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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Canadian Port Expansions

It is not only the new Mexican superports and their link to the Nafta Highway that will take port traffic away from the Long Beach/Los Angeles ports, but also the expansion of the Canadian ports.


Canada could steal port business from U.S., report says

 Asia Pacific Foundation says greater collaboration could create jobs at expense of stalled U.S. port operations
By Scott Simpson, March 6, 2013

Canada could steal port business from U.S., report says
A ship loads containers at Centerm during a Port Metro Vancouver tour of the port area between Lions Gate Bridge and Iron Workers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver, B.C. on July 14, 2011.

Canada could “readily take” 10 per cent of total annual United States container volume if port stakeholders in this country work collaboratively to upgrade their operations, according to a new report from the Asia Pacific Foundation.
The report, released Wednesday, says U.S. port and rail capacity has effectively topped out whereas strategic Canadian ports such as Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Halifax “can expand substantially without major disruptions, and they are closer in time, measured in days, to Europe and Asia than their U.S. counterparts.”

At present Canada has only a five-per-cent market share of container traffic among North America, Europe and Asia, according to the report titled Seizing the Continent: Opportunities for a North American Gateway.

But that share could double, “even during the current recession,” at the expense of the U.S., generating “huge” employment gains and higher wages for Canadian port operators, truckers and cargo terminal and railway workers.

The report suggests the timeline to take advantage is “perhaps three or four years” — and that container traffic between North America and Asia is growing by about 12 per cent a year.

The report calls on the federal government to lead collaboration among port stakeholders to grab the opportunity — which will require a mix of globally focused port expansion planning, a “critical mass” of skilled workers and “tight transportation links.”

Canada’s major or “Carrier 1” railways, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, have the routes and capacity to support increased container movement around North America and through Canadian ports, the report states. They have east-west alignments, “excellent” links to ports and terminal infrastructure, and solid connections to major U.S. consumer markets. CN, in fact, is the leading first-tier railway on the continent.

Meanwhile, Canadian terminal operators and railways in the past five years “are beginning to develop the deeper collaborative relationships necessary to be worthy of being called ‘world class’ in today’s global supply chains.”

The U.S., by contrast, is hemmed in and unable to respond to a challenge from Canada without resorting to attempts at protectionist legislation due to an array of obstacles that include “political gridlock.”

“This is not an opportunity available to U.S. ports and railroads beyond their traditional roles in the domestic market. Throughout the United States, ports will find it difficult to expand their capacity—and this problem also applies to Carrier 1 railroads. Between the forces of environmentalists and NIMBYs (‘not in my back yard’), no significant new ports or major rail-capacity expansion are likely in our lifetime. This presents Canada with an exclusive opportunity.”

 Prince Rupert Port Authority


Competitive Advantages

The Port of Prince Rupert enjoys significant competitive advantages over other west coast ports.

Shortest Trade Route Between North America and Asia's fast growing economiesThe Port of Prince Rupert is North America's closest port to key Asian markets by up to three days - it's 36 hours closer to Shanghai than Vancouver and over 68 hours closer than Los Angeles.
Our strategic location and growing trade capacity gives shippers a powerful competitive edge in the global economy.

One of the deepest natural harbours in North America The Port of Prince Rupert has one of the deepest natural harbours in the world and the deepest inner harbour entrance of any of our competitors. With a channel depth of 35 metres and terminal berths of 17 metres, the Port is capable of handling the largest vessels deployed in transpacific trade.

One of the safest, most efficient ports in North America with easy access to international shipping lanesBased on a number of marine risk factors, including wind, depth, and channel width, the Port of Prince Rupert is arguably the safest port on the West Coast of North America.
The sheltered, ice-free harbour at the Port provides unobstructed entry to shipping lanes in the Pacific Ocean -- there are no significant navigational hazards or narrow channels to navigate. The pilot station is only two hours from the terminals.

Modern, state-of-the-art facilities
Designed with speed and efficiency in mind, the Port's modern, high-throughput bulk and container terminals provide shippers with a distinct competitive advantage in their supply chain management. All of the terminals at the Port have the capacity to increase volumes or expand their operations.
Our terminals connect directly into the Northwest Transportation Corridor, a modern rail and road network engineered and built to carry massive volumes. The CN rail line gives shippers immediate access and reach into North America. CN has significant capacity to expand and accommodate large increases in cargo traffic.
Fast, efficient and uncongested rail access
The Port is a terminus station of CN Rail, a major Class 1 North American carrier. CN is the only railway to serve ports on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf Coasts which means greater efficiencies for shippers, importers and exporters.

Free of urban congestion, the rail line travels along the Northwest Transportation Corridor through the most moderate rail grade in the Canadian Rockies and on to North America's heartland through Chicago before arriving in New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico.

Significant capacity for growth through greenfield developmentThe Prince Rupert Port Authority has some of the most desirable industrial development property on tidewater in North America, unobstructed by urban development and ranging from light to heavy industrial. There are more than 400 hectares of prime industrial land ready for development at the Port for container, bulk and other cargo-related facilities.

Some furious, others rejoice over San Pedro bike lane changes


By Donna Littlejohn, April 29, 2013



 New lane markings on Westmont Drive are meant to satisfy Los Angeles' new bike lane initiative. But many drivers are complaining that the lane markings are confusing and are jamming traffic due to the loss of one of the car lanes. A worker painting the lines has to keep a close eye on traffic as a car moves from a non-driving lane to the single lane to avoid him.
Bike lanes in urban centers have grown in popularity as residents begin to recognize their benefits to both personal health and air quality.

But they don't always translate onto real pavement without problems. And that means they sometimes become big political headaches for well-meaning officials who envision and plan the newly designed roadways.

In San Pedro, a network of freshly-painted white stripes, dashes and boxes on two well-traveled thoroughfares - Westmont and Capitol drives -sparked a firestorm of debate last week among residents who complained that the unexpected modifications were simply ill-conceived.

"How can anyone drive on this mess?" posted one resident on a San Pedro group Facebook page. "What are the boxes for??? "

"Must remember to avoid the intersection of Westmont & Western when school is letting out," posted another.

It's all part of a citywide Los Angeles bike lane initiative that's been in the works since 2008. The Bike Plan of 2010 was approved the following year.

But for local residents who either had forgotten about it - or who say the specifics were never really spelled out to begin with - it's all created what one person online called a "nightmare. "

The dismay is centered around the elimination of car lanes on both streets, crowding the existing car traffic into one lane instead of two, each way.

The unfamiliar markings have also confused many drivers.

"I've never seen striping that's so difficult to (understand) to find out where you should be," said Sandra Flowers who lives in a condominium development on Westmont Drive. "I'd really like to know where I'm supposed to drive. "

A couple days later, after the striping work was completed, she said the finished markings were a bit easier to understand.

But, Flowers added, it remains problematic as motorists jockey for what is now reduced lane space along streets used for school and shopping center access.

"They've actually taken away about half of the street for car traffic," she said.

As a result of the complaints, Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he'll ask the city's Department of Transportation to provide an update on traffic numbers since the bike lanes went into place.

"This has been ongoing since 2008," Buscaino said, adding that the city's bike plan is in response to the state's Complete Streets Act that requires all streets to be designed to accommodate bikes. It was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that same year.

"The city of L.A. is falling in line with the state requirement," Buscaino said.

Capitol and Westmont drives - east-west streets that connect Gaffey Street to Western Avenue - were deemed as underutilized streets by city traffic officials. But they are both lined with homes and shopping centers - and nearby schools bring significant drop-off and pick-up traffic to the thoroughfares twice a day.

Said Duane Torstensen on Facebook: "I drop my daughter off at school every morning ... this project has made traffic a nightmare. "

More signage was being added Friday that appeared to clarify some of the new markings. The box shapes next to the bike lanes that are new to most drivers are meant to designate buffer "safe" zones that cyclists can use when motorists park and begin to open their car doors out into the bike lane.

Some welcome the new bike lanes.

Supporters argue that the push to encourage bike riding will help improve air quality and public health.

Allyson Vought, a downtown San Pedro art gallery owner and professional racing cyclist, said it's about time that bike lanes were expanded in the town.

"As a cyclist, any designated bike area is a good thing, people in vehicles think they own the road," Vought said.

"Too bad" for those who are complaining, she said. "Cars aren't entitled. ... We need to eliminate our reliance on four-wheeled transportation.
New lane markings on Westmont Drive are meant to satisfy Los Angeles' new bike lane initiative. The lanes also create a parking lane in addition to the bike lane, but many feel the "blocks" are adding to the confusion. 
But the reaction has been largely one-sided. The problem, opponents say, is that no one seemed to realize the new lanes would take away traffic lanes.

"The neighbors are furious," said David Rivera, a member of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council's issues committee. "Coming out of those shopping centers, you're going to have to be real careful. "

John Mavar, a member of the neighborhood council who has been active in community issues for several years, said he had no recollection of the bike lane plan being presented.

"This should not be another rubber-stamped street improvement project," he said. "We're different here. We have a different topography and less bike commuters. "

Dan Dixon, chairman of the neighborhood council's issues committee, said he also doesn't remember any of the specifics being laid out. "I may be mocked and I may be dead wrong, but to me this is the first notification to the community," Dixon said.

Buscaino said city documentation indicates the plans were rolled out for Westmont and Capitol specifically some years ago.

For now, Rivera said he and other motorists appear to be charting out alternative routes to avoid the streets during congested times.

But San Pedro motorists may just have to adjust.

Other streets also will be eyed for bike lanes, possibly Pacific Avenue, the council office said.
Some 100 miles of bike lanes already have been installed activated throughout the sprawling metropolis with another 100 to come.

Rivera said discussions are ongoing among neighborhood council members about what can be done at this point. Among specific problems, he said, are dedicated left- and right-hand lane turn lanes that are simply too short and wind up blocking the only motorist lane remaining.

"Between 7:45 and 8:15 in the mornings, you have traffic stacking up and people honking horns," he said.

Aside from occasional bike teams that use the streets on weekends, many residents said they rarely see bicyclists on either Westmont or Capitol.

"With very few exceptions, bikes are just not that prevalent in this area," Flowers said.

Buscaino Communications Director Branimir Kvartuc said the goal of the city's Bike Plan is to change that by making streets more accommodating for bicyclists.

"Everybody's saying, 'I've never seen a bicyclist on this street,' but this is a comprehensive plan that aims to put bicyclists on the street," Kvartuc said. "It wasn't created to accommodate (existing) bicyclists but to encourage (new) bicyclists. "

"This is to encourage people to get out of their cars and use their bikes," Buscaino said. "To those who say San Pedro doesn't use bikes, I say, 'Let's start. Why not?' "

CA Legislation: public agency immunity for bike lanes tabled


By Richard Masoner, April 26, 2013

 California bike lane design immunity bill tabled, for now.

 Diane Harkey’s AB 738 was the controversial bill that would have conferred absolute design immunity to public agencies and their employees if a cyclist is injured or killed on any road where there’s a bike lane, whether the cyclist was riding in the bike lane or not.

Ms Harkey, who represents portions of Orange County in Southern California, told cycling advocates that she introduced the bill to encourage local governments to install more bike lanes. Although she denies there’s any relation, the city of Dana Point in Harkey’s district paid a record $49 million settlement to two women who were paralyzed in 2006 after they were struck in the bike lane by a hit and run driver.

The bill has languished without action in committee since introduction last February. After cyclists and advocacy groups around the state quietly communicated their dissatisfaction with AB 738 to the members of the Judiciary Committee and Local Government Committee, Assembly Member Harkey asked those committees to remove AB 738 from their hearing schedules.

Harkey’s staffers say she doesn’t plan to bring this bill up for reconsideration this legislative year, but hint we may see another attempt at this design immunity for bike lanes in 2014.

Comment: An interesting article. I have written before on the new bike lane on Glenarm Street in Pasadena and that with the addition of the bike lane, reducing four traffic lanes to two, I could see cars coming more easily from the left when exiting from a commercial establishment, that is, Armstrong Garden Center. But I wondered if I would see bicyclists less easily. The view of them is blocked by the cars parked next to the curb. This could be solved by not allowing cars to park so close to, at least, the driveways from commercial establishments from which many left-hand turns are made. So now I wonder that if a bicyclist is hit by a vehicle exiting from this driveway can the City of Pasadena be sued for installing an unsafe bike lane?


An App to Help You Navigate the Many, Many Car-Share and Transit Options Out There


By Zvika Krieger,  April 30, 2013

An App to Help You Navigate the Many, Many Car-Share and Transit Options Out There 
The transportation industry is squarely in the crosshairs of the tech start-up industry, and the fruits of their disruption were on full display at this year's South by Southwest, the high-octane tech-music-film festival in Austin last month. Uber, the on-demand towncar service, was offering free rides in pedicabs all over the city. SideCar, the ride-sharing start-up that was one of the most buzzed-about apps at this year's festival (partially because of its run-ins with city regulators), was offering free rides around town. Car-sharing service Car2Go had premium parking spots reserved around the perimeter of the Austin Convention Center.

Panels with names like "Transportation Apps and the Sharing Economy" and "Damn the Man! Disrupting Regulated Industries" featured the founders of Lyft and Zimride (ride-sharing), Wheelz and Getaround (car-sharing), and Flywheel (taxi-hailing). A "Hacking Transportation Meet Up" was sponsored by Scoot Networks -- a "Zipcar for Scooters." Hail-A-Cab, the Austin equivalent of MyTaxi and TaxiMagic, touted its services with a full-page ad in SXSW's official program guide.

I'm a fan of these new transportation disrupters. I'm in the sweet-spot of their demographic: a carless, eco-friendly, early-adopting urban-dweller. I used Uber to get me to the DC airport on my way to SXSW. A week before the conference, I received a holographic sticker from Car2Go for my membership card that qualified me a "Pro User." Together with my stay at three different Airbnb rooms over my time in Austin, I am a bona-fide member of the Sharing Economy.

But even for an avid user like me, the scene in Austin was quite overwhelming. Currently, most of these transportation apps are being beta-tested in different urban centers. But SXSW, which basically assembled all of them in a few square blocks, provided a vision for what the future could look like in major metros around the country -- and it wasn't pretty. As Columbia professor Tim Wu recently argued in The New Republic, "The unfortunate fact is that extreme abundance--like extreme scarcity, but in different ways--can make humans miserable."

There were so many options for getting from Point A to Point B, I was often paralyzed before I stepped out the door. Do I use a car-share or a ride-share? Should I order a cab, a pedicab, or a sedan? Car2Go or Zipcar? How about a scooter or a bike-share? What about plain-old public transportation? By the time I've checked the dozen apps on my phone, compared prices, wait times, and travel times, I probably could have made it to my destination by walking. It took my wife and I over an hour to weigh all the different options of getting her to the airport. (We eventually decided on a Zipcar.)

Thankfully, there seems to be an app that aims to make sense of this dystopian future of transportation. I met the founders of RideScout at SXSW, of course, where they showed me their new tool that aggregates all these various transportation options in a single interface. While most transportation options have their own apps, RideScout collects them in one place. You plug in your departure and RideScout will present you with various options based on your current location, allowing you to compare them by duration and price, all in real-time.
RideScout Screengrab1.jpg

Founder Joseph Kopser thought up the idea when he was trying to weigh the many choices for how to get from his house to the Pentagon. "I had like 20 options on a very small 5 mile route, from biking to jogging to Virginia public transportation to friends in DC," he said. And that was two years ago, even before the proliferation of transportation start-ups. As with most accidental start-up founders, he assumed that someone had invented such an intuitive app. When he couldn't find it, he decided to build it himself.

The West Point graduate was also drawn to the idea that, after working for so long working for the military "in the business of consuming energy, ... now I have a chance to turn around and give back to society." Kopser compares his task at RideScout with his previous job working for Army chief George Casey. "Trying to get people to change their habits, change their mindsets," he said. "That is a hard, strategic long-term event, which can't be measured in tiny quick wins."

The most difficult challenge for RideScout has been synthesizing the APIs and databases from various apps and platforms that weren't designed to work together. The fact that new apps are coming out almost daily exacerbates the challenge, forcing them to be strategic with each new partner they attempt to integrate into their app. In presenting different options to users, RideScout is also struggling with how to compare "apples and oranges," with some services charging by the mile while others charging by the minute or hour.

They launched a beta version of the app in February with approximately 100 testers, and rolled out a more functional version right before SXSW last month, attracting over a 1000 users already. (The app is currently only available for iPhones, but they're hoping to launch an Android version by this fall.)

They've started out simple, beginning with the low-hanging fruit of public transportation data (available through Google Transit Feed), and then layering Car2Go's open API on top of it. Even with just Car2Go, RideScout offers a valuable service in estimating how much the trip would cost -- a feature that is unavailable (perhaps intentionally) on Car2Go's own site or app. (RideScout has developed their own algorithm to estimate cost, which they intend to hone as they get more ride data.)

Taxi companies have proven to be a particularly challenging group to get on board. "It would take a change of thought," Kosper says. "The industry would have to accept the idea of an aggregated source marketplace, which they never wanted it to be up until now." In the meantime, RideScout has created a portal on their site and app where individual taxi drivers can sign up to be listed in the system. But since that model is difficult to scale up, they are working on signing up full companies or partnering with an already-established taxi app rather than reinventing the wheel.

They're also in the process of creating a social ride-sharing infrastructure in the app, where people can log their upcoming drives and allow friends to hop along if they're heading in the same direction. They've synced the feature to Facebook to help identify friends on the app, and are working on creating a functionality for groups, like co-workers or teammates. Their vision is free ride-sharing, which would differ from the paid models like Lyft and SideCar -- companies that they also hope to integrate into the app. "We have no desire to invent new technologies," Kopser says. "We want to weave them together more seamlessly."

Kopser confirms that they've been in discussions with some of these start-ups but nothing has not been able to seal the deal yet. "Out focus right now is on national partnerships," says Craig Cummings, the app's other co-founder. They had talks with Zipcar that were put on hold during their merger with Avis, but Kopser "remains optimistic they will return to discuss that with us," he tells me.

Most of these companies have their own private APIs, so RideScout has negotiate with each service individually to integrate them into the app. Their challenge is convincing these companies that "providing customers with more options and allowing them to choose what fits best, everyone benefits from those efficiencies," Kopser says. They're hoping to become a Kayak for local transportations -- a case in which most airlines eventually realized that it is in their interests to participate in an aggregator even if users sometimes choose their competitors.

What all of these apps, including taxis, are essentially trying to convince users that they can get to and from work, run errands, meet people for lunch, get to appointments, and do all their other daily tasks without having their own car. RideScout is betting that aggregating all these new transportation options in one place is the best way to make that case to users -- which is a win for all transportation disrupters. "If people aren't pumping $50 into a tank when they fill up, they can transfer that money to taxis, public transportation, and these other options," Kopser says. "When people make the decision to leave their car at home, we all win -- the roads are less clogged, there is less smog, and money is staying in the local economy."

RideScout's ultimate goal is to make a user experience that is so seamless it replicates the ease and flexibility of owning a car. Millenials are already making the shift away from car ownership: A recent study by car site Edmunds.com found that young adults aged 18-34 purchased 30 percent fewer cars in 2011 than they did in 2007.

Though the platform is "transportation agnostic and geography agnostic," as Kopser describes it, technically working anywhere that has a Google Transit or Car2Go feed, their focus is currently on Austin, where the company is based (and the city that has the highest smartphone-adoption rate per capita in the country). "For every Austinite who finds an alternative for their commute, " said Austin City Council Member Chris Riley, "RideScout has helped all of us by taking one more car off the road."
The Big Leap From Car-Lite to Car-Free


By Angie Schmitt, April 30, 2013

 If you've already purchased a car, there are big financial incentives to drive it.

While owning a car is a massive financial burden, economic incentives can still get in the way of the transition from car ownership to living car-free, even if you already don’t drive much.
As Shane Phillips at Network blog Better Institutions explains today, it’s a classic problem of “sunk costs”:
When someone is interested in shifting from car dependence to greater reliance on active and public transportation, they’re often faced with a problem: the vehicle itself, one of the greatest costs of car ownership, is already paid for. Unlike gasoline and parking, which are relatively fixed and recurring expenses, a car is a sunk cost–the purchase is in the past, and much of its value is irretrievable. At that point the only really noticeable costs of driving–the ones that affect you on a regular basis–are gas, insurance, maintenance, and parking. Taking only these into consideration can make driving seem much more affordable.

This is less applicable to those who wish to sell off their vehicle and abandon car ownership entirely, but few people are willing to take such a leap without trying a car-lite lifestyle first. For those who just want to dip their toes in the water, to try something between complete car dependence and complete transit dependence, using public transportation isn’t so much a replacement and reduction of costs as it is an additional cost. Not only do you still have to pay for insurance and some gas, you now have to pay for bus fare as well, and suddenly the savings don’t seem like such a great deal compared to the relative inconvenience of transit (excluding the few places in the country where transit is actually more convenient). It’s a catch-22: as long as you’re holding onto the car you’re not saving a lot of money, but unless you’re saving a lot of money you may not be convinced to get rid of the car.

This problem is compounded by something I’m calling “Sunk Cost Bias,” the tendency to try to make the most of your investment by driving more. This may sound foolish since the more you drive the more the costs pile up, but, in a way, it’s also perfectly sensible. After all, the more miles you get out of your car, the lower the per-mile cost of ownership. And if you’ve already got the car and don’t have a monthly transit pass, a trip on the bus or train can actually cost more than driving if you’re only going a short distance.
Phillips recommends some policies to make the transition easier, including mileage-based insurance and a vehicle-miles traveled tax. Special introductory rates for transit passes could also help nudge light drivers into the car-free realm. In the meantime, renting out a rarely-used car through a peer-to-peer car-sharing network could help make occasional transit use more financially rewarding.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reconnecting America considers how the bias of traffic engineers may hold back progress on complete streets. The Black Urbanist shares two low-cost and creative changes that helped enliven two streets in North Carolina. And Cap’n Transit says evidence from abroad proves that long-distance train routes aren’t inherently unworkable.

Electric Bikes, A Rising Force On Urban Transit Landscape — 38 Million Units Per Year By 2020, Navigant Reports


By Cynthia Shahan, April 29, 2013


Efforts to transition rapidly to renewable and clean energy solutions while satisfying growing urban mobility needs are key factors accelerating the sale and use of electric bicycles. Widely used in Asia Pacific and Europe, the electric bicycle is well-established in those areas as a sound and serviceable means of dealing with stepped up congestion due to urbanization. However, electric bike use in North America and Western Europe is a new trend, especially among the younger riders. Electric bikes are a rapidly growing transit option in these regions.
Image Credit:Augapfel via Flickr photos
Image Credit: Augapfel via Flickr photos
Recently, I talked to a retired gentleman, in Florida, about his electric scooter. He was very educated on renewable energy solutions, as well. At the end of our conversation, he added: “The real buzz on the street is these electric bicycles that the young kids are really into.” I realized he is tapped into the electric transit culture and knows the current trends quite well. His opinion is supported by one of Navigant research’s principal research analyst, Dave Hurst. Hurst explains the same: “In many cities, the streets are so clogged with traffic that they are virtually unnavigable by car, and e-bikes are seen as an increasingly viable option for urban mobility. The utilization of high-quality, affordable lithium ion batteries, among other factors, is helping open this market to people outside the normal e-bicycle demographic. Younger riders are more frequently turning to e-bicycles in countries, in North America and Western Europe.”
Enorm electric bike previously featured on CleanTechnica. Image Credit: Enorm

 Nine out of ten electric bicycles used are in China; yet, they are increasing rapidly in the West as modern consumers recognize the significance of lithium-ion over lead-acid batteries. Modern members of a growing culture of responsible choices, along with the East, make use of e-bikes in transportation — contributing to ecological and economic concerns, as well as transit fluidity in urban areas. With increased ridership, concerns for safety arise.This punctuates issues that concurrently need to be taken into consideration with urban planning; changes necessary in our transit systems — with lights and lanes, specifically for bikes and other modern innovative vehicles.

According to BusinessWire, “Some cities in China, however, either already have or are considering bans on e-bicycles because of increasing accidents and bicycle congestion. The report’s forecasts assume that bans will either remain in place or be enacted in parts of several major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.”
“The report, ‘Electric Bicycles’, provides a detailed analysis of the market forces, key drivers of growth, technology, and government influence on the worldwide market for electric bicycles. Forecasts are included, both base and aggressive scenarios, for annual e-bicycle sales through 2020, broken down by region and by battery technology. The report also includes profiles of key e-bicycle manufacturers, suppliers, and other market players. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.”

Navigant Research, by the way, is the market research arm of Navigant, and it has a very strong focus on cleantech (scroll through its recent press releases or reports and that’s obvious). Navigant Research was previously Pike Research, which is probably a much more familiar name to long-time readers of CleanTechnica. “The team’s research methodology combines supply-side industry analysis, end-user primary research and demand assessment, and deep examination of technology trends to provide a comprehensive view of the Smart Energy, Smart Utilities, Smart Transportation, Smart Industry, and Smart Buildings sectors,” the company notes.

The report discussed above includes a lot more information on “profiles of key e-bicycle manufacturers, suppliers, and other market players,” and it addresses the following key questions:
  • What are the trends that will shape the market for electric bicycles?
  • What are the distinguishing characteristics of different types of e-bicycles?
  • What types of motors are used in e-bicycles, and why?
  • Where are e-bicycles most popular currently?
  • What are the differences in battery chemistries used in electric bicycles?
  • How much revenue will be generated by e-bicycles, segmented by battery technology?
  • How will government regulations influence the electric bicycle market?
  • Who are the key manufacturers in the e-bicycle market?
  • Who are the key battery manufacturers competing in the e-bicycle market?
If you’re a bicycle or bicycle component manufacturer; steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber supplier; battery manufacturer; electric motor manufacturer; retailer; government agency or municipality; industry association; or potential e-bicycle investor; this report may be quite useful to you.

Comment: I think I was sold on getting an electric bike, they look like fun, until I saw the cost of them.

SEC accuses city of Victorville, others of fraud in bond sale


 By Marc Lifsher, Phil Willon, and Ken Bensinger, April 30, 2013

Ever since the Department of Defense shut down George Air Force Base in 1992, the high desert town of Victorville has struggled to reinvent itself.

The city encouraged massive residential and retail development. It invested in two new power plants. And it moved to transform the shuttered base into a thriving cargo airport.

But those efforts have mostly backfired, creating financial headaches and scandal for the city of 115,000 residents, perched 90 miles from Los Angeles on the edge of the Mojave Desert.

On Monday it got worse. The Securities and Exchange Commission accused the city, a key financial advisor and others of defrauding investors in a $13.3-million bond sale in 2008.

The SEC alleged that Victorville, its Southern California Logistics Airport Authority, an assistant city manager and bond underwriter Kinsell, Newcomb & DeDios Inc. in Carlsbad dramatically overstated the value of airport hangars to raise needed funds through the bond offering.

The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, contends that the authority valued the properties at $65 million when the city, the authority and the underwriter knew they were worth less than half that amount. The complaint also alleged that the financial advisors never disclosed that they took $2.75 million in bond proceeds.

The federal agency alleged that the false information made it impossible for potential investors to make informed decisions about the risk of buying the bonds.

"Financing redevelopment projects by selling municipal bonds based on inflated valuations violates the public trust as well as the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws," said George S. Canellos, co-director of the SEC enforcement division.

"Public officials have the same obligation as corporate officials to tell the truth to their investors," he said.

The once fast-growing high desert city and the airport authority plan to "vigorously fight the case," said Terree A. Bowers, a lawyer for Victorville. He dismissed as "technical" much of the fraud allegations.

"These actions are somewhat questionable given the city's emerging recovery from the Great Recession," said Bowers, a former U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. "It is certainly worth debating whether this lawsuit is in anyone's best interest."

The lawsuit comes at a pivotal time for Victorville. The city has been struggling to rebound from the recession and from such self-inflicted wounds as its ill-fated investment in a hybrid gas and solar power plant, defaults on bond payments and even a deficit-ridden municipal golf course.

The latest blow from the SEC, however, could crimp the city's borrowing efforts further, said former Victorville City Council member Terry Caldwell, who left the council in 2010.

"The SEC complaint is a cloud over the city, especially in the bond market if the city wants to sell bonds for future projects," he said.

Caldwell said the airport remains a crucial part of the city's future economic success. The authority has been trying to develop a 132-square-mile area on and around the old George Air Force Base as a logistics airport for cargo traffic and aircraft maintenance and storage.

In addition to the city, the authority and the underwriter, others named as defendants are KND Affiliates; J. Jeffrey Kinsell, president of Kinsell Newcomb; Janees L. Williams, vice president of Kinsell Newcomb; and Keith C. Metzler, assistant city manager of Victorville. KND Holdings Inc., parent company of KND Affiliates, also was named as a relief defendant.

The suit also alleged that KND Affiliates misappropriated bond proceeds it collected as construction and property management fees related to the building of airplane hangars. Kinsell, a half owner, "had no construction experience," the complaint said.

Lawyers for the bond underwriters and Metzler did not return telephone calls.

The crux of the government's allegations centered on the city's use of so-called tax-increment bonds to pay for a variety of developments. The projects included four hangars and a power plant.

Tax-increment bonds are not backed by the general treasury of the issuing government. Instead, they are secured and repaid from increases in property tax revenues that flow from the new value of improvements to the land, structures and real estate market conditions.

Opinion by Peggy Drouet: At first look, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich had the best idea of how to "improve mobility of goods and motorists, enhance traffic safety and improve air quality by removing thousands of trucks from the 710, the 60, Interstate 10 and Interstate 15." 


I have not been able to find the reasons of why this "great idea" was shelved and now the High Desert Corridor will have a future high-speed train, not a rail train, transversing it.


However, now the original idea seems not to have been a "great idea," or, simply, the City of Victorville has really "dicked" this up. (Sorry for the language, but that's the best word to use.)

California bullet train groundbreaking faces new obstacles

 Challenges are coming from a private railroad, a legislative committee and a powerful federal agency asserting authority over the project.


 By Ralph Vartabedian and Dan Weikel, April 29, 2013

A Chinese train

California Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Brown, with Dan Richard, chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority, left, prepare to board a high-speed train in Beijing. The governor has been a major supporter of high-speed rail in California.

California's bullet train agency is facing a series of new regulatory and political problems that could jeopardize its July construction kickoff, which already has been delayed more than six months.

The new challenges are coming from a private railroad that controls a key right of way, a legislative committee delving into contracting issues and a powerful federal agency asserting authority over the project.

The rail agency is beginning to make purchase offers for land around Fresno and says it still plans to start building this summer.

But last week, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., which operates a freight line that follows some of the 130-mile initial route in the Central Valley, warned in a blunt letter that no deal has been reached to build on or near its existing track. The company also signaled that it may not be willing to accept the project as proposed, in part because the exact route of the line is still unclear.

BNSF had been seen as one of the more accommodating organizations to the project. But the letter, addressed to the rail authority's main consultant, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and copied to the rail authority, asserts that the rail agency's planning process has "a great deal of ambiguity and contradictions." The agency is sending mixed messages to different government agencies about what the construction entails, and it's not clear who has the authority to speak and negotiate for the state, the railroad claimed.

The letter also raises concerns about the safety of future bullet train operations and construction work next to its freight corridor through the Central Valley.

If BNSF balks at finalizing a deal, it could put a roadblock in front of the project. Federal grants to the project contain language that requires the project to have necessary agreements with railroads before starting construction. A BNSF spokeswoman said the company would not elaborate on the letter.

A rail authority spokesman downplayed the BNSF letter, saying it is "not a show stopper."
But the issues in the letter parallel those raised by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), chairman of the House rail subcommittee, who said he will conduct a hearing on the project May 28.

"We want to know what routes they are choosing and the timeline on the project," he said.

Separately, the rail agency is coming under new scrutiny from the state Senate Transportation Committee, which is looking into the bid evaluation process for the first 29-mile segment of rail bed through Fresno. The authority's staff changed its bid evaluation criteria last year, after the agency's board initially set up a two-step process that would have thrown out contracting teams with the two lowest technical scores.

The board gave the agency staff permission to make non-substantive changes to a so-called term-sheet that spells out detailed contract terms. But the bid evaluation process was not among the items on the term sheet, records show, raising questions about whether the changes were authorized. Officials have not yet explained how the decision to change the review process was made.

"The committee has some concerns and we are going to look into it," said Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), the transportation committee chairman.

When the bids were announced this month, a construction team led by Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar had the lowest technical score, but was ranked highest because of its relatively low price of just under $1 billion.

The authority has defended the bid review change, saying it was designed "to increase transparency and gain greater value for the project." The rules were not altered to favor Tutor Perini, which has a long history of government contracting in California, officials said. Tutor Perini officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The rail agency said the altered bid review process may have helped save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

But Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of the watchdog group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, argued that the bid review process ultimately used was not properly authorized and that the Tutor Perini team's selection should be invalidated.

Alexis and other critics are concerned that the authority is trying to reduce upfront cost estimates at the risk of a lower-quality project or future increases in outlays to complete the system.

Elsewhere, the bullet train agency this month failed in its attempt to keep the federal Surface Transportation Board from asserting legal jurisdiction over the project.

The state now is seeking expedited consideration of an exemption from the federal board's review for the first construction segment, a process that could take as long as nine months under federal law. If the agency decides to conduct a full examination of the multibillion-dollar project, it could cover a range of design, financial and operational issues, and add another layer of government bureaucracy to the endeavor.