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

Monday, January 7, 2013

When Huell Howser went looking for Los Angeles’ old streetcar tunnels


 Posted by Steve Hymon 

[Link to] a program he did on streetcar tunnels in downtown Los Angeles in which he brings his usual enthusiasm to the program’s topic....

Metro sends its condolences to Huell’s family, friends, colleagues and the millions of people who learned more about California because of his extraordinary efforts and work.

[Another great link: Huell Howser singing "California Here I Come"


Why LA Ports Are the New Factories


 Written by Louis Hyman 
'08 Jan 2013

GUEST WORDS - Last month, union activists across the country celebrated what they saw as the latest opportunity to kickstart the moribund labor movement: a strike at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Retail workers, or as Wal-Mart calls them, "associates," across the country were to walk out on the greatest shopping day of the year. 

The walkout was to signal the national unity of retail workers and strike a blow that would stagger the giant from Bentonville. At the same time, it would galvanize liberal consumers who would support the walk-out by their refusal to shop. Bringing together consumers and workers, they believed, would force America's largest retailer to the negotiating table.

It failed.

Walkouts were erratic. Shoppers, most of whom were hard-pressed workers themselves, thought more about the presents under the tree than the picket lines, if there were any. It turns out, as one might expect, that coordinating a walkout at thousands of locations across the country was hard, even in this age of social media.

Yet, at the same time, another strike was going on that received far less attention -- though it still threatened Wal-Mart's ability to deliver all those cheap Chinese-manufactured goods through the country. This strike did not have the visceral satisfaction of picketing Wal-Mart, whether as an underpaid worker or as a politically-conscious consumer. But this strike was more important than the Black Friday strike, not only because it was successful, but because it augured a new realization of the sources of union strength in our economy.

The planners of the Wal-Mart strike saw retail stores as the new factories. We live in a service economy, after all, and customer service representatives are the new proletariat. In this line of thinking, we need to organize retail workers and then, through solidarity, we will be able to bring back the union strength that made possible the postwar prosperity.

This argument, which feels so right, is fatally flawed. Wal-Mart stores are not GM factories.

Retail chains sprawl across the country. When a union tries to organize a store, that particular location can simply close up shop, move somewhere else, and hire new staff. The inventories can be easily moved. Retail is essentially flexible and its work deskilled. Workers and shops can be replaced.

The cost of unionization would be higher than the cost of an additional store (which are opening every day somewhere else).

The success of the factory labor movement in the 20th century required both of those factors to be the opposite of what we have in retail: workers, inventory, location, and plant are inflexible.

It also must be remembered that the powerful postwar labor movement, which brought us things like pensions and weekends, came about not in the midst of prosperity but in the middle of the Great Depression -- fighting the most powerful corporation in America, General Motors -- exactly when we would think it would be most impossible to organize.

Consider what many labor historians consider to be the kickoff for the last great labor movement in the 20th century: the Flint Sitdown Strike of 1936 which made the United Auto Workers into a juggernaut.

The Flint Sitdown Strike of 1936 is remembered for its control of a factory and giving birth to the UAW. Labor advocates celebrate the solidarity of the workers who occupied an auto body plant in the middle of a Michigan winter, facing down water hoses, rifles and tear gas. Yet these labor proponents have remembered the wrong lesson of that strike. The solidarity, while necessary, was not sufficient to win the strike. What mattered was where the strike occurred.

What is forgotten is that the workers chose that factory, among GM's hundreds, because it made auto bodies which could be made nowhere else. The dies that stamped metal into cars only there and could not be replaced. When the UAW shut down that one factory, all of GM stopped. All of its suppliers stopped. The largest corporation in America was brought to its knees.

Today labor remembers the strike but not the strategy. It celebrates the Wal-Mart strike because Wal-Mart is powerful like GM, but it draws the wrong lessons from history. Activists think they can organize every Wal-Mart in America.

Such a strike would link their consumerist disdain with their romantic half-understood memories of factory strikes. But to organize those tens of thousands of stores one by one is not possible. We have tried for a generation and failed. Equally impossible would be organizing the thousands of Chinese factories that supply those stores. But between the factories and the stores there is an opportunity.

What would the Flint Sitdown Strike look like today?

To call our economy a service economy is a misnomer. We actually live in an economy based on distribution. The "service" economy is a category left over from the age of manufacturing, when there was manufacturing, agriculture and "other." Today we understand that there is a difference between distribution (which is transforming our economy) and professionals (who are not). The movement of goods and the movement of information is where innovation is happening today. In a distribution economy, workers need to control the chokepoints in the supply chain that have become the Auto Body Plants of today.

The ports are the new factories.

Last month, beginning on November 27 in Los Angeles the longshoremen shut down the Long Beach and LA container ports.   This strike got little national coverage because it was ostensibly about 600 workers at a container site. There is understandably attention in discussing boring ports rather than evil Wal-Marts. But this strike actually shut down the movement of all those goods to all those Wal-Mart stores. This strike, and the alliance between clerical workers and longshoremen, actually shows how to replicate the success of 1936, and by extension, the entire postwar labor movement.

Ports cannot be moved or replaced. The skilled workers who operate the specialized computers cannot be easily replaced. Without the container ports, the entire supply chain, not only for Wal-Mart but for the economy, grinds to a halt.

The longshoremen on the East Coast have noticed the success of the West and are now threatening a strike of 14 ports. Without those ports, Wal-Mart and the rest of the retail economy will be brought to its knees. As we saw, two ports in Los Angeles can be organized, and it can bring the entire supply chain can be stopped. A small group of committed people can have a disproportionate effect.

Practical unionists and activists will remember that the success of the labor movement came from controlling strategic points in the supply chain that could not be replaced. In 1936 it was an auto body factory in Flint, MI. Today it is the container ports.

The question for the labor movement is how to leverage the strength of the longshoremen into benefits not only for unionists but for workers across America. The UAW used its success to support a broad redistribution of income in the economy, helping to bring us the balanced growth of the postwar years.

When the labor movement acknowledges the lessons of the past and the realities of the present, unions will once again be able to empower American workers, even in the midst of the Great Recession.

(Louis Hyman attended Columbia University, where he received a BA in History and Mathematics. A former Fulbright scholar, he received his PhD in American history in 2007 from Harvard University. He is currently an assistant professor in Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where he teaches history. This analysis was posted first at huffingtonpost.com)

Broken parking-meter battle: Assemblyman Mike Gatto wants to stop L.A. from collecting fines 


City News Service
Updated:   01/07/2013 05:00:20 PM PST
 LOS ANGELES - On the heels of a recent Los Angeles City Council decision to ticket drivers who park at broken meters, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D- Los Angeles, introduced a bill today that would block the city from enforcing the fines.
Gatto's bill would enable drivers to park for free at broken meters for the maximum time allowed. Assembly Bill 61 also would block local governments from enacting ordinances that ban on-street parking at broken meters or kiosks.

"It's just wrong for cities to ticket people who want to park at a meter that the city has failed to fix or to force a motorist to drive around or park in a paid lot when a perfectly good spot on the street is available," Gatto said.

The bill aims to close a loophole in a law that took effect Jan. 1, allowing parking at broken meters. That law kept the door open for municipalities to decide whether to abide by the state law or to issue fines.

The City Council voted 12-1 on Dec. 5 to uphold a two-year policy to ticket cars at broken meters. Los Angeles Department of Transportation Senior Transportation Engineer Dan Mitchell told the council last month that new smart meters in the city are rarely broken and are typically repaired within three to four hours when they do go down.

Letting drivers park at broken meters would provide an incentive for vandalizing meters and would cost the city an estimated $5 million per year in lost revenue, Mitchell said.

But Gatto said "people should not have to pay for the government's mistakes or inefficiencies, especially when the people already paid to install and maintain the meters in the first place."

City Councilwoman Jan Perry also introduced a motion last month to reverse the city's decision to ticket drivers at broken meters. The policy "flies in the face of common sense," said Perry, who is running for mayor. "It is our responsibility to do our best to maintain meters. It is unfair and impractical to force drivers to look for a new parking spot just because a meter is inoperable."

Perry's motion also asks the city controller to audit the reliability of the city's new parking meter technology and the Department of Transportation's parking meter maintenance program.

Gold Line work prompts Colorado Boulevard closure in Arcadia 


 By Brenda Gazzar, Staff Writer
Updated:   01/07/2013 06:17:20 PM PST
 ARCADIA - Colorado Boulevard between Santa Anita Avenue and San Antonio Road began a nearly five-month closure on Monday to allow for the building of the first of three bridges on city streets needed for the Metro Gold Line Foothill extension.
The Colorado Boulevard bridge is one of more than 20 bridges being rebuilt or modified for the $735 million, 11.5-mile Foothill extension from Pasadena to Azusa.
The stretch of Colorado Boulevard will be fully closed 24 hours a day with no vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle or any other traffic allowed until April 30, officials said.
"It's a big deal," said Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.
"Arcadia has several different impacted bridges that will be significant to the community. They are going to be cumbersome. They are going to be disruptive to the community during construction. We're trying to get everyone ready for that ... Once we get in and out, it will be done and the long-term benefits will be huge for Arcadia."
The work will be performed by Foothill Transit Constructors, a Kiewit-Parsons joint venture, generally from 7 a.m. to 6 p.mweekdays and periodically on the weekends, officials said.

During the closure, businesses in that area will have to be accessed by using San Juan Drive or San Rafael Road instead of Colorado Boulevard.

Right and left turn lanes from Colorado Place onto West Colorado Boulevard will be fully closed. Thru-traffic will be detoured to Colorado Place and Santa Clara Street, officials said.

The old Santa Fe freight line bridge on Colorado Boulevard was removed last year and the 210 Freeway Bridge, under a separate contract, has also been completed. But this is a significant construction effort within the city for the actual Gold Line alignment, said Arcadia City Engineer Phil Wray.

"They've done a lot of prep work but this is probably the first actual construction effort in the city and this will carry on for the next 1.5-to two years," Wray said. "This is just the start."

Both the left and right turn lanes from Colorado Place onto Colorado Boulevard will be completely closed, Wray said. The reason is that in the past, when the street was left partially open to residents, commuters disregarded the signs, drove into that neighborhood, caused a big traffic jam and discovered they could not get out, Wray said.

While "a couple" of neighbors have expressed concerns about the closure at Colorado Place and Colorado Boulevard, residents there are generally supportive of the project, said Lisa Levy Buch, a Construction Authority spokeswoman.

Once the Colorado Boulevard bridge is complete in April, another Gold Line bridge will be built across Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia at the railroad tracks, which is a six-month project. Work on the Huntington Drive bridge around Second street is expected to commence in November with an anticipated completion date of February 2014, she said.

The Construction Authority has opened a new Arcadia community office at 400 North Santa Anita, Suite 101B that is open Mondays and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The purpose is to "make it easy for people to walk in and ask questions," Buch said.

Residents with questions or concerns can also call the Foothill extension's project hotline at 626-324-7098.


50 years ago today: A preview of “magic-eye” fare-readers and a subway to Westwood

 Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most important speeches in local transit history.


  Posted by Kenn Bicknell

 Rendering for proposed rail to Century City

Rendering of rail to Century City


 It involved a 1963 vision for the future of local transportation that even included TAP-like “magic eye” machine-readable fare media…and a subway to Westwood by 1968.

Smart-card fare collection and subterranean transit to the Westside obviously would not come to fruition for decades.

But the failure of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) to levy taxes and its Board to build broad public support or acquire real property by eminent domain set the stage for the the first publicly-governed transit agency in Los Angeles, the Southern California Rapid Transit District, in 1968.

The speech was part of ”Rail Rapid Transit: A Reality,” a proposal for ”a new 58-mile regional rapid transit system” to begin construction by 1964.

Ironically, it proposed four corridors for transit — to Long Beach, North Hollywood, El Monte and West Los Angeles — all of which were eventually constructed through public support and funds (with West L.A. on the way).

The speech is a fascinating look back at the future of transit as forseen in 1963. The full text of it can be found on the Metro Library’s Primary Resources Blog.

LAX Pulls Plug on Free Electric-Car Parking


 January 6, 2013

On a recent morning, Jack Luu parked his plug-in Toyota Prius in one of the most expensive lots at Los Angeles International Airport before flying off to a film shoot in Canada. The lot, where Mr. Luu leaves his car as many as 10 times a month for business trips, normally charges $30 a day.
But when Mr. Luu returned home three weeks later, he drove out, as usual, without paying a dime.

“That was a huge reason why I bought the car in the first place,” says the 35-year-old Santa Monica, Calif., postproduction company executive, whose car qualifies for free parking for up to a month at a time in two of LAX’s most convenient—and costly—short-term lots.

Electric cars charging in one of the short-term lots LAX, where such vehicles are allowed to park free for 30 days.

Other than that, he says his ride is “expensive, underpowered and not really all that green,” because it can run just 12 miles on electricity before switching to gas.

For years, LAX has offered electric-vehicle owners one of the most generous incentives of its kind in the country: free parking for 30 days in two of its terminal lots, which contain, altogether, 38 charging stations. The rule was meant to encourage people to buy greener cars, but lately it has turned the lots into a mob scene, with some electric-vehicle drivers circling the stations desperately for electricity or running extension cords while others hog the charging spaces for weeks at a time.

Tension is rising between all-electric-car drivers, who say they actually need to charge their vehicles daily, and hybrid owners who can get away without doing so because their cars can run on gas as well.

Study: Shorter Blocks May Be the Key to Cutting Traffic in Small Cities


January 7, 2013
 Tanya Snyder 

It’s well-established that density and mixed-use development reduce driving. Right? But strategies like those don’t work the same way everywhere, according to new research published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use. While in major cities, denser development is linked to lower rates of driving, researchers found that in smaller cities it might not have much effect at all. The research suggests that for smaller cities, a focus on reducing block sizes and improving street connectivity may be the most effective way to cut down on driving, though the authors caution that more research is needed to draw universal conclusions.
The research team, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, sought to drill down and identify how urban characteristics affect driving levels in different types of places. They looked at four different case studies: Seattle, WA; Richmond-Petersburg and Norfolk-Virginia Beach, VA (grouped together as one case study); Baltimore, MD; and Washington, DC. Using travel surveys and land use information, they modeled the impact on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of five factors: residential density, employment density, mixed-use development, average block size (which they use as a stand-in for “measuring transit/walking friendliness”), and infill development (or distance to city center). 

While the authors knew from previous research that these five factors all contributed to reducing VMT, they found that the Virginia regions didn’t follow the same patterns as the other three. In the smaller urban areas of Richmond-Petersburg and Norfolk-Virginia Beach, they found, mixed-use development did not have a significant impact on reducing driving.

“This is probably because in smaller urban areas, even those living in neighborhoods with well mixed land development may still need to travel far to reach work and non-work destinations,” the researchers write. “In other words, mixed development areas are less likely to be self-sufficient in smaller urban areas.” Mixing uses proved to be a good way to reduce driving in the larger metros.

These findings would seem to show a major weakness of New Urbanist-style “town centers” developed in otherwise suburban areas. A small walkable area isn’t enough to actually spark a real shift in transportation habits – the urban area has to be big enough that most people’s needs can be satisfied without a car. But lead researcher Lei Zhang said the findings don’t warrant that conclusion. “The paper has a small sample size,” Zhang said. “I wouldn’t want to generalize the results to other places.”

Zhang and his team are working on another paper that broadens the scope of their analysis to 20 urban areas. They hope this bigger data set will help planners evaluate land-use plans and how those decisions affect driving rates in different types of places.
Ara Najarian to Seek Re-nomination to Metro Board on January 14, 2013


January 7, 2013

Streetsblog has extensively covered the controversy surrounding the re-nomination of Ara Najarian to the Metro Board of Directors. Najarian has been targeted by fellow Board Members because of his principled opposition to the I-710 Big Dig and his nomination was initially denied.  Next week, the nominating committee meets again, and Najarian has vowed to seek re-,re-nomination and has the support of many of the committee members. As the Metro Board turns… Get the meeting details, here.
State Route 710 Environmental Study Presentation


On Tuesday, January 8, 2012, join the Rotary Club of East Los Angeles for a presentation by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The Metro will be presenting on the State Route 710 Environmental Study.

This project has significant impact on the east side. The MTA's proposed tunnel that would extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway through to the Foothill (210) Freeway. The 4.5-mile tunnel project has become the subject of heated discussions for and against. Come listen to the Metro's presentation.

The State Route 710 Alternative Analysis Phase currently underway is evaluating a range of multi-modal alternatives to improve mobility and relieve congestion in the area between State Route 2 and Interstates 5, 10, 210 and 605 in Northeast Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. Five alternatives are currently being considered:

1) No Build

2) Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management

3) Light Rail Transit

4) Bus Rapid Transit

5) Freeway Tunnel

This study is looking at ways to help improve congestion and mobility throughout the region, specifically in the San Gabriel Valley and East/Northeast Los Angeles. Additionally, the Light Rail Transit and Bus Rapid Transit alternatives begin in East Los Angeles traveling along Atlantic Bl (BRT route) or Mednick/Floral Ave (LRT route).

SR 710 Study representatives will provide:

* An overview of the study purpose and need

* A description of the five alternatives under consideration

* Dates/times for meetings regarding the Study that are being held in late January 2013

*** Lunch Tickets Available Here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4988007264 ***
5300 E Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90022-4029

Artists take Metro commuters on another kind of journey

Hundreds of artists and poets have put their stamp on 80 stations in a program that aims to make traveling an uplifting experience.


January 6, 2013

 Metro Art

 "Urban Oasis" by artist Sonia Romero at the Westlake/MacArthur Park Station. (Metro / January 6, 2013)

Though Los Angeles may never shed its image as a car-obsessed city, the past 20 years have seen significant progress and growth in its public transit system, making it a viable option for more Angelenos. Along with added convenience, the opening of each new segment brings opportunity for artists.

Established in 1989, the Metro Art program has commissioned more than 300 artists and poets to create artworks for 80 stations. "The customers' experience is essential," said Maya Emsden, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's deputy executive officer, creative services. "Art is a wonderful, engaging way to transform their journeys into something pleasant."

For instance, weary commuters arising from the depths of the Civic Center Red Line station are greeted by Samm Kunce's "Under the Living Rock," a 160-foot curved wall depicting a classical hanging garden of Venetian glass and striated granite. An uplifting passage from Ovid's "Metamorphoses," etched into black granite ribbon, may well soothe the harried soul.

The 10 new Expo Line stations that opened last spring feature 176 art panels by 10 artists. The entire process can take from one to six years depending on the project. A panel of art professionals reviews and selects the artists, varying from those just emerging to well established figures such as photographer Robbert Flick and sculptor Donald Lipski. Lipski recently completed "Time Piece," a 30-foot-high stainless steel clock-tower arch at the El Monte bus terminal.
The varied works reflect the history and heritage of the designated neighborhoods.

First-timer Jessica Polzin McCoy, associate professor of art at Pitzer College in Claremont, took to the streets to snap hundreds of photographs of the West Adams district for her 24-panel piece,
 "Neighborhood Portrait: Reconstructed," at the Expo/Vermont station. "I like to work with spaces that are more personal," said the Wisconsin native.

This entailed knocking on doors, visiting with residents and documenting interior spaces of their homes as well as street life. "I really wanted the visual aesthetics and character of the neighborhood to come through," she said. A local mosque did express concerns over one of her proposed panels of a woman reclining on a sofa, feeling it showed too much of her skin and private face. McCoy used the opportunity to include interiors of the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation on another panel.

Along with windows and doors of historic homes McCoy also captured unusual items in people's yards such as chain link fences, an armless mannequin and a Barbie doll floating in a plastic pool. After constructing collages from her photos, she then created intricate watercolor paintings of each collage. Artisans at Montreal-based Mosaika Art & Design worked closely with McCoy to translate her watercolors into hand-glazed ceramic mosaic panels.

Funding comes from a combination of federal, state and local funds with half of 1% of construction costs designated for art. Commissions for permanent projects typically range from $80,000 to $500,000, noted Emsden.

$3-billion road repair bond measure proposed for L.A.

The measure would need a two-thirds majority to pass. 'The No. 1 complaint we get in our office is the condition of our streets,' one councilman says.


A car drives around cracked concrete in the street on Brooklawn Drive in Holmby Hills. (Los Angeles Times / July 23, 2012)
Councilman Mitchell Englander, who drafted the proposal with Councilman Joe Buscaino, said residents are already paying for the damaged streets through wear and tear on their cars. "The No. 1 complaint we get in our office is the condition of our streets," said Englander, who represents the northwest San Fernando Valley. "This would be an opportunity to fix every single failed street citywide."
The measure would need a two-thirds majority to win passage. If approved, it would add $24 annually to the property tax bill of a home valued at $350,000 in the bond measure's first year, said Buscaino chief of staff Doane Liu. In its peak year, the measure would add about $120 to the annual property bill of such a home, he said.
The plan quickly drew criticism from Mike Eveloff, president of the Tract 7260 Homeowners Assn., who warned that the property tax hike could depress the city's economy and "break the camel's back" for taxpayers. Property owners across the county are also being asked to consider a clean water fee that would add $54 to the yearly tax bill for most single-family homes.

"Crisis management always costs 10 times more than good management, and this is just another example," Eveloff said. "The city's reached a place where everything's falling apart and now they're saying, 'Well, you don't get good streets unless you pay more taxes, you won't get police unless you pay more taxes, and you won't get a good fire department unless you pay more taxes.' "

Liu defended the timing of the bond measure, which — if backed by the council and voters — would generate $300 million a year for a decade of construction projects. The separate sales tax hike does not provide money to fix the city's streets, he said.

"We've got a 60-year backlog ... and 8,700 lane miles that are category D or F" —- the worst rankings a street can receive, he said.

Two of the leading mayoral candidates — council members Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti — said they did not yet have a position on the bond measure. A third, City Controller Wendy Greuel, said she supports the idea "in principle" but would not make a decision until she has read the final language. And candidate Kevin James, a lawyer, said he is leaning against the measure.

The city currently spends $105 million annually on street repairs, said Nazario Sauceda, head of the Bureau of Street Services. In 2011, Sauceda's agency found that 37% of the city's roads were in either D or F condition. That report concluded that $2.85 billion would be needed to eliminate the backlog.

Englander said Los Angeles is in need of new street repair funding, in part, because the city no longer receives money from Proposition 1B, a state transportation bond measure passed in 2006. The councilman also said he did not believe voters would make a connection between the bond measure and the March 5 sales tax hike proposal, which is opposed by the four major mayoral candidates.

Neighborhood activist Richard Close, who signed the ballot argument in favor of the March 5 tax measure, wasn't so sure. Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., said none of the city's elected officials mentioned to him at the time that they were discussing another tax measure.

"This may be the downfall of both measures," he said.

2013: The Year Ahead in High Speed Rail


 Jan 1st, 2013 | Posted by Robert Cruickshank


Here are some of the things that we’ll be watching closely here in 2013:

Central Valley HSR construction begins sometime this year. Last we heard, bids for the initial construction segment of the California HSR project from Merced to Fresno are due on January 18. Jeffrey Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority, expects to award a contract by June. This fall, property acquisition and initial construction work will begin, assuming there are no successful legal challenges. The heavy construction will probably not begin until 2014, but we should still be seeing visible work sometime in 2013.

Caltrain electrification continues to move forward. The Caltrain modernization project is funded and working its way through the environmental review process, including the usual vehement opposition from Peninsula NIMBYs who hate the idea of improved passenger rail service. CBOSS installation is slated to begin this spring, and whether you love it or hate it, it’s an important step forward in building infrastructure that will eventually be used by high speed trains serving San Francisco.

Will XpressWest get its federal loan? There could be two high speed rail projects underway in California in 2013. The Las Vegas to Victorville (and eventually, to LA) high speed rail project that renamed itself XpressWest in 2012 has an approved EIS and could start construction this year – but it depends on whether they get the federal loan they’ve been seeking. They applied for that loan nearly two years ago and have been working with the federal government on it, but we still don’t know whether it has been granted. I’ve always assumed that the Obama Administration was waiting for the election and the “fiscal cliff” deal to pass before taking action on it, but with that latter ball being (apparently) kicked down the road another two months, the XpressWest loan application may be stalled too.

Will high speed rail continue to prevail in court? So far the CHSRA has won all of the legal battles that opponents have waged against the project so far, with only small technical EIR changes having been ordered. The Authority won another legal victory in 2012, this time over an alliance of Farm Bureaus. The full trial in that case is scheduled for April 19, but Judge Tim Frawley already indicated he is likely to side with the state. A very different suit looms from Peninsula NIMBYs, who claim that the construction phasing plan violates Proposition 1A. If the state prevails in that hearing, it would seem there is no remaining legal obstacle to construction commencing in 2013.

CEQA reform is coming. Last August, a sudden proposal to change the California Environmental
Quality Act emerged near the end of the legislative session. Many Democrats balked at this proposal, especially the way in which it was introduced, and the proposal was temporarily withdrawn. But it hasn’t gone away, and it is clear that CEQA reform is going to be a major issue in 2013. I will have much more to say about this later this week.

Transportation funding reform is on the table. Los Angeles County’s Measure J transportation funding package received 66.11% yes votes – and still “failed” because it had to get 2/3, or 66.7%. That is a totally ridiculous situation and a serious impediment to building better transit, including that which can connect to HSR stations. So it’s good news that the incoming Democratic supermajority is proposing to reduce the requirement for passing a transit revenue proposal to 55%. I’d prefer it be 50%+1, but 55% is something I can live with. The state still faces a systematic transit funding shortfall, and although Senator Ted Lieu quickly stepped back from his vehicle license fee proposal, the problem won’t go away. It’s good to know that the legislature is aware of it, and looking at possible solutions.

Can Congress do any damage? As a totally broken institution and with the House in the hands of extremist Republicans bent on obstruction, we can’t really expect any new federal funding for high speed rail. And despite the best efforts of Kevin McCarthy and Jeff Denham, it seems unlikely that Congress will take away any HSR money they’ve already given California. So it looks like two more years of stalemate, which at this point I’ll take. Can’t go on like this for too much longer, but then again, it’s not just HSR suffering from Republican extremism – it’s everything else in society too.

Pomona council set consider options for 71 Freeway widening project


Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writer

 Posted:   01/06/2013 05:03:14 PM PST
Updated:   01/06/2013 07:17:51 PM PST
 POMONA - Three options for the widening of the 71 Freeway will go to City Council members tonight that could lead to expediting construction.
State and county transportation agencies need the city to select one of three construction options in order complete a proposal to compete for project funding through a state public-private partnership program.

Pomona, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have been working to update plans and studies completed in the past to expand the 71 from a four-lane highway to a full-fledged eight-lane freeway between the 10 and 60 freeways.

At present, the authority has the widening project scheduled for completion in 2030.

In May the authority recommended pursuing funding for the 71 project through a state public-private partnership program, a city staff report said.

If the agencies secure funding, construction to widen the 71 could begin in 2015 and conclude as early as 2017.

An alternative must be chosen in order to calculate the costs of the project and determine if it's financially feasible to carry out the work through the state program, authority representatives said recently.

Mayor Elliott Rothman said Friday he still has questions about whether the city's preferred alternative will be followed by the state and the authority.

"We need to get a clear picture," Rothman said. "We need to know how binding that is."

Wideningthe 71 will have a significant effect on the flow of traffic in the city and the region.

"The movement of traffic would be a welcome relief," Rothman said.

Five options are available but the first two are not being recommended by city public works personnel, according to a city staff report.

Alternative 1 involves leaving the highway as it for the long term.

Alternative 2 would require building a wider, below-ground level 71. The concept, approved in 2002, has a high cost in part because it would require the acquisition of about 140 properties.

Alternatives 3, 4, and 4A, would require the acquisition of less than 40 properties in part, in whole or temporarily.

Alternative 3 involves widening the 71 between 10 and the 60, adding a frontage road that connects Phillips Drive and North Ranch Road and adds a pedestrian bridge near Ninth Street to replace one at Grier Street.

Alternative 4 includes completing the widening; eliminating the current intersections at Phillips, North Ranch and Old Pomona Road; building a frontage road between Phillips and Old Pomona; constructing an overcrossing at Old Pomona that connects Village Loop Road and Lexington Avenue; and adding the pedestrian bridge.

Alternative 4A would include all of the elements of Alternative 4 but would leave out the overpass.

City public works personnel prefer Alternative 4 because it would enhance access to the area, the city staff report said.

The second preferred option would be Alternative 4A, the staff report said.

Some residents in neighborhoods near the 71 said the project will benefit the city despite some inconveniences while construction takes place.

Others have concerns about construction, possible difficulties accessing some neighborhoods near the 71 and having a full freeway as a neighbor.

Councilman Freddie Rodriguez said he thinks the widening project will improve police and fire service access to the neighborhoods near the 71.

Before tonight's meeting, he said he planned to talk with residents of the Lexington Avenue area to determine how they might be affected by an option that includes building an overpass in their neighborhood.

"Lexington is kind of busy," he said. "I don't know how much traffic (the proposed overpass) would cause."

Widening the 71 would bring some benefits to neighborhoods to the east of the highway, which are in his district.

Some residents in the area would like soundwalls the widening project would bring to the neighborhoods in addition to other improvements.

"It will improve the whole area," Rodriguez said.

Taking steps that could lead to improving the 71 sooner rather than later is an opportunity all involved must take advantage of, Rodriguez said.

"We really need to move this project forward," he said.

Traveling on the 57 Freeway north of the 10 is fairly easy but there is a noticeable change when drivers switch to the 71 through Pomona.

"It's day and night," Rodriguez said. The 71 needed to be improved years ago "but somehow we got overlooked."

"Now that we have the opportunity, let's run with it," Rodriguez said.

Should the funding become available for the widening, the project will be completed well after a commercial center anchored by a Target store is built in the southern part of the city.

Having the center and an improved 71 Freeway will be good for Pomona and will complement each other, Rodriguez said.

The two projects will do something else.

"It goes back to showing people we are working together to improve Pomona and improve its infrastructure," Rodriguez said.



$53.7 million will go to widening 15/215 freeway interchange in Devore


Melissa Pinion-Whitt and Ryan Carter, Staff Writers

 Posted:   12/07/2012 08:34:38 AM PST
Updated:   12/08/2012 12:08:03 AM PST
 Motorists Friday on the 215/15 interchange in Devore.
  DEVORE - Cajon Pass travelers came one step closer to relief from the 15/215 freeway bottleneck Friday as the state allocated $53.7 million for the Devore interchange and 15 Freeway widening project, and opened up other funding streams for projects throughout Southern California.

The Cajon Pass was one of 44 projects from the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles to the High Desert that received $306 million from the California Transportation Commission.
And it's part of San Bernardino County transportation officials' efforts to prepare the Cajon corridor for future growth - and passenger and cargo traffic north and to the rest of the nation.

"It says a lot for the Devore project, in terms of importance," said Jane Dreher, spokeswoman for San Bernardino Associated Governments, the county's transportation planning agency.

The state commission's allocation frees up money that SanBAG planned to use on the $240 million project. Those funds will be used to conduct maintenance elsewhere in the state, Dreher said.

But even though the allocation isn't presenting new funds to the project, SanBAG said it shows that the state considers the Devore interchange project is something badly needed.

The project will reconfigure the area where the 15 and 215 freeways split, add north and southbound lanes and truck bypass lanes, among other improvements, and ultimately cut delay times for commuters by about 1,200 hours, officials said.

"It will make it smoother in all directions," Dreher said.

As it is now, that stretch is plagued with dangerous "weaving" problems, where smaller cars have to weave through big-truck traffic to get to their lanes, and the big trucks have to weave across three lanes to get to their legally obligated lane, officials said Friday.

"It will improve safety through that interchange, because trucks will end up with their own lanes," Caltrans Devore project manager Jesus Paez said Friday.

But longer term, a widened interchange - with new southbound and northbound lanes between Kenwood Avenue and Glen Helen Parkway - will bring economic benefits, Paez said.

"The big thing is the interchange will help improve the flow of goods and goods movement - all the goods that go to the east," Paez said, referring to the interchange as the major connector to the rest of the country of trucks hauling goods from West Coast ports and Inland Empire distribution hubs.

The Devore interchange project was already in the pipeline, so the announcement on Friday was not a huge surprise to officials. But they are preparing now for the prospect of new jobs and a 3 1/2-year construction period set to start in the fall of 2013.

Paez said the contractor on the project has leased out two floors of a building in San Bernardino, and while it was unclear how many jobs the construction would create, Paez noted that over its three-year span, workers on the project will patronize area gas stations and restaurants, among other business benefits, which could help the region - a region that suffers from high unemployment.

By the fall, commuters will see construction beginning, Paez said, but first there will be community stakeholder meetings as the final design plans for the project emerge. Those meetings should begin in a month or so, he said.

The Devore interchange project is part of a larger vision for the 15 Freeway, both at the city and regional levels, with expectations that traffic in the region will increase.

In Fontana, officials recently broke ground on a projected two-year project to widen the Duncan Canyon Interchange, now a two-lane overcrossing constructed in 1976.

The existing overpass will be widened and result in a six-lane interchange and will include on- and off-ramps connecting to the 15 and pave the way for what officials say will be 1,580 acres of development, with commercial and office centers built adjacent to the interchange that they say will create more than 16,000 jobs.

County transportation officials are also studying how to manage future growth of the 15 between the Riverside county line and Oak Hills in the High Desert, said SanBAG spokesman Tim Watkins.

The projects and studies are connected, Watkins said, in the sense that they are being done with an eye toward growth and demand in the region.

"What we've seen statistically, even in the midst of economic decline, is that we're still seeing levels of growth," he said. "It has slowed some, but we've still seen growth."

And the potential for more remains strong, he added.

Some of the state money allocated Friday came from savings on projects funded through Proposition 1B, an initiative passed by voters in 2006.

Many projects were underbid by contractors due to the economy.

And about $192 million comes from "assorted" transportation accounts funded by state and federal money.

Caltrans also received money from the state commission to repair the D Street overhead sign structure in Victorville. That allocation was $176,000.

But the allocation stream didn't stop there.

Among other large allocations approved by the commission were:

$52.9 million for construction of a 24-mile extension of the Metrolink commuter rail system east to Moreno Valley and south to Perris Valley.

$783,000 for upgrades on the 10 Freeway at Wiley Wells State Roadside Area in Riverside County.

$12.7 million for cargo transportation improvements at the Port of Los Angeles that would reduce greenhouse gases.

3 Keys for Drawing Drivers to Mass Transit


 Eric Jaffe

  3 Keys for Drawing Drivers to Mass Transit

A strong mass transit system needs frequent and reliable service to maintain its ridership, and the ability to reach job centers across a metro area (not just in the central business district) helps too. But even systems that meet these requirements struggle to attract new riders in cities with high levels of car ownership. After all, a car offers frequency, reliability, and job access too.

So these cities and systems are stuck figuring out ways to entice people out of their cars and into the transit station. Sometimes an incentive program, such as giving away free fare passes, is enough to get drivers to try riding. When these promotions run out, however, most people will simply return to their cars again — unless the system finds other ways to sustain the switch.

That's the challenge outlined by a group of Swedish researchers, led by Lauren Redman, in the latest issue of the journal Transport Policy. Redman and company argue that basic levels of quality service and fleeting incentive programs aren't enough to convert habitual drivers into habitual riders. They conclude that the most effective way for transit systems to close the deal with drivers is to identify what they love about cars and bring those qualities to the experience of riding:
[T]here is evidence that access to a private motor vehicle is a key hindrance to an individual’s demand for PT services. If aiming to attract private car users, it is important to determine or enhance the underlying motivations for using private vehicles and translate these into attributes that are emulated by PT services.
That's easier said than done, of course, but the researchers offer three general suggestions for achieving it. (The researchers don't spend much time on congestion or road pricing policies, which also draw drivers to transit, likely because such initiatives are outside the power of a transit agency.)

First they recommend that transit agencies pay more attention to rider perceptions. Too often, argue the researchers, transit operators evaluate service quality based on criteria they consider important — even if riders don't feel the same. If a bus system has a good average reliability throughout the day, for instance, that might not matter to a rider who has a bad experience during rush hour. These single "critical incidents" can influence rider perceptions of a transit system that's strong by other objective measures. (See: the "confirmation bias.")

Next they believe agencies should target the motivations that cause people to drive instead of ride. In many cases this motivation is comfort and convenience. For that reason, the researchers tout fare or ticket integration programs that make the riding process simpler and, in many cases, even cheaper. (A recent ticket integration program in Finland reportedly encouraged a 10 to 20 percent shift away from private car use.) Improved travel information — particularly real-time, digital updates — may also be a strong draw.

Their third point of emphasis is that context matters. Agencies would be wise to recognize that not all drivers have the same potential to become riders. New residents to an area might be particularly inclined to switch travel modes, for instance, so programs that target this subset of the population may be cost-effective and successful. Similarly, places that have a high volume of "choice" riders — those who could take a car but choose instead to ride — may take more note of efforts like station and security upgrades, relative to basic qualities like speed.

So while frequency and reliability are critical to good transit, and incentives can often get drivers to sample the goods, sustaining this mode shift requires an understanding of the perceptions, motivations, and contexts that govern a person's travel decisions. That's the technical argument made by the researchers. Their casual one is that the emotional side of transit might be as important to drivers as the physical one:
If it was possible for car users to establish emotional and symbolic connections with PT [public transit], they might be more likely to shift away from regularly opting to use their private cars. Yet, this is no small task.

Editorial: A more competitive port is the promise of two critical infrastructure projects


Los Angeles News Group
Updated:   01/04/2013 04:28:40 PM PST
 The Port of Long Beach is betting billions of dollars on its future. This is a bet it has to make to compete globally. Long Beach's Board of Harbor Commissioners is expected Monday to formally approve a $1.2 billion budget for the massive Middle Harbor terminal expansion project.
It is just a formality because construction began in spring 2011. But it's an important reminder that this project will allow the port to process significantly more cargo from international destinations -- 3.2 million cargo containers annually, double the current capacity.

That will be followed one day later by an equally important event - the groundbreaking for the $1 billion replacement for the crumbling Gerald Desmond Bridge.

These two infrastructure projects are essential to the local economy as pressure from other ports increases, such as the massive Panama Canal widening project. When that project is completed, some of the world's largest ships will be able to bypass the West Coast and head for ports on the Gulf and East coasts by 2015.
 The 330-acre Middle Harbor space will eventually be occupied by Hong Kong-based shipper Orient Overseas Container Line, which signed a $4.6 billion lease spanning 40 years.

Despite the increase in cargo capacity, the new Middle Harbor terminal will actually lead to cleaner operations at the Port of Long Beach. Cranes and yard equipment will run on electricity. Rail links will allow locomotives to pull right up to the docks. Ships will be able to literally plug in and operate on electricity, rather than spew diesel fumes while docked. On top of that, 14,000 additional jobs will be created across Southern California as part of the supply chain.

Complementing the expansion will be the new Gerald Desmond Bridge, a cable-supported span that will connect Terminal Island to Downtown Long Beach. This is a critical link for truckers who haul about 14 percent of the nation's imported goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the rest of the country. Additionally, some of the world's largest supertankers will be able to pass beneath the taller bridge.

Equally important projects are well under way at the neighboring Port of Los Angeles with the ongoing expansion of the TraPac and China Shipping cargo terminals.

It took a long time and lot of work for all of these vital projects to move forward. For decades, expansion was considered a dirty word at the twin port complex until officials in Los Angeles and Long Beach developed a joint Clean Air Action Plan in 2006, aimed at significantly reducing pollution spewed from cargo operations.

The promise of advanced environmental reforms in tandem with the processing of additional cargo at the ports broke a logjam for much-needed upgrades that will help Los Angeles and Long Beach stay competitive well into the future.

Political Blotter: Corporate personhood moves ahead -- in the carpool lane


 By Josh Richman
Updated:   01/07/2013 06:16:38 AM PST
Corporate personhood takes a new leap forward Monday as a Marin County motorist challenges his traffic ticket by arguing it was OK to drive in the carpool lane because his corporation was with him.

Jonathan Frieman, a local activist and nonprofit consultant, was ticketed Oct. 2 for driving in the
carpool lane during restricted hours; the officer apparently wasn't impressed when Frieman showed him his incorporation papers. A traffic court hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

The fine for such a violation is $478, but Frieman, 59, of San Rafael, says that if the court rules against him Monday, he's prepared to appeal the case all the way to the California Supreme Court in an effort to expose the impracticality of corporate personhood.

Corporate personhood, of course, has been at the heart of the ongoing debate over campaign finance ever since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling unleashed a torrent of corporate contributions.

 "Corporations are imaginary entities, and we've let them run wild," Frieman said in a news release. "Their original intent 200 years ago at the dawn of our nation was to serve human beings. So I'm wresting back that power by making their personhood serve me."

 California Vehicle Code section 470 defines a "person" as "a natural person, firm, copartnership, association, limited liability company, or corporation." Section 21655.5, under which Frieman was cited, states that "no person shall drive a vehicle upon lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices."

Ford Greene, Frieman's attorney and a San Anselmo councilman, said the Vehicle Code makes "person" and "corporation" equivalent, so "when a corporation is present in one's car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes. When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile."

Speed Limits May Change on Pasadena Streets


 Published: Monday, January 7, 2013 


The City Council will look at speed limits across Pasadena at tonight’s meeting, with an eye towards considering a new single list of suggested speed limits which meet both state and local requirements.

The list is online here: http://www.pasadenanow.com/documents/Speed.pdf
All the non-local streets for which the speed limits have been established via engineering and traffic surveys are listed in the City of Pasadena Municipal Code in two separate sections – state maximum decreased and state minimum increase.
By having two separate lists, one must go through both to find a posted speed limit, in respect to city streets
If the revision is approved today by the City Council, the two speed limit lists will be consolidated into a single list and renamed Prima Facie (True or Authentic) Speed Limit on Non-Local Streets.
City officials said research indicates that the single list approach is consistent with practices in other nearby jurisdictions.

Council to Consider More Rose Bowl Financing Tonight


Published: Monday, January 7, 2013

A vocal crowd is expected to be on hand during tonight’s City Council meeting where the governing body will to hold a public hearing prior to the consideration of more financing to fund ballooning Rose Bowl stadium improvement costs through lease revenue bonds.

Cost overruns to rebuild the stadium and luxury seating have taken the project from $151.8 million in costs as of Nov. 2010 up to $195.3 million, by Oct. 2012.

Over the course of the last two years, stadium construction has proceeded with nearly 80 percent of the project completed or underway at this time, according to city officials.

The lease revenue bonds would not exceed more than $65 million to address project costs of approximately $168.8 million — $160.5 million of which is expected to be expended through 2013, according to the City Council Agenda.

City officials said the project cost estimate has incrementally risen to approximately $195 million as a result of necessary changes in design, market conditions, unanticipated existing conditions and a contractor default.

The most significant challenge in the project, they say, has been adhering to the budget.
Project costs above $168.8 million, according to the agenda, will be funded after additional cash resources are received.

What city staff is recommending is a restructuring of the Rose Bowl portion of the existing 2006 Rose Bowl bonds and a temporary internal city loan of $6 million, which would be repaid when the restructured bond proceeds are received.

The proposed structure would result in a 2013 bond issue of approximately $58 million, which would consist of restructuring of existing bonds and the issuance of new bonds to net $30 million of proceeds for the project. The bonds would be a private placement with Union Bank, who owns the existing 2006 bonds.

If a resolution adopting the proposed action is approved, the City of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Operating Company will be expected to provide an update by May 1 regarding the business plan and related going forward recommendations.

The Rose Bowl is only one of four stadiums in the nation on the National Historic Register, along with the Yale Bowl, Harvard’s football field and the Los Angeles Coliseum.