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, June 17, 2013

California awards $18 million to build hydrogen fueling stations


 By Catherine Green, June 14, 2013

Home fueling station

 Honda's next-generation solar hydrogen station was ultimately intended for use as a home refueling appliance capable of an overnight refill of fuel cell electric vehicles, such as the Honda FCX Clarity.

Projects supporting California’s hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure will see a hefty boost thanks to more than $18 million in grant funding, the state’s Energy Commission announced this week.

The agency’s dollars will go toward installing, or in some cases upgrading, hydrogen fuel stations in several counties around Southern California. Ranging in size from $1.5 million to more than $6.6 million, the five awards come through the Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.

The initiative and this particular round of awards are intended to move the state toward reaching a goal set by Gov. Jerry Brown in an executive order last year to have 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.

FULL COVERAGE: Electric cars gain momentum

Using hydrogen to create electricity with no gas emissions spewing from tailpipes, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles fall squarely into the ZEV category.  Both Mercedes-Benz and Honda have had experimental programs leasing hydrogen-powered cars in California, and three transit agencies -- AC Transit, SunLine Transit and BurbankBus -- have a dozen or so F-cell buses in their fleets.

But, the commission emphasized, the available technology can only help California meet its ZEV target with adequate infrastructure in place. An August report issued by the California Fuel Cell Partnership estimated the state would need 68 hydrogen fuel stations in five clusters -- Berkeley, San Francisco’s South Bay area, West Los Angeles, coastal southern Orange County and Torrance -- by 2015 to serve these cars. According to the Energy Commission, nine public stations are in operation around California, with another 12 or so in development.

California is leading the way in zero-emission vehicles, said Don Anair, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program. Auromakers such as Toyota and Hyundai are investing in the technology to bring hydrogen to consumer markets by 2015. But that 68-station goal marks a bare minimum to make hydrogen attractive to the average driver.

"Unlike electric, where you have the ability to plug in at home, with hydrogen, you need that public infrastructure," Anair said. "These technologies are not going to take over the market overnight. There needs to be a steady level of investment."



June 17, 2013

As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has demonstrated so clearly, we can think big about solutions to our challenges as a region — and we can expect to succeed. We can’t let this momentum evaporate. We are a city that wants to continue to grow and prosper, and we are building the transportation infrastructure that ensures that our growth and prosperity will be sustainable. And thanks to our mayor we have a path forward, we have the coalition, and we have the tools.

Here is Move LA’s take on the Top 10 transportation priorities for our new mayor going forward:
  • Continue working with our coalition to urge Congress to adopt the America Fast Forward bond program, which will provide LA Metro with the financing tools needed to build the 30-year transit program in 10 years.
  • Help build a statewide coalition to champion a California constitutional amendment that lowers the local voter threshold to 55% and restores democracy to the voting process. Why should every “no” vote count twice as much as a “yes” vote? Reducing the local voter threshold will enable voters to step up and provide local governments with the revenue that’s needed to build the projects that voters have shown they truly want.
  • Dream big again, as we did in 2008, and begin planning what we could accomplish with another countywide ballot measure — 2016 could be the biggest opportunity to fund completion of the transit system:  Extend the Crenshaw Line to Wilshire Boulevard and connect it with a new line from Hollywood and Highland, forming a continuous system from North Hollywood to LAX. Build the vision of a light rail connection from the San Fernando Valley to LAX. Extend the Foothill Goldline to San Bernardino County and on to Ontario Airport. Extend the Eastside Gold Line to both Whittier and El Monte. Complete the Greenline/Crenshaw connection into LAX and extend the Green Line to Torrance. Complete the West Santa Ana Line from downtown LA to Cerritos. Connect the San Fernando Valley from Burbank Airport to the San Gabriel Valley. Finish the “Subway to the Sea” along Wilshire Boulevard.
  • Pursue public private partnerships (P3s) like the one being talked about to provide relief for the 405 — where congestion pricing and a toll road tunnel could help pay for a light rail line under the Sepulveda Pass — and provide an enormous opportunity to leverage private investment.
  • Invest with other counties to upgrade the Metrolink regional commuter rail system to provide cleaner, stronger transportation links between Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire, Ventura and Orange counties.
  • Create a truly regional airport system by connecting the regional commuter rail system to airports including Ontario, Burbank and Palmdale. This would provide enormous congestion relief as well as economic development benefit.
  • Continue greening the ports and the regional goods movement system — an enormous resource that provides hundreds of thousands of jobs and can do so with clean technology. There are plans for clean freight.  We need to create an investment program to build it.
  • Collaborate with LA Metro on building out the new strategic plan that’s underway for first mile/last mile bicycle, pedestrian and shuttle improvements so riders can walk and bike and easily access stations.
  • Continue Mayor Villaraigosa’s Transit Corridors Cabinet to coordinate policy and focus public investments along transit lines.  Moderate and strategic increases in residential densities in mixed use developments will increase transit ridership while protecting neighborhood character and by honoring — rather than sacrificing — public trust and support.
  • Finally, the mayor must champion, protect and increase the supply of affordable housing, especially in neighborhoods with strong transit service. Affordable housing is an equity imperative and an environmental imperative. Only when working families can live with easy access to jobs and services can we have a truly sustainable community.

App pays you to spot illegally parked cars


June 17, 2013





Becoming a bounty hunter may soon get a lot easier.

SpotSquad is a mobile phone application in the works that allows users to report illegally parked cars and get a cut of the fine paid as a reward.

Created by a technology startup in Winnipeg, Canada, the app aims to crowdsource parking enforcement at privately run lots and potentially on public streets.

The reporting process is as simple as taking a photo of the car, which is GPS tagged while optical character recognition reads and records the license plate number, then choosing from a list the type of infraction observed -- everything from expired meters to unauthorized parking in a handicapped spot.
Based on the location of the vehicle, the report is automatically sent to the operator of the lot, or local law enforcement if it’s on public property. Then personnel is dispatched to issue a notice, ticket or have it towed.

Company co-founder Chris Johnson tells FoxNews.com that last point is important, as the photos and reports themselves will not be submitted as evidence in court, at least not at this stage.

Down the road, if the system proves to be effective, he thinks it’s possible that laws could be written to allow it to be directly involved in issuing citations, but for now is intended to be used more along the lines of a smartphone-based Crime Stoppers program for these minor offenses.

SpotSquad is in talks with several parking lot management companies, and hopes to have a pilot program up and running in Winnipeg by July, according to Johnson.

Details are still being worked out, but the proposed business model would see the company take a percentage of the fine paid, which it will then split with the reporting user on an increasing scale, depending on the number of successful reports they’ve filed. Ranks ranging from Private to General bring a gaming aspect to the experience.

Although SpotSquad is currently focused on the Canadian market, Johnson definitely sees an opportunity to expand into the United States, where there are approximately 10 times as many drivers as in its neighbor to the north.

As for people who might take issue with it, he says "just read the signs, follow the rules and you won’t have a problem

Pasadena’s B-Day; Colorado Bridge Turns 100


By Kat Ward, June 17, 2013

 Colorado St bridge by Russ Hobbs 300x205 Pasadenas B Day; Colorado Bridge Turns 100 we tell stories sidestreet projects pasadena museum of history Pasadena history Pasadena bloggers pasadena birthday celebration pasadena birthday pasadena ballroom dancing Kidspace jpl Colorado Street Bridge Ballroom Dancing  photo
 Colorado Street Bridge by Russell Hobbs.
Pasadena’s 127th birthday party has a theme: bridges.

Besides celebrating the 100th anniversary of the city’s notable landmark, the Colorado Street Bridge, the day will highlight all the bridges we drive over, as well as the bridges we forge in our lives, within our community, and around the world.

On the grounds of the Pasadena Museum of History, Kidspace will have a hands-on bridge-building workshop with different types of materials available. Why do some structures work and others collapse? Build a bridge and learn physics!

Sidestreet Projects will have biodegradable materials so children can tap into their imaginations while building a bridge, contemplating such monumental questions as how would a fish design a bridge or what would a butterfly use? Using the format of a suspension bridge, kids will create a combination 2D/3D project inspired by the Arroyo Seco wildlife below the Colorado Street Bridge.

We Tell Stories will present 3 storytelling productions with bridges (literal and figurative) as the themes. We Tell Stories blends storytelling and audience participation, bringing to life folklore, fairy tales, literature, legends, and mythology. (Do we have Pasadena legends and myths?)
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This year, the concept of bridging is being used to “explore other facets of our City’s vibrant lifestyle.”
  • Bridges to Community: meet the bloggers who promote, witness, report on, photograph, and extol every nook and cranny of our city.
  • Bridges of Understanding: the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee will feature the city’s relationships with Ludwigshafen, Germany; Mishima, Japan; Jarvenpaa, Finland; Vanadzor, Armenia, and Xicheng District, Beijing, China.
  • Bridges to Exploration: you can’t have a “bridge” concept without inviting JPL!
  • Bridges to History: Pasadena Heritage will present displays and photographs celebrating the Colorado Street Bridge as well as all of the physical bridges around the city.
Brown web Pasadenas B Day; Colorado Bridge Turns 100 we tell stories sidestreet projects pasadena museum of history Pasadena history Pasadena bloggers pasadena birthday celebration pasadena birthday pasadena ballroom dancing Kidspace jpl Colorado Street Bridge Ballroom Dancing  photo
“The Bridge Again” by Linda Brown. 

Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association will be performing and inviting attendees to participate in their demonstrations, though you’ll find us watching appreciatively and safely from the sidelines (we’d rather our two left feet not cause any havoc on such a lovely occasion).

Some fantastic examples of wedding dresses from between 1850 and 1950 from the Pasadena Museum of History’s exhibit I Do! I Do! Pasadena Ties the Knot will be on display (don’t miss it!). Pie ‘n Burger and Trattoria Neapolis will have their food trucks in place and ”Let them eat cake” will happen around 3:45 p.m.

Make sure not to miss the world’s smallest motor. Literally. You have to look at it through a microscope. It’s fully functional. An amazing story.

City of Pasadena’s 127th Birthday Party
Saturday, June 22nd, 1-5 p.m.
Location: Pasadena Museum of History
470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena 91103

For complete info, visit PasadenaHistory.org or call 626.577.1660

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“Through the Arches” by R. Jay Ewing.

LA Street Food Fest Returns to Rose Bowl June 29

Over 100 restaurants, food trucks and more are slated for the 2013 food event in Pasadena.


By Jessica Hamlin, June 17, 2013
 Gourmet hot dog at the first LA Street Food Fest. (Credit: Jessica Hamlin)

The Rose Bowl will once again turn into a mecca for food and drink lovers as the LA Street Food Fest returns June 29. 

In its fourth year, the food fest was the very first of its kind in Los Angeles, spawning countless other food truck events since then. 

The 2013 event will include savory creations from over 60 restaurants, stands, carts, food trucks and more. Some are newcomers, like Downtown LA’s Indian gastropub Baadmash, while others are popular veterans like The Grilled Cheese Truck. And of course, there’s the hidden gems that won’t be so hidden as they serve their fare to thousands.

Plenty of takes on Mexican dishes are in store, as before, thanks to the event’s inclusion of Taste of Mexico restaurants like Corazon y Miel and Casa Oaxaca.

For the sweet tooths, several dessert offerings are slated for the Ice Cream Social portion, including Chunk-n-Chip, Churros Calientes, Sweet Clementine’s pops in lemon buttermilk and strawberry basil, The Donut Snob, the debut of The Beignet Truck and more.
Not full from reading this yet? 

There will also be libations in all forms, from Pressed Juicery and Honest Tea, to Greenbar Distillery and Milagro Tequila, among others. Plus a few coffee vendors.

Singha and Cupcake Vineyards will be on hand for the beer garden and wine tasting.

Live bands will entertain crowds on the field.
See the full list of event participants and what they are serving here.

Tickets for the all-you-can-eat event are $50 and sell out every year. There will be no ticket sales at the door.

Free parking and complimentary Uber Ride credits are included in the ticket price.
VIP tickets with early admission at 3 p.m. are $75.

The 2013 LA Street Food Fest begins at 5 p.m. for general admission and ends at 9 p.m.

For more information and tickets, go here:


Orchard Supply Hardware Files Bankruptcy

It's unclear what will happen to the Pasadena OSH, but Lowe's may buy the stores and keep them open.


 By Jennifer Squires, June 17, 2013

Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corp filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy but a rival retailer may step in to run the shops, Reuters reported Monday morning.

The San Jose-based OSH operates 91 stores in California, including one in Pasadena at 3425 East Colorado Boulevard.

 Lowe's is considering purchasing at least 60 of those locations if no other buyers emerge, according to Reuters. No word yet on which stores would be picked up by Lowe's, but the speculation is the neighborhood hardware and garden stores in areas where Lowe's lacks a presence would be top priority.

Lowe's, which has 110 stores in California, doesn't have a location in Pasadena. The closest store is in Burbank.

"Orchard's neighborhood stores are a natural complement to Lowe's strengths in big-box retail, offering smaller-format hardware and garden stores catering to the needs of local customers," said Robert Niblock, president, chairman and CEO of Lowe's was quotes as saying by Home Channel News. "Strategically, the acquisition will provide us with immediate access to Orchard's high-density, prime locations in attractive markets in California."

Orchard Supply reported $657 million in revenue last year, Home Channel News reported.

OSH, which broke off from parent company Sears Holdings Corp two years ago, filed a petition for relief under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware. Orchard Supply partly blamed "hefty dividends paid out to its former parent" for the economic failure, Reuters reported

The Week in Livable Streets Events 


By Damien Newton, June 17, 2013

The week slows down in the second half, or is just gearing up for CicLAvia: Historic Wilshire Corridor?
  • Right Now – As we speak, they are re-opening the new park at Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The park is opening from renovations a cool two months ahead of schedule. There’s a good look at what happened at the park this past year at L.A. Downtown News.
  • Tuesday – You know how you can tell things are out of control? When the City Council needs to decide whether or not to repaint a bike lane. Yet, that’s what’s going to happen at City Hall tomorrow. The battle over Spring Street comes to its conclusion tomorrow at 10 in City Hall.
  • Tonight – The Crenshaw Subway Coalition is gearing up for an even larger fight than the (seemingly) successful campaign for a Leimert Park Station. The community group is claiming that Metro deliberately turned back bids that would have allowed construction of a tunnel for the rail line through the Crenshaw Business District. They’re having a meeting tonight to discuss. Get the details of their position, here. The meeting is at 6:30 at 3341 W. 43rd Place, Leimert Park, CA 90008.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday – Watch Metro Board sausage get made. Yum. The committee hearings that precede the always entertaining Metro Board of Directors meetings are this week. Links to all the agendas, are here.
  • Wednesday – It’s Tom LaBonge’s big adventure, Part III. This time the fun starts at the Sherman Oaks Fire Station. Look at the full Tour LaBonge schedule, right here.
  • SundayCicLAvia!
AAA: Hands-Free Devices Don’t Solve Distracted Driving Dangers


By Tanya Snyder, June 17, 2013

Researchers at the University of Utah and AAA found that using hands-free electronic devices and on-board technology can cause dangerous levels of driver distraction.

Distracted driving killed 3,331 people on American streets in 2011, yet car manufacturers continue to outdo each other to add more infotainment distractions in their vehicles. These systems are expected to increase five-fold by 2018, according to AAA. Carmakers seek to show their commitment to safety by making their distractions – onboard dinner reservation apps and social media, for example – hands-free. But a growing body of research indicates that there is no safe way to combine driving with tasks like dictating email or text messages.

AAA recently teamed up with experts at the University of Utah to conduct the most in-depth analysis to date of the impact of cognitive distractions on drivers’ performance. They found that some hands-free technologies, like voice-to-text email, can be far more dangerous than even handheld phone conversations. Unlike previous studies, they also found that conversations with passengers can be more distracting than those on the phone, but only if the passenger is kept unaware of what’s happening on the road.

The researchers had subjects first perform a series of eight tasks, ranging from nothing at all to usage of various electronic devices to something called OSPAN, or operation span, which sets the maximum demand the average adult brain can handle. For the OSPAN, the researchers gave subjects words and math problems to recall later, in the same order, as a way to “anchor the high end of the cognitive distraction scale developed by the research team,” according to AAA’s Jake Nelson.
The more mental energy an activity requires, the more it slows drivers' reaction time. 

The subjects then performed these eight tasks while operating a driving simulator, and then while driving on residential streets in an “instrumented” vehicle that captures information about the driver’s eye movements and brain activity.

In each environment, researchers studied how the additional tasks added to subjects’ “cognitive workload” and diminished their eye movements. They found that as drivers devote more mental energy to other tasks in addition to driving, the less observant they become, and the more they fail to scan for roadway hazards.

This bolsters the conclusions of previous experiments: that when drivers are mentally distracted by some other task, they get tunnel vision. They keep their eyes fixed on the road in front of them to the exclusion of everything else — the rear-view mirror, side mirrors, and “safety critical roadside objects” and “cross traffic threats” — such as pedestrians.

The AAA study also found that greater “cognitive workloads” slow drivers’ reactions to events like a ball rolling in front of the car and a kid running out to catch it. (Reaction times were measured with the simulator, not the instrumented vehicle driving on real streets.)

The researchers conclude that hands-free communications can be significantly more distracting and dangerous for drivers to engage in than passive tasks like listening to music:

Some activities, such as listening to the radio or a book on tape, are not very distracting. Other activities, such as conversing with a passenger or talking on a hand-held or hands- free cell phone, are associated with moderate/significant increases in cognitive distraction. Finally, there are in-vehicle activities, such as using a speech-to-text system to send and receive text or e-mail messages, which produced a relatively high level of cognitive distraction. The data suggest that a rush to voice-based interactions in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.
Distracted drivers get tunnel vision, looking ahead without checking for other potential trouble spots.

The researchers note that of the eight tasks, only one required subjects to take their hands off the wheel (using the handheld phone), and none involved taking their eyes off the road, so the decreased attention and increased reaction times were are all attributable to cognitive distraction – something all the hands-free gizmos in the world can’t fix.

Increased use of these distracting technologies contribute to a “looming public safety crisis,” said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet in a statement.

The study authors say they hope their findings will be used to craft “scientifically-based policies on driver distraction,” particularly in relation to cognitive distraction.
AAA’s recommendations include:
  • Limiting the use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities such as climate control, windshield wipers and cruise control, and ensuring that these applications do not lead to increased safety risk due to mental distraction while the car is moving.
  • Disabling certain uses of voice-to-text technologies including social media, e-mail and text messaging, so that they are inoperable while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Educating vehicle owners and mobile device users about the responsible use and safety risks of in-vehicle technologies.
AAA has met with safety advocates and provided copies of the report to CEOs of all major U.S. automakers as part of its effort to raise awareness of the safety implications of emerging in-vehicle technologies.

Road Fees Don't Hurt the Poor as Much as You Might Think


By Eric Jaffe, June 17, 2013


 Road Fees Don't Hurt the Poor as Much as You Might Think

High-occupancy toll lanes, which charge single drivers a usage fee but are (typically) free to carpoolers, are popping up in metropolitan areas all over the country. The reasons are numerous but largely come down to money: HOT lanes are relatively inexpensive to create, and they generate their own revenue. At a time when all levels of government are struggling to fund transportation, that's a recipe for popularity.

But a lingering question with regard to HOT lanes is whether or not they're fair to the poor. Simply put, is it equitable to charge a road fee that high-income drivers will be more capable of paying, especially when that road was once free to the public? This is the old "Lexus lanes" dilemma, and alliteration aside, it's a tricky one.

Some background on the matter is in order. Federal transportation laws frequently address equity in a very explicit way: the word itself appeared in the full titles of these authorizations in both 1998 and 2005. But "equity" means very different things to different people. To some, it suggests equal transportation access to people of all income levels; to others, it means that states should get back in federal funding what they contribute in federal gas taxes.

Lately lawmakers have accepted the latter definition, but there's a strong historical argument for the former meaning, too. For one thing, public roads were originally provided as a means of keeping postal delivery a public service. Beyond that, the very first federal road funding bill, authorized in 1916, mandated that public roads built with public money remain "free from tolls."
So opposition to HOT lanes on the grounds of fairness is, in some sense, encoded in America's cultural DNA. But a couple recent arguments suggest that HOT lanes and the country's egalitarian spirit can, in fact, coexist.

The first comes from Harvard planning scholar and noted equity advocate Alan Altshuler. In a summary of previous research prepared for the latest issue of the ACCESS transportation journal, Altshuler argues that HOT lanes fulfill the "Do No Harm" planning mantra coined after the rough years of urban renewal. This ethic, which calls for urban transportation projects to be rejected if they harm any population group, effectively protects low-income city residents.

Altshuler bases his position on a couple surveys conducted in metro areas that have adopted HOT lanes in the recent past. One was done in San Diego circa 2001. At that time, about 80 percent of low-income respondents agreed with the concept that people should be able to use an express lane on Interstate 15 for a fee — a greater percentage of agreement than people from high-income brackets (70 percent). Additionally, two thirds of people who didn't even use the lanes still supported them.
A similar survey was done in 2006 in Minnesota. That work showed a 60 percent approval rate for HOT lanes on Interstate 394. A stronger analysis of this corridor, done by Tyler Patterson and David Levinson [PDF], found that income levels did predict use of the express lane (with higher-income drivers using them more often), but that lower-income drivers could also benefit from the shift of traffic out of the free lanes (as well as always having the express option in a time crunch).
(And a far more recent survey, released in April, showed that two-thirds of people making less than $50,000 a year said they'd use express toll lanes — the same percentage as people making more than that.)

HOT lanes, concludes Altshuler, "are unique among major congestion-relief options in that they satisfy the 'Do No Harm' criterion of equity: they leave no one worse off."

A second argument for HOT lane equity was summarized in an issue of ACCESS from 2010. This rationale, provided by Lisa Schweitzer and Brian Taylor, was based on the idea that equity can't be evaluated in the abstract. Rather, it must be compared directly with other highway policies in existence — in particular, to the sales tax referenda that have become a regular form of local transportation funding.

Schweitzer and Taylor made their comparison using SR-91 in Orange County, California. In 2003, the SR-91 HOT lanes generated $34 million. If a sales tax had been in place instead of the express toll, the researchers determined that the burden of payment shifted from HOT lane users to three other population groups: the rich (who buy the most stuff), the non-users (who wouldn't have used the lanes), and the poor (who pay more than their share because sales taxes are regressive).

In other words, Schweitzer and Taylor conclude, sales taxes are "doubly unfair" and represent a "pro-auto/pro-driving policy," at least relative to express tolls. While HOT lanes may be a little unfair to the poor, they're not as unfair as funding transportation with sales taxes. Additionally, express lanes can decrease congestion in addition to generating revenue, which obviously sales taxes cannot.

That makes two solid reasons to believe that HOT lanes aren't entirely unfair to the poor, but this being a complicated subject, there are also many large caveats. For starters, HOT lanes perpetuate auto dependency in a metro region, and car-centered planning reduces the overall affordability of transportation — especially for low-income classes. Moreover, just because low-income people support and occasionally use HOT lanes doesn't mean they'd do so if a cheaper (and equally reliable) transit option were available. The best road pricing programs will set aside some revenue for alternative modes.

HOT lanes may not be the worst of all possible urban transportation options, but it's worth remembering that they shouldn't be the only one, either.

Electric Bus Fast Charges in 15 Seconds


By William Pentland, June 8, 2013



A new high-capacity flash-charging technology pioneered by ABB Group, the Swiss power and automation conglomerate, will allow electric trolleys to run without overhead power lines.

“Through flash charging, we are able to pilot a new generation of electric buses for urban mass transport that no longer relies on overhead lines,” said Claes Rytoft, ABB ‘s acting Chief Technology Officer, in a press release. “This project will pave the way for switching to more flexible, cost-effective, public transport infrastructure while reducing pollution and noise.”

Relying on electricity from the power grid, the new charging technology will be installed at “flash stations” along the bus route. The station’s flash charging system connects to the bus’s roof-mounted batteries with a laser-controlled moving arm rather than overhead lines and traditional trolley poles. The charging time takes only about 15 seconds, which allows the bus to stay on schedule.
The new boost charging technology will be deployed for the first time on a large capacity electric bus, carrying as many as 135 passengers and running between Geneva’s airport and the international exhibition center, Palexpo. ABB is partnering on the demonstration project with the International Association of Public Transport (UTIP) and the local power utility, SIG.

The high-capacity flash charging electric bus system was designed for heavily-travelled bus routes in urban areas where concerns about the overhead wires have prevented using electric buses. For example, in many historic cities, the overhead lines have been controversial because of their aesthetic impact. In other areas, the overhead wires have created problems for people living buildings supporting the wires.
The Truth About Tejon


By Clem Tillier, June 16, 2013


If you try to reach Los Angeles from the Central Valley and points north, the Tehachapi Mountains stand squarely in the way.   This mountain range, crisscrossed by earthquake faults, forms a great barrier to California’s high-speed rail network and will (by geological and topographical necessity) result in one of the highest-elevation high-speed rail mountain crossings anywhere in the world.  Reaching even the lowest passes requires a roughly 1000 m (3300 ft) vertical climb from the floor of the Central Valley, with sustained steep grades and tunnels and bridges of considerable length.  The Tehachapi mountain crossing will surely be the most spectacular, complex and expensive section of California’s nascent high-speed rail backbone.

Crossing the Tehachapis is feasible at several topographically favorable locations, among which are Tehachapi Pass (to serve Palmdale and the Antelope Valley, as selected by the California High-Speed Rail Authority) and Tejon Pass, also known as the “Grapevine” or I-5 alignment.  Two possible HSR alignments through these passes are shown in the map at right.  The map, oriented such that the SF-LA axis is vertical, highlights one of the basic trade-offs of California high-speed rail: detour through the fast-growing but geographically isolated Antelope Valley, or take the direct shortcut to Los Angeles.

This trade-off was never technical.  For political reasons that will not be discussed here, Tejon Pass was never seriously considered for high-speed rail.

During Roelof van Ark’s brief stint as CEO of the rail authority, staff and consultants were directed to reconsider the options and produced the Conceptual I-5 Corridor Study, published at the January 2012 board meeting–the same meeting where van Ark resigned his post.  This study was tailored, rather blatantly as we will see, to reconfirm the route via Palmdale.  The technical rationale for dismissing Tejon Pass alignments was built on numerous contrived assumptions and constraints that warrant close examination.  A sophisticated path optimization tool, known as Quantm, was used to evaluate thousands of possible alignments through the Tehachapi Mountains, giving the false impression that they had been exhaustively researched; however, the tool was carefully tweaked to avoid some of the most promising alternatives.  While thousands of alignments may have been considered, the hundreds that weren’t are far more interesting.

A Good Tejon Pass Alignment

The map below shows a reasonable Tejon Pass HSR alignment, by no means the best, in comparison to the probable Antelope Valley alignment.  This map serves as a key to the rest of this article, and is even more revealing after downloading the KML file and opening it in Google Earth, where many of the locations, landmarks and topographical features discussed below are easily visualized in 3D.

View Larger Map

Myths About Crossing the Tehachapi Mountains

Twelve myths have developed around the complex issue of the HSR southern mountain crossing, and are often trotted out to support the Antelope Valley alignment via Palmdale.  These myths, all of them wrong, include the following:
  1. Tejon Pass HSR alignments cannot cross into Tejon Mountain Village property
  2. Tejon Pass HSR requires more tunneling than the Antelope Valley
  3. Tehachapi Pass is the easier mountain crossing, as the Southern Pacific Railroad figured out way back in the 1870s
  4. Tejon Pass HSR suffers from greater seismic risk, compared to Antelope Valley HSR
  5. Tejon Pass HSR via Santa Clarita would significantly impact Newhall Ranch
  6. Antelope Valley HSR via Tehachapi Pass alignment can just plug into the electric grid
  7. Bakersfield can be crossed at 220 mph
  8. Bakersfield must be served with a downtown station
  9. Tejon Pass HSR is only 3-5 minutes faster than Antelope Valley HSR
  10. HSR can operate at 220 mph on long and steep down grades
  11. Tejon Pass HSR costs about the same as Antelope Valley HSR
  12. Tejon Pass HSR screws Palmdale.  Palmdale will never get a fast rail connection to LA unless it is on the HSR main line
A blog post is the wrong medium to address such complex issues; instead, the following presentation dismantles each of the myths using numerous figures and diagrams to illustrate each point.  These 75 slides are also available for download, 7MB PDF in much better resolution than provided by Scribd.

The conclusions are stunning.  Compared to the Antelope Valley alignment currently being planned with a stop in Palmdale, the more direct Tejon Pass HSR alignment would have the following advantages:
  • 12 minutes faster (7% of the SF – LA trip time)
  • 34 miles shorter
  • 10+ fewer miles of tunnel
  • 20 fewer miles of bridges
  • $5 billion cheaper to build
  • $175 million/year more profitable to operate
You might ask yourself at this point how some guy on the internet can come up with this stuff and claim that it undercuts years of studies by professional consultant teams paid hundreds of millions of dollars.  The point is that when it comes to math and physics, the numbers don’t lie.  The numerous advantages of a Tejon Pass alignment will not be lost on potential private investors, who will spare no effort to produce their own untainted investment-grade analysis of the mountain crossing.  If their numbers turn out anywhere close to this (and they will!) there simply won’t ever be any private investment.

Considering that the 2012 business plan relies on $13 billion of private capital (about 20% of the $68 billion overall budget), choosing the wrong mountain crossing could make or break HSR in California.  If the numbers presented here are to be believed, the smart money will demand a Tejon Pass alignment.  Failing this, private capital will stay away, and California’s high-speed rail system is unlikely to be completed as planned.

That’s why smart HSR supporters, those who are analytically-minded and open to new information, should place their full support behind the re-alignment of California’s high-speed rail backbone via Tejon Pass.


County may grab millions from South Bay road projects to help pay for light rail line to LAX


By Nick Green, June 16, 2013

County transportation planners are preparing to grab nearly $100 million allocated for South Bay road projects to pay for the Crenshaw-LAX light rail line.

South Bay government officials were apoplectic when they belatedly discovered the plans by the Metropolitan Transportation Agency.

Making matters worse, though, is the apparent rationale for what local officials see as the confiscation of money from the region; in 2009, without consultation, Metro officials changed the boundaries of the South Bay so that 60 percent of the transit project is now within what it now defines as the South Bay.

Metro has a policy that essentially states that any transportation project that is more expensive than initially predicted - because of either cost overruns or expansion of the project itself, which both apply here - must largely be paid for by the geographic region that stands to benefit most.

So that means, according to transportation planners, 60 percent of a rail project that runs from Leimert Park in South Los Angeles to LAX is defined as being in the South Bay.

The 8.5-mile-long line will serve Los Angeles, Inglewood, Hawthorne and El Segundo and portions of unincorporated Los Angeles County.

Traditionally, said Jacki Bacharach, executive director of the South Bay Council of Governments, the group has defined the South Bay's northern boundary as Imperial Highway.

"We are very upset and have gone on the warpath pretty much," she said. "We want to shout as loud as we can that it's not keeping faith with the voters and it's really irresponsible."
That's because most of the money for local transportation projects comes from two measures approved by voters throughout the county, Measure R and Proposition C. They each added a half-cent to sales taxes.
Billions are being spent on building transit lines elsewhere in the county, while an extension of the Green Line isn't expected to reach Torrance for decades.
To offset that, the South Bay was set to receive a relatively small proportion of transportation funds - $906 million spread over 30 years for more than 100 road projects large and small.
But now Metro wants almost $95 million of that to help pay for the $160 million more now needed for the Crenshaw/LAX project. Over three decades the amount that could be taken actually works out to even more - closer to $500 million - because the $906 million is really worth closer to $1.5 billion when factoring in inflation over three decades.
Contributing to those additional costs along the Crenshaw line is that the Metro board recently added two more previously unfunded stations in Westchester and Leimert Park at a cost of $120 million.
A Metro spokesman late Friday declined comment on the plan the agency's board will vote on at its June 27 meeting.
Local officials are preparing an alternate motion that board member and South Bay county Supervisor Don Knabe plans to introduce at that meeting.
Knabe, who calls the Metro proposal "overreaching and inappropriate," said his motion has two elements.
One would change a Metro policy that allows for increasing the debt ceiling for a particular transit project that could be covered by, for instance, issuing more bonds.

The other would allow Metro to take nearly $50 million from surplus funds set aside for countywide transportation projects rather than take grabbing funds specifically earmarked for the South Bay.

"We need to take a look at other options," he said. "(Metro) is pitting one Measure R project against another. It's an issue of fairness. ... We can't just continue to pull money from other projects."
The Torrance City Council is expected to approve a resolution at its Tuesday night meeting supporting Knabe's option.

Other South Bay city councils are being asked to do the same, although not all have regularly scheduled meetings between now and the June 27 Metro board meeting.

It's unclear what South Bay projects would be on the chopping block should Metro move forward with its plan despite Knabe's alternative.

Further complicating matters is that Metro is attempting to accelerate the timeline of various transportation projects by as much as 16 years.

That, too, could take away money the South Bay had planned to spend in the second and third decades of the Measure R work plan.

For instance, Bacharach said that means Metro could be boring as many as three separate Metro rail transit projects at a time.

She questions whether the "overly aggressive" schedule allows the agency to cost effectively do that amount of work at once.

South Bay cities are concerned that if they can't complete their highway projects by the 2023 deadline in the acceleration plan, Metro could also steal remaining highway funds - promised to improve South Bay freeway and highway operations - for rail construction cost overruns, Bacharach said.
Rob Beste, Torrance's public works director, said it's important for the South Bay to preserve as much as it can.

"The South Bay is a net donor to the Measure R project," Beste said. "We generate a lot more sales tax than we get back.

"The amount of money we have is very small compared to what other regions will get out of Measure R," he added. "What we're trying to do is protect the small amount we have."

Some L.A. County bus drivers say pesticides are making them ill

14 Metropolitan Transportation Authority drivers are pursuing workers' comp claims, and 110 have signed a petition to halt the agency's spraying of the vehicles.


By Dan Weikel, June 16, 2013

MTA bus

 Riders board a Metro Rapid bus. Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses are sprayed quarterly for pests,but severe infestations can require additional applications.

Los Angeles County bus drivers say they are regularly becoming ill — sometimes while behind the wheel — from pesticides sprayed inside their vehicles by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
At least 14 Metro drivers are pursuing workers' compensation claims, and more than 110 have signed a petition that demands a halt to the spraying, according to their attorney. Some operators are on medical leave, and a few say they have left Metro because of repeated exposure.

"You can be driving your bus and get hit with the symptoms," said Frank Portillo, a 23-year coach operator who retired in March, sooner than planned, because of medical issues he believes are pesticide related. "It's a problem for those on the early shift, but you can breathe the fumes throughout the day. The smell is all over."

Three drivers — part of Metro's most heavily used transit system, shuttling 1 million passengers a day with a fleet of 2,500 buses — have lodged complaints with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health since 2011. They allege they have suffered severe headaches, dizziness, breathing problems, nausea and irritation to their eyes and skin from four brands of pesticides.

All can be harmful if they are swallowed, are inhaled or come into contact with the skin or eyes, research shows. Extreme exposure can be fatal.

Peter Melton, a spokesman for Cal/OSHA, said the agency is investigating whether Metro has violated regulations designed to prevent workers from being exposed to harmful substances. He declined to comment further because the inquiry is pending.

Although the drivers say they occasionally hear complaints from passengers about odors, there is no indication any riders have reported health problems as a result.

Nevertheless, advocates for transit users, such as the Bus Riders Union, are concerned that passengers might be getting ill as well, especially the elderly and children, who might be more sensitive to chemicals.

"If the drivers are getting sick, that is enough indication that it is not safe," said Sunyoung Yang, a union spokesperson. After an application, "In the morning, when the buses start running, there are some acrid smells. If there are unsafe chemicals inside the buses, there should be precautionary measures."

Portillo identified one of his former passengers as Eugene Rubalcava, 36, of San Gabriel, who relies on Metro buses to get to work. In an interview, Rubalcava said he has noticed chemical-like smells on occasion after he boards early in the morning. He says he has never become ill.

Metro officials said ample precautions are taken when buses are treated to kill roaches and other insects attracted by crumbs from sandwiches, chips, candy and other food items that passengers often bring on board.

They say that safety information is provided to operators, and no more than eight driver complaints have been officially lodged in the last five years. In a recent letter, the authority told Cal/OSHA that employee exposures are insignificant because of the controlled conditions and limited amounts of pesticide applied.

"Spraying buses is common to prevent insect infestations," said Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesman. "These are standard industry practices, and the chemicals are used for a multitude of purposes."
The pesticides in question are pyrethrins made of a natural substance from chrysanthemums or their synthetic equivalent known as pyrethroids.

Thought to be safer than other pesticides, their use has exploded during the last two decades. Both are applied to kill insects in homes, on pets and on commercial farms. But studies of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data show that the number of human health problems — including severe reactions — have increased several hundredfold since their introduction.

Although spraying pesticides is common at transit agencies, officials at the Orange County Transportation Authority and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus said their operations apply a pesticide gel specifically in cracks, crevices and panel areas of their buses. Sprays are rarely, if ever, used, they said. Of the two transit operators, Orange County reported only one complaint from a driver in the last few years.

Metro contracts with ISOTECH, an experienced and license pest control company. Sections of bus interiors are sprayed, including the driver's area, and, as with OCTA and Santa Monica, pesticides are injected into cracks, crevices, moldings and panel areas.

Buses are then posted with warnings and sealed off for four hours before employees can enter, officials said. Each vehicle is treated quarterly, but severe infestations can require additional applications.

"Our first concern is safety for the public and our employees," said Debra Johnson, the deputy chief operations officer for Metro. "We use pesticides for infestations, and we go to extremes to make sure we have a safe environment."

Drivers say, however, that pesticide odors can linger during their eight-hour shifts, producing flu-like symptoms. On several occasions, Portillo said, he became so sick he had to request a replacement in the middle of his shift. He and other operators disputed Metro's statement that safety information is readily available, noting that warning notices have been removed from treated buses before operators arrived for work.

"The MTA is not responding to their concerns," said attorney Diana Sparagna, who represents the drivers pursuing workers' compensation claims. "We have done everything right, but the MTA makes it sound like this is nothing."

TOD Works in Reducing Driving, Even Without the Transit


By Jonathan Nettoer, June 15, 2013

  [TOD: transit-oriented development]

Across America, TOD is seen as the solution for many of the problems that plague cities. But what if you could get the economic, environmental, and health benefits of transit-oriented development without the billions of dollars in rail investment?

To remedy the effects of several decades of sprawling development patterns, cities throughout the United States are pursuing the development of high-density pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods oriented around transit stations. "All that would encourage people to walk, bicycle and use transit instead of driving," says Marlys Harris. "Air would get cleaner, dependence on foreign oil would drop, and a thousand flowers would bloom."

"But here's the crucial question: Does TOD really decrease driving?"

"Studies have come down on both sides of the issue," she notes. "The latest, from Daniel G. Chatman, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, made a pretty thorough investigation of the matter and concluded that people living in TOD areas did drive less, but — and here's the surprise — not because of the availability of transit."

"Instead of making multi-billion dollar investments in rail transit, Chatman argues, we may be able to reduce energy use and pollution just as much by creating incentives for higher-density mixed-use developments (incorporating housing, retail and offices) in certain areas while strictly limiting parking. Problem is, the local inconveniences of greater congestion and less parking would probably tick off neighbors and their elected representatives. Working all that out, he says,'is the planning puzzle that deserves our focused attention. The pursuit of rail-oriented development may be a distraction.'"

Do we really need mass transit to limit our dependence on cars?


By Marlys Harris, June 11, 2013


Do we really need mass transit to limit our dependence on cars?

 Many U.S. cities, including ours, have spread themselves so wide and so thin that for years, city planners figured that roads and freeways were the only cost-efficient form of transportation.


The notion that we need more public transit starts with a premise that most of us can embrace. We, meaning human beings — and particularly those in developed countries — are messing up the atmosphere.

How? Well, in lots of ways, but according to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, the cars and trucks we drive are responsible for anywhere between 50 and 90 percent of the air pollution in urban areas. And, even if you think that automobile transportation is an American birthright guaranteed by God, you're no doubt aware of the unhealthy effects of the hydrocarbons and other junk that we're taking in — and you probably can get behind the idea that maybe pollution would decrease if we drove less.

Mass transit, however, needs a critical mass of customers to make sense. You wouldn't build a subway system across the Gobi desert because only the odd nomad would be around to use it. Similarly, many U.S. cities, including ours, while hardly deserts, have spread themselves so wide and so thin that for years, city planners figured that roads and freeways were the only cost-efficient form of transportation. 


Ultimately, however, as the increasing number of cars boosted pollution, congestion and commuting times, planners came up with a kind of retrofit: transit would become cost effective if you encouraged high-density development around it. The strategy, called, TOD or transit-oriented development, when translated from plannerese,  means building up housing, offices and retail outlets within a half-mile or so of a rail stop, thus creating a walkable neighborhood with lots of pedestrian amenities. All that would encourage people to walk, bicycle and use transit instead of driving. Air would get cleaner, dependence on foreign oil would drop, and a thousand flowers would bloom.

No fewer than a jillion U.S. communities either have or are trying to ramp up TOD around the transit they already have or, in the case of the Twin Cities, are building (and hope to build as soon as we can scratch up the billions of dollars we need).

But here's the crucial question: Does TOD really decrease driving?

Studies have come down on both sides of the issue. The latest, from Daniel G. Chatman, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, made a pretty thorough investigation of the matter and concluded that people living in TOD areas did drive less, but — and here's the surprise — not because of the availability of transit.

Households surveyed

Makes no sense, you say? Well, read on. Chatman surveyed a couple of thousand households living — some in new TOD developments and some in older housing — within two miles of 10 rail stations in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City, including Trenton, South Amboy, Westfield and South Orange (which have population densities similar to Minneapolis, 3,000 to 8,000 people a square mile). He asked them about the type of housing they lived in, their access to parking, their work and non-work travel patterns, their demographics and reasons for choosing their neighborhoods. He added parking data collected from a field survey and then figured how each of the factors correlated with auto use.

What he concluded from all this was that it wasn't so much the availability of transit that made people use cars less, but density itself. Higher density means "lower on- and off-street parking availability, better bus service and more jobs, stores and people within walking distance."

People who lived in the newer housing, usually made up of small rental units, tended to use cars less than everybody else, possibly, he suggests, because they are younger and have lower incomes. Most crucial seems to be lousy parking, and as a survivor of alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations in New York City, I can attest that nothing encourages use of mass transit more than such auto-related misery.

Instead of making multi-billion dollar investments in rail transit, Chatman argues, we may be able to reduce energy use and pollution just as much by creating incentives for higher-density mixed-use developments (incorporating housing, retail and offices) in certain areas while strictly limiting parking. Problem is, the local inconveniences of greater congestion and less parking would probably tick off neighbors and their elected representatives. Working all that out, he says,"is the planning puzzle that deserves our focused attention. The pursuit of rail-oriented development may be a distraction."

As I was wading through Chatman's multi-variate regression analyses (OK, I mostly skimmed them), I happened to recall that I'd recently read another study — this one local — that teases out information complementing his findings.

The purpose of this one was to find out how much transit matters to employers and developers when they decide where to locate a project or business. To that end, Yingling Fan, an assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Andrew Guthrie, a research fellow, conducted a series of open-ended interviews with 24 developers, 16 corporados and three commercial real-estate brokers.

The answer researchers got: transit — not so much.
Employers, for example, liked the idea of being near a rail or bus line — in theory, at least. They are aware that members of the younger millennial generation (born after 1982) prefer urban living and transit access. Attracting them would be easier for businesses locating near transit. But employers also want to retain current workers, many of whom already commute by car. If they moved their business to a denser area where parking was less available, those older employees might ditch them for the competition. 

About a third of the 24 developers interviewed said they considered mass transit an important factor in location. But if the site proved more expensive than otherwise, or if there would be more red tape involved than with another location, they weren't interested. And apparently red tape abounds. Developers complained in particular of zoning codes that allowed only a single-use, high-minimum parking requirements and low-maximum densities.

List of recommendations

Yingling and Guthrie issued a long list of recommendations that might help nudge developers and employers toward TOD areas, including tax abatements. Local governments have already ramped up efforts — a bit — to create high-density nodes. A couple of years ago, Minneapolis hired a director of transit-oriented development, and St. Paul is now looking for one — though it's also looking for foundation grants to fund the position. The Met Council awards grants to transit-oriented projects to clean up polluted land and aid in assembling land, but the total available is only $8 million.

Minneapolis has already changed zoning around the Blue LRT line (that's the one running down Hiawatha) to allow higher-density housing, as many as 100 units per acre, without special permission and mixed-use buildings. Among other things, the new regulation requires less off-street parking than in other parts of the city, more pedestrian-oriented design (windows on the street, for example) and prohibits stand-alone fast-food joints. Since 2001, 1,466 units of housing have been added to the immediate area, with another 1,000 or so in the talking-about-it stage. 

Note: The last paragraph of this version reflects newer information on zoning.

New Jersey's Wi-Fi deal for rail commuters could offer role model for Metra

Multimillion-dollar cost is sticking point for Chicago-area agency


 By Richard Wronski, June 16, 2013


Metra officials said they’ve been unsuccessful in their search for a private company to pick up the tab for installing Wi-Fi, estimated to cost at least $70 million.

Metra has failed to come up with a partner to provide wireless Internet service for Chicago's commuters, but one of the New York area's major commuter rail agencies has found a way.

A private company, Cablevision Systems Corp., will install Wi-Fi on New Jersey Transit's stations, platforms and aboard trains by the end of 2016, officials from the agency and the company said.
And, NJ Transit says, it won't cost the agency or taxpayers a dime.

That's become the sticking point at Metra, where officials said they've been unsuccessful in their search for a private company to pick up the tab for installing Wi-Fi, estimated to cost at least $70 million.

Even a one-year pilot project on a single line, the Rock Island, would run $3.4 million, Metra says.
Despite strong enthusiasm among customers for Wi-Fi, some Metra board members said recently they were ready to "pull the plug" on the project, which they deemed too risky financially and technologically.

Some board members also expressed reluctance at continuing to pay a consultant, San Francisco-based Xentrans, under a contract topping $250,000, to advise Metra on finding a partner.
Officials in New Jersey, meanwhile, are touting their 20-year agreement with Cablevision as the first of its kind in the nation.

Cablevision will install fiber optic cabling, wireless access points, antennas and related equipment in stations, along rights of way and aboard trains.

With 11 lines serving New Jersey and New York City, NJ Transit is comparable to Metra and is one of the region's three commuter rail agencies.

NJ Transit provided about 79 million passenger trips in 2012, compared with Metra's 73 million, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Bringing Wi-Fi to commuter rail passengers is one of Cablevision's "strategic objectives" in attracting and keeping customers, the company said.

Cablevision claims to have built the nation's largest Wi-Fi network, with more than 80,000 "hot spots" accessed by more than a million customers in the three-state region around New York City. The company believes its agreement with NJ Transit will extend that access, spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew said.

The company reportedly is in talks with New York's Metro-North commuter rail line, which provided 82 million trips in 2012.

NJ Transit believes the deal is a great one for its customers, who are "excited they will be able to conduct business over the Web on their commute and communicate with their loved ones," spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said.

"The bottom line for us is, it comes with no cost to NJ Transit and no cost to the taxpayers," she said.
NJ Transit estimated that it would cost $140 million for the Newark-based agency to provide wireless Internet service on its own, Snyder said.

Wi-Fi won't be free for every NJ Transit passenger, however. Only Cablevision subscribers will get the service as part of their subscription package, officials said.

Nonsubscribers will be charged a "reasonable" but as-yet undetermined fee, Cablevision said.
Despite misgivings expressed by Metra's board members, NJ Transit's deal with Cablevision could provide a "fantastic solution" for Metra as well, said Deputy Director Alex Wiggins, who has been overseeing the Wi-Fi effort.

"We're not giving up," Wiggins said.

Metra's staff will cite NJ Transit's experience with board members in coming months to present additional options for providing Wi-Fi at no cost to the agency, he said.

"Wi-Fi is a complicated amenity to provide to customers," Wiggins said.

 "Many transit agencies have spent many years and much money to figure it out. It looks like New Jersey came up with a heck of a model, and if we can replicate it, we will."

The world's fastest train journeys


June 17, 2013

 The world's fastest train journeys



As Japan successfully tests a new floating train, which will travel at up to 311 miles per hour, we round up more rail journeys that will pass by in a blur.
High-speed from Brussels to Paris
 The high speed train operation plying the route between the capitals of Belgium and France is known as Thalys, and it has cut journey between the two cities to a mere 90 minutes.

It now also travels to Amsterdam and Cologne.
Top speed: 186 miles per hour

 Rome to Florence/ Milan
This is the Italian high speed line, a network that has been in operation for two decades. This has cut down journeys from Rome to Milan to around 2 hours and 40 minutes. It’s known as the Frecciarossa (red arrow) for good reason.
Top speeds: around 186 miles per hour

The high-speed network operating throughout France.
Top speed: 200 miles per hour

Madrid to Barcelona
The AVE - Spain's ultra-modern high-speed train – stole 20 per cent of Iberia Airlines' customers when it started the route from the capital to the Catalan coast.
It now also runs to Seville and Valencia. It was inspired by the French TGV and runs at similar speeds.
Top speed: 186 miles per hour

Taiwan: Taipei to Kaohsiung
This was developed using the same Shinkansen technology that made the Japanese trains so rapid.
Top speed: 186 miles an hour
Can be taken between the capital Taipei and the second city in the south, Kaohsiung.

London to Paris
The trip from London to Paris got a whole lot faster after an upgrade of the line on the English-side. With journey times taking less than three hours, from city centre to city centre, it has made an enormous difference to those wishing to travel speedily between the two capitals.
Top speed: 187 miles per hour

Korea: From Seoul to Busan
Built by Hyundai Rotem, the KTX South Korean high-speed train takes more than two miles to reach its top speed. It has cut down travelling times between the country’s two largest cities.
Top speed: 190 miles an hour.

Cologne to Frankfurt
Run on electricity, the ICE3 service from Cologne to Frankfurt reaches a hair-raising velocity. Don't expect to take in the view.
Top speed: 199 miles an hour.

Tokyo to Osaka
Often seen as the pioneer of the high-speed railways – a tradition it seems intent on keeping – Japan us best known for its super-fast E5 Shinkansen train.
The “bullet train” runs on the world’s busiest high speed line, with the bulk of the passengers passing between Tokyo and Osaka. It takes more than three minutes for the train to slow down.
Top speed: 200 miles an hour

Beijing to Tianjin
This high-speed line - plied by CRH3C trains - opened on August 2008, and cut the journey time between Beijing and Tianjin to just over 30 minutes.
Top speed: 205 miles (when running on the high speed line, but has reached a maximum of 217 mph).

From Shanghai airport to Shanghai
No point in even trying to take in the scenery on this one. It was the first commercially used maglev (magnetic levitation) train, transferring people from the international airport to Shanghai metro – a distance of less than 20 miles.
Top speed: 268 miles per hour

Who is the New Member on the House Transportation Committee?


By Larry Ehl, June 15, 2013

Federal transportation issues become part of new U.S. Representative Mark Sanford's portfolio. Image: Back of Capitol, by Transportation Issues Daily, Larry Ehl.



 Federal transportation issues become part of new U.S. Representative Mark Sanford’s portfolio.

A new Representative, elected in recent special election, joins the House Transportation Committee.  In early May Republican Mark Sanford was elected  to fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Rep. Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate. That seat was open due to the resignation of Jim DeMint to take a position with the Heritage Foundation.  Sanford previously represented the same district from 1995 to 2001 before being elected Governor of South Carolina, a position he held from 2003 to 2011.  See a Wikipedia biography for more information.

Upon his appointment Sanford remarked:

“I’m honored to be selected to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Efficient, effective infrastructure is critical to families and businesses in the Lowcountry.  Serving on the Committee will provide ample opportunity to positively impact important issues for the 1st District, as well as for taxpayers across the nation.”

Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster commented on Sanford’s appointment:

“I’m looking forward to working with Congressman Sanford on the Transportation Committee as we work to strengthen our Nation’s infrastructure, reform programs, promote economic growth, and ensure that American businesses remain globally competitive.” Read the complete news release.

Sanford is likely to fill the vacancies that exist on the Coast Guard, Economic Development and Water Resources Subcommittees

Sanford was elected to the House in a special election last month to fill the seat that was vacated by the appointment of then-Rep. Tim Scott to the state’s open Senate seat.

Sanford completes trek from Congress to 'Appalachian Trail' and back again


 By Jessica Taylor, May 15, 2013

 Speaker of the House John Boehner, left, greets Peggy Sanford, right, mother of U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, second from right, Sanford's fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, center, and members of Sanford's family before a ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2013, in Washington, D.C.


Mark Sanford’s comeback story is complete.

 The former South Carolina governor is now officially a congressman again, sworn in Wednesday on the House floor after winning last week’s competitive special election in the state's 1st District.

As Sanford took his official oath late Wednesday afternoon, he echoed the same themes of redemption he used in his winning campaign.

“I stand before you with a whole new appreciation for the God of second chances,” Sanford said.
The Republican’s return nearly 13 years after he left Capitol Hill is all the more remarkable for his having overcome the scandal that derailed his governorship.

In 2009, Sanford disappeared from the state, telling his office he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, only to reveal in a teary press conference that he had actually been having an affair in Argentina. Sanford and his wife divorced, and he is now engaged to that same Argentinian woman, Maria Belen Chapur.

After he left the governor’s office following his second term, Sanford's political career appeared to be finished.  But when Gov. Nikki Haley tapped Rep. Tim Scott to fill an open seat in the U.S. Senate, Sanford was presented with an opportunity to reclaim the district he once represented.

Sanford won the special election primary and runoff with relative ease, but soon news leaked that his ex-wife had accused him of trespassing at her home earlier this year. Many Republicans began to distance themselves from Sanford, and the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled funding from the race.

Sensing an opportunity, Democrats poured money into the race, hoping that Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, could pull the upset. Though polls showed the race was close, Sanford won by nine points on May 7.

But on Wednesday, as he began his first official day back on the Hill, Sanford said there were no hard feelings for House Republicans who spurned his campaign and said he'd been welcomed by the state's congressional delegation and by many current members, some of whom he had served with in his first stint.