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

Friday, February 8, 2013

Automakers hope to rev up sales of diesel vehicles

Diesel-powered vehicles account for only 3% of U.S. auto sales, but GM, Volkswagen, Mazda and other brands are rolling out new models in a bid to raise that figure.


  By Jerry Hirsch, February 7, 2013


 Chevrolet's new Cruze, which will go on sale this year, will have a 2.0 liter, four-cylinder engine that will get an estimated 42 mpg in highway driving with an automatic transmission. With a 15.6-gallon fuel tank, the diesel Cruze could have a range of as much as 650 miles between fill-ups.

Drivers in the U.S. are discovering what Europeans have known for years: Diesel engines are powerful and still get eye-popping fuel economy, especially at highway speeds.

Automakers are rolling out new diesels in the U.S. market, including a diesel version of General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Cruze, which debuts Thursday at the Chicago Auto Show.

Diesels account for just 3% of U.S. auto sales. But automakers see that increasing as they offer more diesel models, part of the effort to meet increasingly stringent federal fuel economy standards.

GM joins Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW in pitching diesel passenger cars for the U.S. market. This year, Jeep will offer a diesel version of its popular Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicle, and Mazda Motor Corp. will offer a diesel version of the new-generation Mazda6 sedan.

The automakers are using versions of diesel engines they have already developed for Europe and other markets.

Diesels now account for about 20% of VW's sales volume in the U.S. The company welcomes the entrance of new diesel competitors, believing a rising tide will lift all boats.

"This is not a fixed slice of pie that gets divided by the same customers," said Jonathan Browning, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America. "This will grow the diesel segment, and that's good news for us."

Automakers hope to lure more buyers such as Danny Albarran, a Simi Valley resident who drives a diesel Dodge Ram pickup truck. The Los Angeles City Fire Department engineer learned to appreciate diesels after seeing their reliability and efficiency while driving firetrucks.

"You will see diesel trucks and cars out there regularly get 200,000 to 300,000-plus miles," said Albarran, who also owns a Toyota Prius. "We rarely have true engine trouble with our firetrucks — none of the issues you see with gasoline engines."

Even in everyday vehicles, diesel engines provide more power, better fuel economy, a higher resale value and extra longevity, he said.

The resale value of a compact car with a diesel engine is about 63% of its sticker price after three years, according to ALG, a consulting firm that estimates used car values for the leasing business.

That compares with 53% for a compact car with a gasoline engine.

But there are drawbacks.

Consumers pay a premium for that diesel engine — from about $2,000 for a VW hatchback or sedan to more than $5,000 for a luxury car or big truck.

Although the fuel economy for a diesel can be as much as a third better than for a gasoline car, oil companies charge more for diesel. Depending on what's happening in the oil industry, the gap has been as much as 50 cents a gallon over regular-grade gasoline in the last year or so. Diesel has been 20 cents to 30 cents higher for much of the last two years, according to the nonprofit Diesel Technology Forum.

Currently, diesel costs 45 cents, or about 13%, more than regular-grade gasoline, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. About half of all service stations nationwide have at least one diesel fuel pump.

Part of the gap comes from taxes. Federal taxes on diesel fuel are 6 cents a gallon higher than for gasoline, a result of an agreement with the diesel-dependent trucking industry as a way to make up for the extra wear and tear heavy trucks put on the nation's roads.

A growing number of consumers appear willing to accept that extra fuel expense, perhaps inured by the high price of all automotive fuel, said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of Diesel Technology Forum. Sales of diesel vehicles have risen by double digits in 20 of the last 24 months, he said.

Car buyers "are looking at long-term value," Schaeffer said.

Americans have historically shunned diesels. That's because of historically cheap gasoline, compared with other countries, and because the first diesel passenger cars were noisy, smoky, smelly and slow.

"Just recently are we seeing that image begin to change," said Tom Libby, an analyst with automotive research firm R.L. Polk & Co.

A call for 10 more years of carpool lane access for green car buyers


By Ronald D. White, February 8, 2013

Lawmaker wants to extend carpool lane perks  Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield wants to extend carpool lane access to plug-in hybrid, hydrogen and natural gas vehicles.

California Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield says that green car buyers deserve a bigger reward than they are getting for helping to reduce emissions. That's why the San Fernando Valley lawmaker wants to extend an existing perk for 10 more years.

Drivers of electric, natural gas- and hydrogen-powered cars can already ignore occupancy requirements and drive in a carpool lane or pay a toll.

But that benefit will expire in 2015. The Blumenfield bill--AB 266--was introduced this week with the goal of extending the clean car perk until 2025.

Photos: the gas miser gallery

"I live in the San Fernando Valley and that is ground zero in Los Angeles for air quality issues and traffic issues," Blumenfield said in an interview. "From an environmental perspective, it is critical that we continue to do things like this."

AB 266 would be the latest in a series of bills Blumenfield has pushed to encourage the purchase of low- and zero-emissions vehicles.

A bill sponsored by Blumenfield that passed last year and became law in January, for example, helped to make quick-charging devices more affordable for buyers of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

"This has been a passion of mine for a very long time," Blumenfield said, adding that he hoped that the bill, if successful in the Legislature, will encourage more drivers to by electric and plug-in hybrids.

Is another strike looming for the ports of L.A. and Long Beach?


 By Ricardo Lopez, February 8, 2013

 Port strike

Bargaining units for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit rejected a tentative labor agreement this week that had ended an eight-day strike last last year. Above, container ships lie offshore near idled cranes at the port of Los Angeles.

Bargaining units for a clerical workers' union rejected a tentative labor agreement this week that that ended an eight-day strike that shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach late last year.

The tentative contract, announced Dec. 4, intially appeared to be headed toward ratification, but on Wednesday night, voting members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit rejected the tentative contract.

The accord was the culmination of tense negotiations between the clerical workers' union and the Harbor Employers Assn., which represents shipping companies at the ports.

The standoff, which ended shortly before federal mediators were set to intervene, brought the nation's busiest seaport complex to a standstill.

Ten of 14 cargo container terminals were shut down as 10,000 regional members of the ILWU honored the picket line and refused to work.

The 800-member clerical workers' union, which went on strike Nov. 27, voiced frustration about shipping line employers outsourcing jobs, an accusation shipping lines had denied.

Phone calls seeking comment from union officials was not immediately returned Friday.

With the tentative agreement rejected, clerical employees will be working under the terms of their expired contract.

"It’s not clear today what will happen next," said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the Harbor Employers Assn.

In the meantime, operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were continuing as usual.
Wednesday's vote once again creates uncertainty for shipping terminal operators and retailers who were affected by the strike.

 “We are extremely disappointed by this vote and strongly urge the parties to work through their differences without any kind of disruption," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation. "Ratification of a contract is needed to give retailers and other industries that rely on these ports the predictability they need to make long-term plans and get back to growing their businesses and creating jobs."
BHUSD pays law firm $439,000 for three months work

By Steve Hymon, February 8, 2103

pdf, page 10 (Beverly Hills Weekly)

The payments approved by the elected Board of the Beverly Hills Unified School District were to the firm Hill, Farrer and Burrill, LLP, for their work on the district’s lawsuit against Metro. The suit alleges that environmental studies for the Westside Subway Extension did not comply with the law; the Board is trying to prevent tunneling for the project to go under a part of the Beverly Hills High School campus.

Overall, the Board spent nearly $2.58 million on legal and lobbying fees in 2012 to seven different firms. Some of that money, the Board says, went to cover the costs of geotechnical investigations, with payments being made to engineering firms by the law firms. Board of Education President Jake Manaster said that the District may be able to recover its legal fees from Metro should the District prevail in litigation. If the District loses, however, Manaster said Metro could not be made to pay the District’s fees.

SR-710 North Study: what’s on the table and what’s off the table


By Steve Hymon, February 8, 2013

(Please comment on Metro's website at the end of their article.)


I’d like to take a few minutes for an update on the SR-710 North Study, Metro’s effort to improve transportation in the area around the 710 freeway in the San Gabriel Valley. The video above is new from the project team and describes the project.

Original state plans called for completing the 710 from Long Beach to Pasadena. That never happened. As a result, the 710 runs between Long Beach and Alhambra and there’s a very short segment of what was intended to the 710 that extends south of the 210 freeway in Pasadena.

As I’m very sure you’re aware, this is a very contentious issue . While I completely understand and appreciate there are a variety of opinions on what, if anything, needs to be done to improve traffic in the western San Gabriel Valley and beyond, I also believe and hope there are certain facts about Metro’s ongoing study that can be agreed upon:

•A project alternative to widen Avenue 64 was dropped from the study last August, largely because it wouldn’t have improved traffic much according to Metro’s analysis and because of the environmental impacts it would cause to surrounding communities. Reinstating it to the ongoing study would be legally difficult at this stage and, besides, I’m unaware of anyone on Planet Earth who wants it reinstated.

Why was it studied in the first place? Because Metro wanted to review every possible option in order to determine the very best ones for further study. Let’s be honest here. On the one hand, studying a wide spectrum of alternatives gives credibility to Metro’s studies — it’s a way of ensuring the best alternatives are truly the best. On the other hand, it’s also fair to say that Metro’s credibility among some community members took a hit for proposing an alternative that was so unpopular.

•Despite what some people may be saying, Metro has no current plans to take homes, nor does the agency know the precise location of facilities that would go along with some of the alternatives. I can’t emphasize this point enough: Metro is studying a potential project. No decision has yet been made to build anything and nothing has yet been designed.

•There are only five alternatives that will continue to be studied as part of the legally-required Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (DEIR/DEIS) for the project: a no-build option, an alternative to improve traffic signals and intersections in the study area, bus rapid transit between East Los Angeles and Pasadena, two light rail routes between East L.A. and Pasadena (the routes are similar) and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the 710 between where it currently ends at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and between the stub of the 710 that ends between Del Mar and California Boulevards in Pasadena.

Metro recently released an Alternatives Analysis (pdf) that explains why those five alternatives were chosen over the dozens of other options studied. Here’s an earlier post on The Source that includes maps of the project alternatives and here’s the Alternative Analysis’ Executive Summary (pdf).

•Metro staff will be briefing the Metro Board of Directors — the ultimate decision-makers at Metro — on the project’s Alternatives Analysis at the Board’s February meeting. No votes are required by the Board to move the project to its DEIS/R phase.

•The DEIR/DEIS will be followed by a Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement. The entire process is expected to take at least two years. Metro staff will likely make a recommendation on which alternative to build as part of these reports.

•The final decision on what, if anything, gets built will be made by the Metro Board. The Board could choose to build nothing, could choose to build a single alternative or could choose to build a combination of the alternatives.

Appendix X of the Alternatives Analysis (pdf) has the current cost estimates for the alternatives still under study — keep in mind these will be refined as each alternative is better defined. The estimates: traffic system management improvements ($120 million), bus rapid transit alternative 6 ($50 million), light rail alternatives 4a and 4b ($2.425 billion and $2.6 billion) and freeway tunnel alternative 7 ($5.425 billion).

The Measure R sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 allocates $780 million for the SR-710 project. Funding would need to be secured for any costs above that amount.

•Finally, I’ve spoken several times about the project recently with Frank Quon, Executive Officer for Highway Programs at Metro. A phrase he frequently used was “state of the art” — i.e., if Metro builds anything, the agency will build a project that actually improves transportation in the region — and does so using the latest, safest technology designed to minimize any impacts on the community. As he said, it’s not in anyone’s best interest to do anything but the best possible work.

Freight Demand Modeling And Data Improvement Strategic Plan

 (55p. PDF)
Strategic Highway Research Program

Expo 2’s ahead of the curve


Zev's Blog (Zev Yaroslavsky, LA County Supervisor)


 The Northvale Trench in Cheviot Hills, where Expo trains will run along a path blazed by their rail predecessors.

Maps and blueprints are fine, but there’s nothing like getting out into the real world and seeing the future take shape.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to tour the second phase of the Expo Line, which is rapidly taking form along a corridor running from Culver City to Santa Monica.
It was remarkable. New bridges are rising, a once-abandoned railroad right-of-way is coming back to life and the contours of the project are emerging before our eyes.

The thrill of going behind the scenes in the construction zone was kind of like seeing a prenatal sonogram: Expo Phase 2 is still a long way from the delivery room, but this baby’s shaping up beautifully.

When the 6.6 mile stretch is finished in 2015—with a final station just a short walk from the Pacific Ocean—it will complete the light rail line that’s now carrying more than 23,000 passengers a day between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City. It will offer a true alternative to the heavily congested Santa Monica Freeway that it parallels for much of its route.

And it will mark another crowning achievement in what I consider the golden era of public transportation infrastructure development in the Los Angeles region.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky tours the project with Mke Aparicio of the contractor, Skanska.

Think about it: in just the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve built a subway to the San Fernando Valley, forged light rail connections to Pasadena, East Los Angeles and Culver City, and created two legs of the Orange Line rapid transit busway that now runs from North Hollywood to Chatsworth. Workers currently are constructing a new stretch of the Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa, and work should be starting on the Crenshaw Line to LAX in the not-too-distant future. We’re also preparing to extend the subway to the Westwood V.A. and to build a Regional Connector downtown to help tie it all together.

As we’ve grown the system, the whole has proven to be much bigger than the sum of its parts, offering a bustling network of region-wide connections that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

In our notoriously sprawling and supposedly car-dependent region, we’ve shown that Angelenos aren’t wedded to their automobiles and in fact are more than willing to vote with their feet if we can offer alternatives to an increasingly clogged freeway system.

I fully expect them to beat a path to the Expo Line when it’s complete. I’m not just talking about folks who live on the Westside but also the thousands throughout the region who commute there for jobs and recreation.

From what I saw during my tour, it’s clear that this line will offer them more than just a great escape from traffic on the 10. It also will provide a bargain tour of Los Angeles rarely glimpsed through the windshield of a car. It includes a sylvan stretch in Cheviot Hills where the Red Car once ran, panoramic views from bridges and elevated platforms along the route, and a middle-of-the-street trip through the pleasant urbanscape of Colorado Boulevard before it concludes at 4th Street and Colorado, just across from Santa Monica Place and down the street from the Pier.

Construction projects, of course, are highly unpredictable but I’m happy to report that this one, for now, is on time and on budget—maybe even a little ahead of the game.

But we can’t afford to let up.

Funding for Expo Phase 2 and other projects comes from Measure R, the ½-cent sales approved by 68% of county voters in 2008. Disappointingly, efforts to extend the sales tax for another 30 years—making it possible to get moving sooner on an array of transportation projects—failed at the ballot box this past November.

The extension, known as Measure J, lost even though it received 66.11% of the vote because of an anachronistic provision in our state constitution requiring two-thirds voter approval for such measures.

This needs to change.

So as construction teams work to finish Expo, efforts are building in Sacramento to try to move the approval threshold from two-thirds to a still-difficult but more reasonable 55%.

I hope that the state’s voters are ready for the change, and for the improvements in transportation infrastructure it could generate.

Because here in Los Angeles, we’re building a transit system that will benefit our region for generations. And we have no intention of turning this train around now.
Workers build a steel cage that will reinforce a column on Expo's Pico bridge.

Fired Caltrans testing official quits as chair of research committee


By Charles Piller, February 5, 2013


Brian Liebich, who formerly led tests of foundations of freeway structures for the state Department of Transportation, has resigned as chair of the prestigious Transportation Research Board's committee on that topic and no longer participates in its work, according to William Kearney, a spokesman for the National Academy of Sciences, the federal board's parent organization.

Caltrans fired Liebich in 2011 for alleged theft and violations of pay and overtime rules. He has denied the charges and appealed to the State Personnel Board.

State and federal authorities are investigating malfeasance, data falsification and management lapses that occurred at Liebich's former branch during his tenure. The Bee has detailed those problems in an ongoing investigation.

The transportation board became aware of these matters when The Bee inquired about Liebich's chairmanship late last month, Kearney said.

Liebich resigned soon afterward. He could not be reached for comment, and Kearney declined to comment on the reasons for Liebich's resignation.

Senior leaders of the Transportation Research Board named Liebich to the voluntary post in 2010. Kearney said technical knowledge, experience and the recommendations of other experts inform such selections.

The committee identifies research needs and provides ideas and information to transportation experts to help set research priorities. The group also reviews presentations for the board's annual meeting and develops conferences and workshops.

 The Transportation Research Board is an arm of the National Research Council, itself an operating unit of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, the nation's most esteemed scientific societies. Liebich is not a member of either academy.

Explaining Public Transit to the Public

By Brian Aaron, February 8, 2013

  It’s not something you hear often in transit-rich areas, but in cities and towns across the U.S., the specter of the “empty bus” looms large.

Jarrett Walker at Network Blog Human Transit points us to a video from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, in west-central Florida, which has produced a series of educational shorts on how its buses work. The latest episode of “Bus Buzz” addresses the myth of the empty bus. Using video from bus security cameras, a PSTA spokesperson explains how ridership ebbs and flows depending on the route and time of day.

This ingenious public relations campaign would translate well to most any transit system, regardless of size. With so many transit agencies trying to improve service, often while suffering from budget woes, there’s plenty of fodder for this kind of public outreach.

Elsewhere today: The Wash Cycle dissects the arguments in favor of a bill that would make bike helmets mandatory in Maryland; Bike Portland gauges reaction to President Obama’s pick for Interior secretary; and Green Lane Project Blog examines how cyclist stress influences bike maps.

Do Big City Drivers Actually Have It Worse?


By Adam Werbach, February 6, 2103



 Do Big City Drivers Actually Have It Worse?

Few people would choose to spend the equivalent of a week at work stuck in traffic every year, but that's exactly what the average American commuter experiences, according to Texas A&M's annual mobility study. In a review of 2011 traffic patterns, researchers concluded that, "congestion caused urban Americans to travel 5.5 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel." This adds up to 56 billion unnecessary pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by idling commuters.
Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 10.42.38 AM.png
Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 9.42.56 AM.pngThe cost of all of this wasted time (38 hours per commuter each year) and fuel comes out to $121 billion annually. That brings the cost for the average commuter to $818 (see graph to left).

America's most congested city, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, is Washington, D.C., with the average commuter spending a whopping 67 hours stuck in traffic each year. Perhaps not surprisingly, Los Angeles came in second, with commuters averaging 61 hours a year stuck in traffic. San Francisco, Boston and New York round up the top five most-congested cities. On a practical level, in order to be on time in these dense cities, commuters had to allow an hour for a trip that would take just 20 minutes in light traffic.

If there is a silver lining, it's that the average time wasted in traffic has declined since its peak in 2005, when the average Americans spent 43 hours a year stuck in traffic. But in the last two decades, however, total lost work hours have nearly quadrupled. Today's congestion bill of $121 billion dwarfs the GDP of all but 60 of the countries in the world.

One solution to all of this traffic is getting out of your car and taking public transportation, walking or biking to work. Last year, 86.1 percent of the country's workforce drove, 5 percent commuted on public transportation, 2.8 percent walked, 1.7 percent commuted via other means, including bicycling, and 4.3 percent worked from home, avoiding the commute altogether. Another solution is to drive to work in off-peak hours. Traffic congestion tends to increase throughout the week. Avoiding the roads between 8AM and 10AM and between 5PM and 7PM would also smooth traffic throughout the day and cut down on delays.
Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 9.50.06 AM.png
Biking still has a long way to go to become a mainstream commuting option. Only a small percentage of commuters, 0.56 percent of working adults in 2011, bike to work regularly. The city of Davis, California, wins the crown for the highest percentage of bike commuters in the country, with 16.6 percent of commuters taking their two-wheelers to work.

There are no quick solutions to fixing America's traffic woes, but smart investments in infrastructure, public transportation and incentives to bike or walk to work are good places to start. Cities like New York, Portland and San Francisco have rapidly enhanced their bike lane infrastructure in the last five years, which is beginning to result in increased bike commuting. Despite the increase in hours wasted in traffic, the question remains how much time the average American commuter is willing to waste before they're willing to change their commute and get out of their car.

Azusa officials get preview of Gold Line Foothill Extension work


By Melissa Masatani, January 30, 2013

 Azusa mayor Joseph Rocha, left, listens as Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, Chief Executive officer, Habib Balian, center and Foothill Transit Constructors, Segment manager Jim Holmes talks about the station during a tour by the Metro Gold Line Construction Authority at the Northeast corner of Foothill Blvd. and Citrus Ave. Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in Azusa, Calif.
Gallery: Azusa Gold Line Construction
GLENDORA — Officials from the city of Azusa, Foothill Transit Constructors and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension toured the site of the Gold Line's future Citrus Station on Tuesday, getting a preview of what the city can expect as construction begins.

Work has started on segment four, the section of track that will run from the Miller Brewery to Barranca Avenue along the freight line, said Jim Holmes, segment foremanager for Foothill Transit Constructors. Crews have been working out of the community's sight for some time, he said, clearing the brush along the rail path, building drainage and making sure the ground is level.

"Because of the freight that conflicts where the station is, (the stations will) start a little bit later," Holmes said.

Azusa will have two Gold Line stations when service begins, one at Foothill Boulevard and Citrus Avenue adjacent to Citrus College, and one at Alameda next to the city's civic center. Work on the Alameda station will force the full closure of Alameda, Holmes said.

Work on the first grade crossing at Dalton Avenue will begin next month, with a full closure of Dalton beginning Feb. 18.

"For all of these major activities we develop an outreach plan, which is approved by the (Foothill
 Extension) Authority as well as the city of Azusa before we even start," said Dan Kulka, community relations manager for the Foothill Transit Constructors.

Fliers with information about noise impacts and road closures were distributed to community centers around Azusa as well as hand-delivered to residential neighbors, Kulka said. The website, foothillextension.org, allows community members to sign up for email and text alerts about closures and roadwork that affects the public.

There is also a hotline, 626-324-7098, and an office for the community to visit if they have any questions, 1300 W. Optical Drive, Suite 500, in Azusa.

"Our construction has been well received by the community and I think part of the reason is because the Authority has been working for years to pave the way for us," Kulka said. "People know we're coming, they are excited about the train."

Maintaining a good relationship with the neighbors is key for Holmes, the construction foremanager. The workers at the construction site undergo training to avoid spills and mitigate the impact on the environment.

"Students from APU and Citrus said, `build it and we will ride it,' and that's what I hear all over town," said Azusa Mayor Joe Rocha.

10 Apps to Make Your Trip to Los Angeles More Heavenly 

Smartphone Travel App Showcase


February 8, 2013

When the bone-chilling winds howl and the snowfall persists without end in sight, it's easy to begin daydreaming about a holiday to somewhere warmer. Now is a pleasant (and more affordable) time to visit Los Angeles, a city where winter means low 70 degree weather with evenings warmer than my daytime temperatures. But with its massive sprawl and distinctively different neighborhoods, cracking the City of Angels can be tough for a first time visitor. But it's never been easier when loaded up with apps on your smartphone to help you navigate LA's freeway arteries, discover her best eateries, and experience the sights and sounds beyond the typical...

 Getting Around & Accommodations
2013.02.06 - LA App - Go Metro - Hotel Tonight.jpg
Left: Go Metro Los Angeles - Right: Hotel Tonight

Go Metro Los Angeles
Whenever I travel I make it a priority to familiarize myself with local transit so I know how to get around. And you'll definitely want to research Los Angeles transportation before visiting. The Go Metro Los Angeles app has all the information you need to commute like a true Los Angelite. From buses to rail, this app provides everything anyone would need to get from point A to B, including offline maps, bus arrival alerts or the trip planner. Free
Also available for iOS

Hotel Tonight
Sometimes travel plans fall through and you find yourself without accommodations. Or perhaps you've come to LA or any other city on a whim without making plans. If this situation happens to you, Hotel Tonight could come in handy. The app offers last minute hotel room options at affordable rates, with a wide range of accomodations. The easy to navigate interface makes finding a place to stay in dire situations as cool as the breeze off the Pacific. Free
Also available for Android

City Maps & Shopping Guide
2013.02.06 - LA App - Maps 2Go - LA Way.jpg
Left: City Maps 2Go - Right: Los Angeles Way

City Maps 2Go
Offline maps are imperative when traveling. Whether it's LA or another destination, I regularly rely upon Maps 2Go, a downloadable map service that keeps essential navigation at a swipe's reach without worry about data costs. Note: the first one is free, but additional maps are only available upon purchasing the full version. Free
Also available for iOS

Los Angeles Way
Who doesn't want to experience a little of LA and Hollywood's glitz and glamor while visiting the first time? If shopping is on your wishlist, Los Angeles Way can direct you to LA's hottest boutiques and haute couture fashion, providing directions, maps, and transportation information to LA's most desirable shopping districts. Free
Also available for iOS

Tourist Attractions
2013.02.06 - LA App - GuidePal - ArtConcierge.jpg
Left: GuidePal Los Angeles City Guide - Right: ArtConcierge Los Angeles

GuidePal Los Angeles City Guide
GuidePal presents the entire city of Los Angeles in the palm of your hand, an all inclusive knowledgeable app to the city that can tell you the location of Little Tokyo is or the Santa Monica Pier. A detailed search feature, augmented reality, and offline maps can really help in a city where getting from one neighborhood to another can be daunting. It even has a travel itinerary thrown in, for more carefully planned out vacationing. Free
Available for iOS / Android / Windows Phone
ArtConcierge Los Angeles

With the stunning hilltop Getty Museum, MOCA, LACMA, UCLA Hammer, and countless smaller galleries abound in neighborhoods like Culver City and Downtown, there is plenty for the culturally inclined to enjoy while in LA. ArtConcierge has a finger on the pulse of LAs art scene, detailing the latest gallery exhibits, art fairs, and special events happening now. I especially like how easy it is to tag galleries and events so you know when and where you need to be before you even take off. Free

Wine and Dine:
2013.02.06 - LA App - Street Food - Savored.jpg
Left: Los Angeles Street Food - Right: Savored

Los Angeles Street Food
Nothing spoils a vacation than dining at all the wrong tourist traps with disappointing food (which coincidentally can drain your wallet quickly too.) Eat like a true LA native for under $20 with Los Angeles Street Food, an offline app to help direct you to restaurants catering to variety of tastes. This app is perfect for those who want to experience the melting pot that is LA while sticking closely to a budget (another insider tip: direct yourself to Pulitzer Prize winning food writer, Jonathan Gold's Counter Intelligence at the LA Times). $2
Also available for Android

Looking for a fine dining experience while in LA, but don't want to rack up roaming fees while trying to nail a reservation on a busy evening? Savored, in partnership with OpenTable and Zagat, will not only save a table for you at a wide array of five star restaurants, but offers discounts for using their service. Free
Also available for iOS

Nightlife & Travelling Necessities
2013.02.06 - LA App - LA Weekly - Free Wifi Finder.jpg
Left: LA Weekly City App - Right: Free Wifi Finder

LA Weekly City App
When the sun goes down, the atmosphere of any given city can change in the blink of an eye. Don't get lost and disoriented (all too easy while trying to navigate LA's freeways). Discover where the nightlife action is with the LA Weekly City app, a helpful guide listing a comprehensive list of restaurant, concert, and nightlife guide. Read local blogs on the latest news, politics, music, or art and become one with the city that never blinks. Free
Also available for Android
Free Wifi Finder
Staying connected while on a vacation can be an expensive endeavor. While some hotels offer free wireless connection, you don't want to be stuck with a massive phone bill upon returning from a holiday. Free Wifi Finder is an offline wi-fi database to help you find hotspots throughout the city so you can message friends, send pictures, tweet, upload Instagrams, or update Facebook. Free
Also available for Android - Equivalent for Windows Phone


So God Created Transit: A Fitting Response to Dodge Ram’s Super Bowl Ad 
By Tanya Snyder, February 6, 2013
 Hey, so you also shed a tear or two for the Dodge Ram “So God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl commercial before you realized it was about trucks. Because really, what does Dodge have to do with the noble, heart-warming, bittersweet story of farmers anyway? It’s a speech conservative radio personality Paul Harvey gave in 1978, and you can be pretty sure he wasn’t thinking of the two-ton Dodge Ram.

Well, Diana Lind, editor of Next City, also felt manipulated by Dodge’s unabashed attempt to steal some of the honor Harvey bestows on farmers. She objected to the way the commercial “conflated the merits of people with those of cars.”

“Which seems a bit sad for 2013, when in the past six months climate change has reared its ugly head and begged us to change our consumption economy for something a bit more sustainable,” she wrote.
“And the nostalgic imagery — as if we only believe in farmers and soldiers to represent the best of humanity, and as if buying a car is a noble act — started to offend me.

So what did she do? She made her own video. It’s a commercial for transit, and it’s actually about transit, not farmers or fairies or veterinarians or anything else. She apologizes for making it hastily and without a lot of video-making expertise, but I think it’s brilliant. I think the country needs to see it and begin to appreciate their city’s humble transit service.

Now who’s going to make a bike/ped answer to the heartstring-pulling Jeep commercial about soldiers returning from war?

SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting 
From Sylvia Plummer:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

1pm - 3pm

CALTRANS - District 7
100 S. Main Street
Conference Room 1.040A (1st Floor)
Los Angeles, CA   90012
Attached:  Final meeting agenda

The public may attend this meeting.  
It is not clear whether questions from the public will be permitted at this meeting.  
However, at a pervious TAC meeting, the public was permitted to ask a few questions.

Reserve parking by emailing:  captain_rian_gray@dot.ca.gov
--  State you would like to reserve parking
--  Give your name, meeting you are attending, with date and time
--  Captain Gray will email you back with a confirmation

I am trying to arrange a few carpools for this meeting, so if you are interested in attending let me know.  Also give me your address, telephone number and if you want to drive.

Fired Rose Bowl contractor cited in Pasadena's refusal to release secret documents 


By Brenda Gazzar, February 7, 2013

 PASADENA - City officials are citing the threat of potential litigation by a fired general contractor in their refusal to release secret documents concerning an independent review of the troubled Rose Bowl renovation.
But open government advocates say they can't understand why the documents related to Heery International Inc.'s $67,000 preliminary review can't be redacted first and then released.

"It would have been possible to place any City Attorney legal advice or analysis in a separate memo and to redact other privileged information from the full Heery International report before releasing it," Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware, said in an email. "Putting the whole report into an attorney work product classification seems hard to explain other than as a means of frustrating public scrutiny of what the consultant found and concluded."

The preliminary Heery review found, in part, that deficiencies in the original project budget resulted in City Manager Michael Beck, Mayor Bill Bogaard and Rose Bowl Operating Co. General Manager Darryl Dunn claiming the project would cost $152 million when they pitched it to the public in 2010.

Heery found it was actually undervalued by more than $40 million and project team officials should have known the total cost of the renovation would be closer to $200 million, according to RBOC documents.

Assistant City Attorney Theresa E. Fuentes, who represents the Rose Bowl, said the Heery documents deal with matters that can lead to litigation and are protected under attorney-client privilege and work-product protection.

Beck and Bogaard said the intent is to make the documents public once litigation is ruled out. Delmac Construction and Development Inc., a contractor that formerly worked on the renovation's new press box, filed a claim against the city received Jan. 16.

Delmac stated in the claim that it was wrongfully terminated from the project, that its contract was breached and that the RBOC failed to make payment to Delmac for work performed. Both parties are currently in talks in an effort to avoid litigation, Beck said.

The city believes additional renovation costs and time were incurred as a result of the terminated contractor - which is a part of what the Heery report is addressing, Beck said.

The total Delmac contract was for between $3 million and $4 million, Beck said.

Open government advocate Gil Aguirre said RBOC President Victor Gordo appointed the renovation ad-hoc committee, which selected Heery, to conduct a review that had nothing to do with potential litigation.

"The overall review, as Gordo put in his ad-hoc committee report, was in response to concerns they had with way things were run," Aguirre, a San Dimas resident, said. "To come back later and claim it had something to do with litigation, especially something that is so narrow and so specific, is absurd."

In addition, the Delmac claim indicating potential litigation was only filed in January, several months before the review was ordered, he said.

Bogaard said there will come a time when the council will decide to make the secret Heery reports "fully available."

"The report that has been done so far is of limited scope and limited duration," Bogaard said. "It's a work in process that has implications in a number of directions and we're trying to strike a balance."


4 Quirky Ideas to Revolutionize Bike Sharing


By John Metcalfe, February 8, 2013


Every so often, the folks over at Bicycle Design like to stage a conceptual challenge. The last one asked designers to create a bicycle that would motivate a die-hard car person to get out and pedal. (Go figure – the winning idea looked kind of like a car.) Now, the website has put out a call to rethink a bike-sharing project in Asia, and the resulting entries are all sorts of weird and wonderful.

For this contest, Bicycle Design teamed up with Isuda, a pilot bike-share program in Singapore that relies on movable docking stations. Why movable? Because that way, Isuda workers can tow the stations around the city to the places where the most commuters are likely to be, depending on the time of day. The design imperative was to create a new bike that could easily couple with a mobile station, with points given for efficiency, durability, ease of transport and resistance to foul weather. Oh, and they obviously had to be unisex.

I've picked out a few of the more interesting entries, which you can see below listed by descending order of possible real-world production (which is the ultimate goal of the contest). You can see all the entries and vote on your favorite at the Bicycle Design competition page; the designer who reels in the most votes will get a free folding Isuda bike.

This concept from Matthew Boobyer has the best chance of seeing the light of day, in my highly uninformed opinion. Just look at all the features: A station that quickly folds up into a flatbed trailer to hitch onto the back of a truck, a light signal that tells you if bikes are available from a block away, sturdy-looking bikes with storage space for groceries and city maps displayed on the handlebars. The thing that really sold it to me, though, was the "umbrella holder." You gotta have one of those nowadays!

It took me a while to comprehend Vincent Pommel's concept for an animalistic bike share, and even now I'm not sure I understand it all. Basically, it's an e-bike that has a lion for a head and a fish tail for a rear, referencing the mythical "Merlion" that's become Singapore's bizarre mascot. Its seat is raised and lowered by a gas piston, and the onboard electrical system that powers the motor and the lights is charged whenever it's docked at its station. That station is somehow lightweight enough that one person riding a Merlion can hook up to it and drag it through the city, like this:

I'm not sure what mind-altering substances Marcus Burnam was on when he conceived of this barmy bike share, but I want some. Who can't get behind the idea of bike stations floating through the city on stately hot-air balloons? Burnam says the balloons are meant to draw attention to the existence of bike sharing, and explains how the system works this way:
The bikes will be transported between locations by increasing the heat pumped into the balloon so that it may float into the sky with the rack of bikes connected. Once the balloon is at a suitable height a grappling rope can by discharged down to its next docking station using GPS tracking. A member of staff will then connect the grappling rope to the docks winch, so that the balloon can release some of its heat and be slowly drawn down to its next destination.

Once the balloon is docked, customers can come and collect a bike by placing their credit/debit card into the bike and entering their pin code, this will release the locking mechanism on the bike allowing the customer to take it away for a ride.

This idea doesn't seem to have a lot to do about bike sharing, but it's kind of nutty so I'm including it anyway. This concept vehicle swaps out a bike's circular tires for a tread system akin to tanks or snow mobiles. Its creator, Abhimanyu Rajvanshi, says the unconventional "wheels" are meant to help fold the bike and minimize the effect of punctures:
Louie Ayala gets caught in a big fib


February 8, 2013

Speaking of ICE, PUSD Board of Education candidate Luis "ICEman" Ayala has apparently been caught getting his political fib on about not sending his children to public schools. Something that you'd think would be mandatory for anyone running for a seat on a Board of Education that oversees public education in this knotty neck of the woods.

A Tattler reader that is closely following the PUSD Board election, one that we have been illegally proscribed from voting in, reports the following:

Ayala lied in his answers to PEN about why his kids aren’t enrolled in PUSD. He stated that he moved to Linda Vista and wanted to send his children to the public school at Linda Vista but “it closed several months after moving in.” Well, that just isn’t true. He closed escrow 7/23/04, and Linda Vista School was closed in Fall, 2006. It was an abrupt decision by the PUSD board, and therefore he would not have had knowledge (or did he?) that the school was going to close in Fall, 2006.

If fibbing is a major prerequisite for local political establishment support in the PUSD Board of Education election, then ICE Ayala has the perfect resume' for their undying love and affection. I'm certain the Foothill Democrats and ACT have a lot to be proud of here.