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, May 7, 2013

Free E-Waste Collection, Document Shredding Event May 11


May 6, 2013




PASADENA, Calif.—Residents and businesses have the opportunity to safely dispose of electronic waste and shred personal documents for free at the City of Pasadena’s Electronic Waste Collection 

Event from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Saturday, May 11, 2013 at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

The event is scheduled for the parking lot near Brookside Park, south of the Rose Bowl, 1001 N. Rose Bowl Dr. Look for the shredding trucks and e-waste collection stations. Motorists are asked to use caution while driving in the area and to obey instructions provided by event staff.

E-waste qualified for this special collection sponsored by the Department of Public Works includes computers, keyboards, printers, monitors, laptops, docking stations, scanners, shredders, fax machines, mice, telephones, televisions, flat screens, VCRs, DVD players, PDAs, cassette players, tape drives, stereos and household batteries. Many of the products have parts that can be recycled.

The City also is providing a free paper shredding service at the event to help residents combat identity theft. Residents may bring up to 5 boxes for shredding by the onsite mobile trucks.

To prevent identity theft, the City recommends that all sensitive documents and files should be shredded, including, among others: receipts; checks; pre-approved credit applications; credit card statements; outdated tax returns; envelopes & return address labels, and business cards.

For more information about the free e-waste collection and document shredding, go online to www.cityofpasadena.net or call Customer Service at (626) 744-4087.

District 6 Town Hall Planned for Thursday


May 6, 2012

District 6 Councilmember Steve Madison will convene a “town hall” meeting especially for residents of the greater Orange Grove area neighborhoods on Thursday, May 9, at the Tournament House (former Wrigley mansion), 391 S. Orange Grove. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

On the agenda are presentations about public safety, traffic “calming,” historic preservation and construction, Landmark districts, forestry, the METRO 710 project, Desiderio and Defenders Park.

Special guests will include Lt. John Dewar, Pasadena Police Department; Fred Dock and Richard Dilluvio, City Department of Transportation; Siobhan Foster and Darya Barar, City Department of Public Works/Forestry; and David Reyes and Leon White, City Planning Department.
A Los Angeles Primer: The Freeways

By Colin Marshall, May 7, 2013

o better understand the tragedy of man's inhumanity toward man, first observe any motorist regarding any other motorist. Dramatic though that may sound, I do think about the finer points of mechanized depersonalization whenever I ride the Los Angeles freeways. Behind the wheel, the sweetest, most forgiving person you know appoints themselves humanity's stern judge, unanimous jury, and zealous executioner. No possible set of circumstances could put them in the wrong; any unpredictable movement from another car signals the incompetence, malice, or hopelessly diminished mental capacity of its driver. I find the rare occasions I actually drive the freeways myself endlessly fascinating, though in the same way I find the crueler university social experiments of the sixties fascinating: they function as designed, sort of; they express a kind of frozen-in-time fashionable genius; and they show us something about ourselves, though not necessarily something we want to see.

Some find negotiating the freeways a harrowing experience. You could chalk that up to the
supposedly unparalleled aggression of the driving Angeleno, but I wouldn't; that sounds suspiciously like one of those mythically harsh urban creatures, like the legendarily brusque New Yorker, with tales of whom big-city residents reassure themselves. Despite finding other drivers' behavior mild enough, my own glimpse of the abyss comes whenever I can't quite suspend my belief that these freeways actually function. That cars generally flow through as we expect them to strikes me as little short of a miracle; why, I tend to wonder, don't they constantly careen against one another, metal and rubber endlessly striking metal and rubber, a horrifying pinball machine on a colossal scale? Yet we know the system, with its infinite number of failure points, does fail: we've all caught nauseating flickers of the grisly wreckages that routinely occur at freeway speeds, especially in the late nights or early mornings. During these same dark hours, though, untroubled by traffic jams or even slowdowns, we glide across these sweeping concrete arcs recapturing, if only for a moment, the elusive promise of the midcentury American dream. The midcentury American road engineer's dream, anyway.

"A few weeks ago I had the good providence to stumble upon a plan of the city council," says Judge Doom, the villain of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", a movie set in 1947 Los Angeles. "A construction plan of epic proportions. We're calling it a freeway. Eight lanes of shimmering cement running from here to Pasadena. Smooth, safe, fast. Traffic jams will be a thing of the past." Soon the character, portrayed by a black-clad Christopher Lloyd, has entered a rapture: "A string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food. Tire salons, automobile dealerships and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see. My God, it'll be beautiful." This first American city built on a mechanical scale did indeed take its distinctive shape from the reach of the old streetcar system, which the freeways replaced. But the movie never pretends to offer a genuine history lesson, and audiences willfully accept its heightened conspiracy to destroy rail transit and forcibly erect the freeways as factual enough, or true in spirit, just as they do the organized water theft in "Chinatown". Only a collusion of shadowy, population-hoodwinking forces, we assume, could possibly have led to modern, fallen Los Angeles.
But look at the freeways from a more rakish angle, and you almost see Judge Doom's point. I like to think Reyner Banham, the architectural critic who famously defended the city's built environment in "Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies", would have understood, had he not passed away three months before "Roger Rabbit" opened. He wrote about the freeways in, if anything, an even more enraptured register, ranking them all, and especially the "work of art" that is the interchange between Interstates 10 and 405, among "the greater works of Man." You can even look at them today and feel that a city that can build such a complex, monumental set of superstructures can truly accomplish anything. But you feel it only fleetingly, before again encountering the inevitable reminders of how much -- and, often, how futilely -- the Los Angeles of the past twenty years has struggled to correct even its smallest-scale problems.

I often hear the city called the first to build freeways, and the first to stop building them. The only one to appear in my lifetime, variously called the Century Freeway, the Glenn Anderson Freeway, or Interstate 105, home to the alienating Green Line train, hardly fires the imagination. (Then again, they did shoot "Speed" on it.) Despite feeling relief that Los Angeles appears to have quit building new freeways, and feeling ready to pull up stakes if it so much as breaks ground on a new one, I do fear the triumphal spirit behind them has long since drained away. Jan Morris already sensed this in the seventies, when she gave Los Angeles the historic label of "the Know-How City" in her eponymous essay on the place. "Remember know-how?" she asks. "It was one of the vogue words of the forties and fifties, now rather out of fashion. It reflected a whole climate and tone of American optimism. It stood for skill and experience indeed, but it also expressed the certainty that America's particular genius, the genius for applied logic, for systems, was inexorably the herald of progress."

Our freeways rose as one such system, but now we see clearly their complications and the deficiencies of the lives we accidentally build around them: the fatalities they allow, the hours they waste in grinding half-motion, the sparse dullness of so many places they lead. But have we really lost the will to improve? America's unsurpassed talent for innovation seems, over the past sixty years, to have atrophied into an unsurpassed talent for mundanification. My homeland lays itself bare to myriad criticisms, but just the fact that automobiles without cup holders don't sell here tells you all you need to know. Somewhere along the line, we let driving a car -- expressing at once the height of your mechanical and aesthetic mastery -- silently pass from the realm of ultramodern pleasure into that of utilitarian chore. The flamboyant grandeur of Los Angeles' freeways makes an especially incongruous background for our withered aspirations. If we treat the car as conveyance, just as we treat clothes as covering, film and literature as distraction, food as fuel, and drink as opiate, we've already lost.

Question of the Day: What if you weren't in transit?


May 6, 2013

If you didn’t have a career in transit, what would you be doing instead?

Keith Parker
Keith Parker
“I would almost certainly be in education. I have the passion and, I believe, the skill set to be an effective superintendent of a big city school system or a college president.”
Keith Parker, GM
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority

Jeff Meilbeck
Jeff Meilbeck
“I have always enjoyed public service, and when I started with our transit agency, it was part of the County. If I wasn’t involved in transit, I would still want that public service element to be at the core of what I was doing, likely in city or county management.”
Jeff Meilbeck, CEO & GM
Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority 
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Carm Basile
Carm Basile
“Since I have spent my entire adult life in transit, it’s hard to envision doing something else. My education is in planning and geography, so I suspect I would be doing that somewhere. Or, I might have decided to do something on a completely different career track.”
Carm Basile, CEO
Capital District Transportation Authority
Albany, N.Y.

“Without a doubt, I would be involved in progressing
Tina Quigley
Tina Quigley
issues for education in Southern Nevada. Like hundreds of thousands of other people, I moved to Southern Nevada in the 1990s thinking I was only going to be here for a couple years. As a result, I didn’t get involved in, or care about, investing in our community. Now that I have kids and embrace Nevada as my home, I realize how wrong I was not to have been more involved. I am determined to make up for lost time by doing all I can to ensure we make improvements in all of our basic infrastructure needs for a healthy, growing economy and quality of life.”
Tina Quigley, GM
Regional Transportation Commission Southern Nevada
Las Vegas

Tim Fredrickson
Tim Fredrickson
“I graduated from Eastern Washington University (EWU) with a bachelor’s degree in government with an emphasis on pre-law and public administration. I also minored in economics. At the urging of the university president and his offer of a fellowship, I decided to continue my education at EWU and get my master’s degree in public administration and then eventually earn my Juris Doctor in a joint program with Gonzaga University. My intention was to practice public interest law or go into politics.”
Tim Fredrickson, GM
Ben Franklin Transit
Richland, Wash. “Public transit combined so many of my interests that anything else would
TJ Ross
TJ Ross
not have been as satisfying. My grandfather worked his whole life on the CBQ Railroad. My father took me and my brothers all around Iowa to the interurban rail lines. I rode buses from a young age in Des Moines and Sioux Falls. I have always been concerned with safety, the environment and transportation. Public transit provides all of those interests as well as the opportunity to work with men and women that have the same interests.”
TJ Ross, executive director
Pace Suburban Bus Service
Arlington Heights, Ill.

Michael Allegra
Michael Allegra
“I’ve spent my entire career in transportation and engineering. I believe I am perhaps a little unique in that I’ve followed the path of my education through the entire course of my career. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Michael Allegra, GM
Utah Transit Authority
Salt Lake City

“History or political science teacher for either high
Art Leahy
Art Leahy
school or college.”
Art Leahy, GM
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Los Angeles

Carl Sedoryk
Carl Sedoryk
“I would guess that the same desire to spend my time helping the communities where I lived that led me to a career in transit would have ultimately led me to seek a career with another public or charitable organization, like Habitat For Humanity or American Red Cross, had things not worked out for me as well as they did in the public transit field.”
Carl Sedoryk, GM/CEO
Monterey-Salinas Transit
Monterey, Calif.

“Law and legislation — assuming I could have even been accepted into law
Bill Volk
Bill Volk
school I think that would have been an interesting alternative. Economic development — I enjoy the thought process and forward thinking aspect. Acting — “Life is an act” and as such one is always put in a situation where you have to take on a certain role.”
Bill Volk, managing director
Champaign-Urbana MTD
Urbana, Ill.

Joyce Eleanor
Joyce Eleanor
“There are lots of careers I have been interested in my life. I may have gone into marketing. Right now, if I weren’t working I would definitely be spending every day with my two grandsons.”
Joyce Eleanor, CEO
Community Transit
Snohomish County, Wash.

High-Tech Levitation Bike Generates Electricity and Acts as a Mobile Hot-Spot


By Lidija Grozdanic, May 3, 2013



Levitation Bike. magnetic levitation bike, bicycle design, Hi-Macs material, eco-friendly Hi-Macs, green materials, energy generating bike, cycling, green transportation, rapid prototyping, digital fabrication, high-tech bike


Designed by architect Michael Strain and his team, Levitation is a concept bike designed to power your smart phone that also acts as a mobile hot-spot with unlimited Wi-Fi access. It has an on-board generator, high-capacity batteries which can store energy produced while cycling, and a “drain plug” system that allows the user to plug that energy back into the grid.


 Levitation Bike. magnetic levitation bike, bicycle design, Hi-Macs material, eco-friendly Hi-Macs, green materials, energy generating bike, cycling, green transportation, rapid prototyping, digital fabrication, high-tech bike



The high-tech bike uses magnetic levitation and kinetic energy to lift itself up and decrease wind resistance and absorb the impact from stones and bumps. The impetus of the bike generates power and elevates the front and back wheels, connected only by the power of the magnets. When it slows down the bike rolls on the street just like any conventional bike.

It would be made from moldable, completely non-porous and easy to fabricate HI-MAC material, which would allow it to be rapid prototyped and custom-made. The LED screen monitor informs the user of the traveled distance and the amount of energy generated into the rechargeable battery. You can charge your mobile devices while riding by plugging them into USB ports and use the internet anywhere you go. The bike was entered into the 2013 HI-MACS Annual Design Contest which calls for object or installation designs that can be made from HI-MAC Solid Surface material.


Business Journal endorses Garcetti tepidly, cites Greuel's labor ties 


By Kevin Roderick, May 7, 2013







Both Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel have been reliable friends of labor in their political careers, and both are counting on help from unions and their members. At Sunday's rally in the Valley, Garcetti's first thanks were to the union reps in the crowd, including the Engineers and Architects from City Hall. But Greuel's embrace of big-time spending on her behalf, especially by the DWP union, is proving more controversial, and Los Angeles Business Journal editor Charles Crumpley cited that as the one "crucial" issue causing his paper to break with tradition and endorse for the first time. He urges the business community to vote for Garcetti.

Greuel has such enormous financial support from unions that it is unsettling. For example, an insightful analysis in the Los Angeles Times a week ago showed that of all so-called super-PAC donations made to both candidates, close to 60 percent was from organized labor and was given to support Greuel.
The whopping mismatch does more than make a bad impression: It creates the expectation that Greuel would not – could not – act as an effective brake on the runaway power of unions in Los Angeles.

It’s a pity. Greuel is knowledgeable and articulate, and our sense is that she’d be a good and effective spokeswoman for the city. But by so openly seeking help and money from unions, she’s made it difficult for us to support her.

To be clear, the Business Journal is not anti-union. Labor unions serve an important and necessary role. In past decades, they got decent working conditions and wages for aggrieved workers, and today unions serve as an effective deterrent to any rapacious impulses of employers. At their best, unions act as a counterweight to maintain a wary balance between employers and employees. America needs sturdy unions.

Our concern is that the pendulum of power has swung alarmingly in labor’s favor in Los Angeles and throughout most of California.
So Charles, anything to say about the candidate you are endorsing? Turns out, yes:
The important and troubling question is whether Garcetti is up to the task. He is from the same pro-union mold, after all. On the other hand, he has taken some steps to try to resolve the city’s pension problems. And since the unions have thrown their support to his opponent, he is in far better position to confront them. What’s more, Garcetti is an intelligent and reasonable administrator who, by several accounts, grew into his job as council president.

We endorse Eric Garcetti, and we hope he would grow into the job as mayor and understand he needs to fairly represent everyone.
Also in Campaign 2013:
  • Greuel has loaned her campaign $100,000, at a time when the inflow of donations is slowing and she's had to cut back on TV spending, according to the LA Times. Garcetti had previously put $50,000 into his campaign to help cover debts from the primary.
  • Garcetti launched a new TV spot that hits Greuel for her backing by the DWP union. LA Weekly
  • Garcetti calls Los Angeles not "a liberal town, but we’re a libertarian town." It's not clear to libertarians quite what he means though. Daily Caller
  • Jobs — and the union thing — were the key topics at campaign stops on Monday, the LA Times says.
LA Observed photo of crowd at Garcetti rally in Encino on May 5, 2013.

Elon Musk looking at Google's driverless cars


By Mark Lacter, May 7, 2013



Now there's an intriguing combination of brainpower. Musk is interested in an autopilot type system for his Tesla electric cars, and he's had early discussions with the folks at Google. "Autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars," Musk told Bloomberg. No doubt Musk is thinking years rather than decades to get it done. Tesla will release earnings on Wednesday, and they're likely to be strong.

Google's approach builds on a push for the driverless-car technology long pursued by the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which held vehicle competitions for carmakers and research labs. Anthony Levandowski, product manager for Google's self-driving car project, has said the company expects to release the technology within five years. "The problem with Google's current approach is that the sensor system is too expensive," Musk said. "It's better to have an optical system, basically cameras with software that is able to figure out what's going on just by looking at things."

American Maglev Trains Still Stuck At The Station



By Jim Motavalli, April 30, 2013

U.S. Maglev Train Development Stymied by Little Support

The seemingly magical magnetic-levitation (maglev) train, cruising at ultra-high speeds a few inches above the track rather than on it, is capable of hitting 250 to 300 mph because there’s no friction. They use electro- and permanent magnets to induce currents in the guideway, creating an air cushion that the cars ride on. The technology is expensive, and high costs have killed some maglev projects (including a Berlin to Munich line in 2008), but this train of tomorrow has long since moved past the experimental stage.

But the rail innovation that was invented by Americans, strangely, has taken off just about everywhere but in the U.S., where there’s nothing but test tracks and ambitious plans.

The Central Japan Railway, for instance, recently showed off a maglev train capable of more than 310 mph that’s designed to link Tokyo’s central Shinagawa Station with Nagoya circa 2027. A conventional bullet train now takes 90 minutes to run the route, but the maglev will do the trip in 40.

When a planned Tokyo-to-Osaka line is added to the Japanese maglev train, it could cost $100 billion, including the kind of government investment not likely to clear Congress in 2013.
image via Dennis Kruyt/Flickr

Shanghai’s maglev train (to central Pudong District) has been in commercial service since 2004, and at a peak of 268 mph has long been the fastest passenger train in the world, beating the mighty TGV in France. The Chinese may soon be traveling even faster if a maglev train that travels in an airless vacuum tube is realized. It’s supposed to be capable of more than 600 mph, duplicating air travel.

The patent on the “evacuated tube transport” vacuum train, granted in 1999, belongs toDaryl Oster of ET3, who teaches mechanical engineering at Walla Walla College in Washington State. He’s an interesting guy, a former stockbroker and member of the Crystal River City Council. Oster belongs to a long tradition of Americans who pioneered maglev and saw it developed elsewhere.

Americans Robert Goddard and Emile Bachelet (who had emigrated to the U.S. from France in the 1880s) developed the concept. Goddard first described the principle in 1907, and Goddard built the first working model in 1912. To give credit where it’s due, a scientist in Nazi Germany, Hermann Kemper, advanced the concept of a “monorail with no wheels attached” in the 1930s, long before Americans James Powell and Gordon Danby got the first patent in 1968. And it was the Japanese who built the first five-mile test line in 1977.

Support needed to take off

But despite extensive government support for maglev abroad—Germany and Japan alone have invested more than $1 billion—it’s never gotten consistent funding in the U.S. After federal funding was terminated in 1975, the National Maglev Initiative was passed in 1990 as a joint Department of Energy/Department of Transportation project to study the issue. Three years later, it finished up its work and concluded:

“U.S. industry can develop an advanced U.S. maglev system.”

A U.S. maglev system “has the potential for revenues to exceed lifecycle costs in one corridor, and to cover operating costs and a substantial portion of capital costs in others. The high initial investment will require substantial public assistance.”

A U.S. maglev system “would provide an opportunity to develop new technologies and industries with possible benefits for U.S. businesses and the work force.”

It also concluded that commercial American maglev is unlikely to happen “without significant federal government investment,” and that’s not in the cards with the current anti-train atmosphere in Washington. High-speed rail, despite enthusiastic support from the Obama administration (with or without maglev—just electrifying the rails is a big hurdle), has become a political football, with some states even returning already appropriated funds for high-speed corridors. In 2003, for instance, Florida Governor Jeb Bush rejected legislature-approved funding for Florida. Governor Rick Scott turned away $2 billion in 2011 that would have helped run a line between Tampa and Orlando.

High-speed rail would appear to have the greatest chance of early success in California, where Governor Jerry Brown has been an enthusiastic proponent.

As Ecomagination has reported, we do not lack proposed maglev rail corridors. Routes have been vetted connecting the Pittsburgh International Airport to the city of Greensburg (and, eventually, Philadelphia). An Atlanta-Chattanooga route of 110 miles has also been floated, at a projected cost of $6 to $9 billion. The American Magline Group wants to connect Anaheim and Las Vegas.

Leaning toward steel-on-steel

But in a blow to maglev advocates, the Federal Railroad Administration has decided that high-speed rail is likely to be a steel-on-steel proposition for the U.S. (if it happens at all). To be sure, electric trains running conventionally on tracks can still be plenty fast—200 mph is possible—but eventually friction is going to take a toll.

Dr. Christopher Barkan, executive director of the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was asked by NPR about the forthcoming national high-speed rail grid. “I don’t think it’s going to be maglev,” he said last year, pointing out that even the mag-lev-loving Chinese are using fast steel wheels on rail for the bulk of their national system—because it saves money.

Art Guzzetti, vice president for policy at the American Public Transit Association (APTA) said that to succeed, maglev would need a national constituency. “It’s hard for Congress to support something without a very broad base,” he said. “It’s not going to vote for just one maglev corridor. If there’s private funding, that can work in one specific area.”

APTA is technology neutral, so its main concern is simply to get some form of high-speed rail in place, and Guzzetti is bullish that it will happen. “In 1980, we had seven light-rail systems in the U.S., now we have 36,” he said. “There were nine commuter rail trains, now there’s 29. The market is a lot stronger for rail than it was 30 years ago, and we’re looking for it to be better still. People are supporting more transit, and we will have more passenger rail.”

Maglev still has important support internationally. According to Fast Company, new maglev trains are being studied for Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Europe and Australia. In the U.S., the biggest promise comes from an “Inductrak” electrodynamic suspension system developed by General Atomics in
California that favors permanent magnets over electromagnets. The Department of Transportation has put some funding into the system, under development for more than five years.

General Atomics has a 400-foot-long test track near Torrey Pines that proves the concept, and running on it is the only functioning maglev train in the United States. But it’s currently a train to nowhere, with rides taking only 22 seconds. As Popular Mechanics points out, the potential is there—a train like American Magline’s could carry passengers from Anaheim to Las Vegas in 90 minutes, trumping the current four- to six-hour drive.

The only other major news is last year’s proposal by American Maglev to run a $344 million train from Orlando International Airport to a local SunRail stop, the Florida Mall, and the convention center.

The Florida installation would be a far cry from the heights of international maglev—trains would reach the heady speed of 50 mph (with patrons paying $13 one way). American Maglev CEO Tony Morris says he can build the system without government assistance, but he wants to use public right of ways now owned by the airport, county and Expressway Authority. “This is the ultimate e-ticket ride,” Morris told Fox’s Orlando station.

In 2011, the Japanese government offered to help fund a maglev train between Washington and New York, which seems kind of humiliating (though welcome). Of course, there’s the possibility that we’d then spend billions on Japanese-built trains for the line. That Bos-Wash Corridor train would take an hour, instead of the current four.

Old railway maps unearthed by Treehugger show that our trains today aren’t any faster than they were 80 years ago. “We’ve made zero progress in the speed of our rail travel since 1930,” the story said. “It still takes three days to get from New York to the West Coast by rail.” It’s no wonder that cross-country Amtrak service is losing money, because it’s hopelessly outmoded. Maglev trains could change that, but don’t expect them running in the land of their birth anytime soon.

Amtrak Subsidy Gone, States Must Pay the Freight to Keep Rail Routes


By Ron Nixon, May 2, 2013



 Children waited in March for a rally in support of keeping Amtrak service to Lewistown, Pa., and other towns in central and western Pennsylvania. The state ultimately agreed to pay for the service.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. — The unmistakable wail of a locomotive horn and screeching steel wheels signal the arrival of the evening Amtrak train in this central Pennsylvania town just over an hour west of Harrisburg, the state capital. The train is one of two that stop here daily, a vital link to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the entire Northeast Corridor. 

“There is no bus service or airports nearby,” said Dee Dee Brown, the mayor of this town of 7,000, who often rides the train to Philadelphia. “It’s just the train, and, quite frankly, we would be a ghost town without it.”

But after years of financial losses on the route for Amtrak, Pennsylvania was faced with either picking up the tab or losing it altogether by Oct. 1. Under pressure from Congress to reduce its dependence on federal subsidies, Amtrak is looking at either closing 28 short-haul routes or getting 19 states to cover the costs. Most of the states have already agreed to pick up the costs.

The railroad has traditionally subsidized some local routes, while leaving others up to the states to support, but now state governments will have to pay for all local routes of less than 750 miles in a state. The Northeast line, Amtrak’s moneymaker, is not included.

If all the states chip in, Amtrak officials expect revenue to increase by about $85 million a year, which would shrink its chronic deficit.

Pennsylvania and Virginia are among the states that have already agreed to pay for service, citing the need to ease road congestion, spur economic development and remain connected to the Northeast line. But other states, like Indiana, are still debating what to do. In most cases, the routes run at a loss, say state officials, who view them more as an infrastructure investment like a highway.

The cost-sharing arrangement between Amtrak and the states, mandated by a 2008 law, is designed to reduce federal support for Amtrak, which has received nearly $40 billion in taxpayer subsidies since its founding in 1971, and has never made a profit. Last year, the railroad got about $1.4 billion in federal money for its operations, rail maintenance and equipment purchases.

Last year, Amtrak — which says ticket prices and fees cover about 88 percent of its operating costs — lost more than $450 million, mostly a result of constant maintenance of tracks and bridges that are decades old. Its long-distance routes also contribute to the losses, but they are not included in the cost-sharing program because they cross so many states.

Joseph H. Boardman, Amtrak’s president, said sharing costs with states would reduce the need to ask Congress to cover operating expenses and make financing for rail service more uniform. He said the federal operating subsidy last year of $466 million was down from a peak of $755 million in 2004, a result of cost sharing with some states, as well as record ridership and revenues.

“It’s what Congress has been doing for years, that is to push costs down to the state and local level,” Mr. Boardman said. “It’s not going to be a windfall for Amtrak, but it will help reduce our costs.”

The Brookings Institution, the Washington policy research group, attributed some of the improvement in the railroad’s finances to its partnership with 15 states that pay at least part of the expenses on 21 train routes. Last year, states paid Amtrak about $180 million to operate trains.

Virginia, which began contracting with Amtrak for a train between Lynchburg and Washington in 2009, recently added a route to Norfolk from Richmond and passed legislation to finance it.

“We see good rail service as part of our overall transportation plans to reduce congestion on the highways, and the routes add to the economic vitality of our communities,” said Kevin B. Page, the chief operating officer of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Virginia officials said Amtrak spent over $100 million on goods and services in the state last year. The railroad also employed 864 residents, adding $73 million in wages. 

 Pennsylvania, which spends about $9 million a year for Amtrak service connecting Harrisburg and Philadelphia, recently agreed to pay an additional $3.8 million a year for the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg service. State officials worried about picking up the cost for the line, which averages about 400 riders a day. But they agreed to pay the cost after local officials like Huntingdon’s mayor staged rallies to support the route and Amtrak lowered its cost estimates. 

“We always saw the line as important to the communities along the route and an integral cog in the regional transportation system. It was just a matter of cost, " said Erin Waters-Trasatt, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “We feel comfortable with the agreement we’ve reached with Amtrak.”

In Indiana, state officials are studying whether to kick in $4 million to $5 million a year to continue the Hoosier State train between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the state was in the process of hiring a consultant to evaluate the service.

In California, officials are weighing whether to pay an additional $20 million to $25 million a year to keep service between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

Transportation experts like Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was a co-author of its Amtrak study, said he expected all the states to eventually agree to the cost-sharing arrangement, which will provide more money to upgrade tracks and improve stations.

“The larger implication is that it will have a positive impact on Amtrak’s budget and improve passenger rail service,” Mr. Puentes said.

He said Congress, Amtrak and the states should consider developing a cost-sharing plan for the money-losing long-distance routes, on which the railroad loses about $614 million a year. Cost sharing on longer routes could reduce Amtrak’s dependence on federal subsidies by $800 million a year, Mr. Puentes said.
Amtrak officials disagree.

“It’s not something we would endorse,” said Mr. Boardman, the Amtrak president. “Some states might pay, while others might not. That would leave gaps in the network and impact overall service.”


LA Expo Line Riders Appear to be New Transit Riders


By Robert Cruickshank, May 6, 2013

Expo Line at La Cienega / Jefferson station

Neon Tommy has the story:
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.
Obviously that’s a sign of a successful rail line, on course to meet its ridership projections seven years ahead of schedule. There’s a lot of latent demand for rail in this part of LA, as suggested by the fact that many of the Expo Line riders are new to transit:
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 that connect with the Expo Line, and routes that run along similar parallel corridors, all have maintained steady ridership numbers.
The article goes on to describe increases in the number of transit passes being used at USC, schools using the trains to get to museums and other educational and cultural destinations at Exposition Park, and so on. In any case, the Expo Line has induced new transit demand rather than simply shuffling existing users between modes.

If you build it, they will ride. California is full of latent demand for passenger rail. That’s true for the Expo Line and it’s true for high speed rail. Just like HSR systems around the world have attracted new riders away from planes and automobiles, so too will California’s HSR system. There’s no ideological or cultural attachment to the car in California, not these days. People are ready for an alternative, particularly if it runs on rails.
Do American Transit Projects Suffer From a Democracy Deficit?


By Angie Schmitt, May 7, 2013

Alon Levy at Pedestrian Observations ran a thought-provoking post today about the level of democratic involvement that goes into major American transportation projects.
California High-Speed Rail would be a better project if the public had been given more information before voting on it, says Alon Levy.

The problem in the United States, he writes, is that most big transportation spending decisions are made by a handful of powerful interests who believe that keeping the public in the dark is to their advantage. That’s helped produce a lot of bad projects and made good projects worse, Levy says:
When there is democracy – by which I mean not just periodic elections offering two parties to choose from, but a referendum process, transparency, and community consultations – people have an incentive to be informed. It’s possible to sway many people in one’s community and have a positive effect on local state services. Local politicians who are informed on the subject will be able to lead spending and planning efforts and can count on the support of informed voters. In contrast, when there is democratic deficit, being informed is far less useful, because decisions are made independently of what people think unless they are power brokers, or perhaps wealthy, power-brokering communities.
Transit advocates also need to be advocates for transparency and an informed public, writes Levy:
Throughout the transit activist community, including nearly every blogger and commenter but also the main activists on the ground, there’s a tendency to view any community opposition to a project as NIMBYism and to ask for changes that make it easier for the government to get its projects done, as in the Robert Moses era. Social democrats and neo-liberals are equally complicit in the march for not just centralization, which can be done with democratic checks, but also concentration of power in the hands of state officials.

Good infrastructure does not come from autocrats. Nothing comes from autocrats except more wealth and power for the autocrats, which may or may not involve infrastructure that is useful to the public. Undemocratic systems lead to a feedback loop in which the people have no incentive to be informed while the power brokers have no incentive to make sure anyone is informed, and this way it’s easy to spend $8 billion on a train station and approach tracks, without knowing or caring how many orders of magnitude this is more expensive than the average first-world rail tunnel. A good transit advocate has to advocate for more democracy, transparency, and simplicity in government operations, because decisions made behind closed doors are almost invariably made for the benefit of the elite that’s on the right side of those doors.
Elsewhere on the Network today: The State Smart Transportation Initiative looks at a study examining how travel time affects transportation choices. Bike Portland announces the impending arrival of a 10-foot, buffered bike lane. And Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space looks at the energy efficiency benefits of home delivery services.

SR-710 Developments: 1-Najarian Metro Motion Passes; 2-Study Team Presents New Tunnel Concepts


April 26, 2013



Ara Najarian began his new MTA Board term by getting unanimous support (including from Duarte Mayor John Fasana) for his motion asking for a clear answer as to which agency, Metro or Caltrans, has the authority to select and fund an SR-710 study alternative. Caltrans officials had asserted it had final authority, but Metro is conducting the alternatives study. Communities near the alignment of a proposed 710 freeway tunnel responded with alarm about lack of accountability in the decision making process.

Anthony Portantino, former 44th District representative, attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the motion, saying it was scary that significant taxpayer dollars are being spent to move a $15-20 billion dollar project forward without a clear understanding of who would make the final decision.
After the meeting, Najarian posted on Facebook:
“The success of my motion restores some faith in the MTA Board in that they/we do have some common sense. Supervisor Antonovich also realizes the confusion that exists in the decision making process for the tunnel and supported the motion. And guess what? John Fasana seconded the motion! We all just want to know who has jurisdiction on this project.”
In a followup to Najarian’s motion, Metro Highway Director Doug Failing’s Memo to the Board concludes: “The ultimate decision to fund an alternative included in the final environmental document rests with the Metro Board.”

One day earlier, South Pasadena, Pasadena, and La Canada Flintridge Technical Advisory Committee members voiced strong objections when the SR-710 technical team presented a new set of “refinement” options for the freeway tunnel alternative. These ranged from an un-tolled dual-bore tunnel, to a tolled single-bore or dual-bore tunnel, to a tolled single- or dual-bore tunnel with bus express lane, with the further variation that all of these options could be proposed with or without truck traffic allowed! La Canada Flintridge representative Ann Wilson pointed out that a smaller tunnel is actually a different alternative, as it provides a lower level of service and different effects on traffic congestion and project costs. The question of whether Metro or Caltrans has authority to prohibit truck traffic was not directly answered.

The additional freeway tunnel proposals show that questions about
  1. truck traffic,
  2. which parties besides the trucking industry will be willing to pay tolls, and
  3. how many travelers and buses would use a tunnel that has no intermediate exits
are still unanswered!

More dissatisfaction surfaced when questions about tunnel impacts on local traffic and existing on/off ramps were raised. In communities around the south portal of the tunnel, vehicles will have to drive east or west on surface streets to Interstate 10 access ramps, and then transition north to the 710 if they want to use the tunnel. At the north portal, the St. John Street access ramps to the 134/210 will be eliminated and street traffic in the vicinity of Huntington Hospital will be affected. Emergency response time impacts and increased congestion on surface streets in the area surrounding the 210/134 interchange are big concerns if a tunnel proposal goes forward. Metro’s original F7 dual-bore tunnel freeway alternative and portal locations are laid out in this pdf (from which the map above is taken).
Other alternative refinements presented at this week’s meeting sounded much more attractive.
  • The TSM/TDM option includes improvements to at least 28 intersections in the study area.
  • The Bus Rapid Transit alternative is conceived of as “rail-like” service which will incorporate a high-tech fare collection system, ITS transit signal priority, dedicated bus lanes where possible (some on-street parking would have to be removed for these), and improved stations and stops to attract riders; it would run from Whittier Blvd in the south to Colorado Blvd in the North.
  • The LRT alternative includes a stop at CSULA and a tunnel under Fremont Avenue; it would end under the Filmore Gold Line Station (one Technical Advisory Committee member suggested that the rail line continue all the way to the 210 and be combined with a new park and ride facility).
No On 710 Tunnel Information Sheet


May 7, 2013

  (Mod: The good folks at the No 710 Action Committee sent me the following information sheet. It is a great reminder of just how strong the arguments against the project really are.)

Things You Should Know About the Proposed 710 Freeway Extension

The LA Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) plans to build two 4.5 mile-long tunnels that will extend the 710 Freeway into the heart of Pasadena. The tunnels would bring as many as 180,000 trucks and cars through Pasadena each day, producing unacceptable levels of traffic, noise and pollution, destroying the quality of life in our neighborhoods and city.

The 710 Freeway would connect Pasadena neighborhoods directly to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and hundreds of factories, warehouses, and other industrial complexes. Metro says the 710 Freeway will “complete the natural goods movement corridor” between these industrial areas and destinations north and east of Los Angeles, bringing to Pasadena an endless stream of trucks, pollution, and noise.

The tunnels would not reduce congestion, but instead would simply move it to Pasadena.

- The tunnels would divert existing traffic from the 5, 10, and 605 Freeways onto the 210 and 134 Freeways. They also would encourage more driving and longer commutes, thus further burdening the 210 and 134 Freeways.

- Past predictions of less congestion have been wrong. Although Metro and Caltrans said it would ease congestion, when they extended the 210 Freeway east into San Bernardino County, it made congestion in Pasadena far worse, turning the 210 into a parking lot. Extending the 710 Freeway will make matters worse.

The tunnels would increase traffic on our City streets and make it harder to get around Pasadena.

- The tunnel would close the Del Mar and California entrances and exits on the current 710 stub. This means that traffic exiting the 210 and 134 Freeways for Old Pasadena, Huntington Hospital, and the 110 Freeway would be forced onto surface streets, including Lake, Los Robles, Fair Oaks, Orange Grove, and Avenue 64. Businesses will suffer, and a new wave of “cut through” traffic will invade our neighborhoods.

- The first places where 710 tunnel traffic could exit the freeway would be at Lake Ave., Mountain Ave., and San Rafael Ave. This will result in significant traffic increases at and near those exits.

The tunnels will increase Pasadena's air pollution. Metro admits that the tunnels will increase pollution. They will vent all of the tunnels’ pollution at the ends, so concentrated pollution from 4.5 miles of tunnel would be expelled into Pasadena through exhaust portals erected next to Huntington Hospital and schools. Increased traffic on the 210 and 134 Freeways will increase pollution throughout Pasadena.

The tunnels may be dangerous to build and operate. The tunnels would cross four known earthquake faults and punch through two major aquifers. They would be accessible only at either end, with no intermediate entrances or exits. It is unclear how injured or handicapped persons would be able to exit the tunnels in case of an accident, fire, or tunnel collapse.

Tunnel construction would bring a decade of disruption and bad health impacts. Construction of the tunnels would take anywhere from 9 to12 years. There will be NO reimbursement to businesses due to loss of trade.

- Construction would require closing Del Mar Blvd., Green St., Colorado Blvd., and Union St. where they cross the freeway to allow bridges to be rebuilt, thus isolating much of west Pasadena for years. The Rose Parade could not use its traditional route with portions of Colorado Blvd. closed.

- Construction will require removal of 200 million cubic feet of dirt, filling 450,000 truckloads. That means 128 truckloads of dirt transported through our area every single day, 7 days a week, for 10 years.

- Construction will be very noisy and dusty for those living, working, residing in the hospital, or going to school near the construction site or along the routes taken by trucks full of excavated dirt.

The tunnel project will be extremely expensive. Official estimates of the cost range from $1 billion to $14 billion (more recent estimates around $5-6 billion). Part of these costs may be recouped through tolls of up to $20 per trip, with the rest being paid by taxpayers. Other toll roads in Southern California have gone bankrupt or have needed public bailouts.

What should be done instead of the tunnels?

- For moving people: Light rail and bus improvements can be achieved for a small fraction of the cost and negative impacts of the tunnels. In fact, Metro could complete every transit alternative that it is considering in far less time and for far less money than the tunnels will cost. Cut through traffic can be significantly improved by removing the Alhambra 710 stub.

- For moving cargo: Long-haul trucks do not belong on our urban freeways and neighborhood streets. Instead of bringing more trucks into Pasadena, Metro should increase the efficiency of the Alameda Corridor and complete the Alameda Corridor East and other port and rail projects.

For those who say it will never happen. Metro has completed 3 of the 4 steps toward building a new tunnel; all that remains is the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Contacts / Information:

www.no710.com - No 710 Action Committee website

unitedagainst710@gmail.com - Request to be added to this email distribution that will alert you of upcoming meetings and news announcements.

No 710 Freeway Tunnel - Facebook

Stop the 710 - Yahoo

(Mod: Here is an interesting article that comes from a blog run by people in the San Rafael area opposed to the 710 Tunnel (click here). The search for the larger geopolitical reasons for building something so counter to the interests of those live live here is an interesting one. After all, Metro's arguments for why it must be built often make little sense. The "it will reduce air pollution" fib being but one)

How Will the Nafta Superhighway Affect the Long Beach/LA Ports?

We in the affected 710 Tunnel area have been continuously told that we must Beat the Canal--that is, the Panama Canal expansion, which will, when completed, allow bigger ships to transit it. We have been told that if the Long Beach/LA ports do not themselves expand their capacity, which they are doing, we will lose much port cargo from Asia, especially from China and Japan, to U.S. East Coast ports. We have been told that the South 710 Corridor Project, increasing the number of lanes on the South 710, is necessary to handle all the anticipated additional truck traffic from the ports due to the ports' expansion.

A collorally to this, even though Metro denies it, is that the 710 Tunnel is necessary to accommodate the increase in truck traffic from the ports to the 210 and the 5.

But an interesting thing has happened. A Tolled Single Bore Tunnel has been recently added to the SR 710 EIR/EIS Study. Now the Metro staff has stated that dual tunnels may provide too much capacity. Why is this change of heart? What happened to all those great estimates of vehicle traffic that will use the dual tunnels? More or less, though Metro will probably deny this, there may not be as many trucks in the future that will use the tunnel, as there may not be as much port traffic requiring trucks.

The reason for this is that Burlington Northern, now owned by Warren Buffett, will increase the capacity on his railroad for container cargo. His route out of Los Angeles is already at capacity. Each of his trains carries about 100 containers at a time and run about every 15 minutes. There is no way that his trains can carry more cargo. Whether his trains are loaded at a new Long Beach railyard or at the Hobart railyard makes no difference in the capacity of his trains.

Metro's change of heart could be simply what we in the affected 710 area has not heard much about or really anything about: the Nafta Superhighway. This has been an on-again, off-again idea which is now on-again.

The cargo ships from Asia will not be going to East Coast and Gulf ports, but to one or more ports in Mexico, probably to the Port of Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast.

Port of Lazaro Cardenas  

"The Port of Los Angeles, the country’s busiest container port, faces an uncertain future. A $5.25-billion project will make the Panama Canal wider and deeper, allowing ships from China to bypass West Coast ports for deepwater ports on the US Gulf Coast and East Coast. Experts suggest that as much as a quarter of the approximately 60 million tons of cargo – nearly 8 million TEU’s in 2011 – Los Angeles and neighboring Long Beach handles each year could be diverted, shrinking both the size and importance of the terminals. But the canal is not the port’s only competition.

Early last month APM Terminals, the ports arm of Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, signed a 32-year concession contract with the Port of Lazaro Cardenas (APILAC) for the design, financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of a new specialized container terminal at the port.
APM Terminals will start construction on Mexico’s new super port by September of this year. The first phase will be completed in 2015, costing over USD 300 million. The terminal will undergo a phased expansion in accordance with provisions stipulated in the concession agreement. The entire project will require an investment of over USD 900 million."  http://gcaptain.com/mexicos-900-million-mega-container/ (September 5, 2012)

Punta Colonet

The other port that is in contention to be "Super Port" is Punta Colonet, Mexico, on the Baja Peninsula.

"PUNTA COLONET, MEXICO — Mexico's government is preparing to open bidding on the largest infrastructure project in the nation's history, a $4-billion seaport that could transform this farming village into a cargo hub to rival the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

If completed as planned by 2014, the port would be the linchpin of a new shipping route linking the Pacific Ocean to America's heartland. Vessels bearing shipping containers from Asia would offload them here on Mexico's Baja peninsula, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, where they would be whisked over newly constructed rail lines to the United States. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/25/business/fi-mexport25 (March 25, 2008)

"The port at Punta Colonet, when completed, is expected to rival the biggest West Coast ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, both heavily congested now.
Bringing goods into a Mexican port would mean lower costs for foreign shippers because of cheaper labor and less restrictive environmental regulations.
Hutchison Ports Mexico, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., is keeping reports about progress on the venture close to the vest." (link)

Ports of Lazaro Cardenas and Punta Colonet

The cargo unloaded at either the Port of Lazaro Cardenas or Punta Colonet will then be shipped to the United States via truck and rail lines of the Kansas City Southern Railway.

" Cargo moves to and from the port by road and rail equally, with rail service provided exclusively by Kansas City Southern Railway. The port is expected to become a major container facility due to congestion at the U.S. ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and its relative proximity to major cities such as Chicago, Kansas City, and Houston. In preparation for the port's increased capacity, railway and highway infrastructure running north-south through the center of Mexico has been upgraded in recent years to handle the anticipated increase in volume of goods bound for the United States using this transportation corridor. If a proposed government-backed Pacific port is built at Punta Colonet, Baja California, goods flowing to U.S. states like Arizona and Nevada could bypass the congested Los Angeles region with closer access those markets, providing increased competition with Lázaro Cárdenas." (click here)

Note from Peggy Drouet regarding the statement above  "Here is an interesting article that comes from a blog run by people in the San Rafael area opposed to the 710 Tunnel." The blog is totally my individual effort and is not affiliated with any organization opposed to the 710 tunnel. I, however, am personally opposed to the tunnel and have stated that many times in my blog posts.