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

Monday, April 8, 2013

Earthquake: 3.0 quake strikes near Chester, California


 By Ken Schwencke, April 8, 2013

Earthquake: 3.0 quake strikes near Chester, California

A map showing the location of the epicenter of Monday evening's quake near Chester, California.

A shallow magnitude 3.0 earthquake was reported Monday evening 11 miles from Chester, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 10:22 p.m. Pacific time at a depth of 7.5 miles.
According to the USGS, the epicenter was 34 miles from Magalia, Calif., 37 miles from Paradise, Calif., 41 miles from Red Bluff, Calif. and 118 miles from Sacramento.
In the past 10 days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

WeHo to Get Free Party Buses This Summer


By Eve Bachrach, April 8, 2013



 Starting July 1 there will be a free "entertainment shuttle" running down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood on Friday and Saturday nights. When the idea was first floated back in 2011 it was billed as a trolley, but this six-month pilot program will just be using a couple of buses on its route between Doheny and Fairfax. Sad. But if the shuttles are a hit, the city will look into expanding the service into a complete "WeHo-themed experience," says WeHo News. It's not clear what that experience might entail, but city councilmember John Heilman is sure of what he doesn't want: "I worry about the discussion about this being a vehicle that is 'sexy' or 'hot.' What, are we going to have limos with stripper poles in them?" West Hollywood may also look into expanding the route to include Sunset and/or the eastern stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard. But first they need to find a company to operate the service; the city will be issuing a request for proposals soon.

LADOT Lays the Groundwork for Functional Car Share with Hertz. Goodbye ZipCar?


By Damien Newton, April 8, 2013

For as long as I’ve covered car-sharing in Los Angeles, it’s been something of a disaster. Our first story, published on Street Heat in 2007, was about how ZipCar’s buyout of Flex Car would lead to a dramatic reduction of car-share. Nearly six years later, Los Angeles, a city with over 4 million people, has a pathetic 40 cars in its ZipCar fleet, with less than a dozen in its nearest competitor, LAX Car Share.
A "Hertz on Demand" advertisement from New York City.

But that might finally change.

Wednesday afternoon, the City Council Transportation Committee will hear a report from the LADOT that will pave the way for an expansion of the city’s publicly available car share fleet. LADOT recommends an exclusive five year contract with Hertz, a company best known for its traditional rent-a-car business. In 2008, Hertz launched its carsharing service, now known as Hertz On Demand. Currently Hertz on Demand is located in six countries and has car share programs in a number of major cities including Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and San Diego.

Car sharing is a model of car rental where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour. They are attractive to customers who make only occasional use of a vehicle, as well as others who would like occasional access to a vehicle of a different type than they use day-to-day.

The largest competitor to Hertz on Demand, was ZipCar the city’s current official car share company. While staff admitted there is some risk changing companies, they also noted the low amount of cars already on the street. There is no word if ZipCar will continue its tiny car share service clustered around USC and UCLA if the city awards its contract to Hertz. While details of the proposed contract an be found after the jump, thousands of Angelenos are most interested in is how does Hertz’ proposal compare to ZipCars in terms of cost, availability and fees. The below graph from the staff report allows a quick comparison of the two proposals. Even a cursory examination shows that Hertz On Demand will be less expensive and will quickly have more cars on the street than ZipCars proposal.

The “Request for Proposal” that LADOT issued for a car share company last year asked for “single source” proposals, meaning that the Department wants just one place for L.A. residents to register to access the now publicly available cars. Once the contract is signed, after the Council approves it, Hertz estimates it will have 200 cars in its Los Angeles fleet in the next six months, with over 1,000 in the city by 2018. The initial fleet will be made up of new vehicles, and Hertz will replace the vehicles every 45,000 miles. The composition of the fleet (hybrid, gas, electric) will be determined in final contract negotiations.

As part of the arrangement, Hertz will compensate the city through revenue sharing, compensation for city staff and paying the city for exclusive parking spaces for their vehicles. Hertz actually proposes paying more for exclusive rights to a metered space than the city would earn if the space were being used the entire day. All in all, the city estimates revenue of between $3 million and $30 million from its agreement with Hertz.

The initial rollout will be in Los Angeles’ most heavily populated and transit dependent areas of the
city and some of the smaller surrounding municipalities. The first areas covered by Hertz will include Westwood, South L.A. near USC, Downtown, Hollywood/VVest Hollywood, Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire and Marina del Rey/Venice.

Using iPhone map while driving violates CA law - court


April 8, 2013

 A driver holds a cellphone in this undated file photo.

 A driver holds a cellphone in this undated file photo.


A California court has ruled that using a smartphone to check a map feature violates the state's distracted-driving law.

Steven Spriggs was stopped in a traffic jam near downtown Fresno. He wanted to see if there was an alternate route around the mess, so he pulled out his iPhone 4 to look at the map. Next thing he knew, he was being pulled over.

Spriggs was ordered to pay a $160 ticket plus court fees for "distracted driving." He tried to challenge his ticket, saying he wasn't talking or texting. He even brought a paper map to court to argue that it was legal to hold it while driving.

But a court commissioner and then a three-judge appellate panel of the Superior Court said that GPS usage must be "configured to all hands-free listening or talking."

"The primary evil sought to be avoided is the distraction the driver faces when using his or her hands to operate the phone," Fresno County Judge Kent Hamlin wrote for the panel. "That distraction would be present whether the wireless telephone was being used as a telephone, a GPS navigator, a clock or a device for sending and receiving text messages and emails."

The ruling will not apply outside of Fresno County unless a higher court affirms the decision. Spriggs said he was unsure whether he would pursue the case further to the California Court of Appeal and the state Supreme Court.

A recent study found that "distracted driving" laws are moderately successful but only if strictly enforced. Texting and driving is currently outlawed in 39 states and the District of Columbi

Group trying to launch car-sharing concept in South Bay


By Nick Green, April 7, 2013


A Smart car2go vehicle
A proposed car-sharing program covering nine South Bay cities will get a test drive at Tuesday's Torrance City Council meeting.

The panel is seeking public comment on the perceived pros and cons of the program dubbed Car2Go, which uses a fleet of ultra-compact, ecologically friendly smart cars.

Car2Go, which operates in 18 North American and European cities, including San Diego, is seen as an inexpensive, environmentally friendly method of reducing traffic congestion and freeing up parking in densely populated areas.

"We have not been able to uncover any negatives," said Councilwoman Susan Rhilinger, who heads up the council's Transportation Committee and serves as the city's representative to the South Bay Cities Council of Governments, which is championing the program.

"They all seem to love it," she added of the communities where it is already in place. "To me, the only negative to it is the impact it might have with parking on public streets.

"The company wants to be able to have the cars available (to users) on public streets. That's what makes them different from the other companies that run these kinds of businesses. "

Car-sharing programs have boomed since they were launched in Switzerland in 1987, according to the website CarSharing.net.

Today, citing data provided by a University of California, Berkeley researcher, there are 25 U.S. car-sharing programs, including one in Southern California called LAXcarshare, that claim almost 720,000 members who share more than 9,800 vehicles, according to the website.

The concept works best in densely populated areas such as the South Bay, said Jacki Bacharach, executive director of the SBCCOG. The region has 600,000 cars, and that number is increasing by 3,000 a year. Therefore, local governments are seeking strategies to reduce pressure on the road network.

Locally, most people take trips of five miles of less, which models the usage Car2Go generally sees. The average Car2Go trip is 40 minutes, while the cost is a maximum of $13.99 an hour, taxes not included.

It's seen as ideal for families or retired couples who don't want a second car sitting idle in the driveway most of the time, for those who can't afford the expense of owning a car, and for others who don't want the hassle of owning one in densely populated areas, such as Hermosa Beach.

"Car sharing reduces car ownership, reduces vehicle miles traveled and increases walking, bicycling and transit (usage)," said Cheryl Cuck, a spokeswoman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, citing the conclusions of a 2005 Federal Transit Administration-sponsored study titled "Carsharing: How and Why it Succeeds. "

"By offering an affordable alternative to car ownership, people can sell their car (or forgo purchasing one) while still having automobile access," Cuck added. "The study concludes that for every car-sharing vehicle on the road, at least five private vehicles are removed. "

In the South Bay, Car2Go proposes putting a fleet of 300 cars on the road over a 35-square-mile area in the cities of Torrance, Lomita, Lawndale, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne and Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach.

Gardena, Lomita and El Segundo have already approved the program, while Torrance could follow suit at its meeting Tuesday.

Officials in Manhattan Beach, who could discuss Car2Go on May 7, expressed several concerns during a fall discussion and decided the idea needed more study and community feedback. The company will need a permit to allow its vehicles to park without time limits or payment of meters.

Among the concerns voiced by City Council members was a fear that vehicles could sit for extended periods of time in spaces that are typically in high demand.

"These will occupy our precious parking supply, making fewer spaces available to others," Mayor David Lesser said at the time. He also questioned how useful a rentable smart car would be to residents with families, or those running several shopping errands.

If the program is successful, the cars should be out and about, not resting in downtown parking spaces, Car2Go's Walter Rosenkranz said in response. "I wouldn't expect all 300 cars to gravitate to downtown. The cars follow their members," he said. "If the members are not gravitating to those areas, then the cars won't. "

To participate, Car2Go.com members unlock a car with their membership cards and drive off. Members find cars via a smartphone app or the Internet; one can be reserved up to 30 minutes ahead of time. Car2Go bills members for their monthly usage.

Car2Go uses the global positioning system to track the cars because one of the main concerns is that cars will bunch up in the same areas.

Vehicles generally are moved by members within 90 minutes, but if they do pool, the company relocates them, Bacharach said.

"If the cars aren't in the right place, they're not going to make any money," she said. "So they want cars where people are and where cars are not causing a problem. "

Car2Go is seeking special dispensation from parking rules. For instance, the company wants parking limits and fees waived for members in areas where parking is limited to a maximum of two hours, and will then reimburse cities for lost revenue (if they have parking meters, which Torrance, for instance, does not).

In Portland, the company pays a "meter fee recovery" of $1,011 annually per vehicle, Kuck said.
It also wants the ability to have fees waived in neighborhoods that require residents to get a permit to park on the street. That will encourage participation in the program in those areas, freeing up scarce parking spaces as residents give up their cars, studies have shown.

Portland assesses the company an additional annual per car fee of $300 to do so.

"We believe it offers an affordable alternative to car ownership, while still giving people access to an automobile when they need it," Cuck said. "We're interested in anything that reduces vehicle emissions and household travel costs. "

The program has proven so popular in Seattle, where more than 18,000 people have signed up, that the City Council recently approved adding another 150 cars to the current 350-car fleet and expanding it to new neighborhoods.

Bacharach believes the program will meet with similar success here - if it receives the pending approval of each participating city, a bureaucratic process proving to be quite time-consuming.

"We're going to be the only place in the world that I have seen that has car sharing in more than one city," she said. "This is a noble experiment and Car2Go deserves a lot of credit to jump through all these hoops. "

World Health Day: 5 questions on how transport is related to health
By Claudia Adriazola, April 7, 2013

TheCityFix interviewed EMBARQ Health and Road safety expert, Claudia Adriazola-Steil, for World Health Day 2013:
Q1. How can we tackle the problem of rising obesity and physical inactivity through transport?

Lack of physical activity contributes to 3.2 million deaths annually, yet just 150 minutes of physical activity per week – about 20 minutes per day – can improve health and reduce the risk of disease. A study by the New York City Department of Health showed that those who take mass transport, cycle and walk as their main form of transport, receive more physical activity than those who rely on cars.
Physical activity can be promoted in neighborhoods through access to mass transport, bike and pedestrian paths, safe streets, connectivity between different transport modes, and a compact mix of housing, retail, parks and offices. One study showed that Barcelona’s Bicing bike sharing system saved an estimated 12 lives per year, mostly by getting people out of their cars and active on the streets.

Q2. How can sustainable transport save lives?

Traffic accidents claim over 1.3 million lives around the globe each year. Research has shown that more distance traveled in individual vehicles leads to more traffic fatalities. Thus, mobility can be made safer by reducing car travel and moving people through safely designed mass transport, walking, and biking infrastructure. In Guadalajara, Mexico, for example, just one lane of their corridor with an advanced bus system called Macrobus transports 5,000 passengers per hour, in each direction. Normal traffic lanes can only accommodate 3,194 passengers per hour and were the locus of 726 crashes in 2011. The advanced bus system saw only 6 accidents in the same year.

At the core of its road safety work, EMBARQ has undertaken policy initiatives bridging high-level declarations to real change in cities. In 2010, as a member of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration Group, EMBARQ worked to include mobility and sustainable transport in the Global Plan for the Decade of Action on Road Safety while working with national to local governments to put these international goals on the ground in countries. EMBARQ, together with the Association for Safe International Travel, Global Road Safety Partnership, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, World Bank Global Road Safety Facility, and the  World Health Organization, is part of the Bloomberg Global Road Safety Program, which works to improve road safety in the ten countries that make up almost 50 percent of all road traffic fatalities.

Q3. What do we need to do to make urban areas safer?

Thoughtful design that protects all road users — especially pedestrians and bicyclists — is crucial and can be achieved in ways ranging from improved crossings and intersections to traffic calming that reduces high impact crashes. Organizations like EMBARQ can work with local governments to implement urban codes supportive of mixed land use (less dependent on automobile use), street connectivity, and safe “street hierarchies,” which simply means designing streets that are appropriate for their use and context. High-speed arterial roads may be convenient and necessary for traffic patterns but should never be shared with pedestrians, cyclists, or implemented in areas with schools or hospitals, for example. It is a recipe for disaster. These areas require strict speed limits, more intersections, and safe and plentiful crossing opportunities. Long blocks without intersections naturally lead to longer distances traveled and more jay-walking mid-block.

Q4. How can safe transport contribute to the culture and identity of a city?

Striving to make more walkable and vibrant cities, EMBARQ Turkey has played a role in the pedestrianization of Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula, a United Nations World Heritage site which is home to thousands of residents, workers, and tourists. EMBARQ is now helping to plan and program the areas to ensure their vibrancy. In light of increasing air pollution, long commute times, and a desire to preserve its cultural and historic assets, the city of Arequipa, Peru — also classified a UNESCO World Heritage site — took the initiative to implement an advanced bus system and completely pedestrianize the first four blocks of Mercaderes, the main shopping street in downtown Arequipa.

In the slums, or favelas, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, bicycling and walking are already rooted into the lifestyle and urban fabric, which creates enormous potential for the further leveraging of non-motorized solutions. In order to keep cycling a popular mode of transport, the favelas can concentrate on improving bike lanes and infrastructure and increasing connectivity of the bike infrastructure to the central city, other modes of mass transit, and popular locations like stores and malls.

Q5. Are there additional benefits of improving road safety through sustainable transport?

According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 million deaths occur each year from the effects of urban outdoor air pollution, with vehicles being one of the major emitters of deadly pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This dirty air can irritate lungs, worsen asthma and emphysema, and increase the risk of heart attacks and premature deaths.

Shifting trips to mass transit, biking and walking, as well as improving vehicle and fuel technologies, can reduce exposure to air pollution and lengthen life span — thereby offering benefits for both human health and efforts to fight climate change.

Unions pose key obstacle to CEQA reform: Editorial


Los Angeles News Group, April 7, 2013

From liberal Gov. Jerry Brown to conservative business groups, California leaders sound determined to make this the year the state finally fixes its signature environmental law. With such broad support, reform of the California Environmental Quality Act should be a fait accompli -- but it's not.

The reason will be familiar and frustrating to anybody who sees the slow pace of other predicted reforms, like those needed to rein in public-employee pension costs and improve childhood education. Labor unions are among the opponents of changes they say would weaken CEQA, and unions have disproportionate influence with the Democratic elected officials who rule the Legislature.

The likely result is another year of delay on CEQA reform or a watered-down effort to make the law work to protect the environment and state residents without straying beyond its intent and needlessly impeding the economy.

Before Sacramento can claim progress on the issue and Californians can be optimistic of real results, lawmakers must turn platitudes into policy by putting meat on the framework proposed by state Sen. Darrell Steinberg in a bill introduced in February.

Easy? No. It's a complicated issue that defies simple political categorization -- this is a pro-environment law signed in 1970 by Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan (to supplement a U.S. law signed by Republican President Richard Nixon) that now faces a business-backed modernization
effort under Democrat Brown.
The trick will be to strike the right balance and get the details right by hearing out all sides and building the final reform legislation with full public input and scrutiny instead of hashing something together at the last minute as the Legislature has tried in the past.

The general goal must not be to prevent CEQA from achieving its noble purpose of requiring the proponents of land development and construction projects to document the expected effect on the surroundings and lay out plans to limit damage (the oft-discussed environmental impact reports, or EIRs).

The goal should be to prevent CEQA from being abused by local governments, agricultural land owners, business rivals and labor unions to block or delay projects they don't like for reasons that may have nothing to do with concerns about the effects on air, water, wildlife and residents' quality of life.

More specifically, this means simplifying CEQA's provisions and removing duplications of the more than 100 other environmental laws that have been added to the state's books in the past 42 years. This means creating more certainty about standards and procedures and reducing chances to raise last-minute challenges to bog down projects.

For environmentalists, the benefit of a streamlined process is that public officials no longer would be tempted into the slimy practice of exempting favored construction projects from CEQA review, as has happened with the downtown Los Angeles and city of Industry football-stadium proposals and as Brown wanted to do with the California bullet-train plan.

Labor unions should support CEQA reform that could speed up approval for many construction projects -- and thus quicken the creation of jobs.
Unions say publicly they oppose reform because they want to protect the environment for their members and communities.

But in fact they oppose reform because it threatens their ability to cynically use "environmental" challenges as leverage in contract negotiations or to thwart anti-union businesses.

Hope that the state's landmark environmental law would be modernized rose last summer when Brown spoke up in favor, calling CEQA reform "the Lord's work." Unfortunately there is no Lord on the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, and the work will have to be done by Democratic politicians under the usual pressure from their union benefactors.

Reform can -- and must -- get done. But a familiar obstacle remains.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, April 8, 2013

 A crucial public meeting for MyFigueroa!, the Buscaino/Englander “Road Bond Road Show” hits the ports, and a packed City Council meeting precedes a very bikey weekend…it’s the Week in Livable Streets.
  • Monday - If you happen to live near enough the Port of Los Angeles to have easy access to its conference room, you might want to head over to tonight’s 6 pm for a “road bond road show” performance by Joe Buscaino and the Public Works committee. Will the city propose such a bond? Will Neighborhood Council advocates storm the bastille? Will cyclists make the case for complete streets? Get details on tonight’s hearing, here.
  • Tuesday - The rumblings that there is a shadow opposition to MyFigueroa! are growing louder. Business owners and even the AAA are being implicated as possible culprits, but their work is behind the scenes, not in public meetings or the press. Beat them back, and continue the push for L.A.’s first separated bike lanes. We deserve them. Meeting details available here. Watch the LiveStream, here.
  • Wednesday – The City Council Transportation meets with a PACKED agenda full of goodies including some major news on Car Share and Bike Share. The meeting starts at 2 pm in City Hall. You can read the agenda, here.
  • Thursday - The Los Angeles City Planning Commission meets to discuss, amongst other things, an exemption to fast food regulations for all of Council District 10 from the city’s fast food regulations as part of the West Adams-Leimert Park-Baldwin Hills New Community Plan. CD 10 is represented by Council President Herb Wesson.  Save Spaces for Healthy Places is sponsoring a bus trip to the meeting, RSVP today to reserve a space and get a fruit tree. View their flyer for more information.
  • Friday - Many, but by no means all, of the city’s leading bike advocates both past and present are heading to the Eco-Village this Friday for a discussion of the roots and history of the city’s bike culture. It ought to be a nice, low-key, way to spend a Friday night. Read all about it, here.
  • Saturday - In 2008, I rode “Critical Mass” in Pasadena, which was a nice fun family ride on a Saturday morning. Santa Monica is sponsoring its own “Kidical Mass” this weekend to help children and families explore the streets on two wheels. No word on whether or not Pam O’Connor is planning to cork any intersection. Get the details and see the poster, here.
  • Sunday - To celebrate Rowena Avenue’s recently installed bike lanes and road diet (or ‘road buffet, as some prefer), the Central LA Neighborhood Bike Ambassadors are hosting a short ride to check out the newly reconfigured street and to say thanks to the local businesses in the area covered by the project. Get the details, here.
  • Saturday, April 27 – Celebrate Streetsblog Los Angeles’ five year anniversary in style at our fundraiser at Deborah Murphy’s house in Silver Lake. Hang out with our writers, board, and 2012 Streetsie Award Winners. Get the details, here. RSVP on Facebook, here…or drop me an email at damien@streetsblog.org.
BYD to build electric bus assembly plant


By Nichael Barris and Wang Jun, April 3, 2013

 BYD to build electric bus assembly plant

A BYD electric bus is on a trial run in Los Angeles.

BYD is taking its big bet on California to the next level.

The Shenzhen-based producer of electric vehicles will break ground on May 1 for an assembly plant
in Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, to make electric buses for US and Latin American public-transportation markets. The facility will be one of only a few making electric buses in the US. Most buses in the country use diesel fuel or compressed natural gas.

Michael Austin, vice president of BYD America, said Lancaster's aggressive embrace of solar energy programs was a factor in deciding to build the plant there.

"They've been very green," he said. "They've been the solar capital of the United States for a while because they have such great solar resources.

"The state of California has led the nation in environmental action. The California Air Resources Board is renowned across the United States for setting a very high benchmark for emissions on all vehicles." He noted that all vehicles made in the US are designed to meet California's strict emission standards.

The ground-breaking ceremony will come a month after BYD won a $14 million contract to make 10 electric buses for the transit system of Long Beach, California. Under the contract partly funded by the Federal Transit Administration, BYD - which is backed by investment titan Warren Buffett - will deliver the buses in 2014. Long Beach's transit system serves about 28 million riders.

The assembly operation will be located in a defunct recreational-vehicle manufacturing plant on a 13-acre site. The purchase price and other terms of the investment weren't disclosed.

Austin did not specify how many jobs the project would create in Lancaster, a city of about 156,000 with an unemployment rate estimated at about 15 percent. He said in an interview that job creation would "depend on market demand for electric buses, with a ratio of one job created for each bus sold per year". The company aims to produce 50 to 100 buses in the first year.

Austin said the site was ideal for BYD's purposes because all the required permits already were in place. "Literally, we have a factory that is built to suit," Austin said. "It is perfect because it launches us very quickly into manufacturing, even manufacturing starting this year."

Lancaster's selection as the plant site hasn't yet been officially announced, although local media have reported it. Names of other locations that were considered weren't disclosed.

When construction on the assembly plant begins, it will come a year and half after BYD opened its headquarters for the Americas in Los Angeles, a move that investors hoped would reverse a profit drop tied to weaker China vehiclesales. Since then, however,

BYD's bottom line has been hit hard by a downturn in demand for the photovoltaic cells and rechargeable batteries that it also makes. The company posted a 94 percent drop in annual profit last year, amid a bleak solar market, but forecast robust profits for the first quarter of 2013. Revenue fell 4 percent.

Unlike Nissan's Leaf or GM's volt electric vehicles which target the commuter market, BYD's star products are fleet vehicles.

Long Beach is exploring adopting a model used in cities such as Shenzhen, where about 1,000 BYD-made buses are on the road. The buses are in service for up to 21 hours, with a range of 120 to 150 miles, then return to the garage where they receive an overnight 50-kilowatt charge from below, when public energy use generally is lower. "Even some utilities are giving them a night-time rate, so it is even cheaper to charge at night," Austin said.

Annie Ye, Chair of China Enterprise Council in Los Angeles where BDY is a member, said the Chinese company's move is "exciting and positive" for local residents.

"BYD is bringing new technology of making electric vehicles to California and that will for sure make contributions to the local environmental efforts," said Ye, adding the production of electric buses also will help local job creation.

Austin didn't provide an estimated sale price for the buses, buthe said the cost could be as much as 50 percent higher than the price of a conventional bus. Some news reports put the price of a BYD electric bus at $550,000 to $600,000 each.

"The total cost of ownership over 12 years will save a half a million dollars," when fuel savings are factored in, he said. "The more you drive your electric vehicle, the more it pays for itself, because you are saving money on fuel."

Noting that some officials had criticized Long Beach for awarding the electric bus contract to a Chinese-based firm, Austin pointed out that "this is a Chinese company that has an American entity - BYD Motors is an American entity".

"Half our investors are US," Austin said. "Our largest shareholder is Warren Buffett (a subsidiary of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns 9.56 percent of BYD).

"Those buses will be built using California labor, creating California jobs to create California buses."

High Speed Rail Versus Austerity


By Matthew E. Kahn, April 8, 2013


Philadelphia is 101 miles from Manhattan, and the current travel time between the two cities is about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Suppose that Amtrak could achieve the speed of China's bullet trains and move at 175 miles per hour. The one way commute time would decline to 35 minutes. Common sense suggests that home prices in Philadelphia would soar from their current median of $140,000 as businesses and households would come to view the city as a new Manhattan suburb, and the demand to live and work there would sharply increase. Philadelphia would benefit from the population increase and all the amenities that private enterprise would build to support it.

That is exactly what happened in China as a consequence of the country's enormous investment in bullet trains, as work that I did with Siqi Zheng of Tsinghua University shows. But the question is what level of public investment do the United States and other governments want to make to relieve congestion in mega cities and spur growth in second and third tier cities, especially at a time when many are questioning the role of government and pushing for fiscal austerity.

Here's China's story. Between 2006 and 2010, the Chinese central government spent billions of dollars on new bullet trains that connect second and third tier cities with the mega cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou — but of course bullet trains don't connect every smaller city to a mega city. So my coauthor and I looked at the differences that bullet train connections wrought on "connected" cities by comparing them to similar cities that the bullet train had bypassed. Using data for 262 cities, we documented large home price increases for newly connected cities. Based on the ridership data for two major bullet train lines, we calculated that the average city house price growth per billion passenger-kilometers is 4.2%. Effect 1: a capital gain windfall for land owners in second and third tier cities

High rents in the mega city also nudged the subset of households and firms with the lowest willingness to pay to locate there to consider relocating to the secondary cities. But these decentralized households can easily travel to the major cities for unique shopping and restaurant options. Effect 2: dispersed population

What other changes can these lower tier cities expect? In our past work examining the consequences of new subways built in Beijing, we have documented that the private sector responds to major public transit investments through two different investment strategies. First, real estate developers respond by building new housing towers in close proximity to the new public transit stops. Second, commercial real estate demand is stimulated as upscale restaurants and shopping agglomerates close to these transit stations. The extent of this effect will depend on whether the area is zoned for residential or commercial activities, and also the density limits defined in zoning codes. Effect 3: private investment in amenities to support the growing populations of the lower tier cities

The bullet train simultaneously alleviates some of the congestion costs associated with urban growth in the mega cities and triggers the growth of the nearby second and third tier cities. In this sense, the bullet train creates the possibility that the nearby lower tier cities become a "safety valve" for the mega city and this alleviates concern about such cities growing "too big." In the case of China, such investments strengthen center cities as the bullet train connects to downtown subway stations in the big cities. In this sense, this investment is a low carbon strategy that lessens the need for both in-city and cross-city car trips. Effect 4: lower carbons emissions

There's even more to the story for companies. The bullet train has the potential to play a similar role as the Internet [PDF], attracting back-office activity and helping firms fragment so that they keep their deal makers in the expensive commercial real estate in the center cities while sending their routine activities to cheaper land at the periphery. The rapid transport will allow for a more efficient allocation of business activity across space, helping firms to control costs. It's a "win-win" as the scarce mega city's land is efficiently used and the secondary cities experience local growth. Effect 5: more efficient use of space for private enterprise

In the United States, Amtrak seems unlikely to accelerate any time soon, so Philadelphia, Providence, and other cities on the Northeast Corridor will not enjoy the full benefits of their geographic proximity to Boston and New York City. In the west, though, California is going ahead with its High Speed Rail. And while our work quantifies some of the spatial consequences of investing in high speed rail, we cannot claim to have conducted a cost/benefit analysis of such irreversible investments. Our work suggests that cities with bullet train stations will offer new investment opportunities for cities such as Fresno and Bakersfield.

But bullet trains cost billions, and California is expecting the federal government to provide much of this money. Critics will note that it is easy (and quite tempting) to spend "other people's money." In this new age of fiscal austerity, public finance arrangements for major urban infrastructure projects will become an important topic for debate.

Moscow traffic rated worst in world


Note from Peggy Drouet: I was in Moscow in September 2012 and I can easily report that Moscow traffic is the worst in any world city that I have visited and it is also much worse than any congestion in Los Angeles because it goes on all day, not only during rush hour. As tourists, we spent many, many hours stuck in traffic getting from our river boat and back, and traffic is so bad that we were charged $175 for a shuttle from the Moscow airport to our river boat, the cost based on how many hours it would take to make the drive through the Moscow traffic--two to three hours. But rather disheartening is that Moscow has a first-class public transportation system, or at least it appeared that way to me: subways, buses, and streetcars, and you see very few big rigs in the traffic, usually only small delivery trucks. Public transportation doesn't seem to work to reduce congestion unless you get people out of their cars, which means that building more freeways and planning to construct tunnels in the Los Angeles area in order to, supposedly, reduce congestion is not going to work.

April 5, 2013 



 Traffic congestion on Ulyanovsk estakada (overpass) in Moscow. (RIA Novosti/Ramil Sitdikov)

 Traffic congestion on Ulyanovsk estakada (overpass) in Moscow.

Moscow traffic is rated the world’s worst by Dutch GPS manufacturer TomTom, which has issued its annual congestion report. Slow streets prolong an average ride by more than a half, thus stealing at least five days from the life of a Moscow driver.

Istanbul takes a 'prideful' second spot on the list, with its traffic just a trifle less congested. Poland’s Warsaw comes third.

The Russian capital has topped the 2012 Congestion index, revealing that the city traffic makes an average journey 66 per cent longer than when the traffic is flowing freely. The morning rush hour figure goes as high as 106 per cent, in the evening it hikes up to 138 per cent.

On average, a Moscow driver spent 127 hours in traffic last year, that's not counting the normal time needed to get from A to B. The busiest traffic day was November 29, when Moscow streets were nearly paralyzed by heavy snowfall.
Traffic jam on Goncharny Proyezd in Moscow. (RIA Novosti/Evgeny Biyatov)
Traffic jam on Goncharny Proyezd in Moscow. (RIA Novosti/Evgeny Biyatov)
Wednesdays are the busiest weekdays traffic-wise in the Russian capital, TomTom's index shows. The smoothest ride awaits those traveling on Monday mornings and Friday nights.

TomTom's Congestion Index measures traffic congestion in 161 cities across five continents and compares it to congestion levels in the previous year. It is believed to be the world's most accurate barometer of congestion in urban areas.

The results are based on real travel time data captured by vehicles driving the entire road network.

The TomTom Congestion Index clearly shows that traffic in our major metropolitan cities is on the rise," TomTom’s Asia Pacific VP, Chris Kearney said in a statement. "At TomTom we’re constantly working to help governments and road authorities make more informed decisions about tackling the issue of traffic congestion and the Index aims to do just that.”

Los Angeles, Paris, Sydney and Rome also made it to the top 10 of 'traffic horror' venues.

In 2011 Warsaw took the top spot for road congestion, in 2010 it was Brussels.
Traffic congestion in both directions in Tverskaya Street in the evening. (RIA Novosti/Evgeny Biyatov)
Traffic congestion in both directions in Tverskaya Street in the evening. (RIA Novosti/Evgeny Traffic congestion in both directions in Tverskaya Street in the evening.Biyatov)

Editorial: Clear the tracks for new port rail yard

 Benefits of the Gateway project are obvious, but so is the neeed to limit the effects on its neighbors.

 By The Times editorial board, April 8, 2013

 Southern California International Gateway

IBEW union members applaud while they show their support for BNSF Railway's proposed Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) facility during a public hearing by the Los Angeles Harbor Commission in San Pedro.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are a powerful economic engine for Southern California. They produce more jobs than the entire movie business, and they connect the United States to ports across the Pacific Ocean. The hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of goods that pass through them are an essential source of economic livelihood, and yet at times the ports impose a burden on those who live closest to them, forcing policymakers to weigh what is best for the nation and the region against what harm it might do to neighbors. In the case of a proposed rail loading facility known as the Southern California International Gateway, the vast benefits — environmental as well as economic — clearly outweigh the downside. The L. A. Board of Harbor Commissioners has approved the project; the City Council should follow suit.

That recommendation is not made with indifference to those who live, work or go to school near the proposed rail switching yard, which would be built by BNSF Railway. They are understandably apprehensive about a project that would bring an endless stream of trucks into the yard, where they would discharge their cargo onto rail cars. That facility would operate 24 hours a day, and the traffic, noise, lights and, most importantly, the potentially harmful air pollution are naturally sources of concern to its neighbors in the Wilmington area, many of them working-class people. Lower-income communities too often bear the brunt of progress, and policy makers need to do a better job protecting them and distributing the burdens of growth. As this project progresses, lawmakers must ensure that its effects are minimized or mitigated.

Still, there are clear benefits to this particular project, some of which accrue to the immediate neighborhood. The trucks that would deposit their cargo at the new yard today rumble along those same streets as they're driven from the port complex to the existing switching yard 24 miles to the north on the 710 Freeway. If this project is approved, that trip would be shortened to four miles and would produce fewer overall emissions. It is also worth noting that this already is a highly industrialized area, and that even the residents closest to this project live on the other side of the 710 Freeway.

The new yard would allow only trucks built after 2010 — which are cleaner than the older vehicles that currently pass through the area. What's more, by 2023, 75% of the trucks using the yard would have to be powered by natural gas or equivalently clean sources, increasing to 90% by 2026. Trucks would be routed away from homes as much as possible; the company has promised to monitor that by GPS.

Is more mitigation possible? Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster has a list of reasonable measures that Los Angeles lawmakers should consider. He wants businesses that are displaced to be relocated, a planted buffer to help protect residents from particulates, a long-term commitment to zero-emission technology and a fund to help residents install filters or other devices to protect them from any increased pollution.

The debate over this project has been exhaustive, stretching over eight years, and has become a symbol of Los Angeles' inability to grow its economy. On the other hand, thanks partly to the efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council and neighborhood groups, the company has made significant concessions. Indeed, although many residents don't believe it, the environmental impact report actually predicts that the threats to the community will decrease if the yard is built under the current agreement, in part because air quality overall will improve.

Meanwhile, the benefits to the region are undeniable. The yard would take 1.5 million truck trips every year off the 710 Freeway, eliminating congestion and air pollution. It would create 1,500 jobs during construction and, once in operation, thousands more.

The perfect solution would be for cranes to move boxcars directly to and from the ships and trains, obviating the need for trucks. That's already the case at some of the complex's piers, and leaders should, as budgets allow, build more of those very expensive "on-dock" loading facilities. Someday, yards such as the Gateway may be obsolete. In the meantime, however, this project will produce badly needed jobs and a cleaner environment. The City Council should approve it, and construction should begin.

Doo Dah Parade Queen Named


By Rachel Young, April 8, 2013

Doo Dah Parade Queen Named

Woman known as "007" named Queen of the Doo Dah Parade at the Queen Tryouts

Published: Monday, April 8, 2013 | 5:31 AM
Queen 007 reigns triumphant at the Doo-Dah Parade Queen Tryouts.

Zippitity doo dah zippitity day my o my what a wonderful parade. Plenty of laughter comin your way. Zippity doo dah to the Doo Dah Parade.

At the official scene of royal mayhem, the tryouts for the Doo-Dah Parade’s Queen, a “pirate” named 007  was crowned Queen for the 36th occasional Doo Dah Parade. Held at the American Legion on Sunday, April 7, the try-outs were attended by a larger crowd than usual with at least 50 judges in attendance and many more queen hopefuls and fans of the parade.
With this widely known to be wacky crowd no one knows what to expect except that people will be silly with laughter and have a down right good time.

The thing that won it for Susann Edwards as 007 might have been the Elixirs she had her personal chef handing out to the judges. Her riveting performance with a guitar soloist was spectacular and her witty responses to the judge’s questions made her a solid choice for this year’s Queen.
While no cake throwing occurred like in previous years, Miss Pie made a spectacular and memorable performance showing her one and only love for pizza through a creative dance with pizza to Johnny Mathis’ song.

“Right in our backyard is the wildest thing going in Los Angeles and the most creative event that LA has to offer. I usually call it Venice Beach on Parade, something to that effect,” the World Champion Whistling Diva, Carole Anne Kaufman said. “It’s just a wonderful place where you can come express yourself in whatever way you want to.”

The Doo Dah began in 1978 as an irreverent alternative to the traditional formality of the Rose Parade by Peter Apanel and friends. The parade was later sold to the Lightbringer Project for one dollar. This twisted sister of the Rose Parade has gained national recognition for its eccentricity and originality.

“My favorite part is that people from all walks of life are out here letting loose and having fun together,” Tom Coston, President of the Lightbringer Project, said.

Attendees literally let their hair down and went wild on the dance floor as Former Queen Erica Valentine played an impressive guitar solo.

The night also featured legendary Snotty Scotty and the Hankies—the signature band of Doo Dah,
Horses on Astroturf, many former Queens, including the reigning Queen Patrizzi Intergarlactica, Skittles, Mickie, Tequila, Sue the Ref, Grand Marshal Alan Zorthian, Goofball Judges, Andrew, Duke of Doo Dah and the unique guest Charles F. Delvalle, dressed as Uncle Fester from the Adams Family TV show.

The new Grand Marshal Alan Zorthian will lead hundreds of Doo Dah marchers and revelers on Saturday, April 27th, stepping off at 11am in East Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard (between Altadena and San Gabriel Boulevards).

This year’s spectacle will see the return of such wildly diverse entries as a fleet of motorized Kinetic Pastry Science Mobile Muffins, Captain McHogwash’s Amazing Chundra, a humungous robotic spitting cat named Boo-Boo Kitty, combined bands of the 35th Dragoon Guards, Senior Grouchier, Balkan Brass Band, Mile High Bed, Easy Acres Chicken Sitters, oddly-attired sound inventors known as The Highland Park Thursday Evening Gentlemen’s Society Circuit Bending Marching Band & Ladies’ Auxiliary, crowd favorite Disco Drill Team, real American Bandstanders, OC NRML, The Billionaires, Occupy Doo Dah, Quilting Bees, Whistling Diva, The Bra-Ettes, L.A. Derby Dolls, classic, scary clowns, BBQ & Hibachi Marching Grill Team, Hare Kirshna Chanters, Howdy Krishna, and the immortal Doo Dah house band Snotty Scotty & the Hankies, and many more!


Earthquake: 3.1 quake strikes near Lone Pine


 By Ken Schwencke, April 8, 2013

Earthquake: 3.1 quake strikes near Lone Pine, California

 A map showing the location of the epicenter of Sunday evening's quake near Lone Pine, California.

A shallow magnitude 3.1 earthquake was reported Sunday evening 18 miles from Lone Pine, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 11:59 p.m. PDT at a depth of 0.6 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 54 miles from Ridgecrest, 69 miles from Porterville, 70 miles from Lindsay, and 217 miles from Carson City, Nev.

In the past ten 10, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3 and greater centered nearby.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

Big-rig crash, fuel spill gnarl 605 Freeway commute


By Joseph Serna, April 8, 2013


Only two lanes of the southbound 605 Freeway were open Monday morning in Santa Fe Springs after a big rig crashed and spilled fuel on the road, the California Highway Patrol said.

A Sigalert was issued about 4:08 a.m. after the big rig and several other vehicles were involved in an injury crash near the Telegraph Road exit, officials said.

The freeway was shut down for about an hour before the carpool lane and fast lane were opened to
vehicles, said CHP Officer Ed Jacobs.

The fuel spill slowed cleanup efforts, and only two lanes would be open until as late as 8 a.m., he said.

"They're going to have to clean that up," he said. "It's going to be a while."

San Diego’s Railroad Deja Vu


By Bill Adams, April 6, 2013

 California high speed rail phases

California High-Speed Rail Program Revised 2012 Business Plan APRIL 2012, California HSR Authority

In the late 1800s, San Diego lost the race with Los Angeles to become the western terminus of a transcontinental railroad.  As a result, despite some sound accomplishments, San Diego never matched its northern rivals in economic growth & prosperity.

The City’s third or fourth place economic status in the state (vs. its second place population status) has continued in no small part due to its remaining a “spur off the main track”  when it comes to transportation.  It’s port handles nowhere near the volume of Long Beach or the Bay Area (or Seattle or Portland, for that matter).  It has no hub airport, thus requiring connecting flights to most destinations.  Most of its rail freight must travel North before going East. San Diego’s  proximity to its growing southern neighbor, Tijuana, seems an unrealized opportunity.
Even San Diego’s transportation links to its nearby powerhouse neighbor, LA, are inadequate with an oft congested I-5 freeway and a railway that has changed little in 100 years.  With respect to the latter, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner rail corridor, there are several slow-down areas caused by the primitive state of the tracks, including slowing for sharp curves around unreinforced bluffs to watch for fallen rocks, pulling over for trains traveling the opposite direction on the single track, and slowing down in heavily populated areas because of the route’s lack of pedestrian and auto separation features.  A single track serves all the freight and passenger traffic, requiring complex scheduling.  As a result, rail travel between the two cities typically takes at least an hour more by rail than by car.  Despite the foregoing, Amtrak’s rail connection between San Diego and Los Angeles is the second busiest in the country.  It is also one of the most scenic rides in the country, with significant stretches of rail nearly on the beach.
 Now comes San Diego’s omission from “Phase 1″ of the High Speed Rail project.  Upon completion of HSR, rail travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay area will take the same or less time  than between San Diego and Los Angeles despite being more than three times further apart. Completion of Phase 1 is projected to be in 2030 and is estimated to cost $68 billion.   No timetable or funding has been established for Phase 2.

Arguably, nothing has greater impact on San Diego’s economy than its transportation connection to its Northern neighbors.  San Diego’s efforts to develop a hub airport failed and are unlikely to be revived.  San Diego’s omission from HSR could be the second punch in a 1-2 combination punch transportation knockout.  It’s unlikely that rubber tired solutions, e.g., freeway widening with its dubious record, will significantly mitigate its omission from HSR Phase 1.
Thus, it is curious that San Diego’s elected leaders have remained relatively passive about the region’s omission from the first and very possibly only (at least in our lifetimes) phase of the California High Speed Rail project.  To be fair, Sacramento also will be left out of the first phase.  On the other hand, Bakersfield and Fresno will be connected to the Bay Area and Los Angeles by HSR.  Even Las Vegas may be on the way to having a high speed rail connection to the Greater Los Angeles area (by way of Victorville).  Nevertheless, there has been no outcry, no clamoring for delegations to be sent to Sacramento, no threats to secede from the state, no threats to withhold tax revenues, no rallies, and no demands for compensatory pork.  Given the magnitude of the omission and potential impact on the state’s second largest city, one might expect more rancor from the region’s political leaders about being left out rather than rancor simply about the project overall.
Many of the City’s elected representatives have focused more on concerns about the overall economics of the project (many calling it a “boondoggle”), while others have remained ambivalent.  Whether the project turns out to be a “boondoggle” or a “boon” to California’s economy (as its supporters predict) remains to be seen.  However, San Diegans will be paying for the project as much as Northern Californians but unlikely will see any benefit.  In fact, San Diego will be further excluded from the State’s main economic corridor.
In this case, the “boondoggle” perceived by many perhaps needs better definition.  Generally, HSR’s critics believe that the project will be heavily subsidized during its entire existence, thus remaining a constant drain on the State’s budget. However, it is undisputed that it will have an economic stimulus effect on certain segments of the population.  Certainly, portions of the construction industry will benefit, and many skilled and unskilled workers will be employed during its construction.  
Additionally, development is already being stimulated near planned rail stations.  Finally, the cities served by HSR will directly benefit.  Only the size of the benefit versus state subsidies is in question.  Rather critics look at the overall statewide economic impact.
However for San Diego, the stakes are much higher.  From commerce to education, the question should be: Will San Diego be able to compete in attracting new business or in keeping its successful start-ups with a secondary airport, secondary port, secondary freight rail connection, and now secondary passenger rail connection to the rest of the state?  Compounding San Diego’s problem is the oft discussed need of businesses being able to attract “millennials” (i.e. new college graduates and young skilled workers) and their preference for urban amenities, of which transit ranks high. 
 Boondoggle or not, where is San Diego’s pork barrel politics to bring home some benefits from this ambitious undertaking?  Will San Diego suffer its own form of boondoggle through failure of its leadership?  Will San Diego’s fate  be further sealed as as a community known mostly for its military bases, beaches, and retirees?
 LOSSAN Corridorwide STRATEGIC IMPLEMENTATION PLAN, Final Report, April 2012, p. 37
However, all is not lost.  Despite the aforementioned shortcomings of San Diego’s rail connection with Los Angeles, it is a direct and spectacularly beautiful, albeit antiquated connection.  Moreover, regional planners have been planning various upgrades to our existing passenger rail connections.  Nearly $1 billion is slated to be spent to install a second line on the existing coastal railway.  San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and North County Transit District, together, will spend more than $100 million for safety and other light rail upgrades.
On the other hand, could San Diego’s omission from the HSR Phase 1 have been made into a blessing, or at least largely offset, by securing even greater investment in the existing rail corridor?  Perhaps the corridor could even be made to accommodate the “higher-speed” Acela Express range of 80 to 110 mph?  Perhaps a much needed direct airport-to-airport connection could be accomplished.  After all, the existing rail route is far shorter and more direct than that proposed for the HSR Phase 2 route winding its way through the Inland Empire region.  For a more in-depth discussion of the potential improvements for the Pacific Surfliner route, view the 2008 article Speeding up Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner.
With the significant improvements in the works for the San Diego to Los Angeles rail corridor, it is difficult to criticize the rail effort by the region’s transportation agencies.  However, so much is being done with so little push from San Diego elected officials or the public, it begs the question what might be accomplished with more imperative and support?