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

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Chairman of House Transportation Committee outlines priorities for 113th Congress


 Posted by Steve Hymon


Below is the update from Metro’s government relations staff — Rep. Shuster’s article is also worth a read:
The new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has authored an opinion article that outlines his policy goals for the 113th Congress. The opinion article, which appeared yesterday in Congressional Quarterly, focuses on his belief that transportation is a core responsibility of the federal government and that he intends to address the ongoing shortfall facing the Highway Trust Fund. Chairman Shuster has visited our agency a number of times over the past several years. The Chairman has received briefings on the highway and transit projects in our Board-approved Long Range Transportation Plan and has had the opportunity to see many of the projects that are currently under construction. He has been a supporter of our ultimately successful effort, as part of the America Fast Forward initiative, to dramatically expand the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program during the 112th Congress. In the coming days, months and years ahead, we look forward to effectively advancing our Board-approved federal legislative program with the Chairman and his colleagues on the committee.

Groups take Pasadena to court over hosting NFL team at Rose Bowl


 January 4, 2013


A coalition of neighborhood groups sued Pasadena on Thursday in an effort to block the city from temporarily hosting an NFL team at the Rose Bowl.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses the City Council of violating state environmental laws when it voted in November to increase the number of events at the city-owned stadium. Currently, 12 events are allowed in a year, but that would increase to 25 if a deal is struck with a professional football team.

The Coalition for Preservation of the Arroyo wants the court to require Pasadena to halt its plans to court the NFL until it complies with state environmental laws and local ordinances.

“Over substantial public objection, the city pre-committed to a prospective NFL lease via bureaucratic  and financial momentum,” said the lawsuit, which was filed by attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley.

The proposal to temporarily host a team should a stadium be built in Los Angeles has been controversial since its inception. Especially after Pasadena voters previously rejected a bid to bring an NFL team to the city.

But Rose Bowl and city officials say hosting a team at a stadium that is already home to UCLA football and the annual Rose Bowl game could provide a significant economic boost to local government and area businesses.

The coalition spearheading the complaint is made up of the East Arroyo Neighborhood Protection Committee, Linda Vista-Annandale Assn. and San Rafael Neighborhoods Assn.

The lawsuit also took issue with the environmental impact report on an NFL team playing at the Rose Bowl. Plaintiffs argue that the study failed to analyze potential effects and mitigation measures for the Arroyo Seco parklands.

The EIR, released last year, found that Pasadena would see a significant and unavoidable increase in noise, traffic and air pollution if an NFL team were to play at the Rose Bowl for up to five years. However, the most severe effects would be temporary and manageable.

Pasadena Councilman Victor Gordo, who is also president of the Rose Bowl Operating Co., said he was confident the EIR and the city’s actions would withstand a lawsuit. He said he wasn't surprised opponents filed suit.

Pasadena adopted the EIR and voted to increase the number of events in order to have discussions with an NFL team in the future, he said.

“Any potential deal that results from those discussions would have to be respectful of the surrounding parkland and neighborhoods,” Gordo said. “And it would have to make financial sense for both the city and the stadium, it has to be a good deal for Pasadena otherwise there will be no deal.”

Gordo said the NFL has yet to approach Pasadena.

“The NFL EIR must identify and the city must adopt full and adequate protective mitigations first,” said Nina Chomsky, president of the Linda Vista-Annandale Assn.

“Destructive degradation of our neighborhoods and the Central Arroyo is insufficiently mitigated and not acceptable to cover Rose Bowl fiscal shortfalls, gaps and overruns.”

Streetsies 2012: People of the Year


January 4, 2013


Politician of the Year:
The nominees: Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian already lost his Metrolink Board of Directors seat, allegedly over his vote to allow Measure R on the ballot, and now faces losing his Metro Board of Directors seat over his effective opposition to the I-710 Big Dig. Down in Long Beach, Suja Lowenthal has become a local spokesperson for livability issues. Supervisor Mike Antonovich has certainly made his mark opposing Measure J as Chair of the Metro Board of Directors. In the Mayor’s race, Eric Garcetti has swept up the endorsements of most major bike and pedestrian advocates while injecting livability issues into the campaign while Wendy Greuel has shined a light on waste and fraud in the city, including LADOT. In Sacramento Mike Feuer earns a nod for his tireless advocacy for Measure J and his succesfull efforts to oversee the Buy Here Pay Here industry. Senator Alan Lowenthal (now Congressman) also earns a nod for his efforts on Give Me 3. The Lowenthal’s are not related, it’s just that half the people that live in Long Beach are named Lowenthal.
Editor’s Choice: Ara Najarian 

Go to http://la.streetsblog.org/ to cast your ballot.

Monrovia's Gold Line maintenance yard work in full swing


By Brenda Gazzar, Staff Writer 
Updated:   01/04/2013 09:37:21 PM PST
 Work is underway on a $160 million Gold Line maintenance and operations facility on a 24 acre-site in the southeastern end of Monrovia Thursday, January 3, 2013. The Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa will have the capability to do both light and heavy maintenance repair on up to 100 light rail cars at a time for Metro's larger fleet. 
MONROVIA - Old buildings have been demolished and work is under way on a $160 million Gold Line maintenance and operations yard on 24 acres in the southeastern part of the city.

The yard, a necessary component of the $735 million, 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa, will do light and heavy maintenance and repair while accommodating up to 100 light rail cars, said Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

"In itself, it's $160 million of capital construction going on, aside from the 11.5 miles of (alignment) construction," Balian said, noting that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is paying for 75 percent, or $120 million, of the yard.

"Metro has made it a requirement for our project to be built ... It wasn't going to be just a maintenance facility for our 20 vehicles (for the Foothill extension) but to aid the capacity needs of the entire Metro system."

Currently, Metro only has only one yard, located in Long Beach, that has the capacity to do heavy maintenance light-rail work. The Construction Authority acquired the land needed for the yard at a cost of nearly $99 million, officials said.

Located just north of Duarte Road between California and Shamrock Avenues, the facility is being built by Foothill Transit Constructors, a Kiewit-Parsons joint venture.

Construction Authority officials are calling the yard, which is being built right across from homes, "The Gold Line Operations Campus" since they are encouraging the design-build team to build it less like an institute and more like the scenic grounds of a school or hospital.

"It's a little tongue-and-cheek; we're trying to get the design-builder to look at it that way, to pay more attention to perimeter walls, the materials being used," Balian said. "There is a large public green space area on the northwest corner of the property ... that is being landscaped."

But not everyone is pleased with the yard's location.

"What we've done is taken some of the most desirable land in the area; we've taken it off the tax rolls in perpetuity," said Monrovia Councilman Tom Adams, who voted against putting the yard there.

"I'm very much in favor of the Gold Line coming. I think it was a very poor choice to put a maintenance yard in that area."

Adams said he would have liked to see something that would have generated more property tax revenue for the city there.

Grading of the site will continue for the next several months and new buildings will start to be erected by February. The yard is expected to be completed by the early part of 2015, Balian said.

Work on the Pasadena to Azusa alignment has also begun with utility relocation and removal of old railroad tracks and ties. Underground work will continue in the next several months while the placement of the tracks should commence in early 2014, he said.

Cement truck overturns on 210 Freeway, driver hurt


Updated:   01/04/2013 08:32:21 PM PST

 GLENDORA - A man driving a cement mixer truck was injured Friday when the vehicle toppled on its side on the eastbound 210 Freeway.
The incident led to several lanes being closed for five hours and 23 minutes.

The solo crash on the eastbound 210, east of Sunflower Avenue was reported to the California Highway Patrol at 12:43 p.m.

CHP Sgt. Grady Stevens said for unknown reasons, the driver lost control of the truck.
The vehicle struck a wall and fell on its side, he added.

Stevens said the driver was taken to a hospital with minor to moderate injuries.

Concrete, fuel, oil and water leaked out of the overturned cement mixer truck.

"We believe it was mostly water," Steven said.

Two lanes were closed initially then three. For the final two hours of the SigAlert, the closure affected the No. 4 lane and the southbound 57 Freeway transition road.

[ My note: Are cement trucks going to be banned from the 710 tunnel?]

Los Angeles mayoral candidates talk transportation at Westside forum



When it came time for L.A. mayoral candidates to discuss transportation issues Thursday night at Beth Jacob Temple, moderator David Suissa was clear.

“Many of us have heard over the years politicians who promise us solutions to the traffic mess,” said Suissa, president of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. “But we’d like to hear some new and fresh ideas.”

Beth Jacob sits in Beverly Hills, but many in attendance live on L.A.’s Westside, where drivers regularly describe traffic as horrendous.

RELATED: Watch the archived video of the LA mayoral debate

City Councilman Eric Garcetti was the most specific in his response.  He promised to start or complete 10 new rail lines, and suggested that one might be a tunnel underneath the Sepulveda Pass.
“That would allow us to get from Sherman Oaks to UCLA in 10 minutes,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti was the only candidate to outright support a subway tunnel underneath nearby Beverly Hills High School. Neighbors of that area have protested the tunnel option.

The mayor of L.A. sits on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board and appoints three other members.

Councilman Garcetti – who represents the Hollywood area – also proposed bonding against future tax revenues to pave 1,600 miles of roads and to create more bike lanes.

City Controller Wendy Greuel offered fewer specifics; she emphasized her past work on such issues as prohibiting road construction projects during rush hour. The controller, who regularly issues audits of city departments, said she would be best able to spend transportation dollars wisely.

First woman mayor?

“There are a lot of people who can talk about doing something. I have demonstrated that I have the management skills and experience,” Greuel said.

If elected, she or Councilwoman Jan Perry would become the first woman mayor of Los Angeles.

At Thursday night’s debate – sponsored by CivicCare – Perry said she would focus on improving traffic efficiency. She pointed to streets around U.C.L.A.

“Clean up those main campus connectors – no parking, re-pave, synchronize, restrict turning, take bus stops off street,” Perry said.  “All of that will help improve that community.”

Attorney and former late-night conservative talk show host Kevin James issued his oft-repeated attacks on Garcetti, Greuel and Perry. He said they are largely to blame for the city’s traffic problems – in part because they’ve diverted special parking tax revenue to other programs during deficit years.

“They raided those funds to pay for the salaries and contracts that they entered into that we couldn’t afford,” James said.

James also proposed right-hand turn signals for some intersections that would force pedestrians to wait 20 seconds so cars could turn and get out of the way of traffic faster.

This was Emanuel Pleitez’ first debate. Pleitez is a 30-year-old high tech executive from East L.A. who reached the $200,000 fundraising threshold to receive city matching funds last week.  He emphasized smaller solutions like better bus service and car sharing.
“Major infrastructure projects like rail are not the answer.  We need solutions today,” he said.

Early polls indicate that Garcetti and Greuel are the front-runners. They’ve also raised the most money – more than $2 million each. Perry is polling third. James and Pleitez are well behind the other three.

But most people remain undecided in a race that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.

The primary is March 5. If no candidate garners a majority of votes, the top two finishers face off in a May runoff.

Here Are All the LA Mayoral Candidates' Traffic-Busting Plans


January 4, 2013





 Good news for those of you who've missed the grand (and always, always fulfilled) promises of politicians since the presidential election ended: there's a mayoral election coming up! The leading candidates--Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Jan Perry, Kevin James, and Emanuel Pleitez--took part in a debate last night where the talk turned to traffic, according to KPCC. Who's promising what to get you home faster?

Garcetti: Will start or complete 10 new rail lines, including a tunnel underneath the Sepulveda Pass. And more bike lanes!

Greuel: No specifics but she did promise to spend transportation dollars wisely, so that's a start.

Perry: Improve traffic efficiency, giving the area around UCLA as an example: "Clean up those main campus connectors -- no parking, re-pave, synchronize, restrict turning, take bus stops off street."

James: Right-hand turn signals, which would limit the time pedestrians have to cross a street in
order to allow cars to turn right and get out of the way of traffic.

Pleitez: Better bus service and car sharing, not major infrastructure projects like rail.
The primary in the race to replace Mayor Villaraigosa, who cannot run again due to term limits, will be held on March 5, with the election slated for May 21.

Arcadia Getting New Art Deco-ish Bridge for Gold Line Extension


January 4, 2012

 2013_01_bridge1.jpgNow that the basket bridge for the 11.5-mile Gold Line extension into Azusa is done, what's next? Constructing a new bridge over Colorado Boulevard in Arcadia, reports the Arcadia Patch. The boulevard will remain closed from Monday until the end of April while crews replace a 1930s steel bridge with a new span that can hold modern light rail trains. Made with concrete, the new bridge will retain some of its predecessor's Art Deco borders. "It's historic architecture that we felt very strongly about keeping," Arcadia Chief City Engineer Philip Wray tells Patch. After that work is finished, crews will construct the Santa Anita and Huntington bridges before they start laying track. Many people are happy to see work progressing on the Gold Line, scheduled to open in two years, but moving at a glacial place compared to the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica--also scheduled for a 2015 opening.

Neighbors file lawsuit to stop NFL plans at Rose Bowl


 By Brian Charles, Staff Writer
Updated:   01/04/2013 02:21:03 PM PST
 PASADENA - A broad coalition of neighborhood associations and residents on the west end of Pasadena announced Friday that they have filed a lawsuit to halt any plans to temporarily place an NFL in the city-owned Rose Bowl, officials said Friday.
The lawsuit filed Thursday will challenge assertions in the recently filed environmental document.

The Linda Vista-Annandale Association and the San Rafael Neighborhood Association are among those who joined in filing the lawsuit, according to sources familiar with the neighborhood associations.

The environmental report, approved by the Pasadena Cituy Council in mid-November, was the first hurdle to be cleared in an effort by the Pasadena City Council to place an NFL team at the Rose Bowl on a temporary basis.

The stadium is under renovation, and that effort faces an ever growing funding deficit. The funding gap mushroomed from $12 million to nearly $50 million in two years.

The NFL has recently shown interest in returning to the Los Angeles market, either at a downtown site called Farmer's Field or a stadium in the City of Industry.

If the NFL is to return to Los Angeles County, a team will need a temporary home while one of the proposed stadiums is built. 

Local Neighborhood Assns Sue the City of Pasadena over NFL use of Rose Bowl


 On January 3rd, the Coalition for Preservation of the Arroyo, a newly–‐formed public  interest group, joined by the East Arroyo Neighborhood Protection Committee, the Linda-‐Vista Annandale Association, and the San Rafael Neighborhoods Association, sued  Pasadena in Los Angeles Superior Court on environmental grounds.  The case number is BS141038. Final NFLROSEBOWLPressReleaseJan413  


Neighbors go to court to stop Pasadena-NFL connection



A coalition of four neighborhood groups filed a lawsuit against the Pasadena City Council on Thursday seeking to overturn an ordinance that could allow for professional football games at the Rose Bowl.
 Stadium Wars

Transit app Moovit takes a page from Waze’s crowdsourcing playbook


 Ryan Kim

 Moovit is trying to be the Waze of public transit by offering a crowd-sourced transportation app for bus and train commuters. The system hopes to provide more accurate estimated time of arrivals and better updates on upcoming travel conditions. 




Waze, one of our favorite mobile apps, has proven that crowdsourced data can become the basis of a popular and practical transportation app for drivers. Now, Israeli startup called Moovit, is trying to apply the same lessons to public transit.
The comparison isn’t just for headline purposes. Waze’s founder and CEO Uri Levine is a Moovit board member and has helped shape the company’s people-powered approach.
MoovitThe iOS and Android app, which just debuted in New York earlier this month along with Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston and Los Angeles, starts by offering static and GPS-powered data from transit systems and then applies an algorithm that tweaks it with statistical data compiled each day. That allows it to offer more accurate estimated times of arrival that adjusts predictions for the time of day. Moovit also alerts people catching multiple trains and buses about upcoming travel conditions and whether they might have just missed their next connection.

That already makes Moovit extremely valuable, said CEO Nir Erez, for both inexperienced transit riders and hardened veterans who just want accurate ETAs or a look at upcoming conditions. But Moovit works to add another layer of data provided by users. When a user catches their bus or train and leaves their app open, their movements get anonymously sent to Moovit’s database, which shares that with other users, who can then track arriving vehicles.

Moovit also pings a user with a question immediately about how crowded their bus or train is, which can be shared to riders further down the route. Users can also share information about accidents, delays, inaccurate information or provide information about the vehicle such as whether it has Wi-Fi or is wheelchair accessible. Erez said 95 percent of people respond to Moovit’s questions and offer feedback into the system.
MoovitA crowd-sourced system like Moovit’s obviously relies on a crowd to really make it valuable. Moovit, which debuted in the second quarter in Israel, is now up to 400,000 users worldwide including 40,000 in the U.S. But half of the users are in Israel. Erez said a city like New York needs only about 20,000 to 30,000 users to make its crowdsourced data useful. He said it’s quickly getting to that point, but until then, it can’t quite deliver on its full promise.

Another weakness for Moovit is the inability to go underground. When users jump on subways, they are unable to provide real time data until they arrive at a stop with connectivity. That can limit some of the data that gets sent to upcoming riders. Moovit is working on a system to better understand a user’s movement as they travel underground by measuring their acceleration and grabbing whatever signals it can get as travelers pass through stations.

As someone who travels on a subway regularly, that’s one of the barriers I see to Moovit. That and the fact that I pretty much have only one route to take to get to work. But Erez said that a lot of users actually have choices for their transit routes and everyone can benefit from better ETAs and arrival times. A Moovit analysis found that users are delayed an average of 12 percent over the time they originally expected to spend traveling on a particular trip.
MoovitErez said user retention is growing as people find more usefulness in the app. And that just makes the app more accurate as it processes more user data.

If you provide a comprehensive and very accurate solution, people will trust you,” Erez. “They will be willing to use your application even if they know what their route is, just to get reports on trips and see if there are problems reported.”

Moovit, which has raised $3.6 million from Gemini Israel Ventures and BRM Group, has also launched internationally in Brazil, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. It’s gotten a nice bump in attention thanks to Apple Maps, which now recommends Moovit as an alternative for transit information. But it also faces plenty of competition from Google Maps and apps like Embark, The Transit App.

Where Moovit can shine is by making good use of crowdsourced data, something that has made Waze a killer driving app. That’s a differentiator and can help Moovit deliver more accurate information, as long as it can get enough users to buy into the system and share their data.

Controversial HOT lanes spread nationally


  USA Today


 Drivers on the Capital Beltway now have the option of using express lanes.

ATLANTA -- Highway lanes that charge cars rising tolls as traffic increases are becoming the future for the USA's clogged urban expressways. A dozen now operate across the nation and another 18 are under development.

The so-called "dynamic pricing" lanes have just come to two of the biggest and most congested metro areas in the USA, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. They join Atlanta, another notoriously congested city, and other metro areas where the roads - many called HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes because carpoolers ride free - are growing in popularity after a rocky start.

They also are planned or under construction on congested urban corridors from Seattle to El Paso, Dallas, Baltimore and other cities.

Projects such as the ones in Los Angeles and Northern Virginia near Washington, which rolled out last month, likely represent the future of urban tolling in the USA because they allow transportation planners to get more mileage out of the existing highway system, experts say.

"I think they do represent the wave of the future in the 10-15 largest urban areas," says Bob Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, a libertarian policy research group.

Some opponents criticize them as "Lexus lanes" - serving the wealthy while leaving others stuck in traffic. Others oppose the lanes because they're on highways that motorists have already paid for with gas taxes and because the lanes are often turned over to private operators. "These public-private partnership deals generally are not in the best interest of motorists," says Steve Carrellas of the National Motorists Association.

These toll lanes offer commuters congestion relief by using technology to adjust pricing constantly. Tolls rise as more people use the lanes and drop as demand falls. Carpools, bus riders and motorcyclists use the lanes for free.

Most new toll projects in heavily traveled urban corridors around the USA employ real-time tolling, says Jim Ely, vice chairman of toll services for HNTB Corp., a national infrastructure firm.

A $105 billion, two-year highway authorization bill signed into law by President Obama in July gives states more flexibility on tolling. "We're going to see more (such) lanes on the interstates as a result of (the funding bill)," Ely says. "It allows them to add more price-managed lanes as long as they don't convert an existing general purpose lane (to tolls)."

The L.A. and Washington projects are gradually gaining popularity with drivers after an initial period of confusion and some resistance. Officials in both places expect more motorists to try the lanes as they become more familiar with them.
Why driverless cars will trump transit rivals


Globe and Mail

Published on Monday, December 31, 2012

Personal rapid transit vehicles at London's Heathrow airport.

In three previous posts, here, here and here [find links on the site listed above], I’ve suggested that driverless cars will be on our roads during the next decade or so and they will be used mainly to provide autonomous taxicab (AT) services for about one third of the cost of present cabs. The results could be massive shrinkages of the auto industry and transit systems as we know them. Far fewer automobiles would be sold, but there would be more on the road at any one time. This post discusses the implications of such vehicle automation for energy use and related matters.

With widespread use of driverless cars – mostly as ATs – there could be more vehicles on the road because ATs will substitute for most, and perhaps eventually all, private automobile use as well as much use of buses and other conventional transit. Moreover, ATs will serve users who cannot drive or use transit, including young people and the elderly. As well, ATs will spend less time parked than today’s automobiles, and more of the day on or moving between assignments, contributing to the increase in the number of vehicles on the road. An offsetting factor will be some growth in car sharing by strangers – in the form of sharing of part or all of trips by AT – but likely not enough to compensate completely for the factors contributing to an increase in traffic.(Autonomous freight vehicles, small and large, could also be on the roads, in similar or greater numbers than present freight vehicles. I’ll be covering automated road freight movement in the final post in this series.)

More movement of cars will not necessarily result in more fuel use. Driverless cars will be smaller and lighter on average because they will need fewer safety features and driver controls and because the capacity of particular ATs will likely be matched to the trip requirements. As well as using less energy for these reasons, they will be operated in such a way as to use less energy. This will happen through attainment of more even speeds as a result of better traffic management and vehicle operation. The energy savings could well be more than enough to offset any growth in traffic.

Reducing oil consumption for transportation would still be an imperative, whether for supply or environmental reasons, or both. If petroleum products continue to provide the main fuel for transportation, a major gap between potential demand for and world supply of oil seems likely to emerge within a decade or two, even with heroic efforts to improve the efficiency of fuel use. A shift from internal combustion engines to electric motors as the source of traction seems the best direction to take, because of the relative ease of producing electrical energy sustainably and then distributing it.
Operators of fleets of ATs could be in a better position to switch to electric traction than individual owners of driven or driverless cars, for several reasons:

-- Because taxicabs travel five or more times as much per day on average as individually owned cars, fleet operators are relatively more concerned with vehicles’ operating characteristics and costs. For urban travel, electric vehicles can have substantially lower operating costs because they use less fuel, and cheaper fuel, and because the simplicity of electric vehicles results in lower maintenance costs. Thus, electric vehicles could be relatively more appealing.

-- The main challenge in using a battery electric vehicle is accommodating its short range. A fleet operator could deploy enough electric vehicles to ensure that a sufficient number to meet demand is always available even though many may be unavailable because their batteries are being charged. An AT with a battery approaching depletion would automatically seek a charging station between hires. Connection, charging, and disconnection would also be automatic. Fleet operators may choose to invest in fast-charging stations and fewer vehicles, or vice versa, according to circumstances. Individual owners could not make that trade-off.

-- Fleet operators could achieve what would in effect be very fast charging through battery exchange, which could also be achieved automatically. As well as very fast charging, batteries for battery exchange could be charged during off-peak periods, reducing fuel costs.

If possible, electric traction should be powered by connection to the grid while in motion – as are electric trolley buses and streetcars – rather than by on-board batteries. This avoids the high financial cost of batteries, the energy cost of moving energy into and out of a battery (about 25 per cent), and the energy cost of carrying the weight of batteries (a cost that varies considerably with topography and driving characteristics).

If possible, electric traction should be powered by connection to the grid while in motion – as are electric trolley buses and streetcars – rather than by on-board batteries. This avoids the high financial cost of batteries, the energy cost of moving energy into and out of a battery (about 25 per cent), and the energy cost of carrying the weight of batteries (a cost that varies considerably with topography and driving characteristics).

My concern to move towards widespread grid-connected electric traction led me to favour development of a concept known as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), discussed in an earlier post. PRT usually comprises fully automated, one- to six-person, electrically powered vehicles (pods) on reserved guideways providing direct origin-to-destination service on demand. PRT is usually envisioned as powered directly from the grid, although in at least one early implementation – at London’s Heathrow Airport – the pods are battery powered.

The remarkable progress with driverless cars during the past few years, and revelations of their extraordinary potential to transform motorized movement of people and freight, have caused me to change my focus. The challenges in implementing PRT are its novelty and the cost of the infrastructure, chiefly guideways.

The initial cost of a PRT system appears to be about $15-million per kilometre. This is low compared, for example, with light-rail, which seems to average about $35-million per kilometre in the U.S. and can cost much more (Toronto’s mostly tunnelled Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT line is costing more than $250-million per kilometre). The PRT cost is nevertheless high enough to require what may be regarded as substantial investment in infrastructure even for a relatively small system, e.g., $300-million for a 20-km system. Resistance to spending even this amount – low for a transit investment – would be reinforced by the novelty of PRT, which could make for a risky venture.

An AT service could deliver much of the service provided by PRT, at perhaps about the same cost to users, chiefly because passengers would stay in the same low-capacity vehicle during speedy, mostly non-stop trips from origin to destination. An AT service would have the added advantages that travel could be literally door to door, and there would be no new public infrastructure cost because existing roads would likely be sufficient.

AT services, requiring less infrastructure, would thus be less disruptive than PRT and, accordingly, could be more successful.

If, when AT services are established, a need for a new road is recognized, this could be a guideway perhaps elevated that provided for powering of ATs with electric traction from the grid while in motion. To the extent such guideways were available, ATs’ batteries could be smaller. The cost of ATs would be lower as would their energy requirements. Guideways might be constructed to achieve these benefits and, over time, might thus replace many roads as we known them. PRT would evolve from AT services.

Guideways that provided power to ATs and other small driverless vehicles could be of special value on expressways used for longer journeys. As well as reducing vehicle weight and energy costs, powering from the grid would avoid the need to stop for battery charging or replacement.
Such guideways might also be constructed where roads are needed but none exist, as in industrializing countries.

Richard Gilbert is a Toronto-based consultant on energy and transportation. These five posts are adapted from his contribution to International Handbook on Megaprojects to be published during 2013, a draft of which is available on request to mail@richardgilbert.ca.

Streets Filled With Driverless Cars: A Perpetual Fantasy?


 Angie Schmitt


Google's robo-car prototype. 

 Remember how the Jetsons promised us flying cars? Well, futuristic visions of car travel have a way of falling short of the wild expectations.
Jarret Walker at Human Transit wonders if some of the grand visions coming from driverless car
prognosticators might be similarly science-fiction-esque. He takes particular issue with author Richard Gilbert, who speculates in a series for the Globe and Mail [PDF] that “driverless taxis” will eventually render transit obsolete.

Walker says no one has really explained how we will get from here to there:
This, and much of the discussion around driverless cars, is in the complete imagined future mode. Gilbert describes a world in which the driverless cars are already the dominant mode, and where our cities, infrastructure, and cultural expectations have already been reorganized around their potential and needs.

Some complete imagined futures are not necessarily achievable, because the future must be evolved. In fact, the evolution of organisms is a fairly apt metaphor for how cities and infrastructure change. As in evolution, each incremental state in the transformation to the new reality must itself be a viable system. We can think of lots of wonderful futures that would be internally consistent but for which there is no credible path from here to there.

I will begin to take driverless cars seriously when I see credible narratives about all the intermediate states of their evolution, and how each will be an improvement that is both technically and culturally embraced. How will driverless and conventional cars mix in roads where the needs of conventional cars still dominate the politics of road design? How will they come to triumph in this situation? How does the driverless taxi business model work before the taxis are abundant? Some of the questions seem menial but really are profound: When a driverless car is at fault in the accident, to what human being does that fault attach? The programmer? What degree of perfection is needed for software that will be trusted to protect not just the driver, but everyone on the street who is involuntarily in the presence of such a machine?

Sure, driverless taxis might replace many lower-ridership bus lines, but wouldn’t buses become driverless at the same time? In such a future, wouldn’t any fair pricing make these driverless buses much cheaper to use where volumes are high? Wouldn’t there be a future of shared vehicles of various sizes, many engaged in what we would recognize as public transit? As with all things PRT, I notice a frequent slipperiness in explanations of it; I’m not sure, at each moment, whether we’re talking about something that prevents you from having to ride with strangers (the core pitch of “Personal” rapid transit) as opposed to just a more efficient means of providing public transit, i.e. a service that welcomes the need to ride with strangers as the key to its efficient use of both money and space.