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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Official Press Release and Proclamation of the City of Alhambra Announcing Plans for 710 Day


 Peggy Drouet: I couldn't believe Mayor Placido's statistics that 20% of Los Angeles County's population lives in Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, San Marino, Monterey Park, El Sereno, San Garbiel, and Rosemead, so I looked it up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Gabriel_Valley. You would have to add about 37 additional San Gabriel Valley cities to come up with that 20% and most of those cities have a north/south freeway connection--either the 57 or the 605. I guess Mayor Placido and the city of Alhambra doesn't believe in facts, only in false talking points.

4.0 earthquake rattles L.A. coastal area


 By Kate Mather, May 15, 2013

Palos Verdes earthquake

A map showing the earthquake that hit near Palos Verdes. (USGS)

A 4.0 magnitude earthquake occurred about 1 p.m. Wednesday off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The quake was centered in the Pacific Ocean six miles south of Point Fermin.

No damage was immediately reported, but the earthquake was felt over a large swath of the coast, south to Huntington Beach and north to Playa del Rey, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy at the Lomita Station said units were checking the area’s “critical facilities” but said there were no immediate reports of damage.

A woman who answered the phone for the Ranchos Palos Verdes Public Works Department said there were no reported problems, but called the temblor “a real good jolt.”

(By my count, that is quake no. 4 in that general area in the last few weeks.)

Renatta Cooper Re-elected President of PUSD Board of Education


May 15, 2013



The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education voted to 4-2 to re-elect Renatta Cooper to a third term as its president at its regular board meeting on May 14, 2013.

“I am honored to be selected for a third year as this board’s president and look forward to working with my colleagues for the academic achievement of all children in the district,” said Cooper.   “I would also like to discuss the possibility of adding a president-elect to work collaboratively for our students.”

Since her election to the board in 2007, Cooper has focused on early childhood education, closing the achievement gap between groups of students, increasing the proficiency English language learners and a stronger engagement of parents and the community. An expert on early childhood education, Cooper formerly taught graduate-level child development programs at Pacific Oaks College and has been a member of the First 5 Los Angeles Board of Commissioners. She was first elected President of the PUSD Board of Education in 2011.

At its organizational meeting on May 6, the board elected Tyron Hampton as Vice President and Kim Kenne as Clerk. There is currently one vacancy on the board that will be filled by board appointment in June.

Real Study Found That LA is Best in the US For Car Commuting


 By Adrian Glick Kudler, May 15, 2013






Forget everything you've ever experienced or heard about: Los Angeles is the best place for car commuting in the US, according to a study by actual PhDs. The University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies analyzed 2010 data in what they say "is the first systematic comparison of trends in accessibility to jobs by car within the U.S." (Not like LA was going to top any lists in bike or train commuting, probably.) According to Crikey, "[Lead researcher] Professor Levinson counted the number of jobs that could be reached within a range of driving times by the average worker resident in the 51 largest US metropolitan areas [during the morning peak period] … He established an overall ranking of the 51 metro areas based on giving closer jobs a higher weight than more distant jobs."

And he found that "The average Angeleno can only reach 4.9% of metro jobs within 10 minutes driving time, but that very quick trip nevertheless provides access to a massive 237,203 jobs ... With a longer 30 minute commute, the average Angeleno can drive to a mind-boggling 2,458,111 jobs." (Unclear on how population figures into this, let alone education distribution and that kind of thing.)

The study reflects the also-counterintuitive finding that Los Angeles is incredibly dense: "workers can get to a large number of jobs within a reasonable time frame because both residential and employment densities are relatively high." And then of course there's the whole thing where the city was designed for easy car travel.


U-M launches new center to transform mobility


By David Lampe, May 15, 2013


U-M has established the Michigan Mobility Transformation Center as a partnership with government and industry to dramatically improve the safety, sustainability and accessibility of ways that people and goods move from place to place in our society.

"Rapid advances in such diverse areas as connected vehicle systems, driverless vehicles, shared vehicles and advanced propulsion systems have brought us to the cusp of a revolution that will transform mobility worldwide," said Stephen Forrest, vice president for research.

"The goal of the MTC is to draw on U-M's broad strengths in engineering, urban planning, energy technology, information technology, policy and social sciences to accelerate progress toward a working system that synthesizes these continuing advances."

According to Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute and director of the new center, emerging technological advances could bring substantial benefits to society.

"Integrating the most promising approaches to mobility into a coordinated system could reduce motor vehicle fatalities and injuries as well as energy consumption and carbon emissions by as much as a factor of 10," Sweatman said. "We also estimate that freight transportation costs could be cut by a factor of three, and the need for parking could go down by a factor of three."

A key focus of the MTC will be a "model deployment" that will allow researchers to test emerging concepts in connected and automated vehicles and vehicle systems in both off-road and on-road settings.

The model deployment will build in part on a $25 million study for the U.S. Department of Transportation now underway at UMTRI. Researchers there have outfitted nearly 3,000 private cars, trucks and buses in Ann Arbor with wireless devices to communicate information that can alert drivers in potential crash situations to each other as well as to similar devices located at intersections, curves, and freeway sites in the area.

Data gathered from this pilot project will be used to inform future policy decisions by the Transportation Department.

"This project has made the Ann Arbor community a unique, real-time, on-road test bed for exploring the potential of connected vehicles and vehicle systems," Sweatman said. "A number of industry participants are making use of this resource to explore the potential for their businesses as well."
Beyond the safety pilot, MTC draws on a strong base of existing research and relationships with industry at U-M.

"U-M has a long history of automotive research and collaborations with industry," said David Munson, dean of the College of Engineering. "MTC will help us take our commitment to a new level and allow us to work together to pave the way for the future."

Research conducted under the auspices of the MTC will not just focus on emerging technologies, Forrest said.

"Some of the biggest challenges we face are not technical," he said. "There are many social, political, regulatory and economic issues that must be addressed in order to realize the promise of technological advances. With our acknowledged strengths in these areas, and our culture of interdisciplinary cooperation, U-M is uniquely suited to address the full complexity of the challenges ahead."

Business Leaders for Michigan, the state's business roundtable composed of the most senior executives from the state's largest companies, has identified becoming a "global center for mobility" as one of the six strategies with the most potential to grow the economy.

"Advanced mobility solutions are of vital importance to society as well as an opportunity for the American economy, and Michigan is the logical place to lead this work," said Doug Rothwell, president of BLM. "With a greater concentration of automotive research, development, talent, supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure than anywhere else in the world, Michigan is the place that should be America's mobility center of excellence."

State government also has identified the importance of continuing innovation in this arena to the vitality of the industry and the health of the economy.

"Michigan has long been the global center of the automotive industry," said Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., a public-private partnership aimed at spurring economic growth. "This new center will help us build on our legacy to forge a new era of leadership and innovation."
Brown’s Budget Sends Cap and Trade Funds to Black Hole of General Fund


By Damien Newton, May 15, 2013

When California passed it’s land-mark Greenhouse Gas reduction laws in 2006, residents and businesses were assured that funds raised through the controversial “cap and trade” program would be invested in programs and projects that would further reduce emissions.
That promise is turning out to be a lot of hot air.

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year that includes the first round of funds collected under the cap and trade system. In the budget, Brown “loans” the half billion in funds collected to the general fund to be paid back at some point in the unspecified future.

“We disagree with the Governor’s proposal to transfer the $500 million in cap-and-trade auction revenues to the general fund and postpone needed investments in projects and programs that could achieve greenhouse gas reductions this year,” writes Stuart Cohen, the executive director of TransForm CA.

“While we appreciate the Governor’s interest in taking a prudent approach to ensure that the cap-and-trade revenues are spent in ways that best meet the program’s goals of maximizing greenhouse gas reductions there are existing and proposed transportation projects and programs that these revenues could be invested in to meet these goals and reap significant economic and public health benefits for all Californians, especially disadvantaged communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. “

Brown’s budget announcement comes on the heels of reports that carbon concentrations have crossed the 400 parts per million threshold widely recognized as a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused climate change. In recent months, environmental and transportation advocacy groups were arguing over how the cap and trade funds could be spent. Debates over questions on whether highway repair should be considered a project that reduces greenhouse gas emissions seem quaint when the state refuses to actually use the funds on climate change projects.

The 2013-2014 budget includes only the first phase of the cap and trade program. As it grows it will create billions of dollars in fees. Some of those fees will go to utility companies to offset rate hikes, but most will go into projects designed to reduce carbon emissions with the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Knowing the state’s history of raiding funds dedicated towards transit and other green projects to fill budget holes, Brown signed himself signed legislation in 2012 that was designed to stop yesterday’s budget trickery from happening.

“A decision delayed is an opportunity lost. We’re disappointed because we think that there was a real opportunity to put together an investment program that would have mattered,” said Denny Zane of Move LA,

The “cap” in “cap and trade” sets a limit on emissions, which is lowered over time to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere. The “trade” creates a market for carbon allowances, helping companies innovate in order to meet, or come in under, their allocated limit. The less they emit, the less they pay. Cap and trade theoretically  creates an economic incentive to pollute less.

Bike Sharing? Sure. The Racks? No Way.


By Matt Flegenheimer, May 14, 2013


 See the website for a video.

Bike share was easy for New York City to love in the abstract. It was not about adding bike lanes at the expense of something else; it was about sharing something that did not yet exist. 

 But with the program two weeks away, many New Yorkers have turned against bike share, and for one simple reason: They did not expect it to look like this.

In recent weeks, hundreds of stations have sprouted in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn — empty husks sprawled 30 or 50 spaces long on city sidewalks and streets, anticipating rows of bicycles that will soon protrude from the kiosk slots. The critics say the kiosks are a blight. They clash with the character of residential areas of the West Village or Fort Greene, Brooklyn. They are already magnets for pigeons, garbage bags and dogs in need of relief.

Lawsuits have been prepared. Kiosks have been defaced. At one community meeting, an inelegant analogy was drawn between the Bloomberg administration and the Taliban. “None of us are against bikes — most of us have bikes that we stow in our building,” said Lynn Ellsworth, 54, from TriBeCa. “But why they put these giant racks in these little streets is crazy to me.”

Many opponents knew that the rental bikes were coming — thousands of them, made available for public use — and they understood that the city would need somewhere to put them. But there was initially little uproar, nothing to match what greeted the expansion of bike lanes, a flash point of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s transportation legacy.

Indeed, a poll by The New York Times last year found broad support for cycling, with 66 percent of respondents calling bike lanes a good idea. Eleven percent of those polled said they were very likely to use bike share; 19 percent said they were somewhat likely.

Now, even some avid cyclists have found occasion to complain. At a recent community meeting on bike share in the West Village, Jane Browne, 42, who initially supported the program, said she had recently seen mice scurrying in the “corridors of trash and water” that formed between a nearby bike station and the curb.

Shelly Mossey, 58, from Battery Park City, has protested the planned removal of a widely used rack for private bikes near South End Avenue, calling it a pillar of the neighborhood. His son’s bike is on there, he said, and so are his peers’. Families mingle at the rack before retrieving their bikes and escorting their children to school. “Why do we have to lose that,” Mr. Mossey asked, “and give it up for the bigger picture?”

Other residents have rebelled against the program’s sponsor, Citibank, whose logo on bike kiosks prompted vandals in Fort Greene to post fliers at the stations. They read, in all capital letters, 
“Residential landmark blocks are not for advertising or commercial activity!”

The city’s Transportation Department said it had been warned of possible problems ahead by aides of Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, where a bike share program began in 2010. “They said you’ll be hated for six months,” Jon Orcutt, the department’s policy director, recalled, “and then you’ll be loved.”

Still, the Bloomberg administration had hoped to pre-empt some of the discontent. In a report timed weeks before the first Brooklyn stations were installed, the city said that community participation in the program’s planning had outstripped “any other public project undertaken anywhere.”

The city said it had discussed the bike share program at 159 public meetings, and conducted 230 more with elected officials, property owners and other stakeholders. Planners received more than 10,000 suggestions for station locations online. But city officials, advocates and adversaries alike now concede that no amount of forewarning could have prepared residents for the sight of the stations.

“People are attached to their streets,” said Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that has been among the program’s greatest cheerleaders. “When someone changes it, it’s like someone rearranging the furniture in our living room.”

Some neighborhood grievances have been predictable: complaints of lost parking and reckless riding, often from those who opposed cycling’s expansion in the city long before bike share. Resident groups that have threatened legal action against the city over station locations in Manhattan — including groups from an apartment building at 99 Bank Street in the West Village and from a luxury condominium on East 55th Street — are seen as unlikely to affect the program’s introduction. 

 Despite that, Mitchell Moss, the director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University, said the station debate provided a more vexing test for the city than the debate over bike lanes, in part because “a car is not as sympathetic as a resident.” 

“You don’t know where a bike stand is until you see it,” he said. “The problem is not that people weren’t informed. It’s the critical mass of the bike stands that has the impact.”
The bike share program, which is to begin Memorial Day, will initially include roughly 330 stations and 6,000 bikes. For a $95 annual membership, before tax, New Yorkers can rent bikes for as long as 45 minutes without an additional charge.

Mr. Orcutt said most of the more than 200 stations installed had so far been constructed without incident. “Washington had at least one fistfight at a community meeting,” he said. “We haven’t had that.” (An official with Washington’s Transportation Department said she did not recall any contentious community meetings or significant opposition to the program.)

Mr. Orcutt added that some neighborhood concerns — worries of restricted access to transit system stairwells, or of impediments to firefighters or sanitation workers trying to reach buildings efficiently — were largely unfounded. Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Sanitation Department officials said they had not flagged any troublesome station locations.

But Jim Long, a Fire Department spokesman, said that transportation officials had not “consulted with the Fire Department” as stations were installed, though he added that in many cases, there had been probably no need for the agencies to communicate because a location posed no risk to fire operations. (The Transportation Department said it had solicited input from the Fire Department before stations were placed, though it was unclear if or how that feedback had been used.)

But bike share advocates say the new additions will soon blend in with the scenery, appearing as native to the sidewalks as bus shelters or subway entrances. On Lafayette Street recently, where a 55-bike station has been assembled near Astor Place, a couple leaned on the kiosk as if it were a well-worn city bench, plotting their next move with their daughter waiting in her stroller. Nearby, on University Place, Alfred Haffenden, 71, sat between a bike station and his table of available consumer items — two Al Franken books, a baby-care advice book and VHS copies of “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Wuthering Heights.”

The stations would be a change, he said, but who would want to live in a New York that refused to try something new? “There’s not much you can do about that type, my friend,” he said, leaning toward the kiosk. “Some people can’t see. Some people just don’t want to see.”

Via Rail mulls checking passenger IDs after alleged bombing plot


May 13, 2013

 A Via Rail employee climbs aboard an F40 locomotive at the train station in Ottawa on Monday, December 3, 2012.

 A Via Rail employee climbs aboard an F40 locomotive at the train station in Ottawa on Monday, December 3, 2012.


OTTAWA — Via Rail says it is contemplating whether to ask all of its travellers for identification as it considers ways to buttress security in the wake of an alleged terrorist plot to derail one of its passenger trains.

It is not current routine practice for rail staff to ask passengers to show ID, Marc Beaulieu, Via’s regional general manager for eastern Canada, told the House of Commons public safety committee.

“We only check ID when necessary,” Beaulieu said Thursday. “In other words, (we check) if we have a doubt as to the transaction that is going on. We do not, as a rule, ask all of our customers for ID.”

But when asked by NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison if the identification check policy had been evaluated as part of Via Rail threat assessments, Beaulieu said it is one of the measures “being assessed.”

The public safety committee is studying the security of rail transport following the arrests last month of Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal. They face criminal charges in what the RCMP says was a terrorist plot guided by al-Qaida in Iran.

U.S. authorities said Thursday they had arrested a man in connection with the alleged scheme who recently crossed into the country from Canada.

In addition to Via Rail representatives, MPs quizzed members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, RCMP, Transport Canada and Public Safety.

Beaulieu said Via Rail had responded to at least eight to 10 security- or safety-related incidents this year. Those incidents ranged from protest blockades to collisions with vehicles, Via spokesman Jacques Gagnon later said.

Gagnon did not immediately have statistics on the number of suspicious packages or other such incidents at rail facilities in recent months.

He would not elaborate on the possibility of asking passengers for identification.

“We are constantly upgrading our services,” Gagnon said. “So in the context of what has happened recently, we are looking at this. But I cannot speculate as to what (we) will do.”

Canada tried, failed to deport VIA Rail terror suspect nine years ago


By Stewart Bell, April 25, 2013


 Accused Raed Jaser // Copies of the identity documents of Jaser's parents

  Accused Raed Jaser // Copies of the identity documents of Jaser's parents

  • Canadian immigration authorities tried to deport one of the Toronto VIA Rail terror suspects nine years ago but never did so because, as a stateless Palestinian, he could not be sent to any other country, documents first obtained by the National Post show..

 Raed Jaser was allegedly working illegally under several aliases when he was arrested in August, 2004, on an outstanding immigration warrant. Officials wanted to deport him because he had a string of criminal convictions but were ordered to set him free after two days.

The government’s failure to deport Mr. Jaser allegedly proved costly for Canada: He and co-accused Chiheb Esseghaier, an immigrant from Tunisia, were charged this week with plotting to derail a passenger train traveling from New York to Toronto.

Both remain in custody, while the FBI is holding a third man in New York. The Toronto suspects are charged with conspiracy to interfere with transportation and conspiracy to commit murder in association with a terrorist group. The RCMP said the plot was linked to al-Qaeda.

Mr. Jaser’s status as a “stateless person,” meaning one who is a citizen of no country, stems from the unusual circumstances of his parents. His mother was born in Saudi Arabia, while his father was born in what is now Israel. Both were Palestinians but neither had citizenship in any country. Mr. Jaser was born in Abu Dhabi but he never acquired United Arab Emirates citizenship.

“I am not a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, I can’t be,” he told the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2004, according to a transcript of the hearing. “I am a Palestinian by blood, that does not give me any rights whatsoever in my place of birth.”

After living in Germany for two years, where they complained they had been “terrorized” by anti-immigrant groups, the Jaser family used fake passports to fly to Toronto in 1993. Their refugee claims were rejected, but since they were stateless, in 1998 they were allowed to stay under the “deferred removal” program.


Report on Alhambra Press Conference
From Sylvia Plummer, May 15, 2013
Council woman Barbara Messina and Mayor Placido both spoke at the press conference.  Their basic message was there are only two choices, no build or a freeway tunnel.  There was no mention of the other alternatives on the table.  They never mentioned Tolls, or where the money would come from to build the tunnel.  Both painted a rosy picture for their community if the 710 tunnel is built.  Messina mentioned that South Pasadena continues to oppose the tunnel and looked straight at us.

The City of Alhambra has declared July(7) 10th as "710 Day".  Plans for that day to be announced at a later time.

In attendance from METRO was Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap.  She did not speak at the podium, but did interview with some of the press.

The media was there in numbers, many from the different Chinese press agencies (e.g. Chinese Biz News, channel 18).  They were very interested in what the opposing side had to say and interviewed and photographed many of us with our signs.  The media was also surprised to find that our group in attendance were from Alhambra(3), El Sereno, Highland Park, and Pasadena.  There was no one from South Pasadena.

Thanks to those that attended the Press Conference!

Here are a couple of newspaper reports:

Alhambra Announces Support for 710 Extension Amid Protesters:

Photos of Alhambra Press Conference taken by Pasadena Star News:

YouTube Video from METRO of Alhambra Mayor Placido speaking at Press Conference:

Retail import growth to slow this summer, trade group says 


By Ricardo Lopez, May 14, 2013


Retail imports

Retail import volume is expected to slow by the end of the summer, according to a monthly report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation. Above, a tugboat pulls a container ship into the Port of Long Beach.

Growth of import volume at the country’s seaports is expected to slow to a standstill by the end of the summer, according to a national retail group’s Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday.

Import volume for May is expected to grow 3.3% over the same month last year, but continued growth seems unlikely, according to the National Retail Federation.

The retail group’s monthly report said retailers are still cautious about overstocking their inventories even as the economy gradually improves.

“August and September are expected to be basically flat even though they’re supposed to be two of the busiest months of the years,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the retail group.

Quiz: How much do you know about China's economy?

The group added that though cargo import numbers are expected to be weak later this summer, it may not have an impact on retail sales or employment because the report only counts the number of containers – not the value of merchandise imported.

May’s container traffic is projected to rise to 1.42 million twenty-foot equivalent containers – a 3.3% increase over the same month last year. June and July import volumes are expected to rise 1.4% over the same period last year to about 1.4 million containers respectively.

Import growth for August and September, however, is expected to be flat, according to the report.
The first six months of 2013 are expected to total 7.8 million containers, up 2% from the first half of 2012.

Truck drivers sue over overtime, meal breaks

 The lawsuit alleges Harbor Express misclassified hundreds of truck drivers as independent contractors to avoid providing rest breaks and overtime pay.


By Ricardo Lopez, May 15, 2013


Brothers Jose I. Estrada, 58, left, and Jose A. Estrada, 48, are seeking class action status for their lawsuit against employer Harbor Express Inc.

Two truck drivers have sued one of Southern California's largest trucking companies, alleging they were denied breaks, lunch hours and overtime because they were treated as independent contractors rather than employees of Harbor Express Inc.

The lawsuit filed this week is one of several complaints lodged against trucking companies in recent years and is seeking class-action status.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said it could affect as many as 400 truck drivers who worked for the Wilmington-based company since May 2009.

The complaint alleges that Harbor Express, which serves the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, misclassified hundreds of truck drivers as independent contractors so the firm wouldn't have to provide worker benefits such as rest breaks and overtime pay.

The civil suit, filed Monday by brothers Jose I. Estrada, 58, and Jose A. Estrada, 48, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges truck drivers act as direct employees, driving company-owned trucks exclusively for Harbor Express.

"It looks like a traditional employment, but they slap the title of independent contractors on them," said Brian Kabateck, one of the lawyers who filed the case.

"If they were truly independent contractors, they would own the truck or lease it," Kabateck said.
They would also "have freedom to come and go and can take on other jobs and assignments. This is just a clever way to do a runaround of labor law."

Messages left for Andy Kim, president of Harbor Express, weren't returned Tuesday.

Harbor Express was founded in 1984 and lists 40 employees, according to public records. The firm reported annual sales of $3.6 million, according to business data provider Dun & Bradstreet Inc.

Trucking companies that serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have long relied on independent contractors to move goods. The twin seaport has about 10,000 registered trucks that move goods in and out of the ports, officials said. Industry experts estimate only about 10% of truck drivers are direct employees.

For the Estradas, being an independent contractor means small paychecks for long workdays — as little as $85 per load. Work is particularly grueling before the holiday shopping season when retailers are stocking shelves with new merchandise.

Truck drivers are paid per trip, no matter how long they take. Delays leaving the port aren't accounted for when they are paid, the younger Estrada said.

"They don't pay us a penny for the time we wait at the port," he said in Spanish. "I live paycheck to paycheck. I don't have a savings account."

He said it's hard to provide for his family as a contractor but said finding a company to directly hire him as a truck driver is nearly impossible. "All the trucking companies have the same system," he said.

Because they are classified as contractors, they aren't eligible for workers' compensation when they are injured. The older Estrada brother was left disabled after an accident and he's unsure whether he will ever be able to work again.

Critics say that the truck driver contractor model has given way to various wrongful labor practices.

California in 2008 began cracking down on trucking companies that misclassified employees as independent contractors. As attorney general, Jerry Brown filed at least five lawsuits against Southern California trucking companies that allegedly circumvented state labor laws.

In 2008, the twin seaports sought to reduce air pollution by trucks. They ordered that older trucks be phased out and others be retrofitted. At the Port of Los Angeles, one of the provisions of the clean truck program would have required trucking companies to directly hire drivers.

Trucking companies objected, filing a legal challenge. In 2011, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed some of the program's components but struck down the direct-employee provision of the mandate.

The case is now before the Supreme Court, which is expected to issue a decision this summer.
Long Beach City Council Unanimously Approves Lawsuit Against City of Los Angeles over Proposed SCIG Rail Yard 


By Brian Addison, May 15, 2013

In closed-session meeting yesterday evening, the Long Beach City Council unanimously voted 9-0 to pursue litigation against the City of Los Angeles for its recent approval of the BNSF-led Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) railyard.
The move was not shocking by any means.

Cheery graphics and videos have done little to quell Long Beach's strong opposition to the SCIG Railyard as presented. Click on the image to go to the "SCIG Overview" YouTube video.

The city had already previously filed an unanimous appeal (with Councilmember Suja Lowenthal absent) in accord with major community groups back in March against the Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners following their unanimous approval of the project. Citing an alarming amount of evidence that the FEIR was ultimately fabricated on many grounds, the city felt obligated to attack BNSF’s stance that the rail yard project ultimately benefits West Long Beach residents.

Mayor Bob Foster has been vitriolic in his outspokenness against the project, with one of his quotes–”It is very hard for me intellectually to accept that you value the life of a kid on this side of the city border more than you do a kid in my city”–finding itself  on every major newspaper in the country, even on the pages of the New York Times.

7th District Councilmember James Johnson  led the Long Beach charge against the project–he held his own public meeting after the Port of L.A. decided to not hold one in West Long Beach, the neighborhood which is vastly affected by the project. He was also the sole councilmember to speak during the Los Angeles City Council meeting when the project was formally up for final vote.

“Los Angeles has taken the wrong approach,” Johnson said when speaking with Streetsblog. “Long Beach has shown time and time again that green growth can bring jobs to our region while improving, not degrading, our neighborhoods.  I thank Mayor Foster for his leadership and my Council colleagues for standing with me to protect Long Beach families, including nearby veterans, students and children.”

The lawsuit is likely to be filed on behalf of the community groups who have also been outspokenly against the project, including the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, Legal Aid Foundation of L.A., Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, Natural Resources Defense Council, Long Beach Community Action Partnership, Coalition for Clean Air, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

BNSF representative Lena Kent was succinct in her response via email, which was what she told all other press verbatim: “We are disappointed by the City’s decision to litigate.  However, BNSF remains committed to working with Long Beach to create jobs, reduce traffic on the local highway and improve the environment for its residents. “

Los Angeles City Council members as well as the City Attorney of Long Beach have not responded yet for comment.

Long Beach to sue L.A. over port project 


By Karen Robes Meeks, May 14, 2013

Los Angeles will have a legal battle on its hands after approving a massive railyard project on Port of Los Angeles property that borders Long Beach neighborhoods.

The Long Beach City Council voted 9-0 in closed session before its meeting Tuesday to sue Los Angeles over the Southern California International Gateway railyard, or SCIG, the 153-acre facility planned in an industrial area near the 47 Freeway.

City officials have said that the $500 million project - which would allow trucks to load containers and put them on trains closer to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, rather than having trucks travel 24 miles away to the BNSF Hobart Yard - would worsen health and traffic issues already impacting West Long Beach and Wilmington neighborhoods.

"We are disappointed by the Cities decision to litigate," BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said in an email response. "However, BNSF remains committed to working with Long Beach to create jobs, reduce traffic on the local highway and improve the environment for its residents."
Los Angeles officials could not be immediately reached for comment late Tuesday.

The lawsuit by Long Beach and others seemed likely after the Los Angeles City Council last week rejected appeals by Long Beach and community groups to re-examine the project's environmental impact report.

"They've ignored the concerns of the residents and they've ignored those who have made suggestions on how to make the project better,"

said Long Beach City Councilman James Johnson, whose 7th District encompasses the neighborhoods affected by the project.
Last week, Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the Harbor Area, urged approval of the project.
"With a $500 million investment, this is a good project from both an environmental and economic point of view," Buscaino said. "This will be the cleanest rail yard ever built in this country and will mean a reduction in air pollution through better cargo handling and eliminating 1 million truck trips a year on the freeway. "

If built, the facility would be able to handle up to 2.8 million container units from the ports, including 570,800 units in 2016, the first year of operation, according to the port.

 Proponents such as the chambers of commerce in Los Angeles and Long Beach say the facility will create jobs.

Giving Teens the Option Not to Drive


By Sarah Goodyear, May 15, 2013


Giving Teens the Option Not to Drive

As we absorb the latest round of evidence that Millennials are leading the way in reducing vehicle miles traveled in the United States, a group of academics and advocates is meeting in New Zealand to discuss ways to reduce driving among teenagers on a global scale.

The Adolescent Mobility Health Consortium, holding its second annual symposium at the University of Otago in Dunedin, is a group of people from around the world who see teen driving as an urgent public health issue that needs to be addressed in order to save lives.

In New Zealand, as in many other countries, motor vehicle crashes remain the top cause of death and serious injury for people between the ages of 15 and 19. In the United States, it’s the same, although 40 percent of parents remain unaware of that reality.
AMHC members say the problem extends beyond the deaths and injuries, as horrifying as those are. Their website explains:
Although poorly documented, ‘non-traffic’ teen risks from car use include physical inactivity, obesity, alcohol and drug use, poorer grades, and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, ubiquitous driving places huge external costs on society in the forms of noise, pollution, congestion, sprawl, community severance, inequity, energy poverty, energy depletion, biosphere harm and climate change.
The researchers in the consortium see adolescents not only as uniquely vulnerable to the risks of driving, they're uniquely open to exploring alternative transportation options and forming lifetime habits that are less autocentric than those of previous generations. While teens are susceptible to marketing and peer pressure, they also often have a strong financial incentive to avoid car dependence:
They are at a stage when many make decisions about whether to learn to drive, how much and how far to drive, and whether to buy a car, not just whether to drive safely. Hence, they also have the stimulus at this important juncture to consider their choices, and “may be more receptive to new ideas and information.”
Graduated licenses have been helpful in reducing teen driving and fatalities where they have been implemented, but at this point research shows the benefits have plateaued. And so many AMHC members are looking to the model of “transportation demand management" or “mobility management.”

This strategy encourages people to use more efficient and beneficial travel modes (off-peak car trips, for instance, or using transit rather than a personal motor vehicle) through a holistic, integrated set of policies ranging from parking prices to transit improvements to traffic calming. This combined approach, according to its advocates, can shape the way people make travel choices over time. Having a bike-share system, for instance, combined with traffic-calmed streets, will make people more likely to bike rather than drive, thus reducing congestion and emissions. And the person gets some exercise, too.

According to the AMHC, this model could be particularly effective when solving the public health problem of teen driving. Kids need to be able to make fully informed choices and not be forced into driving simply because the society doesn’t offer alternatives or make them truly useful and accessible:
TDM is potentially more beneficial to adolescents than traditional road safety efforts aimed at making a costly, risky and unhealthy activity (driving) marginally safer. These efforts aim to promote the consideration and adoption of alternatives to the cultural and generational expectations of ubiquitous driving in private automobiles. It is about the freedom for youth to choose their mobility options with full knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks of each alternative.
At the symposium, one of the speakers will be a young New Zealand woman named Brittany Packer. A university student who served in 2009 as a member of the New Zealand Youth Delegation to COP15, the United Nations' 15th Climate Change Conference, Packer will be speaking on a theme important to many in her generation: "Active transport, youth, and climate change – preparing for our low carbon future." Packer and lots of her peers understand that young people need the freedom to make better transportation choices. It’s up to the rest of us to get with the program.