operates were adopted just after World War II and were drafted for a city with a few heavy industrial cores, built around rail spurs that no longer exist, and outlying single-family neighborhoods connected by freeways where traffic once flowed smoothly but now creeps, pollutes and drives everyone mad. The city and its people are forced by outdated land-use laws into living, working and commuting patterns that have little to do with the way they actually live their lives. The new zones, when the council adopts them, will give one example of how to break free from that postwar template.

There is a greenway zone, oriented toward enhancing the river as the neighborhood's frontyard. There is an urban village zone, focused on housing and other residential use, with some ground-floor retail. There is a denser urban center zone, close to rail stations, geared for job-creating uses but with residential space included. And there is an urban innovation zone, with flexible space geared toward anything from artists' studios to light manufacturing.

The market has for years been demanding just those types of development in Los Angeles, and builders have been trying to respond — but have been getting stuck in variance hearings, lawsuits and community protests, development by development.

The new zones and the new specific plan cut through that process. They bring that rarest of commodities to the Los Angeles land-use process: certainty. There is certainty for developers, who now just need to show that their projects conform with the use that will soon be on the books. There is certainty for their financial backers, who can better predict how much time it will take from loan to payback. There is, importantly, certainty for the neighbors, who already have discussed and generally approved the types of projects that will be coming to town — how dense, how much, how high.

There is an oddly apt expression from the play "Water and Power" by Richard Montoya of the performance troupe Culture Clash: Nothing is concrete in L.A. except the river.

But the Cornfields Arroyo Seco Specific Plan makes smart development of at least one part of town a little more concrete. It's good thinking and good planning. The council should pass it and explore ways to extend its lessons to other communities.