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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

10 Awesomest 1988 Predictions About the Los Angeles of 2013


By Adrian Glick Kudler, March 14, 2013





Forward-thinking USC professor/engineer Jerry Lockenour has held onto a 1988 issue of LA Times Magazine for 25 years waiting to see how its predictions about the Los Angeles of 2013 would pan out. (Now he uses it to help teach technology development and applications.) The magazine included a narrative about a family living in their retrofitted smart house in Granada Hills, along with sidebars with experts explaining what things might be like in the distant world of 2013; there are also illustrations and predictions from the great Blade Runner set designer Syd Mead, made for a never-produced CBS series called LA 15. Like a lot of futurism, the results are mostly very silly (laser discs! a robo-dog who helps with homework! India dominating cigarette production!) with a little eerie accurateness thrown in. Here are the best parts:

"It is a cold, sunny spring morning in April, 2013. In this area of Granada Hills north of Rinaldi Street, about a third of the residents have already headed out to their jobs, as required by Los Angeles County's mandatory staggered work plan. Many of the remaining households have not yet begun to stir."

"Flashing his monthly Metro Rail pass at a uniformed guard, Bill boards the shiny aluminum train for the 20-minute ride downtown to the Fifth/Hill Street Station. As he passes through Hollywood on an elevated part of the track, Bill marvels at the way the neighborhood sleaze has been systematically cleaned up, thanks to massive redevelopment along Sunset Boulevard."

"Downtown is encircled by Metro Rail tubes and dominated by two earthquake-proof mega rises. Syd Mead envisions structures with hanging floors, supported from the outside by steel beams, that are designed to sway with movement."

"Mead imagines a city characterized by clean lines and high buildings--a crowded, busy place with sleek transportation tubes and few architectural remnants of the 20th Century."

"USC futurist Selwyn Enzer, for one, disagrees with the currently popular slow-growth movement. He believes the region will have to allow high-density housing in some neighborhoods in order to preserve the area's one-family housing areas. Otherwise, he says, density will creep up throughout the city."

"[L]arger single-family homes could be divided into several sections, allowing more than one family to share the space, or several families might live in one house, sharing kitchen, dining and recreational facilities, says USC architecture professor John Mutlow. There will also be more apartments over commercial spaces, he adds .... Mutlow also predicts that home owners will build and rent out secondary houses behind their first houses, which will help them 'maintain their life style.'"

"With a quick check of the car's electronic map system, Bill sees that the Harbor Freeway is like a giant parking lot and decides to take Metro Rail part of the way in .... As Bill slowly drives toward the Golden State Freeway, his eyes start watering, as usual, from the sun and heavy smog .... How ironic, he thinks, that even with mass transportation, there are still so many cars on the road that the commute downtown now takes three times as long as it did 25 years ago."

"This is all I need, Bill is thinking, as his car sits motionless in the gridlock on the Golden State Freeway just before the 101 interchange. For a while, he was really zipping--his digital speedometer clocked him at almost 13 m.p.h.--but that was for only a mile. And it was before the blue-jump-suited police officer stopped the dented old gas-guzzler ahead of him."

"Even though drivers are charged extra to drive into the downtown area, automobiles jam the streets."

"On the elevator ride up to his office--located on the 70th floor of the 73-story Library Tower, until recently the tallest high rise on the West Coast--Bill looks out at a strikingly sophisticated skyline. With the advent of L.A.'s status as a world city and one of the three financial centers of the world--along with Tokyo and New York--the downtown area is as vital as that of either of those cities. Thousands of people live here now--or keep an apartment here and have a house in the suburbs--and it has emerged as a thriving regional center."

EXCLUSIVE: Philip Anschutz says AEG remains committed to bringing NFL to Farmers Field 


By Vincent Bonsignore, March 14, 2013




 Insisting the fight to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles in his downtown Farmers Field stadium project is far from over, a decisive Philip Anschutz promised a re-energized effort to completing the task Thursday in an exclusive interview with the Los Angeles News Group.
And in the process, the AEG head challenged the NFL to step up efforts on its end as well.

"It's time for the NFL to get serious and decide what they want to do," Anschutz said. "It doesn't do any good to sit on the sidelines all the time. Clearly a deal can get done. And by the way, this isn't a terribly complicated deal to get done."

Anschutz, who announced in September he was selling AEG, pulled the company off the market Thursday and promised a more active role in the day-to-day operations, a move that resulted in longtime AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke stepping down.

The announcement left many to speculate Farmers Field was dead, and that the NFL would move onto another potential site.

Anschutz insists that is not the case on AEG's end, promising they are more devoted than ever to see the project through.

As evidenced by the $45 million he's personally put into Farmers Field.

"That is a substantial investment and I will tell you I didn't do it just for the fun of writing checks," Anschutz said.
n other words, he believes Farmers Field can happen.

At the same time, he needs the NFL to declare where it stands.

"We are open for business, meaning there's one other party that needs to come to the table and decide what they want to do here." Anschutz said. "We just need to know where they stand."

Anschutz said he hasn't been in regular contact with the NFL recently, but now that he's remaining in charge of AEG he is looking forward to sitting down with the league.

As far as reports the NFL was not on board with his initial deal structure on bringing a team to Los Angeles and that he was inflexible to making adjustments, Anschutz adamantly maintains he is more than open to structuring a deal that is beneficial to everyone.

"Of course, I am," Anschutz said. "I've been in the deal-making business for almost 50 years now. I've made a lot of them.

"I think (Thursday's announcement) is a strong signal that structuring a deal should not be hard. There is nothing magic. We own 100-percent interests of venues around the world and partial interests of ventures around the world. We own 100-percent sports teams and we own partial sports teams. There's no magic here."

At the same time, he is urging the NFL to sit down and talk.

"If they are serious about getting a deal done in L.A., we're pleased to be a part of making that happen," Anschutz said.

And if the two sides sit and talk, Anschutz is confident a deal will be reached.

"I think there's a good chance the NFL comes back to L.A." Anschutz said. "But I can't make that happen all by myself."

Lawmakers Fret About Impact of Budget Cuts on Transit 


By Tanya Snyder, March 14, 2013

“In 2014, federal investment in surface transportation — which is currently about $50 billion per year — will drop to $6 billion or $7 billion. In one year.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio says underinvestment in transit is killing people, and it's about to get way worse.

Those were the dire words spoken by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) at the start of this morning’s Transportation & Infrastructure Committee hearing on MAP-21. What he meant was this: At the end of MAP-21, the Highway Trust Fund is expected to have a balance of almost zero and a $7.1 billion shortfall in 2015. Congress would have to radically reduce FY 2015 highway and transit investment levels to ensure that the trust fund remains solvent. According to AASHTO, federal highway investments would have to be cut from approximately $41 billion to $6 billion and transit investment from $11 billion to $3 billion.

“That is pathetic,” DeFazio said. “And we have to do something about it.”

Funding Cuts Force FTA to Break Agreements

T&I Chair Bill Shuster agreed. “That’s our biggest challenge moving forward,” he said. And Ranking Democrat Nick Rahall added that the sequester cuts and Congress’s inability to pass a real budget has compounded the funding crisis.

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff warned that the cuts will have a profound impact on transit projects around the country:
Overall, the sequester struck $656 million from FTA’s budget. It reduced program funding for our [New Starts] capital investment grants program by almost $100 million. This will means that few, if any, New Starts construction projects will be fundable in the near term.

Even more troubling is the fact that ongoing major New Starts-Small Starts projects will experience increased borrowing costs as FTA will now be required by sequestration to slow its scheduled grant payments to projects for which we have already made written financing agreements.
And, as Rahall had intimated, it’s not just the sequester. It’s the constant chipping away at the budget, the complete uncertainty that pervades when no real budget ever gets passed, and the looming bankruptcy of the trust fund.
Even without the sequester, under MAP-21 our New Starts-Small Starts capital investment program was authorized to receive 10 percent less in funding when compared with amounts available to carry out the projects in recent fiscal years.
These are just some of the significant funding challenges that direct our programs and really undermine some of our efforts to serve the record number — and I would emphasize that we are seeing a record number — of transit riders across the country today.
Funding Cuts Make Us Less Safe

MAP-21 finally gave FTA something it had been requesting for years — safety oversight authority over transit. But instead of giving more funding for the increased workload, it’s done the reverse, hobbling the agency’s ability to carry out its new mandate.

In addition, Rogoff noted that the dire maintenance backlog in many of the country’s transit systems creates its own safety hazard. Rep. DeFazio cited the number $77.7 billion of transit assets that are past their expected period of reliable service — and Rogoff said the number is probably much higher than that.

“We killed some people here in DC because of outmoded equipment,” DeFazio added in his typically dramatic way, referring to a 2009 crash on Metro’s red line that left nine dead.

Meanwhile, mere days after MAP-21 went into effect in October, granting FTA new emergency relief authority, Superstorm Sandy hit — the worst natural disaster ever to hit U.S. transit systems, which affected more than 40 percent of the nation’s transit ridership. Of the $10.9 billion allotted for relief, to date only $390 million has been allocated, but Rogoff said that he expects the first $2 billion to be out the door by the end of the month.

Talking in millions and billions makes people’s eyes glaze over, said Rep. Michael Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat whose primary focus is transit, which he said was “the big thing” in his district. He wanted to know specifics: What projects have had to be cut?

“I’m pushing very hard for at least one — actually several — major transit projects,” Capuano said. “They require New Starts funding. And it’s one thing to get through all the hoops and bells and whistles to get it there, and it’s another thing to get the state to have its money — we’re having those arguments as well — but none means anything if New Starts is defunded.”

Rogoff said he has a list of projects that are on the chopping block due to budget cuts. (I’ve requested a copy and will post it the minute I get it.)

Solutions Brainstorm

Neither Rogoff nor the other agency heads assembled were willing to suggest a policy fix for the funding shortfall, though Rogoff mentioned President Obama’s proposal to use the savings from the drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq to fund infrastructure.

One committee Republican, Roger Williams of Texas, suggested eliminating CAFE standards in an attempt to bring in more fuel tax revenue. Rogoff swatted away that proposal. Williams also exhorted the agencies to “put the customer first” like any good business and make sure that the cuts wouldn’t impact them, even if it meant the agencies had to cut staff. The patent absurdity that the agencies could keep running at full steam without a hiccup with severely reduced capacity — not to mention less grant authority — was apparently lost on him.

Another Republican, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, went back to the old donor/donee playbook, claiming that South Carolina got back 93 cents for each dollar it paid in federal fuel taxes. The administrators quickly corrected his error, saying that $54 billion in federal bailouts since 2008 assured that there were no donor states.

Multi-modalism Gets a Nod

A few opportunities arose to break down walls between agencies — and modes. For one, both FHWA and FTA are still working to come up with performance measures around congestion. “It will be the proof that we will have come out of our modal silos if we come up with the identical measures of congestion,” Rogoff said.

Second, the emerging freight policy provides a chance for the agencies to work together. Indeed, though some have lamented that MAP-21 jump-starts a freight conversation that leans too heavily toward highways, and away from rail, U.S. DOT appears to be doing a good job interpreting its mandate in a more multi-modal way.

Bicycle and pedestrian programs got a little attention at the hearing too, starting with Rahall’s praise for Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chair Tom Petri (R-WI) for his support of Transportation Enhancements. He said that funding “has done so much to improve the quality of life in rural and urban areas.”

More significantly, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland noted that amid a steep decline in motorist fatalities there has been an “alarming” rise in bicyclist and pedestrian deaths — by 8.7 percent and 3 percent, respectively. He said the two bicycle safety summits U.S. DOT is planning to host this year will help address that problem.

“We will look to examine what safety strategies work, and what isn’t working, and will use this information to make bicycling safer throughout the nation,” he said. He added that the department would also hold events in areas with the most fatalities, talk to officials on the ground about the underlying factors behind the rise in bike/ped deaths, and launch a new safety education program aimed at pedestrians and drivers.
Two New Ghost Bikes Go Up to Honor Fallen Cyclists in South L.A.


By Sahra Sulaiman, March 14, 2013

 Members of the East Side Riders and Los Ryderz bike clubs put a ghost bike up at the site where a cyclist was hit by the Blue Line train last month.

Two new ghost bikes went up in South L.A. and Compton yesterday. One was to commemorate the death last month of Sylvester Henderson, 26, who was hit by the train while crossing the Blue Line tracks at the intersection of Grandee and Century Blvd.

Not much is known about Henderson’s death, unfortunately. Much to the consternation of Ted Rogers of bikinginla, the only official news of it seemed to be that of an L.A. Times photo in the print edition showing a bike with a taco-ed wheel said to belong to the as-yet unidentified victim laying on the tracks.

Metro couldn’t give me much information, either. A representative was unable to explain how or why Henderson ignored the flashing lights and lowered arms of the railroad signals.
Judging by the location of the bike in the photo (below) and the fact that Henderson was traveling eastbound against traffic, it is likely he either didn’t notice or didn’t pay attention to the gate arms and flashing lights because they weren’t directly in front of him. The Blue Line has few of the pedestrian safety gates that the Expo Line has, despite the fact that you are actually crossing four sets of tracks (two for the Blue Line and two for freight rail) in most locations. So, while gate arms may effectively block vehicular traffic, pedestrians and cyclists can (and often do) move uninhibited through that and the crossing at 103rd, thinking they can beat the train. Or, they are unaware of whether or not they should be crossing. When you get off the train at 103rd and are looking to cross Grandee, for example, the pedestrian walk signal is conveniently blocked by a telephone pole.
Photo of Sylvester Henderson's bicycle.

The other ghost bike was for Ovidio Morales, a father of five from Guatemala who was, presumably, on his way to work when he was run down by a driver on a cellphone that ran a red light. Worse still, the driver realized he hit Morales, got out of the car to look at him, got back into the car, and sped off.
There had been a ghost bike put up for Morales in 2010, when he was killed. It was even mentioned in an L.A. Times story later that year on the history of the ghost bikes movement. But apparently someone stole it, according to John Jones III of the East Side Riders. So, Jones, along with members of his club and Los Ryderz, decided to replace it yesterday. Both groups — recently working together as the United Riders of South L.A. — have been active in keeping alive the memory of another hit-and-run victim, Benjamin Torres, of late and appear to be inspired by how much it means to the families that fallen cyclists are not forgotten, even if their killers are never apprehended.

Click here for more information on the East Side Riders and Los Ryderz. Both will be celebrating the 5th anniversary of the East Side Riders with a Tour de Watts this Saturday. For more information, please click here.

Chinese firm puts millions into U.S. natural gas stations


By Nichola Groom, March 14, 2013


 A Blu LNG filling station in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 13. ENN Group Co Ltd, one of China's largest private companies, is quietly rolling out plans to establish a network of natural gas fueling stations for trucks along U.S. Highways.

ENN Group Co Ltd, one of China's largest private companies, is quietly rolling out plans to establish a network of natural gas fueling stations for trucks along U.S. highways.

With plans to build 50 stations this year alone, ENN joins a small but formidable group of players -- including Clean Energy Fuels Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc -- in an aggressive push to develop an infrastructure for heavy-duty trucks fueled by cheap and abundant natural gas. Clean Energy is backed by T. Boone Pickens and Chesapeake Energy Corp.

The move is yet another example of China's ambition to grab a piece of the U.S. shale gas boom. Just last month, Sinopec Group said it would pay $1 billion for some of Chesapeake's oil and gas properties in the Mississippi Lime shale.

The natural gas bounty is also expected to help wean the U.S. transport industry off its dependence on diesel fuel made from imported crude oil, and the trucking industry is in a big push to use more of the domestically produced fuel.

The potential savings are huge: shippers can save around $2 a gallon by switching to natural gas from diesel.

Nearly half of the garbage trucks sold in the United States last year run on natural gas. They are able to refuel at dedicated stations at their home bases. To convince the far larger market for long-haul trucking to run on natural gas, truckers need to know they can refuel along their highway routes.

Enter ENN, led by billionaire energy tycoon Wang Yusuo. The company has already built natural gas stations in China, which is farther along in its adoption of natural gas trucks.

The average liquefied natural gas station costs around $1 million to build, according to industry experts, putting ENN's investment this year at about $50 million. The company's U.S. joint venture would not say how much it plans to spend.

Two years ago ENN began looking to put its expertise in natural gas equipment to work in the United States and first approached the top player in U.S. natural gas fueling, Clean Energy, about forming a partnership, according to people familiar with the matter. Clean Energy would not comment.

But when they rebuffed ENN, the Chinese firm reached out to a small Utah company, CH4 Energy Corp, which had opened a single LNG and CNG fueling station in Salt Lake City with the help of federal stimulus funds.

The deal created Transfuels LLC, which operates as Blu LNG. ENN has a majority stake in the joint venture and controls its board of directors, according to sources familiar with the deal.
Merritt Norton, who founded CH4, is Blu's chief executive, while Jun Yang is chairman and also the vice president of ENN Group.

Blu LNG's plans are bold and moving quickly.

"We have five stations in operation right now, and within I would say two weeks we will have another three stations," Norton said in an interview last week.

Eventually, ENN has said it also plans to build LNG plants.

A source close to the situation said the company "is just testing the market. You can call it an experiment."

As for the secrecy around its plans, the source said, "ENN Group is mindful of potential U.S. reaction to its expansion there because it would bring in more competition."

Blu had no comment on its ownership structure or the makeup of its board of directors. The company said it was not able to comment on behalf of ENN Group. Efforts to reach ENN Group in China were unsuccessful.


Today there are 28 public LNG refueling stations in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

LNG is denser than compressed natural gas, which fuels many buses and garbage trucks. That means
trucks require fewer fuel storage tanks to go the same distance. Also, LNG stations are cheaper to build than CNG stations because they do not tap into gas lines. Much like diesel, the liquid fuel is trucked in.

The number of stations Blu will open this year is about equal to the 50 to 60 stations Clean Energy is planning. Clean Energy already has 70 LNG stations, though most will only start operating when there are a sufficient number of trucks that need them. Shell has said it plans to build about 100 LNG fueling stations in the United States, but has not given a timeline.

Blu's eventual plan is to build about 500 LNG stations in the United States, according to another person familiar with their strategy. When asked about that figure, a Blu spokesman said the company was committed to building a network of fueling stations, but that the exact number would depend on a number of factors.

Most of Clean Energy's filling stations are located at truck stops run by Pilot Flying J. Shell said it is in the final stages of negotiations to work with another major U.S. truck stop operator, TravelCenters of America LLC.

Blu has no such deal with a national truck stop owner, but is working with some regional players, Norton said, adding that he did not view other players in natural gas as competition.

All of the company's current stations are in Utah, but it is expanding throughout the country. Blu has between 50 and 100 employees, Norton said, mostly at its headquarters in Salt Lake, but also in the Midwest, Southeast and Northwest.

Blu LNG isn't ENN's first foray into the U.S. market. The company in recent years has announced partnerships with power company Duke Energy Corp to develop green energy projects, though none have yet been built.

It has also been developing a $5 billion solar farm and manufacturing plant in Nevada for years, though the project still does not have a buyer for its power.

The company hopes to have better luck in natural gas. Last month ENN inked a global deal with natural gas engine maker Westport Innovations to collaborate on efforts to speed the proliferation of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

But Westport is not helping ENN with its U.S. LNG stations.

"They don't need us," said Husayn Anwar, president of Westport's China business. "They know what they are doing and they have the money for it."

When It Comes to Talking on Phones While Driving, Americans Are the Worst


By Sara Johnson, March 14, 2013

  When It Comes to Talking on Phones While Driving, Americans Are the Worst

Nearly 70 percent of American adult drivers talk on the phone while driving, at least occasionally. This according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released today.
It shows that Americans are far more likely to talk on the phone while driving than some of their European counterparts. The CDC relied on data from 2011 EuroPNStyles and HealthStyles online surveys. Note that the data is self-reported, which may result in under-reporting.

The United States had the highest rate of both texting and talking while driving of any country in the survey. For adults 18-64 in the U.S., 69 percent reported talking on the phone while driving in the past 30 days at least once, and 31 percent reported texting or emailing while driving — tying with Portugal for the highest rate.

The chart below, from the report [PDF], shows the adults 18-64 who reported how often they had talked while driving in the last 30 days.
Courtesy of the report; Click for larger image

Is This a Good Way to Reinvent the Recumbent Bicycle?


By John Metcalfe, March 15, 2013

 Is This a Good Way to Reinvent the Recumbent Bicycle?



Recumbent bicycles aren't for everyone, what with the loss of balance control, difficulty in starting and the sometimes cruel put-downs from the non-recumbent masses. But for someone who loves the ungainly contraptions, here is one that's a little bit different – muscled and formidable like a motorcycle, with a classic racing fairing to match.

The City Speeder, which was recently featured on the great site Bicycle Design, comes from the conceptual workshop of Roel Verhagen Kaptein, an industrial product designer from the Netherlands. Kaptein whipped up these renderings of his curious recumbent for the International Bicycle Design Competition in Tapei, hoping to impress the world with a new kind of commuter bicycle. He writes:
The city speeder is a recumbent bike made for commuting in a fast and comfortable way. The streamlined body makes the bike fast and keeps you comfortable and dry. The streamline baggage compartment can hold your backpack, suitcase or can be used as a child seat. The design layout makes that you can use all standard parts for the driveline.
The City Speeder's boxy exoskeleton looks tough enough to take a couple hard knocks from zig-zagging urban traffic, and those super-thick wheels should make riding over bumpy pavement or gravel a cinch. However, a couple of Bicycle Design's commenters are pointing out what they perceive as flaws:
Gunnstein Lye: As a recumbent cyclist I’d say this could work well as a bike, but I would not want it as a city bike. Bents are generally not very good in start/stop situations, slow moving traffic, and manouvering tight spaces. High bottom brackets and high seats as on this one makes it worse. On the open road it could excel, though. I have a bike with very similar geometry and love it for long distances. In the city I use an upright (wedgie) bike.

Impossibly Stupid: I don’t understand how it’s supposed to keep you dry. The only thing that is covered is your legs, but only from the top. And, as I’ve mentioned before, every time I see a seat like that with zero air flow, all I can think of is the rivers of sweat that would be flowing down my back and pooling in the seat.

For what it lacks in an ability to keep a butt dry, though, the City Speeder makes up for with its unusual appearance, quite unlike anything else on the road today (save for maybe this “Flevobike Electric Greenmachine”). Similarly rejiggered recumbents are something of an obsession for Kaptein; he also has designed a flattened “Evolution Bike” and a classic chopper that looks like a Harley fighting with a giant praying mantis.

4.6-magnitude earthquake shakes Northern California awake


March 14, 2013


A 4.6-magnitude earthquake rattled Northern California overnight Thursday, shaking residents from San Francisco to north of Sacramento.

The temblor struck at 2:09 a.m. and was centered in Geyserville, about 20 miles north of Santa Rosa, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. USGS measurements indicated at least 20 smaller earthquakes followed throughout the morning.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported the quake began only one mile below ground level, which is why it was felt across the region. There were no immediate reports of damage, the newspaper said.

But it woke people up. More than 60 people reported to USGS's "Did you feel it?" site, with reports ranging from San Francisco and Oakland to Lake and Yuba counties.

Earthquake early-warning system's future still in doubt


By Joseph Serna, March 14, 2013

Lucy Jones



Supporters of California's quake early warning system hope this week's success will prompt state officials to help fund completion of the network.

The system currently is being funded as a pilot program, largely by private donations as a temporary project.

Scientists and some lawmakers have called for the state to pay to make the system permanent.

Backers want the state to spend $80 million to install and upgrade thousands of the sensors across California. If they can get the money, seismologists said the system could be operational in two years.
Without the funding, the future of the system is unclear.

Monday's 4.7 temblor in Anza marked a big advance for the system.

The quake struck in the desert town of Anza, about 35 miles south of Palm Springs, 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 Caltech seismologist. "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 — whether it worked.

The sensors 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 sensors gave an early warning of several magnitude 5 quakes last year in Imperial County, but the temblors hit too far away for them to be felt in L.A.

The Anza quake was different.

Even though it measured only magnitude 4.7, its location on solid granite made the shaking stronger and more widespread. People reported to the U.S. Geological Survey 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 others declared the test a success, with some caveats.

The system initially overestimated the quake's magnitude, saying it was 5.2. But USGS seismologist Susan Hough was not overly concerned about the error. She noted 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.

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. Warnings would be sent to the public through text messages, emails and other special alerts.

Similar systems are already operating in Japan, Mexico and Taiwan. Two years ago, Japan's program alerted about 50 million residents ahead of the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

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

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

Hough and others warned the system would be effective only for quakes some distance from the urban center of L.A.

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 waves, lag behind at a slower speed. The greater the distance from the epicenter, the more time population centers would have to prepare. The system would provide little to no warning for a quake at the center of the city.

"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 were issued.

Mickadeit: Irvine shuttle expansion is a no-go


By Frank Mickadeit, March 13, 2013



Article Tab: irvine-ishuttle-city-nigh

 The Irvine City Council on Tuesday night declined to expand its iShuttle program.

The nifty Irvine iShuttle bus service I questioned three weeks ago was up for a vote before the Irvine City Council on Tuesday night. The proposal was to expand a program that is arguably far less efficient than the regular Orange County Transportation Authority bus service that's available countywide.

Wisely, the (predictably divided) Irvine council decided not to expand the iShuttle even though, once again, they were being offered virtually "free" money from OCTA to do so.

In my look at iShuttle last month, I reasoned it was 60 times less efficient than OCTA buses because OCTA riders contribute 20 percent of the cost of OCTA buses through their fares. The iShuttle riders contribute less than one-third of 1 percent. Ninety percent comes from OCTA funds that would otherwise revert back to the state. About 10 percent comes from Irvine employers.

Al Tello pointed out that I didn't consider that the employers' 10 percent should be calculated as privately funded fares, which would mean that iShuttle really gets about 10.3 percent back from fares. Whatever tax breaks the employers get by subsidizing their workers' transportation would offset that, but let's concede the full 10 percent. Still, iShuttle would be half as efficient as OCTA.

Hank Adler, a Chapman accounting professor and former Irvine planning commissioner, calculates that taxpayers are subsidizing each iShuttle rider by about $2,000 per year. That's based on an assumption that while there might be up to 5,000 rides taken per week, the vast majority are commuters who use it twice a day, five days a week. Therefore, there are really only about 500 regular individual riders. The overall cost to taxpayers is about $1 million a year. One million divided by 500 = 2,000.

So why expand iShuttle and spread the inefficiencies?

A new transportation study the Irvine Co. was required to provide the answer. It recommends that iShuttle be increased from four to five routes by adding a run that would connect UC Irvine and the Irvine Spectrum. Two other new limited runs are proposed to handle special events within the city.

The study's release nicely coincides with the March 26 OCTA grant application deadline to fund such projects. The city staff, supported by the New Minority (Agran and Krom), recommended applying for the grant, which would supply $525,000 a year to run the expanded service. About 11 percent would come from other sources: the Irvine Co. and UCI.

When one government agency offers another "free" money, it is not free to the taxpayers who support the first government agency. In this case, those taxpayers are the rest of us who contribute to the Measure M sales tax increase that is managed by OCTA and is the would-be source of the grant money.

These funds must be used for local transit systems, but that doesn't mean a city shouldn't insist that it be the most efficient system available. Who has the most efficient system? We know it isn't iShuttle.
It may well be OCTA. But for all of the calculations I found in the new 66-page study, I could not find one that addressed whether it would be more efficient to simply have OCTA itself provide the iShuttle service – either for the existing routes or the proposed ones.

Also, it appears that a main objective of the proposed regular route is to get UCI students over to the Irvine Co.-owned Irvine Spectrum to spend their money. The route would only operate on Friday nights and Saturdays.

To ensure the minimum ridership required to keep the grant funding alive, riders would be charged only 50 cents – while the actual cost of providing each ride would be subsidized by taxpayers up to $8 per fare.

Councilman Jeff Lalloway suggested that it wasn't fair for all county residents to pay for UCI students to ride to the Spectrum for entertainment. The whole expansion proposal, Lalloway said, "is not in the city's best interest."

Beth Krom countered the shuttle was a good way to strengthen the "town and gown relationship." If UCI students were to consent to wear gowns and board buses en masse in an attempt to find a place in Irvine that resembles a "town," I, as a taxpayer, would pay to see that. Until such time, it seems UCI students and the Irvine Co. should pay the full freight.

Three groups ask LA City Council to reject railyard project near the ports


By Molly Peterson, March 13, 2013


Three environmental groups are hand-delivering a letter to the L.A. City Council today asking it to reject the $500 million Southern California International Gateway railyard project near the ports. 
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, the Coalition for Clean Air, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are appealing the certification of SCIG's environmental impact report - an action taken last week at L.A.'s Harbor Commission meeting
"This project exudes environmental injustice," writes the NRDC's David Pettit, who goes on to point out that the environmental impact report acknowledges that significant impacts “would fall disproportionately on minority and low-income populations" living near the railyard.
The letter also includes a request that Councilman Jose Buscaino recuse himself from considering the appeal. It cites this video as proof that he is prejudiced in favor of the project. The video was posted on Jan. 31, before the final EIR was issued. 

"Given the timing of this statement and others, Councilman Buscaino could not have made an independent evaluation of the merits of this [p]roject," Pettit writes. "This type of predetermination is prohibited by state law."
The letter is below. 
Appeal to LA City Council about Southern California International Gateway

 March 13, 2013
Via Hand Delivery
Members of the Los Angeles City Councilc/o City Clerk Los Angeles City Council200 N. Spring Street, Rm 395Los Angeles, CA 90012
 Re: Appeal from the Board of Harbor Commissioners’ Decision to Approve the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for theSouthern California International Gateway (SCIG Project (ADP No.041027-199; SCH No. 2005091116)) Request for Councilmember Buscaino to Recuse Himself from this Appeal and All Related Matters
Dear Members of the City Council:Pursuant to California Public Resources Code Section 21151(c), the Coalition forClean Air, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and the NaturalResources Defense Council hereby appeal the March 7, 2013 decision of the Boardof Harbor Commissioners to approve the Southern Calif ornia International Gateway(“SCIG”) Final Environmental Impact Report (“FEIR”).
The FEIR purported toanalyze the environmental impacts from the SCIG project (the “Project”) at the Portof Los Angeles (“Port”) under the California Environmental Quality Act(“CEQA”).This project exudes environmental injustice. The siting of this Project, adjacent toschools, senior housing, and residents who already breathe some of the foulest air inthe entire region, must only proceed in full compliance with CEQA and otherrelevant laws, including state and federal civil rights laws. The EIR
concedes thatthe significant impacts from the Project “
would fall disproportionately on minority and 
low-income populations because the census block groups adjacent to the point of impact.”
Moreover, the analytical integrity of the document suffers from systemicproblems that render it incapable of contributing to informed decision-making.
The Board of Harbor Commissioners’ press release, announcing their decisionwhich is the subject of our appeal, is attached hereto as Attachment A.
Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report, at 6-11–6-12 (emphasis added).

Metrolink-to-Metro TAP test goes well

By Steve Hymon, March 13, 2013

I happened upon the testing during the afternoon rush hour on Wednesday and everything appeared to go smoothly. With Metro preparing to latch gates at Red and Purple Line stations this summer, Metro and Metrolink are testing paper TAP-enabled tickets that will allow Metrolink passengers to get through the gates.
From Metro’s TAP staff:
On Wednesday, March 6, 2013, Metro and Metrolink collaborated on a successful test-latching of Metro’s fare gates in Union Station.

At approximately 9:00 a.m., two of the largest groups of Metrolink riders successfully transferred to Metro through latched gate arrays at the Alameda entrance to the station. For the first time ever, Metrolink customers were tapped through the gates by Metrolink staff using Metrolink TAP tickets. The successful testing continued through 5:30 p.m.

In addition, the new gate help phone installed near the gate array was tested. The gate help phones are designed to be accessible to those who may have trouble with their TAP cards, including customers with physical disabilities. Customers do not have to dial a number or push a button for assistance. An operator automatically responds when the customer comes into close proximity to the phone and can assist him or her by remotely opening the ADA accessible gate.

Standard operating procedures went smoothly and testing is expected to continue in future weeks. Metro and Metrolink are pleased that our collaboration has been successful so far and expect gate latching of Red and Purple Line stations to begin in June.

MAP: Downtown Los Angeles streetcar will help create a car-free urban core


By Machiko Yasuda, March 9, 2013


 Soon it may be easier to move around downtown Los Angeles without a motor vehicle. As an enticement to return to the urban core, a flurry of new attractions, skyscraper hotels, museums and parklets are being planned or under construction.

Recent funding for a new streetcar, combined with new light rail connections and bike rentals, will give visitors and residents more transportation options that don't involve fighting for parking spots or sitting in freeway congestion. 
There's so much activity, it's hard to keep track of it all.

To help, below is a map of major projects.  (You have to go to the website to view the map.) Follow the orange line for the proposed streetcar loop and the red line for the proposed underground rail connecting the 7th Street Metro Center to the Little Tokyo/Arts District station. The green outline is Bike Nation's proposed bike rental area. Pink pins are for upcoming projects, while the yellow ones indicate parks, restaurants and other developments that are open. Click on an icon to learn more:

For those who want to visit downtown using Metro, Amtrak or Metrolink, you will have more car-free options to get around the urban core.

Starting in April, you can rent a bike at Union Station and ride down Spring Street's neon-green bike lanes to the parklets outside Syrup Desserts. When Metro's Regional Connector project is completed, riders on the Blue, Gold and Expo lines will not have to transfer lines to get to the Walt Disney Center or philanthropist Eli Broad's contemporary art museum, now under construction and scheduled to open in 2014.

Feeling nostalgic for downtown's historic rail lines? You can take Angel's Flight funicular from Grand Central Market to California Plaza. Or perhaps, when federal funding is secured, you'll be able to go glide down Broadway on a streetcar.

Until then, you can check out Ross Dress for Less, which is celebrating their grand opening on Broadway this weekend. The street has several new restaurants open during the past year, including Figaro Bistro, Umamicatessen and Two Boots Pizza.

Broadway will also get a new hotel later this year. The Portland, Ore. chain Ace Hotel is expected to open its downtown Los Angeles property at the historic United Artists Building, a few blocks away from the Orpheum Theater.

Below are some of the projects that will help you get around the city center now and in the near future.
Transit projects in development and under construction in Downtown LA:
  • 2010: Angel's Flight funicular re-opens. 
  • 2012: Expo Line opens, connecting downtown, USC and LA Live to Crenshaw and Culver City. Construction is underway to complete the Expo Line to Santa Monica.
  • 2012: Regional connector project begins to relocate utilities to make way for underground construction.
  • 2013: Bike Nation expects to open kiosks in April.
  • 2013: Regional Connector construction is slated to begin.
  • 2016: Streetcar begins operating, if federal funding is secured and proposed construction timeline is followed.
  • 2019: Regional Connector expected to be up and running.
Hotels and museums, coming soon:

Caltrans SR710 Freeway Public Hearing, Joe Cano Video

 From Sylvia Plummer, March 14, 2013

The year: 1986

The Hearing is presented in its entirety.

Senator Art Torres position is not to build the freeway. 

Senator Art Torres takes Caltrans to task and challenges the draft EIR.
Have the problems that Art Torres addressed in 1986 been resolved?

Worth the time to watch!

Quality of film is not the best, however the sound is excellent.

Part 1 (over 1 hour):

Part 2 (over 1 hour):

10 reasons to salute L.A.'s promising transportation future 


March 14, 2013

Los Angeles is often criticized for being a transportation nightmare, but there are many reasons to be optimistic. The city is leading the way with creative and thoughtful developments and initiatives that will probably be replicated in car-centric cities around the world as they shift toward more sustainable and equitable futures.

Here are 10 indicators that prove Los Angeles is on the right track in reinventing itself as a transit-rich city. --Nolan Borgman 

  You'll have to go the website to see the additional photos.


 (For photos, you'll have to go to the website.)

Metro chief Arthur Leahy remembers entering a virtually abandoned Union Station as a young bus operator in the early '70s in search of a bathroom. Today, Union Station is buzzing with commuters from the Gold, Red and Purple lines, MetroLink, Amtrak, Flyaway to LAX and the bus routes through Patsaouras Transit Plaza.

Located between Chinatown and downtown near where the city was founded, the potential for transit-oriented development is being carefully considered so that Union Station can be maximized. The hope is that Union Station will be a world-class historic facility around which development can occur and thrive. Every new and existing business, housing unit and civic space in the area can benefit from Union Station. 
 Los Angeles' 5th CicLAvia festival shattered even the planners' expectations last year when more than 100,000 bicyclists hit the streets of downtown on Oct. 7.

It is amazing to see how many bicycles can fit on a six-lane road, and how much quieter 100 bikes are than a few cars. Through the event, riders are empowered to claim their right of way, engage in heart-healthy exercise and see that bicyclists are far from alone in their desire to ride. CicLAvia is the powerful cultural engine necessary to generate buzz around the planning and policy efforts of the city such as the County of L.A. Bicycle Master Plan and L.A. City 2010 Bicycle Plan.
In order for public transportation to thrive, the benefits of taking public transportation need to outweigh the benefits of driving. The Westside subway will meet this criteria. The 101, 10 and 405 freeways are drastically congested during rush hour, and the east-west arterial streets of the Westside are impractical places for cars. The pedestrian-friendly small businesses that line Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards are development centers around which transportation can succeed -- not to mention that this line will connect the Westside and downtown nightlife. When the Purple Line extends to Westwood and beyond, it will fundamentally change the way Los Angeles thinks of itself. UCLA to downtown in about 25 minutes may be worth the projected $6.3-billion price tag. 
This line has not only been a success because it attracts tourists and ridership swells on USC football game days; its daily ridership has smashed expectations and is still rising.

One of the primary roles of a transit service provider is to connect the cultural dots of a city. As the second-biggest city in the U.S., home of Hollywood, arts and entertainment, beautiful beaches, industry and commerce, Chicano history and a hub to some of the nation's most breathtaking national parks, Los Angeles is a global tourist destination that has struggled to provide access to its riches. The Expo Line touts an impressive list of landmarks that it touches from downtown and L.A. Live to the USC campus and beyond to Culver City, but it is also providing occasion for Angelenos to familiarize themselves with the system en route to museums, USC and the restaurants of Culver City. In 2015, the line is expected to extend to Santa Monica with commute times of about 46 minutes. 
ExpressLanes ON THE 110 AND 10 FREEWAYS
 The new High Occupancy Toll, or HOT, lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways are a prime example of the types of forward-thinking carbon-use fees that will not only work to mitigate carbon use but also provide disincentives to driving.

The message is clear: Driving will continue to get more expensive at the pump and at the toll.

HOT lanes create a profound economic choice between choosing to drive and choosing to take public transportation. The congestion pricing model on the 110 and 10 ExpressLanes cost a minimum of $.25 per mile and a maximum $1.40 per mile, while the Silver Line and Expo Line both cost less than $3 one-way and run parallel to the 110 and 10 freeways, respectively. 
 Whether for or against high-speed rail, Los Angeles is better for the debate because it demonstrates a healthy vetting process. The debate concerning the viability of the high-speed rail project is bringing questions of economic land use and connectivity into the civic forum, not just of Los Angeles but of Orange County, San Diego, the Central Valley and the Bay Area. A more connected California would help alleviate the congestion to and from the airports and along the interstate highways, as well as bring many Californians into downtown L.A. without cars. In the meantime, Megabus began offering service with fares starting at $1 from Union Station to San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, Sacramento, and Las Vegas this winter.

There are many tools available to help find service, plan trips and execute plans that were not available five years ago, let alone in the mid-1800s and early 1900s when the bulk of the New York subway system was built.

While the apps are imperfect, transportation agencies are determined to improve riders' information sources. Available resources that are being constantly improved and re-tuned include mobile apps, social media, digital and analog signs at stations, fare vending machines, transit blogs, 511, Trip Planner and Nextrip. The 511 hot-line is especially useful because it consolidates multiple sources of transportation alerts, updates and information into one source. Through 511 or on the mobile app, Nextrip uses a simple code posted at bus stops from all the different agencies and can be used to find out when the next few buses will reach your stop. These efforts consistently strive for fluidity, connectivity and easy, intuitive understanding. For those who find this too complicated, the paper schedules still exist and do the trick.
Measure R, a countywide half-cent sales tax that passed with a two-thirds majority in 2008, committed an expected $40 billion toward 30 years of transportation projects. Running on a similar platform of creating jobs to stimulate the local economy and improve infrastructure, Measure J went on the ballot in November to extend the tax 30 more years. Measure J was intended to accelerate Measure R projects to completion within 10 years, but it fell just short of the two-thirds majority with 66.11% of the vote. Nevertheless, public support for Measure J is a good sign. It demonstrates a desire for improved transit options and infrastructure. The campaign process helped voters educate themselves on the types of projects in the works. Because the initiative polled well, it popularized transportation in the political debate and has prompted many politicians at the state level to propose lowering the voter threshold from two-thirds to 55%. 
 This creative squiggle of a rail line through downtown will be up and running relatively soon, hopefully by 2018. This line will connect the Blue and Expo lines to the Gold Line, making the entire transit system more fluid and connected. The goal of this project is to provide riders with a one-seat ride along east-west and north-south arteries. When commuters are deciding whether to drive or ride, the amount of vessels they will have to take to reach their destination factors heavily. The regional connector will make all of the rail options more attractive.
 In Los Angeles, many drivers feel that they have a right to get to their destination faster than pedestrians, so the fact that the new 6th Street Viaduct will place an emphasis on pedestrians and bicyclists is a monumental statement. The 80-year-old bridge between Boyle Heights and downtown is one of Los Angeles' most famous and filmed landmarks, but it is no longer up to seismic snuff and must be replaced.

The design process incited competition from international firms to ensure that the best ideas of the private sector were brought forth to the public realm. Competing architects considered many factors including aesthetic, form and functionality, community development and engagement, interplay with the L.A. River and history. The team of HNTB, Maltzan, and AC Martin won the bid for the project, estimated at $400 million, with a design that will aim not just to transport people to their destinations but to be a destination and civic space in its own right.