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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One Year Later, Who Is Riding the Expo Line?


By Axel Hellman, May 1, 2013


Expo Line passengers /photo credit: stevebott (flickr)When the Expo Line, Los Angeles Metro’s newest light rail line, opened in April 2012, initial ridership numbers were low, starting at around 11,000 per average weekday, a fact which many media sources
reported on. One libertarian think tank used these low numbers to argue that light rail systems in general should not be built.

But now, one year later, the picture is very different. Ridership on weekdays has been increasing at a steady clip of about 1,000 per month, reaching an estimated 26,000 per day during the week. Given that Metro projected about 27,000 riders per day by the year 2020, that number is very good. The number of people riding the Expo Line may pass that benchmark in the coming months.
A graph of Expo Line ridership per month.  (LA Metro)
A graph of Expo Line ridership per month. (LA Metro)

A Metro spokesperson, Jesse Simon, disputed the line’s naysayers, cautioning that ridership will rise with time, “A favorite tactic of rail critics used to be to take statistics from a year or two after the opening date of a rail [line] to show that out-year estimates of rail patronage were grossly exaggerated. But changing to rail involves a longer process of changing habits. Our experience with rail patronage, and I believe experience elsewhere, is that rail growth is incremental.“

Simon said that in the long term, ridership has been slowly increasing on Metro’s other rail lines,
“Rail patronage has increased steadily almost every year since the first Line opened in 1990; and not only because more lines came online – within each Line the growth has been steady and it has not reached a stable endpoint.”

So who are these tens of thousands of people who use the line every day? In addition to Downtown commuters, a broad range of people are using the line for work, school and play.

Although not a majority, a significant number of USC faculty and students are using the line to get to campus, “The number of graduate student Metro passes increased from about 500 last year to over 1,500 this year,” says USC ridesharing coordinator Lev Vanshelbaum. “Additionally, the number of staff/faculty that signed up for a Metro TAP pass through USC tripled in the first few months after the line opened.”

Another Metro spokesperson, Jose Ubaldo, says that Metro has been specifically targeting some of its marketing efforts at USC students, offering free tap cards to students and distributing brochures about where the line can take them.  He says that these otureach efforts yielded a "good response."

He explained that Metro also employs seven staffers whose job it is to reach out to employers, and to help them comply with air quality regulations and coordinate employee commuting my using Metro.

Metro also arranged press events and provided free rides when the Expo Line opened in order to introduce the line to Angelenos. But Metro unable to provide exact demographics about the Metro line or the return on investment from the otureach programs.

Andrew Allport, of Culver City, teaches at USC and normally takes the Expo Line to work. He said that it spares him the troubles of traffic and parking on campus and said, “Before I would bike all the way to work or take a motorcycle. The train is way better."

“The train also gives me the opportunity to read and to grade papers,” he added.

Still, Allport estimates that 85 percent of his colleagues drive to work, saying, “It’s only really convenient if you live in Culver City.”

Younger students are also using the line to get to school. Maria Diaz, a middle school student, used to walk a mile from her school to the Blue Line at Grand, but now takes the Expo line.
Southern California Public Radio reports that many people are using the line to access entertainment destinations downtown, particularly is the LA Live/Staples Center area, which is near the Expo Line’s Pico station.

And the Daily News has observed a trend of San Fernando Valley residents taking the Red Line and transferring to the Expo Line to get to places on the Westside, in an attempt to avoid traffic.
In the fall, thousands of spectators at USC football games at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum arrive by train, and USC worked with Metro to make fans aware of their options.

The museums in Exposition Park are another major attraction along the line. Many visitors take the train to get there, including many school field trip groups. One such group was led by Shatay Deese, a kindergarten teacher at the Culture and Language Academy of Success on Coliseum Street. She said that it was a cheap alternative, “A school bus would cost like 300 dollars.” It was also fun for the kids, she said, “They did enjoy it. We just need a lot of chaperones to make sure that everyone gets on and off.”

The California Science Center and the Natural History Museum, two museum in Expo Park, offer a discount to visitors who take Metro in an effort to encourage patrons not to drive.

Use of the Expo Line is fairly well distributed along the line. According to  Ubaldo, the three most used stations are all at the ends of the line, at 7th Street/Metro Center, Culver City, and Pico. The 4th, 5th, and 6th most used stations, Vermont, Western, and Crenshaw, are all very close in terms of passengers.

A common criticism of light rail is that it diverts riders from buses and fails to draw drivers out of their cars. Thus, light rail lines can fail to have an impact on traffic and congestion, but can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

This does not appear to be the case with the Expo Line. Metro’s publicly available ridership statistics show that bus routes than connect with the Expo Line, and routes that run along similar parallel corridors, all have maintained steady ridership numbers.

The Expo Line is being used by tens of thousands every day, and that number is still growing. Metro expects the completed line to Santa Monica to generate 64,000 daily riders by 2030, a goal that is ambitious, but given the success of the first phase of the Expo Line, not unrealistic.

From Measure R Success to Measure J Failure, Villaraigosa Reflects On Transportation


By Axel Hellman, May 1, 2013

 The mayor with USC experts. From left to right, Dr. Giuliano, Mayor Vilaraigosa, and Dr. Bostic.  Photo by Ralf Cheung, Daily Trojan

 The mayor with USC experts. From left to right, Dr. Giuliano, Mayor Vilaraigosa, and Dr. Bostic.


At a USC event Wednesday, Mayor Antonio Villraigosa celebrated his accomplishments in improving L.A.'s transportation options. He also explained the groundwork he's laid for even more transit-oriented development. Yet, he declined to offer specific advice to the person who will replace him July 1 in the mayor's seat.

"I don't want to impose my view of what the city should be on our next mayor," he said. "But I will provide support."

At a luncheon hosted on Wednesday by the USC Price School of Public Policy's Metrans transportation center and Bedrosian Center for Governance and the Public Enterprise, he conversed with Metrans director Gen Giuliano and Bedrosian Center director Raphael Bostic.

When asked what he believed his administration's biggest transportation accomplishments have been, the mayor cited the passage of Measure R, a sales tax to fund transportation projects, America Fast Forward, an initiative to create a new funding structure for local transportation that was incorporated into the federal transportation bill of 2012, and synchronizing all of the traffic lights in the city of Los Angeles.

The mayor also recognized the expansion of transit lines throughout the city during his administration.  During his term in office, Los Angeles has seen the opening of the Eastside Gold Line Extension, the Orange Line busway, the Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth, and the Expo Line.  Villaraigosa also enthusiastically touted the fact the city has broken ground on numerous other projects, such as the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica, The Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Crenshaw Line, and the Regional Connector.

However, he humbly refused to claim this all as his accomplishments, emphatically saying, "No, no, no.  These were not my accomplishments.  We did this together," and thanking the city council, state legislature, US Department of Transportation, and voters for their support and cooperation.
Villaraigosa is well-regarded for his work in transportation and transportation funding, prompting rumors earlier this year that he could be tapped by the Obama administration for Secretary of Transportation.

He also laid out his vision for the city, which includes high-density neighborhoods centered around new transit stations.  He explained how his administration has been making this possible, citing a re-write of the city's zoning and community plans, saying "It's so difficult to build and develop in this town."

Recalling the extension of the Red Line to North Hollywood in 2000, Villaraigosa lamented that it took years for the city to change zoning laws so that more development could take place around the station.  Now, he says, the city is creating new opportunities for development concurrent with transit expansion. 

Increased rates of walking and biking will come with these new compact neighborhoods.  Villaraigosa talked about how his administration has devoted resources to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.  "We've dedicated money for pedestrians and pedestrian friendly projects," he said.  He also spoke about how an accident with a taxi when he crashed his bike motivated him to focus on extending bike lanes at a rate much higher than the previous ten miles per year, "We are supposed to build 40 miles of bike lanes a year, and now we're doing even more than what we're supposed to."

He also cited emissions reductions at the Port of Los Angeles and high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on certain highways, saying, "Every HOV lane should be a HOT lane.  Come on!"
Villaraigosa called for the reform of certain laws that make transportation improvements slow and difficult to implement, "Our environmental system, particularly CEQA, is broken.  Until recently, even projects as simple as striping a bike lane onto a street had to go through environmental review.

He also expressed support for changing a law that requires a 2/3 supermajority to pass a new tax or bond, which caused the failure of measure J, an extension to measure R that would have accelerated transportation projects.  "Everyone was for this." he said, citing a "landslide" of 66.11% Los Angeles County voters in favor (just shy of the needed 66.67%), and around 70% in the city of Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa now supports reducing the threshold that such taxes need to pass, an idea that has gained traction with other politicians as well.
Another Blow to the LA/Long Beach Ports: Nevada  and Arizona Inland Ports

UP inland ports in Nevada


November 29, 2013

From Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Planners seek ways to improve rail, freight networks
Anne Knowles, 11/26/2012

A new state plan begins setting the stage for creation of two inland ports in Nevada — one in the north part of the state, one in the south — where cargo could be unloaded for the trip eastward, alleviating congestion in California’s overcrowded ports and creating jobs in Nevada.

The inland ports project was precipitated by a bill passed during the 2011 Nevada Legislature which makes it possible for counties or cities with connections to a national highway, railroad or airport (at least two of the three are required) to apply to become inland ports to foster economic development.

More immediately, the new state rail plan calls for improvement on sidings at Patrick, near the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, and Rose Creek, near Winnemucca. The plan also sets priority — within the next five years — on rail enhancement at a crossover in Weso, near Winnemucca, which would increase trains’ speed from 20 miles per hour to 50 mph, and upgrades to make safer five-grade crossings in northern Nevada, one each in Winnemucca and Gerlach, and three in Beowave.
The sidings projects would be completed and funded by Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the track in the east-west corridors in the north and south of the state.

The UP will work with NDOT on the grade crossings, but they are ultimately NDOT’s responsibility.
“The goal eventually is to get rid of all the grade crossings,”says Matthew Furedy, airport inspector/planner with NDOT, but projects that lower track below ground, such as Reno’s ReTRAC project, are almost prohibitively expensive.

Developer plans inland port for Casa Grande


By Peter O'Dowd, November 5, 2012

Groups of cities are scrambling to create transportation hubs in Arizona that would reap the advantages of global commerce. It was the topic of a story we reported last week about the future of the North American Free Trade agreement. But as KJZZ’s Peter O’Dowd tells us, one developer is already fast at work trying to get an inland port established in Central Arizona.
Jakob Anderson Jakob Anderson is trying to start Inland Port Arizona near Casa Grande. (Photos by Peter O'Dowd - KJZZ)
 [Sound of train whistle in the background]
JACKOB ANDERSEN: That will be the mainline of the Union Pacific train coming through the city of Casa Grande in the background there.
PETER O’DOWD: Jackob Andersen says his idea is pretty simple: Make that train stop. So much of the foreign cargo coming off ships at ports in California runs straight through Arizona.
ANDERSEN: That could vary from anything from toys, to tennis shoes to furniture -- anything coming into the states.
O’DOWD: Andersen’s idea for those products revolves around 400 acres of empty land a few miles from the train tracks and the junction of interstates 8 and 10. Anderson’s trying to open the Inland Port Arizona – a series of industrial buildings like warehouses and distribution centers that would intercept UP’s trains, unload the cargo, and then get it ready for delivery by truck to the rest of the Western US.
ANDERSEN: On the doorstep we have Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the US. So that changed the mindset of why someone would create something like an inland port here in Arizona.
O’DOWD: If it gets off the ground, this would be a very small port – one that might handle 20,000 sea containers a year. Still, Andersen says he wants state planners to pay attention to what he’s doing.
ANDERSEN: See what we’ve got here. Let’s make this one happen. And then let's go make two or three more. Because this one’s real; this one’s happening. The plans have been approved. It’s been approved by Union Pacific.
O’DOWD: It’s still unclear how this might fit into larger - but still embryonic - ideas that regional planners are developing to create these projects on a larger scale. It is, however, one example of the way Arizona is trying to get a hand in the global supply chain – something the state has failed to excel at so far.


Another Mexican Port in Competition with the LA/Long Beach Ports

The expansion of the Port of Guaymas could severely interfere with the big rig container traffic going to and coming from Arizona from the LA/Long Beach ports. Heavy truck traffic is along the 40, 10, and 8, all running into the 15. Why would these trucks want to come into the LA area if they didn't have to. The speed limit for trucks in Arizona is the same as for cars, usually 75 mph, and traffic is light on that state's well-maintained  divided highways. As soon as they hit California, they are reduced to 55 mph, and soon after that, they hit the very congested LA traffic going to the ports.

Port of Guaymas set to expand

Seafloor to be dredged to handle increasing shipments of goods


April 5, 2012

Port of Guaymas set to expand
Now the fastest-growing seaport in Mexico, the Port of Guaymas is capitalizing on its newfound attention with plans for a massive expansion.

Saying the Sonoran port is no longer the "ugly duck in the Mexican port family," officials from Guaymas were in Tucson Wednesday to discuss the recent addition of container cargo and the plans for growth.

The specifics of the expansion will be announced by Mexican President Felipe Calderón's administration in coming weeks, but the port's marketing director, Guillermo Von Borstel Osuna, said the project will extend the port into the bay between Guaymas and neighboring Empalme.

Dredging of the seafloor is scheduled to begin by year's end, he told members of the Southern Arizona Logistics Education Organization (SALEO) a day after meeting with officials from Maricopa County.

Von Borstel said the Mexican government will fund the expansion, but future terminals for minerals, oil, coal and grains will be leased to private companies.

Two Arizona copper mine project officials are exploring the use of Guaymas for exporting copper concentrate, he said. Rosemont Copper and Resolution Copper are both in talks with Sonora.

"It's exciting to see what is happening at the Port of Guaymas," said Al Altuna, a founding member of SALEO. "It's especially exciting for us … geographically."

A turning point for the port came in October 2008, when it received its first cruise ship. Dozens of cruise lines have since signed on to sail the Gulf of California.

Then in February, the Port of Guaymas entered into a partnership with Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company Guaymas to import and export container cargo.
MSC is the second-largest container carrier in the world and sails to 341 ports worldwide.

Arizona has long seen Guaymas as a logical seaport for imports and exports because of its proximity to the border and access to the railroad and Interstate 10.

Expansion of the Mariposa Port of Entry - the commercial port in Nogales - is under way and scheduled to be complete in 2014 with 21 lanes and additional inspection booths.

High-speed rail security addressed in new report


May 1, 2013


A new report, released by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) addresses high-speed rail (HSR) security by providing analysis of information relating to attacks.
Principal investigator Brian Michael Jenkins and his team offer an analysis of information relating to attacks, attempted attacks and plots against HSR systems. The report is available for free download at http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1026.html.

The research report,"Formulating a Strategy for Securing High-Speed Rail in the United States," draws upon empirical data from MTI's proprietary database of terrorist and serious criminal attacks against public surface transportation and from reviews of selected HSR systems, including onsite observations.
It also examines the history of safety accidents and other HSR incidents that resulted in fatalities, injuries, or extensive asset damage to examine the inherent vulnerabilities and strengths of HSR systems and how these might affect the consequences of terrorist attacks.

"We divided this study into three parts," said Jenkins. "First, we examined security principles and measurements. Then, we conducted an empirical examination of 33 attacks against HSR targets, plus a comparison of attacks against HSR targets with those against non-HSR targets. And finally, we examined 73 safety incidents on 12 HSR systems. The purpose of this study is to develop an overall strategy for HSR security and to identify measures that could be applied to HSR systems currently under development in the United States."

MTI expects that the report will provide useful guidance to governmental authorities and to operators of current and future HSR systems. It was co-authored by Chris Kozub, Bruce R. Butterworth, Renee Haider and Jean-Francois Clair.

HSR has seen comparatively few attacks
While terrorist attacks aimed at trains and buses have increased over the past several decades, very few attacks have targeted HSR. To gain possible insights into the consequences of successful terrorist attacks against this travel mode, Jenkins said, this inquiry includes accidents and other HSR incidents that have resulted in injuries, fatalities or extensive asset damage.

"The objective of the research is not to dictate security regimes," he said. "Rather, it is to distill lessons from the history of accidents and terrorist attacks; to review security measures at existing HSR systems; to explore security-regime options; and to suggest principles for an overall security strategy."

The report notes that now is the right time to initiate a discussion, as new HSR systems are being designed and built. This report is intended to inform that discussion by addressing several questions, including:
  • Does HSR merit more security or different security measures than other passenger rail?
  • Is it appropriate to consider reducing security for non-HSR passenger rail?
  • What threats drive security concerns?
  • What can be learned from HSR security in Europe and Japan?
The report includes 15 figures, including several route maps specific to the incidents, and 11 tables, including HSR attacks by country, HSR bomb attacks by outcome, HSR incidents involving fatalities and more.

CO2 in atmosphere poised to blow past 400 ppm mark 


By John Upton, May 1, 2013


Sometime soon, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is expected to hit a scary new milestone: 400 parts per million. That would be higher than at any time in human history — and it’s bad news for anyone who cares about a livable climate.

The latest daily average level recorded by Scripps Institution of Oceanography sensors at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, was 399.5 ppm, on Monday. The CO2 level fluctuates throughout the day, and hourly levels in excess of 400 ppm have already been recorded. The level also fluctuates throughout the year, with May being the month when CO2 reaches its highest concentrations.

The big thing to watch for is whether the average for the month of May will exceed 400 ppm.

Check out this graph showing data from the past week:
Click to embiggen.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Click to embiggen.
You can follow @Keeling_curve on Twitter to keep up with the latest figures.
From The Guardian:
“I wish it weren’t true but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400ppm level without losing a beat. At this pace we’ll hit 450ppm within a few decades,” said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography …
“Each year, the concentration of CO2 at Mauna Loa rises and falls in a sawtooth fashion, with the next year higher than the year before. The peak of the sawtooth typically comes in May. If CO2 levels don’t top 400ppm in May 2013, they almost certainly will next year,” Keeling said.
Here’s a graph showing that sawtoothed rise, also called the “Keeling Curve,” named for Ralph’s father, Charles Keeling, who began taking measurements at Mauna Loa in 1958:
Click to embiggen.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Click to embiggen.
From a statement published by Scripps last week:
Scientists estimate that the last time CO2 was as high as 400 ppm was probably the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago, when Earth’s climate was much warmer than today. CO2 was around 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution, when humans first began releasing large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. By the time [Charles] Keeling began measurements in 1958, CO2 had already risen from 280 to 316 ppm. The rate of rise of CO2 over the past century is unprecedented; there is no known period in geologic history when such high rates have been found. The continuous rise is a direct consequence of society’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy.
From another Guardian article:
Climate scientists have long maintained that concentrations need to be kept below 350ppm if the world is to stand a reasonable chance of meeting international targets to keep average temperature increases below 2C, while concentrations of above 400ppm put the planet on track for levels of warming deemed ‘dangerous’ by the international community.
Hence that whole 350.org thing.
Carbon dioxide levels of 400 ppm in the atmosphere aren’t much more threatening than levels of 399 ppm. But the zeros focus the mind (and the media) on an extremely dangerous trend: Failure to act on climate change has pushed the world into yet another new danger zone.

Metro to Hold Public Hearing Wednesday, May 15, on Proposed FY14 Budget 


April 30, 2013

Metro will hold a public hearing on a draft $4.891 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2013-14 on Wednesday, May 15, at 1 p.m. in the third floor Board room at Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Cesar Chavez & Vignes, next to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

The public can view copies of the balanced budget proposal at metro.net/budget or request a copy by calling Charlene Aguayo in Metro Records Services at 213.922.2342. Metro directors will consider adopting the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013 at their Thursday, May 23, meeting that starts at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters.

Metro CEO Art Leahy’s budget proposal calls for keeping fares at current levels, however, the CEO is urging  Metro directors now to begin discussing fare restructuring for future years. He notes Metro fares are among the lowest of any major transit agency in the world, and Metro riders only pay 26 percent of what it costs to operate their buses and trains.

In FY 14 more service will be added midday to relieve overcrowding on the Metro Orange Line busway in the San Fernando Valley. Additional late night service will be added on the Expo and Metro Gold Lines, and there also will be more weekend service on all Metro Rail lines.

Hundreds of new buses and rail cars are on order, and construction is underway for a new state-of-the-art bus maintenance facility in downtown Los Angeles. Augmenting these efforts, Leahy is proposing to spend $261 million in the next fiscal year on deferred maintenance for bus and rail vehicles and facilities and another $37 million on capital improvements for safety and security including $20 million for gates and other safety enhancements on the Metro Blue Line.

Gates in the subway and many of the light rail stations will be latched, a phased in approach that will start in mid-June just before the start of the new fiscal year.  Next year Metro also plans on unveiling a master plan for Union Station that will address how the historic facility will accommodate transit system expansion.

Fulfilling the voter mandate for Measure R that is greatly expanding transit options for Angelenos, in FY 14 Metro will advance design and early construction for the Purple Line subway extension, the Regional Connector rail line that will connect the Metro Gold, Blue and Expo lines to eliminate transfers, and the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor light rail line among other transit projects and programs. Construction is well underway for the Expo light rail segment from Culver City to Santa Monica and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa and will continue in FY 14.

Taking a multi-pronged approach to easing traffic in Los Angeles County, Metro will expand its highway program in FY 14, advancing more than a dozen small and large highway projects and managing the I-10 and 110 ExpressLanes congestion pricing demonstration project. The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project should wrap up next year. Metro also will pursue new initiatives to promote bicycling.     

The FY 14 draft budget is $316 million or 6.9 percent more than the current $4.575 billion Metro budget. This reflects major rail and highway planning, design and construction in the next fiscal year as mandated by Measure R.  In 2008 more than 2 million Los Angeles County voters approved the Measure R half cent sales tax to advance a dozen major transit projects and 15 highway projects. In the new fiscal year Metro will be spending $1.289 billion on Measure R transit projects and $141 million on Measure R highway projects.

There are risk factors for the draft budget. Metro is not immune to the state and federal budget woes that could cut transportation funding. The economy is still shaky, and collective bargaining agreements with Metro unions are being negotiated.

 Metro funding comes largely from local transportation sales tax revenue along with transit assistance and grants from the state and federal governments, farebox  revenue, and other revenue sources such as advertising, land leases and commercial filming.

Kevin James releases Wendy Greuel's texts after she attacks him


By Seema Mehta, May 1, 2013

 Kevin James endorsement

Kevin James endorses Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti in front of Van Nuys City Hall. The city councilman now has the backing of every major candidate who finished behind him and City Controller Wendy Greuel in the Los Angeles mayoral primary.

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel sought the endorsement of  Republican Kevin James after he was eliminated from the race in the March primary. Now she's out with an attack mailer blasting James’ backing of Eric Garcetti, her rival in the May 21 runoff.

“Eric Garcetti’s new endorsement is a shocker! (Hint: It’s NOT President Obama) He’s an Obama Hater!” says the mailer, which includes a red arrow pointing to a photo of James. A copy of the mailer was filed with the city Ethics Commission on Tuesday.

Garcetti has long-standing ties to Obama, but the president has declined to weigh in on the race because it is a Democrat-vs.-Democrat contest.

The mailer, written in English and Spanish, notes that while Greuel was campaigning with former President Bill Clinton, Garcetti was campaigning with attorney and former talk show host James in the San Fernando Valley. It highlights controversial past quotes that James made about illegal immigrants and Obama, one of which compared the president to a Nazi sympathizer.

(On MSNBC, James suggested that then-candidate Obama was a foreign policy appeaser comparable to Neville Chamberlain, the former British prime minister who made a deal with Adolf Hitler in an attempt to avoid war.)

“Say no to Eric Garcetti!” the mailer concludes. “He sold us out to win Republican votes.”
Representatives for James responded by releasing text messages from the period following the March 5 primary when Greuel courted third-place finisher James for his endorsement.

The screen grabs of text exchanges begin with one shortly before 2 a.m. on March 6, when Greuel congratulates James for receiving more votes than Councilwoman Jan Perry.

“U just surpassed her!” Greuel texts at 1:44 a.m.

Over the next several days, the pair discuss meeting up, with Greuel repeatedly promising to work around James’ schedule.

“How is your day looking? I am ready, willing and able!” Greuel texts on March 7.

Three days later, after Greuel and James met at his Century City law office, Greuel texted him:  “We could have talked for hours” and asks to call him because she wants his advice. She messages after 10 p.m. asking if he is still up; he replies the next morning that he didn’t respond because he doesn’t have cell service at his home. She offers to treat at Loggia. They meet and then Greuel asks him to join meetings with her staff to discuss ideas.

“I am stalking you :)” Greuel tweets on March 14.

This goes on for several days. At one point, Greuel tells James that she ran into Pacific Palisades Republicans at a farmers market who missed his presence in the race.

“U are beloved – I hear it a lot!”  Greuel writes on March 25.

James replies with a smiley face. Similar exchanges occur for the next several days, until James backs Garcetti on April 2.

Greuel's campaign responded late Tuesday by blasting Garcetti for not calling on James to repudiate his past statements.

"Kevin James’ release of the text exchange is pathetic and reveals absolutely nothing," said Greuel's chief strategist, John Shallman. "Eric Garcetti claims to be an Obama supporter and yet only Wendy Greuel had the guts to challenge Kevin James and his radical and extremist comments that compared President Obama to a Nazi sympathizer at their first televised debate."

"Wendy would never have accepted Kevin James' endorsement without his unqualified apology for his racist and insensitive remarks,” Shallman said.
SoCal International Gateway Project Angers Neighbors 


Tweet  on  The Transit Coaliton Blog, no date

The Southern California International Gateway, whose environmental documents were recently approved, was the subject of a New York Times piece. Residents are certainly incensed that LA City harbor commissioners voted to move forward with the new railyard, over the former’s objections. Channeling that fury is Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who took exception to the notion that the City of Los Angeles stands to gain much from the SCIG at the expense of his own City of Long Beach. Of course, if anyone gives consideration to the more promising and less taxing GRID Project proposal, this whole point might be moot.

Metro Releases Preliminary HOT Findings


Tweet on The Transit Coaliton Blog, no date

With Metro releasing its preliminary findings on the I-110 HOT lanes, the Los Angeles Times gets in on the action. Notably, tolls have reached as high as $15.40 per trip (though the article does not make it clear whether this is for the entire length of the HOT lanes). As expected, travel times on the free lanes increased, while those on the HOT lanes decreased. Metro attributes this to the removal of illegal solo drivers from the formerly free carpool lanes. Seeing that vehicle numbers on the HOT lanes are slowly recovering, however, Metro and Caltrans hope that traffic volumes will even out as the one-year pilot project continues. Readers responded with grumblings on how their travels have been hampered on account of the HOT lanes.

Elsewhere, Silver Lake State Assemblymember Mike Gatto expanded the scope of a bill to allow solo drivers to use carpool lanes during off-peak times. Instead of applying the proposed law only on the 134 Freeway as originally proposed, the amended bill now includes other freeways with their own carpool lanes. Down south, the operator of the Orange County toll roads received a report criticizing the less-than-effective methods to stem the financial problems of the agency.
Eyes on the Street: Every Lane Is a Bus Lane 


By Damien Newton, May 1, 2013


A picture of a Metro bus, adorned with their most recent ad campaign reminding drivers that “every lane is a bike lane” straddling the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane, has been making the rounds with stops in Reddit and LAist. When pictures such as this one pop up, there is generally a cry from Metro defenders or people that hate bikes arguing that the vehicle in question is not breaking the law in any way and we should just chill out. Maybe there was a bus stop, or maybe the driver was avoiding some sort of road hazard.

Looking to avoid that sort of commentary, we talked to Justin Resnick, the photographer who grabbed that particular shot. Take it away Justin.
It was the only vehicle in the bike lane and definitely not there for any legitimate reason. Once it got past the traffic in one lane and parked cars in the other, it cruised down the parking lane (a traffic lane during peak) and the bike lane as shown in the second photo.
The other picture he mentioned?

The Flashing Yellow Turn Signal: Good for Drivers, Bad for Pedestrians


By Eric Jaffe, May 1, 2013


The Flashing Yellow Turn Signal: Good for Drivers, Bad for Pedestrians 
There are any number of ways to tell drivers they can turn left when it's safe, from a solid green light to a blinking red one, but in 2009 a federal traffic guide anointed the flashing yellow arrow as the traffic signal of choice. Soon cities and suburbs across the country adopted it for their intersections (according to Wikipedia, only four states have yet to join the flashing yellow club). Some, like Washington County in Oregon, part of metropolitan Portland, used stimulus money to make a widespread change.

From a traffic standpoint, the flashing yellow arrow has a lot to offer. Drivers overwhelmingly understand what it means — essentially, wait for a gap in conflicting flow before turning — and this flexibility reduces left-turn lines and ultimately congestion. But new research on the flashing yellow has revealed a rather glaring flaw: drivers focus so much on oncoming cars that they fail to notice pedestrians.

"It's more efficient, because we're using gaps in an opposing stream of traffic," says David Hurwitz, a transport engineer at Oregon State University, of the flashing yellow arrow. "But it has safety implications."

To determine just what those implications are, Hurwitz recently collaborated with Christopher Monsere of Portland State University, as well as some engineers from Washington County (via Joseph Rose at The Oregonian). The researchers gathered people into a driving simulator and observed their eye movement and vehicle control during a series of left-turn scenarios based on actual county intersections. When drivers reached a flashing yellow they had to consider two lanes of 45-mph traffic, a bike lane, and pedestrians in the opposing crosswalk before turning.

The researchers discovered that drivers were so concerned with finding gaps in opposing traffic that they often failed to fixate on pedestrians crossing to their left. (A "fixation," says Hurwitz, was defined as looking at a specific point for more than a tenth of a second.) Depending on the pedestrian movement, some 4 to 7 percent of drivers in the simulator failed to notice the walkers at all — percentages that Hurwitz and company call "alarming." As the number of oncoming cars increased, the amount of time spent fixating on pedestrians decreased, too.

"When you see no fixations on anything of importance, that's concerning," he says. "So when we don't fixate on a pedestrian it means we're not actively considering their presence."

Washington County has already implemented a modification. Now, if pedestrians press a walk button before crossing the street, the intersection signal holds the flashing yellow until the next light cycle.
The fix isn't perfect — pedestrians who arrive at the crosswalk after the flashing yellow begins must wait longer than before, and of course the system isn't activated if the button isn't pressed — but it's a step in the direction of safety.

Hurwitz hopes that, in time, this type of work will demonstrate the ongoing need to consider pedestrian behavior when designing traffic signals in the first place — a process he calls "predominantly vehicular-centric."

"I think the immediate results of this work would be an increased awareness in messaging to drivers that they need to be searching for alternative modes of transportation when they make this maneuver," he says. "They need to be paying attention to cyclists and pedestrians, in particular, when they're searching for their gaps."

California Governments Could Be $1.1 Trillion Dollars In Debt 


May 1, 2013 

 An interesting report in the Sacramento Bee discusses just how much debt California state and local governments have accumulated should you add all of it together. A massive lump sum of debt that could now exceed over $1.1 trillion dollars. It is something that has been a kind of dirty secret, at least until now, and there are some folks who are not all excited that this is now coming out. After all, it just could get in the way of their asking us for even more than they already have.

Sierra Madre, of course, has its nearly $17 million in total water bond debt when you figure in the coming years of servicing this mess. Debt obligations that now consume nearly a million dollars yearly in interest payments alone.

The City never cares to admit it, but it is the heavy debt level the Water Department is carrying that is driving the City Council's call for yet another water rate increase. Certain of our elected officials would prefer you to think it has something to do with the rusty pipes and decrepit infrastructure it can never afford to repair, but you know how they are. Sadly, these are problems that could easily be taken care of had we never assumed all of that debt over the last decade and a half in the first place.

Those chickens have come home to roost, but good luck trying to find someone downtown who will admit such a thing.

Another item reflecting much of the debt pressure being felt throughout the state that has manifested itself here is the City's attempts to extend its utility taxes well into the future at the California leading rate of 10%. And while the reasons for this are often avoided in any of the official discussions held downtown, most of it is due to the increased benefit and pension obligations the City has chained itself to over the last several years. Something that even the highest utility taxes in the state cannot quite seem to keep up with.

So it is quite obvious that while certain city officials often disingenuously proclaim that Sierra Madre's finances are the envy of most, we really are a part of the general malaise. And that a small City of less than 11,000 people should be playing the same sorts of financial chicken as many of the much larger agencies in this state should be a cause of greater concern than it has been.

But then much of that may be due to the City's inability to come clean and confess where we are really at. Preferring instead to cite other far less troublesome reasons for its never ending demands for more and more taxpayer generated revenue.

Here is the Sacramento Bee's article.

Report: California governments could be $1.1 trillion in debt (click here)California's state and local governments are at least $648 billion in debt and the total could surpass $1.1 trillion -- depending on how pension liabilities are calculated -- according to a data compilation by a conservative think tank.

The report was published by the California Public Policy Center, which is based in Southern California and concentrates its work on public employee unions and public pension liabilities. It's also a target of criticism by unions and other liberal groups, which accuse it of being part of a right-wing conspiracy to attack unions and public employees.

Anticipating that criticism, the organization took great pains to base its debt calculations on official data, including pension funds' own estimates of their unfunded liabilities, deviating from that methodology only on speculating about potentially higher pension debts.

The heavily footnoted report says the state's official debt stands at $132.6 billion, with general obligation bonds more than half the total. Other state debts include $27.8 billion in "budgetary borrowings" that Gov. Jerry Brown has described as a "wall of debt," $10.9 billion owed to the federal government for unemployment insurance benefits, and $11.3 billion in lease-revenue bonds.

It calculates school district debt at $49.7 billion, primarily school construction bonds, city government debt at $68.1 billion, county government debt at $22.1 billion, redevelopment agency debt at $110.4 billion, unfunded public retiree health care obligations at $136.9 billion, and official state and local pension unfunded liabilities at $128.3 billion.

The official pension liability numbers are based on assumed trust fund earnings rates of more than 7 percent, but critics say that number is too high and when lower returns are factored in, the potential debt rises sharply.

The report says that assuming a 5.5 percent annual return would add $200 billion to state and local unfunded pension liabilities and lowering it to 4.5 percent would add $321 billion. Plugging in those numbers and adjusting for more recent budget deficits, short-term borrowing and additional retiree health care could push total debt over $1.1 trillion.

The report this article is based upon comes from the California Public Policy Center. Yet another one of those unfortunate organizations that seems hellbent on distracting the public with actual facts. It is titled Calculating California’s Total State and Local Government Debt and can be accessed by clicking here.