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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nobody Walks in L.A.: The Rise of Cars and the Monorails That Never Were


 By Matt Novak, April 26, 2013


 Artist’s conception of a future monorail for Los Angeles, California in 1954 (Source: Novak Archive)
 “Who needs a car in L.A.? We got the best public transportation system in the world!” says private detective Eddie Valiant in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Set in 1947, Eddie is a car-less Angeleno and the movie tells the tale of a an evil corporation buying up the city’s streetcars in its greedy quest to force people out of public transit and into private automobiles. Eddie Valiant’s line was a wink at audiences in 1988 who knew quite well that public transportation was now little more than a punchline.

Aside from Detroit there’s no American city more identified with the automobile than Los Angeles. In the 20th century, the Motor City rose to prominence as the home of the Big Three automakers, but the City of Angels is known to outsiders and locals alike for its confusing mess of freeways and cars that crisscross the city — or perhaps as writer Dorothy Parker put it, crisscross the “72 suburbs in search of a city.”

Los Angeles is notorious for being hostile to pedestrians. I know plenty of Angelenos who couldn’t in their wildest dreams imagine navigating America’s second largest city without a car. But I’ve spent the past year doing just that.

About a year and a half ago I went down to the parking garage underneath my apartment building and found that my car wouldn’t start. One thing I learned when I moved to Los Angeles in 2010 was that a one-bedroom apartment doesn’t come with a refrigerator, but it does come with a parking space. “We only provide the essentials,” my apartment’s building manager explained to me when I asked about this regional quirk of the apartment rental market. Essentials, indeed.

My car (a silver 1998 Honda Accord with tiny pockets of rust from the years it survived harsh Minnesota winters) probably just had a problem with its battery, but I really don’t know. A strange mixture of laziness, inertia, curiosity and dwindling funds led me to wonder how I might get around the city without wheels. A similar non-ideological adventure began when I was 18 and thought “I wonder how long I can go without eating meat?” (The answer was apparently two years.)

Living in L.A. without a car has been an interesting experiment; one where I no longer worry about fluctuations in the price of gas but sometimes shirk social functions because getting on the bus or train doesn’t appeal to me on a given day. It’s been an experiment where I wonder how best to stock up on earthquake disaster supplies (I just ordered them online) and how to get to Pasadena to interview scientists at JPL (I just broke down and rented a car for the day). The car — my car — has been sitting in that parking spot for over a year now, and for the most part it’s worked out pretty well.

But how did Los Angeles become so automobile-centric? How did Angeleno culture evolve (or is it devolve?) to the point where not having a car is seen as such a strange thing?

 One of the first cars ever built in Los Angeles, made in 1897 by 17-year-old Earle C. Anthony (Photo by Matt Novak at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles)
 Los Angeles owes its existence as a modern metropolis to the railroad. When California became a state in 1850, Los Angeles was just a small frontier town of about 4,000 people dwarfed by the much larger Californian cities of San Francisco and Sacramento. Plagued by crime, some accounts claimed that L.A. suffered a murder a day in 1854. But this tiny violent town, referred to as Los Diablos (the devils) by some people in the 1850s would become a boomtown ready for a growth explosion by the 1870s.

From the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1876 until the late 1920s, the City of Angels experienced incredibly rapid population growth. And this growth was no accident. The L.A. Chamber of Commerce, along with the railroad companies, aggressively marketed the city as one of paradise — a place where all your hopes and dreams could come true. In the late 19th century Los Angeles was thought to be the land of the “accessible dream” as Tom Zimmerman explains in his book 

Paradise Promoted.

Los Angeles was advertised as the luxurious city of the future; a land of both snow-capped mountains and beautiful orange groves — where the air was clean, the food was plentiful and the lifestyle was civilized. In the 1880s, the methods of attracting new people to the city involved elaborate and colorful ad campaigns by the railroads. And people arrived in trains stuffed to capacity.
With the arrival of the automobile in the late 1890s the City of Angels began experimenting with the machine that would dramatically influence the city’s landscape. The first practical electric streetcars were started in the late 1880s, replacing the rather primitive horse-drawn railways of the 1870s. The mass transit system was actually borne of real estate developers who built lines to not only provide long term access to their land, but also in the very immediate sense to sell that land to prospective buyers.

By the 1910s there were two major transit players left: The Los Angeles Streetway streetcar company (LARY and often known as the Yellow Cars) and the Pacific Electric Railway (PE and often known simply as the Red Cars).

No one would mistake Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for a documentary, but the film has done a lot to cement a particular piece of L.A. mythology into the popular imagination. Namely, that it was the major car companies who would directly put the public transit companies out of business when they “purchased” them in the 1940s and shut them down. In reality, the death of L.A.’s privately-owned mass transit would be foreshadowed in the 1910s and would be all but certain by the end of the 1920s.

By the 1910s the streetcars were already suffering from widespread public dissatisfaction. The lines were seen as increasingly undependable and riders complained about crowded trains. Some of the streetcar’s problems were a result of the automobile crowding them out in the 1910s, congesting the roads and often causing accidents that made service unreliable. Separating the traffic of the autos, pedestrians and streetcars were seen as a priority that would not be realized until the late 20th century. As Scott L. Bottles notes in his book Los Angeles and the Automobile, “As early as 1915, [the L.A. Public Board of Utilities] called for plans to separate these trains from regular street traffic with elevated or subway lines.”

The recession-plagued year 1914 saw the explosive rise of the “jitney,” an unlicensed taxi that took passengers for just a nickel. The private streetcar companies refused to improve their service in a time of recession and as a result drove more and more people to alternatives like the jitney and buying their own vehicle.

The Federal Road Act of 1916 would jumpstart the nation’s funding of road construction and maintenance, providing matching funding to states. But it was the Roaring Twenties that would set Los Angeles on an irreversible path as a city dominated by the automobile. L.A.’s population of about 600,000 at the start of the 1920s more than doubled during the decade. The city’s cars would see an even greater increase, from 161,846 cars registered in L.A. County in 1920 to 806,264 registered in 1930. In 1920 Los Angeles had about 170 gas stations. By 1930 there were over 1,500.

This early and rapid adoption of the automobile in the region is the reason that L.A. was such a pioneer in the area of automotive-centric retailing. The car of the 1920s changed the way that people interacted with the city and how it purchased goods, for better and for worse. As Richard Longstreth notes in his 2000 book, The Drive-In, The Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercials Space in Los Angeles, the fact that Southern California was the “primary spawning ground for the super service station, the drive-in market, and the supermarket” was no coincidence. Continuing the trend of the preceding decades, the population of Los Angeles swelled tremendously in the 1910s and ’20s, with people arriving by the thousands.

“This burgeoning middle class created one of the highest incidences of automobile ownership in the nation, and both the diffuse nature of the settlement and a mild climate year-round yielded an equally high rate of automobile use,” Longstreth explains. The city, unencumbered by the geographic restrictions of places like San Francisco and Manhattan quickly grew outward rather than upward; fueled by the car and quite literally fueled by the many oil fields right in the city’s backyard. Just over the hills that I can see from my apartment building lie oil derricks. Strange metal robots in the middle of L.A. dotting the landscape, bobbing for that black gold to which we’ve grown so addicted.
Oil wells at Venice Beach on January 26, 1931 (Source: Paradise Promoted by Tom Zimmerman)

Los Angeles would see and turn down many proposals for expanded public transit during the first half of the 20th century. In 1926 the Pacific Electric built a short-running subway in the city but it did little to fix the congestion problems that were happening above ground.

In 1926 there was a big push to build over 50 miles of elevated railway in Los Angeles. The city’s low density made many skeptical that Los Angeles could ever support public transit solutions to its transportation woes in the 20th century. The local newspapers campaigned heavily against elevated railways downtown, even going so far as to send reporters to Chicago and Boston to get quotes critical of those cities’ elevated railways. L.A.’s low density was a direct result of the city’s most drastic growth occurring in the 1910s and ‘20s when automobiles were allowing people to spread out and build homes in far flung suburbs and not be tied to public transit to reach the commercial and retail hub of downtown.

As strange as it may seem today, the automobile was seen by many as the progressive solution to the transportation problems of Los Angeles in the 1920s. The privately owned rail companies were inflating their costs and making it impossible for the city to buy them out. Angelenos were reluctant to to subsidize private rail, despite their gripes with service. Meanwhile, both the city and the state continued to invest heavily in freeways. In 1936 Fortune magazine reported on what they called rail’s obsolescence.

Though the city’s growth stalled somewhat during the Great Depression it picked right back up again during World War II. People were again moving to the city in droves looking for work in this artificial port town that was fueling the war effort on the west coast. But at the end of the war the prospects for mass transit in L.A. were looking as grim as ever.

In 1951 the California assembly passed an act that established the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority. The Metro Transit Authority proposed a monorail between the San Fernando Valley and downtown Los Angeles. A 1954 report issued to the Transit Authority acknowledged the unique challenges of the region, citing its low density, high degree of car ownership and current lack of any non-bus mass rapid transit in the area as major hurdles.

The July 1954 issue of Fortune magazine saw postwar expansion brought on by the car as an almost insurmountable challenge for the urban planner of the future:
As a generation of city and regional planners can attest, it is no simple matter to draw up a transit system that will meet modern needs. In fact, some transportation experts are almost ready to concede that the decentralization of urban life, brought about by the automobile, has progressed so far that it may be impossible for any U.S. city to build a self-supporting rapid-transit system. At the same time, it is easy to show that highways are highly inefficient for moving masses of people into and out of existing business and industrial centers.

Somewhat interestingly, that 1954 proposal to the L.A. Metro Transit Authority called their monorail prescription “a proper beginning of mass rapid transit throughout Los Angeles County.” It was as if the past five decades had been forgotten.

Longtime Los Angeles resident Ray Bradbury never drove a car. Not even once. When I asked him why, he said that he thought he’d “be a maniac” behind the wheel. A year ago this month I walked to his house which was about a mile north of my apartment (uphill) and arrived dripping in sweat. Bradbury was a big proponent of establishing monorail lines in Los Angeles. But as Bradbury wrote in a 2006 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, he believed the Metro line from downtown to Santa Monica (which now stretches to Culver City and is currently being built to reach Santa Monica) was a bad idea. He believed that his 1960s effort to promote monorails in Los Angeles made a lot more sense financially.

Bradbury said of his 1963 campaign, “During the following 12 months I lectured in almost every major area of L.A., at open forums and libraries, to tell people about the promise of the monorail. But at the end of that year nothing was done.” Bradbury’s argument was that the taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for transportation in their city.

With the continued investment in highways and the public repeatedly voting down funding for subways and elevated railways at almost every turn (including our most recent ballot’s Measure J which would have extended a sales tax increase in Los Angeles County to be earmarked for public transportation construction) it’s hard to argue that anyone but the state of California, the city of Los Angeles, and the voting public are responsible for the automobile-centric state of the city.

But admittedly the new Metro stop in Culver City has changed my life. Opened in June of last year, it has completely transformed the way that I interact with my environment. While I still may walk as far as Hollywood on occasion (about 8 miles), I’m able to get downtown in about 25 minutes. And from Downtown to Hollywood in about the same amount of time.

Today, the streetcars may be returning to downtown L.A. with construction starting as early as 2014 pending quite a few more hurdles. Funding has nearly been secured for the project which would again put streetcars downtown by 2016.

But even with all of L.A.’s progress in mass transit, my car-less experiment will probably come to a close this year. Life is just easier with a car in a city that still has a long way to go in order to make places like Santa Monica, Venice, the Valley and (perhaps most crucially for major cities trying to attract businesses and promote tourism) the airport accessible by train.

But until then my car will remain parked downstairs. I’ll continue to walk almost everywhere, and you can be sure I’ll dream of the L.A. monorails that never were.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance

As the world burns, a new movement to reverse climate change is emerging - fiercely, loudly and right next door


 By Bill McKibben, April 11, 2013


It got so hot in Australia in January that the weather service had to add two new colors to its charts. A few weeks later, at the other end of the planet, new data from the CryoSat-2 satellite showed 80 percent of Arctic sea ice has disappeared. We're not breaking records anymore; we're breaking the planet. In 50 years, no one will care about the fiscal cliff or the Euro crisis. They'll just ask, "So the Arctic melted, and then what did you do?"

Here's the good news: We'll at least be able to say we fought.

After decades of scant organized response to climate change, a powerful movement is quickly emerging around the country and around the world, building on the work of scattered front-line organizers who've been fighting the fossil-fuel industry for decades. It has no great charismatic leader and no central organization; it battles on a thousand fronts. But taken together, it's now big enough to matter, and it's growing fast.

The Fossil Fuel Resistance: Meet the New Green Heroes

Americans got to see some of this movement spread out across the Mall in Washington, D.C., on a bitter-cold day in February. Press accounts put the crowd upward of 40,000 – by far the largest climate rally in the country's history. They were there to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run down from Canada's tar sands, south to the Gulf of Mexico, a fight that Time magazine recently referred to as the Selma and the Stonewall of the environmental movement. But there were thousands in the crowd also working to block fracking wells across the Appalachians and proposed Pacific coast deep-water ports that would send coal to China. Students from most of the 323 campuses where the fight for fossil-fuel divestment is under way mingled with veterans of the battles to shut down mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia and Kentucky, and with earnest members of the Citizens Climate Lobby there to demand that Congress enact a serious price on carbon. A few days earlier, 48 leaders had been arrested outside the White House – they included ranchers from Nebraska who didn't want a giant pipeline across their land and leaders from Texas refinery towns who didn't want more crude spilling into their communities. Legendary investor Jeremy Grantham was on hand, urging scientists to accompany their research with civil disobedience, as were solar entrepreneurs quickly figuring out how to deploy panels on rooftops across the country. The original Americans were well-represented; indigenous groups are core leaders of the fight, since their communities have been devastated by mines and cheated by oil companies. The Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus was handcuffed next to Julian Bond, former head of the NAACP, who recounted stories of being arrested for integrating Atlanta lunch counters in the Sixties.

It's a sprawling, diverse and remarkably united movement, marked by its active opposition to the richest and most powerful industry on Earth. The Fossil Fuel Resistance has already won some serious victories, blocking dozens of new coal plants and closing down existing ones – ask the folks at Little Village Environmental Justice Organization who helped shutter a pair of coal plants in Chicago, or the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, which fought to stop Chevron from expanding its refinery in Richmond, California. "Up to this point, grassroots organizing has kept more industrial carbon out of the atmosphere than state or federal policy," says Gopal Dayaneni of the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project. It's an economic resistance movement, too, one that's well aware renewable energy creates three times as many jobs as coal and gas and oil. Good jobs that can't be outsourced because the sun and the wind are close to home. It creates a future, in other words.

These are serious people: You're not a member of the Resistance just because you drive a Prius. You don't need to go to jail, but you do need to do more than change your light bulbs. You need to try to change the system that is raising the temperature, the sea level, the extinction rate – even raising the question of how well civilization will survive this century.

Soon after the big D.C. rally, the state department issued a report downplaying Keystone XL's environmental impact, thus advancing the pipeline proposal another step. Since then, at the urging of the remarkable cellphone-company-cum-activist-group Credo, nearly 60,000 people have signed a pledge promising to resist, peacefully but firmly, if the pipeline is ever approved. By early March, even establishment commentators like Thomas Friedman had noticed – he used his New York Times column to ask activists to "go crazy" with civil disobedience; 48 hours later, 25 students and clergy were locked down inside a pipeline-company office outside Boston. It's not a one-sided fight anymore.

No movement this diverse is going to agree on a manifesto, but any reckoning begins with the idea that fossil fuel is dirty at every stage, and we need to put it behind us as fast as we can. For those of us in affluent countries, small shifts in lifestyle won't be enough; we'll also need to alter the policies that keep this industry fat and happy. For the poor world, the much harder goal is to leapfrog the fossil-fuel age and go straight to renewables – a task that those of us who prospered by filling the atmosphere with carbon must help with, for reasons both moral and practical. And for all of us, it means standing with communities from the coal fields of Appalachia to the oil-soaked Niger Delta as they fight for their homes. They've fought longest and hardest and too often by themselves. Now that global warming is starting to pour seawater into subways, the front lines are expanding and the reinforcements are finally beginning to arrive.

Climate Change and the End of Australia

Right now, the fossil-fuel industry is mostly winning. In the past few years, they've proved "peak-oil" theorists wrong – as the price rose for hydrocarbons, companies found lots of new sources, though mostly by scraping the bottom of the barrel, spending even more money to get even-cruddier energy. They've learned to frack (in essence, explode a pipe bomb a few thousand feet beneath the surface, fracturing the surrounding rock). They've figured out how to take the sludgy tar sands and heat them with natural gas till the oil flows. They've managed to drill miles beneath the ocean's surface. And the hyperbolic enthusiasm has gushed even higher than the oil. The Wall Street Journal has declared North Dakota a new Saudi Arabia. The New York Times described a new shale-oil find in California as more than four times as large as North Dakota's. "We could make OPEC 'NOPEC' if we really put our minds to it," said Charles Drevna of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. "We're talking decades, if not into the hundreds of years, of supply in North America."

But all that fossil fuel will only get pumped and mined and burned if we decide to ignore the climate issue; were we to ever take it seriously, the math would quickly change. As I pointed out in these pages last summer, the world's fossil-fuel companies, even before these new finds, had five times more carbon in their reserves than we could burn if we hope to stay below a two-degree­Celsius rise in global temperatures. That's the red line almost every government in the world has agreed on, but the coal, oil and natural-gas companies, propelled by record profits, just keep looking for more – and ignore reality. A new report shows that an anonymous group of industry billionaires has secretly poured more than $100 million into anti-environmental­front groups. Weeks before Election Day, Chevron gave the largest corporate Super PAC contribution of the post­-Citizens United era, making sure that Congress stayed in the hands of climate deniers.

But every flood erodes their position, and every heat wave fuels the Resistance. When the Keystone pipeline first became controversial, in 2011, a poll of D.C. "energy insiders" showed that more than 70 percent of them thought they'd have permits to build it by the end of the year. Big Oil, of course, may end up getting its way, but so far its money hasn't overwhelmed the passion, spirit and creativity its foes have brought to the battle. And we're not just playing defense anymore: The rapidly spreading divestment movement may be the single biggest face of the Resistance. It's no longer confined to campuses; city governments and religious denominations have begun to unload their stakes in oil companies, and the movement is even spreading to self-interested investors­ now that HSBC has calculated that taking climate change seriously could cut share prices of oil companies by up to 60 percent.

With each passing month, something else weakens the industry's hand: the steady rise of renewable energy, a technology that's gone from pie-in-the-sky to panel-on-the-roof in remarkably short order. In the few countries where governments have really gotten behind renewables, the results are staggering: There were days last spring when Germany (pale, northern Germany) managed to generate half its power from solar panels. Even in this country, much of the generating capacity added last year came from renewables. A December study from the University of Delaware showed that by 2030 we could affordably power the nation 99.9 percent of the time on renewable energy. In other words, logic, physics and technology work against the fossil-fuel industry. For the moment, it has the political power it needs – but political power shifts perhaps more easily than physics.

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

Which is where the resistance comes in. Forty-three years ago, the first anarchic Earth Day drew 20 million Americans into the streets. That surge helped push through all kinds of legislation – the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act – and spurred the growth of organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. As these "green groups" became the face of the environmental movement, they grew adept at playing an inside-the-Beltway lobbying game. But that strategy got harder as the power of the right wing grew; for 25 years, they've been unable to win significant progress on climate change.

Now, energized by the Keystone protests, some strides have been made. The NRDC has done yeoman's work against the pipeline. The Sierra Club, which just a few years ago was taking millions from the fracking industry to shill for natural gas, has been reinvented. In January, the club dropped a 120-year ban on civil disobedience. The following month, its executive director, Michael Brune, was led away from the White House in handcuffs.

But the center of gravity has also shifted from big, established groups to local, distributed efforts. In the Internet age, you don't need direct mail and big headquarters; you need Twitter. In Texas and Oklahoma, hundreds have joined actions led by the Tar Sands Blockade, which has used daredevil tactics and lots of courage to get between the industry and the pipeline it needs to move oil overseas. In Montana, author Rick Bass and others sat-in to stop the export of millions of tons of coal from ports on the West Coast. And all across the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the Northeast, people have been standing up for their communities, often by sitting down in front of the fracking industry. The Fossil Fuel Resistance looks more and more like Occupy – in fact, they've overlapped from the beginning, since oil companies are the one percent of the one percent. The movements share a political analysis, too: A grid with a million solar rooftops feels more like the Internet than ConEd; it's a farmers market in electrons, with the local control that it implies.

Like Occupy, this new Resistance is not obsessed with winning over Democratic Party leaders. The Keystone arrests in 2011 marked the most militant protests outside the White House during Obama's first term; now Van Jones, who once worked for the president, has taken to calling Keystone the "Obama pipeline." Used to dealing with the established green groups, the administration thinks in terms of deals – "We'll approve the pipeline but give you something else you want" – the kind of logic that gains the approval of op-ed columnists and talking heads. But given that the Arctic has already melted, we don't have room for easy compromises. The president's insistence that he favors an "all of the above" energy system, where oil and gas are as welcome as solar and wind, seems increasingly like a classic political hedge. In fact, if the GOP wasn't in the tank for the oil industry, you couldn't do much worse than Obama's campaign­trail rhetoric. Last year, the president went to Oklahoma, posed in front of a stack of oil pipe and bragged of adding enough new pipelines to encircle Earth. Since the election, the president has started talking green, promising that now climate change would be a priority – but this growing Resistance is, I think, unconvinced. As climate leader Naomi Klein said, "This time, no honeymoon and no hero worship."

Only grit and hard work. We've watched great cultural shifts and organizing successes in recent years, like the marriage-equality and immigration-reform movements. But breaking the power of oil companies may be even harder because the sums of the money on the other side are so fantastic – there are trillions of dollars worth of oil in Canada's tar sands and the North Dakota shale. The men who own the coal mines and the gas wells will spend what they need to assure their victories. Last month, Rex Tillerson, Exxon's $100,000-a-day CEO, said that environmentalists were "obtuse" for opposing new pipelines. He announced the company planned to more than double the acreage on which it was exploring for new hydrocarbons and said he expected that renewables would account for just one percent of our energy in 2040, essentially declaring that the war to save the climate was over before it started. He added, "My philosophy is to make money."

That same day, scientists announced that Earth was now warming 50 times faster than it ever has in human civilization, and that carbon-dioxide levels had set a perilous new record at Mauna Loa's measuring station. Right now, we're losing. But as the planet runs its spiking fever, the antibodies are starting to kick in. We know what the future holds unless we resist. And so resist we will.

Trucking Ready for Panama Canal Expansion But Cites Infrastructure Concerns


April 11, 2013


The trucking industry is prepared for projected increases in freight set to come from an expanded Panama Canal, but an industry executive warned a Senate panel of challenges related to congestion and the condition of U.S. infrastructure.

Testifying on behalf of American Trucking Associations, Phil Byrd, CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express, North Charleston, S.C., said substandard highway infrastructure will make it difficult for trucking to handle the additional freight demand at East and Gulf coast ports once the canal’s expansion is complete.

“The biggest challenge to accommodating increased freight volumes lies outside the port gates — specifically, the ability of our congested highways to handle the increased freight,” Byrd said Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Bulldog Hiway Express is the largest carrier serving the Port of Charleston, S.C. Byrd said that port, like others nearby, is preparing for larger ships and increased traffic through projects such as dredging the harbor to 50 feet.

“Clearly, while port infrastructure may potentially be ready to handle increased container volumes, outside the port gates, our intermodal connectors and highway system are not,” he told the panel.

The canal’s current maximum ship size is about 5,000 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers. New maximum ship size will be about 12,000, according to the Panama Canal Authority, which projects the $5 billion expansion to add a third lane to be complete by mid-2015. The canal opened in 1917.

Panama is wrapping up a nine-year project at a cost of more than $5 billion to add a third lane to the canal, the first major expansion since it opened in 1917. The new lane will be able to handle ships about 2.5 times the maximum capacity of the existing lanes.

Despite Beverly Hills Council Vote, Metro Says Purple Line Is Moving Forward 

 The agency says the Purple Line Extension project will proceed with help expected from a $65 million match in federal funds. 


By Anthea Raymond, April 16, 2013

 The Metropolitan Transit Agency said the Purple Line Extension project is moving forward, despite a recent vote by the Beverly Hills City Council to condition its support of the Purple Line on a change in the proposed route.

It is currently designed to run directly under Beverly Hills High School property.
In the statement, the agency noted that the project went through "five years of exhaustive environmental, technical and public review."
The statement also says that President Obama has included an "initial $65 million in federal matching funds for the project" in his new budget.
Metro's statement concludes by saying that the money "is a down payment on what we hope will be a full funding grant agreement with the federal government and that it demonstrates their continued confidence in our agency and this project."

The recently rebranded transit project will serve as a connector from downtown Los Angeles to the Veterans Medical Center in West L.A.
SCV Officials Question Caltrans Plans for I-5 Toll Lanes
By Perry Smith, April 17, 2013
 Metro officials are recommending toll roads for the carpool-lane project for Interstate 5, following a staff recommendation Wednesday.
“(The agenda item) is to get authorization to have that as the locally preferred alternative,” said Mark Dierking, Metro community relations manager. “It’s basically to say it’s Metro’s preferred option for expansion.”

The project is far from a done deal, according to Metro official, who say the move is a formality, and characterized the process as about halfway to where it needs to be for approval.

Right now, the project has been approved as high occupancy-vehicle, or carpool, lanes.
Caltrans officials have cited the need for additional lanes on the I-5 but, citing a lack of funds for the project, they say it may take decades to get additional lanes built.

“Metro is proposing to widen the I-5 freeway in the Santa Clarita area in five years instead of 30 years,” said Lan Saadatnejadi, executive officer for Metro’s Highway Program, in a recent interview.

“This will reduce congestion, improve safety and provide jobs to the people of the Santa Clarita and Los Angeles area,” she said.

Metro is looking for funding partnerships for the program because the project, which would cost approximately $310 million, only has about 75 percent of the necessary funds available.

The move is drawing ire from city officials who have said it’s not right to have to charge Santa Clarita Valley commuters twice to have the roads they need to get to work.

City Councilwoman Marsha McLean said she was in favor of improving the I-5 commute, but she wanted to make sure it was done with the consent of as many of those who would be affected as possible.

She didn’t think many people were aware of how far along the process was, and the feedback that she’d heard locally did not seem to be in favor of the project.

“I know it’s a choice, but I just think that we need to find the money to do this without charging people to use the lanes,” McLean said.

Metro officials acknowledged that there might be some misinformation out there about the project, but they were conducting outreach to try and address those concerns and questions.

City Councilman TimBen Boydston objected to a toll-lane because he likened it to double taxation.

“I don’t like the idea that the people of California would have to pay for the toll roads twice,” he said. “The toll roads are being built with tax money — gas tax money. The state promises us to build roads with its gas tax money and now they want to charge us.”

The pay lanes would have a guaranteed minimum speed of 45 mph at all times, according to Metro officials.

If the project receives local approvals, the project will be submitted to the California Transportation Commission in October or November, Dierking said.

The next meeting that will address the toll-lane project will be the MTA board meeting next Thursday at Metro headquarters at 1 Gateway Plaza in downtown Los Angeles.

The building is right next to Union Station, if Santa Clarita Valley commuters wish to make the trip. The meeting will take place at 9 a.m.

Public comment on the toll-lane project also may be submitted via email at dierkingm@metro.net
Letters:  Give the 110 Toll Lane More Time

Posted on No 710 on Avenue 64 Facebook page:

Letter from LA Times in response to the article about slowing in the non-toll lanes of the 110 freeway. The writer, Professor Peter Gordon, is a professor of public policy at USC focusing on urban economics, transportation and planning. I cannot believe he actually said this: "First, if we want to avoid the pricing versus crowding trade-off, we have to build more capacity." Apparently he hasn't been reading the same transportation policy reports and research results I have. Time and time again, it has been demonstrated that adding additional lanes is but a temporary (<5 years) solution to congestion. Millions or billions of dollars spent, only to be back at the starting gate (or worse) in five years' time.
 April 13, 2013

Re "Free way's the slow way," April 10

It's a pity we call them "freeways." Free access means rationing by crowding rather than by price (the way almost everything else is rationed). Everyone gripes about crowding and, as some of those quoted in this article reveal, they also gripe about pricing.

Let's keep some things in mind. First, if we want to avoid the pricing versus crowding trade-off, we have to build more capacity. This is very expensive and also raises hackles.

Second, pricing involves learning and flexibility. Most prices in our lives vary greatly as buyers and sellers continuously make adjustments. Likewise, as pricing is introduced on Los Angeles' carpool lanes, both drivers and Caltrans will go through a period of experimenting and learning. Drivers will start thinking about routes and times of day, and even about eliminating marginal trips. Highway authorities will think hard about how much traffic should be diverted to the non-toll lanes, to surface streets and to other times of day. When all is said and done, drivers will spend less time stuck in traffic.

How would it look at the grocery store, the movie theater or other places if access were "free"? My guess is that we'd all start complaining about the "gridlock."

Peter Gordon
Los Angeles

The writer is a professor of public policy at USC focusing on urban economics, transportation and planning.

My problem with the toll lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways is that they prevent the "casual carpooler" from using them. I used to seek out friends for occasional trips downtown so I could use the carpool lanes, which is now impossible because I have little need for a FasTrak transponder.

It would be very interesting to learn about how many such drivers are forced to use the free lanes because transponders are now required to access the tollways, or how many people just don't bother carpooling because they can't access the lanes at all.

I still get excited sometimes when I have a friend in the car and think I can use the carpool lane, only to crash back to reality when I remember that I don't have a transponder.

Todd Koerner
Hermosa Beach

The 110 Freeway toll lanes are carrying so few cars that virtually all the rush-hour traffic is confined to two fewer lanes. The resulting congestion is so bad that, for the drivers who don't have a FasTrak transponder or don't want to pay the toll, the 110 is no longer useful. Effectively, L.A. has lost a major freeway.

The correct toll is the one that attracts enough drivers almost to fill the lane. Then the congestion on the other lanes will lighten to what it was before the toll lanes opened, and Los Angeles will have its freeway back.

What would it cost to reduce the tolls? If the lanes get 10 times as many cars with one-tenth the toll, for example, there is no loss. But if demand is insufficiently elastic, cutting the toll will reduce the revenue.

Jack L. Treynor
Palos Verdes Estates

Thank you for reporting on the "surprising" result of converting the 110 carpool lanes into toll lanes. Traffic has slowed in the remaining, already congested, lanes. Well, duh.

It is not clear why this is surprising. When the government in effect privatized a key portion of our overall public transportation system (the roads we want) for the benefit of the relative few, did someone actually predict that the majority of us would benefit?

Gregory Hach

How very American: Ease the way for those who can pay while making life harder for everyone else.

Linnea Warren

Toll lane transponder fee suspended for L.A. County residents

For the next six months, residents will not be charged a $3 monthly maintenance fee for transponders used on the 110 and 10 freeways' toll lanes.

By Laura J. Nelson, April 25, 2013

L.A. County toll lanes

 Preliminary data on L.A. County's first toll lanes show that congestion declined in those lanes -- formerly carpool-only lanes -- and increased in the other lanes.

A controversial monthly fee tied to Los Angeles County's new toll lane system was suspended Thursday after a lengthy discussion and divided vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.

For the next six months, Los Angeles County residents will not be charged a $3 monthly maintenance fee for their transponders — coaster-sized devices that track toll lane usage and fees.

Some carpoolers and solo motorists who would use the lanes infrequently have said that the monthly charge discouraged them from buying the $40 transponder. To avoid the maintenance fee, drivers must use the toll lane at least four times a month.

"The infrequent users who live in Los Angeles are really being treated unfairly," said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who proposed the fee hiatus. Dozens of motorists have written to him protesting the fee, he said. Metro received similar letters and phone calls.

Five months after the county launched its "congestion pricing" experiment on the 110 Freeway, officials continue to closely monitor the effects of the toll lanes. In theory, the pay lanes should speed up traffic in all freeway lanes, officials say. Solo drivers can pay 25 cents to $1.40 per mile — based on traffic conditions — to zip into the toll lanes, which so far have averaged at least 45 miles per hour during peak periods.

Preliminary data on the 110 Freeway test show traffic in the former carpool-only lanes declined and congestion in free lanes increased. Metro expects the traffic improvements to even out as more drivers adopt the toll lanes.

The decision to suspend monthly fees comes as Metro is pushing ahead with a plan to expand the toll lane network, which so far covers stretches of the 110 and 10 freeways. On Thursday, the Metro board approved an environmental impact report for toll lanes expected to be built on the 5 Freeway near Santa Clarita over the next decade.

The number of drivers using the 110 Freeway toll lanes has risen steadily since the lanes opened in November. Nearly 150,000 people now own transponders, up from 105,000 in February. The freeze on monthly fees should encourage more enrollment, Metro said.

"There's a segment of the public that was hanging out on the sidelines," said Stephanie Wiggins, Metro's ExpressLanes project manager. Metro will analyze whether the number of users rises while the monthly fee is suspended, as well as the effect on the project's income, which totaled about $3 million in the first three months of operation.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas opposed the fee suspension, saying Metro should not tamper with the toll lane project until a one-year test phase is complete. He also said the monthly fee isn't as big an issue as some claim.

"There is a ... difference of opinion of the merit of the program," Ridley-Thomas said. "It's a pilot project. It's simply too soon."
Pondering a mileage tax and a reduced federal role in transportation


By David Tanner, April 24, 2013

During a hearing Wednesday about federal highway funding, the House Budget Committee asked panelists for ideas about replacing the federal fuel tax with a mileage-based user fee in the future – a fee that could charge truckers “exponentially more” than cars. The committee also pondered a congressional bill that would turn federal transportation decisions over to the states.

Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-WI, opened the hearing but turned the gavel over to Rep. Scott Garrett, R-NJ, to chair the proceedings.

From the chair, Garrett promoted his bill, HR1065, that would allow states to opt out of the federal transportation program and keep the 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax to use as they see fit. It’s been called a “devolution” bill because it would literally devolve the federal role in transportation.

Not everyone agrees with the theory, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was represented at the hearing by Janet Kavinoky, the organization’s director of transportation and infrastructure.

“We strongly urge Congress to continue to reject cuts to federal program levels that would, in turn, pass the buck to states, localities and the private sector,” Kavinoky stated in testimony. “This option is tantamount to abdicating responsibility for interstate commerce, and ignoring the importance of connectivity and the value of a national system.”

The two other invited panelists, Richard Geddes, director of infrastructure programs for Cornell University, and Robert Poole, director of transportation policy for the Reason Foundation, said they supported Garrett’s intent.

Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, and Bill Pascrell, D-NJ, were vocal against the devolution concept.

“I would say that if we had done that in the past, we wouldn’t have the Interstate Highway System,” Van Hollen said. Pascrell added that he did not agree with anything in the bill.

When lawmakers brought up tolling and public private partnerships, Kavinoky said the Chamber did not have a hard position on tolls. He said tolling benefits only state and local governments and does not solve long-term problems facing the Highway Trust Fund. The organization supports public-private partnerships according to testimony.

The Highway Trust Fund will be $92 billion short within 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office announced Wednesday in its latest outlook.

“The current trajectory of the Highway Trust Fund is unsustainable,” the CBO stated.

Lawmakers debated ways to plug the hole, whether through decreased spending, increased taxes, or a combination of both.

The committee discussed the possibility of replacing the fuel tax in the future – sometime around or after 2025 – with a mileage-based user fee.

Poole referred to the fee as a toll on every mile traveled – with different rates for vehicles and accounting for rural or urban travel – but did not have a solution when asked how such a fee would be implemented without the use of tracking technology such as GPS on every vehicle.

Concerning mileage tax rates, Poole suggested 1 to 3 cents per mile for cars and between 5 and 8 cents per mile for heavy trucks. He added that heavy trucks could be charged “exponentially more” than cars under a variable-pricing concept.

Rep. Roger Williams, R-TX, raised the issue of vehicle cost due to the infrastructure, bureaucracy and vehicle technology needed to pull off a mileage fee for all vehicles.

Truckers are particularly concerned about the increased cost of doing business. The trucking sector currently supplies 30-40 percent of the Highway Trust Fund through the taxes and user fees they pay.

Truckers have already seen the price of new trucks increase between $20,000 and $50,000 due to EPA engine and emission requirements, and are set for another $6,200 increase once the first round of fuel mileage and emission requirements for heavy vehicles take full effect in 2018.

Those figures do not take into account the 12 percent excise tax truckers pay on heavy equipment, the tire tax, the heavy vehicle use tax (HVUT) or registration fees that truckers pay into the Highway Trust Fund.

For now, fuel taxes are not keeping up with the needs of the surface transportation system.

Among the panelists at the hearing, Kavinoky offered the simplest, but most politically challenging notion of the day: raising the fuel tax.

“The simplest, most straight-forward, and effective way to generate enough revenue for federal transportation programs is through increasing federal gasoline and diesel taxes – the one that is most often dismissed because the challenge is one of political will,” she said.

In prepared testimony, the American Highway Users Alliance, of which OOIDA is a member, said Congress needs to build on a series of reforms in the latest highway bill MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.

“Before arguing for more revenue to solve the program, we advocated for better policies to use existing revenue more responsibly,” Highway Users Alliance President Greg Cohen said.

“Taxpayers expect our highway investments to be used in a way that directly benefits the payer and minimizes waste, abuse, and bureaucracy as much as possible.”

U.S. traffic congestion again on the rise after 2-year slump, new report says 


The Trucker News Services, April 26, 2013


KIRKLAND, Wash. Last year, drivers wasted an average of 62 hours on America's most congested roads. And it’s only going to get worse, according to INRIX, an international provider of traffic information and driver services.

In its sixth Traffic Scorecard Annual Report, INRIX revealed that in the first three months of this year, traffic congestion is up 4 percent compared to 2012. This suggests that after a tumultuous economic year in 2012, the economy is back on the mend bringing increased traffic congestion, INRIX stated in a news release.

To view the multimedia assets associated with this release, click here. http://www.multivu.com/mnr/61109-inrix-traffic-scorecard-reports-u-s-congestion-on-the-rise

The uptick in traffic congestion in 2013 follows a 22 percent decrease in 2012. The stop-and-go nature of the results indicate an overall economic climate that has not yet returned to pre-recession levels in many areas, including total jobs and unemployment rates.

"Fears over recurring fiscal deadlines and ongoing debt issues last year likely fueled declines in traffic congestion, with businesses and consumers alike taking a wait-and-see approach," said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and CEO. "While bad news for drivers, the gains we've seen in the U.S. and a few countries in Europe in 2013 are cause for some optimism about the direction of the economy."

With many economic indicators, such as household wealth and retail sales, trending toward the positive in 2013, INRIX's comparison of congestion in 2012 versus 2013 year-to-date indicates how the overall economic climate affects national traffic congestion. Key global findings include:

-- Among all 15 countries analyzed worldwide, only three (Luxembourg, Ireland and the U.S.) have experienced increases in 2013. Only one country had increased traffic congestion in 2012 - Luxembourg. In Europe, the countries with the biggest declines in traffic have the highest rates of unemployment as they continue to struggle through the European debt crisis

-- In 2013, traffic congestion in the U.S. increased each month for the first three months of the year, the first such consecutive month increase in two years. This increase is in line with a steady increase in employment in the first three months of 2013 (+1.3%).

-- So far this year, 61 of America's Top 100 Most Populated Cities have experienced increased traffic congestion. This is a dramatic shift from 2012, where only six cities experienced increases and 94 saw decreases.

-- Seven of 2012's Top 10 Worst Cities for Traffic in America have experienced increasing traffic congestion in 2013. The largest increase to date is in Boston (+30 percent), likely a result of the Boston metropolitan area boasting unemployment figures that were 1.2 percentage points lower than the national average in February 2013.

-- In Europe, traffic congestion fell 18 percent in 2012 and continues to spiral downward in 2013 with a further 23 percent decline in the first quarter. Eighty-one of the 94 European cities analysed have experienced decreases in traffic congestion in Q1 2013.

Los Angeles is back at the top of the list in 2012 after falling to number two in 2011 (behind Honolulu). This is likely due to the fact that Los Angeles County gained approximately 90,000 jobs in February 2013 a growth rate of 2.3 percent. This is the fastest year-over-year growth in employment across the Los Angeles area since the recession began in 2007.

By analyzing traffic in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas in 2012, INRIX revealed that drivers wasted an average of 42 hours in America's Top 10 Worst Traffic Cities - the equivalent to one week of vacation. The table below represents the Top 10 Worst Cities for Traffic in America in 2012:

Rank City             Hours Lost in 2012 % Change 2012 vs. 2011 % Change
                                                                        Q1 2013 vs.
                                                                        Q1 2012
        1    Los Angeles      59                 -9%                    +6%
        2    Honolulu         50                 -23%                   +4%
        3    San Francisco    49                 -7%                    +3%
        4    Austin, TX       38                 +3%                    +8%
        5    New York         50                 -17%                   +10%
        6    Bridgeport, CT   39                 -19%                   +16%
        7    San Jose, CA     31                 +6%                    +13%
        8    Seattle          35                 -10%                   -11%
        9    Washington, D.C. 41                 -18%                   -5%
        10   Boston           31                 -22%                   +30%
The Top 10 Worst Roads for Traffic in 2012 were:

-- The Cross Bronx Expy Drivers on New York's worst highway waste over six days each year in traffic.

-- The San Diego Fwy (l.a.:I-405 SB) Consistently jammed in both directions, the 405 is LA's worst freeway; the 8.1-mile stretch leading to Mullholland Dr. takes drivers over 50 minutes on Tuesday mornings - the worst day and time of the week.

-- The Van Wyck Expy On Thursdays between 4-5 p.m., drivers crawl at 10 mph, and it takes nearly 40 minutes to travel 6 miles.

-- The Santa Monica Fwy (l.a.:I-10 EB) It can take drivers up to over an hour (63 min) to navigate the 15-mile stretch from Lincoln Blvd. to Alameda.

-- The Riverside Fwy (l.a.:CA-91 EB) Drivers waste approximately six days per year in gridlock on this road.

-- The Long Island Expy New Yorkers waste more than a half hour per day on the evening commute in traffic on the L.I.E.

-- Brooklyn Queens Expy It takes approximately an hour to go 10 miles on this highway during the Tuesday evening commute.

-- San Diego Fwy (l.a.:I-405 NB) A 13-mile stretch up to Getty Center Drive takes 40 minutes at a crawl of 20 mph.

-- The Dan Ryan/Kennedy Expy (chicagI-90/I-94 WB) Chicago commuters waste approximately one work week (5 days) every year in traffic on this popular road to O'Hare Airport.

-- The Santa Ana/Golden St. Fwy (L.A. I-5 SB) An 18-minute trip on this 17-mile stretch takes almost 50 minutes on weekday afternoons

Additionally, the Scorecard uncovered several other interesting trends regarding national commute times during rush hour. According to INRIX, the worst times to be on the roads in terms of delay are weekday mornings between 7-8 a.m. and weekday evenings between 4-5 p.m. The busiest morning commute hour is Tuesday from 8-9 a.m., and the busiest evening commute takes place on Friday from 5-6 p.m.

While the Scorecard tells the story of rising traffic congestion indicative of a recovering economy, the report shows that, unlike the U.S., Europe traffic congestion is decreasing as the Eurozone continues to struggle through its debt crisis. Traffic congestion fell 18 percent across Europe in 2012 and continues to spiral downward in 2013 with a further 23 percent decline in the first quarter.
The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

The Car in 2035 -- Cars, Streets and Public Policy:  The Future of Southern California

From Sylvia Plummer

(No program/list of speakers yet, but we will keep you informed of updates)

Saturday, June 1, 2013
10 a.m. – 12 noon
Art Center College of Design | Hillside Campus
1700 Lida Street, Pasadena CA 91103


The Car in 2035 is a project created by Art Center alumna and former faculty member
Kati Rubinyi, who has brought together collaborators in the fields of planning,
transportation, design and art—including educational leaders, faculty and alumni from
Art Center—to create a lively mix of essays, images and interviews about our region’s
automotive future over the next 20 years.

Given its position as one of the leading schools in transportation design, Art Center is
deeply interested in the future of mobility and the future of our infrastructure and
communities addressed in The Car in 2035. Today, Art Center is building on its legacy
of educating some of the world’s top automotive designers with a new Graduate program
in Transportation Design for those students who want to revolutionize the vehicle
manufacturing industry and reimagine compelling, sustainable and viable mobility solutions
for an inspired future.

This event is free and open to the public but seating is limited.  Be sure to register!
Connecting the dots of who benefits...Follow the money!

From Sylvia Plummer 


Here is an older article detailing "LA Metro Selects HDR for I-710 Corridor Project North Utility Study"


LA Metro Selects HDR for I-710 Corridor Project North Utility Study

February 17, 2012

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has approved the selection of HDR to perform the I-710 Corridor Project North Utility Study.

The Long Beach Freeway (I-710) is a vital transportation artery, linking the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to major Southern California distribution centers and intermodal rail facilities. An essential component of the regional, statewide and national transportation system, it serves both passenger and goods movement vehicles.

In response to the need to improve traffic and safety conditions caused by population growth, increased cargo container volume at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, increasing traffic volumes and an aging infrastructure, Metro and its project partners are preparing to make improvements to the I-710 corridor between SR 60 and the ports.

HDR will provide comprehensive utility relocation strategy and advance planning studies for the segment of the I-710 corridor that stretches from north of the Los Angeles River to the SR 60 freeway. HDR’s work includes complex geometric design for a six-mile segment of the planned freight corridor, analysis of river hydraulics and relocation strategies for high-voltage electrical transmission lines in the highly constrained Los Angeles River corridor. The Notice to Proceed will be issued on February 21.

HDR is a global employee-owned firm providing architecture, engineering, consulting, construction and related services through our various operating companies. More than 7,800 professionals are committed to helping clients manage complex projects and make sound decisions. Learn more at hdrinc.com.

This company, HDR, is the Titanium Sponsor of this years Mobility 21 2013 summit.

And Susan Bolan provides the connection to another Metro subcontractor, InfraConsult, who worked on the PPP analysis and proposals::

"Not surprising; I didn't even notice that.  HDR Engineering last July bought out InfraConsult and now Michael Schneider is one of their top executives who since then has been marketing our little project to investors and visiting the White House to push through Federal legislation and money.  These people are very powerful indeed.

What HDR is doing for the I-710 South is just dealing with the utility relocations, but it gets their feet into the project."

What Corridors Could Be Best for BRT? Metro’s Study Progresses 


 By Dana Gabbard, April 15, 2013



Back at the August 4, 2011 Metro Board meeting Los Angeles Mayor (and Metro Board member) Antonio Villariagiosa authored a motion that directed Metro undertake among other bus service improvements initiatives a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) study ” … with local jurisdictions to identify, analyze and recommend a minimum of five corridors in the County that can accommodate an effective Bus Rapid Transit system” with the goal of building a cross-county BRT network.

A strategy to identify the five corridors was approved at the Oct. 19, 2011 Metro Board meeting. A progress report in the form of a board box item was distributed to the Metro Board in June 2012. By then the study had acquired a name that is a bit of a mouthful: Los Angeles County Bus Rapid Transit and Street Design Improvement Study.

The latest updates were presented at the Feb. 20, 2013 Metro Board Planning and Programming Committee meeting and the March 27, 2013 Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council meeting.
And what is the status? In February at the Board meeting staff stated:
We will complete this study and return to the Board in May 2013 with a final report, highlighting a countywide bus rapid transit system of approximately 12 corridors, and identifying a subset of approximately 5 corridors that are most promising for near term implementation, should the Board choose to proceed with BRT corridor project development.
The deadline appears to have slipped as the March presentation avers “Anticipate study to be completed by June 2013″.

Which corridors are being studied, you wonder? The Feb. staff report has a list of candidate corridors. But even better to visualize what is being studied here is a map (in color!) from the March presentation.

BTW, at this time no identified funding exists to go forward with any implementation. Also as an initiative of the soon to be ex-Mayor I can foresee any recommendations without champions on the Board to promote them going nowhere fast. Also the study seems premature given the sbX and Wilshire bus lanes are not yet open. If those prove successful I could then see as a next step a network of BRT routes being identified and funded. But doing a study now puts the cart before the horse.

6 Reasons to Be Wary of Public-Private Partnerships


By Laura Barrett, April 4, 2013



During his recent visit to Miami, President Obama praised Public Private Partnerships ("P3s") and lifted up the idea of a national infrastructure bank.  While most Americans support the idea of building a sustainable economy and fixing decaying infrastructure, building up a national system of public-private partnerships is a whole other animal and needs to be carefully considered. The record on P3 agreements is mixed at best.

Political cronyism and financial desperation have contributed to these six troubling trends:
  1. Little or no democratic oversight: In P3 projects the decision-making power is often concentrated in the hands of a few appointed, not elected, officials. The Brookings Institution has recently recommended that the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provide guidance and oversight on P3 deals.
  2. Competition stifled: Because private sector innovation and efficiencies rely on competition, the relative lack of competition in P3 arrangements is a concern. In Virginia, the controversial Downtown-Midtown-MLK P3 project was solicited by only a single bidder. Groups like Empower Hampton Roads are concerned. 
  3. Public sectors are saddled with the risk: Most P3 contracts contain non-compete clauses that put any future revenue-reduction risk on the taxpayer. In the infamous Chicago parking meters agreement, the public sector is required to reimburse the private entity if a street is closed or a natural disaster occurs.
  4. The voice of the community is missing: Many P3 deals are pushed through quickly without community notice or involvement. Even worse, Freedom of Information Act requests are not available from private entities.
  5. Opportunities missed for community benefits: Because of the timing, the lack of public leverage, and many other factors, most P3 projects miss critical opportunities to add community benefits, such as local hiring agreements, green space, funding for workforce training or economic development.
  6. Absence of strategic planning: P3 infrastructure development often occurs at the whim of the free market, without the input of metropolitan planning organizations or similiar bodies. Long-term strategic planning for a region is abbreviated at best.
Other concerns such as environmental degradation, lengths of contracts, increases in user fees, and undervaluing public assets have yet to be calculated.

We desperately need the economic boost and jobs that infrastructure development can bring, but we need to make sure that taxpayers aren't left holding the bag. The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and any other mechanisms that rely on the private market need to be carefully constructed with community input to make them a boon and not a boondoggle.
Celebrate Earth Day

Posted on No 710 on Avenue 64 Facebook page, April 18, 2013

Well, well, well. Look who is talking about his ongoing effort to protect the environment. Don't know if we should laugh or cry.


Problems viewing this E-Alert, click here.

Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day April 2013On April 22, people around the world will celebrate the 44th anniversary of Earth Day by giving back to their communities. Even though California leads the nation in environmental conservation, there is much more we can and must do to preserve the environment for future generations.
As part of my ongoing effort to protect the environment, my office will join hundreds of volunteers throughout the district on Earth Day to clean and beautify our communities.
Click here to find a location near you.

California Assembly Democratic Caucus
Website: www.asmdc.org/Holden
Email: Assemblymember Holden
Capitol Office:
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0041
Tel: (916) 319-2041
Fax: (916) 319-2141