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, February 26, 2013

Your ode to L.A.? Let's have it

Justin Chart's love song to Los Angeles has gotten 4 million views on YouTube, but he doesn't have much competition. Here's your chance to do better.


By Steve Lopez, February 26, 2013

 Some people despise Los Angeles. Others have a love-hate relationship. And then there's Justin Chart, 53, who loves his native city with all his aching heart.

Nearly a year ago, Chart took his daughter to the Griffith Observatory, and they enjoyed a
splendiferous day inside the museum. But the real show began when they stepped back outside and into the glorious vapor of the fading day.

"The lights were coming on and I was looking over this panoramic view, thinking, 'My God, this is the most beautiful city I've ever seen,' and I've traveled all over the world."

VIDEOS: Listen to the song and heed Lopez's call

Chart went home to Hancock Park, picked up his guitar and "the chords started coming out."

The chords had no choice. Chart — who says he makes a decent living as a band member, studio musician and composer — was on a mission to capture the pride that swelled in his chest. He wanted to create "the official song" of Los Angeles, he said.

And we really don't have one, do we?

We know you can leave your heart in San Francisco, that Chicago is a toddlin' town, and that New York is a city that never sleeps.

But for all the great songs about Los Angeles, does it have a go-to anthem?
Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." is a contender, and Chart said he's a fan. But he adds that Newman is "kind of spoofing L.A. ... but I'm trying to promote the positive side of this city."

Mission accomplished, I'd say. Two weeks after inspiration struck, Chart had given birth to his tribute song. And he gave it a title appropriate for an anthem.

"Los Angeles the Song."

A twangy, guitar-driven intro gives way to the opening verse.

"We are a winning team. Stars and the silver screen. We come from near and far. To be with the best. We're Los Angeles. Los Angeles."

Grammy-caliber? Perhaps not. You may cheer or you may jeer. But I can guarantee one thing:
Once you hear it, you will not be able to get it out of your head.

Chart recruited some musician pals to help with the recording, then put an ad on Craigslist for a videographer. The video looks like it could have been shot from a tour bus, with the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce director behind the wheel. You get the beach, the mountains, Hollywood, Dodger Stadium, Beverly Hills. Nothing better under the sun.

And now, proud Angelenos, we get to the most amazing part of this story.

Chart's original song, along with a dance version, a Spanish version and a sort of Ricky Ricardo Latin version, have together registered — are you ready for this, Randy Newman? — more than 4 million views on YouTube. And he swears he did nothing to goose those numbers.

A YouTube version of Newman's "I Love L.A.," posted a year earlier than Chart's, has fewer than 50,000 views.

For Chart, who long ago gave up the dream of being a rock star, this is better than a million stunning sunsets, even though he hasn't made a plug nickel for his work. In fact, he's in the hole several thousand dollars for production costs, but he's not complaining. He said he was in a grocery store recently when a woman asked if he was the guy in the video.

"I think people are diggin' it," said Chart. "You gotta read these comments on YouTube. People are saying, 'Oh my gosh, I never realized how beautiful our city was.' "

Well, there isn't much of the underbelly on display, or, as some might argue, the very layers that make Los Angeles chaotically, addictively and gloriously distinct. The Watts Towers, Whittier Boulevard and the intersection of 109th and Broadway make cameos in a couple of Chart's videos, but that's about the extent of it.

Among the videos, my personal favorite is the Latin dance version, in which it looks like Albert Brooks (Chart has curly red locks) has joined a salsa band. And then there's the Spanish version of the original, which is called, "Los Angeles la Cancion." Chart said a friend helped him with his Spanish pronunciation for that number.

"I still sound like a white guy speaking Spanish," said Chart. "But I think I nailed it."

He also thought he'd made the perfect connection to get his song adopted by the city. Chart was dining at Osteria Mozza in Hollywood, and guess who he bumped into? Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"I said, 'I wrote this song for Los Angeles.' And he said, 'You know, we need one. Can you get it to me?' "

Chart, like a lot of us, is still waiting for the mayor to come through.

One of his greatest challenges in writing the songs, said Chart, was finding anything that rhymes with Los Angeles. Arlo Guthrie found a way around that by changing the pronunciation of L.A. In his song, he's "coming into Los Ang–a–leeze, bringing in a couple of keys."
Justin "Top of the" Chart finally stumbled on his own solution: rhyming "trust" with "es," as in: "We all bring our trust, to Los Angeles," as well as the aforementioned "be with the best, in Los Angeles."

If you think you can do better, I hereby invite one and all to give it a try. Come on, it's L.A. There must be a couple hundred thousand unemployed musicians out there at any given time, looking for something to do besides drinking coffee at King's Road Cafe.

Write and record your song, post the video on YouTube and send me a link.

I promise to share the best.

In Los Angel-es.

Los Angel-es.

Charge Your Electric Car in Pasadena

Need to charge your electric car? There are several stations nearby to keep you topped off for your eco-friendly commute. 


 By Jared Morgan, February 25, 2013

There's no doubt Californians love their cars. The Golden State accounts for almost 10 percent of all car sales in the country, The Wall Street Journal reported recently.
If you're in the market for an electric vehicle, you'll certainly have your pick. With its laws incentivizing car manufacturers to go green, California has driven the push for eco-friendly transportation.

Electric vehicles can provide up to three times the power conversion compared to their gas-powered counterparts and boast an engine that operates more quietly and requires less maintenance, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To top it off, buying an eco-friendly car can net you a federal tax credit of up to $7,500.

Though electric cars are more energy-efficient, you can still travel up to three times as far in some internal-combustion vehicles. Another thing to consider is electric car batteries are expensive to replace and can take up to eight hours to charge.

Several car manufacturers offer eco-friendly vehicles, including Chrysler, General Motors, Honda, Ford, Nissan, Tesla and Toyota.

Some manufacturers are establishing their own charging stations hoping to lure potential customers. Tesla has built a network of six solar-powered charging stations from L.A. to San Francisco, according to Car and Driver.

Whether you're looking to buy an electric car or you already own one, Los Angeles County is full of service stations—including several in Pasadena—that will keep you charged for your emissions-free commute. 

Sure, you can charge your car at home, but why do so at your own expense?

Here is a list of local charging stations, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. Stations offer Level 1 (120 volts) and Level 2 (240 volts) charging.
  • City of Pasadena - Schoolhouse Garage
    33 E. Green St.
    Pasadena, CA 91105
    Phone: 626-744-7665
    Electric charging types: Level 1, Level 2
  • Caltech Building 124 - Wilson Parking Structure
    405 S. Wilson Ave.
    Pasadena, CA 91106
    Phone: 888-758-4389 626-395-5989
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • City of Pasadena - De Lacey Garage
    45 De Lacey Ave.
    Pasadena, CA 91105
    Phone: 626-744-7665
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • City of Pasadena - Los Robles Garage
    400 E. Green St.
    Pasadena, CA 91101
    Phone: 626-744-7665
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • City of Pasadena - Holly Street Garage
    150 E. Holly St.
    Pasadena, CA 91103
    Phone: 626-744-7665
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • Alhambra Nissan
    726 E. Main St.
    Alhambra, CA 91801
    Phone: 626-289-6161
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • Caltech Building 66 - Holliston Parking Structure
    370 S Holliston Ave
    Pasadena, CA 91105
    Phone: 888-758-4389 626-395-5989
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • City of Pasadena - Plaza Las Fuentes
    135 N. Los Robles Ave.
    Pasadena, CA 91101
    Phone: 626-744-7665
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • City of Pasadena - El Molino Lot
    100 N. El Molino Ave.
    Pasadena, CA 91101
    Phone: 626-744-7665
    Electric charging types: Level 2
  • Calstart
    48 S. Chester Ave.
    Pasadena, CA 91106
    Phone: 888-998-2546
    Electric charging types: Level 2

Commute Highlight Of the Day: The Legendary London Tube Announcer Who Focuses on the Positive


By John Metcalfe, February 26, 2013


 Commute Highlight Of the Day: The Legendary London Tube Announcer Who Focuses on the Positive



When was the last time a public-transit employee wished you "nice positive vibrations" and a day with everything "crisp to the maximum"? It could've been just hours ago if you travel through London's Victoria station, thanks to the ultra-chillaxed P.A. announcements of Rasta subway announcer Carl Downer.

If ever there was a man born with a surname that's polar opposite of his personality, it's Carl Downer. Since joining the London Underground about six years ago, the Jamaica-born Downer's waged a verbal campaign to wipe the sad, tired frowns off the faces of weary London commuters. That means wishing people a "very special good afternoon" when their train pulls into the station, telling the departing train operator to "drop it like it's hot" and, always, stressing the importance of those "vibrations – yeah mon!" His nonstop fountain of cheer has earned him celebrity with the captive audience of the Tube and beyond, with videos of his performance flying around the Internet and a Facebook fan page devoted to the "Legendary Rasta London Underground Announcer." That page praises Downer as the "first line of defense of tube rage – GAWWWD BLESS HIM!"

Recently, Vice tracked down this dude to ask him why he doesn't just read off the announcements in a soulless monotone like most other subway workers. The full interview is worth a read, but here's the nut of it:
Have you always been speaking at the platform like this?

Yeah, I try my best, know what I mean? If I can make someone's day better, I do that. We make each other's day a better day. You smile, I smile, the whole world smile, you know? That's the way you have to do it, man. I feel happy when people smile because of me. You know why? With the economy nowadays, you don't know what people are going through, and if they can take their mind off all the things going on in their personal life, in their job life, that one moment of happiness can make a big difference. I like to see people happy, man – seriously.

Do you feel it's your duty to cheer people up at the end of the day?

Absolutely. Absolutely, man. Just say, y'know, “This is not it in life, there is more to life than this.” You have to enjoy life. You live life, you enjoy life to the maximum. You have one life to live and you've got to live and live it up – you can't let nothing become an obstacle in your way. No one can be happy for you, so you have a right to be happy. It's a God-given right. Yes, Rasta.

 And here's Downer spreading his message of peace and love from within the dark heart of Babylon:

California High-Speed Rail Construction To Start This Summer 


By Timm Herdt, February 26, 2013


 California High Speed Rail

 California high speed rail construction is expected to start this summer.

SACRAMENTO -- The state's High-Speed Rail Authority has nearly doubled the size of its staff in the past six months and expects the first phase of construction to be "under contract and under way this summer," the agency's CEO told lawmakers Monday.

CEO Jeff Morales testified before the Assembly Transportation Committee in what its chairwoman called "the next chapter of legislative oversight" after debates last summer that culminated in the decision to appropriate the first $8 billion for what would be the nation's first high-speed rail system.

"Getting to that point was no easy feat," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.
"That vote was a turning point. Until then, it was appropriate to debate the merits of the project. Now it's time to move forward without regrets."

Despite that admonition from the committee chairwoman, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, challenged Morales about what he suggested were overstated claims about the number of jobs the project will create, the lack of private investment and the wisdom of proceeding when the prospect of additional federal funding appears dim.

"Why are we not giving the voters an opportunity to review this again?" he said.

Before Morales could respond, Lowenthal intervened. "The Legislature did take a stand," she said.

Morales said last year's legislation, which targeted $1.1 billion for rail improvements in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, represented "a very significant shift in approach to the program. What was being designed as a stand-alone system almost moved to a statewide rail modernization program."

The planned improvements in the urban rail systems, which will include the electrification of tracks used by Amtrak's CalTrain in the Bay Area, will provide near-term benefits to commuters and ultimately allow high-speed rail to be "incorporated into the state's transportation network," he said.

In the meantime, the first phase of construction of high-speed rail will take place along a 114-mile corridor in the Central Valley, far from either of the state's major population centers, in a stretch that runs roughly from Fresno to Bakersfield.

The project to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco with a rail system that would feature 200 mph trains and complete the journey in less than three hours is projected to cost $68 billion.

The initial money comes from $3.5 billion in federal funds that was targeted to be spent in the economically depressed Central Valley and the first installment of a $10 billion high-speed rail bond approved by voters in 2008. There are no other identified sources of funding.

Acknowledging the uncertainty of future funding, Morales said the agency will not start work on any segment until it has the money to complete it and will ensure that each segment has what he called "independent value."

The initial segment, for instance, could if necessary be used to improve traditional rail service in the Central Valley along what he said is among the most heavily used Amtrak corridors in the nation.
Morales said he hopes the project will attract private sector investment, which he said experience from other countries shows typically follows an initial public investment, at a time when trains are about to begin operating.

He said discussions with private investors are ongoing and that the agency expects to issue a formal request for expressions of interest this year.

"They are ready to step in at the appropriate time," he said of private investors.

The agency has hired 55 employees since lawmakers approved Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to move forward with the project in July, including a chief program manager who was recruited from a top position with Amtrak.

Morales said the High-Speed Rail Authority will contract with CalTrans and other state agencies to provide a variety of services, including the relocation of a segment of Highway 99 that will be needed to accommodate the first phase of the system.

"Our job is to build the program, not build up a state agency," he said.

Two Senate committees are scheduled to conduct an oversight hearing today that will include an examination of how the agency has responded to recommendations in an audit of its operations conducted by the State Auditor's Office. ___
You Can’t Fix Traffic. You Are Traffic. 


By Damien Newton, February 26, 2013

(Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times printed an editorial in their online opinion page by editorial writer Carla Hall. The editorial called out the City Council Candidates in CD 11 for not addressing car drivers’ concerns at a Streetsblog Forum and suggested some ways to “improve” traffic on the Westside. Since we were mentioned, we thought we would respond.)

Dear Carla,
This empty field might hold the answer to congestion problems for tens of thousands of Angelenos, but probably not Carla Hall

I read your piece in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times urging the Westside City Council candidates to come up with solutions to fix traffic. You cite the difficulties of living in Brentwood and working downtown and how awful it is to sit in traffic. You don’t seem to think that transit or bicycling is a good way to relieve traffic, mostly because it wouldn’t work for you.
I have some bad news for you.

There isn’t anything that anyone can do to make your commute any better. Double-decking the 405, an idea that Governor Schwarzenegger floated a couple of times, would be a disaster. You think construction impacts from adding a measly HOV lane are bad? What do you think double-decking would be like. Think Carmageddon for a month at a time.

The Pico-Olympic Plan was so unpopular that none of the Council Members that represent an impacted area (Rosendahl, Koretz, Wesson) think its a good idea. It’s such a bad idea it might have cost Jack Weiss a job as City Attorney. Many in his City Council district turned on him after his support for turning to already difficult streets into mini-freeways. Oh, and

Study after study shows that the best ways to support business is to increase access. Taking away parking, without adding improved connections for non-car shoppers, is doing just the opposite.
I don’t think I can say anything about a proposal to add hundreds of cars to a campus that caters to disabled veterans without getting insulting.

You have children. One day they might read this website. I shouldn’t be insulting.

So let’s focus on what we agree on.

The city hasn’t done a great job helping bicyclists and car drivers co-exist. Proper facilities, enforcement and training would help. That’s what our forum was supposed to be about. There weren’t a lot of new ideas on that front. One of the biggest ideas was about creating more bike corrals, where a car parking space is turned into 8-12 bike parking spaces. A good idea of integrating bicyclists into the existing car-centric network, but not really what you’re talking about.

I also agree that Los Angeles has to work with Culver City, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica on traffic solutions. That’s not always as easy said as done. Beverly Hills is fighting the current route for the Westside Subway. Santa Monica and Beverly Hills wanted nothing to do with the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes. Things seem a little easier with Culver City, for now.

But to your specific problem, living in Brentwood and commuting via car Downtown there are really only three solutions: move, get a new job, or get over it. That commute is a result of decisions you made and are making. Thanks to a wife that makes quite a bit more than I do, we could live in Brentwood if we wanted to, but we live in Mar Vista. Why? Because the Expo Line and Bike Path are coming. Brentwood may have a legendary private school system and some of the nicest real estate in L.A., but Mar Vista will have much better bike and transit options.

It’s all part of the decisions we make. It’s the governments job to make it possible for you to live where you want and can afford and work where you want and can get a job. It’s not their job to make it as easy and smooth as possible. Your commute is part of the price you pay to live in Brentwood and work Downtown.

And if you think there are too many cars on the street, remember that you are in one of them. You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

On the agenda: Placido to swear in as Alhambra's next mayor


 By Alred Dicioco, February 25, 2013




Alhambra City Council will hold a reorganization ceremony Monday evening at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Councilman Dr. Steven Placido will take Councilwoman Barbara Messina's position as mayor of Alhambra, while Councilman Stephen Sham will replace Placido as vice mayor.

According to the Alhambra City Charter, council members must rotate key city positions every nine months. Placido will also serve as head of Public Affairs and Sham as head of the Department of Finance. Councilman Gary Yamauchi will head the Department of Public Works, Councilman Luis Ayala the Department of Public Safety, and Messina the Department of Supplies. 

Reorganization will take place again on November 25, 2013.

City Council meets every second and fourth Monday of the month.

The Case for a Higher Gasoline Tax


By Valerie J. Karplus, February 21, 2013




THE average price of gasoline in the United States, $3.78 on Thursday, has been steadily climbing for more than a month and is approaching the three previous post-recession peaks, in May 2011 and in April and September of last year.

But if our goal is to get Americans to drive less and use more fuel-efficient vehicles, and to reduce air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases, gas prices need to be even higher. The current federal gasoline tax, 18.4 cents a gallon, has been essentially stable since 1993; in inflation-adjusted terms, it’s fallen by 40 percent since then.

Politicians of both parties understandably fear that raising the gas tax would enrage voters. It certainly wouldn’t make lives easier for struggling families. But the gasoline tax is a tool of energy and transportation policy, not social policy, like the minimum wage.

Instead of penalizing gasoline use, however, the Obama administration chose a familiar and politically easier path: raising fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. The White House said last year that the gas savings would be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by $1 a gallon by 2025. But it will have no effect on the 230 million passenger vehicles now on the road.
Greater efficiency packs less of a psychological punch because consumers pay more only when they buy a new car. In contrast, motorists are reminded regularly of the price at the pump. But the new fuel-efficiency standards are far less efficient than raising gasoline prices.

In a paper published online this week in the journal Energy Economics, I and other scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that the new standards will cost the economy on the whole — for the same reduction in gas use — at least six times more than a federal gas tax of roughly 45 cents per dollar of gasoline. That is because a gas tax provides immediate, direct incentives for drivers to reduce gasoline use, while the efficiency standards must squeeze the reduction out of new vehicles only. The new standards also encourage more driving, not less.

Other industrialized democracies have accepted much higher gas taxes as a price for roads and bridges and now depend on the revenue. In fact, Germany’s gas tax is 18 times higher than the United States’ (and seven times more if the average state gas tax is included). The federal gasoline tax contributed about $25 billion in revenues in 2009.

Raising the tax has generally succeeded only when it was sold as a way to lower the deficit or improve infrastructure or both. A 1-cent federal gasoline tax was created in 1932, during the Depression. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan raised the tax to 9 cents from 4 cents, calling it a “user fee” to finance transportation improvements. The tax rose again, to 14.1 cents in 1990, and to 18.4 cents in 1993, as part of deficit-reduction deals under President George Bush and President Bill Clinton.

A higher gas tax would help fix crumbling highways while also generating money that could help offset the impact on low- and middle-income families. Increasing the tax, as part of a bipartisan budget deal, with a clear explanation to the public of its role in lowering oil imports and improving our air and highways, could be among the most important energy decisions we make.

Changing Neighborhoods: Tradition, Transition, and Gentrification in L.A.


February 26, 2013


Mercer 4651

 Karen Mack, Amy Inouye and Nicole Gatto in Highland Park at the starting point of the Trekking LA tour. Chickenboy, a Highland Park landmark, stands atop Future Studio Gallery.


Thursday, February 28, 7:00 - 8:30pm
RSVP for this event
Silver Lake, Venice, Boyle Heights: these L.A. neighborhoods have seen dramatic changes over the last 20 years.  And today, Highland Park in Northeast Los Angeles joins those areas as changes in local businesses, services, and demographics impact aspects of its community identity. As our region’s landscape, population and economy develop, will other Southland neighborhoods experience similar transition?

On Thursday, February 28th, the Crawford Family Forum takes this conversation to Highland Park’s Aldama Elementary School. Our panel of experts, featuring specialists in urban planning, fair housing, and community stories, will examine local transformations happening now and compare them to the larger history of Southern California.  We’ll invite you to lend your voice to the discussion as we explore the many changes affecting L.A.’s neighborhoods.

Oliver Wang - CSU Long Beach Associate Professor of Sociology

Christopher Hawthorne - Los Angeles Times Architecture critic
Channa Grace - WORKS (Women Organizing Resources Knowledge Services ) president
Jan Lin - Occidental College Professor of Sociology; Advisory Committee for Urban and Environmental Policy

6:30pm - Doors Open
7:00pm - Program
Admission is FREE, but RSVPs are required.

When you hear the word "gentrification," what comes to mind? Tell KPCC reporters by responding to this query!

Europe's Emerging Consensus on Low-Emissions Zones


By Feargus O'Sullivan, February 26, 2013

 Europe's Emerging Consensus on Low-Emissions Zones

Visible haze caused by air pollution can be seen in central London in this 2010 file photo.


This month, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced what could rank as the most ambitious anti-pollution plans any major city has yet seen. By 2020, central London will become an ultra-low emissions zone, Johnson hopes, an area where only zero or low emissions vehicles are permitted during working hours. With gas guzzlers, diesel trucks and London’s current geriatric taxi fleet all banned from central streets, citizens and goods will circulate solely via electric and hybrid vehicles. Six hundred hybrid buses, the first installment of the plan, are due to enter service in 2016, putting London on the path to becoming one of the most proactively green cities in the world.

So proactive are the plans, in fact, that the mayor’s opponents smell a rat, or rather a buck-passing “wish list” as opposed to a real statement of intent. Greens in the London Assembly have noted tartly that London’s publicity stunt-loving Mayor has placed the plan’s delivery date safely beyond his own term. The scheme is nonetheless the highest tidemark yet for a growing Europe-wide wave of plans to slash center city car use. Across the continent, city after city is pushing through new legislation designed to flush non-hybrid vehicles out of town.

Paris is one of the cities riding this wave. Since 2010, it has hugely increased its bus and bike lanes and introduced an electric car sharing scheme. Now Mayor Bertrand Delanoe plans to ban cars made before 1995 from within the greater Paris beltway, levy tolls on trucks crossing the city and cut the speed limit on the Périphérique ring road that brackets inner Paris. Elsewhere, Milan also introduced a congestion charge area last winter, while Sweden’s second city of Gothenburg launched its own toll-controlled zone this January. Meanwhile, Rome banned heavily polluting vehicles from the city in November, and cut cold weather emissions by insisting that most non-residential buildings keep their winter heat and power use to a strict 12 hour slot. Joining existing congestion charge zones in London, Stockholm, and Riga, these new restrictions reflect a growing European consensus – if we want to keep city air clean, simply providing good public transport and hoping cars will go away is not enough.

The consensus is right, of course. American transit enthusiasts may look wistfully at European cities’
high levels of public transport use, but the truth is that many of Europe’s urban areas still have potentially deadly levels of air pollution. Up to 9 percent of London deaths are linked to man-made airborne particles, while in France as a whole, 42,000 early deaths annually may be brought on by particulate inhalation.  It’s admittedly unfair to blame all these deaths on city car use. In London, for example, 40 percent of nitrogen dioxide and at least 60 percent of particulates in the air originate outside the city and blow in on the wind, while figures in France show that the country’s industry releases more particulates into the air than road traffic.  When pollutant levels in city districts exceed agreed European Union levels, however, it’s invariably local road traffic that’s pushing them over.

Despite Europe’s new wave of stridency in this area, it seems that plans currently in place still aren’t doing enough. London’s air quality remains poor in cold or hot weather despite its ten years of congestion charging, which may soon be extended to many hybrids because they still emit too much carbon dioxide. With London’s ultra-low emissions zone plans, it’s now at least clear that mainstream institutions, and not just green groups, are thinking hard about where to look next.

At Last: All Of Los Angeles Transportation History Explained In Interactive Timeline & Interactive Organization Chart


By Metro Digital Resources Librarian, February 25, 2013

 Go to the website for the Metro Library's new interactive timeline for Los Angeles transit history.

We are proud to present two new historical resources for public consumption:  a comprehensive, interactive timeline for Los Angeles transportation agencies dating back to 1874 along with an organizational flow chart explaining their relationship to one another.

These two new resources which will help everyone understand our complex and often confusing legacy of over 220 transit agencies during the last 140 years.
We previously featured a flowchart on our webpages which contained links to various photo collections on our Flickr photo site.
Last summer, intern Kelly Minta began revamping these resources using new, robust social media tools to convey this complex information more clearly while continuing her work on other projects.
Kelly explains that:
The most interesting part of researching the timeline was discovering how intrinsic transit was to Los Angeles History.
For example, the Los Angeles and Aliso Street Railroad Company (1877- 1899) added a second line because baseball was becoming a popular American pastime and fans needed ways to get to games in Los Angeles.
It’s really interesting to look at who the prominent figures were in creating some of these lines.  Judge Robert M. Widney, who was also a founder of USC, owned the Spring and West 6th Street Railroad and founded the East Los Angeles and Pedro Railway Company. Henry Huntington owned the Pacific Electric Railway.
Because rail transit is publicly owned in Los Angeles today, it’s also interesting to think of a time when powerful businessmen or civic leaders would have owned urban rail lines.
Because rail lines were owned by many different private companies, passengers would often have to transfer and buy new tickets on one rail line that ran different rail company cars on its tracks, in order to complete a trip.
Overall, I think that what the timeline does is illustrate the response of transit to what was going on at that point in history.
As automobiles became more prevalent, funding was being directed towards building roads and freeway infrastructure and we see the rise of the bus as a means of public transit.
Now that roads are congested, we see more funding for alternate means of transit like subways, light rail, and even dedicated bike lanes.
We have deployed Tiki-Toki timeline software and PeoplePlotr organization chart software to help explain the rich legacy of transit and transportation in Southern California as Metro continues to plan, construct and operate a growing network of multi-modal projects across Los Angeles County.
After more than six months, these tools are available for everyone to use, share and enjoy.
Go to the website for the  Metro Library's new interactive "family tree" for Los Angeles transit history.
The finished product is so good that Tiki-Toki selected our History of Transit in Los Angeles to feature on their blog as their inaugural “Timeline of the Month.”  This is quite an honor, considering they had 100,000 timelines to choose from!
The abundance of free, flexible online software and social media tools are a boon for government agencies looking to communicate complex processes.
Over the past few years, we have dug into our archives to tell some of the less-known but fascinating stories from our past.
Digitizing our assets and disseminating them through new tools and technology ensures that there are many more to come.

Timeline of the month: History of Transit in Los Angeles

 By Tasha G, February 11, 2013

This month we've got a real treat for all the transport buffs out there: our timeline of the month is the Metro Transportation Library and Archive's History of Transit in Los Angeles.

The topic may be a bit surprising. After all, the car and Los Angeles go hand-in-hand, right? Well, it seems that this wasn't always the case. This timeline details the very rich and complex history of public transit in LA, starting off with trains in the 1870s right up to the modern bus and metro system. And if you're interested in finding out a bit more about the very complicated development and relationships of LA's transit agencies, you can check out this graph on our sister software.

In addition to the fascinating content, the timeline itself is very nicely constructed. The background image and other original images really tie it together and add depth.

That's it for this month! If you know of or have a timeline you think is feature-worthy, get in touch with us at blog@tiki-toki.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy exploring the timeline!

The Expo Line’s Greatest Threat: The Disconnect Between Transportation and Land Use Planning 


By Ken Alpern, February 26, 2013 


 GETTING THERE FROM HERE - One of the primary reasons I strongly support Mike Bonin for the next CD11 Councilmember is because of his familiarity with the complex issues surrounding transportation and planning for the Expo Line, for getting a MetroRail connection to LAX, and for creating a Westside Transportation/Land Use Plan. 

Unfortunately, those who plan the design, funding and construction of major transportation projects (the 405 freeway widening, the Expo Line, etc.) are often a very different group of individuals than those who plan the land use adjacent to these projects.
Which leads to an equally-unfortunate outcome:  modern-day land use planners, particularly those who enshroud themselves with a “New Urbanism” philosophy (which is almost theologic in its fervency), are increasingly creating problems through overdensification faster than transportation planners can solve them.
Transportation planners, by and large, tend to be pragmatic, left-brained and apolitical.  Land use planners used to be of that genre, but over the last two decades have become increasingly dominated by wishful thinkers and developer-enabling individuals compared to the more objective intentions of their transportation counterparts.
The Expo Line is the latest example of a major transportation project that was planned, lobbied and funded by grassroots and transportation planners in order to catch up, or allow a new alternative, to worsening car traffic (in this case, the I-10 freeway)…but which is being undermined by overzealous land use planners.
In particular, the greatest threats from overdensification exist at the future Expo Line stations at Exposition/Sepulveda, Bundy/Olympic and Bergamot Station.
Friends4Expo Transit and Metro planners worked together to delineate this new light rail line, which closely parallels the I-10 freeway and—despite its being classified as a MetroRail route—therefore has features of a Commuter Rail line and is as close to a Metrolink extension (SoCal’s version of Commuter Rail) as the Westside will ever get.
Commuter Rail as in park-and-ride with the greater-than-normal focus of linking between automobile and train commuting, and on traveling farther distances than most light rail commutes—and hence the concept of the Expo Line as an alternative to the car (instead of just a faster alternative to a bus) to Downtown.
Hence also the vital linkage of a Downtown Light Rail Connector to the Pasadena Gold Line (which is another MetroRail line, paralleling the I-710 freeway, with features of Metrolink) and Eastside Gold Line (paralleling the I-10 freeway as well and which is an Eastside MetroRail line that has features of Metrolink).
The first phase of the Expo Line had its problems, —such as underperforming contractors and cost overruns, and legal obstacles posed by entities who either wanted to kill the line altogether, or who refused (and still refuse!) to consider rail bridges as the cost-effective alternative to tunneling at major street intersections.

But the problems have been overcome, with the infamous “frog” at the Expo/Blue Line junction repaired with minimal inconvenience to riders and to the satisfaction of the California Public Utilities Commission.  The Culver City station parking lot is being paved for the benefit of a ridership that is already well above projections.

Furthermore, Sepulveda Blvd., Centinela Blvd. and other major rail bridges will be constructed rapidly over the course of the next year, and with utility relocations being expedited, thanks to a new group of contractors for Phase 2 of the line that are as cost-effective and innovative as anyone could hope for.

But the greatest threat to the Expo Line—and to creating taxpayer support for a light rail system to serve the Westside—are enabling LA City and other planners who do not limit-set with developers who are more interested in profits than creating appropriate transit-oriented developments.

The most aggressive and problematic developers are, as I’ve opined at length, the Casden developers who are building a car-oriented, and not a transit-oriented, project at Exposition/Sepulveda which is an excellent location (and zoned!) for a commercial/industrial jobs center, but a poor location for a megadense housing project.

The future Exposition/Sepulveda station is virtually under the 405 freeway, and the City of Los Angeles will incur significant liability for the health consequences of children and seniors breathing freeway fumes and debris.  Furthermore, the size of the Casden Sepulveda project is such that its projected traffic will significantly obstruct commuters from accessing the Expo Line at that station.

Yet the LA City Planning Commission meets on this project this Thursday, 2/28/2013 at 8:30 am at the Valley City Hall because there is no Westside City Hall, and impacted Westsiders and other rail/planning advocates will have to give up part or all of a day of work to attend.

This same LA City Planning Commission has opted to approve a new, altered project that the Casden Sepulveda developers proposed, but without allowing the public to view this new project—and despite its acknowledgement that it will have significant traffic and other negative impacts compared to a project built to zoning code.

The same Casden developers have donated $50,000 towards the ill-advised and poorly-timed Proposition A Citywide half-cent sales tax measure, and have tried to do a lobbying/fiscal end-run against Westside Councilmembers Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz (both of whom vigorously oppose the current Casden Sepulveda project).

But taxpayers can fight back, and Expo Line advocates and neighborhood advocates can fight back for densification that is appropriate and environmentally-sustainable.  CD11 Councilmember-candidate Mike Bonin (currently Rosendahl’s chief of staff) favors (as does Koretz) a New Media jobs center at Exposition/Sepulveda.

As with a Westside Transportation Center that could be built at Exposition/Sepulveda, a New Media type of complex could provide jobs and be built without having to create contrived new zoning codes at this site.

So the grassroots and pro-light rail politicians must again fight for the Expo Line this Thursday at 8:30 am in the Valley—not for the existence of the Expo Line, but to prevent its despoilment and exploitation by inappropriate and dismissive developers…

…and to prevents despoilment and exploitation of the Expo Line by enabling land use planners obsessed with ideas that transportation planners, knowledgeable politicians such as Mike Bonin, Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz, and the taxpayers know to all be patently false.

CEQA Reform World Turned Upside Down by Rubio Resignation


By Bill Fulton, February 26, 2013


The CEQA reform landscape – which looked pretty robust all winter – was turned upside down on Friday.

First, state Sen. Michael Rubio – chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality and the leading advocate for strong CEQA reform in the legislature – abruptly resigned to take a government relations job with Chevron. Then, a few hours later, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg introduced a placeholder CEQA reform bill that hinted at less-than-sweeping reform. However, the bill does call for statewide significance thresholds for land use impacts – a potentially significant shift.

Without a CEQA champion in the Legislature, it seems likely that some CEQA reform will be passed this year. Instead, it is likely to nibble around the edges of CEQA processes – an approach that critics sometimes say creates a more complicated law, not a simpler one. Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday he was counting on Rubio to carry the ball on CEQA reform this year and was disappointed that he was resigning.

The bill, SB 731,  does contain language that supports an annual $30 million in funding to the Strategic Growth Council in order to continue the local planning grant program currently funded by Proposition 84 funds.

Steinberg acknowledged that SB 731 is a placeholder. Currently, the bill is barely one page long and contains very general “intent” language. The bill currently calls for statewide significance thresholds on noise, aesthetics, parking, and traffic levels of service as well as land use impacts. The bill also calls for a variety of procedural changes, including limiting “late hits” and “document dumps,” defining “new information” more specifically, and directing trial judges to focus only on inadequate portions of environmental documents rather than remanding the entire document for review.

Considered an up-and-coming star among conservative Democrats, the 35-year-old Rubio served on the Kern County Board of Supervisors before he was elected to the Senate in 2010. Last August, he made headlines by proposing major CEQA reforms late in the legislative session. . Within 24 hours he held a press conference with Steinberg backing off the reforms and promising to reintroduce legislation in 2013. He was expected to lead the charge for CEQA reforms this year.

He said he resigned because the legislative position leaves him with little time to spend with his young family. The Chevron job certainly pays many times his $95,000-a-year legislative salary. It is unclear whether his ability -- or lack thereof -- to move CEQA and other reforms through the legislature was also a factor.

CEQA future tied to Oakland's experience


By Joe Garofoli, February 26, 2013

 The 665-unit Uptown Apartments in Oakland represented a key component in Jerry Brown's vision for attracting residents to the center city. Photo: John Diaz

The 665-unit Uptown Apartments in Oakland represented a key component in Jerry Brown's vision for attracting residents to the center city.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to loosen requirements on the state's 43-year-old landmark environmental law and is willing to stare down his core backers in labor and environmental circles, in large part because of what he learned as mayor of Oakland more than a decade ago.

In 2001, frustrated with the pace of his plan to revive downtown Oakland by creating housing for 10,000 residents there, Brown won passage of a state law that would exempt certain parts of the city's downtown from the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA. Brown believed that the law, which requires public agencies to examine the impact of development projects on the environment, had been commandeered by NIMBYs and others who wanted to slow, if not stop, all development.

A decade later, Brown's plan has worked in many parts of downtown Oakland. But some officials wonder how much of the area's renaissance had to do with getting exemptions to the law.

Changing the state's environmental law is center stage in Sacramento, with state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, introducing two new CEQA reform bills Monday. On Friday, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, introduced the framework of a reform that he backs, including some provisions that worry labor and environmentalists, who fear they could lead to broad exemptions for projects.

On Monday, Brown touted the state's certification of the billion-dollar McCoy Solar Project facility in Riverside County for fast-track CEQA approval under the terms of a 2011 law he signed that would expedite the legal and judicial process for certain large-scale projects.

Position evolves

But some analysts and observers say they are trying to predict how radically Brown will change the environmental law. His positions on the environmental law have evolved during a political career that is slightly older than the law itself.

Brown was the infant law's fierce defender during his first stint as governor from 1975 to 1983. He sought exemptions to it as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007 and enforced it vigorously to enact climate change protections as state attorney general from 2007 to 2011.

In his third term as governor, the 74-year-old former seminarian calls reforming CEQA "the Lord's work."

Location matters

One analyst said it almost seems that Brown wishes there were two versions of the law. A looser version for urban development and a stricter one to curb suburban sprawl or green-field development - planned communities on undeveloped land.

"When CEQA was passed, a lot of people thought any development was bad. Now, many of those same people - including Jerry Brown - think, 'Oh, there's good development and there's bad development,' " said Bill Fulton, vice president of policy for Smart Growth America, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, and a former mayor of Ventura who has authored several books on urban planning.

"Jerry Brown now believes, as many environmentalists do, that infill development around transit in the Bay Area should be promoted. That's a big change from 30 or 40 years ago, when people couldn't believe that could be done," Fulton said.

Brown's position may have changed on CEQA, Fulton said, but he's a "policy opportunist."

"Remember, he was also for redevelopment before he was against it, too," Fulton added.

Uptown blossoms

Oakland's hip Uptown neighborhood and other pockets of the city touched by the 2001 law are blooming with new restaurants, events and residents. But the neighborhood would have blossomed eventually without the tweak, according to Brown's former development director, developers, environmentalists and analysts.

"Yes, in all honesty, (it would have), but the rate at which we did it was important and it wouldn't have happened as quickly," said Claudia Cappio, who was Oakland's director of development under Brown.

Congresswoman Judy Chu to have an Open House

 From Sylvia Plummer:

Here's an opportunity to ask questions about the 710

Congresswoman Judy Chu will have an Open House in her new district office on:

Saturday, March 2, 2013       1:00 - 4:00 pm

527 S. Lake Ave., Suite 106, Pasadena, CA 91101

Chu represents the New 27th Congressional District, which includes the Cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, Arcadia, Bradbury, Claremont, Glendora, Monterey Park, Monrovia, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, Temple City, Upland, and the Unincorporated areas of Altadena, San Antonio Heights, East Pasadena, & South San Gabriel.

RSVP to (626) 304-0110 or via email to Bryan.Urias@mail.house.gov

Does Light Rail Really Encourage People to Stop Driving?


By Eric Jaffe, February 26, 2013


Does Light Rail Really Encourage People to Stop Driving?
One of the main justifications for building a light rail line is the hope that it will reduce traffic congestion in a corridor, presumably by drawing commuters out of their cars and onto the train. When we last looked at this assumption, about a year ago, we found cautious support for the decongestive value of light rail corridors in Denver. While traffic continued to rise in these corridors, it rose even more in nearby areas without the rail.

A similar new study of British light rail systems comes away far less hopeful. In an upcoming issue of the Journal of Transport Geography, planners Shin Lee and Martyn Senior of Cardiff University found that the evidence for light rail reducing car use is unclear. Lee and Senior discovered that car ownership and car commute share often continue to rise in these corridors, and that ridership growth is often the result of travelers shifting over from buses — not cars.

For their study, Lee and Senior look at four light rail systems completed from 1991 to 2001: the Manchester Metrolink (built in two phases), the South Yorkshire Supertram, and Midland Metro, and the Croydon Tramlink. To determine the impact these lines had on their respective corridors, the researchers located nearby "control" areas to represent travel behavior that might have occurred if the systems hadn't been built. The control and light rail areas had similar car ownership levels before 1991, similar rail commuter shares, and a similar distance to nearby city centers.

First the researchers looked at whether the light rail systems reduced local desire to own a car. In a few words, they did not. Household multi-car ownership increased in three of the four corridors — and increased by more than the control areas in two of them. In Midland, for instance, two-car ownership rose 7.3 percent, against a 6 percent rise in a nearby control. Meanwhile, household no-car ownership showed a similar effect in the other direction.

Of course car ownership is not the same as car use, so next the researchers looked at whether the light rail systems had an impact on commute mode. Across the board, the systems increased the share of rail travelers in these corridors, in one case nearly 6 percent. However, much of this expanded rail patronage seemed to come at the expense of bus ridership. In the South Yorkshire corridor, for instance, bus share declined more than 10 percent, against only a 6.5 percent dip in a control area.

The light rail systems had the most encouraging impact when it came to commuters going into the city center. All the systems showed considerable increases in the share of rail riders heading downtown — increasing more than 20 percent, in the case of Croydon — while the control areas (obviously) showed no similar gain. Once again, though, the corresponding reduction in bus ridership seemed to explain most of the rise. Sticking with Croydon, the researchers found an 18 percent dip in bus commute share into the city center, against a nearly 3 percent increase in a control area.

All told, the researchers had a hard time concluding that the light rail systems, taken together, produced much of a shift away from car commuting. In some corridors car share declined, but it didn't always decline as much as the control areas — pointing to a general trend in the region. In the case of Midland, car commute share actually increased 5 percent into the city center, a figure that exceeded the increase in its control area.

In the end, the researchers caution against expecting major long-term reductions in road congestion after the creation of a light rail system. (They explain this unsettling observation by pointing to latent demand — the standard economic belief that any drop in road congestion merely encourages non-drivers to start driving). They conclude:
Growing rail shares in the light rail corridors have mainly come from buses and the evidence for light rail reducing car use is less clear. This latter finding is of particular significance, given that a major justification for investment in light rail rather than bus schemes is their presumed ability to bring about major modal shift by attracting substantial numbers of car users.
The work makes a good contribution to our understanding of urban transit, but it has some severe caveats. The study's biggest limitation is that it focused on the simple existence of light rail — not the quality of its service, or for that matter other factors like density or development or demographics. In the case of the Midland corridor, for instance, all of the findings are compromised by the fact that a major road was built parallel to the light rail line; a city that creates an incentive to drive shouldn't be surprised when people do.

With that in mind, the work still underscores some important lessons. For starters, it offers a sound piece of advice: cities considering a light rail system should strongly consider whether improving the local bus system would be cheaper and just as effective. It also provides yet another reminder of the irrational love people have for their cars; getting city residents to give up driving often requires more than just offering them a ride.

Overlooked point about toll lanes -- They work: Letters to the Editor for Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013


 Re "More freeway-toll plans? Slow down, Southern California" (Opinion, Feb. 20):

Why build the Interstate-5 North Capacity Enhancement Project? The editorial addresses toll mechanics and preliminary results, but misses the bigger point. Express lanes succeed nationwide. Funds are there to build them today at lower cost than tomorrow. This opportunity can't be missed. Golden State Gateway Coalition works with Metro, Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration to improve transportation in north Los Angeles County, particularly on I-5. New capacity would bring huge benefits in terms of congestion relief, jobs, air quality, goods movement and emergency access. Tolls would fill the funding gap, creating capacity in 2019 rather than 2040, later or never.

-- Victor Lindenheim, Valencia
The letter writer is excutive director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition


It's Getting Real!

Truck Lane Construction in Full Swing


By Tim Whyte
Interchange Editor

Anyone who commutes each day on Interstate 5 can see the progress firsthand, and once it’s begun it has continued steadily.
These truck lanes are coming. This is no longer just a “proposal” or a great idea. It’s a great idea being brought to reality, as we watch and anticipate its completion.
Under construction between the Newhall Pass and Lyons Avenue/Pico Canyon Road, the new truck lanes will span 3.7 miles and make a tremendous difference in the lives of commuters and long haul truckers alike.
“As the name suggests, a truck lane is a lane that is designated for trucks, so in essence it separates those big 18 wheelers from the other cars on the freeway,” says Kelly Markham, Public Information Officer for Caltrans District 7, in a video profile of the project posted on the Caltrans I-5 information web page, http://i-5info.com.
In the…
[+] read more

Caltrans I-5 Info Online

Caltrans has created an interesting and informative website, www.i-5info.com, to provide the public with information about improvements being made to the Interstate 5 corridor in northern Los Angeles County. Check it out!

Golden State Gateway Coalition:

Who We Are and What We Do

The Golden State Gateway Coalition (I-5) is a non-profit transportation education and advocacy organization based in Santa Clarita. 

  • Our members include community, business and government leaders who live in, work in and represent the interests of the fastest growing sub-region in Los Angeles County. 

  • Our goal is to improve roadway mobility, safety and goods movement throughout northern Los Angeles County.

  • The Interstate 5 corridor is our priority. It is an important regional transportation facility and is a key economic lifeline linking job centers, cities, ports, agriculture, and tourist attractions throughout California.

Overturned truck closes three lanes of 60 Freeway


By Ruby Gonzales, February 26, 2013


 INDUSTRY - Three lanes of the eastbound 60 Freeway and an onramp were shut down Monday night after a big rig carrying helium overturned.
The driver wasn't injured, said Officer Monica Posada of the California Highway Patrol.
Unsafe speed led to the 9:35 p.m. solo crash on the eastbound 60 at Azusa Avenue, according to Posada.

The helium wasn't compromised, she said. Helium isn't flammable.

Posada said a SigAlert was issued for the No. 2, 3, 4 lanes and the southbound Azusa Avenue onramp to the freeway at 10:11 p.m.

The lanes were reopened at 12:46 a.m.

what if a city wants more transit than its neighbors, but they're all in one transit agency?


By Jarrett Walker, February 25, 2013

Large North American transit agencies generally have some revenue raising authority over an enormous and diverse urban area, and feel obliged to serve the same enormous area with something that can be justified as an "equitable" distribution of service.  (As I explain in detail in Chapter 10 of my book Human Transit, there's no objective definition of "equitable," but that's another story.)

Most agencies rely on their voters to approve their basic revenue raising authority.  So what happens if the voters over the whole agency area give transit a resounding "no," but parts of the area -- a core city for example -- does value transit and is willing to pay for it?  And what should happen in the many urban regions where the whole region will pay for a low level of service but certain communities within it -- usually including the core city -- want to pay for a higher level of service?

In many areas, it's legally impossible for a transit agency to impose a higher rate of taxation of part of its service area and deliver a higher level of service in response.  But why not?  The ability to respond to local needs and desires is the core of what we usually think of as successful local government.

This, for example, is the current situation of Pierce Transit in the Tacoma, Washington area, which covers an urban county south of Seattle.  Voters over the whole service area have refused to support new sales tax revenues that would present a truly devastating service cut.  The agency has already shrunk its boundaries to remove some communities who did not value transit service and that were especially expensive to serve.  Now, conversation is turning to an "Enhanced Transit Zone," which would allow parts of the region that value transit more to tax themselves more at higher rates for better transit service.

But this story is not about one agency, because it goes to why core cities whose people would value more transit are often prevented from getting it.  The default approach of regional transit agencies has been for the agency to impose one level of taxation everywhere, and then to have endless arguments about how to distribute that resource over vastly dissimilar communities where some think of transit as critical and others don't.  The result is almost always a special problem for older core cities, because as I argue in Chapter 10, core cities need more service per capita than newer suburbs.
 Because regional transit boards are often dominated by suburban interests that have trouble voting for what they see as disproportionate investment in the core city, it's mathematically inevitable that under big regional agencies, core cities will be underserved relative to their values and demand.  The result is typically lots of empty buses running in outer suburbs while core city buses are overcrowded and turning people away.

The only solution I see to this problem is for core cities to be ready to start subsidizing transit service directly, over and above the level that their regional government can fund, to ensure that they get their fair share.  (In theory they could also rebel and secede from the regional agency, but good networks are so fused across multiple cities that it's very hard to take them apart at city limits without massive losses in efficiency and usefulness.)

Funding of enhanced transit by core city governments is starting to happen, if in some half-concealed ways.  The City of Portland, for example, directly subsidizes half of the operations of the Portland Streetcar, effectively creating an overlay of additional transit with its own operating funds.  The next step will be for core cities to find ways to fund growth in the overall level of service in their networks beyond what the regional transit agency can afford.

Sure, most transit agencies and city goverments face budget crises right now, but budget crises are as good a time as any to make hard choices about what a fare distribution of service will ultimately be.

 One key idea is that state governments should quit prohibiting people from raising their taxes to pay for better transit service, if that is what they want to vote for.

The Most Important Urban Design Decision Vancouver Ever Made 


By Brent Toderian, February 25, 2013


At a book launch party I had the pleasure of attending this past weekend, our host, Simon Fraser University City Program Director Gordon Price, began the evening by asking each member of the crowd to state an urban design decision that “they loved.” It was a fun and provocative question for a group of city-making wonks like us, and an even better icebreaker than the wine.

As you might imagine, each respondent had their own approach to answering the question, which is what made hearing all the excellent responses interesting.

When it came to my turn, my answer took a big picture and perhaps surprising approach, depending on your definition of urban design. In Vancouver, a city often referred to as "a city by design", the most important urban design decision we ever made, the decision I loved most, is actually usually referred to as a transportation decision.

In 1997, the city approved its first influential Transportation Plan.

It was a game-changer for our city-making model in many ways, most notably in its decision to prioritize the ways we get around, rather than balance them. The active, healthy and green ways of getting around were ranked highest - first walking, our top priority, then biking, and then transit, in that order. The prioritization then went on to goods movement for the purposes of business support and economic development, and lastly, the private vehicle.

Vancouver still spends a considerable amount of energy trying to make driving a greener and healthier proposition, with examples from electric vehicle charging station pilot projects, to policies and zoning incentives that have contributed to our incredible growth of car-sharing. However the private vehicle remains the last priority. I always note that we are not anti-car, and we rarely ban the car, but prioritizing it last has a dramatic effect on the way we design our city.

If you’re a driver who is worried about a “war on the car”, remember this - our model of city building understands the “Law of Congestion” and proves that when you build a multimodal city, it makes getting around better and easier for every mode of transportation, including the car. It makes our city work better in every way.

This decision to prioritize rather than balance our ways of getting around has affected everything in how our city has been designed since then. It’s a huge part of the essential DNA that our city has grown from. It’s guided every decision, from thousands of physical design decisions, to our budget allocation. Has every decision followed it perfectly? No - there are many illustrations around the city where the prioritization hasn't been perfectly reflected. However, enough decisions have reflected this prioritization to make our city design fundamentally different.

So my answer to Gordon’s question “what urban design decision do I love?” It’s our ahead-of-the-curve 1997 decision to prioritize active transport rather than trying to balance ways of getting around. A decision we reinforced and are taking further in the recent Transportation Plan Update I had the pleasure of working on.

A transportation decision, sure – but also an urban design decision, a city-making decision. The most important urban design decision our "city by design" ever made, flowing from the most important decision of any type we ever made – saying no to freeways in our city.

As today’s municipal leaders approach some key decisions for our city-building future, such as the opportunity to finally remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts (which I call the only Asterisk next to the statement that we have no freeways in Vancouver) and leave a stronger and better connected city in their place, it's critically important that we remember and recognize the power of this urban design decision.