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

Friday, June 21, 2013

A reckless rider pleads guilty to assault with a deadly weapon. But does that say more about the city that charged him than the cyclists that ride there?


 By Ted Rogers, June 21, 2013


 We're not saying the SMPD targets cyclist, but they did ticket Santa for riding "too far to the left" in 2008.

Yes, bike riders are subject to the same laws drivers are.

Maybe Santa Monica police and prosecutors wanted to send that message loud and clear. Maybe they wanted to make an example of one reckless cyclist so other bicyclists would straighten up and ride right.

But to do it, they slapped a reckless, red light running rider with a felony charge no driver, however dangerous, is likely to face in a similar situation.
And sent a message that maybe Santa Monica isn’t as bike-friendly as it claims to be.

According to Santa Monica police, Rocky Martin was trying to catch up to a group of fellow riders on Santa Monica Blvd on June 24th of last year when he blew through a red light at the popular Third Street Promenade, weaving dangerously through a crowd of pedestrians crossing with the light.
Until he collided with a woman walking with her family, knocking her down and seriously injuring her.

Make no mistake. He deserved to be charged for his actions, just as a driver who ran a red light and injured a pedestrian should be. If we expect motorists to be held responsible for their actions behind the wheel, we have to assume the same responsibility.

But in most cases, the driver would only face charges for running the light, or maybe distracted driving.

Instead, Martin was charged with a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon. And pleaded guilty on May 31st of this year, sentenced to three years felony probation and 30 days community service.

“If we as cyclists are going to break the rules, we have to be accountable for putting a more vulnerable section of the population at risk,” said Cynthia Rose, Director of the bike advocacy group Santa Monica Spoke.

“But we have to talk about equity,” she continued. “This seems unprecedented.”

Then there’s another matter touched on in the articles about the Martin case.

Rose, who frequently works closely with the City of Santa Monica and the city’s police department, says the department focuses on a different traffic problem every month. And according to SMPD Sgt. Richard Lewis, that focus will be on violations by bike riders from July through September.
That three-month targeting of bike riders seems a little extreme to her.

And it sounds a lot like selective enforcement.

In meetings with the bike task force, the Los Angeles Police Department has repeatedly made it clear that they can’t target specific groups of road users, such as motorists or bike riders. Instead, they have to focus on specific locations or violations, and ticket anyone who breaks the law, regardless of mode of travel.

For instance, they might station officers at a problematic intersection, and pull over anyone who violates any law in some manner. Or they might direct their focus on red light or crosswalk violations, and stop anyone who doesn’t observe the law, regardless of whether they’re driving, riding or walking.

What they can’t do, they insist, is target their enforcement towards any specific group, whether that’s bike riders or Seventh Day Adventists.

Evidently, Santa Monica police disagree.

“As cycling becomes more popular,” said Huntsman, “we will see more of the injustices usually dished out on the rest of society directed toward cyclists. For example, the SMPD targeting cyclists as opposed to targeting violations is our version of the infamous DWB (‘Driving While Brown”) syndrome where minorities have been statistically more likely to get pulled over for traffic infractions than whites.”

Bruins puts it this way. “There is a need for enforcement strategies that focus on the greatest harm. Instead of responding to complaints, they should be looking at their crime and traffic stats to determine where their resources will do the most good.”

And that isn’t likely to be going after bicyclists, however reckless or annoying they may sometimes be.

According to Daniel J. Jimenez, the attorney familiarly known as Dj Wheels within the local bicycling community, police set up stings for traffic violations all the time.

“Nothing wrong with that. And like the LAPD says, they target the violations first. But these stings are reactionary. The community complains, police react. People complain about motorists not yielding to pedestrians, pedestrians jaywalking… so they set up an officer at the scene to catch those violators.”

“It would be interesting to see if SMPD chooses to purposefully ignore violations by motorists when they are out there cracking down on scofflaw cyclists. It would be even more interesting if someone were to catch this on video.”

Cynthia Rose sums it up this way.

“If we want to be an equitable bike-friendly city, enforcement needs to coupled with education.  We need the police to join us in that education; starting a crackdown on bicyclists will not give us the environment we need to move forward.”

“New bicyclists need equitable enforcement, as well. Don’t tell us it’s too dangerous to ride on a road, but instead, give us the guidance we need to ride safely on that road.”

We're not saying SMPD has a history of ticketing cyclists for bogus infractions, but this cyclist was ticketed for not having "front facing lights." I count two. 

And there’s one other problem.

Santa Monica has made great progress in recent years in cementing its reputation for bike-friendliness; just this week one website named them the 5th most bikable community in the U.S.
And the city takes justifiable pride in their recent elevation to a silver level Bicycle-Friendly Community.

But can any community truly be considered bike friendly when cyclists have to ride in fear of being targeted for the smallest infraction? Or facing criminal charges for actions most motorists could expect to be written off as a mere accident, worthy of a relatively minor traffic violation at most?
In response to that question, Lucy Dyke, Deputy Director of Special Projects for the City of Santa Monica, pointed out all the city is doing to promote bicycling and bike safety.

“The City of Santa Monica is concerned about the safety of all road users, especially bicyclists and pedestrians who are more physically vulnerable to crashes than people driving. Enforcement is part of the mix, but Santa Monica strongly supports bicyclists with education, encouragement and engineering: the City has its own Bike Campus (with online video curriculum), it offers free classes to the public, free secure parking at the Bike Center, and has more than doubled the bikeway and parking facilities since a Bike Action Plan was adopted in November, 2011.”

“This past year Santa Monica hosted a Family Bike Fest and Kidical Mass ride. It has now securely parked over 150,000 bicycles, free of charge, through the bike valet program. The City Council knows that getting more bikes on the street improves bike safety, and the City encourages people on bikes through our Bike Center programs, bike-friendly street projects, and, next year, a bikeshare system.”

No argument from me.

As someone who rides through Santa Monica at least a couple times a week, I’ve seen the city transform itself in recent years. And even apologized for criticizing its earlier selection as a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community.

Despite being one of the most cautiously law-abiding bike riders you’re likely to meet, though, I find myself questioning whether I want to ride in a city where the police apparently plan to put me under a microscope.

Don’t get me wrong.

Virtually every time I ride through Santa Monica, or any other city, I see serious violations by bike riders who could, and probably should, be written up or at least stopped and given a warning.
But I also see far more — and more serious — violations by motorists. If only because there are far more motorists on the streets than there are bike riders.

And I am far less afraid of my fellow cyclists than I am the countless cars and trucks that surround us.

Note: The Santa Monica Police Department did not respond to a request to be interviewed for this story before it was posted online.

Orange County bike lawyer David Huntsman, himself a former competitive cyclist, agrees.
“I have never heard of a comparatively negligent motor vehicle driver being charged with ADW. ‘Comparative’ being the key word, because you can’t compare the hazard a motorist poses with the hazard a cyclist poses. Even the gentlest nudge from cars can kill; not so with bikes.”

Eric Bruins, Policy and Planning Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, compared it to the Mandeville Canyon case where an angry driver was convicted of deliberately trying to injure two cyclists. “I have never heard of a charge like that where there wasn’t a road rage element involved.”

Yet no one has suggested that Martin deliberately targeted his victim, or set out to hurt anyone.
As it turns out, though, intent isn’t required for a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

“You don’t have to intend to cause harm,” clarified Pasadena-based bicycle attorney Thomas Forsyth “Only use force or instrument likely to cause serious bodily harm to another. This is one of those instances where criminal law and civil/negligence law overlap. The cyclist only need ‘intend’ to run the red light with the likelihood that doing so would result in serious bodily injury to a pedestrian.”

On the other hand, few would consider a bike a deadly weapon, when a car is far more likely to cause serious harm.

“When drivers are negligent and injure or kill a cyclist, are they charged with ‘assault with a deadly weapon?’ asked Bicycling and the Law author and Bicycling Magazine columnist Bob Mionske in response to this case.

“Not that I’ve ever heard of. Often, they are coddled with ‘it was just an accident.’ And often, law enforcement bends over backwards to shift the blame to the cyclist, when it is crystal clear that the driver was breaking the law. I have seen this happen many, many times.”

“There has to be an equity in enforcement and prosecution,” said Rose. “As you know, we can’t get the courts to prosecute when we get hurt by these two-ton vehicles. Had this happened with any other kind of vehicle, there could have been multiple deaths.”

Or as Huntsman put it, “It’s not the injury but the recklessness that matters. I know many ‘lucky’ cyclists who have been relatively uninjured after being struck by negligent drivers; the drivers were not charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Does the pedestrian or cyclist have to go to a trauma center before ADW charges are filed against a reckless driver? Does it have to happen on a Third Street Promenade full of shocked shoppers and tourists before charges are filed against a reckless driver?”

Probably, yes.

Suicide prevention signs to be placed on Colorado Street Bridge


By Brian Day, June 21, 2013

PASADENA -- City officials earlier this week approved a plan to post suicide-prevention signs on Colorado Street Bridge.

The Pasadena Public Safety Committee approved the project at their meeting Monday, Pasadena spokeswoman William Boyer said.

More than 150 people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge since the bridges first recorded suicide in 1919, city officials said. The bulk of the suicides took place during the Great Depression, however 13 suicides have occurred at the bridge since 2006.

Some have come to call the structure "Suicide Bridge" because of the deaths that have taken place there.

In an effort to combat the issue and save lives, the committee approved plans to place bearing messages of hope and suicide prevention hotline phone numbers at the pedestrian entrances to the bridge, Boyer said. The final design of the signs was not complete, however officials were considering messages such as "There is hope," and "You are not alone."

The signs were tentatively expected to be put in place in August.

"The key point is that we value human life and we want to keep our residents safe," Boyer said. "There have been studies that have been done. The survivors of attempted suicide, for the most part, regret their actions."

"We're coming up with language and a message to give people and extra moment to contemplate what they're doing," Boyer said.

He added that similar programs have been successful in other jurisdictions in helping to prevent suicides by giving those who are considering taking their own lives "an extra moment to pause."

Malibu volunteers given OK to issue parking tickets


By Melissa Caskey, June 19, 2013


  Volunteers on Patrol

 Daniel Villefort is one of the leaders of Malibu's Volunteers on Patrol.

There’s a new parking ticket enforcer in town: Malibu’s Volunteers on Patrol (VOP). 
The Malibu City Council last Wednesday approved a measure that will allow volunteers to write tickets for illegally parked cars throughout Malibu, just in time for the summer tourist rush. 

Six of the VOP members should be trained in time for 4th of July weekend, according to VOP leader Daniel Villefort, who has been assigned to supervise the VOP on its new assignment. 

“All my guys will be active after they’re trained on June 24,” Villefort said.

Law enforcement says the help will be welcome. 

“We can’t be everywhere at once, so it’ll be a supplemental help to us,” Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dep. Shawn Brownell said last month. “Our deputies write parking tickets, but that’s not their main priority. Their main priority is crime calls.” 

The department hopes to hone in on parking violations in popular spots like Zuma Beach, Paradise Cove and Pacific Coast Highway near the Malibu Civic Center, Lagoon and Pier.

The group of approximately 10 civilian volunteers currently have the power to issue parking warnings and each VOP member is required to volunteer at least 16 hours per month. 

“[The warnings] work surprisingly well,” said Villefort. “I’ll write one up for a car that’s been parked for 24 or 48 hours, and the next day I’ll drive by again and see that they’re gone.” 

When asked what would happen if an upset motorist fights a ticket, Villefort admitted he “had no idea.”

“If there’s an emergency, we have a sheriff ’s radio we call for assistance. That happens with everything else we work on,” Villefort said. “But if a person is fighting the ticket I have no doubt that we have to go to court and when I talked with [the sheriff ’s department] they said very few people fight the ticket because we take pictures.” 

Since members of the VOP work free-of-charge, the City of Malibu saves money if VOP starts writing up parking violators, City Manager Jim Thorsen said. 

“It’s at a great price for the city and we think it’ll be a great way to utilize the VOP team,” he said. 

Invitation from South Pasadena to El Sereno

June 21, 2013


Joe Cano's Reasons for Opposing the 710 Project Through El Sereno

June 21, 2013

Ultimate bike cupholder can carry a gallon of beer 


By Jess Zimmerman, June 20, 2013





You could probably pad a bottle of beer with newspaper to get it to stay in your water bottle holder. Even better, you could just pour the beer into your water bottle. If you’re really committed, you could buy this bike-mounted six-pack holder. But for the ultimate beer-toting bicycle experience, you need the Growler City Bicycle, which has a gallon-sized beer holder built right into the frame.
The bike was built by industrial designer Joey Ruiter, clearly a man after our own hearts. Trick this puppy out with a bike-mounted grill, and you have no reason to get in a car this summer, or for that matter even go inside a house.


Mobility 2013

 To view,  http://vip2.advantageinc.com/fbs/civic/transittab2013/#1

Peggy Drouet: This came as an advertising supplement to the Los Angeles Times on June 20, 2013. At least I've been told that it was inserted in the morning's paper, which I get. However, I didn't see it in my paper, but if it was inserted in the extra advertising supplement separate from the regular paper sections, I wouldn't have looked for it as I just discard those pages. Yesterday was trash day, so after reading the paper, I put it in the recycle bin to be picked up. I checked with two other neighborhood sources and both also just discarded the advertising supplements without looking at them. However, I did buy an extra paper at a supermarket but there were no advertising supplements included in it. If this is part of Metro's public outreach program, Metro, please be advised that a good number of the people who you wanted to look at the "Mobility 2013" thought it was just another advertising supplement mixed in with other advertising supplements and threw it away without reading it.

Note on page 12, Gloria Molina said that extending the 710 will reduce air pollution and ease health issues for low-income residents of East Los Angeles. "I am fighting so that the children of East and South Los Angeles don't have to suffer disproportionately." Does that mean that Molina thinks that the pollution caused by cars and trucks should be spread around so that the children of Pasadena, Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, El Sereno, South Pasadena and other northern parts of greater Los Angeles should get their "fair share" of pollution to even it up?

Comment to this post:

With all the scientific, health & traffic studies that obliterate any argument in support of extending the 710, Supervisor Gloria Molina keeps spouting the same old Metro BS. She seems not to be concerned with the facts that & does not acknowledge all the evidence placed in front of her. Molina is an empty shell of her former self, a once great fighter of justice for her people. Today she is just a mouthpiece for corporate interests.She has lost all credibility these days with the communities she represents. She has outworn her welcome in East Los Angeles & has come to El Sereno like a Trojan Horse bearing gifts, donating to the El Sereno Kite Festival, donating trees to Ascot Park in an attempt to salvage any last vestige of honor she sold out long ago.

As Beijing air pollution worsens, some American expats clear out

Business opportunities abound in China, but some U.S. executives working in the capital say the health of their families is more important.


 By Don Lee, June 20, 2013
 Air pollution in Beijing, China

 Beijing in May. "I want them to leave before they hate this place," one American executive said of his family's decision to leave pollution-choked Beijing.

After nearly two decades in Beijing, David Wolf knew it was time for a change when his 11-year-old son, Aaron, somberly asked him, "Dad, when you were growing up, did you ever have PE outdoors?"

Wolf had grown up in smog-choked Los Angeles in the 1970s, but even that wasn't nearly as bad as Beijing today. His son, like many young students in the city, has been kept inside for months, with the luckier children getting the chance to exercise under huge air-filtered domes that their international schools have built.

Later this month, when school lets out, Aaron and his mother will move to Southern California for good, and Wolf begins a new way of doing his consulting work, splitting his time between Beijing and their new home at Channel Islands Harbor.

"I want them to leave before they hate this place," Wolf, 49, said on a recent morning as he checked Beijing's air quality on a smartphone app, something that many people here, expats and locals alike, routinely do several times a day.

After a brutal winter, when Beijing and some other cities in northern China logged their worst air pollution readings on record, and a somewhat better but still unacceptably unhealthful spring, some people are starting to escape from Beijing.

Although Beijing officials have said sulfur dioxide counts have dropped in recent years, other major air quality measures and the soupy haze that often blankets the city tell a different story. China's rapid economic growth and urbanization have brought many more pollution-spewing vehicles to the city, and Beijing also has the misfortune of being surrounded by mountains that trap the soot-filled air from neighboring provinces that churn out huge amounts of steel, cement and other products for the domestic market.

No one knows how many have fled or made concrete plans to leave, but expats who have been in China's capital a while seem to know at least a person or two who are getting out, and many more who are talking about it.

So far it has been a trickle rather than an exodus. With China's economy still growing much faster than other major economies — and Beijing in many ways at the center of it all — it isn't easy for people, especially executives, to walk away from the opportunities here.

Residents of China "know there are issues of food quality, air quality, even water and rice quality. This is a given," said Simon Wan, the global head of Cornerstone International Group, a major executive search firm based in Shanghai. "They are taking all kinds of protection," such as wearing surgical masks and buying air filtration equipment.

As for potential new arrivals to China, Wan said, "this is not a deal breaker.... The reality is that in the U.S. and Europe, the job scope and size are not as interesting."

Still, China's poor air is becoming an increasing economic concern, with sickness and stay-indoors alerts cutting into productivity and profits. Given a choice, senior managers are asking to work in Shanghai rather than Beijing, in part because of the difference in air quality.

The American Chamber of Commerce's membership keeps growing in Shanghai while flat-lining in Beijing. Hardship pay for being based in China, a thing of the past, is starting to come back, says Christian Murck, the chamber's president in Beijing.

Groups like the American and European chambers here have raised public concerns, and with many Chinese citizens increasingly vocal about pollution and health worries, China's political leaders have pledged to take tougher action. Saying that the country will not sacrifice the environment for short-term economic gains, President Xi Jinping has vowed to punish officials who approve projects that cause serious pollution.

Last week, the State Council, China's equivalent of a Cabinet, adopted a set of measures to reduce air pollution, including an order that heavy-polluting industries such as steel and petrochemicals release environmental data to the public and gradually comply with international emission limits.
In the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, factories around the city were ordered to curtail production, and use of cars, which have been multiplying, was restricted as well. But policies that would make more-lasting reductions in emissions of burning coal and fuel, through new technologies and standards, have been blocked by China's petrochemical, steel and other heavy industry groups.
"We are not talking about companies that can be easily pushed around," said Murck, referring to giant state-owned enterprises that dominate the economy and are politically well connected.

Murck, 70, himself is leaving Beijing this summer, returning to New York after 17 years in mainland China. He says it wasn't because of the pollution, although he recalled one winter day when the fine particulate matter in the air in central Beijing — the so-called PM 2.5 measure — surpassed 700 micrograms per cubic meter, far into the hazardous zone. That same day, he said, the PM 2.5 reading was 19 in New York City.

"I thought to myself, 'Well, one more reason to go to New York,'" he said.

As recently as late May, Beijing's air quality measure almost reached 300, according to the American Embassy in Beijing. A reading above 300 is considered hazardous, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last year that the average fine particle pollution count at 16 airport smokers' lounges was 166.6.

(The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December set a new national standard for PM 2.5 at 12, down from 15, established in 1997.)

Calvin Tchiang of the Bay Area and his wife, Melody, who was raised in Taiwan and Los Angeles, moved to Beijing several years ago. Fluent in Chinese, the couple seemed to have everything going for their budding careers. Calvin worked for an investment company developing Chinese partners interested in biotech; Melody had a job as a translator.

But life in Beijing began to change about a year ago when they had a baby, Xavier, and the pollution became intolerable. The Tchiangs put three air purifiers in their apartment, one for each room. The machines whirred 24 hours a day. When the PM 2.5 dropped under triple digits, which was rare, they opened the windows and took their baby outside.

When they went out, though, the couple wore similar Darth Vader-like respirators, Calvin in black and Melody in red. Melody found herself checking the PM 2.5 reading several times a day. Whenever it hit 300, she would not go out at all.

"There were instances when I became a recluse," Melody said.

The Tchiangs returned to the U.S. in April, settling near Cincinnati. Calvin is still with the same firm but doing more investment work that can be undertaken from the U.S. Melody is content for now to be a stay-at-home mom.

They say it hasn't been easy readjusting culturally. But one thing they don't worry about is taking their 11-month-old outside.

"I was just out today walking in the park with a few moms," Melody said on a recent evening. Calvin added, "We appreciate just walking to the local supermarket."
Call for Artists: To Design Canyon Country Bike Racks
June 20, 2013
 New bike racks in front of City Hall, designed by local artist Shuko Nielsen. New bike racks in front of City Hall, designed by local artist Shuko Nielsen.

The City of Santa Clarita invites artists or a team of artists to design two artistic and functional bike racks for the Canyon County Community Center, located at 18792 Flying Tiger Drive.  Artists must submit a proposal and application by Friday, June 28.

Interested artists may submit up to two proposals for the projects in addition to the following materials:

* A letter explaining the artist’s interest in the project.
* If submitting as a team, a current resume must be submitted for each team member.
* A full color drawing of the proposed art work.
* Three examples of the artist’s work.
* A self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of application materials.

“The City is dedicated to increasing opportunities for residents to participate in and be exposed to high quality art experiences, while increasing awareness of the value the arts add to the community,” said Mayor Bob Kellar.  “Not only will these bike racks expose the community to new forms of art, they will also encourage residents to be environmentally friendly and use their bicycles more often to get around town.”

There are two spaces available for the bikes racks at the Canyon Country Community Center location and each design should not only have aesthetic value and functionality as a bike rack, but must be able to support and secure at least 8 to 10 bikes.

Additionally, bike rack designs should consider overall safety, require low maintenance, be durable, adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, should carefully balance form with function, and must comply with national bicycle parking standards.  To learn more, visit apbp.org/?page=Publications

The Canyon Country Community Center bike rack project is part of the City of Santa Clarita City Council and Arts Commission’s efforts to provide a variety of enriching art experiences in the community through the Art in Public Places program.  For more information about the City’s arts endeavors, please visit Santa-Clarita.com/Arts.

For more information on the bike racks or to submit a proposal, please contact Jeff Barber at (661) 250-3703 or by email at jbarber@santa-clarita.com.
Metrolink Agrees to Health Risk Assessment for Elysian Valley Residents


By Carren Jao, June 19, 2013

130201 grove york blvd_0012.JPG

Last week Elysian Valley residents achieved a milestone in their L.A. river-adjacent neighborhood. With the support of Congressman Adam Schiff, Councilman-elect Gil Cedillo, and a number of officials, the neighborhood received a commitment from Metrolink that it would conduct a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) of the Central Maintenance Facility located at 1555 N. San Fernando Road, on the east bank of the Los Angeles River.

"It was something our board determined to be in the best interest of everyone to conduct," explained Scott Johnson of Metrolink Public Affairs. "Our agency is a joint-powers authority made up of 11 voting members. Each member is an elected official in their own right and they feel it's imperative that we know what we're emitting in our facility." Johnson confirmed that Metrolink will shoulder the cost of the study, which estimates have put between $30,000 to $100,000.

"A health risk assessment is not a costly thing to do," said Representative Adam Schiff, "It will give us real data about what needs to be done and give residents peace of mind."

According to Grove Pashley of Northeast Los Angeles Residents for Clean Air Coalition, there was incredible support for the move by local officials such as Cedillo, whose office arranged three major community meetings as well as countless office meetings, but it was Schiff's participation which elevated the issue to a federal level and perhaps prompted the Metrolink to move forward with the study. Given the neighborhood's persistent efforts, Pashley hopes Metrolink understands the community's commitment to the cause. "I'm hoping they realize we aren't going away," said Pashley.

Over the past two years there has been growing concern that Elysian Valley residents are continually exposed to unknown quantities of diesel particulate matter -- a known carcinogen -- because of its location by the Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility. As previously reported, adverse effects of diesel exposure include increased risk of heart attacks, aggravated asthma, bronchitis, and even premature death. Children and elderly are especially at risk. Without an accomplished HRA, however, those fears continue to loom. It is only now that those worries would be quantified and monitored.

An HRA is increasingly relevant given the continual development along the Los Angeles River. Already, the maintenance facility lies close to many venues frequented by those who live close by. These include Rio de los Angeles State Park that has sports facilities, which frequently host games for local kids. The facility is within half-a-mile of three elementary schools: Aragon Avenue Elementary, Dorris Place Elementary, and Glassell Park Elementary.

On April 5, the City Council also approved a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant that would fund the building of the Taylor Yard Transit Village, affordable family and senior rental housing that sits on a 20.2-acre site less than 4,000 feet from the facility.

Metrolink is implementing a number of measures to reduce emissions over the years, but is unable to confirm any improvements due to a lack of baseline environmental information. "We're implementing a great deal," said Johnson. "It made sense that if we're doing all this work, we need to be able to showcase the results." To rectify this, Metrolink has brought on a separate consultant to conduct a baseline emissions assessment in consultation with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The agency is looking to share the results in a meeting later in the month.

The agency has set aside $129.4 million to purchase 20 low-emission locomotives, which will be available in 2015. They've installed nine power stations which trains could plug-into when servicing instead of keeping their engines on. Thirty three of 52 Metrolink locomotives have installed a start-stop mechanism that reduces the time engines idle, which is a cause of emissions.
As of this writing, many details are yet to be finalized. The most important question of all is: which firm is going to conduct the assessment? "We need to make sure that whoever conducts this study is going to be a neutral party and [that] we're comfortable with how the study is performed," said Pashley.

Schiff echoes this concern. "Metrolink really needs to work with community to identify consultant to do the assessment. It's not worth doing the study if the results aren't going to be believed."
Another lingering issue is the scope of the study. Would it just cover the facility or perhaps go beyond that? A working group meeting has been scheduled for June 27 to firm up these details.
Follow the issue at: lametrolinkpollution.com.
Metrolink Central Maintenance Facility | Photo: Eric Brightwell
Metrolink Central Maintenance Facility.

These tunnel machines are anything but boring


By Susan, June 20, 2013


WSDOT Bertha tunnel boring machine 
It was only a matter of time. Major tunneling projects under way in Seattle (WA), San Francisco (CA), Washington (DC), and Cleveland (OH) have spawned a new trend — tunnel boring machines that tweet.  And despite working in a traditionally male realm, these tweeting TBMs all have female identities.

Bertha tweets on behalf of the Washington State Department of Transportation as part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct project (@BerthaDigsSR99). Lady Bird represents DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project (@LadyBirdTBM). It takes two TBMs to speak for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Central Subway project — Mom Chung (@MomChungtheTBM) and Big Alma (@BigAlmatheTBM). And, finally, Mackenzie tweets about the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s Three-Mile Euclid Tunnel (@MackenzieTBM).

Tweets tend to focus on project updates, but there is a certain measure of fun involved.  “It’s not that hard to speak for her, usually, and it’s fun,” says John Lisle, DC Water’s chief of external affairs and the voice of Lady Bird. “I think people still get a kick out of having a machine or some other inanimate object speaking to them. They know there’s an anonymous person behind it, but they still find it entertaining if it’s done right.”

And speaking of the anonymous voice behind the tweets, Engineering News-Record convened a round-table with the tweeting TBMs and the underground ladies offered some choice bons mots:

ENR: How do you work Tweeting into your busy project schedule?

It’s a challenge sometimes, but I don’t have much of a choice. Tweeting is requirement of my contract. Fortunately, Twitter’s 140-character limit turns out to be a lifesaver. It’s not like I have to churn out a novel.

ENR: Why do you like Tweeting?

@MomChungtheTBM: Twitter reminds me that I’m part of something bigger than myself (and at 750 tons, I’m pretty big). I’m here in this amazing city, building a tunnel that thousands of people will use every day. But since I’m underground all the time, I don’t get to meet very many San Franciscans. Twitter helps connect me with the people I’m working for and remind me of the reasons why I’m working.

ENR: What do you and the other TBMs talk about in your direct Tweets?

@MackenzieTBM: I scrapbook when I’m between jobs. I love pictures, so that’s what I love to tweet and see from the girls. We’re like sisters down here, but I always see myself as the quiet one.
All fun aside, the agency representatives emphasized the importance of using Twitter to keep citizens engaged and informed throughout the progress of these major projects.  But still, it’s hard not to think about the potential for sequels — bridges that tweet, trains that tweet, buses that tweet… Link to full story in Engineering News-Record.

Editorial: Metro board should seek Gold Line extension funds


June 20, 2013

An excellent motto for investigatory journalists is "follow the money." For government entities, it should be: "Follow the wishes of those who gave you the money."

For a year now, though, the powers that be at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have defied that simple ethical standard and ignored the wishes of the voters of Los Angeles County who passed the half-cent sales tax imposed by Measure R.

In the language of that measure, approved in 2008, support for the completion of the extension of the Gold Line light-rail project was defined in specific terms as being from its current terminus in east Pasadena to Claremont.

That was how the sales tax increase, which everyone who buys anything in Los Angeles County pays, was sold to voters. The language was inserted into the text of Measure R to ensure support from voters in the eastern part of the county and especially the San Gabriel Valley, who had often felt left out when it came to Metro spending on transit projects.

But in June 2012, Metro CEO Art Leahy formally reneged on that promise in a public speech: "Some of you are going to think I am a monster for saying this: The Gold Line is funded to Azusa. Period." He claimed, with zero proof, that the original intent was to spend a certain amount of money -- $758 million -- to get the Gold Line as far east as it could go on that money alone, rather than get the line to a specific place, as the measure actually said.
As this page noted at the time, we're not quite sure whether, when a governmental organization's management is caught telling a massive lie, it should make us feel any better that it admits it told that lie.
Measure J last year would have changed the language, but it failed and doesn't count.
The Gold Line Construction Authority has not given up on Metro someday fulfilling its broken promise. Last month, hoping against hope that Metro would operate on the up and up with residents of the San Gabriel Valley, the Gold Line submitted a request for funds after Metro released its notice of a public hearing on local transit needs and costs. Metro again simply ignored the project, though all that was submitted was the original Measure R proposal approved by voters. It was ignored without any feedback from Metro.

Construction is proceeding in a timely manner from Pasadena to Azusa. But the Gold Line Construction Authority also has, unlike virtually any other project in Los Angeles or on the Westside being promoted by Metro, ownership of the right of way and an approved Environmental Impact Report all the way to Claremont. After that, it would be just a short and logical hop to Montclair and then the proposed Ontario Airport Extension that makes all the transit sense in the world.

Metro executives are heading to Washington, D.C., to seek federal funding for its projects. The Metro Executive Board will convene today to approve what that funding request should be. Its members should know what their ethical mandate is: Approve seeking the estimated $900 million to get the Gold Line to Claremont. That's what voters have instructed them to do.


Car Ownership is Dropping in Los Angeles as Bikes, Trains Grow


June 19, 2013


If Los Angeles can do it, any city can - get out of their cars and onto bikes and trains.

No other city is so closely associated with the car - when people think of LA, the first thing that pops into their mind is often the network of endless highways ... and the traffic congestion.

But the city looks poised to shed that image as it greatly expands bike lanes (doubled to 292 miles) and light rail (26% increase in the past eight years), with another 18 miles planned by 2015. Car-sharing is also popular with Zipcar's presence there. 

Streetcars could even return in the future. A local entrepreneur supported by the city is manufacturing them there.
For the first time, people are buying fewer cars and using multi-modal transportation instead. Last year, 28,000 fewer cars were registered, according to the motor vehicles department, reports Bloomberg. Meanwhile, use of buses and trains rose 4.7% to 41.3 million.

"The next 10 years will be as important to the auto industry and transportation literally as the invention of the Model T,"  says Scott Griffith, former CEO of Zipcar at the Bloomberg Link Next Big Thing Summit this week. "We're now on the edge of all these new business models coming along and the intersection of information and the car and transportation. If you look out 10 years, I think we're going to see a huge change, particularly in cities."

Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has made mass transit a priority and was able to raise sales taxes to pay for these projects. While 20% of the revenue is devoted to highways, 35% is earmarked for rapid-transit bus and rail, reports Bloomberg.

Incoming mayor and former city council member, Eric Garcetti, says he will continue this focus. "I will continue expanding rail and will also focus on local connectors that bridge the gaps between people's homes and main lines," he told Bloomberg.  "There is no silver bullet to addressing traffic. We must pursue a comprehensive approach."
The city is about to launch a bike-share program with 4,000 cycles, and has been adding bike lanes in advance as part of the transition from a car-only culture.

No one expects LA to become NYC, it's far too spread out for that. But as transit grows, so do neighborhoods around it and that brings businesses and more density, creating a virtuous cycle for walking, biking and mass transit.  

Mayor Villaraigosa has been a cleantech leader. His accomplishments include weaning the city off coal-fired power plants; strongly promoting electric cars; approving the first solar feed-in tariff for a major city; switching all street lights to LEDs; and establishing a cleantech corridor. Recently, he added cool roofs to the city's building code.

Since 2005, when he took office, renewable energy has grown from 3% to 20% in Los Angeles.
The State of State Transit Funding 


By Angie Schmitt, June 20, 2013

States increased their transit spending more than 5 percent between 2007 and 2011, reaching $13.9 billion annually, according to a recent report from the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials. But that increase was concentrated in just a handful of states.
Top states for transit spending. Image: AASHTO
Almost all of the elevated transit spending — 92 percent — is attributable to five states: Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, Alaska and the District of Columbia. Illinois more than doubled its previous transit outlays, increasing its annual transit expenditures by $734 million.

A total of 18 states increased their support for transit between 2007 and 2011, while 17 decreased support and 15 registered no change. Four states — Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii and Utah — do not fund transit at all.

If you look at how total state transit spending is distributed, again, the vast majority comes from just a handful of states. New York, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Illinois account for a total $11.4 billion in funding. In addition, these seven states collected about half of the available $10 billion in federal funding for transit in 2011, which is allocated by formula.
States draw their transit funding from a variety of sources, AASHTO reports. Half have rules against using gas tax revenues and motorist fees to support transit. Still, the second most common source of revenues was gas taxes; 14 states fund transit this way. The most common method of transit funding is through general fund expenditures, which 15 states use. Other states use license and registration fees or even lottery revenues.

In most states, the level of transit funding is completely overwhelmed by the amount of road spending.

Maybe buses should be free


By N. B., June 19, 2013


AFTER riding a tram in Strasbourg, Matt Yglesias, a blogger with Slatehas decided that proof-of-payment fare-collection systems—in which fares are enforced by inspectors who levy steep fines when they catch you without a proper ticket—are better than pay-per-ride systems for public transport. But there's a more radical proposal that could work even better: making public transport free.

Proof-of-payment systems would undoubtedly be an improvement on the inefficient systems that currently dominate American city bus and subway lines. A few years ago a group of engineers at New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) calculated the amount of time wasted as passengers waited to board and pay fares on a single run of the Bx12 Limited bus route in the Bronx. The answer was 16 minutes and 16 seconds, or over a quarter of the entire run. A proof-of-payment system would save much of that.

Since that study, MTA has moved to proof-of-payment systems on several lines, including the Bx12 Limited. Waiting times have fallen and average speeds have improved. But making the buses free could work even better.

It's not as crazy as it sounds. Fares bring in a lot of money, but they cost money to collect—6% of the MTA's budget, according to a 2007 report in New York magazine. Fare boxes and turnstiles have to be maintained; buses idle while waiting for passengers to pay up, wasting fuel; and everyone loses time. Proof-of-payment systems don't solve the problem of fare-collection costs as they require inspectors and other staff to handle enforcement, paperwork and payment processing. Making buses and subways free, on the other hand, would increase passenger numbers, opening up space on the streets for essential traffic and saving time by reducing road congestion.

In New York, the idea of free buses and subways dates back to at least 1965, when Ted Kheel, a lawyer, first floated the idea—and pushed for a doubling of bridge and tunnel fares to make up for lost revenue. Kheel died in 2010, but the modern version of his plan, which would include a congestion charge for cars and trucks entering the Manhattan business district, lives on. The big push by New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, for congestion-pricing was blocked by the state legislature in April 2008; in 2009 he proposed making cross-town buses free, but that idea has yet to be implemented. It's worth a second look.

Rail funding fight set to begin rolling in House


By Keith Laing, June 20, 2013

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing next week to begin considering a new Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA).

The current PRIIA bill, which authorizes funding for Amtrak, among other things, is set to expire in September.

Lawmakers in both parties have identified extending the rail funding bill a priority for 2013, and jockeying has already begun between supporters and opponents of long-distance railways like Amtrak. 

The House Transportation Committee's Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials subcommittee will hold a hearing on June 27 to begin consideration of the new rail bill.

The last PRIIA bill was passed in 2008. The measure was signed into law by former President George W. Bush shortly before the election of President Obama.

The subject of funding for long-distance railways has since become intensely political, with Republicans opposing Obama's efforts to use money from the 2009 economic stimulus package to begin creating a nationwide network of railways.

Obama said the rail network could eventually rival the interstate highway system, but Republicans argued that it would cost too much to build and not be used by enough passengers to pay for its operations.

The chairman of the House rail panel, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), has vocally opposed a planned high-speed railway in California, which received more money than other states from the Department of Transportation (DOT) under Obama.

Denham has argued that supporters of the controversial California have inflated ridership numbers and understated the costs of constructing the railway.

The Transportation Committee said Thursday that "the next rail reauthorization will be to build upon PRIIA’s successes and address areas in which the previous bill fell short." 



Have We Passed Peak Car?


By Jordan Weissmann, June 20, 2013

 Have We Passed Peak Car?


Americans have been cutting back on their driving ever since the recession. They've logged fewer miles on the road. They've been less likely to get a driver's license. And they've bought fewer vehicles.

But does all this actually mean the U.S. is getting over car culture? Or is it just the product of a down economy?

That's a question many people, including myself and Derek Thompson, have pondered over the past few years. And in a brief new report today, Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute has added a neat little bit of analysis to the conversation. Its key take-away is that the number of cars per household actually began to decline pre-recession, after 2006. Same goes for cars per licensed driver and cars per person.

"In other words," Sivak writes, "these rates started to decline not because of economic changes but because of other societal changes that influence the need for vehicles." And that, he argues, means its more likely we're witnessing a permanent shift.

It's an interesting theory. But were Americans really rethinking their gas guzzling ways before the economy went south? I'm not quite sure.

Remember, before we had a recession, we had a housing bust. Home values peaked in 2006, and families that had bet on infinitely rising prices by taking out second mortgages to finance their lifestyles started getting whacked. That marked the beginning of the end for the over-consuming oughts. And, given that housing values and spending tend to move in tandem, it's no surprise that vehicle registrations went into retreat around then, just as they retreated after the dotcom collapse. 

The decline of car ownership might well turn out to be a long-term trend with cultural and demographic roots. But if so, the housing bust and recession still seem to have been the tipping point.


China warns it will execute serious polluters 


By John Upton, June 20, 2013

 A polluted river in China

 Whoever polluted this river is in big trouble.

There are carrot and stick approaches to tackling pollution. China is reaching for the stick. The country announced Wednesday that it is willing to impose the harshest possible penalty on polluters. From Reuters:
Chinese authorities have given courts the powers to hand down the death penalty in serious pollution cases, state media said, as the government tries to assuage growing public anger at environmental desecration. …

A new judicial interpretation which took effect on Wednesday would impose “harsher punishments” and tighten “lax and superficial” enforcement of the country’s environmental protection laws, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
“In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down,” it said.
The announcement comes at a time when China is attempting to turn a new leaf in environmental protection following decades of unchecked pollution and a slew of anti-pollution protests.
China also said it is reducing the amount of damage that must be caused by a polluter before they are prosecuted. From South China Morning Post:
The [new judicial] interpretation … states that a person can be convicted if he or she causes pollution that seriously injures a person. Previously, an incident would have had to result in a death before a person was convicted.

And only one death arising from an incident will be enough to see a sentence increased, rather than three deaths.

[Court spokesman Sun Jungong] said the lowering of the threshold for convicting polluters demonstrated authorities’ determination to “fight and deter environmental crimes”. …

[T]he interpretation details 14 activities that will be considered “crimes of impairing the protection of the environment and resources”.

Dumping radioactive substances into sources of drinking water and nature reserves, and incidents that poison more than 30 people or force more than 5,000 people to be evacuated, will be considered environmental pollution crimes for the first time.
Executing polluters is certainly a more dramatic approach to reining in pollution than is carbon trading, which also began in China this week.