Purpose

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chinese working to reconstruct America
  
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/kindle/2012-03/08/content_14784778.htm

 By Zhang Yuwei in New York (China Daily)

August 3, 2012

 
Yuan Ning is leading the charge on a host of infrastructure projects

When Yuan Ning came to the United States to lead the local operation of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation in 2001, he made a big decision on how the company should navigate the US market.

"We should stay on the general contracting side and be practical about our operations in the US market," said Yuan, 47, sitting in his office at China Construction America headquarters in Jersey City, New York.

This decision led the wholly owned subsidiary of its Chinese parent, China's largest State-owned construction company, to becoming one of the most competitive construction companies in the US market.

Most recently, China Construction America was awarded a contract with the New York State Department of Transportation and kicked off the reconstruction of the Staten Island expressway and bus/high-occupancy vehicle lane extension.

The $109 million deal was the first China Construction America won as an independent contractor in New York State, Yuan said.

"It's a milestone for us because we always worked jointly with local companies on other projects in New York. It's understandable - we are a Chinese company, as you know," the China Construction America president said, indicating Chinese companies are still not fully accepted by some in the local construction market.

Back in China, more than 66 construction projects carried out by the Chinese parent company received the Lu Ban Award - the highest award in Chinese construction. Its construction portfolio includes the headquarters for China Central Television, the tallest skyscraper in Beijing, and the Beijing National Aquatics Center, or the Water Cube, which was used for swimming races during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

China State Construction Engineering Corporation established its presence in the US in 1985. But the road for the company to reach where it is today has been a bumpy one.

"We entered the US market with 'ambitious goals' and invested in more than 70 residential projects across the US back then," Yuan recalled.

Real estate investment has been a major focus for China State Construction Engineering Corporation in China and the company thought it had the advantage to invest in the same area in the US.

The results, however, turned out to be somewhat unexpected. It eventually took the company about 15 years to wrap up the projects and it paid a big financial price, which Yuan didn't disclose.

"It's good to be ambitious, but we also need to know where we are and if we are ready," said Yuan.
In 2001, the company had to move its headquarters from the World Trade Center to Jersey City after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But 2001 was also a turning point for the American subsidiary's business in the US. It won its first public works contract in the nation to build the Santee High School and Technology Center in South Carolina, after shifting its focus and becoming a general contractor. Since then, it has completed about 100 projects all over the US and is currently undertaking about 10 projects in New York, South Carolina, Washington DC and the Bahamas.

After all this time, China Construction America has gradually established its reputation and is no longer a newcomer to the US construction market.

In New York State alone, it won bids for projects including the renovation of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge (between Manhattan and the Bronx), construction of the ventilation shafts for the No 7 Subway line extension in New York (a $57 million deal), and the Yankee Stadium Station. The list just goes on.

The $407 million deal for renovating the Alexander Hamilton Bridge is currently its largest project in the US. It will help create nearly 10,000 jobs, including construction workers, suppliers and subcontractors, throughout the whole project, which is to be complete by December 2013.

"We feel big responsibilities for this project because a lot of planning work needs to be done for the renovation work of the bridge. We work mostly at night and have to make sure the traffic is smooth during the day," Yuan explained.

In South Carolina, the company is currently renovating the North Charleston Coliseum (a $12 million deal) and building the River Bluff High School (a $75 million deal).

On its 25th anniversary of operating in the US, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg congratulated the company, saying it "has worked with the utmost professionalism and dedication on America's buildings and infrastructure and communications networks".

In 2011, Harvard Business School published two case studies on China Construction America's operations in the US, featuring it as one successful example of Chinese companies tapping into the US market.

Even though it is a subsidiary of a Chinese State-owned company, Yuan said, he doesn't feel it is treated that differently here in the US.

"At least not in the past 10 years. People in the construction market here see our work, and they recognize it. We have built our reputation and it doesn't matter if we are a State-owned company or not," Yuan said.

"Strangely enough, only during the past few years - since the financial crisis actually - the sentiment started to change a little," Yuan said.

Yuan recalled that China Construction America experienced some setbacks in a few bids in recent years. In some cases, he said, the company wasn't even issued with the pre-qualification (screening of potential contractors on basic facts such as their experience, financial ability, reputation, and work history), something he said shouldn't happen to a well-established construction company like his.

"You would think this shouldn't happen during this time because the US needs help in fixing its economy. We bring capital and expertise and we create jobs. Most of all, we follow the local rules," Yuan said.

"I think it has something to do with politics, the upcoming elections for example. But I hope this is only temporary," he added.

For a Chinese construction company to compete in the US market and undertake these big public projects, the challenges can very well be imagined. Yuan admitted the difficulties, but he believes in expertise, hard work and a willingness to give the lowest bidding price.

He said the most important thing to bear in mind, for Chinese companies, or any foreign ones, is to play by the rules.

"True, we try to make China Construction America a localized company. But after all, we are seen as a Chinese company here, so there is no other way around it but to follow the rules," said Yuan, who also currently heads the General Chamber of Commerce-USA on a two-year term.

Over the past 10 years, China Construction America has grown from about a dozen employees to today's 1,000 in the US. Ninety percent of the staff, according to Yuan, are local hires.

Joseph Catapano, a project manager who oversees the Staten Island Expressway site, said he feels "very privileged" to work for the company.

"It's a very good opportunity for me and I see myself working here until I retire," said Catapano, who has 12 years of engineering experience in New York and California.

"We only employ union workers at our New York job sites," said Yuan, adding the company agreed to follow the "Buy America" rule for the Alexandra Hamilton Bridge project as one condition prior to the bid.

"Buy America" requires the US government to prefer US-made products in its purchases. In this case, companies that win bids should only use US-made products, such as steel.

Yuan said after so many years, China Construction America is ready to take on different projects, and maybe even go back to residential projects. Starting this year, its parent company is planning to invest $2 billion in the US market to boost its investment in public-private partnerships, infrastructure development, mergers and acquisitions and residential projects.

"We have an advantage to help the US build its infrastructure projects. We can bring money and our connections established with both Chinese and foreign banks (to generate the capital) and of course our expertise," Yuan said, calling it a "win-win solution".

After navigating the US market over the past years, China Construction America seems ready to really take off.

Last May, it started on a $3.6 billion resort development in the Bahamas, as both a general contractor and an investor.

The 44-month Baha Mar project, a complex on Nassau's Cable Beach, will employ some 8,000 workers and is projected to generate a 10 percent boost to the Bahamas gross domestic product, according to Baha Mar Ltd, the development company behind the project.

The development plan includes four hotels with more than 2,000 rooms, as well as a golf course, retail space, a convention center and the largest casino in the Caribbean.

"It is scheduled to be completed in December 2014 and is the largest overseas project undertaken by our company and the biggest commercial development abroad among Chinese companies," said Yuan proudly.

yuweizhang@chinadailyusa.com
Chinese working to reconstruct America
"We have an advantage to help the US build its infrastructure projects. We can bring money and our connections established with both Chinese and foreign banks (to generate the capital) and of course our expertise." Yuan Ning, president, China Construction America

Two New Members Join the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee Board of Directors

 http://www.pasadenanow.com/main/two-new-members-join-the-pasadena-armenian-genocide-memorial-committee-board-of-directors

January 22, 2013

 
The Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee (PASAGMC) announces that former StateAssembly member Anthony Portantino and former Pasadena Police Chief Bernard K. Melekian have joined the PASAGMC as members of the board of directors. The PASAGMC recognizes their long commitment and dedication to public service and is honored to have Portantino and Melekian join the PASAGMC for the success of this historical project.

Anthony Portantino recently retired as the San Gabriel Valley-based 44th State Assembly DistrictAssembly member. Portantino has had a close relationship with the Armenian-American Community ever since his service as Mayor and Councilmember of the city of La Canada Flintridge. He has repeatedly been recognized as “Legislator of the Year” by prominent community organizations. As Mayor, he issued a city proclamation commemorating the Armenian Genocide, and as a Legislator he was a proud coauthor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, which urged the President and Congress to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Bernard K. Melekian was the Police Chief for the City of Pasadena for more than 13 years, and has also served as the acting Fire Chief and Interim City Manager for the City of Pasadena. He has received the Medal of Valor award in 1978 and the Medal of Courage award in 1980. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Melekian as the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) on October 5, 2009. As Director of the COPS Office, Melekian leads an organization responsible for working closely with the nation’s state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to enhance the safety of communities. Bernard Melekian served in the United States Army from 1967 to 1970, and, as a member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve, he was called to active duty in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

Anthony Portantino stated that he is “…humbled and honored to have been asked to serve on the board of this important and very necessary Genocide Recognition project. The San Gabriel Valley’s strong connection to the Armenian-American community and the unwavering support for Genocide recognition in our area is something of which to be proud. Being part of a project that will commemorate, respect, and educate generations about the first Genocide of the 20th Century and the death of 1.5 million innocent Armenians is a responsibility and honor that I will cherish.”

Joel Bryant Will Represent District 3

 http://www.pasadenanow.com/main/news

January 22, 2013

 


The Pasadena City Council Tuesday unanimously voted Joel Bryant as the temporary Councilmember to represent District 3 through the upcoming March elections, thus filling the seat made vacant when Chris Holden was voted into the California Assembly in November.

The City Council selected Joel Bryant from a list of four other applicants to fill the District 3 Council seat vacancy on a temporary basis until a permanent representative can be chosen by voters and take office on May 6.
The selection was made during a special Tuesday night City Council meeting where the governing
body conducted interviews with Bryant and the four other applicants. They were Brian Carmody, Sharon Graham Higuera, Tarek Shawky and Craig Washington.

Each applicant was allowed up to a six minutes to make a presentation. The City Council then asked each applicant a series of predetermined questions. No applicants were permitted in the Council Chamber during interviews of any other applicant.

At the conclusion of the interviews, all applicants returned to the Council Chamber to observe the Council’s deliberation and vote.

Councilmember Jacque Robinson put forth motion to support Bryant. That motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Margaret McAustin who said Bryant “brings a strong background in public service” and civic experience — making him a “strong choice”

The move came as the City Council inched closer to a mandated 75-day grace period, necessitated when former Councilmember Chris Holden was elected to the California State Assembly.
On November 30, 2012, Holden resigned from his position on the City Council, representing District 3, to assume his Assembly duties representing the 41st District.

The City Clerk administered the oath of office to Bryant, who will begin serving immediately.

Addressing the chambers, Bryant said he was “very grateful for this opportunity.”

L.A. River's Glendale Narrows on Track to Open for Boating, Recreation This Summer

The community is invited to weigh in on a proposal that would open a five-mile stretch of the river to the public.

 http://eaglerock.patch.com/articles/l-a-river-s-glendale-narrows-to-open-for-recreation-this-summer#photo-13023126


 

 This boater is heading upstream on the Glendale Narrows stretch of the Los Angeles River, just below Red Car Park in Atwater Village. The 5 Freeway is to the left and Griffith Park is straight ahead. Water flow is slightly higher here (in late December) than it would be during the historically dry summer months.

The public is being invited to comment on a plan to open a five-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River for public recreation during low-flood-risk summer months.

The program would begin on begin on May 27,  2013 and end on Labor Day, Sept. 2, 2013.

Perhaps most significantly, the plan would create a non-motorized boating course stretching from North Atwater Park to the Elysian Valley.

The course would run through a section of the natural-bottomed area known as the Glendale Narrows and be open from sunrise to sundown.

Access would be through pocket parks in Silver Lake's Frogtown and the Elysian Valley, as well as North Atwater Park.

Unlike the summer paddling programs held in 2011 and 2012 near the Sepulveda Dam on the river, this course would be "self-directed" and free, although guided trips are still a possibility.

Other recreational uses including fishing, birdwatching and hiking would also be allowed. Bikes and pets would be prohibited in the riverbed area.

Use would also be prohibited during flash-flood risk periods.

Rangers from the Mountain Recreation and The draft plan was  released Tuesday by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks to the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee for public comment and discussion.Conservation Authority would patrol the area.

Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee is a joint working group of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, the City of Los Angeles and the United States Army Corps of Engineers--four entities with ownership and management interests in the riverbed and surrounding area.

The program calls for a public comment period through Jan. 31, after which the Los Angeles City Council would take up the plan.

It also will require getting various forms of consent from the LADWP, the L.A. County Flood control agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that manages the area.

City Councilman Ed Reyes, who grew up in Cypress Park swimming in the river near the proposed district, told Echo Park-Silver Lake Patch the primary goal of the plan is to "create an environment where people can enjoy the river safely."

"How do we preserve the natural habitats and protect the wildlife, while allowing people to connect with the river?" Reyes said.

He said such public access is the next step in a larger goal: to turn the river into the city's "front yard" and open it up for investment and preservation.

The proposed "L.A.River Recreational Zone Pilot Program" brings to a head several concurrent efforts to establish legal and safe access to a section of the Los Angeles River that many feel is its most accessible and beautiful.

In August 2011, a city council committee chaired by Councilman Ed Reyes ordered city staff explore the possibility of expanding public access to the river beyond the guided tours.

In August of 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law requiring the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, which manages the riverbed for flood control purposes, to come up with a plan for creating recreational access to the area.

Another study due by the end of the year will offer options for restoring native habitat and removing some concrete along the full 11-miles of the Narrows.

Known as the Alternative with Restoration Benefits and Opportunities for Revitalization, or Arbor, it must balance the need for flood control that the current concretized L.A. River channel provides with desires for preservation and access.

The first public meeting for comment on the L.A. River Recreation Zone Plan will be held at the Los Angeles River Center in Cypress Park at 5 p.m. on January 24.

Go to the website for more photos and for a pdf of the full report.

Hawaii: Say “Aloha” To Transit-Oriented Development 
 http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/01/22/hawaii-say-aloha-to-transit-oriented-development/#more-134198

By Craig Chester, January 22, 2013 



Not all transportation in Honolulu, Hawaii is a walk on the beach.
Honolulu, one of the most congested cities in the country, could benefit from more transit-oriented development. 

Known for its breathtaking natural beauty and warm temperatures, Honolulu is also plagued by heavy traffic congestion and delays. High energy costs and a lack of transportation choices compound the challenges of getting around Hawaii’s state capital and most populous city.

To put it in perspective, Honolulu recently surpassed Los Angeles to become the city with the worst traffic in the nation. And on average, households in the City and County of Honolulu spent a whopping $13,598 each year on transportation alone, wasting an average of 58 hours in traffic during that time.

The good news, though, is that things don’t have to stay this way. Hawaii can and should put a renewed emphasis on expanding access to residents’ transportation options. Business owners and visitors would benefit almost immediately, as new economic development happens and older communities attract reinvestment.

That’s the verdict of a new collaborative report, “Leveraging State Agency Involvement in Transit-Oriented Development to Strengthen Hawaii’s Economy,” from Hawaii’s Office of Planning and Smart Growth America. Right now, Hawaii and its congested cities have a prime opportunity to implement plans for TOD, drive economic development, and restore the quality of life many expect from island living.

Best of all, Governor Neil Abercrombie has already set the wheels in motion, with the 2010 announcement of the New Day Plan, which envisions “livable communities that encourage walking, bicycling, carpooling, and using mass transit.” TOD can be key to meeting the plan’s economic, social and environmental goals.

Well-executed TOD reduces dependence on fossil fuels, protects open space and cultural resources through sustainable land use, helps advance education by better connecting students to educational facilities, and can allow retirees and elders to remain in their communities and “age in place.”

The unique nature of Hawaii, though, means that TOD efforts must be equally unique and well suited to the islands’ diversity of needs. Although much of Hawaii is relatively rural, the counties of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai have population concentrations clustered in cities, towns and resort areas. Transit-oriented development principles can be leveraged in those areas in conjunction with existing bus service to connect Hawaii residents to businesses and residential neighborhoods, while saving taxpayers money in the process.

As a result, the state Office of Planning is now drafting a resolution for Abercrombie to sign as an executive policy, recognizing that TOD is a priority of state government as part of its smart growth efforts. The order would direct state agencies to work together toward promoting the wide range of benefits that can be achieved through smart growth and TOD.

“State agencies can use proximity to transit to make the public’s access to state services more convenient and economical,” Abercrombie says. “We can make getting to work easier and cheaper for our state employees. We can take advantage of the value transit adds to state property for the benefit our citizens.”

Presently, the state is in the midst of constructing the 20-mile Honolulu Rapid Transit system, which will link important Honolulu neighborhoods and attractions along an elevated rail line by 2019. The state government is a major property holder in Hawaii, and owns over 2,500 acres adjacent to the proposed rail stations. How the state utilizes this land will have a substantial impact on the direction and viability of TOD projects.

Rail, though, isn’t the only way for TOD projects to take hold on the island, explains Jesse Souki, director of the State of Hawaii Planning Department.

“One important way the state can take a more proactive role in facilitating TOD and walkable, smart growth communities,” Souki said, “is to prioritize existing state properties and other assets the state currently controls that are near transit, including high frequency bus service.”

In the short-term, TOD can begin to take hold throughout the state – not just Honolulu – by centering projects around existing bus service. Ideally, bus service could evolve to include fixed, permanent stations, like those of a bus rapid transit system. A service like that could set the stage for a fixed rail line as a replacement as population grows in the longer term.

“More permanent, high frequency bus transit stations could benefit from TOD,” Souki said. “This is particularly true for islands outside of Hawaii’s most populated island, Oahu, where rider capacity would not justify rail solutions at this time.”

TOD has proven to be a successful tool around the country in addressing many of the very same issues facing modern day Hawaii – high energy costs, heavy traffic congestion and lack of reliable transportation options. With progress being made on an impressive rail corridor, existing bus service throughout the state’s islands and strong support from Governor Abercrombie, Hawaii has an opportunity not just to confront its own challenges, but to be a model for TOD implementation across the country.
Today’s Transit Dreams May Come True — 78 Years From Now 

 http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/01/22/todays-transit-dreams-may-come-true-78-years-from-now/#more-134226

By Tanya Snyder, January 22, 2013

 
Reconnecting America's new Transit Space Race map shows the abyss between the unbridled demand for transit and the very limited funding for it.


By the looks of it, my humble hometown of Washington, DC is winning the transit space race. The region currently has 45 transit projects either planned or underway — and one that’s stalled. You may have heard of the Silver Line to Dulles Airport, but a new map from Reconnecting America proves that that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to transit starts in the DC area.

Every year, Reconnecting America comes out with a map showing the “Transit Space Race” for that year, with all the fixed-guideway projects that are in any phase of realization, from a “twinkle in the eye” to under construction. (Cheers to RA for declining to accompany the release with a long-winded report that would just repeat what is plain to see in this simple, easy-to-use map.)

“The 2013 edition of the map identifies 721 projects in 109 regions, up from 643 projects found in 109 regions in 2011,” the press release says. Then it seamlessly, almost coyly, meanders its way to the real point of the project: to illustrate the desperate need for more federal transit funding.

“Of the current projects, 497 have a cost estimate,” RA says. “The total required to build just those 497 projects would be $250 billion.  At the current rate of federal transit investment, it would require more than 78 years to construct those projects.”

The MAP-21 transportation bill authorizes just under $10.6 billion for transit this year. Next year it goes up — to $10.7 billion. Of that, just $1.9 billion is for transit New Starts, or system expansion.

Yonah Freemark recently published a similar map on the Transport Politic, highlighting projects beginning construction or entering service in 2013. Reconnecting America’s map includes projects that don’t have an opening date. It shows members of Congress who may think that there’s no demand for transit in their districts that their constituents do, indeed, dream of it — even if those dreams haven’t yet become reality. It shows the enormous demand for fixed-guideway transit expansion, all over the country, in cities large and small.

“This list should be seen as a snapshot in time, which gives us a window into the magnitude of the need for greater funding and cooperation locally, regionally, and at the federal level,” said Jeff Wood, RA’s chief cartographer and lead author of the Space Race reports.

According to Reconnecting America, fixed-guideway projects on the map include heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, various technologies such as cog railways, and those bus rapid transit lines that have more than 50 percent of their right-of-way dedicated to bus-only lanes. The map does not include statewide projects such as the California high-speed rail effort.

On the map, Los Angeles County has 39 projects listed.
In Second Inaugural Address, President Obama Says Building Infrastructure, Combating Climate Change Part of “Obligation”
 http://transportationnation.org/2013/01/21/in-second-inaugural-address-president-obama-says-building-infrastructure-combatting-climate-change-part-of-obligation/
 
By Andrea Bernstein, January 21, 2013

 

In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama wove in specific policy recommendations for building roads and combatting climate change into a speech urging Americans to join in collective action for a better future.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity,” President Obama said.  “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult,” the President added.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

The president also declared road-building a collective responsibility.

“For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.”

Cheese fire causes traffic meltdown in Norway tunnel

Reporting by Victoria Klesty, editing by Paul Casciato
 
 
OSLO (Reuters) - A truckload of burning cheese has closed a road tunnel in Arctic Norway for the last six days.

Some 27 metric tons of flaming brown cheese (brunost), a Norwegian delicacy, blocked off a three-km (1.9 mile) tunnel near the northern coastal town of Narvik when it caught fire last Thursday. The fire was finally put out on Monday.

"This high concentration of fat and sugar is almost like petrol if it gets hot enough," said Viggo Berg, a policeman.

Brown cheese is made from whey, contains up to 30 percent fat and has a caramel taste.

"I didn't know that brown cheese burns so well," said Kjell Bjoern Vinje at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.

He added that in his 15 years in the administration, this was the first time cheese had caught fire on Norwegian roads.

Berg said that no one was injured in the fire, only one other vehicle was in the area at the time and that the accident had luckily happened close to one of the tunnel's exits.

The tunnel will closed for repairs for at least a week.

Is This Solar-Powered Half-Electric Bicycle With A Roof The Future Of Transportation?

 The Elf, which just finished a massive run on Kickstarter, combines the best elements of an electric car, a motorcycle, and a bicycle, and it’s manufactured right here in the U.S. There’s something for everyone to love.

 http://www.fastcoexist.com/1681198/is-this-solar-powered-half-electric-bicycle-with-a-roof-the-future-of-transportation#1

 

 

 

It’s part bike, part car, part solar power, part human power. And--thanks in part to a massively successful Kickstarter drive that ended this week--it’s headed to a street near you.

The Elf is what’s called a velomobile, a pedal-powered mini-car, typically in the design of a recumbent tricycle with a shell over it to protect you from the elements. While they’re fairly popular for commuting and biking with cargo in bike-obsessed parts of the world like Northern Europe, if you haven’t heard of them yet, don’t sweat it.

“The U.S. market is really unaware of this type of vehicle--of velomobiles--and we are kind of bringing it to the masses,” explains Alix Bowman, director of communications at Organic Transit, the startup behind The Elf. The novelty--combined with the high price of gas, and need for more diverse solutions to environmentally friendly commuting--made the Elf a hit with the Kickstarter community who threw $225,789 at the product, more than twice its goal of $100,000.


The design boasts a bevy of features that could have persuaded urbanists, design enthusiasts, environmentalists, and cyclists to open their wallets. Like other electric bicycles, the Elf lets riders effortlessly switch between 100% pedal power, 100% motor power, or some combination of the two.
“I like to get going a little bit with the motor, and then I start pedaling, and let the pedaling takeover,” says Bowman. Or, you might let the motor kick in if you’re headed up a hill or “if you don’t want to arrive looking like you just biked there,” she adds.

While the pedals work just like any old bike, the motor is activated by a hand throttle similar to a motorcycle. And it runs on a 480-watt lithium battery that recharges quickly--in two hours when detached and plugged in to the wall--or slowly, over the course of the day when left in the sun, thanks to the Elf’s roof-mounted solar panels.

A fully charged motor will move the Elf 30 miles. Its recycled aluminum frame supports a whopping 350 pounds of cargo in a rear compartment. And since the Elf is technically a bike under federal law--its electric motor maxes out at 20 miles per hour to meet the definition--riders can use it on bike lanes, trails, and anywhere else bikes are allowed (although your state or city might have its own rules).

Produced by a team of designers led by CEO Rob Cotter, The Elf will be made in downtown Durham, North Carolina-- for now. “What we’re trying to do here in Durham is develop a model … ‘a-bike-factory-in-a-box’ model, where we are trying to design a facility capable of producing 1,000 units a month. Once we see what that looks like, we want to be able to replicate that anywhere," Bowman says. From Durham, the goal is to expand to a network of workshop-cum-dealerships assembling Elfs (Elves?) across the country and possibly the globe.

It’s an unusual business model, and the financial details haven’t been worked out yet, but Bowman says the Elf is easy enough to assemble, that “you don’t need big robots and huge assembly lines for it to work. And the components are all easy to drop ship to any place.” Other parts come off the shelf at a bike shop.

“On a daily basis we get letters of interest from people who are interested in setting up those dealerships,” everywhere from Oregon to Florida to Australia to Denmark, says Bowman, adding that “we also see huge potential for these vehicles in developing countries,” where, in remote areas, the Elf could help shave hours off tasks like collecting water. “We think the ability to ship in one shipping container all the components to manufacture 50 vehicles … has some pretty major implications for a lot of NGO work.”

But first, the Elf will ship in March to Kickstarter backers who gave more than $4,000.

PERRIS: Planning commission approves Metrolink station 

 http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/perris/perris-headlines-index/20130119-perris-planning-commission-approves-metrolink-station.ece

By Peter Surowski, January 19, 2013

 

A Metrolink train pulls out of the Corona station on Wednesday, May 9, 2012. Metrolink will soon have two stations in Perris. 

A Metrolink station planned for Perris passed an administrative hurdle and is headed for construction, officials said.

The planning commission voted unanimously Wednesday, Jan. 16, to grant a conditional use permit for the construction of the facility on 40.55 acres on the northwest corner of Case and Mapes roads in Perris.

The station will be one of two in the city and will service the planned Perris Line. The other will be part of an existing transportation hub between C and D streets stretching from San Jacinto Avenue to Sixth Street.

“I’ve been here almost 20 years and hearing, ‘The train is coming, the train is coming, the train is coming,’” said Judy Haughney, chair of the planning commission. “It’s finally here.”

The south Perris station includes a 510-foot-long concrete platform with three steel canopies and a 730-stall parking lot.

Building the stations is part of a $247 million project that will extend the Metrolink line 24 miles into Perris Valley. Officials expect the extension to serve 4,350 commuters a day.

Two others will be added outside of the city: one near March Air Reserve Base and the other on Marlborough Avenue in Riverside, according to John Standiford, the deputy director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

“That was one of the more latter steps we needed to accomplish,” he said.
Officials hope to issue construction contracts early this year and have trains running on the line in 2014, he said.

The project has a legal hurdle it must clear before being built. Friends of Riverside Hills, an activist group, filed a lawsuit in August 2011 saying an environmental report on the project failed to detail the noise and pollution impacts of excavating dirt around the tracks among other aspects of construction.

Lawyers for the two parties are due in court Tuesday, Jan. 22, concerning the suit.

“We feel good about where we stand on that,” Standiford said.

Regional Connector Work Coming to Alameda

 http://www.ladowntownnews.com/news/regional-connector-work-coming-to-alameda/article_c5c59c2e-61c8-11e2-bc0c-0019bb2963f4.html

  Regional Connector Work Coming to Alameda

 

 DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - The Regional Connector won’t open for about six years, but its effects will be felt, on a small scale, this week.
A contractor for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is slated to conduct geotechnical testing for the $1.34 billion project on Jan. 21-24 along Alameda Street between First and Second streets. The work will happen from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The northbound left turn lane and adjoining lane of Alameda Street, at First Street, will be closed. Access to businesses and residences will be maintained, according to Metro. The work is part of the preliminary program to build a 1.9-mile underground light rail route that will add three new stations. The project is scheduled to open in 2019. Additional information is at metro.net/connector.

Op-Ed

L.A. imagined: The city that isn't

Imagine the city that would exist today if the best proposals for remedying its ailments had been realized.

 

SFMTA invites public to name tunnel boring machine

 http://www.thetransitwire.com/2013/01/21/sfmta-invites-public-to-name-tunnel-boring-machine/

 by Susan on January 21, 2013

 Big Alma? Firebelle Lil? Mom Chung?  The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (CA) is asking the public to vote online to name the tunnel boring machines that will excavate the new Central Subway tunnels.

“The TBMs will be named after prominent pioneering women who have shaped our city’s rich and historic past, just as the Central Subway will help shape San Francisco’s innovation future,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee in a statement. “We are excited to involve the people of San Francisco in this fun and important tunneling tradition.” SFMTA says that the custom of naming TBMs is believed to bring good luck to tunneling projects.

San Francisco is following the lead of the Washington State Department of Transportation, which held a competition to name the tunnel boring machine for its project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Bertha was named after Bertha Knight Landes, who was elected mayor of Seattle in 1926.  (And, note to SFMTA: Bertha has her own Twitter account.)

The TBMs are expected to arrive in San Francisco in March.

Voting is open through Wednesday, January 23, at www.centralsubwaysf.com/TBM-name. Voters can select up to two names from the following options: Big Alma, Juana, Mom Chung, Firebelle Lil, and Mary Ellen.

Dan Walters: Will drivers pay more for California highways?

 http://www.sacbee.com/2013/01/22/5130863/dan-walters-will-drivers-pay-more.html

 By Dan Walters, January 22, 2013


Dan Walters

During Jerry Brown's first governorship three-plus decades ago, no political issue burned more hotly than transportation, particularly a marked slowdown in highway construction.

Critics accused Brown and his transportation director, Adriana Gianturco, of an anti-highway bias. A pro-highway Legislature eventually passed a new transportation planning bill aimed at diluting the administration's authority to decide which projects would be built and when.

However, no successor to Brown significantly increased highway construction. Meanwhile, maintenance of aging highways gobbled up more and more gasoline tax money, which became a stagnant source of revenue as cars became more efficient and used less fuel per mile.

Out of sheer frustration, local governments began asking their voters for sales tax hikes to finance highway construction.

Furthermore, the state turned to general obligation bonds to finance what projects it did build, rather than increase gas taxes – part of a larger partisan stalemate in the Capitol over taxes.

The effect was that the gas tax and other forms of making users pay, such as tolls, license fees and transit fare boxes, bore a steadily decreasing portion of the costs of providing transportation, as a new report from the Tax Foundation underscores.

California has the nation's third-highest fuel tax, more than 50 cents a gallon, but is among the lowest states in having motorists and other transportation users pay for their services through fees and taxes.

In fact, the organization calculated, California's users pay for less than a third of building and maintaining streets, roads, highways and transit services.

The rest of the transportation burden is being borne by diversions of other revenue, such as those local sales taxes paid by everyone who buys retail goods, the state's general fund that's been tapped to service transportation bonds, city and county property taxes, federal grants and so forth.

Or to put it another way, transportation has been crowding out other claims on the public purse.

Gov. Jerry Brown has taken a small step toward restoring the user-pays principle by tapping transportation revenue to service transportation bonds. But that, while a rational change, doesn't do anything to ease the growing backlog of much-needed projects.

The state Transportation Commission says California has $538.1 billion in transportation needs. Brown's Transportation Agency will soon convene a working group to refine the commission's assessment and "explore long-term, pay-as-you-go funding options."

It's high time that real transportation needs – not just the fanciful bullet train – move to the front of the political agenda again.

Nothing, really, is more important to the state's economic and social future.

Traveling the Entire Length of California by Local Transit

 http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/01/traveling-all-california-local-transit/4448/

 Eric Jaffe, January 22, 2013


Traveling the Entire Length of California by Local Transit



Local transit maps tend to stay local. Some designate connections to other lines or systems but it's not really their purpose to expand the map beyond the metropolitan area — say, the way road atlases do. Recently a California design team did what local agencies don't: created a statewide rail map with more than 500 destinations served by ten rail authorities plus Amtrak, ferry, and major bus connections.

"I often find myself needing to refer to several maps to plan a single trip," says Alfred Twu, the Bay Area artist and tech worker who led the project's big design team, which completed the map in two months. "Most agencies focus on their own service and provide limited info on connections even when they are very easy."
The California Rail Map [PDF] inspired us to find a way to travel north through the whole state, beginning just across the Mexican border, riding only local transit — no Amtrak or Greyhound. Twu guided us through the following inland route through the Sierra Nevada range. ("I suspect it is also a beautiful trip," he says.) The itinerary runs through five systems and only requires seven transfers:
  1. At San Ysidro ride the blue line of the San Diego Trolley north to America Plaza, transferring to the orange line for one stop to the Santa Fe Depot.
  2. From there take San Diego's NCTD Coaster to the Oceanside Transit Center at the end of the line.
  3. At Oceanside you hop the Metrolink Orange County line to Union Station in Los Angeles, where you can transfer to the Metrolink's Antelope Valley line all the way to Lancaster.
  4. From Lancaster you take Eastern Sierra Transit bus all the way to Reno, Nevada, on the system's 395 routes. The trip requires a change from the Lancaster line at Mammoth Lakes, near Yosemite, to the Lone Pine-Reno line all the way to the end.
  5. From Reno all you have to do is sing a little Johnny Cash then hop the Sage Stage toward Klamath Falls. Next thing you know you've crossed the Oregon border.
If you're wondering whether you can do the whole trip without crossing into Nevada — well, Twu's map suggests you can't. You can leave Eastern Sierra Transit before it exits the California border by transferring to Yosemite Area Regional Transit at Lee Vining. From there you hop Toulumne County Transit to Columbia, then Calaveras Transit to Mokelumne Hill, then Amador Transit to the RT Gold Line that brings you into Sacramento.
From the capital city, however, there's no way to transfer north to the Sage Stage except on Amtrak —

— and if you try cutting west on Fairfield-Suisun Transit, then ride the Vine to Sonoma County Transit, then transfer to Mendocino Transit, you eventually hit a dead end at Willits that leaves you about a hundred miles to Rio Dell, which does eventually reach the Sage Stage via the Redwood Transit System and Trinity Transit:

We went back to Los Angeles and cut toward the coast just to be sure. You can get from there to San Francisco by transit — a feat accomplished by S.F. Weekly writer Joe Eskenazi in the summer of 2011 — and Golden Gate Transit will take you from the Bay toward the Mendocino system. But once there you find yourself once again at Willits out of options.

So Reno it is. Of course, just because you can make the trip by transit, doesn't mean you should. Eskenazi counted 16 buses or trains, operated by seven transit agencies, covering some 480 miles over roughly 32 hours, costing $41.25. Along the way he encountered a rider whose dentures were stolen at a bus station, another who boarded with a fishing pole, and another who "rides buses just for the hell of it."
He concludes:
And was it crazy? Of course. But traversing the state via public transit allows you to meet people and see places you'd never encounter in any other way. You share a seat with a cross-section of California.
But, yes, still crazy.

I don't think the idea of solely using public transportation to get around and to see California is "crazy" at all. It is just that most Americans are not used to traveling this way. I have a friend who lives in North Wales who travels the entire world almost solely using public transportation, that is, whatever is available to get from one place to another cheaply and she does it safely and efficiently. So far, she has traveled to 145 countries on a strict budget.

 Three METRO Open Houses
Please make the effort to get to at least one of these Open Houses.
Wear your NO 710 buttons and bring your No 710 signs.
Two items are ATTACHED:  
(1) A flyer about the meetings - you can pass out/email to get others to the meetings- and
(2)  Things You Should Know About the Proposed 710 Freeway Extension 
Please read, email to friends, copy and share with others - this is a One page - 2 sided document.
We want to pass this second document out to as many people as possible to get the facts out.
(Thanks to John & Monica Shaffer & the No 710 Action Committee) 

The Open Houses are scheduled for:

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 6-8 pm
Maranatha High School
Student Center
169 S. Saint John Ave.
Pasadena, CA  91105
(Free underground parking lot on Saint John between Green and Del Mar)


Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 6-8 pm
San Marino Community Church
1750 Virginia Rd.
San Marino, CA 91108

Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 9-11 am
Cal State Los Angeles
Golden Eagle Building - 3rd floor, Ballroom
5151 State University Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90032
(Validated parking available at the top level of Parking Structure C
just north of the Golden Eagle Building)


Information About these Open Houses:

METRO has stated that the information shared at the Open Houses will address why the study is needed, and to provide an opportunity to learn about the alternatives analysis process and the five alternatives moving forward for further analysis in the environmental document phase.  There will also be an opportunity to review the alignment of the three build alternative maps (BRT, LRT, and freeway tunnel).  The format of the Open Houses is structured to give everyone as opportunity to dialogue one-on-one with the technical team, and to review the information at their own pace and on the subject matter that interests one most.  There will not be a formal presentation or microphone at the Open House sessions.

During the Open Houses you are free to move around the room, examining displays about each alternative.  Metro staff and technical consultants will be on hand to answer questions.  So be prepared with your questions.  You may write comments on comment cards or post-its and attach them to the displays.  There is no formal question and answer period.

Things  You  Should  Know  About  the  Proposed
710  Freeway  Extension

No 710 Action Committee (www.no710.com)

Ø    The LA Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) plans to build two 4.5 mile-long tunnels that will extend the 710 Freeway into the heart of Pasadena.  The tunnels would bring as many as 180,000 trucks and cars through Pasadena each day, producing unacceptable levels of traffic, noise and pollution, destroying the quality of life in our neighborhoods and City.

Ø    The 710 Freeway would connect Pasadena neighborhoods directly to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and hundreds of factories, warehouses, and other industrial complexes.  Metro says the 710 Freeway will “complete the natural goods movement corridor” between these industrial areas and destinations north and east of Los Angeles, bringing to Pasadena an endless stream of trucks, pollution, and noise.

Ø    The tunnels would not reduce congestion, but instead would simply move it to Pasadena.

·         The tunnels would divert existing traffic from the 5, 10, and 605 Freeways onto the 210 and 134 Freeways.  They also would encourage more driving and longer commutes, thus further burdening the 210 and 134 Freeways.

·         Past predictions of less congestion have been wrong.  Although Metro and Caltrans said it would ease congestion, when they extended the 210 Freeway east into San Bernardino County, it made congestion in Pasadena far worse, turning the 210 into a parking lot for hours each day.  Extending the 710 Freeway will make things even worse.

Ø    The tunnels would increase traffic on our City streets and make it harder to get around Pasadena.

·         The tunnel would close the Del Mar and California entrances and exits on the current 710 stub.  This means that traffic going between the 210 and 134 Freeways and Old Pasadena, Huntington Hospital, and the 110 Freeway would be forced onto surface streets, including Lake, Los Robles, Fair Oaks, Orange Grove, and Avenue 64.  Businesses will suffer, and a new wave of “cut through” traffic will invade our neighborhoods.

·         The first places where 710 tunnel traffic could exit the freeway would be at Lake Ave., Mountain Ave., and San Rafael Ave.  This will result in significant traffic increases at and near those exits.

Ø    The tunnels will increase Pasadena's air pollution.  Metro admits that the tunnels will increase pollution.  They will vent all of their pollution at their ends, so concentrated pollution from 4.5 miles of tunnel would be expelled into Pasadena through exhaust portals erected next to Huntington Hospital and schools.  Increased traffic on the 210 and 134 Freeways will increase pollution throughout Pasadena.

Ø    The tunnels may be dangerous to build and operate.  The tunnels would cross four known earthquake faults and punch through two major aquifers.  They would be accessible only at either end, with no intermediate entrances or exits.  It is unclear how injured or handicapped persons would be able to exit the tunnels in case of an accident, fire, or collapse in the tunnel.

Ø    Tunnel construction would bring a decade of disruption and bad health impacts.  Construction of the tunnels would take anywhere from 9 to12 years.  There will be NO reimbursement to businesses due to loss of trade.

·         Construction would require removing and then later rebuilding bridges along Del Mar Blvd., Green St., Colorado Blvd., and Union St., thus isolating much of west Pasadena for years.  The Rose Parade could not use its traditional route with the Colorado Blvd. bridge over the freeway removed.

·         Construction will require removal of 200 million cubic feet of dirt, filling 450,000 truckloads.  That means 128 truckloads of dirt transported through our area every single day, 7 days a week, for 10 years.

·         Construction will be very noisy and dusty for those living, working, in the hospital, or going to school near the construction site or along the routes taken by trucks full of excavated dirt.

Ø    The tunnel project will be extremely expensive.  Official estimates of the cost range from $1 billion to $14 billion (more recent estimates around $5-6 billion).  Part of these costs may be recouped through tolls of up to $20 per trip, with the rest being paid by taxpayers.  Other toll roads in Southern California have gone bankrupt or have needed public bailouts.

Ø    What should be done instead of the tunnels?

·         For moving people:  Light rail and bus improvements can be achieved for a small fraction of the cost and negative impacts of the tunnels.  In fact, Metro could complete every transit alternative that it is considering in far less time and for far less money than the tunnels will cost.

·         For moving cargo:  Long-haul trucks do not belong on our urban freeways and neighborhood streets.  Instead of bringing more trucks into Pasadena, Metro should increase the efficiency of the Alameda Corridor and complete the Alameda Corridor East and other port and rail projects.


Flyer

IMPORTANT 710 MEETINGS

The SR-710 North Extension will affect the quality of life in YOUR neighborhood

Metro and Caltrans have identified 5 alternatives to "complete the gap" 
They include:
          No Build
          Transportation System/Transportation Demand Management
          Bus Rapid Transit
          Light Rail Transit
          Freeway Tunnel
 
Come to the Open Houses to see the plans and tell them what you think
 
Wednesday, January. 23, 2013, 6-8 pm
Maranatha High School
Student Center
169 South Saint John Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105
 
Thursday, January 24, 2013, 6-8 pm
San Marino Community Church
1750 Virginia Road
San Marino, CA 91108
 
Saturday, January 26, 2013, 9-11 am
California State University, Los Angeles
Golden Eagle Building: Ballroom
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032
(Validated parking available at the top level of Parking Structure C just north of the Golden Eagle Building Ballroom)

Want more information?  Go to no710.com