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

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tesla sedan gets best Consumer Reports auto review of all time



By John Upton, May 9, 2013

 Tesla's sexy Model S

 Tesla’s sexy Model S.


The good news just keeps flowing — like electricity from a renewables-infused grid — for electric-auto maker Tesla Motors.

Consumer Reports just gave the Tesla Model S Sedan its highest-ever score for an automobile. The glowing review and sky-high score of 99 out of 100 came in the same week that the 10-year-old auto manufacturer enjoyed its first profitable quarter.
Some highlights from the breathless review:
This electric luxury sports car, built by a small automaker based in Palo Alto, Calif., is brimming with innovation, delivers world-class performance, and is interwoven throughout with impressive attention to detail. It’s what Marty McFly might have brought back in place of his DeLorean in  “Back to the Future.” The sum total of that effort has earned the Model S the highest score in our Ratings: 99 out of  100. That is far ahead of such direct competitors as the gas-powered Porsche Panamera (84) and the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid (57).

The Tesla rivets your attention from the start. Simply touching the flush aluminum door handles causes them to slide outward, welcoming you inside. … And as you dip into the throttle, you experience a silent yet potent surge of power that will make many sports cars weep with envy.
Meanwhile, Nissan’s all-electric Leaf recently received a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. From Green Car Reports:
A host of safety features, including dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt sensors, side air bags, curtain side impact air bags for front and rear passengers, child safety rear door locks, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS) all contributed the the model’s score — and all are standard on the 2013 Leaf.

“Driver and passenger safety are top priorities for Nissan and the ‘Top Safety Pick’ designation by IIHS reflects the design and innovation that have gone into this car to make it a practical, no-compromise electric vehicle,” explained Erik Gottfried, Nissan’s director of electric vehicle sales and marketing.
It’s clear that electric-car makers aren’t just swapping out internal combustion engines for batteries — they’re putting in the extra effort to truly reimagine a new generation of American automobiles.

Don't dilute CEQA, improve it

The Environmental Quality Act plays an important role in protecting Californians.


By John Van de Kamp, May 9, 2013

 Newport Bay
 California Environmental Quality Act: Millions of gallons of sewage are kept out of Newport Bay every year thanks to mitigation measures in the law.
I remember life before the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. I grew up in Altadena and Pasadena during the late 1930s and '40s. All too often I awoke to thick smog and air quality warnings. I watched as segments of the San Gabriel Valley shifted from orange groves to miles upon miles of housing, and communities were cut in half by an ever-expanding network of freeways.

By 1970, Gov. Ronald Reagan and a Republican-led Legislature realized that something had to be done. The Golden State was in danger of losing its luster. A disastrous oil spill in 1969 had marred the Santa Barbara coastline. Air quality continued to suffer throughout the Los Angeles Basin. And agricultural land was lost to development. In response to these concerns, the legislators in Sacramento passed the California Environmental Quality Act, and Reagan signed it.

Now, at the request of developers and business interests, state lawmakers are debating whether to weaken CEQA. Leaders should approach such amendments with great caution and take care to defend the law's core provisions. This landmark law has played a fundamental role in protecting air and water quality, public health and our state's incomparable natural areas.

When I served as California's attorney general, my office enforced CEQA to ensure that development projects moved forward in the least environmentally damaging way possible. My goal was not to prevent development but to make project proponents mitigate the very real environmental harm they could cause.

There are countless examples of projects that have been improved through CEQA's comprehensive review process. The Port of Los Angeles adopted measures to reduce air pollution, improving public health in the neighboring communities of San Pedro and Wilmington. Millions of gallons of sewage are kept out of Newport Bay every year thanks to mitigation measures in the law. We can also thank CEQA for keeping much of the Santa Monica Mountains as publicly accessible recreational areas and habitat instead of a checkerboard of private estates.

Business leaders and project proponents complain that the CEQA process unduly slows good projects. There is some merit to these complaints. When approval of projects is delayed, funding may simply dry up and worthwhile projects may be abandoned. This is harmful, particularly at a time when California's economy is struggling to recover from an extended recession. Public agencies' handling of projects that fall under CEQA needs to be improved. They need to speed up preparation of environmental impact reports and the required administrative records.

Courts need to deal with CEQA challenges in a timely way (perhaps by dedicating specific courts to them, where assigned judges would receive adequate CEQA training and judicial caseloads would be managed to avoid delays in record-intensive cases). And when frivolous claims are filed, courts need to impose the penalties already authorized by the law against parties raising them. And financial resources need to be provided to accomplish these goals.

To be clear, CEQA lawsuits are rare. Studies from the attorney general's office show that less than 1% of CEQA projects end up in litigation; they constitute 0.02% of civil proceedings statewide. But, for the cases that are filed, speeding up environmental impact reports and the preparation of the administrative record would increase certainty for developers. It should also be done in a manner that improves public disclosure and transparency.

State legislators began addressing this issue two years ago, and they are considering further improvements. Two laws passed in 2011 require that public agencies prepare the administrative record concurrently with the environmental review of certain large-scale projects. A bill under consideration, SB 617, would expand this requirement to most CEQA projects. It would also require public agencies to post all CEQA-related notices and records of proceedings online and simultaneously file them with the state Office of Planning and Research.

These steps would make it easier for the public to track which developments are planned in their area and would begin to speed up the CEQA process. But more needs to be done.

CEQA has played an important role in protecting not only our California environment but also the health and well-being of our families and communities. Now is the time to improve it, not abandon it.

John Van de Kamp served as attorney general of California from 1983 to 1991 and created the office's Public Rights Division to give focus to environmental, consumer protection, antitrust and civil rights enforcement.

Rev. Lee Tells Crenshaw Coalition How to Win Their Goals


By Ari L. Noonan, May 3, 2013


 The Rev. Eric Lee


 Tearing a page from the still-glowing success stories of the civil rights movement in the Deep South a half-century ago, the Rev. Eric P. Lee, pacing a groove in the church floor before a capacity Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail crowd last evening, told them how they can attain their elusive goals in three weeks:

“Organize, organize,” lectured the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Southern California chapter.

Without a script, the Rev. Lee was preaching to hungry members of community organizer Damien Goodmon’s Crenshaw Subway Coalition on how they can sweeten their chances to win a long-sought train station at Leimert Park Village and convince resistant politicians to approve a subway through the mile-long densely packed business/residential district between 48th and 59th streets.

Politicians who rarely visit in South Los Angeles have been insisting for years to Crenshaw leaders that they only have the money to build underground rails everywhere else in the city, except for South Los Angeles.

“If you really want the station and the underground rail built,” said the Rev. Lee at least a dozen times during his forceful 10-minute oration, show up in large, united numbers on Thursday morning, May 23, for the MTA board meeting at Metro headquarters, adjacent to Union Station,

“Numbers scare the board,” he assured his strongly engaged listeners at the spacious 54th Street Christ Temple Cathedral.
Mr. Damien Goodmon On this night, the casually dressed, public-minded minister was speaking as leader of the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance, an umbrella meant to fit over every head young, old and otherwise, in South L.A.
The May 21 mayoral runoff between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel also was very much on the minds of everyone in the auditorium.

The dynamic 30-year-old Mr. Goodmon – who rallies his hometown neighbors in trademark classy, immaculately formed, yet understated (rather than cheerleader-style) rhetoric – wonders, like the rest of South L.A., whether or how committed either candidate in the close race is to supporting their station and subway objectives.

Two Reasons

The underground light rail is being sought for two dominant reasons, it is deemed far safer, away from the crowds, and it would avoid five or six years of constant construction-style disruptions to Crenshaw businesses and pedestrians.

Employing flowery, some would say slippery, lexicon, Ms. Greuel and Mr. Garcetti dispatched full-page letters to Mr. Goodmon, kind of swearing their fealty to both.
Ms. Greuel and Mr. Garcetti, however, left the exits wide open for an escape in case they change their minds.

“I have always supported undergrounding the line from 48th Street to 59th Street,” Mr. Garcetti wrote in a letter dated the day before the community meeting. “I have advocated for this throughout my campaign.”

Ms. Greuel’s letter, dated Feb.27, spoke of her commitment to “implementation of a first-class rail system.” She said she would “champion the effort to ensure that the Crenshaw-LAX Line project includes a station and Leimert Park Village and an underground tunnel along Crenshaw Boulevard, from 48th Street to 59th Street.”

“In sum,” said Mr. Goodmon, “we feel that the South L.A. electorate has made clear that undergrounding the Crenshaw-LAX Line from 48th to 59th streets and adding a station at Leimert Park Village is a required policy position for the next Mayor. Both candidates have responded that they are supportive, and we at the Crenshaw Subway Coalition look forward to working with either one of them to make that happen when they take office.”

Transit Commuters Are Stinking Low-Lifes, Subaru Tells Transit Commuters 


By Brad Aaron, May 9, 2013

Think transit commuters are unwashed, uncouth bums? Subaru does. And the carmaker doesn’t mind telling them so.

In recent Canadian editions of Metro — the free daily distributed at transit stops — Subaru ran a two-page spread spouting just about every negative transit, and transit rider, stereotype you can think of. The ad was brought to our attention by Sabrina Lau Texier, a transportation planner in Vancouver.
“While you’re sitting on public transit, just imagine your commute in a new Subaru Impreza,” the copy reads. “No weird smells, no overhearing awful music, and nobody asking you for spare change.” Classy.

On the first page are “coupons” for an “odour free ride to work” (nothing but that carcinogenic new car smell), “less chance of being asked for money” (except by Subaru and Exxon), savings on “obligatory transit conversations with coworkers” (down with human interaction!), “free confidence” (for $19,995), and our favorite: “half off arbitrary and inexplicable transit delays.” As opposed to the gridlock-free ride we can expect if we all ditch transit to drive a Subaru to the office — alone, of course, to avoid those unpleasant conversations with co-workers.

The ad implies that the Impreza has a better safety rating than transit. Canada had 6.5 traffic fatalities and 500 injuries per 100,000 people in 2010, according to the latest available figures.
Think the folks at Subaru don’t know transit ridership is booming, and not because commuters just need to be sold on “symmetrical full-time All-Wheel Drive”? Ads like this one, as Lau Texier puts it, are “a desperate attempt to stay relevant for an industry with declining sales.”

Maybe a campaign based on the premise that your target audience is a bunch of losers is not the most winning strategy.

TRANSPORTATION: Nearly $70 million provided for Inland projects 


 By Jan Sears, May 9, 2013


 A Metrolink train travels across the Magnolia Avenue overpass in January 2012. A similiar grade crossing project to the east at Riverside Avenue has received some $12 million in funding from the California Transporation Commission.

The California Transportation Commission has allocated nearly $70 million in funding to nine projects in Inland Southern California, including $12 million toward a four-lane grade separation on Riverside Avenue at the railroad tracks in Riverside.

The projects are among 114 statewide that were allocated $878 million in funding by the Transportation Commission this week. The projects will alleviate delays, repair aging roads and bridges, and boost the state’s economy by increasing jobs in the construction industry, said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty in a news release.

The allocations include $476 million from Prop. 1B, a transportation bond approved by voters in 2006.

Grade crossings have been an issue for years in Riverside, where traffic on major streets routinely backs up while freight and passenger trains pass through the city. Officials have expressed concerns about delays to emergency vehicles.

In the past four years, seven pedestrians have been hit and killed by trains at grade crossings — five of them after the city began a public safety campaign. Three-foot-wide signs warning pedestrians to look both ways for trains have been posted at 25 crossings, including some where pedestrians have since been killed.

The Riverside Avenue crossing is just north of Pachappa Elementary School and the busy Riverside Plaza shopping center.

The project will require $12.3 million in additional funding from other sources, transportation commissions officials said.

A grade crossing just a few blocks away on Magnolia opened in 2011 after an approximately $50 million project to drop the street below the railroad tracks.

In Highland, a $1 million project will realign about half a mile of Greenspot Road to include bike lanes and turn lanes and build a new bridge over the Santa Ana River. The existing bridge will be rehabilitated for pedestrian use as part of the city’s network of trails. The project will require $12.5 million in funding from other sources.

In Moreno Valley, Cactus Avenue will be widened from the eastbound offramp of Interstate 215 to 1,000 feet east of Veterans Way. That project will cost $560,000, Caltrans officials said. Another $560,000 will be required from other funding sources.

One of the most costly Inland projects is the nearly $37 million project to construct a commercial vehicle inspection facility on Interstate 15 near Wheaton Springs in San Bernardino County at the Nevada state line. Eventually, when funds become available, a building will be constructed there to house an Agriculture Inspection Station.

Other projects in Riverside and San Bernardino counties are:

In Montclair, widening Monte Vista Avenue from Mission Boulevard to Howard Street to four lanes and adding new sewers, curbs, sidewalks and street lighting, for $180,000.

In Palm Desert, reconstructing the Monterey Avenue ramps from Interstate 10, for $2.8 million.

Near Desert Hot Springs, paving nearly 26 miles of Highway 62 from I-10 to Indian Avenue, including widening the shoulder and making drainage improvements, for $15.3 million.

In Needles, seismic retrofit to the eastbound and westbound bridges on Interstate 40 at Roadrunner Wash, for $418,000.

In Needles, construct sidewalks, curbs, ramps and retaining walls to comply with American with Disabilities standards on Highway 95 from Safari Drive to Interstate 40, for $477,000.

Visit www.dot.ca.gov and click on news for more information about the projects.

L.A.’s underground art scene


By Roberto Loiederman, May 9, 2013

 (See the website for photos.)

Yes, there is a subway in L.A. Even some Angelenos don’t know about it, and most have never used it. But a system of subways and light rail was started in the early 1990s, and it’s steadily expanding. 

 Depending on where you live, the subway’s an efficient way to get downtown, which has become more of a destination in recent years, what with the Music Center with its plays, concerts, ballets and operas; fine museums; a funky, lively boho arts district; the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall; the relatively new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Plus the old attractions: Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Olvera Street’s cheesy but charming Mexican street fair, and such architectural gems as Union Station and the Bradbury Building, featured in “Blade Runner.”

Unlike some other urban transit systems used by a wide swath of economic and social classes, the L.A. subway — except for those who use it for their downtown work commute or to go to ballgames and cultural events — caters mostly to those who don’t have other transportation options.

I have a car, but sometimes I travel by subway because it puts me cheek-by-jowl with people I might not otherwise come into contact with. On the subway, I’ve sat next to a guy who had a large tattoo — the F-word — in Gothic script on his neck. I’ve stood next to a silver-haired middle-aged guy who’d taken the cowboy motif way too far: Stetson, bandanna, chaps, filigree, fancy boots that clacked when he walked. I’ve watched an immigrant student painstakingly translate a medical textbook, word for word. And listened to a busker doing a pretty good Johnny Cash imitation — and given him a buck for his efforts.

All par for the course on the Red Line. If that array of humanity doesn’t appeal to you, consider this: Going by subway is ecologically sound, you know when the train will arrive, and you don’t have to worry about parking when you get there.

But if you use it only as a means of transportation, you miss a lot of the fun. Every station on the Red Line is decorated with fascinating artwork, in several cases as a counterpoint to — or an ironic commentary on — the area where the station’s located.

Don’t try to catch a quick glimpse of the art from inside the subway car during the few seconds you’re in each station. Red Line art may not be part of the normal tourist route, but it’s worth a morning or an afternoon. You need to get off the train at some of the 14 stations, wander around the platform, go up to a higher level to get a broad view. Explore both sides of the turnstiles. Once you’ve seen the art at one station, take the train in the same direction to the next station and enjoy the artwork there.
Underground history

The best place to start a Red Line art tour is at the North Hollywood terminus. Going down the steps or escalator, you see three wide ceramic layers. The topmost layer depicts the 1950s San Fernando Valley: pickup trucks and tract houses. The middle layer is the Valley in the early 19th century: Catholic missions and rancheros. The lowest layer is the Valley in the era of Native Americans, before Europeans arrived, and it depicts their remnants: baskets, petroglyphs and bones.
 The history lesson is clear: Each era is built on top of previous ones. As you pass these three strata and go deep into the bowels of the subway, it might feel as if the below-ground world you’re entering is one with a different view of life and history than the one that prevails aboveground. As you’ll see, that feeling is accurate.

The stop after NoHo is Universal City, serving popular tourist sites Universal Studios and CityWalk. The aboveground narrative is a bust-out celebration of movies and music — a city proud of its entertainment achievements.

The below-ground narrative is different. At the Universal City Red Line platform, there are four massive rectangular columns decorated with handmade ceramics on all four sides. In English and Spanish, the tiles tell a story of the difficulties faced by native peoples and black settlers, and of their unrecognized contributions. It’s Southern California history with a progressive edge.

Aboveground, it’s all fun and games and diversions from daily life. Below, it’s a stark story of 19th-century exploitation, war, strife and thorny racial relations.

Margaret Garcia’s artwork (construction designed by Kate Diamond) has a harsh beauty. It’s deliberately rough-hewn and naive, a hodgepodge of hand-lettered text and portraits, the spaces between filled by ceramic depictions of cannons, guns, hands, flowers, bones, acorns and cut-off legs. The four massive columns, with their garish colors and their message of justice for those who were denied it in California in the 1800s, produce a searing effect, artistically and emotionally.
Stars galore

Two stops beyond Universal City is the Hollywood/Vine station. Once you get off the train, you see ceilings covered with thousands of film-reel holders. The walls of the station represent film stock.

Up a level, there’s a metal railing with five horizontal rails, like a musical staff. Soldered onto the handrail-cum-musical-staff are a large steel clef and the musical notes of the song “Hooray for Hollywood.”

Most of the artwork at this station — dozens of tongue-in-cheek variations on what “star” might mean — was created by Gilbert “Magu” Lujan: tile fantasies of different sizes, some placed in out-of-the-way corners, ready to be discovered.

Lujan’s takes on “star” include a 1948 Chevy souped up so that it rides low to the ground — “Low-Rider Star” — and an anthropomorphic animal (a dog?) standing with each of its back paws inside a small car, each of which is atop a star — “Flying with Stars.”

“Skidding Star” shows a large five-pointed star wearing a red bikini. The two lower points of the star are “legs” covered in tar or grime, skidding on a downslope lined with palm trees and stars. The idea that a star can skid downward is the mordantly comic underside of the Hollywood dream.

Above, at street level, is the sleaze and glitz of tourist Hollywood: the sidewalk with stars’ names inscribed inside stars; well-known theaters; actors dressed as superheroes.

But below ground is Lujan’s art, which gives “Hooray for Hollywood” a dark meaning. In one piece, a 1950s car with three passengers emerges with musical notes out of a landscape of mountains and houses and stars, all framed by an odd-looking Hollywood sign. But “Hooray” is spelled “Hurray,” like a carny huckster urging the marks to hurry in: a sardonic view of Hollywood.

 Several stops later, you get to the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. Go up the steps and you find 13 lovely ceramic depictions of scenes in and around the park. Some are night scenes (in blue) and some are daytime (in rose). One of the most striking shows two middle-aged men talking and eating at Langer’s Deli (a half-block away).

Even though these ceramics were done by Sonia Romero in 2010, for the most part they show scenes either from a MacArthur Park that no longer exists — one with elegant couples boating in the lake — or if in present time, they show an idealized park, not the one you see when you go up and walk across the street.

Except for a stop at Langer’s (at Seventh and Alvarado; go for the world-class pastrami on rye), MacArthur Park is not a recommended tourist site. It’s seedy, full of trash, somewhat dangerous. The boathouse has a caved-in roof, smells of urine and has been taken over by feral cats. And yet Romero’s artwork — just across the street and down a flight of stairs — makes the park seem idyllic. Again, a sharp contrast between what goes on aboveground and what’s depicted below.
Getting out of the bubble

Each station on the Red Line boasts artwork worth seeing. Here are a few examples: At the Wilshire/Vermont stop, artist Bob Zoell, using large typographic symbols on tiled columns, created outlines that look both human and mechanical. The Civic Center station features Jonathan Borofsky’s soft mannequins flying overhead. The Pershing Square station has spectacular neon pieces crafted by Stephen Antonakos.

Most amazing of all is the Hollywood/Highland station. The art piece is the entire station, designed by Sheila Klein and built by Dworsky Associates. Named “Underground Girl,” it’s meant, perhaps, to be an abstract prone female.

I don’t see it that way. When I look at the station from above, I feel as if I’m inside the belly of a whale. Or maybe in a spaceship hangar that’s part of a high-budget sci-fi movie. It’s beautiful and breathtaking in its ambition and execution.

Still, as interesting as Red Line art is, most Angelenos wouldn’t dream of getting on the subway. They prefer their personal bubbles — their cars.

Change, however, is in the wind. As L.A.’s downtown continues to blossom, as pricier condos and lofts are built there, as more eco-consciousness takes over, the subway clientele will probably gentrify.

I just hope that the change doesn’t happen too quickly. I like the Red Line the way it is. Unless I’m on the subway, I’d never rub elbows with a Gothic-script-tattooed guy or a Buffalo Bill wannabe.

And that’s as much a part of the Red Line’s raffish charm as its artwork.



Here's Your Summer Fun Guide to the Newly-Opened LA River


By Adrian Glick Kudler, May 9, 2013 





For the first time in decades, part of the Los Angeles River is open for free-for-all funtimes this summer (a section in the Valley opened for guided kayaking a couple years ago). Two and a half miles of a natural-bottomed portion running through Elysian Valley, from just south of Fletcher Drive to the Los Angeles River Center just north of Downtown, opens to the public (but not dogs) on May 27 and a website launched yesterday with some guidelines and suggestions for using the river. (Hey, this is new to Angelenos!) The zone will be open seven days a week from sunrise to sundown with access points at Fletcher's Rattlesnake Park and at Oros Street's Steelhead Park. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which is managing the pilot program, has also created a detailed kayaking map of the area (above). According to Echo Park Patch, "Many special activities are being planned along both banks of the zone this summer ... including movies nights sponsored by the L.A. River Revitalization Corp." More on that here.
· Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone [Official Site]

Are E-Bicycle Sales Reducing Car Sales In Europe?


 May 8, 2013

Fahrradmesse Berlin

The European Cycling Federation (ECF) recently said that for every car sold in Europe, almost two bicycles are sold.  Car sales in the EU27 in 2011 were 13,146,770, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (AECA), while Coliped reports that 20,039,000 bicycles were sold that year.   Additionally, ECF data shows that between 2010 and 2011, e-bicycle sales grew by 22% while car sales declined by 2%.  In 2012, car sales declined an additional 8%.  Perhaps worse news for automakers, AECA is reporting that 1Q 2013 sales were down almost 9%.

Annual Bicycle, E-Bicycle, and Passenger Car Sales, European Union: 2000-2012

(Sources: European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, Coliped, Navigant Research)
Navigant Research expects the growth of e-bicycles in Europe to continue.  According to our recent report, Electric Bicycles, the market in Europe is on track to grow to between 1.0 million and 1.2 million sales in 2013.  But the question remains: Does this mean that Europeans are shunning cars for bicycles and e-bicycles?

On its own, the sales data is not necessarily an indication of the causal relationship between car and bicycle purchases.  However, it can’t be ignored that riders in Europe are using their bikes more for transportation.  Even the French market, where all bicycle sales are down 9%, saw the smallest decline in city bicycles (-4%) while e-bicycles increased 15%.  The increasing use of bicycles and e-bicycles designed for cities or commuting clearly hits at the one of the core points of passenger cars.

Cyclists Have More Fun

Perhaps more compelling is the fact that bicycle mileage is increasing.  CBS CBS +1.19% (Statistics Netherlands) data shows that e-bicycles in the Netherlands have contributed to a 9% increase in the distance cycled, surpassing train mileage in 2011 to rank second behind cars.  The bicycle rental service OV-Fiets saw a 32% increase in round trips between 2010 and 2011, reaching 1.1 million.  While the Netherlands is often considered a somewhat special case because of its massive advantages in bicycle infrastructure, the developments there are not considered unusual in other parts of Europe.

This points to two important trends: More people are using traditional and e-bicycles than have in the past, and those that use e-bicycles are likely to travel further than traditional bicycles (3 km further, according to research completed in 2008).  Add to that the many efforts in Europe to make bicycle travel easier, such as the increasing bicycle-friendliness of trains, and the result is likely moving European commuters out of the driver’s seat and into the saddle.  This doesn’t spell the end of the European car market, but it does point to increasing challenges in getting back to the 15 million sales mark of the mid-2000s.  Or perhaps we are overthinking this, and people just want to have more fun while they commute.

Celebrate National Train Day at Union Station on May 11


By Anna Chen, May 9, 2013


Don't miss the Chuggington Kids Depot at L.A. Union Station this Saturday!
Don’t miss the Chuggington Kids Depot at L.A. Union Station this Saturday!

Amtrak will host the sixth annual National Train Day this Saturday at L.A. Union Station from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The family friendly event is free to the public.

Drop by to tour luxurious historic rail cars, freight trains and more. There will be live entertainment and giveaways, plus interactive and educational exhibits for all ages.

Metrolink offers weekend service to Union Station on the Antelope Valley, Orange County and San Bernardino lines. You can also get to Union Station on the Metro Gold, Red and Purple lines, as well as a multitude of buses. Use Trip Planner for routes and connections.

First part of Wilshire peak hour bus lanes to begin on June 5


By Steve Hymon, May 9, 2013




WBRT with Text Bubbles_2013-02-08 (1)


This is a Metro project that the city of Los Angeles is building. The Metro Board approved the 7.7 miles of peak hour bus lanes on parts of Wilshire within the city of L.A. back in May 2011. The first part to be built will be the easternmost section, shown above in pink between South Park View and Western.

Here’s the news release from Metro:
A comprehensive plan to shorten bus trips between downtown and Santa Monica on one of the busiest traffic corridors in Los Angeles County starts Monday, May 13 as the first phase of work begins on new, bus lanes along Wilshire Boulevard from MacArthur Park to Western Avenue.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) bus lanes have been initially designated for a 1.8-mile stretch in both directions along Wilshire. Contractors will remove lane striping next week, mark and install long-line striping May 20-24, mark pavement with “Bus Only” messages and install “Bus Lane” signs May 29-June 1.

The new bus lanes become effective 7 a.m. Wednesday, June 5. Only transit buses will be permitted to use the lanes during peak hours of 7-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. weekdays. Drivers of cars and trucks are subject to a citation if driving in BRT lanes during those hours.  All vehicles are permitted to use bus lanes during off-peak hours and on weekends. To acquaint motorists with the new lanes, a short period will be observed when warnings may be issued.

When the entire Wilshire Boulevard BRT project is completed in late 2014, it is designed to cut bus commute times by 15 minutes on 12.5 miles between downtown and Centinela Avenue in Santa Monica. Street improvements and selective street widening will be made along 9.9 miles of Wilshire Boulevard with BRT lanes on 7.7 miles.

BRT bus lanes are used in New York, Chicago and Boston to improve travel times and service reliability, encourage automobile drivers to shift to public transit and improve air quality.

During peak hours, Metro operates buses every two minutes on Wilshire Boulevard west of downtown. There are 53,000 daily boardings with 44 percent of those during rush hours.

The Wilshire Boulevard BRT is funded by a $23.3 federal grant combined with an $8.2 million local match from the city of Los Angeles.

BNSF Calls Los Angeles City Council Approval of $500 Million SCIG Project a Vote for Jobs and a Greener Economy



BNSF Railway called today's Los Angeles City Council vote to approve BNSF's Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) project a significant vote for jobs and a greener economy. The $500 million facility, located within four miles of the San Pedro Bay ports, will shorten the distance trucks loaded with cargo need to travel before transferring the containers to rail, instead of traveling 24 miles up the 710 Freeway. SCIG will support the competitiveness and accommodate forecasted growth of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle more than 40 percent of the nation's container cargo and account for more than a million jobs in California.

"We applaud the Los Angeles City Council, the Mayor's Office and the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners for their commitment to green growth. With their input, BNSF's SCIG project is setting a new standard of excellence in reducing emissions and realizing a positive impact on local communities," said Matthew K. Rose, BNSF Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "We appreciate the leadership of Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Buscaino and the support from a wide range of stakeholders to make today possible. We are investing more than $500 million in private funds to build this state-of-the-art facility, which will help keep the San Pedro ports competitive, and we look forward to the jobs, air quality and traffic benefits the facility will bring to Southern California."

According to Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, "SCIG will be the greenest intermodal facility in the United States and will set the standard for future projects, by including more than $100 million in green technologies, clean trucks and funding for zero emissions research. This project demonstrates that it's possible to achieve air quality and health risk improvements and keep the international trade industry in Southern California strong."

Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary--Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, added, "SCIG will create thousands of good construction jobs and thousands of permanent jobs at a time when unemployment still remains high. We also applaud BNSF for being a leader in creating the nation's greenest intermodal facility, significantly improving air quality and decreasing health risks in our communities."

While eliminating millions of truck miles from the 710 Freeway, BNSF will clean up an existing industrial site and replace it with a new intermodal facility featuring wide-span, all-electric cranes, ultra-low emission switching locomotives and low-emission rail yard equipment.

In addition to these innovations, BNSF has committed to allow only trucks meeting the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) goal of allowing only trucks built in or after 2010 to transport cargo between the marine terminals and the facility. By 2026, 90 percent of the truck fleet will be LNG or equivalent emissions vehicles. Trucks will be required to avoid residential areas by traveling on designated, industrial routes with GPS tracking to ensure compliance. BNSF will also implement a phase-in of zero or near-zero emissions technologies into specifications for drayage trucks serving SCIG when they are determined to be technically and commercially feasible.

BNSF has agreed to contribute up to $3 million to the joint Port of Los Angeles-Port of Long Beach Technology Advancement Program to further the development of zero-emission goods-movement technologies.

BNSF will build a soundwall along the eastern side of the Terminal Island Freeway and plant intensive landscaping on both sides of the freeway.

BNSF has committed to create a local jobs training program and offer priority hiring for new jobs to qualified local job applicants. BNSF has signed a Project Labor Agreement worth $255 million with the Building and Construction Trades Council that will result in approximately 1,500 jobs per year during construction. By 2036, IHS Global Insight forecasts the facility will create 22,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Southern California, including 14,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Los Angeles.

About BNSF

BNSF Railway is one of North America's leading freight transportation companies operating on 32,500 route miles of track in 28 states and two Canadian provinces. BNSF is one of the top transporters of consumer goods, grain and agricultural products and industrial goods. BNSF's shipments help feed, clothe, supply, and power American homes and businesses every day. BNSF and its employees have developed one of the most technologically advanced, and efficient railroads in the industry. We work continuously to improve the value of the safety, service, energy, and environmental benefits we provide to our customers and the communities we serve. You can learn more about BNSF at www.BNSF.com. Learn more about SCIG on Facebook, Twitter and at BNSFConnects.com.
                              Project Fact Sheet 
               Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) 
Project Purpose:         Create comparable near-dock capacity for all Class I 
                         railroads to accommodate anticipated port growth 
                         while reducing energy consumption, highway congestion 
                         and environmental emissions, increasing fluidity and 
                         throughput of on-dock rail facilities, increasing use 
                         of the Alameda Corridor, and providing competitive 
                         choices for shippers and port customers consistent 
                         with the Port of Los Angeles' adopted Port Rail 
Main Facility Location:  Existing industrial sites of approximately 156 acres 
                         with the primary project area between Sepulveda Blvd, 
                         Pacific Coast Highway, the Dominguez Channel and the 
                         Terminal Island Freeway. 
Private Investment:      $500 million of private investment (including in 
                         excess of $100 million in increased cost due to 
                         investments in green technology). 
Workforce:               IHS Global Insight forecasts the facility will create 
                         22,000 new direct and indirect jobs in Southern 
                         California, including 14,000 new direct and indirect 
                         jobs in Los Angeles by 2036. Approximately 1,500 jobs 
                         annually (direct and secondary) could be added to the 
                         regional economy during the construction phase. BNSF 
                         has concluded a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) worth 
                         $255 million with the Building Trades Council for the 
                         construction of the facility. BNSF's operating 
                         contractor will give qualified local residents first 
                         priority for all new jobs at SCIG. BNSF will fund a 
                         workforce-training program to assist area residents 
                         in obtaining these jobs. The Los Angeles County 
                         Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO adopted a resolution 
                         supporting SCIG as a direct result of the jobs and 
                         economic benefit it will provide. 
Air Quality Benefits:    The Port's analysis concludes that proceeding with 
                         the project instead of continuing existing uses of 
                         the site results in air quality improvements and 
                         reductions in associated health risks for surrounding 
Health Risk Benefits:    The Port's analysis concludes that SCIG is far better 
                         than standards established by the Port for new 
                         projects. As compared to choosing the "No Project" 
                         alternative (a continuation of existing uses at the 
                         site) choosing to proceed with SCIG will result in an 
                         overall improvement in health risk. 
Traffic Benefits:        The EIR found that SCIG will have a positive impact 
                         on traffic, both locally and regionally, by 
                         eliminating millions of truck miles from the 710 
                         Freeway, reducing congestion along the 710 corridor 
                         and around BNSF's Hobart Yard in Commerce. 
BNSF Commitments:        BNSF will participate in research on a zero-emissions 
                         container movement system, including:Funding up to $3 
                         million for purposes of developing a zero emission 
                         container movement system. Working with both the Port 
                         of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles, through 
                         the joint ports' Technology Advancement Program, to 
                         advance zero emission technologies. Only trucks 
                         exceeding the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action 
                         Plan (CAAP) goal of 2010 or newer trucks will be used 
                         to transport cargo between the marine terminals and 
                         the facility. By 2023, 75% of the trucks moving cargo 
                         between SCIG and the marine terminals will be LNG or 
                         equivalent emissions vehicles. By 2026, 90% of the 
                         truck fleet serving SCIG will meet this requirement. 
                         BNSF will implement a phase-in of zero or near-zero 
                         emissions technologies into specifications for 
                         drayage trucks serving SCIG when they are determined 
                         to be technically and commercially feasible. Trucks 
                         will be required to avoid residential areas by 
                         traveling on designated, industrial routes with GPS 
                         tracking to ensure adherence. Trucks will enter and 
                         queue along the western edge of the facility using 
                         automated gates to minimize idling. BNSF will build a 
                         dedicated ramp from PCH into SCIG and will have an 
                         improved ramp from the facility to PCH off of the 
                         south service road. SCIG will incorporate low-glare, 
                         directional crane lighting, perimeter lighting, and 
                         roadway lighting. Subject to obtaining right-of-way 
                         from the City of Long Beach:BNSF will construct a 
                         permanent, 12-foot-high soundwall along the eastern 
                         side of the Terminal Island Freeway and plant 
                         intensive landscaping on both sides of the freeway. 
                         BNSF will also construct a permanent 24-foot high 
                         sound barrier as an extension to the existing 24-foot 
                         high soundwall north of Sepulveda Blvd at Jeanette 
                         Pl. BNSF has committed to significant voluntary 
                         emissions reductions related to line haul locomotives 
                         calling at SCIG while on port properties. These 
                         emissions will be equivalent to a fleet of at least 
                         50% Tier 4 line-haul locomotives and 40% Tier 3 
                         line-haul locomotives by 2023, based on the 
                         commercial availability of operationally proven Tier 
                         4 locomotives in 2015. Tier 4 locomotives are a new 
                         technology that does not exist yet and are not 
                         expected to be available until 2015. This emissions 
                         reduction may also be achieved by reductions in air 
                         emissions anywhere in the South Coast Air Basin 
                         equivalent to this goal through any other alternative 
                         means. BNSF will evaluate and implement new 
                         technologies as feasible periodically throughout the 
                         term of the lease. 
Fuel Efficiency:         Trains are three times more fuel efficient than 
                         trucks handling equivalent loads. On average, a BNSF 
                         train can move one ton of freight about 500 miles on 
                         one gallon of diesel fuel. One double stack 
                         intermodal train can take 280+ trucks off the 
Learn More:              BNSFConnects.com, Facebook, Twitter 
    CONTACT: BNSF Railway 
Lena Kent, 909-386-4140
    SOURCE: BNSF Railway 
Copyright Business Wire 2013 


Traffic Pollution May Cause Higher Rates of Childhood Diabetes


By Emily Badger, May 10, 2013


Traffic Pollution May Cause Higher Rates of Childhood Diabetes


There's a pretty prolific literature on the harmful health impacts of auto pollution. It's been linked to severe heart attacks, to atherosclerosis, to higher rates of asthma among children who might as well be immersed in second-hand smoke.

As a health concern endemic to urban environments, air pollution and its consequences rank right up there with the rise of obesity and its related uptick in diabetes. Now, it turns out the two problems may also be intertwined. New research [PDF] published in the journal Diabetologia found that children growing up in areas exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollutants had higher levels of insulin resistance, one precursor to diabetes.

The German research team collected blood samples from nearly 400 10-year-old German children, most of them in Munich, and analyzed auto emissions around the home addresses where the children were born (the study controlled for socio-economic status, birthweight, Body Mass Index, and second-hand smoke in the home). For every 500 meters a child lived closer to the nearest major road, insulin resistance increased by 7 percent by the time they were 10. As the researchers write:
Given the ubiquitous nature of air pollution and the high incidence of insulin resistance in the general population, the associations examined here may have potentially important public health effects despite the small/moderate effect sizes observed.
The study is the first of its kind to connect long-term exposure to traffic-related pollution with insulin resistance in children. And it raises a couple of questions researchers may be able to answer as the subjects of this study age: What happens when children move away from high-traffic neighborhoods? Do the effects remain with them even into adulthood?
Link to the TAC meeting handouts 

From Sylvia Plummer, May 10, 2013

Here is the link to the TAC meeting handouts which includes information and diagrams for the new Tolled Single Bore Tunnel:

Freeway Tunnel information starts at page 60, reference to Single Bore Tunnel on page 62 with diagram on page 63.  There are a lot of interesting diagrams of the interchanges, portals and removal of excavated material.  

At the TAC meeting METRO staff stated that dual tunnels may provide too much capacity.  With one tunnel they would be able to control capacity by tolling.  If demand is high for the single tunnel, a second can be built. 

METRO staff stated that it's not necessary to have public meetings to inform the public or inform the METRO Board of this new addition to the study since it's a freeway variation of the dual bore tunnels. 

Councilman Raises Concerns About 710 Tunnel, Light Rail


By Bill Glazier, May 10, 2013


South Pasadena City Councilman Michael Cacciotti brought the public up to date last week on Metro’s efforts to east traffic through the area, including a new option to build a single bore tunnel under the city.
While Metro continues to talk about a twin bore, Cacciotti said during last week’s City Council 
meeting that the agency is now considering a second underground option to significantly reduce costs.
“They’re refining the idea of tunnel even more,” explained Cacciotti. “Metro was first talking about two full bore tunnels, two lanes on top and two lanes on the bottom going in the same direction. Now they’re talking about a single bore tunnel, two lanes going north and two lanes going south.”
It’s all part of the SR 710 Traffic Study to alleviate traffic congestion through the San Gabriel Valley.
The 710 Freeway ends near Valley Boulevard just outside the Alhambra city limits in Los Angeles and talks of building a tunnel under South Pasadena have heated up in recent years.
Cacciotti says Metro and Caltrans have studied about 100 different options to move traffic as part of its environmental process before it was narrowing that number to roughly 14 and now down to four.
A Technical Advisory Committee, which includes city managers, engineers and other professionals, meets every several months to receive updates from Metro and help move the project along.
Another group, which Cacciotti, South Pasadena Mayor Pro Tem Marina Khubesrian, freeway fighter Joanne Nuckols and attorney Steve Friedman sit on, called the Stakeholder Advisory Committee meets periodically for updates on Metro’s four options to ease traffic through the area.
The four options currently being studied according to the environmental process include:
•A tunnel option. Originally it was a double bore tunnel going north and south.
•BRT – Bus Rapid Transit, covering the areas of Monterey Park, Alhambra, South Pasadena and Pasadena.
•LRT – Light rail transit going north and south from lower Monterey Park in east Los Angeles and connecting to Alhambra, South Pasadena and Pasadena at the Gold Line Filmore Station.
•TSM Traffic System Management or TDM Traffic Demand Management – Making improvements to intersections and bus services to help move along traffic.
A fifth option is called “No Build,” which Cacciotti says is essentially designed to do nothing. “That’s not going to happen,” he said.
Metro, according to Cacciotti, is comparing the four options to see which one will ultimately win out during the study.
Cacciotti says there are major flaws with the light rail component, while saying it’s the best option, major stops are missed. “Light rail service would start near the terminus of the Eastside Extension and it would totally skip East L.A. college and stop in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “With staff and students, you’ve got 35,000 students that they’re missing.”
However, he does like the idea that one of the light rail stops includes Cal State L.A., which includes about 26,000 students and faculty.
Cacciotti said the proposed light rail effort would miss a major hub in Alhambra near Fremont Avenue and Mission Road where a public works building employs about 1,600 people. “There’s a fitness center, a university of medicine…It’s a major urban area that they are missing,” said the councilman. “They could have a stop at Atlantic in Alhambra with all the stores and restaurants, but they’re missing all that. I don’t know if they’re doing it deliberately, but they are missing some great stops. They could make it a viable, productive system like we have with the Gold Line. It has some really good stops, but it’s missing some major areas.”
Cacciotti said he brought it up during last week’s council meeting because “if we don’t do something about it soon, it’s going to be too late.”
He’s asking Metro officials to attend the next South Pasadena City Council meeting on May 15 to discuss it future plans for the corridor.
Much of the light rail system would be underground, stressed the councilman.
“I want the residents and council to see that they’re missing an incredible opportunity to build a really effective, comprehensive mass transit system here,” said Cacciotti. “We have to do something now or our opportunity will be gone.”