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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From Anthony Portantino

What are they saying?
 In just four days we are going to celebrate the beginning of my next political goal. Come join us!
But first, here's what some folks are saying about my decision. These folks are coming on June 30th to kick things off, are you?

"When local government needed a champion, Anthony was there. As a former Mayor, he understands how important it is to work closely with the cities in his district and he didn't forget where he came from when he went to Sacramento. This takes courage and conviction rare in politics today and he has earned my support."
- Hon. Mary Ann Lutz, Mayor of Monrovia
"Anthony is one of the finest representatives I have worked with during my time in public service. Claire and I are very pleased to support him for the State Senate. His work helping to complete the Gold Line is of particular note and warrants the support of Pasadena residents and the greater San Gabriel Valley." 
 - Hon. Bill Bogaard, Mayor of Pasadena

"Anthony is a perfect fit to succeed Carol Liu in the State Senate. He works hard, brings people together and solves problems. I'm proud to call him a friend and I know he will do an excellent job representing the 25th State Senate District."
- Hon. Paul Krekorian, Former Assemblymember 43rd District and
Current Los Angeles City Councilmember

"Anthony and I worked together when we were both on City Councils. He's a man of integrity and hard work. He has my complete support."
                                    - Hon. Marsha Ramos, Former Mayor Burbank
"I support Anthony because I know he deeply cares about every child in our school system. He's not just there for one child or one community. Whether it's a foster youth, gate student or students with challenges, he tries to do what's right. That's why he has my support." 
                        - Hon. Renatta Cooper, President Pasadena Unified School District

As you know, the last two years were valuable time I could never get back if I didn't spend it with my mom. The continued quality time with Bella and Sofia is priceless. This adds up to a perfect three year period before the 25th State Senate District opens up in 2016 when my good friend and very able representative Carol Liu terms out of office. Frankly, there is a lot of unfinished business that needs to be done in Sacramento and I aim to do it.
I am very grateful for the support and trust I have received thus far. Your continued support will help me make my voice heard and respected. I'm having a very special district event on June 30th, 3-5 p.m. at the spectacular home of Mary and Bill Urquhart, 1210 Chelten Way, South Pasadena.
June 30th is the first important financial reporting deadline.
Your contribution today is invaluable to my success.
Please use this link to RSVP and help me create the early momentum needed to win. This was our game plan when I ran for the Assembly and it worked. Please help today as the first financial reporting deadline ends Sunday night at midnight.
Please help me show strong early support and/or join us on Sunday afternoon for the party.
Anthony, Sofia at Parade

If you are willing to let me use your name as a public endorsement, just respond to this e-mail and say,
Yes, you have my permission to list me as a public endorser for State Senate to succeed Carol Liu!
Your support would be great and much appreciated.

Please Use these Links to "like" my Facebook fan page (it's new and different than my friends page so please "like" it. And sign up to connect with me on Twitter and Instagram.  

Newsletter header
Metro visits El Sereno in a renewed PR attempt: Joe Cano Video
Published on Jun 26, 2013
In a desperate attempt at another round of outreach in El Sereno, Metro sends in Katherine Padilla & her PR people to try & see if they can sell the Neighbor Council & the local natives on a tunnel. They brought papers with jibberish, shiny magical presentations that appeared on walls, but no trinkets like the Lenape Indians got for Manhattan Island. Metro must think El Sereno is populated with a bunch of suckers. We didn't believe Doug Faling last year, not buying it this year either. By now we know there are 12 members of the state legislature are demanding that all Metro projects be reviewed by new Metro Board members. Just this week Metro is trying to push for securing funds for the tunnel even before the Environmental Impact Study is completed. They know they have no footing with new Mayor Garcetti for the 710 tunnel.

Uploader Comments (Joe from El Sereno)

  • Joe from El Sereno
    I have been informed that Highland Park Neighborhood Council also gave Padilla & staff an earful too. These people have no traction in El Sereno.
  • Joe from El Sereno
    To anyone that supports the SR710 project & decides to comment here I challenge you to: 1. Show your real name & don't hide behind anonymous postings. 2. If you want to dispute our opposition, do it with scientific fact & not bullshit platitudes of how this project will improve our live & it won't. 3. If you are a Metro surrogate that feels you can attack me, I really don't care what you think. Negative comments are elevated to public view by an independent blogger that monitors this page.

     Joe Cano: Same old stale information, nothing new. I want all to note the attitude one PR person takes with Dr. Tom Williams, man with a degree in engineering. Is this going to be standard practice of Metro PR to challenge stakeholders if they hear something they do not like. Do they treat the wealthier cities to the north like this?, or is it because we are majority Latino & they think they can talk down to us. Pure BS from these people.

Larry Wilson: Bringing parklets to Pasadena's Playhouse District


By Larry Wilson, June 25, 2013

When I mentioned Pasadena Playhouse District parking-place parklets in a column the other day, I got the street wrong.

It's not alternately pokey and race-track Union, the one-way west, that would be the experimental site for the green spaces by the curbside. It's main-drag Colorado that is the focus of an avid committee of district association volunteer planners.

"We've put a lot of energy into it and are obsessed about the details," says Greg Gunther, who lives in the district's properly acclaimed, Stefanos Polyzoides-designed Grenada Court, a model for multifamily downtown housing. He's not kidding about the details. The Parklets, Plus Pilot study his group has put together analyzes the need for traffic metrics by simulating the effects of its proposed removal of two lanes on Colorado and includes a flow diagram of the complex permitting process. "We've figured out workstreams, marketing, locations, design" -- and are looking at how to pay for it.

Not that parklets and street modifications that are part of this trend toward putting downtown streets on a diet are particularly radical in Southern California cities.

"Glendale is already putting in parklets!" says Gunther, shaking his head. Progressive Pasadena planning types just hate it when Glendale, for God's sake, gets ahead of us on some planning issue. For that matter, Temple City has already approved the efficient yet mildly controversial introduction of back-in angle parking to replace parallel parking that will be proposed for Colorado: More cars per block, and drivers are pulling out into traffic when leaving with their eyes focused forward. Monrovia is way ahead of Pasadena with "bulb-out" street corners that shorten crosswalks for pedestrians. Our mutual friend former city of Pasadena planner Marsha Rood told him: "Westways used to write articles about us!"

But Colorado presents the planning problem those cities don't have: the Rose Parade on New Year's Day. Gunther says the district will have to "strike the set" each December and January. Green spaces jutting out from the curb on the model of ones in San Francisco and, well, Glendale would have to be moveable.

So if implementation is at least 18 months off, at least the city has responded positively to the proposal. "The back of the napkin looks good," Gunther says. "We went and looked at the projects in Long Beach and downtown L.A. and to Livermore, where they squeezed down what was essentially a broad highway through their downtown and added streetscape enhancements." He asked that city's traffic engineer whether the two adjoining streets, similar to our Union and Green, had to absorb a huge increase in cars. Turns out drivers instead gravitated to the new, smaller main street "if they weren't in a rush, to see what was going on there." And it turns out Colorado, with its four traffic lanes and one left-turn lane, is already over-engineered -- built for 35,000 vehicle trips a day, in 2009 it only had 24,000.

What would it cost? Not very much from the city, Gunther says. "Paint and plants and staff time" -- but the staff is already there. Individual sponsors would pay for the parklet construction. Audi and other corporate sponsors pay for some of the San Francisco parklets, and some of them are created as art and then sold as that after a year in place. Like that city's Deepistan National Parklet, dinosaur topiaries made out of succulents and so requiring little irrigation.

"Look, we know this needs to be studied," Gunther says. "We'll figure out the politics. (Councilman) Terry Tornek is enthusiastic. (Councilman) John Kennedy is new but quite supportive as well. He signed our petition" to City Hall. "And the extended downtown community is supportive."

South El Molino Avenue, with its Thursday-night food trucks and music in the alley by Monopole Wine, is sometimes teeming with foot traffic. But an area that really doesn't have a park as a public space needs these parklets. So let the approval process begin.


Metro Mobile App to Help Riders Report Crimes on Buses, Rail and Light Rail


By Damien Newton, June 26, 2013

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) released a new app today available at the Apple App Store and Google Play for iPhone and Android devices designed to allow riders to report crimes as they occur on Metro buses and rail cars.

Private Eye, Is Watching You...

“A vital new component in our comprehensive effort to enhance safety for our riders and operators, this smartphone app allows the public to assist law enforcement by reporting suspicious and criminal activity in a timely manner,” said Metro Board Chair and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

Once patrons download “LA Metro Transit Watch” patrons can report incidents that require law enforcement’s presence and crimes that may occur on board Metro buses and trains. The user can be connected by telephone to the Sheriff’s Dispatch Center or send a photograph via email to deputies and other law enforcement staff. Metro has a contract with the LASD as the official law enforcement agency for Metro bus, rail and real estate properties.

Of course, passengers can always push the “emergency” button on rail cars and within stations and speak to someone if they see something questionable occurring. Cell phone access is not available on Metro subways and the underground portions of the Expo and Blue lines. Metro is currently seeking a contractor to provide Wi-Fi in these areas.

In their press release, Metro noted a lower-than-average rate of reported crime on Metro property. Incidents of serious crime are .30 per 100,000 boardings. As for the high-profile attacks on Metro employees, they were solved quickly thanks to vigilant passengers.

There is another benefit for Metro passengers. Using the app creates a quick and easy way to create a paper trail if one observes a Metro employee or member of the Sheriffs Department acting poorly or illegally. For example, earlier today I was carbon copied on an email sent to Metro CEO Art Leahy about a bus driver honking at a bicyclist in an aggressive fashion.

While Leahy quickly responded that he would look into the incident, your average Metro rider doesn’t have the Metro CEO’s email address on hand. “LA Metro Transit Watch” creates an electronic paper trail nearly as good.

Users of the LA Metro Transit Watch app with suggestions for improving it are encouraged to send their ideas to customerrelations@metro.net and write METRO TRANSIT WATCH in the subject field to call attention to it.

What If You Could Reserve Your Daily Commute Like a Table at a Restaurant?


By Eric Jaffe, June 26, 2013


What If You Could Reserve Your Daily Commute Like a Table at a Restaurant?

Mull this one over next you're stuck in traffic on your way into or out of work.

What if instead of leaving your house and chancing the congestion on your rush-hour commute, you could reserve a space on the road just like you reserve a table at a restaurant? Then you'd simply drive to the highway or major intersection at the appropriate time, announce via technology that you're here, pay a market fee (just as you pay your check after eating), then enjoy a smooth ride. Sure, you'd lose one more excuse for being late to the office — but a considerably miserable part of your day would feel considerably less miserable.

The concept may seem too theoretical to entertain. But as transport scholar David Levinson points out at his Transportationist blog, it's not so wild that we needn't bother discussing it. In fact, the systems researchers Matteo Vasirani and Sascha Ossowski of University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid have made road reservations the subject of a lot of recent study.

When you break it down into little pieces, the idea stops feeling so far-fetched. The technology already exists: intelligent infrastructure that can communicate via digital networks, in-car navigation systems, payment transponders like EZ-Pass. As our Emily Badger has explained, systems researchers are already planning the day when "intersection managers" direct traffic with ultimate efficiency. Vasirani and Ossowski have simply added the element of road pricing into the mix.

The researchers set their hypothetical sights on a reservation system in metropolitan Madrid. The big dots circled in red on this map of the city are where commuters could reserve space on the urban road network:

Figure via Vasirani, M., & Ossowski, S. (2012). A market-inspired approach for intersection management in urban road traffic networks. Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 43(1), 621-659 [PDF].

So let's say you want to drive through one of these points. As you approach, your car contacts the "intersection manager" and tries to make a reservation. The intersection manager crunches the data on all other cars on the road, decides whether it can fit you in, and tells you how much a place will cost. At this point, to reserve a space, you pay a small reservation fee. That's to keep people from reserving spaces on roads all over town.

Once your road reservation is made, then you continue on course to arrive at the intersection within a certain time window — as with restaurants, there can be a bit of flexibility here, though not too much. As you cross into the intersection on the desired course, you pay the remainder of the reservation cost. Naturally, fees will be highest along the most desirable corridors, for the same reason it's hard to get a table at Komi.

Now let's say you can't get your first-choice reservation. You still have options to get into town. For starters, you can choose another route and make a reservation with that intersection manager. You can also simply show up at the intersection and hope the manager finds you a place; again, as at a restaurant, something might open up, but you could be waiting a while. You can also brush past the manager and continue on the road anyway, but you'd risk causing an accident or getting a ticket.

When the system is operating at its theoretical peak, the prices at various intersections create incentives for people to find alternate commute routes — or, of course, to take public transit. Those incentives, in turn, should decrease congestion. (On the flip side, if managers ask too much for space on the road, their route will go out of business.) Sure enough, when Vasirani and Ossowski ran their idea through a model of Madrid traffic, they found that as intersections profits increased, general travel times across the city decreased.

Of course, the entire system of road reservations can be adjusted for a city's particular social taste. Certain routes can be kept free to everyone, with the understanding that these public lanes will be more congested, just as major highways are today. Local governments who want to increase transportation revenue could tilt the reservation formula toward profit, while those preferring a welfare model could tip it the other direction. Agencies could even get creative with monthly commuter passes based on zip codes, or reduced rates for reservations made far in advance.

Obviously such a system would take some getting used to. Commuters are struggling with HOT lanes in many cities, and a road reservation network is like a HOT lane on steroids. The system would probably work best in a world of driverless cars, first to limit distracted driving, and second to cut down on violations. Some people might object on privacy grounds, but really a reservation system wouldn't track you much more precisely than highway tolls already do. And no doubt some unforeseen problems would pop up concerned certain classes of vehicles — taxis, for instance, or commercial trucks.

So yes, it's a bit of a daydream. Still there are at least two times every day when urban commuters would probably be willing to give this daydream a shot at coming true.

Transit Agencies Are Finally Fighting Back Against an Infamous Patent Troll


By Emily Badger, June 26, 2013


 Transit Agencies Are Finally Fighting Back Against an Infamous Patent Troll

For several years now, a curious company called ArrivalStar – which has no website, appears to produce nothing, and is oddly registered in Luxembourg – has been systematically suing public transit agencies in the United States. As we wrote last April, the company holds a collection of dubious patents tied to the technology of tracking vehicles in motion. And it has been using them to claim patent infringement by transit agencies that ... track vehicles in motion.

Any agency electronically monitoring its own buses and trains, or producing apps for riders to track them, has been at risk of receiving a foreboding letter from these people. It's a pretty classic patent troll story, but with a taxpayer twist. In this case, the company holding the patents has been targeting (among many others) cash-strapped public agencies that can least afford to pay them off, but that are also most likely to avoid litigation.

These transit agencies have understandably had a hard time banding together against ArrivalStar – anyone who signs a settlement with the company can't say much about it. Now, however, the American Public Transportation Association is countersuing on their behalf in federal court. APTA filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in the Southern District of New York trying to halt what it calls "frivolous" patent suits by ArrivalStar and its affiliate, Melvino Technologies Limited. APTA is arguing not only that ArrivalStar's patents should be invalidated, but also that public agencies are protected from such suits by the 11th Amendment.

"The problem that the agencies have is when ArrivalStar goes out and files suit against them, even though they have what they believe is an absolutely perfect defense, they still look at the economic reality," says James LaRusch, APTA's chief counsel. "Do I spend $1 or $2 million or even more to vindicate myself? Or do I just pay these guys off and get rid of them?"

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has also been working on the problem, has already convinced the U.S. Patent and Trade Office to significantly narrow the scope of one notorious ArrivalStar patent most commonly used against transit agencies. But the company holds many more. "They have a whole slew of these things," LaRusch says
Public court documents confirm that the company has sued at least 11 transit agencies, including the New York Metropolitan Transport Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. But undoubtedly many other agencies have received cease and desist letters and settled before a lawsuit was ever filed.

"The concern we have is we think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg," LaRusch says. As for why APTA is only entering the fray now, LaRusch says the association had its own financial fears in taking on a company that appears to exist primarily for the purposes of suing people. "We would have been perfectly glad to file suit earlier," he says. "But we, like our members, have been inhibited by the cost of litigation. Patent litigation is millions of dollars. We just couldn’t get over that for a long time."

Now the association is being represented by the non-profit Public Patent Foundation. Together, they're also asking the court to declare that APTA and its member agencies are immune from suits for patent infringement by ArrivalStar, and to enjoin the company from taking any other actions to sue transit agencies.

California Red Light Camera Critics Say Yellow Lights Change Too Quickly


June 25, 2013

 Red light camera. (CBS)

 Red light camera.

FREMONT (KPIX 5) — Critics of California’s red light cameras say drivers are getting way too many citations and are backing a bill that would change the system by extending the length of yellow lights.

It happened four years ago, but Roger Jones has not forgotten his $500 red light camera ticket. “It’s just a cash machine, it’s so unfair,” he told KPIX 5.

Despite losing an appeal, he kept on researching, collecting data on cameras in his hometown of Fremont.

Analyzing charts from three busy red light camera intersections, Jones discovered something interesting. Two thirds or more of the violations were in the first half second of the red.

(See website for a video.)

“It’s a half a second, who knows who cares, minuscule. Well that makes a huge difference in the camera game,” Jones said.

How big a difference? A red light camera intersection at Mission Boulevard and Mohave Street in Fremont proved his point. When the yellow light time was increased by just over half a second in 2010, he found violations dropped by 76 percent.

“The longer the yellow light, the better opportunity people have to stop,” said Jones.

Critics such as Jones said short yellow lights are just a sneaky way to increase revenue to pay for the red light cameras. They are backing Assembly Bill 612, which would lengthen yellow lights statewide by a full second.

But the proposal is running into roadblocks.

“This bill would put millions of California drivers at risk for increased crashes,” said Richard Retting, a consultant for Redflex. The company supplies most red light cameras in California.

 “Changing the law to fit bad behavior is a mistake,” Retting said.
The Problem With Park-and-Rides


By Angie Schmitt, June 26, 2013

 Are enormous parking lots a good use of land near transit stations?

The intent of park-and-ride service is to enable people who live in car-centric places to take transit to work. But Ben Schiendelman at Seattle Transit Blog has been thinking it over, and he doesn’t believe park-and-rides are such a great thing for mobility, urbanism, or even the transit agencies that build them:
When park and rides are built in areas where there isn’t much within walking distance, people start driving to the stations. Not all the park and ride trips are trips that were previously taken on the highway, but most of them are, hence why there are so many ready park and ride users when a new transit station opens. The day before the station opens, most were driving all the way to the city center – the parking lot fills almost immediately.

When you take a thousand cars off the highway and put them in a parking lot, it decreases the delay on the highway, decreasing the cost. And because demand for that highway was relatively elastic, it increases the number of trips on that highway back to the sweet spot – back to the amount of delay most people are willing to deal with before picking another option.
The net effect is to expand car-centric suburbia, he writes:

For every parking space we build at a transit station, we’re encouraging a new, car-oriented, suburban housing unit, demand for suburban shopping, and suburban road expansion to serve them.

There’s one more negative impact. When Sound Transit builds a $20 million park and ride, that $20 million comes with an opportunity cost of other transit capital projects. This isn’t highway money we’re spending. For instance, if South King dollars hadn’t been spent on park and rides, Sound Transit might have enough money today to build light rail to Federal Way. In East King, we might have a better, more central tunnel for East Link in Bellevue.
National Freight Advisory Committee moving forward 


June 25, 2013


This morning, the National Freight Advisory Committee (NFAC) kicked off its first meeting, and everyone at DOT is excited to see this important effort move forward. After all, our ability to move freight plays an important role in our ability to grow the American economy. A healthy economy requires a transportation network that is always improving the way it circulates freight.

About 48 million tons of freight are transported across America each day, and every little improvement to our freight system can make a tremendous economic difference. That adds up to a daily value of $46 billion worth of new refrigerators, cars, food, raw materials, and machinery bound for factories, markets, and consumers.
Speaking at NFAC
And, as Deputy Secretary John Porcari said today, "By 2050, America will be home to more than 100 million additional people –requiring us to move more than 8 billion extra tons of goods per year. That means our freight system – which is already the strongest in the world – will need to become even stronger."

At DOT, we've taken the lead on strengthening our nation's freight movement because we know that competing in a global economy requires American businesses to move goods from ship to train to truck as safely and efficiently as possible.

Fortunately, we have help in the form of the NFAC and its new Chair and Vice Chair, Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider and former Deputy DOT Secretary Mort Downey, respectively. With their combined experience, I know they will lead the committee capably and responsibly. Vice Chair Mort Downey and Chair Ann Schneider
Vice Chair Mort Downey and Chair Ann Schneider
Also today, we took a concrete step forward on freight movement by increasing to 90 percent the federally-funded share of a critical freight project in Indiana. This means that the Indiana Department of Transportation can now use up to $207 million in federal funds to complete a $230 million freight project that will help reduce congestion and improve safety along the critical U.S. 31 corridor.

The U.S. 31 Hamilton County Improvement Project is the first to take advantage of a new provision in the surface transportation law. This MAP-21 provision permits DOT to raise the allowable federal match on eligible freight projects, making it easier to move important freight projects forward.

There’s no doubt that the U.S. Department of Transportation has an ambitious freight agenda, and we are excited about taking up the challenge.  Over the next two years, we’ll be looking to the National Freight Advisory Committee to provide specific recommendations that we can consider as we look for ways to improve freight movement.

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.

Last delivery of new rail cars enhances safety of Metrolink fleet


By Dan Weikel, June 25, 2013



 Metrolink train cars

 Metrolink officials unveil a new train car built by South Korean firm Hyundai in 2010.

Spurred by two deadly crashes since 2005, Metrolink has now replaced almost all its fleet of aging rail cars with a state-of-the-art model designed to better protect passengers and crews during crashes.

Officials for the commuter railroad announced Tuesday that they had taken delivery this month of the last of 137 passenger cars purchased for $263.3 million from Hyundai Rotem Inc. in South Korea.

Dubbed the "Guardian Fleet" by Metrolink, the Rotem cars have energy-absorbing crumple zones and other safety measures now required by the federal government -- improvements that Metrolink pushed hard to make after a deadly Glendale crash that killed 11 in 2005.

Officials say the new cars mark a milestone in the railroad's effort to regain public trust following the Glendale tragedy and the 2008 collision with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth that left 25 dead and 135 hurt.

"Metrolink has gone to great lengths to improve safety protocols throughout our agency and is now leading the nation in rail safety technology," said San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, board chairman of the railroad.

With more than 500 miles of track, Metrolink serves six counties, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. It averages about 41,000 boardings a day.

The Hyundai deals involved 117 cars that have already been delivered and another 20 bought at a discount of $1 million per car that arrived between January and June.

Their safety features include piston-like, push back car frames and couplers that transfer crash energy around passengers to the rear of the train.

Also on the list of improvements are redesigned seats, breakaway tables, fire retardant materials, anti-derailing devices and improved escape and rescue access.

In addition to buying new rail cars, Metrolink has been working on positive train control, a sophisticated collision-avoidance system that relies on global-positioning satellites, computers and digital communications to track trains.

The federal government required the nation’s railroads to install the technology in the wake of the Chatsworth crash. Metrolink officials say it will be in operation on a portion of their line later this year and systemwide by spring 2014, well ahead of the December 2015 deadline.

In Amsterdam, there are more bicycles than people


By Charlie Osborne, June 25, 2013


Amsterdam may have recently ranked as the top city for cyclists, but in a place full of two-wheeled congestion, traffic and road rage, are there simply too many of them?

An overabundance of bicycles has appeared in the city. There are 880,000 bicycles in comparison to a population of 800,000 city inhabitants. In a city where few wear helmets — even the idea was unthinkable not so long ago — the old and young, mothers and pets can all travel in an eco-friendly way. However, for residents this means chaos at peak times, and train stations akin to “war zones,” according to the New York Times.

32 percent of all trips within the city are by bike in comparison to 22 percent by car. However, demand appears to be outstripping supply when it comes down to parking, and many Amsterdamers are becoming frustrated with the lack of parking space, “bike rage” and congestion. The city must now invest $135 million in improving biking infrastructure and plans to construct 38,000 new bike parking racks within the next few years.

In addition, the city’s main train station is a source of many congestion problems. City officials say that a new $27 million underground garage in front of the station is planned to add thousands of additional spots by 2020.

In a city where bikes are such a popular form of transport, a city has to invest to keep up with demand — especially as few Amsterdamers have only one bike. However, as noted by Thomas Koorn of Amsterdam’s Transport and Traffic Department, it isn’t the worst problem to have.
“We have a real parking issue. We don’t think there’s a crisis; we want to keep it attractive. You cannot imagine if all this traffic were cars.”

10 Brilliant Pieces of Bike Infrastructure


By Sarah Goodyear, June 26, 2013


A new video on American bicycling infrastructure, produced by the website Bicycle Dutch, has been making the rounds among cycling advocates recently. "Cycling isn’t really taken seriously," says the narrator in a sad tone, as if observing life on some alien planet.

So what does truly good cycling infrastructure look like, for those of us who don't get to experience it for ourselves? As you might expect, many examples come from the Northern European countries where cycling commands the greatest modal share. But we wouldn’t want to have an all-Nordic list. So we’ve included some laudable bicycling accommodations from other parts of the globe as well (even a couple from the U.S.), listed in no particular order.

Please note: Before you get upset that your favorite cycling infrastructure project isn’t on this list, know that it is most definitely not intended to be comprehensive. As a matter of fact, we want to hear from you about what's missing! Please leave your own favorites in the comments, and we’ll do another roundup in the future.

Maastunnel, Rotterdam, the Netherlands


Rotterdam is a city built on and around water, and it’s important to be able to get from one side to the other. Construction on this tunnel under the Nieuwe Maas river, which is more than half a kilometer in length, began in 1937 and finished during the Nazi occupation in 1942. The bike portion is embedded in the river floor, next to a completely separate tunnel for cars, and underneath a dedicated pedestrian tunnel. Cyclists reach the tunnel by an escalator, and in the 1950s, as many as 40,000 rode through here each day, some 60 feet below sea level. Nowadays the daily traffic is more like 4,500 per day, partly because there are more places to cross. But 70 years after it opened, as Mark Wagenbuur writes on A View from the Cycle Path, the Maastunnel remains one of the most impressive pieces of dedicated cycle infrastructure in the world.

Ferrara, Italy

There are some places where bicycles are really the only sensible way to get around. So it is in Ferrara, where cars are prohibited from the narrow streets of the ancient inner town, and people ride at a leisurely pace. But it’s not just good luck. Starting in 1991, the city’s planners began cultivating their rich cycling history, encouraging even more cycling with better facilities such as paths leadng from the edge of town to it’s lively interior piazzas. The result, according to the observations of American planner Christine Grimando, is a very pleasant reversal of the usual auto dominance.

Bicycle superhighways, Denmark

If you think that bicycles are best suited to short commutes of under three miles or so, the good people of Denmark would like to show you something. At a cost of $1.6 million, the Danish government has been busy building dedicated bicycle paths that are designed for commuters traveling much longer distances to and from the capital of Copenhagen -- up to 14 miles. Smooth, standardized, predictable, these paths are intended to make bicycle commuting an easy choice for more people, with the aim of further boosting the 55 percent mode share that makes Copenhagen a world leader in bicycle trips. "We want people to perceive these routes as a serious alternative," Brian Hansen, a traffic planner in Copenhagen, told the New York Times. "Like taking the bus, car or train."

Bike parking "cars," Copenhagen, Denmark

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mikael Colville-Andersen

The nicest bicycle path in the world isn’t much help if you don’t have a place to park the vehicle once you get where you’re going. (In Amsterdam and other very bike-friendly places, the bike parking crunch is becoming a serious issue, leading to “rage” among those who can’t find a place to lock up.) Many cities have worked to solve this problem in a variety of ways, including more sidewalk bike racks, bike parking garages at train stations, and larger bike parking corrals in the roadbed. But nothing can beat the bright pink car-shaped shelters for cargo bikes in Copenhagen, part of a pilot program designed to provide dedicated parking for local residents who use the bikes to move children, groceries, and pretty much everything else (spotted on Copenhagenize). Four cargo bikes fit inside each one, and they have solar-powered lights. Users got a key and can stow raingear and such in the shelter as well as their trusty cargo bikes. With all the cargo bikes in Brooklyn these days, we need this here.

Bike-share and Bus Rapid Transit integration, Guangzhou, China

Where other Chinese cities, such as Beijing, have over the years written bicycles out of their plans for the future, the southern city of Guangzhou decided to invest in a huge bike-share program – and to integrate it with an historically ambitious bus rapid transit initiative. As you can see in this video from Streetfilms, the 5,000 bikes in the fleet are accessible at BRT stations through a seamlessly integrated fare system.

The Hovenring, Eindhoven, the Netherlands

This elegant floating circle of a bridge allows people riding bicycles to cross over a highway in complete and utter peace. Not only does the bridge provide safe passage, its quality design and prominence in the landscape sends a powerful message about the importance of bicycles in the city’s overall streetscape.

Sands Street cycle track, New York City, United States


In 2005, Noah Budnick, an advocate with New York’s nonprofit Transportation Alternatives, was severely injured when he fell from his bike on Sands Street in Brooklyn. Although he was wearing a helmet, he fractured his skull, and it was days before he regained consciousness; he has never been sure why he crashed, as his brain injuries erased his memory of the day (he has made a full recovery). He suspects, however, that he may have hit a pothole while checking out what were then extremely dangerous conditions for cyclists on this important route to the heavily biked Manhattan Bridge. The city, which had already been studying the area, moved to create a two-way raised, separated cycle track that runs down the center of Sands Street. It opened in 2009, and at the time was by far the most innovative piece of bike infrastructure in the city. Although it is only one-third of a mile long, it provides a key link for bike traffic to and from the neighborhoods to the north of the bridge, and it demonstrated the city’s interest in creating high-quality facilities for its commuter bike population.

Rijksmuseum bike path, Amsterdam, the Netherlands


It hardly seems fair. Not only does Amsterdam have one of the world’s greatest museums and one of the world’s greatest bike cultures — those things actually intersect, quite literally, where a bike path passes through the museum, providing a short cut for riders. The presence of this historic tunnel route was the subject of much contention during a recent renovation of the museum, and it was almost destroyed. But cycling advocates prevailed, and in May the path finally reopened, with glass walls allowing riders to see the museum as they pass under the majestic vaulted ceiling.

Malmö, Sweden


The city of Malmö, third largest in Sweden, is something of an encyclopedia of fine bike infrastructure, so let’s look at the whole package. The city boasts nearly 300 miles of completely separated bike paths; level crossings where those paths cross through intersections; dedicated bicycle signal lights, many triggered by radar sensors; free air pumps scattered around town; bike counters that keep track of traffic flow; ingenious lighting solutions for tunnels and paths; a clear and comprehensive system of wayfinding signs; elaborate indoor bike parking facilities at train stations, with showers and many other amenities; metal balustrades for cyclists to hold at lights so that they can easily regain momentum; and much, much more, including an extensive public relations campaign to encourage cycling. All of this goes a long way to explain why 30 percent of trips in Malmö are made by bike.

Bicycle tunnels, Davis, California, United States


 The city of Davis is one of only four in the United States that has earned platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists (the other three are Boulder, Colorado; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon). Davis has been working to be a cycle-friendly community since the 1960s, and the city has loads of terrific bike infrastructure, but its tunnels – each with its own name and personality – make the city’s network of trails possible. Plus, riding through tunnels is fun.

Watch Out, EasyJet: Europe's Newer, Faster Trains Are Gunning For You 


By Feargus O'Sullivan, June 26, 3013

 Watch Out, EasyJet: Europe's Newer, Faster Trains Are Gunning For You



Noting the contrast between their own skeleton rail service and Europe’s huge networks, Americans tend to think of Western Europe as a rail paradise. When it comes to cross-border travel, it isn’t really, but new lines announced this summer are certainly pushing it closer to the ideal. As of last month, Londoners have a new direct train service to the southern French holiday city of Aix-en-Provence, lasting just over five hours, while in autumn a direct Paris to Barcelona high speed TGV link begins, with a journey lasting just six hours, 25 minutes (on regular trains it's closer to nine).

Most groundbreaking of all, German state railway company Deutsche Bahn has this month gained rights of access to the channel tunnel. Starting in 2016, the company plans to run new direct services from London to Amsterdam and Cologne (taking four hours each) and to Frankfurt (taking five hours).

The five-hour journey time many of these new routes hover around is significant. Factoring in city to airport travel, security and check-in times, five hours is about the minimum for most short-hop European international flights. Trains can match or beat this limit because city center stations slash onward travel times radically. Check-in times are also much shorter – for the London/Paris/Brussels Eurostar service you can arrive up to 30 minutes before departure, while in passport-free continental Western Europe you can trim this down to around 15. Factor in a lighter carbon footprint, more legroom and a cloud-free view, and trains beat planes hands down. Indeed, airlines have already given up competing against railways on some routes, including the route between Paris and Brussels (which takes two hours by train). With yet more high-speed links on offer, the temptation for European passengers to give up the hassle of air travel will soon be even stronger.

High-speed rail isn’t quite there yet, however. Fast international trains are often (though not always) more expensive and harder to book than short hop plane tickets, whose prices started falling through the floor shortly before the millennium. Since then budget airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair have taken over from long-distance buses as the cheap European choice. Offering a cramped service to occasionally obscure airports, their success lies in prices that, if you buy well in advance, can hit rock bottom. Meanwhile, high-speed train ticket prices have stayed high(ish), their tracks extremely expensive to lay and liable to cause controversy. The U.K.’s next planned high speed extension, for example, is expected to cost over $52 billion and will cut through protected countryside and partly destroy one of central London’s last major areas of social housing.

The U.K., often the fly in Europe’s ointment, has another barrier in the way of more international high speed lines, as it’s still outside the Schengen Area where border passport controls are abolished. With the Eurostar, it gets round this problem by having pre-boarding U.K. customs posts at Brussels, Calais, Lille, and Paris. Placing similar posts at every stop along Deutsche Bahn’s new routes would be costly (the U.K. has ruled out on-board checks), and passengers returning to London on the new Aix-en-Provence service have to make a lengthy stop at Lille. It’s not yet clear what the solution to this problem will be.

Meanwhile, some rail companies are trying to beat budget airlines at their own game. In April, France’s SNCF launched a second class-only service called Ouigo from Paris to the south coast, offering online booking only, a limited luggage allowance and prices starting at a tiny 10. Taking a leaf from the budget airlines’ books, they’re also using obscure, underexploited stations – Ouigo’s Parisian terminus is out in the suburbs at Marne-la-Vallée. There’s little of the romantic ease that attracts train buffs to this new formula, but the prices are hard to turn down. If Western Europe’s new international routes genuinely hope to take on their airline competitors, these new no-frills services may well be the shape of things to come.