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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Clear freeways by getting rid of trucks


May 20, 2013

Clear freeways by losing the noxious 18-wheelers

Friday's editorial, "To help unclog freeways, ease HOV-lane rules," is about a misguided attempt. Assembly Bill 405 is a ruse. The biggest problem along the 210 Freeway corridor is trucks. Big 18-wheel trucks.

Before the conjunction of the 210 Freeway with the 15 Freeway in Rancho Cucamonga, the 210 freeway was freewheeling and easy, not the parking lot of today. There was a little crush in the morning commute, but it generally cleared up by 9 or 9:30 a.m., and then there was a small crush during the scurry home around 4:30 p.m.

Now, the 210 is a virtual parking lot most of the day.

Eighteen-wheeler trucks use this short cut and as result lanes 3, 4 and 5 are so packed that sometimes these road behemoths use lane 2 (illegally). When you're ready to exit the freeway it is a virtual pinball shot to exit. Sometimes, you have six trucks lined up so close you can't exit and have to settle for the next ramp.

Truckers' thinking is that it's easier for the cars to deal with it than for the truckers to be courteous to drivers and leave space between their convoys. On several occasions I've seen truckers driving as if their vehicle was a sports car, using the exit only lanes as a cheater lane to bypass traffic only to jump back at the last minute.

Did anyone tell them their vehicle was more than 60 feet long?

  Opening up the HOV lanes during the day will remove the incentive for car-pooling, and increase pollution through the promotion of single commuter use.

A true fix is to limit 18-wheeler truck uses on the 210.

Limit their use to evening hours when commuters, service crews, delivery vehicles and the like are gone.

This option gives truckers a clear freeway and prevents their illegal convoy, lane hopping and lane-passing usage. It prevents 18-wheel truckers from creating the huge traffic congestion we see during the morning, day and evenings. It prevents the diesel spewing during the slow crawl. With one single swipe, it will clear a huge amount of lanes for more morning and day commuters.

It won't prevent truckers from using the noxious Jake brake while in town, but we can't have it all. I guess.

- John Lane, Monrovia
Mayoral Candidate Wendy Greuel Opposes the 710 Freeway Extension

Posted May 20, 2013, on No 710 on Avenue 64 Facebook page

Jose Huizar has shared our concerns about the 710 Freeway with Mayoral candidate, Wendy Greuel who today released this statement opposing the 710 Freeway routes including the tunnel route under El Sereno. She joins mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti in opposing this project.

Reminder: why Election Day matters in Los Angeles if you care about transportation


By Steve Hymon, May 20, 2013



As you may have heard, there’s a runoff Tuesday in Los Angeles to elect the next mayor of the second-largest city in the nation — a city with about 3.8 million inhabitants and some well-known transportation challenges.

I ran the following post on March 4, the day before the primary election in Los Angeles. I’m running
it again today as a reminder to vote in tomorrow’s mayoral election between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel because whichever succeeds Antonio Villaraigosa will likely have a hand in many important transportation decisions, including project acceleration, the future of congestion pricing projects, the construction of five rail projects and possible changes in Metro’s fare structure in the future.

 Metro is a county agency and is overseen by a 13 member Board of Directors who serve as the deciders on most significant issues. The Mayor of Los Angeles gets a seat on that board and gets to fill three other seats with his appointees.

A majority of the Metro Board — i.e. seven votes — is required to approve most items. Four of those seven votes are controlled by the Los Angeles mayor. That means that the mayor controls more than half the votes needed to approve items that have impacts across Los Angeles County and the region.

Here are some items that are likely to confront the Metro Board in the next four or so years, meaning they’re items likely to confront the lucky soul (if luck is the right word) who becomes the next mayor of the City of Angels and/or Parking Lots:

•There is the not-so-tiny issue of whether to accelerate the building of Measure R projects and, if so, how best to pay for it and which transit and road projects are included. The next mayor may also choose to use their bully pulpit to persuade Congress to adopt the full America Fast Forward program, which would greatly expand funding for transportation projects.

•Although Metro CEO Art Leahy has already said there will be no changes to Metro’s fares in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, he also said it’s an issue that will likely have to be revisited sooner rather than later in order to help Metro keep up with its expenses.

If you’re one of the readers who has left countless comments on this blog calling for free transfers or some type of distance-based fares, then this might interest you.

•The next mayor will have key votes on the awarding of contracts to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector. Those contracts will total more than $3 billion going out the door.

•In addition, Metro will soon release its staff recommendation for a contract to build the $1.76-billion Crenshaw/LAX Line. A vote could happen as soon as June when Mayor Villaraigosa is still on the Metro Board. If the vote happens after July 1, then Garcetti or Greuel will be among the deciders of who gets the contract.

The big issue is whether any of the firms that bid on the contract can, as Metro has requested, build a Leimert Park station within the project’s existing budget. If not, the Metro Board will have to decide whether to build the project without the station or where money can be found to build it. In addition, there is the additional issue of whether the next mayor pushes to have the line moved from street level in Park Mesa Heights to underground and, if so, how to pay for it. Members of the local community are pushing for it.

•Speaking of LAX, how exactly will it connect to Metro Rail and the Crenshaw/LAX Line? By light rail? Bus rapid transit? People mover? And how will the Airport Metro Connector be funded, given the cost is likely to be more than the $200 million allocated by Measure R to the project?

•By 2015, there could be five Metro Rail projects under construction or in the testing phase simultaneously — the Expo Line Phase 2, the Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Regional Connector and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway.
The Metro Board will have to deal with any significant issues that arise or are ongoing, such as the four lawsuits brought against the subway project by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Metro has previously only had two rail projects underway at the same time — when the building of the Eastside Gold Line and the Expo Line overlapped.

The ExpressLanes one-year pilot program is well underway, now that the lanes are open on both the 10 and 110 freeways. When the pilot program is done next year, the Metro Board will get to decide what to do next with the congestion pricing experiment — continue it, change it or scrap it.

•The Board will also have to decide whether to go forward with a public-private partnership to go forward with a project that would add a congestion pricing lane in each direction of the 5 freeway through the Santa Clarita Valley. Tolls from single motorists and vehicles with two occupants in peak periods would be used to re-pay a private firm that would advance the money to accelerate the project so that it’s complete this decade.

•Speaking of PPPs, Metro is also exploring using one to accelerate the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project — a project that would greatly expand transit between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. What kind of project and whether it should be PPP — two big decisions that will likely land in the lap of the Metro Board in the next few years.

The SR-710 Study. The environmental study for this project is scheduled to be completed in a couple of years and then the Metro Board will have to decide which alternative to pursue: the no-build option, traffic signal and intersection improvements, light rail, bus rapid transit (both light rail and BRT would run between East L.A. and Pasadena) or…a freeway tunnel.

The future of Union Station. The current schedule has the Board voting next year on a master plan concept to pursue to make the station more user-friendly and expand it to accommodate high-speed rail in the future.

•And, finally, the mayor gets to nominate a general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which operates the DASH bus service and also controls the traffic signals on roads used by many Metro buses and trains. LADOT is also in charge of the city’s bike program that is creating links to existing and future transit stations.

You don’t need me to tell you these are big and important issues that will impact mobility in the region, not to mention the area’s economy and overall livability. If these issues impact you — and really, they impact everybody — then please vote tomorrow if you’re a city of Los Angeles resident and have not already cast a ballot by mail.

RELATED: Here’s an L.A. Times survey from March of Garcetti’s and Greuel’s views (and the other leading candidates at the time) on particular transportation issues.

Making transportation GOOD again


By Anna Chen, May 20, 2013


Does trying to get around L.A. send your stress level through the roof? Take a deep breath and head over to Hub LA next Thursday, May 30 for some creative solutions that might make transit more enjoyable for you. The event is hosted by GOOD and is open to all.

The gathering starts at 6:45 p.m. with an ice cream social. Then there will be a screening of How’s My Driving, followed by a group discussion that will last until 9 p.m.

Getting to Hub LA is easy: walk over from the Gold Line Little Tokyo/Arts District Station or give bicycle riding a chance. Hub LA is located at 830 Traction Ave. #3a.

New UCLA study finds Gold Line and Orange Line produce less smog and fewer greenhouse gases in both near- and far-term


By Steve Hymon, May 20, 2013





One of the arguments frequently made for building more mass transit — in particular rail projects — is that it will help reduce pollution and, as a byproduct, greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change. The above chart comes from a Federal Transit Administration report updated in 2010 that considers the impacts of cars versus transit. Although in some circles this remains a disputed issue (mostly by critics of rail transit), the FTA finds transit is the clear winner.

Comparing the emissions of cars versus transit is not always a clear-cut issue because of the number of variables involved. Which brings us to a new study by several UCLA researchers that drills down deeper on the subject by comparing the Orange Line, Gold Line and average automobile in Southern California. The study was published in Environmental Research Letters and is posted below.

The study found that in both the near term and long-term, the Orange Line and the Gold Line produced less smog and greenhouse gases than the average auto driven in L.A. County. In addition, the Orange Line and Gold Line used less overall energy than cars and will create less particulate matter than cars in the long-term, although the Gold Line currently produces about the same as cars, due mostly to its electricity coming from coal-fired power plants used by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Four key points from the new study:

•Both cars and transit are expected to get cleaner over time as fuel mileage increases for cars and transit relies on cleaner energy sources, i.e. solar, wind, thermal and natural gas.

•Construction remains a big challenge for transit projects because things such as pouring concrete and the use of heavy equipment tends to result in high emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollution — and it can take years, if not decades, for transit to make up for the big cost in terms of greenhouse gases made up front.

•Transit vehicles spend far less  of their time parked than cars, which spend 95 percent of the time sitting around. That means that the energy and emissions needed to manufacture, transport, and park transit vehicles are spread over a lot more passenger miles and hours of operation.

•Transit needs to shift 20 percent to 30 percent of its riders from cars to transit order to have less impacts than cars and, as the study says, “the larger the shift, the quicker the payback” when it comes to meeting environmental goals.
Getting people out of their cars onto trains is crucial to improve efficiency of transit. Photo of Expo Line by Steve Hymon/Metro.
Getting people out of their cars onto trains is crucial to improve efficiency of transit. Photo of Expo Line by Steve Hymon/Metro.

I think that last point is crucial for policymakers. To put it another way: if transit agencies and politicians want transit projects that truly improve air quality and such, they have to build projects that will appeal to motorists and pry them out of their cars.

It’s always difficult to compete with the door-to-door convenience of the automobile, but I think it’s do-able but it means building projects that stop where people want to go, making it easy to get to and from stations by car, foot or bike and either designing projects that are fast and/or operate frequently enough to reduce the time-munch that is standing around and waiting at a station.

One other point: earlier this month, it was reported that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
probably haven’t been this high in the past three million years. Carbon dioxide is a primary greenhouse gas and it’s a byproduct of burning fossil fuels for things such as transportation, heating, construction etcetera. Seems to me that transit agencies across the world — many of which shun being political — could market transit as a way to help people perhaps make a difference when it comes to climate change.

Sermon over. The study is below. Kudos to Mikhail Chester, Stephanie Pincetl, Zoe Elizabeth, William Eisenstein and Juan Matute for putting this together. Finally, Metro issues an annual sustainability report that details its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases used by the agency’s transit vehicles and facilities. In fact, Metro cut its greenhouse gas emissions five percent between 2007 and 2011, the last year numbers are publicly available.

SanBag reaffirms support for extending Gold Line to Montclair


By Liset Marquez, May 20, 2013

MONTCLAIR - The debate over whether or not San Bernardino Associated Governments is in support of the Gold Line extension to this city was put to rest when its director personally addressed the council Monday night.
Raymond Wolfe, executive director of the transportation agency, assured the city council that he and his staff will support any efforts that will help bring the the light rail project the necessary 3,000 feet beyond the Los Angeles County Line to Montclair.

When completed, the Gold Line would run from LA to Montclair. Right now, it ends in east Pasadena with the next construction phase under way to Azusa. The next portion would take the route to Claremont and Montclair.

But Wolfe warned the council the challenges to push east past the LA County line won't come from his agency.

"The primary competition for funding for Gold Line isn't in this county," he said. "When the Gold Line is actually funded east of Azusa our board will make the decision to figure out how to fund that last stretch to get it to Montclair."

The politics in LA have been, as Wolfe described as "very heady." Last year, when transportation proponents were trying to gain support for Measure J - which would have extended the county's transportation tax - there was a lot of debate over what projects would get the funds.

At that time the CEO of Metro made it clear it could be decades before funding to push the Gold Line east of the Azusa station would be allocated, Wolfe explained to the council.

"At this point it doesn't make sense for us to spend the limited amount of money that we have on studies for a project that may be decades in the future," he said.

His presentation comes two weeks after several of the council members, including Bill Ruh, expressed their frustration with the agency over their concerns that SanBag was reluctant to back the rail project as well as the necessary steps to provide the $55 million needed for the extension.

Ruh went as far as to say the agency is instead focusing its attention on building "Lexus lanes" car pool or express lanes along the 10 Freeway rather than helping obtain the necessary funding for the rail project. Ruh was not present at Monday's meeting.

During his brief presentation to the council, Wolfe told the board that some of the funding for the project would come from Measure I, a San Bernardino County sales tax measure for transportation improvement projects.

When the measure was taken to the voters in 2004 it specifically outlined the transportation projects that it would fund, setting aside 8 percent of the funds for rail projects, Wolfe said.

But the Gold Line extension is not the only project eligible to receive the 8 percent of the annual revenues set aside for rail projects, Wolfe said.

The eligible expenditures in the rail program include purchasing new rail stock, new locomotives for existing Metrolink service, adding parking lots as well as an extension to the Redlands rail line.

SanBag receives about $8 million to $9 million annually through revenues collected from the measure, he added.

"I want to make it really clear that I do support the Gold Line extending across the county line to Montclair Transit Center," he said.

Following the presentation Councilman John Dutrey, who was among the council members to raise their concerns with SanBag, thanked Wolfe for his leadership.

"We just wanted to have an understanding that SanBag is truly interested in this project," Dutrey said. "I understand in this process I can see there is strong commitment. This project is all about money and I realize LA County is a major factor in the Gold Line extension to Montclair."

LA Mayoral Election 2013, Tuesday, May 21: Ballot Measures & Eric Garcetti vs. Wendy Greuel 


By Kathleen Miles, May 20, 2013


LA voters will choose the next mayor of Los Angeles Tuesday. They will also vote on three measures seeking to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and on a measure to support overturning the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling.

In what has become a contentious and expensive race, Councilman Eric Garcetti leads Controller Wendy Greuel by seven points, according to a USC/LA Times poll conducted May 14-16. Most polls found Garcetti in the lead but one conducted April 29 to May 7 by Cal State LA found a virtual tie, with 46 percent for Greuel and 45 percent for Garcetti.

Read HuffPost LA's interviews with Garcetti and Greuel about everything from marijuana to condoms to Walmart. And check out five main differences between the two candidates.

The LA Times and La Opinion endorsed Garcetti; the Daily News endorsed Greuel.
Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Click on the following links to check your 
registration status, find your polling place and see a sample ballot.

See below for a primer on each candidate race and measure on the ballot. Check huffpostla.com for breaking updates as election results come out, beginning at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Current City Attorney Carmen Trutanich faces Assemblymember Mike Feuer in a close race for city attorney. Feuer has criticized Trutanich's track record, and Trutanich has claimed that Feuer does not have enough courtroom experience. Feuer leads Trutanich by an 11-point margin (35 to 24 percent), according to the Cal State LA poll.

The leading candidate is Councilman Dennis Zine, who has represented a district in the San Fernando Valley for 12 years. He has the backing of several large labor unions, several council colleagues and Villaraigosa. Zine's opponents have accused him of "double dipping" with a $100,000 annual pension for his 33 years with the LAPD and a nearly $180,000 council salary. He has responded by saying that he gives a large portion of his police pension to charities.

Opposing candidate Ron Galperin, a lawyer, has served on the LA Comission on Revenue Efficiency and the LA Quality and Productivity Commission. He is endorsed by the LA Times, Daily News and La Opinion. Zine leads Galperin by 15 points (33 to 18 percent), according to the Cal State LA poll.

In the May primary race, school board member David Vela received 35 percent of the vote and community college trustee Nancy Pearlman received 29 percent in their race for the community college board. Pearlman is endorsed by the LA Times; Vela is endorsed by American Federation of Teachers. Click here to see their answers to questions about their priorities and experience.

Councilman Ed Reyes's chief of staff Jose Gardea is competing for the east LA City Council seat with State Senator Gil Cedillo. The LA Times has endorsed Gardea, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has endorsed Cedillo.

Proposition C is a ballot measure urging Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which says that restriction of political spending by corporations or labor unions violates free speech.

The ballot measure states that there should be limits on political campaign spending and that "corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings." It instructs "Los Angeles elected officials and area legislative representatives to promote that policy through amendments to the United States Constitution."

The campaign for the proposition is being led by political watchdog Common Cause, in partnership with the California Public Interest Research Group and the Money Out/Voters In Coalition.

Common Cause began a campaign in November to get cities and states to pass ballot measures instructing Congress to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. So far, Montana, Colorado and more than 175 cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, and more than half the cities in Massachusetts, have passed such measures by a popular vote.

The LA proposition has been endorsed by both mayoral candidates, Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel; by the LA Coalition of Neighborhood Councils; and by dozens of organizations and elected officials. It received a "yes" endorsement from the LA Daily News and La Opinion.


Measures D, E, and F all seek to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

Proposition D would allow about 135 dispensaries to remain open and would force closure of the others. It is supported by both mayoral candidates, both city attorney candidates and the LA Times.
In addition to limiting the number of dispensaries, the LA Times reports, Prop D would:

1) increase the gross receipts tax on their operations to $60 per $1,000 of gross receipts
2) set operation hour limits (must be closed between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.)
3) prohibit the consumption of marijuana on the premises
4) require background checks on managers
Measure F has some strong rules and protections regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, but sets no limits on the number of dispensaries allowed to remain open.
Measure E became moot after its supporters agreed to throw their support to Measure D, according to the Times.

21 Things People Always Ask When You’re From California

Which famous people have you met?

By Ashley Perez, May 20, 2013

1. Do you go to the beach all the time?

Do you go to the beach all the time?

2. Can you surf?

21 Things People Always Ask When You're From California

3. Aren’t you afraid of SHARKS?

Aren't you afraid of SHARKS?

4. Is this what your life is like?

5. Do you have a pool in your backyard?

Do you have a pool in your backyard?

6. Why are you so pale? Don’t you tan ALL THE TIME?

Why are you so pale? Don't you tan ALL THE TIME?

7. Do you live near Disneyland?

Do you live near Disneyland?

8. Have you ever seen a movie star?

21 Things People Always Ask When You're From California

9. Have you been to a TV show taping before?

Have you been to a TV show taping before?

10. What’s it like to be in an earthquake?

What's it like to be in an earthquake?
Source: i.imgur.com

11. Have you ever been in a wildfire? Was it scary?

Have you ever been in a wildfire? Was it scary?

12. Is traffic really that bad?

Is traffic really that bad?

13. Why do you call it THE 405 and not I-405?

Why do you call it THE 405 and not I-405?
Source: aaroads.com

14. Have you ever been to Laguna Beach?

Have you ever been to Laguna Beach?

15. What about the O.C.?

What about the O.C.?
Source: thewb.com

16. What’s the difference between NorCal and SoCal?

What's the difference between NorCal and SoCal?

17. Have you been to the Full House houses?

Have you been to the Full House houses?

18. What is Compton like?

What is Compton like?

19. Have you done a juice cleanse before?

Have you done a juice cleanse before?
Source: refinery29.com

20. Do you have a medical marijuana card? Can I use it?

Do you have a medical marijuana card? Can I use it?

21. And finally the one question we loved to be asked: Do you eat Mexican food, like, all day long?

And finally the one question we loved to be asked: Do you eat Mexican food, like, all day long?

'The Californians': SNL Skit Parodies Our Obsession With Side Streets & Beating Traffic (VIDEO) 


April 15, 2012 (A year old but still valid.)


 Saturday Night Live comedians put on their bleach blonde wigs and slathered on the self-tanning lotion for Saturday's daytime soap skit "The Californians," and we're not embarrassed to admit that the piece had us chuckling self-consciously.

Of course, not all Angelenos sound as if they had just come from a jaw-numbing session at the dentist, but we will admit to boasting about our genius side-street route and using Zankou Chicken restaurants as landmarks.

We'll also cop to to buying fruit from vendors on the roadside, making our own sun-dried tomatoes and showing off a secret guacamole recipe.

And, like all Angelenos, we absolutely loathe driving beyond our comfort zone, which means the Valley and the OC may as well be the ends of the earth. Host Josh Brolin as Dr. Greg said it best: "I tried to go through to Westwood, but my GPS put me on Beverly Glen and I didn't want to end up in ENCINO!"
Grapes of wrath: 210 Freeway woes to continue until 10 a.m. (Updated now to 3 p.m. on westbound lanes)


 By Joseph Serna, May 20, 2013

A Sig Alert on the 210 Freeway was extended until 10 a.m. Monday after a big rig carrying 35,000 pounds of grapes crashed across the center divider in Monrovia.

Talk about a sticky situation.

The wreck, which blocked two eastbound lanes and three westbound lanes near Myrtle Avenue, proved anything but fruitful for commuters looking for an easy drive to begin the work week.

 The traffic jam spread for miles in both directions, with westbound traffic virtually at a standstill as far back as the 605 Freeway, giving drivers plenty to "whine" about.

There were no reported injuries.
Fight for the Soul of the Cities

Posted May 20, 2013, on the No on Measure J Facebook page


Tell President Obama: We Won the 1964 Civil Rights Act…It’s Your Job to Enforce it!

Fight for the Soul of the Cities

It’s time for President Obama and his Administrative Heads to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Click here to email President Obama, asking him to:
  1. Enforce the 1964 Civil Right Act by withholding federal funds from government agencies that practice racial discrimination.
  2. In a major test case, withhold funds from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority until it restores 1 million hours of bus service and until he does a full investigation of MTA racial discrimination who’s bus riders are 80 Black and Latino
  3. Introduce a new Civil Rights Act with strong Title VI language that will restore the right of groups and individuals to bring civil rights suits in federal court.

President Obama: Enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act Now!

What’s Going On? Time to Take a Stand!
President Obama: Enforce, Restore, Expand our Civil Rights!
Write to President Obama, Celia Muñoz (Director of the Domestic Policy Council), Peter Rogoff (Federal Transit Administrator), and Eric Holder (Attorney General). Your one email goes to all four.
In 1964, the Civil Rights Movement Passed the Civil Rights Act. Title VI of that act, said that “government cannot use funds in a racially discriminatory manner” and if  a public agency does discriminate, all federal funding can be cut off. But president Obama has refused to enforce it.
  1. President Obama must use his executive power to call for a national civil rights investigation of every school board, police department, prison system, transportation system, and every other agency receiving federal funds throughout the nation. He must announce that he will withhold funds from any agency found guilty. He should also call on the public to submit Title VI charges to the appropriate federal agencies—Justice Department, Department of Transportation, Department of Education in instances of racist public policy involving federal funds.

  2. President Obama Must Stop Transit Racism in Los Angeles. In a high visibility case of glaring racial discrimination, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), led by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has violated the civil rights of 500,000 bus riders--20 percent Black, 55 percent Latino. They cut 1 million hours of bus service and raised monthly bus passes to $72 while squandering public funds on multi-billion dollar rail projects that benefit private rail developers and contractors. The Bus Riders Union and Public Advocates brought a civil rights suit under Title VI to the Federal Transit Administration asking the FTA to restore the service. The FTA accepted the complaint, did a full investigation, indicated they would act decisively, and then backed down—whitewashing the MTA’s violations and protecting another Democratic mayor. We are calling on President Obama to enforce Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to over-rule the FTA decision, to restore 1 million hours of bus service, and do a full, independent investigation of the MTA’s systematic civil rights abuses.

  3. The Obama Administration must introduce a new Civil Rights Act with strong Title VI language to overturn the “Sandoval” case and restore the right of civil rights groups to bring civil rights suits in federal court and to give the federal courts authority to withhold funds from government agencies that allocate funds or services in a racially discriminatory manner. In 2001, in a 5 to 4 decision, the Scalia Supreme Court majority “ruled” in the case of Sandoval v. Alabama, that “private parties” that is, individuals, civil rights groups, did not have the right to bring civil rights cases to the federal courts—even though they had been doing so for 37 years.
We are asking you to stand with us and urge the President and his administration heads to action. It will take nationwide grassroots struggles to create a movement strong enough to restore and enforce our civil rights. Read the details of the Fight for the Soul of the Cities campaign here (include nation article link) and join the fight!

Subject: President Obama: Enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act Now!

President Barack Obama

Phone:(202) 456-1111
Fax:(202) 456-2461

Peter Rogoff

Federal Transit Administration


Cecilia Muñoz

Director of Domestic Policy Council

Eric Holder

Attorney General
Obama’s Budget Would Save the Transpo Trust Fund. If Only It Were Real.


By Tanya Snyder, May 20, 2013

 The CBO's projection of the HTF transit account's tumble into insolvency, from February 2013.

President Obama’s transportation budget proposal can give you a contact high if you stand too close. The prospect of budget surpluses — in the near-term, at least — is intoxicating. And the source of those surpluses — from Overseas Contingency Operations — is a hallucination.

The Congressional Budget Office, in its invaluable “just-the-facts” way, released its analysis Friday of the implications of the president’s budget proposal for transportation [PDF]. The long and the short of it is this:
  • The fund gets a long-awaited name change to Transportation Trust Fund.
  • Instead of falling into insolvency in fiscal year 2015, the highway account would go broke in 2021. The transit account stays solvent under Obama’s proposal through at least 2023 — the last year the CBO contemplates.
  • A rail account is added to the trust fund for the first time, bringing Amtrak into the fold of the surface transportation program.
The president’s budget actually spends less over the next two years on highways (but not transit) than MAP-21 envisions [PDF], because under his proposal, there would a separate, tremendous infusion of supplemental funds from his fix-it-first initiative, paid for by the general fund. But starting in 2016, the president would spend more — eventually, far more — than the MAP-21 budget allows for.
Under the president’s proposal, both highway and transit spending would decline after 2021, when the surplus money runs out.

And where does all that money come from? The CBO calls it an “intergovernmental transfer” to highlight the fact that it’s not traditional Highway Trust Fund revenue. Obama plans to pay for transportation with “savings” from the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just about every expert we talk to agrees these savings are fictitious: The nation was always spending money it didn’t have on the wars. There is no account stuffed with cash just waiting to be spent on track upgrades and potholes now that it’s not being spent on armored tanks. Essentially, the president’s budget spends borrowed general fund money.

So, instead of finding a real and sustainable source of revenue for an ambitious budget proposal, the president seeks to puff up the trust fund with a frontloaded infusion of general fund cash over the first couple of years and then spend down this “reserve” until 2021.

The president’s hat tricks are a somewhat rational response to the unsavory choices that Washington is faced with right now. According to CBO analyst Sarah Puro, lawmakers can address the transportation funding shortfall by either cutting spending, boosting revenues, or both. “Bringing the trust fund into balance in 2015 would require cutting the authority to obligate funds in that year from about $51 billion projected under current law to about $4 billion, raising the taxes on motor fuels by about 10 cents per gallon, or undertaking some combination of those options,” Puro said.

Under the current scenario, the repercussions of the failure to find a sustainable funding solution will be felt even before the fund goes broke in FY 2015. The highway account would end FY 2014 with $4 billion in the bank and the transit account with $2 billion – “exactly the balance levels where both FHWA and FTA are required to slow down outlays and inform state and cities to slow down their project expenditures — meaning lay-offs and headwinds for the economy,” according to David Burwell of the Carnegie Endowment.

Mayor Villraigosa Committed to Funding for Leimert Park Station-Stop 


By Kenneth Miller, May 17, 2013





Recently during a televised interview, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made public for the first time his firm commitment to secure funding for Crenshaw-LAX light rail Leimert Park Village Station Stop.

On May 14 the Sentinel obtained an exclusive statement from Mayor Villraigosa that reaffirmed his commitment.

"I am strongly committed to a station at Leimert Park, and my office has worked closely with the City Council to identify $40 million to contribute towards the building of that station.  I look forward to working in partnership with the MTA Board of Directors to make the Leimert Park station a reality."

 A much anticipated vote on whether to build a train station that would stop in Leimert Park Village as part of the  $1.7 billion Crenshaw-LAX light rail project is scheduled before the Metro board at a soon to be determined date, but now Mayor Villaraigosa and Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, a long time advocate of the station, have joined forces on the issue providing a unified front that can only result in a bright future for Leimert Park and the Crenshaw line.

“I have always been committed making sure that Leimert Park had a station and stop, but now I am proud to admit publicly and remove all doubt about my goals all along,” said Villaraigosa.

The Mayor’s public comments came on of heels of years of doubt and prodding from local, state and federal officials who fought to secure a Leimert Park Station.

The Leimert Park Station will be an economic boon for businesses in Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Vista, View Park and other African American communities.

The region consists of 11,782 residents and 79.6 percent of them are Black, making the region the heart and soul of African American culture and caretaker of its heritage.

Privately, Villaraigosa has been steadfastly committed to the project but as the final days of his two-term tenure melts away, he felt it was necessary to inform the public and quiet his critics on the subject.

Two years ago, despite overwhelming support for a station from a broad coalition of business owners, neighborhood groups, the church community and residents, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted to build one only if it could fit within the existing $1.7 billion-budget allocated for the project, leaving the station’s future in question. 

The bids for the Crenshaw-to-LAX line are in and have been reviewed and the Metro staff has already made a recommendation to the MTA board on which bid to accept – a non-binding, but early “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” for the station.

The recommendation, which will be carefully watched by residents, transportation advocates and elected officials throughout the county, will precede a vote by the full Metro board May 23.

Any decision not to include a station in Leimert Park will be widely criticized by many, including every elected official representing the Crenshaw community – City Council members and members of the state legislature and of the U.S. Congress – who all joined in an unprecedented show of unity to call for the stop in Leimert Park Village.

It will also deeply disappoint hundreds of residents who packed the Metro Board hearing room calling for a stop in what is the heart of the African-American community and increasingly, an important residential and business center for Latinos.

Pre-construction work began last year for the Crenshaw Line light rail that will connect the Green Line to the Expo Line in 2018 (and maybe LAX at some point). However, without a stop in historic Leimert Park, it may be a project not worth having, but the mayor whom Blacks elected to city hall twice has made it a final priority.

Ontario, San Bernardino County set to sue LAWA


By Liset Marquez, May 17, 2013

ONTARIO -- Attorneys representing several cities and San Bernardino County opposed to a plan to modernize Los Angeles International Airport say they are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the agency that oversees LAX.
Los Angeles World Airports did not respond to multiple requests for mediation on its environmental plan for the airport, which was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in late April.

Los Angeles had five days to either respond or deny the request. Ontario and San Bernardino County officials never received a response.

"It's been effectively rejected," said environmental attorney Barbara Lichman, who filed a joint request for mediation for Ontario, Inglewood, Culver City and San Bernardino County on May 7.

Lichman said Ontario has until May 31 to file the suit.

The Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, a Westchester-based group long opposed to the plan, and the first to seek legal intervention against LAWA, also never received a response, said Douglas Carstens, an attorney for the alliance.

"We're now in the process of filing a lawsuit - that's the only thing left to do," he said.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents contract workers at LAX, has taken similar action.

Given the amount of lawsuits that could be filed, Carstens said the courts could combine them. For now, attorneys will most likely file the suits separately.

The various legal objections to the plan could weigh in the favor of the litigants, Lichman said.
"The more people that raise issues, the stronger the case becomes and more issues will be raised," she said.

Inglewood, Culver City and the alliance were involved in a 2006 settlement in which LAWA said it would redistribute air traffic around the region to avoid a lawsuit. The two cities were represented by Lichman.

The two cities and the regional alliance were concerned about traffic, noise and air-quality effects that could result from modernizing LAX.

This time around, Ontario and San Bernardino County joined Culver City and Inglewood, raising similar concerns about the environmental plan for modernizing LAX. The 15-page document containing their comments was filed in March.

"The document speaks for itself," Lichman said.

The environmental plan "has some very serious failures of analysis," she added.

Ontario could be on the brink of filing a separate lawsuit against LAWA. Inland Empire officials have yet to hear a response on the claim filed against Los Angeles by Ontario on April 11, seeking to dissolve the 1967 joint-powers agreement between the two cities.

Ontario officials contend that LAWA is putting its resources into LAX and mismanaging L.A./Ontario International Airport.

The city is still waiting for a response on its claim against Los Angeles and could file a lawsuit by the end of this month.

Read more: http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_23271220/ontario-san-bernardino-county-set-sue-lawa#ixzz2TrLBzF4Z

Orange crush


 May 16, 2013

 Passengers jockey for position to get precious rush hour seats at the Orange Line

The Orange Line is feeling the squeeze. An immediate success upon its opening in 2005, ridership continues to surge on the San Fernando Valley’s dedicated busway, which runs from Woodland Hills and Chatsworth to North Hollywood. The line currently handles more than 30,000 passengers on an average weekday, making it the second busiest bus line in Los Angeles County. While that success is something to celebrate, elbow room is getting hard to come by.

“Yesterday it was pretty miserable,” said Mark Hill, who commutes between Sherman Oaks and downtown Los Angeles. “You had people letting the bus go because you could just not fit any more.”

Metro plans to relieve some pressure by adding additional service. Next week, the agency’s Board of
Directors is expected to take action on an annual budget that includes $1.2 million for more midday buses on the Orange Line. More late night service was also added recently, and increased Saturday service is planned for late June.

Jon Hillmer, a 30-year veteran in Metro’s bus operations, said the popularity is due to the line’s speed and convenience.

“It offers rail-like service on rubber tires,” Hillmer said. “People board at stations, wait on platforms and pay their fares at machines.”

The line also provides important connections to other transit options. At Chatsworth station, it connects to Metrolink’s service to Ventura County. At the North Hollywood station, it connects to the Red Line subway, which provides access to Hollywood, downtown L.A. and the rest of Metro’s rail system.

While improvements are planned to handle the growth in ridership during off-peak hours, rush hour is a different story.  One additional bus trip will be squeezed onto the back end of the peak traffic period but, after that, the agency is just about maxed out on how many buses it can run at a time. Among other issues, the line is constrained at intersections with north-south roadways, which are managed by the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation.

“Running buses every 4 minutes during rush hour is the best we can do under the current traffic configuration,” Hillmer said. “The city is reluctant to go below the 4-minute frequency level.”
Jonathan Hui, a spokesman for the city agency, said it allows buses to pass through the intersections every two minutes, but they only get special priority—early or longer green lights—every four minutes. That preferential treatment is important to keep the line moving swiftly.

“Not everybody can get the green at the same time,” Hui said. “The Orange Line is obviously important, but so are drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The two agencies are currently working on a solution to the problem. Hillmer said possibilities include sending two buses in tandem through intersections, or getting shorter but more frequent green lights to enable more buses to get through.

While the rush hour fixes remain a work in progress, adding extra buses during off-peak hours should be a big help to riders who crowd the Orange Line before and after rush hour.

“At 7:45 p.m., there are still a lot of people waiting, ” said Isabel Barbosa, who commutes from her home in Woodland Hills to downtown L.A. Even at 8:30 p.m., “it’s usually standing room only,” said another commuter, Ian Tudor.

Most of the current rider congestion occurs between the station at Sepulveda Boulevard and North Hollywood, but as last June’s extension of the line to Chatsworth matures, Hillmer expects more growth on the western end.

Ridership probably hasn’t even peaked for the year. The months of September and October, when students return to school, are typically the busiest. The extra riders should push the line’s numbers closer to those of Metro’s busiest bus line—the 720 Rapid, which runs between Commerce and Santa Monica on Wilshire Boulevard and averages about 40,000 riders each weekday.

Despite the ridership boom, Orange Line commuters like Mark Hill say they appreciate the smooth, fast ride the line offers—even when it’s standing room only.

“The buses are nicely appointed,” he said. “There’s plenty of stuff to hang on to.”

Alter CEQA but don't weaken it

When it comes to the California Environmental Quality Act, modest changes are needed.


 May 20, 2013


 The 43-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, passed to inform and empower the public, requires developers to disclose the environmental effects of their projects in detailed reports and to mitigate any harm caused.

Does California's signature environmental law protect the state's air, water and wilderness by acting as a check on runaway projects proposed by overzealous developers? Or does it encourage baseless lawsuits that unfairly delay and even derail worthwhile projects that could provide badly needed jobs and housing for Californians?

Actually, it does both. The 43-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, passed to inform and empower the public, requires developers to disclose the environmental effects of their projects in detailed reports and to mitigate any harm caused. Over the years, the law has successfully compelled many builders to improve their proposals, but it also has been used at times as a tool to stop development by opponents whose objectives have nothing to do with protecting the environment.

Perhaps the poster child for what riles CEQA's critics is a gas station in San Jose whose owner won city approval to add a couple of pumps. A CEQA lawsuit brought by a competing gas station at the same intersection claimed that the extra pumps would create too much traffic — and held up the modest expansion for years.

Critics also point to what they call not-in-my-backyard lawsuits brought under CEQA to kill construction of housing for low-income senior citizens on a dilapidated corner in Berkeley, to keep a school from being renovated in El Cerrito and, last year, to keep the so-called subway to the sea from tunneling along its most logical route under Beverly Hills High School. Competitors have filed CEQA lawsuits to stop businesses from opening or expanding, and unions have filed suits on supposedly environmental grounds, only to withdraw them as soon as a labor agreement is reached with the developer.

At the same time, the law's supporters point to major successes: CEQA lawsuits have allowed thousands of acres to be preserved in the Santa Monica Mountains at no cost to taxpayers; have persuaded Stockton to reject further unchecked sprawl in favor of smarter infill development and increased public transportation; and have resulted in an agreement by a Bay Area development company to modify its plans for a major project to prevent millions of gallons of sewage from spilling into San Francisco Bay.

Reforming the law, then, requires striking a delicate balance between preserving its protections and
curbing its unnecessary job-killing costs and delays. A bill that goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday might not resolve all the valid complaints about the law, but it moves the state in the right direction. Written by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 731 tackles some of the common, legitimate complaints about the law. Most CEQA lawsuits involve relatively small infill projects — construction on an area that is surrounded by developed land — and many of those lawsuits aren't over air, water or wilderness but are about issues such as traffic, noise and parking. Under the bill, standards would have to be set for these land-use issues by the state or locality, and infill projects that meet the standards would be exempt from lawsuits challenging them on those grounds.

Most CEQA lawsuits involve relatively small infill projects — construction on an area that is surrounded by developed land — and many of those lawsuits aren't over air, water or wilderness but are about issues such as traffic, noise and parking. Under the bill, standards would have to be set for these land-use issues by the state or locality, and infill projects that meet the standards would be exempt from lawsuits challenging them on those grounds.

The bill would also provide $30 million for planning agencies to update their zoning and development plans. Once those plans have been approved, local construction projects that meet their standards would not have to go through the entire environmental review process all over again.

The bill could also shorten delays by requiring government agencies to keep the documents on a given project up to date and readily available, if the developer pays the cost. Currently, it can take planning departments six months to a year to gather such records after a lawsuit has been filed.

In striking its balance, Steinberg's bill leans in the direction of environmental protection rather than rewriting the law to open the construction floodgates, and that's fine. Builders see this as minor progress, and there may be further emendations to be discussed in the years ahead. But better to err on the side of caution, measure the results of this modest reform and then see what, if anything, needs modification, rather than rush ahead and possibly undermine the law's environmental protections.
Update: City of Industry cyclist killed in big rig truck collision; 15th L.A. County cycling fatality this year


 May 18, 2013

Yet another bike rider has died in what’s turning out to be a horrible year for L.A. County cyclists.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that a bicyclist was killed in a collision with a big rig truck in the City of Industry around 3:05 this afternoon.

The unidentified male victim was reportedly riding on the wrong side of Valley Blvd just east of Hurley Street when he was struck by the truck and pronounced dead at the scene. The driver stopped after the collision and was cooperating with investigators; no other details are available at this time.

If you haven’t gotten the message yet, let this be a reminder to never, ever ride salmon.

Drivers aren’t looking for cyclists coming towards them; even if they see you, they may assume you’re riding with traffic, rather than against it. It also reduces reaction times, while dramatically increasing the impact of a collision.

This is the 27th bicycling fatality in Southern California since the first of this year.

Remarkably, 15 of those collisions — 55% of all bicycling deaths in Southern California this year —
have occurred Los Angeles County, which has averaged just under 24 cycling fatalities a year for the past several years.

Maybe it’s just a statistical blip that will average out before the year is over. But this is starting out to be an exceptionally deadly year for local bike riders, and we haven’t even reached the peak summer riding season.

Those numbers aren’t statistics, they’re people.

And far too many are dying this year.

My prayers and sympathy for the victim and his family.

Update: The Tribune identifies the victim as 55-year old Jose Munoz of La Puente. 
According to the Diamond Bar-Wlanut Patch, Munoz was riding east in the westbound lane of Valley Blvd when he was hit by a truck pulling out of the Alta Dena Dairy. Under those circumstances, it’s likely the driver would have been looking towards oncoming traffic as he exited the lot, and may not have looked back to his right before pulling out.
With Less Driving, Can We Tone Down the Hysteria About Congestion?


By Tanya Snyder, May 17, 2013


 TTI may try to paint a picture of ever-worsening congestion, but their own data show that reduced VMT is having a positive impact.

There’s so much to unpack in the landmark report released by U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group earlier this week on transportation trends. Tuesday, we focused on the disparity between government transportation forecasts and recent realities. We also took a look at a few reasons to believe that the millennial generation – those aged 13 to 30 right now — will continue to drive less than previous generations. One of those reasons is that technology has reduced our need to drive in many different ways.

The report also makes clear the need to recalibrate our strategies around congestion. When roads get congested, calls for highway expansion grow to a deafening pitch. The reality that transit and road pricing are better solutions for congestion don’t compute amid the panic.

The most recent Texas Transportation Institute congestion report came out under the headline, “As Traffic Jams Worsen, Commuters Allowing Extra Time for Urgent Trips.” Lots of doom-and-gloom language when what they really mean is that congestion is easing.

That’s right. Reduced congestion has been one of many benefits of the reduction in miles driven over the past eight years. As of 2011 – the latest year for which data is available – congestion was about as light as it was in 1998. And it had been down at that level for four years. The annual toll on car commuters went from 43.1 hours of delay to 42 hours in 2007 and then dipped way down to 37.6 – and stayed there for the next three years. In 2011 it inched up by less than half an hour to 38.0 [PDF].

So where is all this “urgency” about “worsening” congestion coming from?

Maybe everyone is just so used to talking about increased congestion – and using that to justify costly road-building bonanzas – that they just haven’t wrapped their heads around the new reality yet. And it’s no wonder, per capita driving rose 85 percent, to over 10,000 miles a year, between 1970 and 2004. To mitigate congestion, that driving boom was followed by a highway boom – the PIRG/Frontier report notes that between 1980 and 2010, the nation built the equivalent of “a new lane of freeway stretching from New York to Los Angeles every single year.”

But then VMT started to diminish, due to a number of factors, and voila, traffic diminished too.
“Further reductions in driving could lead to additional easing of congestion without massive investments in new highway capacity, as long as roads are maintained in a state of good repair,” they write.

Here’s a caveat about all this good news that congestion is down: Lower congestion has a tendency to induce driving.

“Congestion is a chicken-and-egg kind of thing,” report co-author Phineas Baxandall of U.S. PIRG told Streetsblog. “It’s easier to say that there’ll be less urgency about road congestion than to say exactly what will happen to road congestion.”

The best way to make sure congestion stays down is to implement road pricing. Now that more and more people are driving less anyway, maybe it would be a good time for the U.S. to dip its toes into this practice that’s worked so well in parts of Europe.

Road pricing could also be helpful when it comes to large truck traffic. As Baxandall and co-author Tony Dutzik note in “A New Direction”:
Heavy-duty trucks impose far greater damage on roads than light-duty vehicles. As a result, a future in which there are fewer miles driven overall, but more of them in heavy trucks, could result in similar or greater wear and tear on highways. However, the number of miles driven in the heaviest trucks has actually declined faster than overall vehicle travel in recent years, falling by 11 percent between 2007 and 2011.
Meanwhile, a 2009 government-appointed commission declared that vehicle miles traveled by heavy-duty trucks would increase by an average of 1.8 percent per year.

Freight traffic is likely subject to some the same trends as other driving. As people move to cities, there’s less pressure to get goods farther out to suburbia — though the shift out of the suburbs and into the cities probably hasn’t been pronounced enough yet to make a real impact. Changes like online shopping have brought some changes in trucking, with heavy trucks going to centralized warehouses, rather than individual stores, and then lighter trucks making deliveries. A push toward freight rail and water travel might also be helping reduce the number of trucks on the road.

But truly, lower truck traffic is probably still a result of the ongoing economic slump and might rebound with a stronger economy, even while other driving rates stay low.

It might not matter that much. As of 2011, “combination trucks,” or semis, were responsible for about 5.6 percent of total VMT, according to the FHWA. Although they have a disproportionate impact on road wear and tear – and on congestion – they still make up a fairly small share of total vehicle traffic. So even an economic rebound could see congestion rates stay far lower than the 2005-2006 peak.