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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Editorial: What Is It with Metrolink? 

By Dana Gabbard, February 14, 2013

(I want to be explicit this is solely my own opinion, and in no way endorsed by either Streetsblog or Southern California Transit Advocates - DG)

UGH! You’ve likely seen the news reports that a shakeup has occurred at Metrolink with the Chief Financial Officer resigning in the wake of a scathing review of Metrolink’s financial condition.

To quote Yogi Berra, it is deja-vu all over again. This circle the wagons, fall on your sword, find someone ANYONE to blame EXCEPT the Board of Directors for the latest crisis is a recurring theme with Metrolink, which I have long noted is plagued with an insular culture.

In the late 1990s Metrolink’s first CEO Richard Stanger resigned amid what the LA Times describes as “… an audit criticized agency leaders for the way they handled contracts, billings, employee relations and planning.” Sound familiar? Stanger fell on his sword, things were hushed up as to who really was to blame, the Board ducked any questioning of its falling flat in undertaking its fiduciary duty for oversight and instead of launching a search for a new CEO they handed the job PDQ to Stangers’s #2 David Solow. Yee ho, away we go!

To understand what happened next you need some background on the history of Metrolink (as I and frequent Streetblogs commenter calwatch have noted, these boring structural issues impact how and what government bodies do). It is a joint powers authority whose Board is made up of appointees of the various County Transportation Commissions. Inherent is a conflict in governing since all the members either directly operate or fund transportation in their home areas. This means the Metrolink budget is always under scrutiny (“Hey! Is that funds we could have for our county?”) That led the agency to drop Amtrak as its contract operator in 2004 to save money by hiring Connex. This of course resulted in the horrific 2008 Chatsworth train collision due to slipshod operating procedures (they subsequently re-hired Amtrak).

When spokesperson Denise Tyrrell a day after the incident announced the preliminary findings that the engineer was at fault she was criticized by agency management and in protest resigned. Eventual findings vindicated her and she received a settlement for claims over this poor treatment. CEO Solow (who admitted he had told Tyrrell it was OK to share the findings) was allowed to save face with a consulting position while a search for a new CEO was launched. Again the wagons circled and scrutiny was avoided.

By all accounts the new CEO John Fenton was a breathe of fresh air, shaking up a complacent entity and bringing experience and vigor to the task of re-making Metrolink into an organization more in tune with modern industry practices. When he resigned last year and another experienced rail executive Michael P. DePallo was hired I hoped it meant a competent team was in place and that the sketchy behavior was all in the past.

What a fool I am! Here we are with the Board again playing Claude Rains (“We are shocked! Shocked!) with no hint of what blame they bear for the mess. Some poor lackey falls on their sword and thus onward hooray! hooray!

I’m sorry but I have this bad case of believing in reality. Sort of like how I was beyond bemused at Steve Hymon’s recent kind interpretation that Metro was formed “… to cut the inherent red tape that came with two government agencies trying to operate and/or plan transit and transportation in one county”. Steve wasn’t around when it happened so I don’t blame him for not knowing the bloody details of the reckless childish actions of the governmental elites that resulted in pointless feuding which was finally resolved via a less than ideal solution of squishing the two agencies together into a lopsided monster. And even then the feuding went on (the late Julian Dixon quipped that staff badges in the wake of the merger were designed at a glance to let you know if the person bearing it came from RTD or the Commission).

Why does any of this matter? Folks often in the comments section (here and elsewhere) express a desire for Metrolink to eventually aspire to be a regional transportation network a la Long Island Railroad. Fat chance of that! Just read the “What’s Next” chapter in Metrolink’s 20th Anniversary Report. A few extensions and some double tracking. Vision? Bold leadership? Come on, forgetaboutit! The inherent parochialism of the current Board structure all but guarantees it will not happen in our lifetimes.

Who is the villain? You can’t really point at any person. The blame is the lack of accountability and an agency design that is about priorities other than having a world class railroad (like worrying about the agency being too dominated by Metro). The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. Maybe one small hope is this commentary may help foster a fresh spirit of truth and rededication to safety and what is right.

Or am I again being a fool?

For those wondering how much validity the forgoing has here are comments by Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada President Paul Dyson that appear in today’s Los Angeles Times as a letter to the editor :
This is yet another failure by Metrolink. After 20 years in operation, the best this railroad can do is attract 20,000 round-trip riders per weekday from a population base of about 20 million. It is still not possible to take a train between most of Los Angeles County and Orange County, and there is no attempt even to provide timed transfers between trains.

Now we hear that there is not even a sound bookkeeping system in place to control and disperse the funds to operate the trains and to invest in the future. In addition, Metrolink has raised fares to the point that the cost of many journeys exceeds the cost for gasoline.

The Joint Powers Board model has failed. We need either a state or super-regional authority with the power to coordinate all rail passenger services in Southern California to provide commuters a true alternative to cars.

In Los Angeles, a Different Kind of Political Race


By Bill Boyarsky, February 12, 2103


 POLITICS - Los Angeles is having an election for mayor, a slogging, nuts-and-bolts sort of contest that doesn’t resemble the popular image of this challenging city.

The LA everyone talks about extends from the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood westward to the beaches of Malibu with a significant subcolony in the San Fernando Valley with its studios producing films ranging from features to porn. Fashionable clothes and cars—Mercedes, Audis and of course Priuses—along with incredibly snobbish foodies prevail in this world.

That was not the one I entered on a recent evening in a packed auditorium at Loyola Marymount University, a few miles north of Los Angeles International Airport, for a forum featuring the five main candidates for mayor. LMU students and residents of nearby middle-class communities were interested in the unglamorous concerns that dominate their lives—traffic, municipal debt, local taxes, the police department and whether to expand LAX.

A student who said he had lived in a Skid Row shelter for two years asked about homelessness. Others had their questions: What about water? What about city employee pensions? What about LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s policy of not turning over low-level offenders to federal immigration authorities?

That particular question pointed out the sharp differences between this local election and the rhetoric of national politics. Los Angeles is a strongly Democratic city in one of the bluest states. But what’s more relevant is the multifaceted ethnic population of a city where the residents have roots in about 140 countries.

Latinos comprise LA’s biggest group, followed by whites, African-Americans and Asians. As a result, discussion of immigration in Los Angeles has little resemblance to the debate in Washington or middle America where even giving undocumented immigrants a tortuous path toward citizenship is argued interminably. At least that’s how it seems to this Jew, descended from Eastern Europeans and now living in the Los Angeles neighborhood called Little Persia.

Los Angeles’ polyglot population has produced candidates trying to be as diverse as the city itself.

City Councilman Eric Garcetti is Jewish before Jewish groups and Latino among Hispanics. His father, Gil Garcetti, who used to be the LA County district attorney, is of Mexican and Italian descent. His mother, the former Sukey Roth, is Jewish.

“I always felt myself to be Jewish and Latino very comfortably,” Garcetti said in an interview.

“Weekends were both filled with bowls of menudo and lots of bagels.”

City Controller Wendy Greuel was born Christian but is married to a Jew and their son is being raised as one. She told me, “I believe in the Jewish tradition and religion; the values that the community have are important to me. About giving back, about the good moral values, about being part of a community.” She also speaks frequently of her days working for the late LA Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American who was elected and re-elected by a coalition of blacks and Jews.

City Councilwoman Jan Perry has a unique slant. She is an African-American who has represented a South Los Angeles district consisting mainly of Latino and black residents. But while a student at USC, she converted to Judaism. I asked her why. Perry replied that she was “on the hunt for something big. ‘Why am I here? What is my purpose, my role as a woman, my role in society?’... The big moment for me in being Jewish was to be more community oriented in developing my observances, being part of a community.”

The two other top candidates in the March 5 primary each claim a slice of Los Angeles’ diversity. Kevin James, the only Republican, is an attorney and former conservative talk radio host who is gay and has been an advocate for services for gay and lesbian people for several years.
Emanuel Pleitez was born and raised poor in East Los Angeles Latino communities. He went on to graduate from Stanford University, served on Obama administration transition teams and was an executive for a tech company.

The nature of these candidates has resulted in an absence of divisive social and cultural issues in the election. 

The lack of racial acrimony in the election can be partially attributed to the presence of the current mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who was re-elected in 2009 and must leave office because of term limits.

The mayor has many critics but you don’t hear them publicly spout the veiled racism that characterized too much of the presidential race. Rather, people chide him because he loves the glitter side of LA too much—too many girlfriends, too many celebrity pals and parties.

As the city’s first Mexican-American mayor since early California statehood days, he’s crossed ethnic lines easily and will leave office with a nitty-gritty legacy of new rail and bus transit lines, some built and others—including a subway—yet to be completed.

The projects tend to bring the city together. Having covered the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, I’m always afraid the city could blow up again. But so far it hasn’t. 

Some complain that it’s boring to watch a mayoral campaign focused on matters such as where to put new rail lines and an airport runway. I find it comforting and a welcome relief from the discord of national politics.

 It is recommended that the City Council direct staff to seek collaboration with the neighboring cities in the SR-710 corridor to monitor, comment, and possibly engage in independent studies to ensure the full and accurate assessment of impacts related to the proposed SR-710 project alternative.



Video of Pasadena City Council Meeting 2/11/13

Now on line:

Video of Meeting:  

Scroll down to Council Meetings - 2/11/13  (on left side of page)

Attached is the slide presentation given by Fred Dock


Caltrans Metro TAC Group Meetin: Video by Joe Cano


Published on Feb 14, 2013
Possible violations of the Brown Act? I was asked to stop recording the meeting.
I have some attorney friends looking at this video to see if I have case against Metro, San Marino, & Alhambra reps.

We've Found the Perfect Valentine’s Day Date for Infrastructure Nerds


Sarah Goodyear, February 14, 2013

 We've Found the Perfect Valentine’s Day Date for Infrastructure Nerds

What could be more romantic than a trip to the innards of New York’s digestive system?
Apparently, for several hundred starry-eyed lovers, nothing. For the second year in a row, the New York Department of Environmental Protection is opening its Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant – a fantastic domed structure on the watery border between Brooklyn and Queens – to the public for Valentine’s Day tours. Last year, 220 people took advantage of the chance to glimpse the inner workings of the plant and travel to the 120-foot-high observation deck, which has spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.

This year, the DEP initially scheduled two V-Day tours of the plant, but the response was so enthusiastic they added a third, which quickly sold out (the agency holds regular monthly tours as well; email if you want to sign up).

If Newtown Creek is a poster child for old-school industrial waste, the wastewater treatment plant is a model of a new way of doing business. It has a visitor center with exhibits detailing the complex process of treating sewage in a densely populated city, and in the past has been the site of a performance installation in which “participants uncover the invisible infrastructure of New York City by means of interactive video, sound, and movement."

This could be the only sewage treatment plant in the nation to have its own page on Yelp (five-star reviews!).

The plant first opened in 1967 and has been repeatedly updated since. It is currently in the midst of a $5 billion upgrade that will increase its capacity to 700 million gallons of combined wastewater and stormwater daily. In a city where billions of gallons of pollutants are released into the water during storms in what are known as "combined sewer overflow" events, every drop counts.

The five-stage process used at the plant, which mimics the natural purification process that occurs in wetlands and other waterways,  removes 90 percent of the contaminants from the wastewater generated by some 1 million people in its catchment area. The resulting disinfected and purified water, which meets Clean Water Act standards, is then discharged, while the biosolid left behind undergoes further “digestion” and is used for land reclamation following coal mining and similar projects. Methane produced in the process is piped into the natural gas grid.

The magnificent domed “digester eggs” where all this magic happens, designed by Ennead Architects (Polshek), have won numerous awards and have become an iconic part of the city’s skyline.

When you think about it, a trip to a well-designed sewage plant makes perfect sense for a Valentine’s date. What is true love, after all, if not dealing constructively with all the sometimes unpleasant realities of life -- and making something beautiful of the mess?
Be Part of the Largest Climate Rally in History: LA, Feb 17


By Jack Eidt, February 12, 2013

 CLIMATE LA - Super-storms. Wildfires. Melting glaciers. As the consequences of a heating planet continue to compound, a growing chorus of voices is calling President Obama to action. On Sunday, February 17th, over 100 community organizations from across Southern California plan a “Forward on Climate” march and rally in downtown LA, in solidarity with the thousands converging on Washington DC the same day. 

Planned to be the largest climate change rally in history, an interesting alchemy is forming, bringing people and organizations together. Never before have such a wide array organizations …  environmental, humanitarian, religious, political, labor, civil rights, and educational … come together in Los Angeles to say: “Solve the climate crisis! Take a stand, Mr. President!”

The local grassroots groups from Tar Sands Action, Sierra Club, and Coalition Against Nukes, joined with ten others have enlisted almost 90 more standing in solidarity. Supporting organizations, for example, include local chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility, League of Women Voters, Transition Towns, Idle No More, and Citizens Climate Lobby. Ed Begley Jr. will host the event, with appearances of LA Councilman José Huizar and Elder-Wisdom Keeper Gloria Arellanes from the Tongva Tribe.

The uniting principle is the need for a comprehensive energy policy, focusing on efficiency and conservation, integrated with a clean, renewable energy plan – one that breaks the addiction to dirty and dangerous fuels like Coal, Fracked Natural Gas, Nuclear, and Tar Sands Oil. 

The Keystone XL and Tar Sands: US National Interest?

The first order for climate stabilization required of the President is to stop the 1,700-mile Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

Projected to cross the middle of North America, bisecting eminent-domain-acquired farmland and open range, the Keystone XL would cross rivers and streams and the Ogallala Aquifer, from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Port Arthur Texas.

Construction of the first leg, from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf, is already underway amid protests and tree-sits. Yet the crucial State Department decision of connecting with the Athabasca Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada has been postponed until later this year.
Secretary of State Kerry merely must decide whether the project is in the interest of the United States of America. Easy decision, right?

Mined from open pits and underground wells, the tar sands project proposes destruction of a Florida-sized section of the Boreal. The extraction process requires massive amounts of energy and fresh water, fouling the air and destroying habitats.

Millions of gallons of water used to wash the toxic bitumen are stored in 80 square miles of ponds that seep into the downriver flow toward the Canadian Peace-Athabascan Delta. Poisonings will abound as long as people eat fish, hunt game, and drink water.

The Alberta governmental officials assure us the oil companies will restore the landscape to an even healthier ecosystem…someday. Is this in our National or International Interest?

Tar sands oil is worth nothing unless shipped to the international market through pipelines. Experts predict the pipeline-corroding diluted bitumen sludge would only occasionally leak into the great Ogallala Aquifer, water source for the Midwest and irrigation for a significant share of US wheat, cotton, corn, sorghum, and cattle production. Another similar pipeline blew-out 12 times the first year of operations.

Processed and refined in a tax-free-trade-zone in Texas, it would be shipped to China, India, anywhere willing to pay. Climate scientists posit, from mining to burning, tar sands oil releases from 3.2 to 4.5 times the greenhouse gases of regular Saudi Crude. Is this in our National Interest?
Are 6,500 employment opportunities from a pipeline, most temporary and non-local, worth this destruction?

Stumping for the cause, pipeline builders TransCanada reference billions of dollars would be invested in the US economy to build this project. Really? Where? What if we invested billions into rooftop innovative-film solar, vertical-vortex-wind turbines within existing high-tension transmission lines, and advanced biofuel technologies generated from algae and wastewater treatment? These would be jobs the earth could support.

How about billions invested into intra-state high speed rail, dedicated bus rapid transit lanes, and suburban light-rail projects with associated transit-oriented development at stations? We could reshape our cities for a cleaner and leaner tomorrow…and survive to take a stroll to the park with the kids. Aren’t these options more in our national interest? 

Sustainable Clean Energy Policy – Before it’s Too Late

The February 17th rallies in LA and DC demand President Obama adopt an energy policy that reduces our greenhouse gas output, through energy efficiency, conservation, and integration of clean renewable sources into our daily lives. We must wean ourselves off the fossil fuel addiction, demand smarter sustainable growth of our cities, and provide meaningful alternatives to the automobile. We need to walk, bike, take public transit.

Time to demand organic foods not fertilized with bitumen-derived-miracle-flower-growers. Plastic-petroleum-formed-toxic-leaching food and water containers and their associated cancers are so yesterday. The bison and the Cree People deserve to roam free through their Boreal Forest.
Servicing this addiction is killing us, slowly, sunny skies, another beautiful day, 80 degrees in winter and a swirling desert breeze. It’s nice not to have to wear a coat at least. Yet, I don’t mind the cold if I can snuggle up next to a wood-burning-electricity-generating-food-cooking stove.

RALLY REMINDER: Los Angeles, February 17. Complete info here.
(Jack Eidt is an urban planner and environmental advocate. In addition serving as Editor for the website WilderUtopia.com, he is Director of Wild Heritage Planners, and represents Tar Sands Action Southern California.)

For all information on the event, please go to:  http://j.mp/LARally

New platform decals reinforce the message: let people off the train before boarding the train!


By Steve Hymon, February 13, 2013



IMG_3168[2]As many of you have noticed in the past week, there are new floor graphic decals on the platforms serving the Red and Purple lines at the 7th/Metro Center Station in downtown Los Angeles.
The intention of the decals is to deal with an issue many of you have also raised: exiting rail cars can sometimes be difficult because people trying to board the train stand directly in front of the doors, blocking the exit route. Some riders have said this makes L.A. transit riders look amateurish compared to other cities!
Here’s some information from Stephen Tu in Metro rail operations about the decals — interesting stuff:

•THE PROBLEM: 7th/Metro is our busiest rail station in the system and one with high turnover due to transfer activity between all four rail lines. We currently build 60 extra seconds into the subway schedule just to account for the increased amount of boardings/alightings at this station. As many of us know, simultaneous boarding and alighting is the most inefficient and uncomfortable method for passenger flow.

•THE SOLUTION: Ideally, passengers should exit the train first, then those on the platform may board.  As a result, Rail Operations approached Creative Services on identifying cost-effective solutions to improve passenger flow and reduce dwell times at this station. After Creative Services reviewed floor graphics throughout the transit industry, and met with various internal Metro staff including Operations, Facilities Maintenance, Civil Rights and ADA, this design was chosen as the best fit for our system.  This is a temporary decal that will be evaluated for effectiveness.  We will soon be testing a slightly elongated floor graphic on the outbound track at 7M.

•THE NEXT STEP: If successful, this program will be expanded to other stations with high turnover and with more permanent material.

So there you have it. My understanding is that the testing has gone well with a few occasional problems in which the train doors don’t line up directly with the decals. Your thoughts, readers and riders? Comment please.

Explaining the other half of America Fast Forward: transportation bonds


By Steve Hymon, February 13, 2012


 America Fast Forward Bonds

Metro last year scored a win when Congress adopted part of the America Fast Forward initiative, expanding a federal loan program called TIFIA that offers low-interest, government backed loans.

Metro is now pushing Congress to adopt the other half of AFF, a bond program designed to raise money to accelerate transportation projects and create jobs.

Which might sound familiar. Everyone in Congress is always talking about job creation, including President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Metro believes AFF is a good way of tackling that issue while also dealing with a few others — expanding transit, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring that our infrastructure remains in good working order.

The bond program is a bit complex: it’s taken me a while to get my brain wrapped around it. The above graphic explains it well. In one sentence: those who invest in transportation bonds receive federal tax credits instead of interest, a good way for investors to lower their tax burden and a good way for transportation agencies to save on interest costs.

Another way of thinking about it: the program doesn’t ask the federal government to spend directly on transportation projects. It does, however, ask the feds to forgo some tax revenues.

Metro is hoping to get the bond and loan program enshrined in the next multi-year federal transportation spending bill. The current bill expires in 2014, meaning a new bill will hopefully be approved by Congress within the next year.
The Last Election That L.A. Will Ever Need to Hold — Total Takeover of City Hall by Failed Politicians Looms

February 13, 2013

According to the Daily News, Kevin James “is not merely a vessel for protest against the ways of City Hall but a credible candidate for the office in his own right …he knows L.A. government and has been the most effective communicator on the stage at this year’s long series of mayoral debates.” But no, he’s not good enough.

Jan Perry “has brought to the campaign some much-needed blunt talk and an instinct for improving business conditions. City Hall would be better with more elected officials like her.’’ But no,  she’s not good enough.

Emanuel Pleitez has earned an ardent following with calls to lift underserved L.A. communities.” But no, not now, he’s too young. Not good enough.
Eric Garcetti  is “too nice for the task of running L.A. – too cautious, too easily pushed around, too eager to please,”  so definitely not good enough.

“The same suspicion could have applied to Greuel,” opined the Daily News in its editorial endorsement for mayor, but in a meeting with editorial board, she showed her mettle by “lightly pounding the table to emphasize key points … responded to criticisms with polite ferocity … and left little doubt she is sharp enough” to be mayor.

After, Wendy is a woman and a Val supported by public employee unions and the business interests that feed at taxpayer expense at City Hall – who could ask for anything more?
It’s time for newspaper endorsements in the city election with the Times’ still to come in the mayor’s race.

It promises to be the last election that will ever need to be held in Los Angeles what with the likelihood that failed politicians who pushed the city into fiscal quicksand without a rope and drove California into a fiscal hole it may never escape will hold all three citywide offices and eight City Council seats where they will be joined by five City Hall staffers and two ex-cops.

If L.A. was a publicly traded stock, I would suggest shorting it because it only can get worse as City Hall’s own financial experts have been saying for the last five years.
What I hear all over town from long-time residents is that it’s time to cash out and move on like so many middle class people have been doing for the last 30 years.

Nothing good can come from Greuel/Garcetti, Feuer, Zine, and the 99.44 percent pure oily Wesson
City Council – yet civic, business, labor interests are lined up to persuade you to elect people who don’t give a damn about your values, needs, interests, people whose only virtue is how easy they are to manipulate for the advantage of those who profit at the public’s expense.

And you the voters — unthinking, uninformed, apathetic, indifferent and worst of all almost invisible on city election days – cast your ballots on the basis of name recognition, ads paid for with dirty money, symbolic language that panders to your prejudices.

You deserve the city you got and it you don’t come out of your coma in the next three weeks and reject the politics and politicians who have failed you over and you, then you will suffer the consequences.