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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dreamy Routines: Some of Our Readers’ Best “Commuter Idylls” 


By Tanya Snyder, May 9, 2013

Some of you have some fabulous commutes. Rather than watch the stress-filled minutes and hours tick by stuck in traffic, you go outside, get exercise, and connect with your community.
Think car-free parenting is a drag? Babies like smiling at other passengers on the bus way more than they like being restrained in a rear-facing car seat. 

I’ve had the pleasure of reading many of your commuter tales over the last few days, since we launched our Commuter Idyll contest. It’s our response to WTOP’s “Commuter Idle” contest for the worst commute in the DC area, with its prize of $1,000 in gas money. We’d rather focus on the positive: the wonderful daily transportation routines you can have when you get out of your car.
We did have one overall favorite, which we’ll post tomorrow, but there were so many that deserve mention. Here are some ancillary awards:

Most Family-Friendly

Katie from the DC suburbs won my heart with her story of taking her 10-month-old son to daycare on the bus. “He loves the bus, and despite the fact that he can’t talk yet, he manages to make lots of friends,” she writes. “As soon as he sees the bus coming down the road, he starts squealing and kicking his legs, and once we get on, he just charms everyone on the bus by smiling and chattering away at all of them.”

“The other day, someone started snapping out a beat, and my little guy was just dancing along,” she said. “I seriously thought maybe someone was about to break into song, like we were in a musical or something.” Sure beats strapping him in to a car seat in the back where you can’t even see him.
Plus, waiting at the stop gives them some nice outdoor time. After dropping her son off at daycare, Katie continues on to work on the bus or walks – a healthy 30 minutes of exercise.

Runner-Up: Most Family-Friendly
Parents of young children will also appreciate this story from reader “TalF.” He had been driving his commute from Riverdale, New York, to his job in New Jersey, but that could take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. The transit connections weren’t great either. Then last summer, he started cycling 45 minutes down the Hudson River Greenway to the 39th Street ferry, where it was 10 minutes across the river to New Jersey. He even biked the commute through the winter.

“So far it has been great!” TalF wrote. “I’ve lost weight and, paradoxically, feel like I have more energy for dealing with a newborn at night.”

Best of all, he and his wife have been able to sell one of their cars, saving them a bundle they can now spend on their little bundle.

Best Use of Rational Transportation Economics

We’ve got to hand it to Pancake for making his decisions based on rational economics. The Center for Neighborhood Technology has pioneered the H+T model for evaluating household expenses – Housing + Transportation, that is. Pancake says he pays more to live in the city because the cost of owning a car or taking public transportation into the city every day can erase the savings of marginally cheaper housing in the suburbs. He walks or bike-shares to his job that’s just over a mile from home. “Some days, I even come home for lunch for a nap,” Pancake writes. “That availability alone makes my form of transportation (my legs) well worth the extra money expelled in rent.”

Most Scenic
A few of you had some great stories about the sights as you walk, bike, or take the train in to work – things you’d never see from the highway. One contestant even sometimes takes a single-track mountain bike trail to work some days, which is pretty idyllic, if you’re into that sort of thing.

But we were taken with the scenic description from reader “C_29″ of the one-mile walk between her house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC, and her office, passing the monuments, historic row houses with flowers in the gardens, kids, dogs, and “the lady that rollerblades in the Hine parking lot every morning.”
I watch bakers making pop tarts in the window at Ted’s Bulletin, and workers unloading fresh produce at the Yes! Organic Market. Handsome uniformed Marines wish me good morning as I walk by, and sometimes I can hear the band rehearsing in the Barracks. I greet the friendly cats that hang out at Ginkgo Gardens, a beautiful garden center on 11th Street, and catch glimpses of muscular arms lifting weights at Atlas Fitness. Towards the end of my walk I observe the progress on the 11th Street Bridge project.
C_29′s coworkers think it’s strange that she doesn’t drive, but she’s put in her time commuting an hour and a half each way to the city from Annandale, Virginia, and now she’s done with that. “I felt tired and sick all the time, and would sometimes get panic attacks while sitting in that awful traffic,” she said. The commute once took eight hours. So even the temptation of free parking at work isn’t enough to lure her away from her far-healthier choice. “I end up logging 50 minutes of exercise just from walking to and from work, and I believe the benefits are mental as well as physical,” she writes. “I’m much more relaxed and clear-headed than I was when I had a driving commute, and my headaches and neck pain have vanished completely.”
Commute by foot, bike, or transit and you could get to work feeling like this.

Most Multi-Modal

When Alex Francis Burchard was working in his native Tacoma, Washington, he biked to the Sounder train, “where I had wifi and played games for 30 minutes on my computer,” then switching to the Tacoma Link Light Rail, then taking a bus up the hill, and then biking the last 2,000 feet. On the way home he skips the bus and bikes downhill to the light rail stop or even all the way back to the Sounder.

The commute to his gardening job increased from 30 minutes to 90 minutes when he stopped driving and started doing this multi-modal odyssey, but he says it didn’t bother him, since he could nap instead of driving white-knuckled through traffic. These days he lives in downtown Chicago and bikes almost everywhere. He lives less than a mile from work, so he walks there. “I’ve lost a pile of excess weight, feel better about myself, have fewer physical problems, and when I’m out riding I feel better than anything,” he said. That’s our kind of idyll!

Runner-Up: Most Multi-Modal

We’ve got to hand it to Ryan Brady, who opened up lots of different transportation options by biking. Now that he doesn’t drive his 32-mile San Francisco-Novato commute anymore, he can do it any of five ways: a two-hour bus ride he can sleep through, or bike rides of various lengths, levels of difficulty, and scenic value, sometimes combined with the express bus or the ferry.

“Even though the travel time is about twice as long as by car, EVERY SINGLE ONE of these options is preferable to getting in that box and going bumper to bumper for even 5 minutes,” he writes.

Honorable Mention for Telling It to the Man

We couldn’t end without taking our hats off to Rufus, who didn’t just make major life changes based on staying car-free, he made sure the powers that be knew that their sprawl-happy ways were the pits. His old job was transit-accessible, with walkable amenities nearby. When the office moved further out to an office park deep in DC’s suburbs, Rufus had had enough. The move “was no big deal for the boss; her daily commute from West Virginia would be barely affected,” Rufus said. “But the non-drivers were out of luck.”

His transit commute, relying on an hourly shuttle bus from the metro, would become two to three hours. So he quit. “I made sure they knew why I was quitting,” Rufus said. “They offered me a promotion. I turned it down.”

Then everything started coming up roses for Rufus. He found a good job in the heart of downtown DC and moved to an apartment in the city that allowed him to walk to work. “With my office to the west, I can walk to work and home with the sun always at my back,” he said. Of course, being in the city, he has multiple options if he doesn’t feel like walking two miles one day. There’s the train, two bus routes, and Capital Bikeshare if he needs it.
Commuter Idyll Winner Jake Williams Tells His Dramatic Story of Salvation


By Tanya Snyder, May 10, 2013


Jake's girlfriend and her co-worker at Sam Schwartz Engineering were so excited that he won Streetsblog's "Commuter Idyll" challenge that they created this "infographic" of his commutes.

When we saw that Washington’s news-traffic-weather radio station, WTOP, was holding a ”Commuter Idle” contest for the worst commute in the DC area — and rewarding it with $1,000 in gas money — we couldn’t resist. We went looking for the best “Commuter Idyll” — the trips to work that made people happy, got them fresh air, helped them fit exercise into their day, gave them some extra time to sleep or read, and brought them to work more clear-headed and ready to tackle the day. And Streetsblog readers had lots of great stories to share of ditching long car commutes for transit, biking, or walking. We shared some of them yesterday.

Meanwhile, check out the painful stories of soul-sucking commutes of WTOP’s 10 finalists. Some are out of the house by 4:00 a.m., drive 80 miles each way, are stuck in their car for six hours a day. Imagine all the better ways they could use that time and money!

Our “Commuter Idyll” winner — Jake Williams of Chicago — had a hellish commute too. He made big changes to get control over his time, his health, and his happiness. Here’s Jake’s story.

Upon graduating from college at UCLA, I moved back home to Chicago to start my working career
as an engineer. I had commuted to internships before, one in Kenosha, WI and one in Melrose Park, IL, so I was already exposed and accustomed to the solo commute by automobile. I was looking for work anywhere in the metro area, and when I was offered a job in Lincolnshire, a suburb of Chicago 26 miles from my apartment, I was not fazed. Little did I know that the next four years would at times literally “drive” me crazy.
The guts of Jake's old ride.

The commute affected my whole life and actually made me dread going to and from work. I tried waking up early in the morning, and while it was nice seeing the sunrise, it was not a sustainable schedule. I worked longer hours, and although the morning commute was somewhat more tolerable, the commute home was about as awful. I tried breaking up the afternoon commute by heading straight to the gym and then going home. The result was that I was gone 14 hours a day and exhausted, constantly.

I would become angry and irritable. I needed a “cool-off” period when I got home. I stalked the roads religiously on traffic sites and on the various radio stations, but knowing never changed what was coming. I realized that the commute had completely conquered me when I left work one snowy winter day and got so frustrated with the stagnation on the road that I turned around and went back to work, for hours.

So, when times got rough and I was laid off from work, the strange, overwhelming feeling was of relief. Ironically, I was supposed to be laid off a day earlier, but I had to call off work because my car had broken down. I was disenchanted with my career choice and lifestyle choice, and I realized after a couple of months that I had the power to change all of that. I decided that I had one of many new goals: to walk to work.

After a lot of exploration and searching, I found THE job, and it was only three miles from my apartment in a nice, residential neighborhood of Chicago where I used to live. This was a commute that I could handle: 11 minutes door-to-door by car or 25-30 minutes by walking and bus. It was a start, but given that I still had a car, and there was not a direct bus or train route, I found myself driving more frequently than taking public transportation. It was only three miles, but I still dreaded it a little. It is as if there is a cumulative frustration when solo commuting by car that once amounted to a certain level, it takes only the slightest road block to conjure an awful irritability.
Jake's new ride.

I got a road bike to replace my old, beat-up mountain bike, which made riding into work much more enticing. This was one of the best decisions I could have made. The city all of a sudden shrank in scale. What was once a recreational pastime for me became my preferred mode of transportation. I replaced many of 4.5-mile car trips from the office to my girlfriend’s place with bike trips, and I did not lose any time! I was on the right path.

When my lease came to term last September, I only considered places within a mile radius of my workplace, and I landed a spot a half mile down the road. That first walk to and from work was a blissful experience. I could walk home for lunch; I could wake up minutes before my work day was slated to begin; and I could plan for anything after work without worrying about hour-long delays. I could focus on the important things in life, including work.

But there was a problem: I still owned a car.

As proof that the “convenience” of an automobile is addictive, I actually on occasion drove the half-mile to work. Insanity. It had to end. And so I sold it. For $300 — anything to get it off my hands. Goodbye insurance payments, city stickers, license plate renewals, snow removal, parking fees, gas pumping, and trips to the mechanic. Hello sanity.

My motivations for this change were of course not only to save time. I do something I love now, and even though I am earning less based on my career change from engineering to non-profit work, I can save money. It’s a healthier choice, both physically and mentally. It’s better for the environment, which as a member of the Chicago Conservation Corps, I am extremely conscious of. And it’s fun!

So, in summary, my commute was two to three horrible hours minimum each day by car; then, it was 11 tolerable minutes each way by car; then it was occasionally 15 minutes by bike; and now it is 12 glorious minutes each way by my own two feet (or three minutes by bike!). I drove enough miles to go around the world three times over and only went as far as Michigan, and now I walk, bike, train, or bus everywhere I can. When I do drive for work purposes, I use a local, non-profit car sharing service called I-GO.

To cap it off, my girlfriend and I are moving in together in June to a new apartment. She will continue to take the train or bike downtown for work, and I will continue to walk or bike, even a little less (0.4 miles!)

Congratulations, Jake — on moving in with your girlfriend (who is obviously extremely talented — see the illustration above!) and on winning Streetsblog’s first-ever “Commuter Idyll” contest! We’ll be sending Jake a complimentary copy of the anthology, “On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life,” which includes a chapter by Streetsblog Chicago Editor John Greenfield.

Wildly Futuristic Stop Sign of the Day: A Laser-Powered Water Curtain in Sydney



 Wildly Futuristic Stop Sign of the Day: A Laser-Powered Water Curtain in Sydney


 What we've got, when big trucks approach low overhangs, is a disaster just waiting to happen. See, for example, what happened here last year: a ton of trucks smashing into bridges and such things when their drivers don't read the height warning signs.




While these collisions make for great video material, they can also cause real damage and, at bottleneck points like tunnel entrances, hours of delays.
Engineers in Sydney came up with an awesome solution. If a truck going into this Sydney tunnel makes it past the warning signs, hanging weights, and flashing lights, traffic engineers deploy a laser-powered water curtain stop sign. It's a big investment, but the engineers say it's nothing compared to fixing the cost of a collapsed tunnel entrance. Plus, it looks downright futuristic.


38 Hopeful Educators Apply for the 2 Year At-Large PUSD Board of Education Seat Appointment


May 11, 2013

 The bizarre and unfortunate consequences of Measure A continue to pile up like cars on a stretch of fogged in prairie interstate. You can hear a quite steady crashing of wayward vehicles for miles.

This latest magilla has to do with the now vacated at-large seat of Kim Kenne. Kim decided she would instead run for a new sub-district seat, and then won. The result being that she has had to leave her old at-large seat with a full two years left to go on the term. And rather than putting that seat up for election like they do in actual western-style democracies, the Board of Education has instead decided that they will appoint someone to fill it for us. It's cheaper that way, or so they have said. And you know how they feel about us voting.

Yesterday was the deadline to apply, and 38 people filled out the necessary paperwork. A huge number of folks if you're asking me. You really have to wonder what the great appeal might be. There has got to be something better a person can do with a Tuesday evening.

Here is how James Figueroa of the Pasadena Star News tells it (link):

Thirty-eight people applied for the vacant position on the Pasadena school board, including all but one of the candidates who ran for a seat and lost in this year's election.

Among the applicants for the appointed position were Ruben Hueso, Guillermo Arce, Stella Murga, Luis C. Ayala and Dean Cooper, who unsuccessfully campaigned in four different voting districts before the March election. Hueso nearly won a seat and wound up in a runoff with Tyron Hampton before being defeated April 16.

Each are eligible for the vacant post, Seat 4, because it's an at-large position filling the remaining two years of Kim Kenne's old seat. Kenne won re-election in the newly established District 1, effectively switching seats.

Friday was the deadline to apply for the vacancy, and more than half the applicants filed on the final day. After the applicants' qualifications are verified, the six current board members plan to conduct interviews and choose a seventh member in early June.

Several of the other applicants have unsuccessfully run for office in the past: Cushon Bell, who opposed PUSD board member Renatta Cooper in 2011 as a write-in candidate; Allen Shay, who ran for Pasadena City Council in 2011; and German Barrero, who ran for the PUSD board in 2005.

From what I have heard all 38 of these hopeful applicants will get the opportunity to pitch their candidacies before the 6 remaining members of the Board of Ed. A process that could take quite some time given the anticipated verbosity of some of these folks. God grant the Board the strength.

Plus there is also the distinct possibility that the philosophically schismatic BOE will divide right down the middle on any of the candidates they actually choose to vote on, and after all of that it will be for nothing. LA County will step in and make the choice for them, rather than them making the choice for us.

This week the Board of Ed tried to pick a new President and failed miserably, and for just that very reason. They get along about as well as North and South Korea.

Some of the candidates are from underrepresented groups that have clamored for a voice on the board, specifically Latinos and Sierra Madre residents.

Four of those who ran in the election this year are Latino (Hueso, Arce, Murga and Ayala), and the list includes several Latinos who have been active in the community, including Barrero and Serafin Espinoza.

In Sierra Madre, Tony Brandenburg is a popular blogger and special education advocate, while Gretchen Vance is a Measure TT oversight committee member and part of a parent group pushing for the completion of Sierra Madre Middle School. Rahn also lives in the city.

The Armenian Community Coalition is represented by Roy Boulghourjian, who lives in District 2. Like Sierra Madre's District 6, no current board member is from that area.

So that is the big picture. But wait, there's more. Thanks to the hard work of dedicated Tattler Underground members we have been able to obtain the complete list of these 38 eager candidates. And being as generous with information as we can possibly be, here is that complete list.

Edward Jasnow: Pasadena - Subcontracts Manager, Caltech
Kiran K. Upadhyay: Pasadena - Electrical Design Engineer, TMAD
Gretchen Vance: Sierra Madre - Buyer, Forest Lawn
Geoffrey Commons: Pasadena - Pasadena Court
Diane T. Moore: Pasadena - Blair/PUSD, Retires next month
Angel O. Medina: Pasadena - Retired Parole Officer
Serafin Espinoza: Altadena - Retired
Anthony L. Brandenburg: Sierra Madre -Teacher, El Rancho Unified School District
Guillermo Arce: Pasadena - Human Services Administrator, LA County
JoEllyn McGrath: Sierra Madre - Administrative Assistant, PCC
Allen B. Shayasadena: Pasadena - Real Estate Broker
Stella Murga: Pasadena - Executive Director, Pasadena Youth Center
Lisa Lees: Pasadena - Security Specialist, Ferguson Enterprises
Hermond D. Cooper: Altadena - Information Technology
Laura C. Romero: Pasadena - President and CEO, Billante Strategies
German Barrero: Pasadena - Semi-retired, Consultant
Ioakim P. Boutakidis: Altadena - Professor, CSU Fullerton
Mikala L. Rahn: Sierra Madre - Executive Director, Public Works
Ruth S. Johnson: Pasadena - Educational Consultant
Roy Boulghourjian: Pasadena - Professor, Mt. Sierra College
Kristie M. Garner: Pasadena - Co-Owner American Maintenance Supply, AMSCO
Steven J. Cole: Pasadena - Environmental Consultant, URS Corporation
Patrick Cahalan: Pasadena - Systems Administrator, Caltech
J. Guadalupe Flores: Pasadena - Architect/Owner, Taller Dos Flores
Luis C. Ayala: Pasadena - Attorney/Educator, LAUSD
Cushon C. Bell: Altadena - Educational Consultant, Zero Chaos
Hannah H. MacLaren: Altadena - Educator, Los Angeles Coalition of Essential Schools
Clyde "Dale" Trader: Pasadena - Manager/Educator, Laid off 4/14/13
Ruben Huezo (sic): Pasadena - Teacher, LAUSD
Mark J. Perttula: Pasadena - Board Member Kern County Autism Center, PUSD
Michael Severa: Pasadena, Software Engineer
Joyce E. Foster: Pasadena - Retired, OBLA
George A. Brumder: Pasadena - Retired Lawyer
Tracey Chavira: Pasadena - Senior Advisor, Office LA Councilman Joe Buscaino
Carmen Vargas: Pasadena - Banker, Cabrera Capital Markets, LLC
Michael J. Trujillo: Pasadena - Investor/Agent
Johnson C. Kaleena: Pasadena - Lead Wraparound Facilitator, Hathaway-Sycamores
Corinna M. Wong: Pasadena - Attorney at Law

Go get 'em.