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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tax Break For Mass-Transit Commutes May Soon Be Slashed


By David Welna, November 29, 2013

 Commuters wait on the platform as a Metro-North train arrives in Bridgeport, Conn.

 Commuters wait on the platform as a Metro-North train arrives in Bridgeport, Conn.

Unless Congress acts quickly, taking mass transit to work is about to get more expensive for some people.

For the past four years, public transportation users and people who drive their cars to work and pay for parking have been able set aside up to $245 a month in wages tax free if they're used for commuting costs or workplace parking.

The transit tax break expires at the end of the year. So starting Jan. 1, the benefit for riders will be cut nearly in half — to $130 a month. Drivers, on the other hand, will get a slightly bigger break as their parking benefit rises to $250.

"It doesn't make sense at all, the fact that you get a bigger tax break for driving your car than riding a train," says Dan Smith, who lobbies Congress on tax issues for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. He says many commuters don't realize that the parity for transit and parking tax breaks vanishes in the new year. But they soon will.

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who rides his bike to work, is sounding the alarm.

"We've heard lots of talk about fiscal cliffs, a dairy cliff, but at the end of the year, we are facing a transit commuter cliff," he says.

Blumenauer has rounded up five House Republicans and 44 fellow Democrats to co-sponsor legislation that would keep the parking subsidy, which by law is automatically renewed, equal to the transit subsidy, which requires congressional approval every year:

"You might tilt it the other way and provide greater benefit for people who are having less impact on the planet," he says. "But the fact is, this is embedded, ingrained and accepted, so we want to at least just have transit parity for the full range of commuter options."

Indeed, eliminating or even reducing the parking subsidy is a bipartisan non-starter in Congress.
"My own view is there are some people — many people — who don't have the luxury of being able to take transit," says Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

The California Democrat defends the tax break for people who drive to work:

"I don't agree that you should put one group against the other," she says. "I think we should encourage fuel-efficient cars, and if someone really needs their car for work, I don't have a problem with saying, you know what, there's enough expense here, we can make sure that this isn't exorbitant for you."

That's unfortunate, says Elyse Lowe. She's one of Boxer's constituents as well as the executive director of Move San Diego, a group advocating smart growth in that city. For Lowe, it makes sense to subsidize public transit users, not drivers:

"This is at the heart of getting people to change their travel behaviors through economic incentives," she says, "and typically people don't actually look at their own personal behavior until there's some sort of economic reason to do so."

Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse agrees. He's skeptical, though, that Congress can act in time to keep the transit break on par with the parking subsidy.

"What certainly doesn't make sense is to favor that over using public transportation. But given the general level of blockade of anything and everything by our Republican friends around here, I can't promise that we'll get to that."

Making parity between transit and parking subsidies — one more casualty of congressional gridlock.

How Your Mode of Travel Shapes Your Mental Map


By Eric Jaffe, November 21, 2013

How Your Mode of Travel Shapes Your Mental Map

We all build mental maps of the places we call home. This "image of the city," as planner Kevin Lynch called it in his 1960 book by that name, helps us interpret our surroundings and guide our actions. Unlike the static and exact lines in an atlas, though, the city images in our minds are fragmentary and flexible — a collage of streets, landmarks, and routes mediated by on our own unique movements and memories.

In other words, the way we interact with the city shapes our perception of it. That's especially true when it comes to how we travel. Studies have shown that spatial knowledge gets stronger in experienced cab drivers, for instance, just as it gets weaker in pedestrians who rely on Google Maps. The very concept of home in a city is defined, in part, by how one gets there: a transit rider lives near this station, a driver lives just after that turn.

 A couple years ago, UCLA transportation scholars led by Andrew Mondschein conducted a test to understand more about how preferred travel modes shape our cognitive maps. They stood outside the Kenneth Hahn Shopping Center near the Rosa Parks Transit Center in South Los Angeles and asked people how they typically got around. Then they asked a series of questions designed to test general spatial knowledge, and by extension the quality of a person's mental map.

Mondschein and collaborators found the most advanced mental maps belonged to "cognitively-active" travelers — people who walked or drove (or, probably, rode bikes) and therefore had to focus on their surroundings. The weaker mental maps belonged to "cognitively-passive" travelers — primarily car passengers who could engage or disengage with the environment as they pleased. Transit riders, who need a great deal of attention at the start and end of their trips but much less in the middle, represented a mixed bag.

(Mondschein and collaborators describe their work in the latest issue of Access magazine, published by the University of California Transportation Center, though previous versions oappeared elsewhere in 2007 and 2010.)

In one test, for instance, the researchers asked the Angelinos how far they were from City Hall. The actual distance from the shopping center was about 9 miles by car or 10.5 by transit. Active travelers were much more accurate in their responses than passive travelers. In the initial test sample, presented in 2007, active travelers estimated that City Hall was 11 miles away, transit riders said 17 miles, and car passengers said 26 miles, on average.

Other location tests revealed a similar pattern. When asked which of two locations was closer, active travelers responded correctly more often than mixed or passive travelers did. Simply choosing to roam the city in a certain way had improved or degraded its image in their minds.

To get a sense of how these mental images differed, Mondschein and collaborators also asked test participants to describe the location of their homes and workplaces. Active travelers tended to use street names in these descriptions, a sign of relatively robust or precise mental maps. Passive travelers, meanwhile, tended to rely on landmarks, especially when describing their home. Their mental maps seemed to be more basic.

Here are the overall findings in one table, via Access:

So the way a person travels the city clearly changes how that person envisions it. In Access, the researchers worry that passive travelers might miss out on opportunities as a result of their incomplete mental maps, but the advantages to passive travel (getting work done, for instance, or refreshing one's attention) must be considered, too. The good-bad framework doesn't apply here: this isn't a tale of two cities so much as the story of yours.

China Keeps It Classy With Designer Smog-Filtration Masks


By John Metcalfe, November 22, 2013

 China Keeps It Classy With Designer Smog-Filtration Masks

Sure, you could let China's life-shortening, city-shuttering smog keep you moping indoors. Or, you could get out there and make it work for you, using one of these designer air-pollution masks that's as stylish as it is functional.

The age-old question for Chinese citizens – what accessory pairs best with the brown cloud – has finally been answered by Vogmask. The company was founded by a Western consultant who, after surveying many students in China, came to believe that the "greatest challenge" for the country's next generation will be air pollution. So Vog teamed up with Plastered T-Shirts and whipped up these jazzy masks, catered toward urban youth and stitched together with chromatic microfiber, a protective layer of carbon, and the obligatory "valve."

Shanghaist has the story:
The day we've all been waiting for has finally arrived: designer pollution masks are hitting the streets of urban China. Battle pollution in style with one of these babies, coming in a range of colors and patterns and fitted with the latest filtration technology. Just what you need to keep it classy during Airpocalypse Shanghai....

Aside from your standard stylish patterns, you can also get custom branded masks for companies, schools, etc. Air IQ China will have exclusive distribution rights to the masks, and they will be available starting December 12. They come in both adult and child sizes.
And here is Vogmask's product description from a "Happy UFO Microfiber" version for adolescents:
The valve makes the mask perfect for exercise such as cycling and running, helping you to breathe comfortably.

This mask also features an additional carbon layer to adsorb smells and filter out gasses such as Ozone and Formaldehyde (the product of car exhaust and industrial emissions)
The microfiber material filters 99.978% of PM 2.5 as well as exceeding US FDA fit test requirements by 140%.

It protects against air pollution, bacteria, viruses such as H7N9 as well as second-hand cigarette smoke.
Individual masks retail for as little as $29.50, according to the product list available here, and can be worn for 400 hours before needing a replacement. And best of all, they make you look fierce in a Shredder kind of way:

US air pollution authority faces Supreme Court tests


By Muhammad Iqbal, November 24, 2013

WASHINGTON: The US government's authority to regulate air pollution nationwide, often against the wishes of Republican-leaning states, could face new curbs when the US Supreme Court takes on two high-stakes cases in coming months.

The cases focus on the broad-ranging power wielded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the landmark Clean Air Act, first enacted in 1970.

The law was envisioned as a cooperative effort between the federal government and states in which the EPA sets standards but states have to set plans to comply. 

That flexibility has allowed states which favor looser regulations, like Texas and Kansas, to resist with the support of industry groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers when the agency wants to impose more stringent standards. 

In both cases before the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, mainly Republican-led states and industry groups have challenged different EPA regulations, in the hope of weakening the agency's authority. 

The EPA has support from Democratic-leaning states, like Massachusetts and New York, and from environmental groups. 

"It would be both a big deal and somewhat unsurprising if EPA loses both Clean Air Act cases," said Richard Frank, an environmental law professor at the University of California at Davis School of Law. 

Such rulings would reflect a dilution of the deference that courts generally show government agencies in interpreting statutes, he added. 

The cases do not challenge whether the EPA can regulate pollutants, such as greenhouse gases, but instead how it uses the Clean Air Act to regulate a wide range of them. 

The EPA's authority to interpret the statute broadly is vital to its mission in the face of resistance from Republicans and a handful of Democrats in Congress and some state governments. 

In the climate change context in particular, the Clean Air Act is the EPA's main tool for tackling greenhouse gas emissions after the US Senate rejected a cap-and-trade bill in 2010. 

The Supreme Court rulings are unlikely to have a direct impact on President Barack Obama's sweeping Climate Action Plan, which was unveiled in June, legal experts say, in part because the EPA will be using its authority under parts of the law not at issue in the cases.

But decisions against the EPA could pose obstacles to the way it rolls out its rules. 

In the first case, to be argued on Dec. 10, the nine justices will consider the legality of a rule that regulates air pollution that crosses state lines. 

The second case, expected to be scheduled for oral argument in February, concerns a challenge to the Obama administration's first wave of regulations targeting heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The court is due to issue rulings in both cases by the end of June. 


The EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, meant to take effect in January 2012, would have set limits on nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants in 28 states that emit pollutants in the eastern part of the country that directly affect air quality in other states, generally referred to as "upwind states." 

An alliance of industry groups and 15 states, in addition to companies like Southern Co, Peabody Energy Corp and American Electric Power Inc, challenged the rule, and it was never implemented.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit determined in August 2012 that the rule was invalid on multiple grounds. 

Under the worst-case scenario for the government, the Supreme Court could weaken the EPA's power to bring recalcitrant states into line, legal experts said. 

In the Obama administration's petition asking for Supreme Court review of the cross-state rule, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said that if the D.C. 

Circuit decision stood, it would "gravely undermine" enforcement of the Clean Air Act, delaying the ability of downwind states to comply with air standards and making it nearly impossible for those states to meet deadlines. A ruling against the EPA could also encourage states to resist other EPA proposals. 

"If the Supreme Court pushes back against the EPA and says the EPA has to give the states the first chance to address the problem, that gives the states more leverage," said Jonathan Martel, a partner at law firm Arnold & Porter LLP, who represents business interests in air pollution cases. 


In the climate change case, the Supreme Court agreed last month to consider a single question of the many raised by nine different coalitions of industry groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute, and 16 states, including Texas and Virginia. 

They appealed a June 2012 ruling by the appeals court in Washington upholding the first suite of EPA rules aimed at tackling climate change.

The justices will weigh only whether the agency has authority to regulate greenhouse gases under a permitting program for stationary sources of pollution. 

A loss for the EPA could remove a whole category of pollutants, not just greenhouse gases, from the so-called "prevention of serious deterioration" or PSD program, which requires any new or modified major polluting facility to obtain a permit before any new construction is done if it emits "any air pollutant."

Under the program, the operators have to show that they are using the best available technology available to reduce emissions of the covered pollutants. 

It may not be all bad news for the EPA. The court passed up a chance to review the agency's determination that greenhouse gases, the driving force behind climate change, are a pollutant that needs to be regulated under the Clean Air Act. 

Wins for the EPA in both cases would not, however, lead to any major shift in the law in its favor, experts say. "Everything continues to be hard work" for the EPA, said Sean Donahue, an attorney who represents the Environmental Defense Fund. "There's tremendous resistance at every turn."

Why Correcting Misperceptions About Mass Transit May Be More Important Than Improving Service


By Eric Jaffe, November 27, 2013

 Why Correcting Misperceptions About Mass Transit May Be More Important Than Improving Service

If you want to understand why people use a certain transit system, it makes sense to start with the system itself. Frequency, access, and any other service qualities that make riding as convenient as driving will help. Whether or not the way a city is designed and built nudges people toward the system — via residential density and street design, for instance — matters, too.

But as we've pointed out in the past, there's a psychological component to riding transit that's easy for city officials and planners to overlook. Fact is, we're not all completely rational about our travel decisions. The perceptions that people have about public transportation, substantiated or not, are powerful enough to attract or repel them.

Most attempts to evaluate transit success focus on one of these areas or another. A research team led by planner Steven Spears of UC-Irvine recently made what they believe is the first documented effort to include all these elements — built and behavioral alike — into a single assessment. Their work identifies two basic but vastly underappreciated factors in transit use: general attitude toward transit, and concerns about personal safety.

Spears and collaborators analyzed transit service and the built environment in several neighborhoods in South Los Angeles (below). Factors like neighborhood walkability, nearby traffic volume, land use, station accessibility, rush-hour service levels, job access, and others were all considered.

Courtesy Spears, et al. (2013). Illuminating the unseen in transit use: A framework for examining the effect of attitudes and perceptions on travel behavior. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 58, 40-53.

The researchers also conducted in-depth travel surveys of 279 area residents on their perceptions of the transit experience. They took into account seven potential behavioral factors: crowding, attitude toward transit, social norms, perceived travel control, environmental concern, safety concern, and neighborhood amenities.

Some of what the researchers found with regard to the city design shouldn't come as a surprise. Street connectivity was a significant predictor of transit ridership in the area. As the number of intersections within a half mile of a resident's home went up, so did the likelihood that person rode transit. Simply put, neighborhood walkability promotes transit use.

Of the behavioral factors in play, only preconceived attitudes and safety concerns had significant impacts on whether or not a person rode mass transit. The warmer a person's attitude toward transit, the more likely that person was to ride. At the same time, the less safe a person felt about riding or being in a station, the less likely that person was to use the system.

That conclusion doesn't seem earth-shattering on its own, of course. But what's critical to recognize is that these two cognitive factors remained significant predictors of transit use even after the researchers controlled for quality of service and characteristics of the built environment. In other words, mere perceptions about transit — some of them irrational and unjustifiable — can influence someone's decision to ride over and above all other factors.
Spears and collaborators conclude:
Overall, our results indicate that attitudes and perceptions of the built environment and transit system attributes appear to play a significant role in transit use that is independent of objectively measured attributes such as level of service, employment accessibility, or security.
Despite its limitations (most notably, too few participants), the study should compel others to consider psychological components in their transit evaluations. Beyond that, it suggests that campaigns to target common misperceptions of transit — that it's inconvenient, or that it's unsafe — may be as important in some places as improving service itself. The first step toward helping city residents make reasonable transportation decisions is recognizing that sometimes they don't.

California Launches Breathe Well Mobile Site

A new mobile website launched by the California Air Resources Board aims to help users monitor air quality.


November 27, 2013


The state of California has launched a new mobile website that will help users to, literally, breathe easier. Called Breathe Well, the site was developed by the state's Air Resources Board (ARB) to provide people with access to hour-by-hour air pollution data.

Site visitors can see real-time levels of ozone and fine particle pollution in their immediate area, or in other cities and towns throughout the state. Data comes from California's comprehensive air monitoring network, which includes local air pollution control and air quality management districts.

 “This new mobile website brings together the convenience of smartphone technology with the State’s sophisticated air quality monitoring network,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols in a press release. “It uses the best technology available to make real-time air quality information easily available in more than 150 locations throughout California to protect public health, especially those individuals who are the most vulnerable to air pollution.”

Breathe Well’s features include easily readable levels of ozone and fine particle concentration on the home screen, maps that pinpoint the locations of nearby air quality monitors, and the option to set your current location or choose another area for review.

Individuals with asthma and other cardiovascular diseases can experience compromised breathing in the presence of concentrated pollutants like ozone and fine particles. Breathe Well users can check air quality before they go outside or travel, so they can be assured of comfortable breathing.

ESCAPE shows air pollution linked to low birth weight


November 27, 2013

A publication by the ESCAPE project of a study in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine shows that exposure to ambient air pollutants and traffic during pregnancy is associated with restricted foetal growth. 

The study indicates that exposure to airborne pollutants during pregnancy, even at levels below the European Air Quality Directive, increases the risk of low birth weight.

Low birth weight, which is often defined as below 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs), is associated with several adverse health effects later in life, such as respiratory symptoms, impaired pulmonary function and cardiovascular diseases.

The results of the study reveal a correlation between the risk of low birth weight and exposure to different kinds of airborne particles, especially PM 2.5, which are created by traffic and industrial emissions. An increase in exposure by 5 micrograms per cubic metre corresponded with an 18 per cent increase in the risk of low birth weight. This relationship was also observed for levels of air pollution below the EU’s Air Quality Directive.

ESCAPE is coordinated from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and funded through the EU’s Seventh Frame Programme (FP7). HEAL was a partner in this research project.

Data was gathered for the study through the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE) project, and included 14 cohort studies from 12 European countries, giving a total of 74,000 births between 1994 and 2011.

The study, which involves researchers from Karolinska Institutet’s Institute of Environmental Medicine, is one of the largest of its kind. Sweden’s contribution was the BAMSE birth cohort, which comprises babies born in Stockholm County between 1994 and 1996.

"The results are interesting from a public health perspective too, and the combined effects of air pollution on birth weight were of the same order of magnitude as for smoking during pregnancy," says Professor Göran Pershagen at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, who led the Swedish part of the study.

The BAMSE project was set up to investigate risk factors for asthma and allergies in children, and is run by the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet together with the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Stockholm County Council. BAMSE has followed over 4,000 babies born between 1994 and 1996.

Beijing Destroys Barbecue Grills To Cut Pollution


November 29, 2013

More than 500 open-air barbecues, which Chinese state media says causes "serious air pollution," have been destroyed by authorities in Beijing as part of an emergency program to alleviate the city's often hazardous pollution. Citizens online ridiculed the exercise, suggesting authorities should focus on bigger sources of pollution.

 Beijing is waging a war against air pollution, one barbecue at a time. Authorities in the capital have destroyed more than 500 open-air barbecues "to cut PM2.5" -- the tiny particulate matter in the air that can enter deep into the lungs.

Photos carried by state media showed workers on Tuesday cutting pieces of metal with sparks flying as city wardens looked on.

Citizens online ridiculed the exercise, suggesting authorities should focus on bigger sources of pollution.

A media officer at Beijing's Xicheng district administration bureau said the hundreds of barbecue grills were confiscated over a three-month campaign and cut up so they couldn't be used again. She refused to give her name, as is common with Chinese officials.

Environmental campaigner Ma Jun said residents had complained to environmental agencies in the past about the odor and smoke from open-air barbecues.

"This action will help local residents, but to deal with the bigger air quality problem we need to have priorities and I think one of the major priorities should still be the motor vehicle emissions," said Ma, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. He said the focus should be on improving the fuel quality and emissions control of heavy duty diesel trucks, while also involving the surrounding regions, not just Beijing.

The capital's pollution regularly reaches hazardous levels. The city government announced last month that emergency measures such as factory shutdowns and traffic Relevant Products/Services limits would kick in when air pollution levels are particularly heavy.

Independent Truckers Make Their Voices Heard: Third Recent Job Action at Port of Oakland


By Jonathan Nack, November 30, 2013

800_pickets_block_gate.jpg original image ( 2272x1704)


OAKLAND - Independent truckers staged a job action that slowed work at the Port of Oakland on Wednesday, November 27th. It was the truckers' third job action since August.

The Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA) called for a strike at Stevedoring Services of America's terminal, one of the largest and busiest at the Port. In a press release, POTA said the strike was called, “in protest of unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices by terminal owners and Port of Oakland management.“

Picketers began gathering in the darkness before 5 AM on Wednesday. About a hundred independent truckers, many sporting their POTA shirts, were joined by at least that many community and labor supporters at the entrances to the SSA terminal.

One picket sign read, “Don't make Truckers Pay the Bill,” another said,“CARB Extend the Deadline.” They are references to the California Air Resources Board's regulation that requires all truck engines manufactured before 2007 to be upgraded to meet air quality standards.

One trucker estimated the cost of the required upgrades at between $60,000 and $80,000 per truck and said many truck drivers can't afford it.

Profit margins for independent truckers are notoriously small. Many independents are struggling. Many others go under.

It's such a difficult way to make a living that companies are constantly looking for more independents, as evidenced by the many signs hanging from fences of the Port advertising for them by companies such as P & R Trucking, Lengner & Sons, and Mutual Express Company.

Other picket signs on Wednesday read, “Long lines = Bad air,” and “Community and Truckers United.” These referred to the huge problem of bad air quality at the Port. Air pollution affects not only everyone who works at the Port, but surrounding communities in West Oakland, which have high rates of cancer and asthma. Picketers from the community supported POTA's demands, because they agreed it was unfair to put the burden on independent truckers.

It was the bad air at the Port that caused the CARB to set more stringent regulations on diesel engines. POTA says many independent truckers can't afford the upgrades. With trucking dispatch companies and the Port making huge profits, truckers say these wealthy institutions should pay for the upgrades, not them.

Most of the corporate media's coverage of Wednesday's action at the Port emphasized that POTA is protesting the CARB's regulation and is demanding at least a one year delay in the deadline. The mainstream media coverage all but implied that truckers don't care about the air quality. This is obviously untrue. The truckers are among those most effected by the bad air at the Port. The problem is not upgrading diesel engines, it's about who should pay for it.

POTA is also pressing for additional pay, a congestion fee, when they are forced to wait at the Port for a load for reasons beyond the truckers control. Inefficiency at the Port causing trucks to idle and wait in line is another major cause of air pollution.

Accounts of the impact of Wednesday's job action varied sharply. The San Francisco Business Times reported that the Port management said that demonstrators were cleared from SSA Terminals by 9 a.m. and that no other port terminals were affected. POTA claimed truck traffic was down by 90%.

POTA issued a press release mid-day Wednesday providing a detailed description of the morning's action. [ http://oaklandporttruckers.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/mid-day-press-release-from-port-truckers/ ]

POTA reported, “Primary pickets were set up at the four SSA terminal gates beginning at 5am, but due to violent police action, lines began migrating between gates to prevent arrest and detainment of picketers. At least one person picketing was struck by the vehicle of a terminal employee crossing the picket line, and as of 10:30am, there were 5 arrests. Those arrested were cited and released. One police officer was injured when a car crossing the truckers’ picket line ran over his foot.”

There was no violence by picketers. Indybay.org reported that there were 50 Oakland Police on the scene.

“The police were pushing us off the picket lines even though the judge said it’s illegal. After last time when they hit people with batons, people were afraid, but they kept moving to hold the lines,” said local port trucker Jose Gomez.

POTA's press release said, “Some truckers who crossed picket lines today claimed they faced retaliation from their companies. During the last work stoppage, notoriously bad trucking dispatch company GSC charged their drivers illegal demurrage fees for honoring picket lines. When drivers refused to pay, they found deductions in their pay checks. While some long-distance truckers and employee drivers crossed picket lines, the vast majority of independent contractor truckers picketed or refused to take loads today.”

“At 10a.m. most of the supporters, media and police trickled out, while more truckers gathered at the primary SSA trucker entrance and resumed pickets on their own. Without the heavy police presence that accompanied activists and supporters, they were able to hold the picket lines at SSA, according to POTA's press release.

“When the local drivers won’t work, the Port won’t work. Even if we are not the majority group of truckers servicing the port, we do the majority of the work,” said Roberto Ruiz, another local driver.

Part of the independent truckers' action was not as effective as planned. Members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, Local 10, crossed the picket line at the SSA terminal. POTA was disappointed that Local 10 didn't honor the picket lines.

It was a surprising response from Local 10, which has historically honored picket lines in support of progressive struggles. It was particularly surprising, since Local 10's membership meeting had voted to honor all POTA picket lines.

According to Stan Woods, a member of ILWU, Local 6, who attended Local 10's membership meeting as an observer, the membership had voted 73 to 39 to honor POTA picket lines. It was hotly debated. There were strong feelings on both sides. A contingent from POTA attended the union's meeting and Frank Adams of POTA spoke at the meeting. In the end, the union's membership vote to act in solidarity with POTA by honoring their lines wasn't close, according to Woods.

Members of Local 10 said that the telephone recording they call daily instructed members to go to work at the SSA terminal. One member claimed that the membership's vote to honor the picket line was not followed because, “the membership was misled. These guys are not union, they [POTA] said they'll never go union.”

There were some of the independent truckers that did work the Port on Wednesday that were nevertheless supportive of POTA's protest.

Baijer Singh told KTVU News that he didn't join the job action because he couldn't afford to. “I need to pay my bills,” Singh told KTVU. Singh said he believes the work action is important because the Port of Oakland “is not listening” to the truckers' concerns. Singh said he and other truckers often have to wait up to five hours to pick up loads at the port and they aren't compensated for the time they spend waiting.

For more info. on the Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA): oaklandporttruckers.wordpress.com

For more info. on Port Truckers Solidarity:
solidarityinmotion.org ;
facebook.com/pages/Port-Truckers-Solidarity and

§Pickets blocked vehicles before sunrise
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 12:09 PM

Photo by Jonathan Nack
§Video of Cops clearing pickets from driveway entrance
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 12:09 PM
Copy the following to embed the movie into another web page:
download video:

independent_truckers_picket_port_of_oakland_112713.wmv (24.4MB)

Video, photos, and editing by Jonathan Nack
(1:10 minute)
§Pickets & police
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 12:09 PM

Photo by Ryan Rising
§Two signs: one advertising for "independent truckers" and one for "drivers"
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 12:09 PM

Photo by Jonathan Nack
§POTA's logo
by Jonathan Nack Saturday Nov 30th, 2013 12:09 PM

Friday, November 29, 2013

Diesel exhaust stops honeybees from finding the flowers they want to forage





Exposure to common air pollutants found in diesel exhaust pollution can affect the ability of honeybees to recognise floral odours, new University of Southampton research shows.

Honeybees use floral odours to help locate, identify and recognise the flowers from which they forage.

The Southampton team, led by Dr Tracey Newman and Professor Guy Poppy, found that diesel exhaust fumes change the profile of flora odour. They say that these changes may affect honeybees’ foraging efficiency and, ultimately, could affect pollination and thus global food security.

Published in Scientific Reports the study mixed eight chemicals found in the odour of oil rapeseed flowers with clean air and with air containing diesel exhaust. Six of the eight chemicals reduced (in volume) when mixed with the diesel exhaust air and two of them disappeared completely within a minute, meaning the profile of the chemical mix had completely changed. The odour that was mixed with the clean air was unaffected.

Furthermore, when the researchers used the same process with NOx gases (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide), which is found in diesel exhaust, they saw the same outcome, suggesting that NOx was a key facilitator in how and why the odour’s profile was altered. The changed chemical mix was then shown to honeybees, which could not recognise it.

Dr Newman, a neuroscientist at the University, comments: “Honeybees have a sensitive sense of smell and an exceptional ability to learn and memorize new odours. NOx gases represent some of the most reactive gases produced from diesel combustion and other fossil fuels, but the emissions limits for nitrogen dioxide are regularly exceeded, especially in urban areas. Our results suggest that that diesel exhaust pollution alters the components of a synthetic floral odour blend, which affects the honeybee’s recognition of the odour. This could have serious detrimental effects on the number of honeybee colonies and pollination activity.”

Professor Poppy, an ecologist at the University, adds: “Honeybee pollination can significantly increase the yield of crops and they are vital to the world’s economy – £430 million a year to the UK alone. However to forage effectively they need to be able to learn and recognize the plants. The results indicate that NOx gases — particularly nitrogen dioxide — may be capable of disrupting the odour recognition process that honeybees rely on for locating floral food resources. Honeybees use the whole range of chemicals found in a floral blend to discriminate between different blends, and the results suggest that some chemicals in a blend may be more important than others.”

How pollution makes bigger THUNDERSTORMS: Poor air quality creates bigger, longer-lasting clouds

Pollution causes taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds, say experts

Lingering big clouds also warm the Earth by trapping heat

By Ted Thornhill, November 28, 2013

Pollution makes thunderstorms worse by creating bigger, longer lasting clouds and cooling temperatures with their shadows, say scientists.

Computer simulations of cloud data from the western Pacific, south eastern China and Oklahoma showed pollution increased their size, thickness and duration.

Taking a closer look at the properties of water droplets and ice crystals within, the researchers found pollution resulted in smaller droplets and ice crystals regardless of location.

Billow talk: pollution increases clouds' size, thickness and duration, say experts
Billow talk: pollution increases clouds' size, thickness and duration, say experts

In clean skies ice particles were heavier and fell faster causing the clouds to dissipate. But in polluted skies they were smaller and too light to drop leading to the larger clouds.

Dr Jiwen Fan, of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington, said: ‘This study reconciles what we see in real life to what computer models show us.

‘Observations consistently show taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds in storm systems with pollution.’

A polluted sky has many more aerosols - natural and manmade particles - making more but smaller cloud droplets.

Lingering: The study found that pollution makes afternoon thunderstorms last further into the night
Lingering: The study found that pollution makes afternoon thunderstorms last further into the night

Researchers have long believed smaller droplets start a chain reaction that leads to bigger, longer-lasting clouds.

Instead of raining down, the lighter droplets carry their water higher, where they freeze. The freezing squeezes out the heat the droplets carry with them and causes the thunder cloud to become draftier.

Dr Fan said: ‘Modelling the details of cloud microphysical properties is very computationally intensive so models don't usually include them.’

Polluted clouds have an effect on temperatures, with afternoon thunderstorms lasting long into the night rather than dissipating and trapping heat like a blanket.
In the day the clouds’ shadows diminish sunlight penetration and so keep the Earth cooler.

Accounting for pollution effects on storm clouds could affect the ultimate amount of warming predicted for the earth in the next few decades
Accurately representing clouds in climate models is key to improving the accuracy of predicted changes to the climate.

$99 for a luxury train ride?


By Mark Koebrich, November 19, 2013

 See website for a video.

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but how you get there may change soon.

X-Train is a luxury passenger train with planned services that include passenger coaches with bar area lounges and Vegas class food and beverages. The Vegas experience starts once you are on board the train. The X Train will travel through mountain passes, historic stations and high desert scenery unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. All for the low price of $99.

So how does this elite rain line affect Denver? Local business people such as Denver's "Dealin' Doug" Moreland are getting behind the idea and are trying to get it to come through the Mile High City.

"It's very high end," Moreland said. "We're taking old passenger train cars and totally refurbishing. They are luxurious. Some will have leather. They'll have fine woods. They'll be food. They'll be cocktails and drinks, and we'll have entertainment."

In other words, the X-Train is not the usual, outdated ride on a train. The X-Train cars are sleek, and the first renderings show a bar car with high ceilings and video screens, elegant dining and club cars with comfortable seating and expensive interior finishes.

Moreland says the X-Train website conveys a party atmosphere because the trains were only going to Las Vegas.

"I've enjoyed going to Vegas, and I've enjoyed gambling, and it just seemed like a great fun, sexy type of investment. So I invested in it," Moreland said.

What got this project really going was when Amtrak said it wanted the X-Train to hook up with their trains. That means, riders would be able to hop a luxury X-Train ride from New York to Miami, San Francisco to Reno and perhaps Denver to New Orleans.

Moreland says the Amtrak connection improves the investor groups revenue picture, and the concept will probably hit the rails next year with Amtrak deciding which cities will be the first served.
"Amtrak really wants us to do that LA to Oakland route, one of the first ones," Moreland said. "California - if you've ever driven from LA up to the Bay Area - you know it's a long haul, and there's a lot of people on the highway."

Find out more about the X-Train here: http://on9news.tv/1fedNMO.

Pressures Mount on California’s Ports


By Greg Lucas, November 20, 2013

On November 1, the Port of Oakland officially began a $500 million conversion of the long-shuttered Oakland Army Base into new warehouses and pier-side rail spurs to improve the capacity – and competitiveness – of Northern California’s busiest port.

Financed in part with $250 million in state bond funds, the massive undertaking is expected to create 1,523 construction jobs over the next three years and another 1,800 permanent jobs when completed.

“The community wins with cleaner air, less congestion, more good jobs and local business
  opportunities,” said Chris Lytle, the port’s new executive director, at the groundbreaking.“The supply chain wins with faster transit times, higher volume throughput, lower costs and greater reliability. And government wins with increased revenue and lower expenditures on fixing up local roads.”
Every four containers create $1,000 in state and local revenue, $8,500 in personal income and one job. Oakland says every three containers it handles generate one job, $5,100 in personal income and $540 in state and local taxes.
Also speaking at the event was Oakland’s former mayor, Gov. Jerry Brown. His attendance is a testament to the significance of the project and the important but sometimes overlooked role ports play in California’s more than $2 trillion economy.

California’s 11 ports, from Humboldt Bay in the north to San Diego in the south, generate more than $40 billion in annual economic activity. They create hundreds of thousands of jobs dockside as well as inland where cargo is loaded onto trucks or trains for delivery across North America, mainly to Mid-West hubs like Chicago and St. Louis.

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles generate most of that economic activity. The two represent the nation’s largest cargo container port and the world’s sixth busiest harbor.

Oakland, gateway to Asian markets for Central Valley growers, is a distant third.
Ports in Canada, Mexico and the Gulf states are boosting capacity as the Panama Canal nears completion of a $5.25 billion widening that allows the world’s largest cargo ships to bypass the West Coast.
About 7 million cargo containers move through the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports annually. Every four containers create $1,000 in state and local revenue, $8,500 in personal income and one job. Oakland says every three containers it handles generate one job, $5,100 in personal income and $540 in state and local taxes.

Although still a major economic engine, California ports face increasing competitive pressures.
Ports in Canada, Mexico and the Gulf states are boosting capacity as the Panama Canal nears completion of a $5.25 billion widening that allows the world’s largest cargo ships to bypass the West Coast.

At the same time, major shipping lines are adding more routes from India and Asia through the Suez Canal.

California also has tougher environmental standards than most other state and countries as well as congested highways and high land prices. Oakland’s ability to add 1 million square feet of neighboring warehouse space is the exception, not the rule.

Ten years ago, Long Beach and Los Angeles received more than 56 percent of Pacific Rim cargo containers. Now it’s 48 percent and falling.

Of the cargo that is unloaded there, 40 percent could be easily diverted elsewhere, port operators say.
Police, Fire Department boats at Port of Long Beach.

“Cargo has no loyalty. It will find the easiest, most cost-effective path to move through,” John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association told Capitol Weekly. “If California can offer that, great. If not, other gateways will be utilized.”

Gooder Ways to Move Goods

State lawmakers are taking some actions aimed at aiding state ports.

A new law creating another seemingly innocuous– advisory committee could actually affect the vitality of California’s ports by helping move goods through the state more efficiently.

Backed by the maritime shipping association, the legislation – AB 14 by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, a Long Beach Democrat – establishes an advisory committee to help the state create a “freight” plan, which has the potential to boost the competitiveness of California’s three primary ports.
California created a goods movement plan seven years ago at the direction of then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in part to build the case for a $19.9 billion transportation bond that earmarked $3.1 billion for trade-related improvements. That plan is being updated, the Caltrans website says.
“An efficient and sustainable goods movement system isn’t just smart policy, it’s a sound investment, both for the state economy and potentially in securing more federal transportation funding.” says Lowenthal.

The Democratic governor signed Lowenthal’s measure without comment — a little under two years before the Panama Canal project’s expected completion date.

A January 21 meeting is scheduled for the advisory commission

Creating a plan that details how it would move goods to destinations throughout the United States could help California receive additional federal funds for trade-related transportation projects. As much as 95 percent of costs on selected projects, according to Caltrans.

The 2012 federal “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” Act encourages states to prepare a freight plan as part of the law’s requirement a new national goods movement strategy be assembled.
Commonly, individual terminals are operated by different companies who hold long-term leases with the port. Often terminals at one port compete against each other to secure a bigger share of the cars, clothing and household goods arriving mainly from Asia.
California created a goods movement plan seven years ago at the direction of then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in part to build the case for a $19.9 billion transportation bond that earmarked $3.1 billion for trade-related improvements. That plan is being updated, the Caltrans website says.

“This is part of our responsibility to the national economy,” said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger. “Nearly 40 percent of the goods imported from Asia to the United States flow through California’s freight transportation system.”

Nearly all of those bond funds have been appropriated and most of the projects are under construction.

The state’s $250 million contribution to the Port of Oakland’s upgrade came from that bond, approved by voters in November 2006 as Proposition 1B.

Because of their unique nature, ports can be problematic for both state and local policymakers.
Ports aren’t monolithic entities. They’re more like franchisers or landlords.
Ports face the same problem around the country. They have positive economic impacts with regional benefits that affect a large constituency. But you probably don’t want to live next to them, says Jock O’Connell, a trade specialist headquartered in Sacramento.
Commonly, individual terminals are operated by different companies who hold long-term leases with the port. Often terminals at one port compete against each other to secure a bigger share of the cars, clothing and household goods arriving mainly from Asia.

Lots of Greenbacks to Get Green

Ports, California or otherwise, also aren’t environmentally benign.

Mammoth cranes move countless metal containers to dockside staging areas from 1,000-foot long vessels with diesel engines that gobble more than 150 tons of fuel each day.

Long lines of idling trucks wait to transport their payloads, often inching along crowded freeways to busy rail yards where diesel locomotives prepare to rumble their cargo to destinations across the continent.

“Ports face the same problem around the country. They have positive economic impacts with regional benefits that affect a large constituency. But you probably don’t want to live next to them,” says Jock O’Connell, a trade specialist headquartered in Sacramento.

For example, Burlington Northern Santa Fe wants to build the “International Gateway,” a 153-acre rail yard cargo depot near Interstate 710 at the edge of Long Beach.
The city of Los Angeles and a major corporation are really treating Long Beach in a deplorable manner — one city is literally ignoring another city’s residents. We’re asking them to be clean and to be a good neighbor and help mitigate this, but they’re basically thumbing their nose at us.
The project’s nearly 4,700-page environmental impact report, began in 2005 and completed in 2011, says the $500 million facility will improve Southern California’s air quality by reducing the distance trucks must haul cargo from the ports for transfer.

Currently, the chief truck-to-rail transport center is the Hobart rail yards in the City of Commerce – more than 24 miles from the docks along the already congested I-710.

But West Long Beach, the neighborhood next to the new rail yard, complains that it already chokes on diesel fumes, a condition community activists say won’t improve with the new rail yard.

“This is really taking advantage of poor people for the advantage of others,” Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said in an April interview with the New York Times.

“The city of Los Angeles and a major corporation are really treating Long Beach in a deplorable manner — one city is literally ignoring another city’s residents. We’re asking them to be clean and to be a good neighbor and help mitigate this, but they’re basically thumbing their nose at us.”

In August, Long Beach consolidated its lawsuit against the project with six others filed by the Long Beach Unified School District, several local nonprofits and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Environmental mitigation requirements imposed by the Air Resources Board and other regulators has added $5 billion to port operational costs, according to the merchant shipping association.
Air Quality Efforts

Some $1.8 billion of that $5 billion in costs stems from having to create dockside electrical power for vessels so that onboard diesel engines can be turned off to reduce emissions.

Air board rules require that half of all container and cruise ships using the state’s major ports must “plug in” starting January 1. The technology is known as “cold ironing” – shipping term from the days of coal-fired engines. When a ship was tied up at port, the iron engines didn’t need be stoked and, so, became cold.

In a May 7 speech, Foster said ships are the largest remaining source of pollution at ports and that “plugging in a typical container ship for a day … is the pollution equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road.”

The Port of Long Beach says it will spend $200 million outfitting its terminals with power hookups.
A $1 billion pot of money was contained in the 2006 bond to reduce emissions from goods movement with $550,000 of it earmarked for Southern California and the Inland Empire.
The air board estimates there are about 20,000 trucks that regularly visit the state’s ports, often idling in long lines awaiting their loads. Seven years ago, the air board said all pre-1994 truck engines had to be retired or replaced with newer engines by 2009 By January 1, all port trucks must meet 2007 emission standards.
Long Beach and Los Angeles used nearly $100 million of their bond money to offer $50,000 subsidies to truckers to purchase new trucks with less polluting engines.

In another pollution control move, Long Beach and Los Angeles changed their fee structure so that trucks that pick up their cargo in off-peak hours pay less than those who don’t. Long Beach also rewards ships that slow down to 12 knots or less within 40 miles of the harbor entrance with lower dockage fees. The slower a vessel’s speed, the lower the emissions.

While operational costs may increase because of California’s more stringent regulation, ports are adapting and shrinking their carbon footprint.

But there are global forces that might be beyond the ability of the state’s ports to adapt to.
Like McLaurin says, cargo takes the speediest path of least expense to its destination.

The New Panama Canal

For almost a century, the Panama Canal defined shipping. So much so that vessels that could pass through the canal’s 110-foot wide locks are called “Panamax.” A Panamax ship can carry 5,000 cargo containers known as “twenty-foot equivalent units” or TEUs in nautical parlance because of their 20 foot by 8 foot size.

But now a new generation of cargo ships, known as “Post Panamax,” are plying the oceans.

They can carry as much as 15,000 containers. Although less than 20 percent of the world’s container fleet, the giant vessels account for 50 percent of the fleet’s capacity – a percentage that’s growing.
These massive vessels are a key reason for Panama’s decision to widen and modernize the canal, the only port in the world with terminals in two oceans.
The new canal and its set of 180-foot wide single-lane locks can accommodate ships designed to carry up to 12,600 containers.

What’s not yet known is how much will be charged to move through the new lock system – an important factor in determining cost-effectiveness.

Similarly, manufacturing centers are now moving west from China to Vietnam to India. That makes the Suez Canal a potentially speedier route to reach East Coast markets than trucking or training goods cross country from California.
On the other hand, some international shipping lines have long-term operating leases at California terminals and are unlikely to squander that investment – at least during the life of the lease.
Business is undeniably better for California’s ports in 2013 than during the recession when the shipping industry lost $20 billion in one year alone.

There’s wariness about the future but the ports are busy trying to accentuate their positives – like Oakland and its use of the neighboring army base property.

The Panama Canal’s fast-approaching opening could add more urgency – and attention – to efforts like Lowenthal’s to boost the competitiveness of California’s ports. No one involved disputes what’s at stake:

“Ultimately, it’s about the viability of these ports, particularly Long Beach and Los Angeles,” O’Connell tells Capitol Weekly.

“If we don’t move goods through more productively and efficiently then we lose business not only to Panama but other ports. And a substantial diversion of cargo away from California creates any number of significant and probably long-term effects. “

EPA Offers Funding to Reduce Pollution from Diesel Engines


November 20, 2013

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made available $2 million in funding for rebates to help public and private construction equipment owners replace or retrofit older diesel construction engines. The rebates will reduce harmful pollution and improve air quality in local areas.

“Exhaust from diesel construction equipment affects children, senior citizens and others in neighborhoods across the country”,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. "These rebates will help equipment owners protect public health and improve air quality near construction sites while updating their fleets.”

Rebates will be offered as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act, also known as DERA. This is the second rebate program offered since Congress reauthorized DERA in 2010 to allow rebates in addition to grants and revolving loans. The rebates will support the program’s effort to replace and update existing diesel vehicles, and will target where people are exposed to unhealthy air.

Since 2008, DERA has awarded more than $500 million to grantees across the country to retrofit, replace, or repower more than 50,000 vehicles. By cutting air pollution and preventing thousands of asthma attacks, emergency room visits and premature deaths, these clean diesel projects are projected to generate health benefits worth up to $8.2 billion.

Public and private construction equipment owners in eligible counties that are facing air quality challenges are encouraged to apply for rebates for the replacement or retrofit of construction equipment engines. EPA will accept applications from November 20, 2013, to January 15, 2014 and anticipates awarding the rebates in February 2014.

Construction equipment engines are very durable and can operate for decades. EPA has implemented standards to make diesel engines cleaner, but many older pieces of construction equipment remain in operation and predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). These pollutants are linked to health problems, including asthma, lung and heart disease, and even premature death. Equipment is readily available that can reduce emissions from these engines.

To learn more about the rebate program, the list of eligible counties, applicant eligibility and selection process, please visit http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/dera-rebate-construction.htm

Proposed ballot measure would more than double ‘car tax’


By Jim Miller, November 19, 2013

California motorists’ vehicle license fee would more than double under a proposed November 2014 ballot measure to raise an estimated $3 billion a year for the state’s ailing road system.

The constitutional amendment would phase in a surcharge to the fee charging motorists an extra one percent of the vehicle’s value each year. The fee has been .65 percent of a vehicle’s market value since the late 1990s, with a temporary increase to 1.15 percent from May 2009 through June 2011.

In language filed with the attorney general’s office earlier this week, proponents Will Kempton, the executive director of Transportation California who was Caltrans director from 2004 to 2009, and Jim Earp, executive director of the labor-management California Alliance for Jobs and a member of the California Transportation Commission, said, “California is facing a transportation funding crisis.”

In an interview, Kempton said the state is running out of money to pay for road maintenance. Almost $20 billion in voter-approved borrowing for highway projects has already been spoken for. Meanwhile, a steady increase in the number of electric and high-mileage hybrid vehicles – a key part of meeting the state’s goals to limit greenhouse gases – have reduced revenue to maintain highways from the per-gallon gasoline tax.

Transportation groups, construction unions and others will decide in January whether to commit the money for the signature drive to qualify the measure for next November’s ballot, Kempton said.
Proponents would have to overcome a legacy of opposition from motorists, car dealers and others against past proposals to raise the “car tax.

Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said California residents already pay some of the highest income and sales taxes in the country. Saying he respected Kempton, Coupal blamed state leaders for squandering gas tax revenue and other money that should be spent to maintain California’s roads.

Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, said this week’s proposal would “penalize people for owning cars.” A better approach, he said, would be to increase taxes on vehicle fuel, since that would correlate to how much someone drove. The group has not taken a position on the issue, he added.

The proposal would be the first highway-funding ballot measure since Proposition 1B in 2006. That measure, backed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and placed on the ballot by the Legislature, won easy approval from voters.

Proposition 1B relied on borrowing backed by general tax revenues, with a 30-year payoff. The proposal, though, would have a more direct impact on motorists’ wallets.

Under Department of Motor Vehicles schedules, someone who bought a 2013 Honda Civic for $16,000 this year will pay a $52 license fee in 2018. If the road repairs act passed, that motorist would pay about $130 that year, when the 1 percent surcharge would take full effect.

The license fee had long been 2 percent of a vehicle’s value before lawmakers, with a flush state budget, began reducing it in 1998.

After state revenue collapsed a few years later, then-Gov. Gray Davis raised the fee to the full amount in spring 2003. Motorists reacted angrily and Schwarzenegger campaigned against the increase during the summer recall fight, restoring the lower amount within hours of taking office Nov. 17, 2003.

In 2009, lawmakers approved a temporary 0.5 percent increase in the vehicle license fee, raising about $1.6 billion annually to help close a budget shortfall. The 0.5 percent surcharge expired in July 2011.

 Monday’s filing seeks a title and summary. Once cleared for signature gathering, proponents would have up to 150 days to collect 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify for next fall’s ballot.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/19/5928364/proposed-ballot-measure-would.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/19/5928364/proposed-ballot-measure-would.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/19/5928364/proposed-ballot-measure-would.html#storylink=cpy

DIESEL CRACKDOWN: State regulators cite offending trucks


By David Danelski, November 19, 2013

From left, California Air Resources Board inspectors Valente Armenta and Jose Andujar attempt to read the emission control label on the engine of a commercial truck belonging to Patrick Tracey of Rancho Palos Verdes during a spot inspection in Lake Elsinore on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. The inspections were conducted to see if commercial trucks complied with new, cleaner emissions standards. 

See website for a video.

Gary Broadwater, 47, didn’t appreciate the $300 citation he received Tuesday, Nov. 19, after the flatbed truck he drove was inspected by state air-pollution regulators just off Interstate 15 in Lake Elsinore.

The truck owned by his employer, the Lancaster-based Frazier Corp., didn’t have a special exhaust filter that traps and burns diesel soot to reduce harmful emissions. Nor was the truck registered as part of a small fleet, which would have given the company until Jan. 1 to install such a device or get a new cleaner engine, state regulators said.

“It’s just one thing after another,” said Broadwater, standing in the makeshift truck inspection area on Collier Avenue near the Lake Elsinore Outlet Center. “I like clean air. I Iike clean water. But this is just frivolous,” he said.

Broadwater, a Lancaster resident, climbed back into the cab of the 2006 Peterbilt, holding the thin, yellow-paper ticket as well as educational literature about the California Air Resources Board diesel regulations.

“I got to roll,” he said as he shut the door and drove off with his load of construction equipment.

State air pollution regulators inspected 54 trucks at the location Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. They wrote 13 citations.

These inspectors enforce a complex set of rules approved in 2008 that requires California’s truckers to phase-in the use of cleaner, newer engines or retrofit old engines with the special exhaust filters that cost about $15,000 each.

This owners of about 50,000 trucks in the smallest fleets of three or less face a Jan. 1 deadline to bring their trucks into compliance.

A trucking industry group supports the enforcement effort, saying it’s needed to keep cheaters from getting a competitive advantage over truckers and trucking firms that pay to meet the standards.

The rules are working to greatly reduce diesel pollution, which has been linked to cancer, asthma aggravation and various other health problems, said Mark Tavianini, a state air board official who teaches truckers how to comply with the rules.

Once inhaled, microscopic soot particles lodge deep into the lungs, enter the blood stream, and injure and inflame cells of organs, including our brains.

Diesel soot from trucks, trains and ships is responsible for about 93 percent of cancer risk from air pollution in Southern California, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The diesel rules are helping the region make progress toward meeting federal standards on fine-particle pollution, which includes soot.

Tavianini said the citations are issued to the truck owners – not the drivers. So the status of Broadwater’s driver’s license won’t be affected.

On Tuesday, flashing signs ordered all southbound trucks off I-15 at Nichols Road. A California Highway Patrol officer directed the trucks from Nichols to Collier Avenue, where they were subjected to a CHP safety inspection.

Some of the trucks, generally the older ones, were then inspected by the state air-board officials. Older trucks generally pollute more. The newer ones are made to meet tougher emission standards.

Karen Caesar, a spokeswoman for state air board, said the agency has teams of roadside inspectors working throughout California.

Contacted in Sacramento, Michael Shaw, the vice president for external affairs for the California Trucking Association, said the industry group supports the enforcement effort.

The association “is happy to see that CARB is taking enforcement seriously to be sure the rules apply equally across the board,” Shaw said. “With a level playing field, companies can compete on services and rates rather than someone cheating the system.”

He said the trucking industry is spending about $1 billion a year in California to comply with these diesel regulations.

Most trucks pass the pollutions inspections, which have gone on in some form since the early 1990s. In the early day, truckers got busted for emitted exhaust that was too dark. Inspections today are based more on engine year and pollution-control installations

Memo Rocha, of Oceanside, said he was nervous when the inspectors checked out the 2000 Freightliner truck owned by his employer, Forest Wood Fiber Products. But the truck passed an emission test. The company’s fleet had complied with the state rules, and he left without a concern.

FedEx Freight Chief Says Transportation System Is Headed for Gridlock


November 18, 2013

The nation’s network of highways, roads and bridges isn’t equipped to handle the huge growth in traffic that’s expected in coming years, said Bill Logue, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Freight.

Speaking in Houston at the annual conference of the National Industrial Transportation League, Logue said the U.S. transportation infrastructure isn’t even sufficient to handle today’s needs, let alone those of the future. “We must begin to address aging infrastructure across every mode of transportation,” he said.

 Logue cited a prediction by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration that traffic volume on roads and highways will more than double between 2010 and 2040. Most of the growth will take place in urban areas,which are already under stress. Improvements in the system are “vital to economic growth, the creation of jobs and access to goods and services,” he said.

Repairs, upgrades and new construction are needed across the board, Logue said. On the aviation side, the Air Traffic Control System is built on design elements “that have not changed since the 1950s.”

FedEx supports the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, which will rely on satellite-based technology and is being implemented in stages through 2025. It will allow pilots to choose their own flight paths, leading to an estimated fuel savings of $23 billion by 2018, according to FAA.

Changes are also needed among airfreight service providers. The top 20 airports in the U.S. will all experience severe congestion over the next decade, and most are in need of new runways to handle the additional demand, Logue said.

Paperwork continues to be a major headache. An international air shipment can generate more than 30 documents. An electronic-freight initiative spearheaded by the International Air Transport Association could save shippers and carriers $12 billion, while preventing up to 80 percent of paperwork-caused delays. “We cannot solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s approaches,” Logue said.

Seaports are in dire need of berth expansion and dredging, to accommodate the new generation of larger containerships. Even without the arrival of those mega-vessels, “many of the nation’s ports are already experiencing congestion and delay,” Logue said. Like surface-transportation interests, they don’t have the money to do the job. The U.S. Senate recently passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, which promotes harbor-development projects, but doesn’t specify how they would be funded.

Elsewhere in the world, transportation systems are in a similarly poor state, according to Logue. China’s total investment in infrastructure over the years equals 76 percent of its gross domestic product, he said, but spending has not been distributed equally among all modes. In India, meanwhile, most highways are of two lanes or less. And Brazil, one of the world’s most promising developing economies, ranks near the bottom in the quality of its roads, railroads and ports.

The coming transportation crisis is more than a question of inadequate physical assets. Logue also blamed government regulation for hampering carriers. The new Hours of Service restrictions for truckers are expected to cut driver productivity by 2% to 10%, he said. According to a new survey by the American Transportation Research Institute,  more than 80 percent of motor carriers say they’ve been negatively affected by the rules.

Logue also criticized the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. While the agency’s goal of promoting safety is commendable, the regulatory burden imposed by CSA is expected to worsen the driver shortage, raise costs and reduce service choices for shippers, he said. “Fedex is committed to safety most of all,” he said. “But we need to educate [the public] about the real-world impact of these changes.”

European regulators are erecting many barriers to trade, he said. A report by the European Commission identified 700 protectionist measures since 2008, including 150 in the last year alone. They include complex license requirements, border fees, duty increases and bans on certain imports and exports. A rise in customs inspections has increased the cost of goods and services.

“We must address these barriers to trade,” said Logue. He called for expedited customs procedures and more liberal standards for duty-free treatment of imports.