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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Metro extends period to pay ExpressLanes violations


By Steve Hymon, June 6, 2013

Metro has become aware of an issue impacting those who receive violation notices for the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways: some people are receiving the notices in the mail very close to the due date. Metro is also aware that many people don’t open their mail right away — by the time they do, the notices are due.

As a result, Metro is extending the time when payment (without penalties) is due to 14 days. Example: Let’s say you were traveling in the ExpressLanes without a transponder today and are cited. The notice takes three to six days to be mailed. If it’s mailed on June 11, you would have until June 25 to pay it, either online, over the phone (call 511 and say “ExpressLanes”), at an ExpressLanes customer service center (see below) or by U.S. mail (see instructions on the violation notice).
 Harbor Gateway FasTrak Walk In Center
500 West 190th Street, Gardena, CA 90248
Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-1pm
El Monte FasTrak Walk In Center
3501 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte, CA 91731
Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-1pm

The Clean Air Act Actually Caused More Rain to Fall on Atlanta


By Emily Badger, June 6, 2013


 The Clean Air Act Actually Caused More Rain to Fall on Atlanta


Among the many problems caused by pollution – and there are a lot of them – particulate matter in the air also messes with the weather. Pollution can suppress rainfall, meaning, in theory, that if we cut down on emissions from cars and factories, nearby areas might receive more rain.

  Exactly this appears to have happened in Atlanta since the passage the Clean Air Act of 1970, and evidence collected there by Georgia State University researcher Jeremy Diem suggests that something very similar may have happened in other urban areas, too. Diem's research, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, analyzed data collected between 1948 and 2009 at nine weather stations located around the Atlanta region, some as far as 80 kilometers away from the city center.

Throughout the 1950s, '60s and early '70s, summertime rainfall had decreased in the Atlanta region and downwind of it, where pollution blows in the summer months. But between 1970 and 1975, as a result of the Clean Air Act, particulate matter in the region dropped by about 40 percent. And summer rainfall rapidly bounced back, primarily in the form of more days with heavy rain.

"We went from having less rainfall than you’d expect to having more rainfall than you’d expect really abruptly," Diem says.

And what changed? The 1970 Clean Air Act (an update to the original 1963 legislation) authorized states and the federal government to draft powerful regulation limiting emissions from both industry and moving sources like cars. Diem argues that the law's passage was the only plausible explanation for this shift in precipitation in Atlanta, even taking into account that the urban heat island effect is thought by scientists to produce more rain than typically falls in rural areas.

Atlanta likely isn't the only American city that experienced this. Conversely, however, this research suggests that many industrializing metros outside of the U.S. may still be in the phase Atlanta experienced in the 1950s.

"I think suppression is probably occurring in a lot of places across the globe right now," he says. "Think of the Chinese cities, the places where there is just a lot of particulate matter."
Comments to

25 Ideas for LA's New Mayor Eric Garcetti 


June 5, 2013


 Great suggestions - all of them. I would add just two things. One, I just returned from a three day conference on public banking. The city could start it's own publicly owned bank that would not have to pay interest or risk its investments with Wall Street banks and their casino capitalism deals. Two, don't forget that the biggest billionaire trying to privatize education is our local homegrown billionaire, Eli Broad. He needs to be called out publicly for what he is trying to do.

Mayor Garcetti needs to reign in the out of control Metropolitan Transportation Authority & its attempt to build a tunnel for the SR710 Extension. Metro has flat out lied to the public at every opportunity it has met with the public. Dis-information, half-truths. The SR710 toll -tunnel project is being driven by contractor & consultants & will be a detrement to the health of the region. Metro project managers Doug Failing & Michelle Smith have dodged legitmate questioning of the rationale to build this tunnel as well as refusing to be accountable to the cities of So. Pasadena,Pasadena & Los Angeles (El Sereno). The cities of Alhambra, San Marino, Monterey Park & Rosemead have all conspired with Metro to push this project through bcause they don't want this through their cities. Measure R public funds have been used to setup a fake 710 Freeway Coalition by Harry Baldwin, Supervisor Mike Antonovich's 5th District field rep. The new mayor will have 4 votes on the Metro Board of directors. Ara Najarian on the board makes 5 votes, 2 more votes & the tunnel can be killed. The historical record of Metro & Caltrans public outreach can be seen here. I have documented the No710 battle. Please click on the link below.


I am in favor of 55% threshold for measures that contain only transit, but we should not let them bundle flawed projects like the 710 tunnel with good transit goals and use a lowered threshold. Also, the Mayor's position on the 710 tunnel was clear -- he does not support the project. He needs to use his four votes on the Metro Board to get it removed from consideration now.

Senior transit services underfunded, underdeveloped, study says


June 4, 2013



 Photo courtesy Riverside Transit Agency

Transportation services for older Americans are underfunded and underdeveloped, according to a new study by the nonprofit group, Urban Institute.

These services are not meeting the needs of older travelers today and will, if unchanged, be even less beneficial in the future, Sandra Rosenbloom the Institute's director of innovation in infrastructure explains in "Roadblocks Ahead for Seniors Who Don't Drive."

"Many people believe that services are in place to provide mobility for older people when they can no longer drive," said Rosenbloom, noting there will be 55 million people over the age of 65 by 2020. "Unfortunately, this is simply not true for the overwhelming majority of older Americans. Putting faith in that kind of future without doing anything to actually make it happen is just perpetrating another scam on the elderly."

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) public transit operators must provide door-to-door "paratransit" services on demand to people with disabilities. But these services aren't of much use to older Americans, because they are only for people with serious disabilities; must be offered only in three-quarter-mile wide corridors parallel to existing bus routes, and only during the hours those buses operate; and are so expensive that many transit operators are trying to provide only minimum services.

Paratransit costs nationally rose 197%, to $3.5 billion, between 1999 and 2011. Ridership grew 49%, while the average one-way trip almost doubled from $17.39 in 1999, to $34.59 in 2011.
In 10 locales Rosenbloom reviewed (Philadelphia; Denver; San Diego; Portland, Oregon; Cleveland; Oakland, Calif.; state of Rhode Island; Albuquerque, N.M.; Sarasota, Fla.; and Madison, Wis.), transit operators spend a disproportionate share of their budgets on a very small number of ADA riders, who take, on average, very few trips each month.

For example: the state of Rhode Island, which operates all public transit there, spent almost 17% of its operating budget in 2011 on ADA services for just over 3% of its riders.

The average elderly rider in Denver and Sarasota — the studied cities providing the most ADA service — took less than two roundtrips each month.

Because one-third to two-thirds of all elderly people do not live or travel within the obligatory service corridors, Rosenbloom recommends expanding paratransit services to areas where elderly people are living without them. She also calls for developing services for people not seriously disabled but facing mobility problems and delivering more appropriate public transit options while making it possible for older people to continue driving safely longer.

 "To do otherwise," she said, "is to cheat our aging population, and cheat ourselves of the important contributions older people make to our society through continued employment, grandparenting, volunteering, mentoring, and chauffeuring other older people."

California Attorney General sues to block Orange County toll road


June 5, 2013


 California's attorney general is suing over a plan to extend the 241 toll road in southern Orange County.

California's attorney general is suing to stop a $200 million extension of a southern Orange County toll road.
The Orange County Register reports that Kamala Harris sued last month to block a 5 ½-mile extension of State Route 241.
The suit claims the toll road agency violated state environmental law in approving the project.
It calls the extension a dead-end "road to nowhere" and claims its real purpose is to pave the way for a 16-mile extension linking 241 to Interstate 5 near the San Diego County line.
The California Coastal Commission has rejected the longer extension.
The Foothill-Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency contends the small extension is a stand-alone project. Spokeswoman Lori Olin says the agency hasn't seen the suit and can't comment.


Peggy Drouet: I am hoping that the 241 toll road will be extended. I took the 241 from the 133 to Rancho Santa Margarita yesterday and then back again. Cost: $3.00 each way, not a large amount but I only take it about once a month, not every day. Other times, I drive from Rancho Santa Margarita to San Diego, which requires a long drive from Rancho Santa Margarita to the 5 freeway. But I like the 241 because it is very easy to drive on--good pavement and VERY FEW CARS on it, the latter the reason that the toll road is losing money for its investors.

Westside Subway Extension: Beverly Hills Hires Two New Lawyers To Battle Metro’s Purple Line


By Matt Lopez, June 5, 2013

Two new attorney’s will be working to help the City of Beverly Hills fight Metro in an effort to keep subway lines from under Beverly Hills High School.

The decision to hire  Philip Karmel of Bryan Cave LLP  and Daniel P Selma of Loyola Law School was decided in closed session Tuesday by the City Council. Karmel will assist primarily with the case against the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) and Professor Daniel P. Selmi of Loyola Law School will assist  primarily on the case against Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority  (Metro) in California state court.

“Both Professor Selmi and Mr. Karmel bring tremendous assets to our litigation team,” Beverly Hills City Attorney Larry Wiener said in a statement. “Both have significant experience and insight into the land use and environmental issues that the city is raising in its litigation to relocate the proposed subway tunnel from beneath Beverly Hills High School.”

Karmel and Selma were brought on board to replace Gilchrest & Rutter, one of the two firms, along with Schute, Mihaly and Weinberger, that had been representing the City in its cases. After the lead lawyer form Gilchrest & Rutter left the firm, his new firm would not honor the terms of the City’s agreement with Gilchrist & Rutter. As a result, the City Council’s litigation chose to reexamine the situation and move in a different direction.

Metro survey results of those who rent bike lockers


By Marie Sullivan, June 5, 2013


The Metro Bike team together with Metro Research just completed an online survey of their current bike locker holders. The online survey collected data on several satisfaction indicators as well as trip type, distance, and demographics. Satisfaction feedback will help the bike team improve service, and trip data helps us see how the lockers are being used. Jeff Boberg, head of Metro Research, comments on the trip data: “I really think this is a great aspect that doesn’t always get enough attention: if we care about reducing congestion and cleaner air, we should be looking for cost effective alternatives for lowering car trips without decreasing mobility, and the bike locker program is very cost effective.”

Read on for the key findings!

The bike lockers scored well on all the key indicators, especially price and safety.

Percentage of Locker Holders Satisfied by Issuesatisfaction
Almost all of locker holders claim they would not use a rack if the lockers were not available.

If there were no lockers, would you use a rack?       Graphs for jpeg export
 Trip Type        Trip type
 Trip Purpose   trip purpose
Almost half of locker holders used to drive for at least part of their trip before they had a locker.

Before you had this locker, how did you complete this trip?trip type_02
Looks like the biggest reason the riders ride is for exercise, but there are other important factors as well.

Average trip lengths are short, around 3 miles, but frequency of use is high, usually 4-5 times per week. Using trip distance & frequency, we estimate that the lockers accommodate over 5,900 “bike passenger miles” per week. And since almost half of the locker holders (and the ones that bike farther and more frequently) have left their cars for their bikes, the lockers help to replace 1,900 vehicle miles per week.

Average Trip Length trip length
Frequency of Usefrequency
Locker holders have mid-range to expensive bicycles (the kind you’d want to keep in a locker instead of the racks), which may explain some of the demographic data that follows.

Bike Valuebike value
Demographic data reveals that bike locker holders are mostly male, consistent with national cycling data. They are more likely to be white, Asian and have higher incomes than Metro Bus and Rail Patrons. This may be skewed by the fact that the survey was conducted online. A paper version will be available next year. The locker holders are older than you might picture a typical bike commuter.

Income                                                            income   






Why Conservatives Hate Citi Bike So Much, in One Venn Diagram


By Dan Amira, June 5, 2013



What is it about bike shares that so enrages conservatives? They're just bikes! That people share! And yet the New York Post has a
new story every day about the endless disasters that Citi Bike has brought upon the helpless populace of New York. (Problems at a bike station delayed a person for five minutes! That never happens with the subway!) Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal called the Bloomberg administration "totalitarian" for ... encouraging the riding of bikes, we guess. In perhaps the best unhinged rant of any kind ever, Daniel Greenfield at the always enjoyable FrontPage Magazine refers to Janette Sadik-Khan, the city's pro-bike transportation chief, as a "Muslim Nazi collaborator’s granddaughter" who in "partial revenge ... made many New York streets nearly as impassable as those of her grandfather’s wartime Dresden."

But, in a way, the depth of conservative animosity for a bike-share program makes perfect sense. Because, as the Venn diagram above indicates, Citi Bike finds itself at the very nexus of five different things that conservatives hate. 

Mayor Bloomberg: Conservatives hate Mayor Bloomberg, a cosmopolitan billionaire who thinks he knows better than them and has the right to control their lives. Bloomberg wants to take their guns, and, even worse, he wants to take their enormous sodas. Which brings us to ...

Healthy: Bike riding is healthy, especially when the alternative is sitting in a cab, train, or bus. But conservatives hate being told to be healthy. Look at how much scorn they have for Michelle Obama simply for encouraging kids to exercise more and eat more vegetables. As Americans, it is our God-given right to eat as much crap as we want, pass our medical bills onto the government, and then yell at the government for spending too much money on health care. Which brings us to ...

Sharing: So central to the concept of bike shares, they put it right in the name. But conservatives hate sharing — tax dollars, calamari, doesn't matter. True story: Louie Gohmert never shared a toy for the duration of his childhood.

It is a very slippery slope from sharing bikes to sharing everything. You blink and all of a sudden we're a socialist dystopia, and everyone's eating Bloomberg Vitamin Mush for every meal.

Environmental: Bike are also good for the environment. This will please you if you think the environment actually needs help. But if you think carbon emissions and climate change are conspiracies (like 58 percent of Republicans) perpetrated by Al Gore and a handful of scientists at the University of East Anglia, then bikes are just lies on wheels.

Vaguely French: French people ride bikes, right? Like, more than other people? There's something vaguely French about this whole thing. Doesn't sit well.

Judge weighs arguments over California high-speed rail plans


By Tim Sheehan, June 3, 2013


Five years after voters approved Proposition 1A, a $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure, attorneys spent Friday morning arguing whether plans for the train system comply with the law.
Lawyers for Kings County and two of its residents are convinced that a financing plan delivered to the state Legislature in November 2011 fails to live up to the ballot measure's provisions.

They are asking Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny to rule that the plan, and the Legislature's subsequent approval of money to begin construction, are invalid.

Lawyers with the state attorney general's office, representing the California High-Speed Rail Authority, argued vigorously that the funding plan is legal, and said that just because the plaintiffs are not satisfied is no reason to order a costly and time-consuming do-over. The judge has 90 days to rule.

At the root of the lawsuit, filed in late 2011 by Hanford farmer John Tos, homeowner Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors, is whether language in Proposition 1A intended a detailed funding plan to represent a promise to voters, or whether the plan was merely one of several required reports intended to guide the Legislature in approving or denying funds for the project.

Also at issue is a requirement for the authority to have all of the necessary environmental approvals before construction commences.

"When voters see something on a ballot, it means what it says," said Stuart Flashman, one of two attorneys representing the Kings County plaintiffs. "A bond measure is a contract between the agency and the voters."

The lawsuit represents a potentially serious obstacle for the rail authority. The board expects next week to authorize a billion-dollar contract to design and build the first section of construction on the statewide system, a 29-mile stretch from the northeastern outskirts of Madera to the southern edge of Fresno.

If Kenny were to rule for the plaintiffs by declaring the 2011 funding plan invalid, it could have the effect of nullifying the Legislature's vote last summer. Lawmakers relied on the plan to allocate more than $2.6 billion of Proposition 1A bond money and $3.4 billion in federal funds.

Flashman, the plantiffs' attorney, said the law requires the funding plan to specify where the authority would get all of the money needed to build its "initial operating segment" from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. He argued that the plan falls short because it does not identify any realistic source of funds beyond the $6 billion available to build the 130-mile stretch from Madera to Bakersfield.

Michelle Inan, a deputy with the state attorney general's office, responded that the funding plan "was for the benefit of the Legislature," not a guarantee to voters.

"The authority had a duty to submit the funding plan, and it did that. It had a duty to provide the information requested in the statute, and it did that," she said. "The plaintiffs' complaint is about the quality of the information. They don't think it satisfies the requirement. But that was a decision for the Legislature to decide, and it decided."

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/01/5462806/judge-weighs-arguments-over-california.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/01/5462806/judge-weighs-arguments-over-california.html#storylink=cpyThe lawsuit represents a potentially serious obstacle for the rail authority. The board expects next week to authorize a billion-dollar contract to design and build the first section of construction on the statewide system, a 29-mile stretch from the northeastern outskirts of Madera to the southern edge of Fresno.
If Kenny were to rule for the plaintiffs by declaring the 2011 funding plan invalid, it could have the effect of nullifying the Legislature's vote last summer. Lawmakers relied on the plan to allocate more than $2.6 billion of Proposition 1A bond money and $3.4 billion in federal funds.
Flashman, the plantiffs' attorney, said the law requires the funding plan to specify where the authority would get all of the money needed to build its "initial operating segment" from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. He argued that the plan falls short because it does not identify any realistic source of funds beyond the $6 billion available to build the 130-mile stretch from Madera to Bakersfield.
Michelle Inan, a deputy with the state attorney general's office, responded that the funding plan "was for the benefit of the Legislature," not a guarantee to voters.
"The authority had a duty to submit the funding plan, and it did that. It had a duty to provide the information requested in the statute, and it did that," she said. "The plaintiffs' complaint is about the quality of the information. They don't think it satisfies the requirement. But that was a decision for the Legislature to decide, and it decided."

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/06/01/5462806/judge-weighs-arguments-over-california.html#storylink=cpy

SoCal's own bike-share program is coming -- soon?: Opinion


June 5, 2013


New York rolled out the nation's largest bike-sharing program last week. Called Citi Bike, it encountered some early bugs and gripes. Many of the complaints sounded specious. Cyclists said the press was stirring up trouble. When in doubt, blame the New York Post (pictured above).
New York's experience is worth paying attention to because Los Angeles and some neighboring cities are supposed to be getting their own bike-sharing programs this year.

The L.A. City Council has approved the permitting process for an Orange County-based company named Bike Nation to create a privately financed network of 400 rental stations with 4,000 three-speed bicycles available for pay-per-ride use in downtown Los Angeles, Westwood, Venice and Hollywood. Long Beach has plans in the works too, also involving Bike Nation. Anaheim began a pilot program last year.

When exactly L.A. and Long Beach bike sharing will begin is unclear. It was supposed to be April, but that came and went. Bike Nation founder Navin Narang hasn't returned an editorial writer's phone calls seeking specifics.

Many U.S. cities have bike sharing, and it would be a natural next step in Southern California cities' push to be more bicycle-friendly. If the concept can make it in New York, it can make it here.
L.A.-area officials should be watching what happens in New York to see how to make bike sharing work better here. More clarity about when it's going to begin would, itself, be a good start.

Ratkovich Acquires Downtown LA Macy’s Plaza, Will Begin $160 Million Upgrade with New Access to Subway Station


 By Brigham Yen, June 6, 2013


Macy's Plaza

 Major upgrades are coming to Macy’s Plaza after being acquired by The Ratkovich Company.

One of the biggest eye sores (and embarrassments) in all of Downtown Los Angeles — the 1970s “shopping fortress” known as Macy’s Plaza — has a very bright future ahead of it. One of LA’s most respected developers, The Ratkovich Company, has successfully acquired the dated complex from Jamison Services, Inc for $241 million according to the LA Times. The purchase, which closed escrow last week, includes not only the retail portion (Macy’s, Express, Bath and Body Works, LA Fitness, etc.) but also the 23-story, 485-room Sheraton hotel and the 33-story 700 S Flower office tower totaling 2.4 million square feet. Ratkovich plans to spend $160 million to upgrade the entire complex with some very exciting changes that will dramatically alter the urban landscape of the Financial District.

Macy’s Plaza will be renamed “The Bloc” and will be redesigned by Johnson Fain Architects (based in Chinatown). Current plans call for the complete removal of the enclosed glass atrium that faces 7th Street, making it more outdoor than indoor, and allowing Ratkovich to include a third floor of retail space (there is currently an underground level). From an earlier DTLA Rising report from Dec 2012, Macy’s will be staying put with major multi-million dollar plans to upgrade the department store to a potential “flagship” store, including the possible addition of their Visit Macy’s USA tourist visitor center, which is only in 4 other US cities including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

To address the center’s most flawed design characteristic, being insular and withdrawn from the urban fabric, the brick walls will be removed and the mall will essentially be inverted outward by punching out the walls (i.e., along Flower Street) and inserting new store fronts that engage the pedestrian realm along the sidewalks. Moving to this format would activate the streets with pedestrian activity and strengthen the urban connection between the Financial District and South Park.

The Bloc, which also includes the hotel and office tower, are planned for major upgrades as well. The Sheraton, which underwent a remodeling effort several years ago, will be getting further upgrades including a new swimming pool and hotel gym with a goal to reach a “4-star status.” The office tower, which is currently about 33% vacant, will be repositioned from an undesirable Class B office tower to a “high tech hub” with creative office space (i.e., removing dropped ceilings, exposing concrete floors, etc.) aimed at the growing entertainment, technology, and media companies in Los Angeles. In addition, a rooftop lounge will be added for office tenants to enjoy.

And perhaps the most exciting detail regarding this redevelopment effort by Ratkovich (for an urbanist and transit advocate like myself) is the plan to build a direct pedestrian connection between The Bloc and the very busy 7th/Metro subway station across the street. Since the underground portion of the mall right now is in alignment with the underground metro station, it is entirely possible to provide an easy connection between the two. In fact, the MTA purposefully designed the metro station with “knock out panels” along certain sections of the walls with the very intention that one day, a developer with an urban vision (unlike Jamison Services, Inc), would take advantage of it and allow transit riders to have direct access to the mall akin to what you would experience in great transit-oriented cities like New York or Tokyo.

Construction on The Bloc will take about 2 years starting in early 2014 and completing in late 2015.
Johnson Fain will be redesigning the "shopping fortress" to become pedestrian friendly by adding new store fronts facing the street
Johnson Fain will be redesigning the “shopping fortress” to become pedestrian friendly by adding new store fronts facing the street

Dodgers Owner Says It's Trying to Bring Second Sport to Chavez


By Adrian Glick Kudler, June 5, 2013





Whoa: everyone's been talking about bringing the NFL to Chavez Ravine (home of Dodger Stadium) for ages, but now it sounds like there are serious talks underway to make it happen. In the course of some complicated legal wrangling, Dogers owner Guggenheim Baseball Management says it's in "highly sensitive discussions and negotiations with major sports entities regarding the potential use of the land surrounding Dodger Stadium," reports the LA Times. The paper adds that "Guggenheim and the NFL have met to discuss a stadium, according to people familiar with the talks but not authorized to comment on them." (Then again, maybe they're talking about an NBA or MLS or Arena Football team, who knows!) The wrench currently in the works is former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt--McCourt still owns a great deal of Chavez Ravine land and Guggenheim would have to work with him on development there. But Frank is in a nasty divorce with soon-to-be-ex Jamie McCourt, and she wants all the details of his partnership with Guggenheim; Guggenheim wants to keep that stuff secret as it negotiates with whatever potential sports league.

In Guggenheim's request to keep it all quiet, it "argued disclosure could damage Guggenheim's negotiating position and ultimately could 'deprive the citizens of Los Angeles of a potential sports franchise.'" As one expert points out, the NFL would probably want the McCourt information eventually, anyway. And he adds that "The issue at Chavez Ravine is not who owns or controls the land. The issue is if it is politically feasible."

LA Live developer AEG technically still has a plan in the works to bring the NFL to South Park, but the NFL has made it pretty clear it's way more interested in Chavez.

Metro chief Art Leahy expounds on Leimert Park prospects in wake of subway celebration


By Olu Alemoru, June 5, 2013


  Art Leahy

 MTA chief executive Art Leahy believes the guaranteed Leimert Park Village Station will be a economic boost to the area.

Less than two weeks after dignitaries and the community took to the stage to celebrate the news that there will be guaranteed funding for a Leimert Park Village station on the proposed Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s top official has expounded on the vision for the historic neighborhood and business corridor.

Art Leahy, who was appointed the MTA’s chief executive in 2009, hailed the surprising development — given that two years ago the MTA board voted 10-2 not to find additional funds for a station — as a move that will open up the area.

“The [8.5 –mile] Crenshaw Line will hook up with the Green Line in the south and with the Expo Line in the north,” he said. Construction is under way to take the Expo Line to Santa Monica. [In the near future] you’ll be able to go from the beach and transfer easily to Pasadena or the East L.A. Line or take the subway to Hollywood. So what this really does is open up the world to people who live along the Crenshaw line, but also make it easier for people around the county to come to this neighborhood; to come to Leimert Park for retail activities and restaurants.”

In addressing the MTA’s seeming change of heart, Leahy, 64, a 38-year transit veteran who once worked as a bus driver, noted that things were a little more “nuanced” than what they seemed.
“As you said, two years ago the board voted not to find additional funds,” he said. “But they also voted — I think unanimously — to include both Leimert Park and Hindry [a proposed station near Florence and Hindry avenues in Westchester] as design options in the event that the money could be found or in case the bids came in low enough to allow us to pay for the two stations within the available funds.

“What changed with this vote is [the board] said, ‘we’re going to do the two stations, we’ll find the money and just get it done.’ Now what that really speaks to over the past two years is the support of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. They reflected on the community’s input, accepted the arguments have merit and said to their staff, ‘let’s get it done.’”
However, as forthcoming as he was about the run up to the decision, Leahy stayed mum on what is shaping up to be the next big fight, the campaign to ensure that a major stretch of the line goes underground. The Wave asked him about reports that two of the proposals had bid to build a station and tunnel within the existing budget.

“That is a little awkward, because under our procurement rules we’re in what’s called a blackout period,” he said. “That’s to ensure there’s no funny business in the evaluation process so I’m prohibited from talking about any of the proposals. But I will say that if someone came in and offered what you just said, that would be a wonderful offer.”

Leahy also wouldn’t divulge how many proposals were on the table, relating that there were multiple bids vying for the award in June or “maybe July.” With high Black unemployment a constant refrain in local and national politics, all eyes will be on the potential delivery of construction jobs, and according to Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, 80 to 90 percent of the skilled construction workers in that area are African-American.

“This project will be targeted, not local hire,” Leahy said. “There’s some federal money involved and federal law prohibits a local hiring preference. But what we did is we went to Washington last year and negotiated a pact with them. That’s important because we’re the first transportation agency in the nation to do this.
“It allows us to implement targeted hiring focused on areas of high unemployment and disadvantaged workers. What we’ll do is break that down by ZIP code and then go out and do recruitment. Moreover, after we make the award we’ll sit down with the contractor and talk about hiring. In fact, in September we’re thinking about having an economic summit — perhaps over at Exposition Park — where we will invite the community to meet the contractor.”
Thus, according to Leahy, with groundbreaking scheduled in the next couple of months, construction to start next spring and the Crenshaw Line scheduled to open in 2019, the grass is looking greener for the local community.
“With a rail line it will be much faster to go to a Dodger game or the museums in Exposition Park,” he said. “Next year our total rail ridership will begin to exceed the ridership on the BART system in San Francisco, which opened up in 1970. We think that’s pretty impressive and it’s because passengers are coming out to ride the trains for work, school and play.”

A New Court Ruling Could Have Big Implications in the Fight Against Sprawl


By Kaid Benfield, June 5, 2013



A New Court Ruling Could Have Big Implications in the Fight Against Sprawl


It is just an interim ruling, but it is potentially an important one: In a suit brought by inner-city, minority plaintiffs, the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee has indicated that the Federal Highway Administration and Wisconsin Department of Transportation cannot enlarge a major urban freeway connection without further study of the project's impacts on transit-dependent populations and on regional suburban sprawl. For now, the case is headed to mediation; but the court's ruling on legal issues in the case, as articulated in an opinion signed by federal judge Lynn Adelman, is potentially significant to other highway-expansion controversies with similar circumstances.

First, the court found that, before going forward with plans for construction, the agencies must first study the impact of "continuing to expand highway capacity in the region while transit capacity declines." Second, the agencies also must examine the potential regional effects of highway expansion on suburban sprawl. The court rejected the agencies' argument that they need only study the impacts in the specific area where the highway expansion was taking place, finding that it would defeat the "action-forcing" intent of the National Environmental Policy Act if a piecemeal approach to highway projects and analysis allowed cumulative regional impacts to escape scrutiny.

Approaching the Zoo interchange.

The project in question would rebuild highways leading to and from a major freeway interchange west of downtown Milwaukee (the intersection of Interstates 94 and 894 with US route 45, called "the Zoo Interchange" because of its proximity to Milwaukee’s public zoo), as well as the interchange itself. In particular, FHWA and WisDOT seek to expand road capacity from six to eight lanes in one direction and, in the other, to install extra-wide shoulders that could potentially be used for additional capacity in the future. Four interchange ramps would be doubled in size, and surface streets would also be modified to accommodate the new configuration. The $1.7 billion construction undertaking, stretching 5.5 miles north-south, and 3.5 miles east-west, is said to be the largest single transportation project in Wisconsin history.

The suit was brought by Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope and the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin. The two organizations argued that the highway expansion plan failed to include any public transportation, would impair air quality, and would contribute to suburban sprawl. NEPA requires that major federal projects await full study of their potential impacts and alternative courses of action before going forward. The court’s ruling, issued last month, came in response to the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction stopping work on the project until the required analysis is completed.

The plaintiffs did not challenge the reconstruction and safety redesign of the Zoo Interchange, but only its capacity-expanding elements. They argued that NEPA’s mandate that the agencies prepare a thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the project required FHWA and WisDOT to do more to discuss the potential cumulative impacts of highway expansion when viewed together with other highway projects in the vicinity and with a decline in transit service. (Contrary to recent experience, the EIS assumed that transit would expand, not decline, because expansion had been recommended in a nonbinding recommendation of the region’s metropolitan planning organization.)

The court agreed with the plaintiffs. The entire opinion is worth reading, but here are some excerpts, starting with the agencies’ assumptions regarding transit:
[The agencies] have an obligation to acknowledge that the transit components of the Year 2035 plan are not being implemented and to identify the environmental harms that might materialize if transit continues to languish but the agencies continue to expand highway capacity in the region.  Of course, even after the agencies identify those harms, the responsible decisionmakers will remain free to prioritize highway expansion over transit expansion, but at least the decision to do so will have been based on a full consideration of the environmental costs.” [Citations omitted.]
The court elaborated that the agencies have a duty to examine the effects of this pattern on the transit-dependent population:
They must examine the potential social and economic impact on the transit-dependent of continuing to expand highway capacity in the region while transit capacity declines.  If after conducting this examination the agencies determine that their continuing to expand highway capacity while transit capacity declines will have negative effects, the agencies must consider identifying and assessing an alternative to the project that might avoid, minimize, or mitigate those negative effects. 

Such an alternative might include incorporating some form of transit into the project, such as rapid bus service between the City of Milwaukee and Waukesha County.  Such bus service might offset the social and economic harm to inner city communities that might result if the continued expansion of highway capacity facilitates the movement of jobs and other services away from those in the inner city who do not have access to automobiles.  [Citations omitted.]
Later in the opinion, the court was emphatic that the agencies must look at the effects of the highway-first transportation practices on the metropolitan region, and specifically at the possibility that highway expansion enables suburban sprawl. It is not sufficient to examine only the part of the city where the Zoo Interchange is located:
[T]he EIS contains no discussion of the potential sprawl-inducing effect of highway construction on the region as a whole.  Indeed, it appears that no one has studied the overall environmental effect on the region of implementing all of the highway-expansion projects in SEWRPC’s 2035 plan.  Rather, it seems that the agencies which implement specific projects study only the effects that could be expected to occur in the immediate vicinity of the project under consideration.

By proceeding in this fashion, the agencies run the risk of overlooking an environmental effect that emerges on the regional level.  For example, in the present case, by focusing solely on natural resources in the immediate vicinity of the Zoo Interchange, the agencies may overlook the fact that by facilitating automobile travel to suburban areas (i.e., by facilitating suburban sprawl), the Zoo Interchange project and other highway projects may be contributing to the destruction of natural resources in various other parts of the region.”

Again, the Zoo Interchange project by itself might not have an appreciable effect on the region as a whole, but when that project is combined with SEWRPC’s other recommended highway projects, a regional environmental impact may emerge.
The court is essentially admonishing the agencies for their failure to examine fully the impacts of the road-building contemplated in the regional plan back when the plan was written. Since the issue was not sufficiently addressed then, it must be addressed now.

Milwaukee traffic. Image courtesy of Flickr user ModernOwl (left); Protesting transit cuts. 

While I agree with the court’s reasoning, the facts of this case illustrate just what a mess our multi-jurisdiction, multi-agency metropolitan regions are when it comes to issues of governance that affect a region as a whole. FHWA and WisDOT are not themselves responsible for the provision of transit service, so they made assumptions (self-serving and contrary to experience) about what transit service would be provided. The metropolitan planning organization makes general long-range planning recommendations, but it does not implement them; accordingly, some portions get implemented and others are ignored. No agency seems to believe it is responsible for studying the regional impacts of cumulative transportation actions.

These problems are ubiquitous across the country, though planning law in California is at least moving in the right direction when it comes to making transportation and land use planning both coordinated and meaningful. Portland has an elected regional government responsible for land use and transportation. But Milwaukee’s situation is far more common: one agency does this, another does that, and they all plead helplessness when it comes to the big picture.

Kudos to the court for stepping in and ensuring that someone follow the law and common-sense practice in cases like this. If not settled in mediation, the case is far from over, since there remains an evidentiary hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction and then at least two more rulings by the district court, after which there is always the possibility of appeal. Meanwhile, court-supervised mediation is scheduled to begin on June 13. Read the opinion here.