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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Caltrans’ Property Management Runs Amok in El Sereno, SR-710 Area Tenants Bear the Brunt of Unjust Rent Hikes


March 2013

El Sereno residents, many of whom have lived in state-owned properties for decades and are an integral part of the El Sereno community fabric, today are in a state of shock.  On December 28, 2012, Caltrans renters living along the “proposed 710 Freeway/Tunnel Corridor” received a mailer informing them that their rent was going to be increased by 10% every 6 months beginning March 1, 2013, in an effort to raise Caltrans property rentals to fair market rates.   In this notice to tenants Caltrans failed to provide tenants with the fair market rent amount they had determined, or the process that they were using to determine fair market rates.  Because Caltrans didn’t provide tenants with specific fair market rent amounts, tenants are unclear how many total rent increases they will face under Caltrans’ new policy.  Caltrans is proposing that unless tenants qualify for the new “Affordable Rent Program” tenants will face a 34% increase in rent within a 1 year period and a 100% increase within 3 years.

The tenants were caught off guard, although not totally surprised.  Caltrans mounted similar campaigns to raise rents in 2002 and 2006, only to back off when faced with strong community and political opposition.  One of the main arguments against past proposed rent hikes was due to Caltrans’ history of atrocious property maintenance and inept management practices throughout the history of the proposed SR710 project.

Because of these circumstances Caltrans tenants have formed the United Caltrans Tenants (UCT) association and are fighting for the following:

An immediate moratorium on rent hikes. Tenants are requesting that Caltrans address the community concerning their rent hikes at the forthcoming Tenant’s Assembly scheduled on Thursday, March 14th from 6-8 pm at All Saints Catholic Church.

For our elected officials to intercede and convince Caltrans that these rent hikes will bring irreparable harm to our community.  UCT is also requesting that our elected officials address the community at the Tenant’s Assembly

For Caltrans to come to the table with tenants and elected officials to explore and discuss alternatives to their current ill-conceived plan for rent hikes and negotiate any proposed rent increases

Tenants want Caltrans to publicly disclose the method they are using to determine “fair market” rental rates, provide each tenant with their individual fair market rent amount and make public the details of their new Affordable Rent Program structure.

What is ironic about all of this rent hike mess created by Caltrans is that it is occurring on the heels of the recent audit of Caltrans property management released in August 2012, by the California State Auditor.  Following are some of the findings:

•    Caltrans is guilty of inadequate oversight of property repairs resulting in unnecessary work and excessive costs.
•    Caltrans did not routinely perform annual field inspections of properties.
•    Caltrans could not provide evidence that it compared estimates for any of 30 repair projects reviewed.
•    $2.2 million was spent on the 30 repair projects reviewed with more than $1.2 million spent repairing 8 residential homes and without any cost analyses.
•    Caltrans has paid General Services an average of $4.7 million annually, from 1999-2011 to repair homes, without a contract or oversight.
•    General Services does not properly monitor labor charges for its temporary employees.  In 2011 two casual labor employees charged almost 160 labor hours to clean up and procure goods at job sites for which no other work was being done or had been performed.  General Service’s casual laborers are paid at the State’s prevailing wage requirement, an hourly rate of $44.68 which resulted in a payment of $7,150 for the 160 hours of “work.”
•    The audit recommended that Caltrans prepare a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the State would save money by hiring a private vendor to manage the properties.

It is clear to the UCT and El Sereno residents that Caltrans is incapable of providing fair, just and effective property management.  UCT is asking that you join us at the Tenant’s Assembly scheduled on Thursday, March 14th from 6-8 pm at All Saints Catholic Church. Parish Hall, located at 3420 Portola Avenue in El Sereno.  Article Submitted by United Caltrans Tenants.


Why Everyone Should Be From Los Angeles 


By Patricia Rust, March 12, 2013


"Angels Flight?" I ask. "You've never heard of Angels Flight?" Yet this person is living here in the city of the angels.

"No," they repeat. "Never heard of it." (See below)

There are times when I get frustrated that people around me know nothing about Los Angeles and I wonder why they have never heard of the landmark called Angels Flight nor made any attempt to know or understand the fascinating history of Los Angeles. This is such an amazing city and everyone comes here to try to make a success of themselves but few take responsibility for knowing anything about it or doing anything about it, so here are some suggestions:

-- Take pride in your adopted city -- Get involved, join Heal the Bay or The Sierra Club or Save the Kiwi or whichever groups hold appeal for you and address concerns you care about. Don't be apathetic. I'll bet you cared in the city you came from! Dig your heels in and make a difference. This city has lots of ills that need healing! Volunteer! It will help you make new friends, too! (I started a charity called Power for Kids which is making a difference in schools and manages to keep me hopping in my free time which I no longer have and wouldn't change for the world!)

-- Learn to drive -- Yes, you know where your local coffee/tea hangout is, but have you learned to drive properly in order to get there? Californians pride themselves on being excellent drivers who consider it rude to honk. Los Angelinos really do brake for pedestrians who have the right of way. So, after you get here, go to a great driving school, and obey the laws and don't honk. It's against the law and it's rude. Let people in. Smile. Be courteous. It will change the whole traffic karma. You will see. We used to be such happy drivers and could be again if people who come here would just admit that they can't drive here, learn, then be courteous on the road and ditch the road rage!

-- Learn about us: Okay, so you don't know where Ships, Wil Wrights, or Bullocks Wilshire were; we forgive you that. You have no idea where we housed drive-in movies or where waitresses on roller skates took our orders for hamburgers and fries. We give you every job and apartment lead we know.
We are Californians and super nice and pride ourselves on helping you out. But do endeavor to learn a little about us just as we've traveled to your cities and learned about you! Look at Century City and remark, "Was that really all grass only a few years ago? Isn't that an oil drill I see on it?" Trust me, this is a fascinating city! Why the water rights issue alone became the movie Chinatown! The families, the crime, the architecture -- it is utterly astounding!

The benefits of all this?

-- Social programs will be stimulated. The Bay will stayed healed. Trees will be hugged. The kiwi
will live on...

-- Starbucks or wherever you go for coffee/tea, The Coffee Bean/Seattle's Best, Peet's will be frequented but no fights will break out over parking spaces. Accidents will be prevented and neighbors will be neighborly.

-- Now that you've slowed down and vowed not to run over anyone or honk at them, you will realize that Californians are car crazy. There was a time that we rolled down our windows and asked each other how we liked each other's cars. That was before road rage. If you are taking my advice and being nice, this could happen again and you could have your car shopping done while in traffic.

-- And, after you take some historical tours, and explore downtown, you will be a more interesting person. Read some Raymond Chandler. Take another city tour. Explore parts of the city you haven't seen. Go to Long Beach if you live in the Valley. Go to the Valley if you live in Long Beach. There is so much to see and do. Ride a bus. Go to a botanical garden. Visit a museum. There is so much to see and take in besides Disneyland (forgive me, Mickey) but it is technically in Orange County. Honk honk!

-- So, all in all, by becoming an informed Los Angelino, you will become a better person by appreciating the city's richness, culture, heritage, and architecture.

Oh, and if you are trying to find the old and charming Beverly Hills Post Office -- it's being transformed into a performing arts center named after Wallis Annenberg. Count that among our upcoming cultural assets of this talent-driven city. Oh, and by the way, welcome. And if you could call Los Angeles just that, it would be appreciated!

Peggy Drouet: Angel's Flight--not only have I heard of it, I took a video of it.

Solar Roads, Charging Roads, And The Future Of Transportation


By Glen Hiemstra, March 13, 2013


Solar Roads, Charging Roads, And The Future Of Transportation



 Everyone might want super fast trains or driverless cars, but the real innovations in transportation are going to involve infrastructure. Meet the road of the future.

This week the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was lit in the greatest LED art display ever. I was dazzled, but a little side-note in the news story caught my attention. The Bay Bridge opened in 1936, after construction began in 1933. The grandness of this bridge was quickly eclipsed, however, when the more picturesque Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937. Its construction too had begun in 1933.

 I had to look at those construction dates once more. This was the depth of the Great Depression.
Today, in our own economic doldrums, it is hard to conceive of such projects. I begin with these examples because the first reaction to what I am about to tell you about future transportation infrastructure is very likely to be, “Nope, we can’t afford that, never gonna happen.” Just keep in mind an earlier generation of leaders and citizens looked hardship in the eye and proceeded to build a new future. I think it is past time to do that again.

When we contemplate the future of transportation we think of bullet trains, electric autonomous cars, sub-orbital planes and the like. We even wonder--still--when the flying car will land in reality. But we don’t think much about the infrastructure on which those vehicles depend. Some very enterprising and creative engineers do, however. Here are two ideas for re-inventing the road that I think could, literally, change everything about future transportation, if we care to be as bold as our ancestors in the 1930s.
First up is Solar Roadways. What is a road? A strip of asphalt, concrete, dirt, or cobblestone on which wheeled vehicles roll. Road materials have advanced since Roman days, but not all that much, really. It is still just a hard surface, designed to support the weight of vehicles and keep us out of the mud. Twenty four hours a day, roads, parking lots, and sidewalks just sit there, and in the day time they mostly just sit there collecting heat and light but not doing anything with it.

Imagine, as Solar Roadways has, that you could replace the concrete or asphalt with solar cells beneath a layer of glass. Operating at 15% efficiency the U.S. road system would provide more than four times our current electricity needs, or about as much electricity as the whole world uses. It’s a lot of potential power.

It turns out it is not that hard to take “off the shelf” material and build a layer of solar cells between sealed layers of glass, and construct a roadway surface of the resulting panels. The primary complication is manufacturing glass that is strong enough for an 18-wheeler to drive on, that is clear enough to allow sunlight in but opaque enough not to emit too much glare, with sufficient traction and durable enough to last for years. The glass design challenge is one that Solar Roadways is working on, among others, and one they plan to test with their first road panels installed in a parking lot in the spring of 2013.

Solar Roadways and its founders, Scott and Julie Brusaw, have made a big splash on the Web, at Tedx, and YouTube, especially through the video below (with 1.5 million views) introducing their original work. In addition to solar cells in the glass sandwich they are installing led lights that can be programmed to spell out messages and to respond to the environment, signaling that cars should stop for pedestrians, for example.
The second infrastructure re-invention company is Wave, which stands for Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification. Its goal is to enable electric buses to become more cost effective than diesel or natural gas buses, and without the need for being connected to overhead wires. In order to run continuously on rechargeable batteries, a bus has to carry a lot of them, since recharging happens only at the base station. This makes the bus inefficient, heavy, and costly.

However, the people at Wave knew that electricity can be transmitted wirelessly though magnetic induction. The question is how to build magnetic induction equipment into the infrastructure. Their simple solution is genius. Install a wave induction receiving unit on the bottom of the bus, and then at various bus stops install a magnetic induction power transfer system in the road. When the bus stops to pick up passengers, the magnetic induction unit wirelessly sends a charge to the batteries, and this frequent re-charging enables to bus to run all day, until it returns to base for a full re-charge overnight. Fewer batteries, less weight, more economical.

All that is needed at the bus stop is a way to connect the magnetic induction system to a power source. Solar Roadways might just have a built in solution to that! Wave notes on their website that technical hurdles remain to reach ultimate efficiencies but they are installing magnetic induction bus systems at Utah State University, for the Monterey Trolley in California, University of Utah, and in partnership with Advanced Energy Solution in Prague, Czech Republic.

Imagine roads in 2025 and beyond. Made of glass, generating electricity, with magnetic induction built in where appropriate. Is that really more far-fetched than building massive bridges in the 1930s?
 Nexus 4: Live In The Now


Listed on Metro's Los AngelesTransportation Headlines for March 13, 2013

(Los Angeles' Metro Rail subway is featured in a commercial for Google Now, watched by more than 28.4 million viewers during the recent Grammy Awards. While people in other cities are shown checking the weather or looking up restaurants, the creative team behind the commercial chose to feature Metro Rail and a fashionable transit customer to represent Los Angeles)
Google via YouTube

Los Angeles Reconsidered by Drew Austin


March 12, 2013


To those who haven’t spent much time there, Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis without a center. Dorothy Parker called it “72 suburbs in search of a city” and she was just one of many New Yorkers who eloquently documented their failure to understand the quintessential urban product of twentieth century America (see also: Annie Hall). If you had lived your entire life within the orbit of New York, you could aggressively pretend that your own bewilderment was everywhere else’s problem, but others weren’t so lucky. Reyner Banham, for one, attributed LA’s inscrutability to his own limitations and taught himself to drive so that he could read the city in its original language: “It’s a poor historian who finds any human artefact alien to his professional capacities, a poorer one who cannot find new bottles for new wine.”
Ventura Boulevard

During the past few decades, partially thanks to Banham, the popular understanding of LA has started catching up to the city itself. To many who have spent little time in LA or have viewed it mainly through the lens of pop culture, it’s still a suburban metropolis. But New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco are also mostly suburban, aside from relatively small central areas where most of the conventional wisdom is generated. More people depend on cars in Los Angeles than in the aforementioned cities, and this produces a less dense built environment, but do those characteristics alone disqualify LA as an “urban” place? Plenty of well-informed people seem to think so.

Visiting Los Angeles last weekend (and many times before that) has reaffirmed my belief that it is one of the most urban cities in the world by almost any definition of the word. Among the most striking features of LA, contrary to its reputation, is its incredible density. Throughout the city, from Koreatown to the Valley, Los Angeles is packed tightly with human activity. Signs announcing 20 different stores accompany two-story strip malls; apartment complexes overlook the back edges of gas stations; and cars wring every square inch out of parking lots that are frequently too small. Instead of a suburban sprawlscape, Los Angeles is better understood as the highest possible density that is traversed primarily by automobile. Unlike New York’s three-dimensional congestion, LA’s is mostly confined to a single plane, but it fills those two dimensions almost as effectively.

The classical definition of “city” is a hobgoblin that still haunts the urban discourse: a recognizable downtown (which LA has, in fact) with a transit system connecting the periphery to the center (which LA also has). Those forces ceased to drive urban development more than a century ago, yet we still understand cities to be the residue of that obsolete growth model. LA represents a mode of development that emerged in the twentieth century, and while it may be doomed from an environmental and social perspective, its scale is more human than the modernist wasteland of downtown Newark (another “city” in the classical sense). We need to adjust our understanding of what makes a city a city, because at present there is little being built in the world that matches Woody Allen’s or Dorothy Parker’s definitions.

Responses to “Los Angeles Reconsidered by Drew Austin”

  1. Eric says:
    “Los Angeles is better understood as the highest possible density that is traversed primarily by automobile.”

    This seems about right to me. I like spending time in L.A. Like, Austin, there are great people, amenities and institutions, even if the form isn’t real appealing.
    I think when people criticize L.A. for not being urban compared to places like San Francisco or Chicago (I am one of them)what they really mean is this: Too many environments in L.A. lack a sense of place. Almost every environment in L.A. would be a nicer place to spend time if it were less focused on maximizing car-throughput and more friendly to human scaled activity. There are a lot of roads in L.A. and too few streets.
  2. Wanderer says:
    William Fulton describes Southern California as “dense sprawl.” Especially in the city of Los Angeles one could speak of sprawling density. I like LA, even though I live in Northern California, which is not supposed to happen. But as Eric said, the streetscape and cityscape in LA is often pretty awful. In many places it doesn’t seem like anybody’s trying to make it good or even attractive.

    It’s historically correct to say that LA is the densest place that primarily based on the automobile. But as ever-increasing congestion demonstrates, that model can’t go forward, particularly as Southern California’s population continues to grow. The model has to start shifting, and it is shifting, very slowly. LA has many of the “bones” left from its transit days which allow it to reconstruct on a basis other than universal driving.
  3.   Robert Munson says:
    While the regeneration of older cities may have been the urban success stories of the previous two decades, LA’s transition during the next two decades may lead other Sunbelt cities into more sustainable methods, particularly transportation.

    Agreeing with the thrust of the two previous comments: LA’s streets still are suited mostly for autos. While many agree that LA has good urban bones, LA has only just started to learn to dress its streets for urban life. Urbanity is still LA’s primary challenge.
  4. Lou says:
    This post would be better if it was from 1990 rather than 2013. I was last in LA 6 months ago, as a person from the dense Northeast (suburban Philly), the core of LA was booming. Downtown was on a roll with new restaurants, transit, housing, and night life. Go to LA Union Station at 5pm, it feels like its a real transit city with people flowing all around flooding the subway, light rail, and commuter rail (all built in the last 25 years).

    LA has a very large pre-war downtown and was spared most of the last 60 years by becoming a large immigrant hub. Now that is changing and its slowly becoming the center of the city again.
    Its weird thing that many people now think the city is the prototypical Postwar sprawl region of the country when a good portion of its urban form was pre World War II built by streetcars, and inter urban rail. The region used to have the largest streetcar system in the world spanning the entire basin.

    The more transit LA builds the more centralized the city will become.

    I also take some offense at the implication that Newark’s downtown dead zone was not caused by the same forces than made LA sprawl. Both cities were trying to be more car friendly and became less people friendly, inevitably losing a sense of place. Places are for people not cars, something planners, engineers, and politicians need to figure out.

Closing Streets to Cars - for Good 


March 12, 2013

 The neverending story of car dependency:

FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. This is the general feeling when drivers know that the street they usually drive on, may soon be closed to vehicular traffic. This feeling has, to some degree, been used by those who decide to build new roads. In other words, we still live according to Henry Ford's motto, “With mobility comes freedom and progress”. As someone who works with urban planning this can be viewed as when the ends actually justify the means – cities scratched by black tar marks, roads planned and built with eyes closed.

Now, the results of unconsidered planning are here - we feel these impacts on a daily basis.

Currently, that paradigm is slowly shifting to a new one. In a rather considerable number of cities, city centres, as well as many other streets, are being closed to cars.

Nevertheless, there remains constant misconception about closing streets to cars: chaos and congestion are imminent. All those cars will just end up somewhere else. On other streets, in other neighbourhoods.  Although considering that some cities have already implemented car-free streets for quite a while now, it's possible to observe the impacts.

The Braess's Paradox is a statistical theorem that determines that when a road network is already jammed with vehicles, adding new streets can make traffic flow even worse. Overall, it encompasses the (wrong) idea that more roads will improve traffic. According to this paradox, extending a road network may result in even longer commuting times.

“Ok, but that's on paper. Usually it doesn't happen in real life.” You might say.

In New York, when the City's Transportation Commissioner decided to close 42nd Street during the Earth Day celebration, a “doomsday” was predicted due to the expected generated traffic chaos. We're not talking about any street – it's the same 42nd street that intersects Time Square and runs past Grand Central Station. This anticipated doomsday couldn't be further from what really happened: traffic flow actually improved. A real world example of the Braess's paradox.

Born to Fit
Calming Times Square.
This paradox also came up in an article citing a research paper titled “The Price of Anarchy in Transportation Networks: Efficiency and Optimality Control”. In this article, one of the interesting conclusions was, "...simply blocking certain streets can partially improve the traffic conditions." Dietrich Braess must be proud.

But let's look at a few other examples. In Kajani, Finland, a proposal to close traffic through the main square was brought to the table when the daily traffic was 13,000 vehicles per day. After the authorities closed it to car traffic, the streets nearby had a slight increase right after the closing and, after that, the overall traffic had decreased with hints of “evaporation”.

Post-pedestrianisation in Copenhagen's City Centre.
Another common concern when closing streets to traffic is commercial activity. In the same city, a survey of retailers found that 52% felt that the decision to close the streets down to cars had improved local commerce or will improve it in the future.

In Wolverhampton, UK, the “evaporation” of traffic also happened - after closing down the city centre to cars, 14% of the overall traffic was reduced in the nearby streets. Also in the UK, in Vauxhall Cross, a simulation predicted an increase of 267% in traffic queueing. The results, of course, were quite different: traffic queues were shorter than before and there was an overall reduction of 2-8% of traffic. Ugh, talk about cities ruled by computers instead of people.

In Strasbourg, right before the decision to close down streets to cars in the city centre, the daily traffic was 240,000 vehicles/day. Ten years later, instead of having the same amount of traffic in nearby streets, the volume fell by 16%. Predictions were that if this implementation was not considered, there would have been a traffic increase of 25% in the city centre by the year 2000. You can check more of these facts here.

Spring Sunshine 04
Nørrebrogade at rush hour.
There's a great example in Copenhagen as well. In 2008, Nørrebrogade was closed to cars. In 2009, a study was performed to assess the overall impacts of closing that street to cars - which had immediate interesting results. The latest results (2012) show that Nørrebrogade had a:
  • 20% increase in cyclists,
  • decrease of 45% in accidents,
  • 60% increase in pedestrians,
when compared to 2008's levels. Although a part of the traffic has been redirected to nearby streets, just one year after closing down Nørrebrogade to car traffic, the overall traffic was reduced by 10.7%, which means 19,000 fewer cars/day.

SF Bike Lane Niceness
San Francisco Streets.
In San Francisco, the parking space is restricted to a maximum of seven percent of a building's square footage. Despite the fact that employment has increased in the area, traffic congestion is in decline – people are looking for alternatives, like cycling and walking.

Ok, now that we demystified the expected chaos of closing streets to cars, let's see what happens when the opposite occurs, i.e. creating more traffic lanes (or more infrastructure) to deal with congestion problems.

For decades, roadways have been expanded with the idea that it could solve problems. This is also a common misconception. Rather than in writing, Todd Litman explains this in a beautiful way:

(c) Todd Litman, 2009. "Generated Traffic and Induced Traffic". Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
In a few words, the more lanes you create, the more traffic volume you will get. It's also interesting to note the difference from the projected traffic growth and the actual generated traffic.

Tokyo Traffic Jam
Traditional Traffic Planning in Tokyo.
There are also more than a few issues attached to traditional traffic planning (which includes creating more lanes). According to a 2013 study called “Smart Congestion Relief – Comprehensive Analysis of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Benefits”, there's a whole set of ignored impacts when analysing traffic congestion. For instance, congestion intensity is often assessed instead of its costs, thus ignoring the savings created by commuters who shifted mode or reduced car usage. Moreover, several other factors like downstream congestion, traffic accidents, energy consumption, pollution emissions among others, are often ignored. Cost values of generated traffic congestion, traffic accidents, energy consumption, and pollution emissions to name a few have been underestimated and ignored.

Additional benefits can come from closing streets to cars. For instance, street life. Every summer, for three straight days, approximately 11 km of New York's city streets are closed to cars and open for everything else. In 2012, 250,000+ people enjoyed car-free streets under that initiative.

Thus it's possible to conclude that immediately after closing the streets to cars, there is a slight increase of traffic in the nearby streets. I guess that's expected. But traffic adapts and the overall number of cars decreases. After a few years, people just choose public transportation and/or non-motorised vehicles. The number of non-essential trips also declines – yes, it may even reduce drivers' laziness.

Overall, two main points can be extracted from this article: 1) building more roads doesn't mean alleviating traffic flow but instead could even make congestion worse; 2) closing a street down to cars improves pedestrian and cycling share and the overall number of cars will be reduced, thus less congestion throughout the city.

Mathematicians first said that it's alright to close streets. Reality proved they were right.

Earthquake early warning system passes major test with quake


March 13, 2013


 In the seismic annals of California, Monday’s 4.7 earthquake was little more than a footnote. It gave Southern California a small morning jolt but caused no damage and was largely shrugged off by noon.

But in one important way, the quake was highly significant because it marked an advance in California’s burgeoning earthquake early warning system.

The quake struck in the desert town of Anza, and hundreds of sensors embedded in the ground immediately sent an alert to seismologists at Caltech in Pasadena. They had 30 seconds warning before the quake was felt there.

“It was right,” said Kate Hutton, a seismologist with Caltech. “I sat really still to see if I could feel it and it worked.”

The system has been in place for more than a year. But Monday’s quake offered a rare opportunity to actually see – and feel -- if it worked.

The sensor have warned scientists of numerous quakes, but the vast majority were either too small to feel or too far away to be felt in the Los Angeles area. For example, the sensor gave an early warning of several magnitude 5 quakes last year in Imperial County, but the temblors hit too far away for them to felt in Los Angeles.

The Anza quake was different.

Even though it measured magnitude 4.7, its location on solid granite made the shaking stronger and more widespread. People reported to the USGS that they felt it as far away as Arizona and Central California. At Caltech, computer screens flashed with a 30-second countdown to when the shaking would hit Pasadena. Sure enough, it came on time.

Hutton and other declared the test a success, with some caveats.

The system initially overestimated the quake’s magnitude, saying it was a 5.2. But U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough was not overly concerned about the error. She noted that the main job of the system is to alert people to a coming quake, not to gets its magnitude precisely right. The Anza quake caused an unusually intense amount of shaking, Hough added, so the warning system accurately captured that.

The early earthquake warning system is a pilot project for what scientists hope will eventually be a statewide network using thousands of sensors to notify people about imminent shaking from moderate to strong earthquakes.

Backers say an early warning would give utilities time to shut down, trains a chance to slow so they don’t derail and workers a chance to move away from hazardous materials or precarious positions. Warning would be sent to the public through text messages, emails and other special alerts.

Similar systems are already operating in Japan, Mexico and Taiwan. In 2011, Japan’s program alerted about 50 million residents ahead of the devastating Fukushima earthquake.

The warning program’s reliability hinges on where censors are placed. They need to be located near active fault zones. The Anza quake hit in a seismically active area where officials have embedded many sensors.

Scientists have long believed that a major quake could erupt in the desert and mountain regions north and east of Los Angeles  because the San Andreas and other faults run along there. The Monday quake was along the San Jacinto fault zone.

Hough and others warned that the system would only be effective for quakes some distance from the urban center of Los Angeles.

The warning system works when sensors in the ground detect the first signs of earth movement, known as P waves, that travel at the speed of sound. The more damaging shaking, called the S wave, lags behind at an even slower speed. The greater the distance from the epicenter, the more time population centers would have to prepare. A quake at the the center of the city would provide little to no warning.

“It’s physics,” Hough said. “We have an earthquake like Northridge … those early warnings would not have helped in those places that were damaged.”

Earlier this year, scientists showed off the system using a simulation of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. A person in Pasadena, 40 miles away, would have about 18 seconds to prepare if an alert was issued.

On Monday, the Anza quake provided a real-life example.

The program is being funded largely from private donations. Scientists are proposing that the state spend $80 million to install and upgrade thousands of the sensors across the state. If they can get the money, seismologists said, the system could be operational in two years.

For all their excitement, Caltech scientists said the system still needs refinement and many more sensors to help detect quakes. The network is fine for seismic experts, but they want to do more work before making it publicly available.

It’s not ready for prime time. In that sense its being fine-tuned,” Hough said. “Every earthquake is an opportunity to test the system.”

Senate Restores MAP-21 Funding Through 2013


By Angie Schmitt, March 13, 2013

The Senate yesterday restored hundreds of millions of dollars in federal transportation spending singled out for elimination by the House of Representatives.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) fought to help preserve the transportation spending levels agreed upon in MAP-21 in a recent Senate funding resolution.

The Senate’s continuing resolution — which would set spending levels through the end of FY 2013 — matches the transportation spending priorities laid out by MAP-21, the transportation bill hashed out in a bipartisan manner last year.

Top senators, including Barbara Boxer (D-CA), were alarmed when the House resolution, passed last week, called for spending cuts below what was agreed upon in the transportation bill — $117 million for transit and $555 million for highways.

Senator Boxer, who chairs the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, told reporters her approach to restoring spending levels was “very straightforward.”

“‘We said: ‘How can you do this? It’s not right, we paid for this,’” she said.

Pressure from Boxer and other Senate committee chairs wasn’t what clinched it, though: The Obama administration requested MAP-21 funding levels be honored, and the Appropriations Committee chair inserted that language into the bill.

Representatives of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials this morning applauded the Senate’s decision.

“The Senate’s continuing resolution recognizes that the nation’s economic recovery remains dependent on the funding levels envisioned in MAP-21 and now is not the time to deviate from those levels,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director, in a press release.

The House and Senate versions of the continuing resolution must still be reconciled.

A Public Transit Pope: Francis Rode Buses Instead of Limos Through Buenos Aires 


By Amanda Erickson, March 13, 2013


A Public Transit Pope: Francis Rode Buses Instead of Limos Through Buenos Aires

We don't know much yet about how Jorge Mario Bergoglio will lead the Catholic Church. But the new Pope's biography speaks to Bergoglio's urban past.

Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was born in Buenos Aires, one of five children to an Italian mother. He was ordained in December 1969 as a Jesuit (traditionally, the most learned and forward-thinking order), and began serving as priest in Argentina in 1973. He moved to Germany to complete his doctorate, then returned to the Argentine city of Cordoba. He was named Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.

He is celebrated for his humility, and has eschewed worldly possessions. He chose to live in his own small apartment instead of the Cardinal's (more opulent) residence in Buenos Aires. And he doesn't take chauffeured limousines, instead traveling around Buenos Aires by bus. As the National Catholic Reporter writes:
Back in 2005, Bergoglio drew high marks as an accomplished intellectual, having studied theology in Germany. His leading role during the Argentine economic crisis burnished his reputation as a voice of conscience, and made him a potent symbol of the costs globalization can impose on the world’s poor.

Bergoglio’s reputation for personal simplicity also exercised an undeniable appeal – a Prince of the Church who chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace, who gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of taking the bus to work, and who cooked his own meals.
At his unveiling this afternoon, he did not wear the Pope's traditional jeweled cross, instead opting for his own simple insignia. As his biographer wrote:
"It's a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows," Rubin said. "This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome."
He is the first non-European Pope in over 1,000 years. He will, of course, not be taking public transit through Vatican City.
Caltrans Practices in 1986 & 2013, Video by Joe Cano

March 13, 2013

Voice from the past. The Mayor of South Pasadena says it all from 1986.

SR 710 North Study Geotechnical Investigations


On February 25, 2013, Metro stated:

As part of the State Route 710 (SR 710) North Study, the Study Team will be conducting geotechnical investigations at various locations within the Cities of Alhambra, Los Angeles, Monterey Park, Pasadena and South Pasadena through mid-April. All work has received necessary city permits and approvals.

Testing will consist of geotechnical boring (soil/rock), Groundwater Level Measurement, and Vibration Testing. Noise associated with the work is expected to be that of a typical bus engine. Some on-street parking will be impacted at or near the testing locations; however, streets will remain open to traffic with a minimum of one lane open in each direction. Planned activities will last anywhere from 2-6 days at each location.

On March 6, 2013, Metro stated: 

To properly document information for the SR 710 North Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement, the Study Team is conducting geotechnical investigations at various locations throughout the Study Area. The professionals conducting these investigations are not only being respectful of area neighbors, but are working to complete them in an expeditious manner. Today, a new sound barrier was installed to reduce noise levels resulting from the drilling activities (see photo below). Your safety is our priority; therefore, please maintain a safe distance from any investigation site. For questions regarding the geotechnical investigation activities, please contact us by phone 855.477.7100 or email sr710study@metro.net.

 With a photo of a new sound barrier.

Video of soil sampling drilling in El Sereno, posted on March 9, 2013:


Metro is not drilling in my area, so I asked the following question on the No 710 on Avenue 64  Facebook page and received these answers:

For Joe Cano. Re: your video "Metro's soil sampling drilling in El Sereno." You published it on March 9. What date did you take the video? I'm asking because the date of the post on the SR 710 Facebook page that shows a drilling sound barrier was posted March 6. Did the sound barrier go up in another location than the one in El Sereno before or after your video was posted?
Like · · · 7 hours ago near Pasadena

  • John Picone Peggy Tyarks Drouet - look at the pictures taken by Kimberly M Burtnyk on the No 710 Freeway Extension Facebook page. They are dated March 4 and show NO sound barriers. In fact she works from home and was complaining about the noise.
  • Joe Cano The So. Pasadena drilling contractor Boar Longview, to my knowledge is the only one with a barrier after the 5th of March. The El Sereno footage was shot on the 7th of March. The contractor Casacde Drilling in El Sereno does not have a barrier wall in place. The morning the crew & the rig arrived there was a person giving instruction to the crew regarding the filming. You could see them looking back at the camera as this person spoke from time to time. From the drilling schedule there 4 contractors hitting various parts of the Caltrans Row.
  • Joe Cano John's post is 2nd confirmation.

    Photos by Kimberly M. Burtnyk, March 4, 2013 

Recap: On March 4, on Kimberly M. Burtnyk's street, no sound barrier was used for the drilling. On March 6, Metro posts a photo of a new sound barrier, but with no indication as to where the sound barrier was used or by which drilling company (Joe Cano  believes that the So. Pasadena drilling contractor Boar Longview was the only one with a barrier after the 5th of March). Drilling was done in El Sereno on March 9 without a sound barrier. 

My post on the SR710 Facebook site:

 The above photo of the sound barrier is very disturbing: On March 4, on Kimberly M. Burtnyk's street, no sound barrier was used for the drilling. On March 6, Metro posts a photo of a new sound barrier, but with no indication as to where the sound barrier was used or by which drilling company (a Facebook respondent believes that the So. Pasadena drilling contractor Boar Longview was the only one with a barrier after the 5th of March). Drilling was done in El Sereno on March 9 without a sound barrier. Why was a sound barrier put up in one place (or more) and not in other places? From your photo and remarks, it would appear to an uninformed reader that Metro is requiring sound barriers at all drilling locations. Your photo serves only as propaganda, defined as: "a form of communication that is aimed towards influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes." In my opinion, Metro has no business in using propaganda of any kind on a social media site or any site or in any literature it puts out. Communist countries and dictatorships use propaganda all the time, so you know to take anything they say with a large grain of salt. Do you also have to be beware of everything that Metro says? A very sorry state if we have reached this point.

Metro and other agencies urge feds to release transit funding currently being withheld


By Steve Hymon, March 13, 2013


Further proof that there’s always something getting in the way of transportation funding in the nation’s capital. From Metro’s government relations starting nine:
Metro along with the Orange County Transportation Authority, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and Sacramento Regional Transit, sent a letter to Acting United States Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris, urging the United States Department of Labor to release federal transit funding currently being withheld from public transit agencies in California. We will continue to keep you apprised as this issue continues to unfold.  Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

OCTA Directors React to Metrolink Audit


By Adam Elmahrek, March 12, 2013


Metrolink train boarding (p)  Passengers board a Metrolink midday commuter train in Fullerton.

Orange County Transportation Authority board directors Monday confronted Metrolink's new CEO with tough questions about the rail agency's financial wreck, lobbing vague threats about alternate options to funding of the regional agency.

OCTA board members also secured a commitment from CEO Michael DePallo to conduct a forensic audit of Metrolink finances.

The grilling of DePallo came after an audit of the $196-million agency found that financial accounting has been sloppy and ripe for potential fraud. An internal review conducted last month also found shoddy accounting practices.

As a particularly alarming example of how bad the record keeping has been, Metrolink's restricted accounts, including those supposed to contain federal funds, appear to be underfunded by $66 million, according to the internal review and OCTA Director Michael Hennessey.

What exactly happened to those funds is unclear, Hennessey said.

“We had a fare increase. We had funds moved over from restricted funds, federal restricted funds … and we don't know where they are,” said Hennessey.

Metrolink operates 170 weekday trains that carry 42,000 riders each day. It is funded by passenger fares and revenue from the five member agencies that form the joint powers authority, among other revenue sources, according to an OCTA staff report.

OCTA contributes nearly $20 million annually, the staff report states.

The problem appears to go back years. During much of that time, OCTA directors have consistently had problems getting answers about Metrolink's finances from that agency's staff, directors said.

“Based on the documentation provided, it is not clear that Metrolink staff even has a clear idea about what funds member agencies owe,” states the internal report, which was prepared by a committee of the Metrolink board. “The committee is concerned that this is a microcosm of Metrolink staff's record keeping across the board.”

DePallo, who was brought in as Metrolink CEO two months ago to clean up the agency, has created an action plan to put Metrolink on “sounder financial footing” within 90 days, he wrote in a memo to Metrolink board members.

DePallo's plan includes forming a committee composed of financial professionals from each member agency and meanwhile reorganizing Metrolink's finance department, which will include a new audits section and a unit to oversee implementation of a financial information systems upgrade, according to the memo.

Yet OCTA board directors said that fixing the accounting problems isn't enough.
Director Jeffrey Lalloway, who is also an Irvine city councilman, demanded that DePallo conduct a housecleaning of Metrolink staffers who have been responsible for mishandling the agency's basic financial accounting.

“For me this is a people problem. There's folks there that are either incompetent or unwilling to perform the tasks,” Lalloway said. “I hear you reassigning people into these departments, I don't hear that you're reassigning people out.

DePallo assured Lalloway that problem staffers would be ousted from the agency. He noted that three former chief financial officers have already departed.

“The main problem is gone right now,” DePallo said.

The new CEO also assured Hennessey that the agency would conduct a forensic audit. OCTA directors expressed concern that, while corruption hasn't been rooted out yet in the wave of scrutiny facing Metrolink, there's also no way to know whether fraud had been committed.

OCTA directors also expressed frustration over the Metrolink board's culture.  Carolyn Cavecche, an OCTA director who served on the Metrolink ad hoc committee that investigated the problem, said Metrolink's board failed in its basic duties to taxpayers to question the agency's activities, despite obvious red flags like one-page staff reports on multimillion-dollar contracts.

“The board wasn't asking the right questions. The board was literally making votes specifically without getting the correct information,” Cavecche said.

At the end of Monday's discussion, OCTA directors decided to join Metrolink's member agency advisory committee.

But Hennessey also threatened to push for extreme measures,  like restructuring Metrolink's joint powers authority, if the agency doesn't right the problem soon.

Looming over the financial morass was the safety of the agency's riders.

Hennessey pondered aloud that if the agency's finances are so sloppy, “What don't we know about the safety of the trains?”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed statements made by OCTA Director Michael Hennessey to Director Frank Ury. We regret the er

Metro to hold public hearings on unmet transit needs in North County and City of Avalon


By Anna Chen, March 12, 2013


Metro will be holding a series of Transportation Development Act (TDA) Article 8 public hearings for the use of TDA Article 8 funds in the North County and the City of Avalon.
The TDA Article 8 funds are for those areas of Los Angeles County that do not have Metro service because they are located outside Metro’s service area. These areas include Antelope Valley (Palmdale & Lancaster), Santa Clarita Valley and Santa Catalina Island (City of Avalon). These hearings will determine TDA Article 8 budget funding allocation for FY 2013-14 for the North County and Avalon.

This year the hearing board consists of Michael Cano, representing Supervisor Antonovich’s office, Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist, Palmdale City Council member Steve Hofbauer and Julie Moore representing Supervisor Don Knabe’s office.

The following is a list of upcoming TDA Article 8 hearings scheduled in March and April.
  • Monday, March 18, 2013, (2 p.m.) Newhall Public Library, Community Room, 24500 Main Street, Santa Clarita.
  • Tuesday, March 19, 2013, (2 p.m.)  American Heroes Park Building, 701 West Kettering, Lancaster.
  • Tuesday, March 19, 2013 (4:30 p.m.) Larry Chimbole Cultural Center, Lilac Room, 38350 Sierra Highway, Palmdale.
  • Tuesday, April 16, 2013 (7 p.m.) Avalon City Hall, 410 Avalon Canyon Road, Avalon.
Those unable to attend the meetings and would like to comment can do so by sending their comments to: Metro Article 8 Hearing Record, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Mail Stop 99-24-1, Attn: Armineh Saint or email sainta@metro.net. Comments must be received by April 30, 2013.

Environmental group to appeal planned rail yard near Port of L.A.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the cargo complex would be near schools and residents who already breathe some of the foulest air in the region.


By Laura J. Nelson, March 12, 2013

 A $500-million proposed rail yard near the Port of Los Angeles will face a challenge Wednesday from an environmental group that says the plans are a threat to civil rights and public health.

The Southern California International Gateway, which Los Angeles harbor commissioners approved last week, would go up near the 710 Freeway and function as a staging area for trains hauling freight from the port.

The Natural Resources Defense Council plans to appeal that decision to the Los Angeles City Council. The group cites an environmental impact report that says the 153-acre cargo complex would push more noise and dirty air into the "diesel death zone" — an area of low-income neighborhoods in west Long Beach that already struggles with port-related pollution.

"This project exudes environmental injustice," defense council attorney David Pettit wrote in the appeal. "The siting of this project [is] adjacent to schools, senior housing, and residents who already breathe some of the foulest air in the entire region."

The harbor commissioners violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not adopting all possible ways to lessen the pollution, the appeal says.

The appeal also asks Councilman Joe Buscaino, whose district includes the port, to recuse himself from the appeals process because he cannot be an unbiased decision maker, Pettit said.

"He has been a vocal supporter of the project," the attorney said. "It's clear his decision has already been made."

Labor unions, business groups and elected officials have touted the project as a way to create jobs, increase port capacity and eliminate truck traffic on the 710. The rail yard would be capable of hauling as many as 2.8 million 20-foot shipping containers a year by 2035.