Purpose

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

BNSF RAILWAY'S LADONNA DICAMILLO INSTALLED AS NEW CHAIR OF THE LONG BEACH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


 http://lbbusinessjournal.com/lof-scroller/1635.html#.UdJGhbj_NZM.twitter

By Tiffany Rider, July 2, 2013


Following an inauguration gala last week, LaDonna DiCamillo launched her one-year term as chair of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on July 1.
Born in Iowa, DiCamillo said she was drawn to the small town feel and big city assets of Long Beach. She recently moved to "Iowa by the Sea" and brings her passion for the community and experience in public policy to her new role with the chamber.

LaDonna DiCamillo began her one-year term as chair of the board for the
Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce on July 1. She told the Business Journal
that her plans include increasing the focus of the chamber on state and
local public policy efforts to support business.
 
 
DiCamillo is the director of government affairs for BNSF Railway Company in Los Angeles, working with California communities on the local level and with the legislature to address rail-related issues while improving freight mobility and trade growth. She has been in the railroad business since 1989.

In addition to her service with the Long Beach Chamber, DiCamillo is also a member of the State Bar of California, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and the Los Angeles Chamber Board of Directors. She holds a juris doctorate from the University of La Verne College of Law and a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
In an interview at the Business Journal offices, DiCamillo discussed her experience, goals for the chamber and even gave us an update on the controversial BNSF Railway project.

Part of the interview:

DiCamillo: Would you like to know about the railway project?

LBBJ: That's up to you? (Note to readers: In May, the Los Angeles City Council approved BNSF's proposal to build its Southern California International Gateway intermodal facility, to be located near the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, thus shortening the distance container trucks must travel on the 710 Freeway before transferring their cargo to rail, from 24 miles to less than four miles. Several lawsuits have been filed, including by the City of Long Beach and the Long Beach Unified School District.)

DiCamillo: I really feel that we have a great project. It is something I have been working on personally for almost 13 years. It takes trucks off the 710 Freeway. We have a local hire program so it is an opportunity for us to work with Long Beach and the workforce investment bureau to put a jobs training program in place. Long Beach still has high unemployment, so it is an opportunity for us to help do some training. There are a lot of good trade jobs very close to this city and we need to build on that. It improves the air quality for the residents, and so on. Although I'm disappointed we are in litigation with the city, I am hopeful that it will be resolved. We anticipated litigation. It seems to be part of the CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] process. I don't know any major project that has totally avoided it. That said, I still have great relationships with all of the councilmembers and see no interference with what is going on in the background.

LBBJ: From what we understand, they are not opposed to the project, it's more the concern they have about the environmental impacts.

DiCamillo: I think overall I hear good things about the project. Like I said, I think it is a good project.

LBBJ: You mentioned job creation. What about the argument that we're going to be losing jobs from the businesses that are located there now; upward of 1,000. What's going to happen with those businesses?

DiCamillo: We've made offers to work with each of those businesses to find new sites and give them moving expenses and some rent subsidy for a period of time where there is a differential.

LBBJ: But they all sued, didn't they?
DiCamillo: They all sued.

LBBJ: So do you think you're going to be able to do that, to find the sites and accommodate them in this area?

DiCamillo: I don't know specifically where they are going to end up, but they are more flexible in the sites that they can go to than we were. We had logistical issues. We had to be close to a railroad. We had to be close to freeway access.

LBBJ: Is the next step mediation?

DiCamillo: No. There will be mandatory settlement conferences as part of the CEQA process.
LBBJ: Back to jobs, we know the mayor has been a proponent of technical schools. Is there anything your company can do to ensure local jobs by creating a training school?

DiCamillo: That is something that we have offered and put on the table. We have initiated some discussions a few years ago with the workforce investment board and have an outline, but we certainly can build on that. We are also, as you know, closer to the unions. We are predominantly a union company ourselves. I think over 80 percent unionized. We have a project labor agreement for the project. That was really a natural for us.

LBBJ: Best case scenario, what do you think you're looking at as far as breaking ground? Are we talking months? Years?

DiCamillo: It will probably take a couple years to get through all of the litigation.
LBBJ: How many trucks are you going to take off the Long Beach Freeway? Is there a number? A percentage? What is it?

DiCamillo: Well, we said millions of truck miles a year. . . . right now all of those trucks go up the 710 Freeway to Commerce.

LBBJ: One of the complaints we've heard is that, because the project is in L.A., Long Beach will be impacted by the negative environmental issues but will not get the benefits of jobs and help to the local economy. That money is going to L.A.

DiCamillo: We will be leasing the land. But the benefits of the project I think are largely for Long Beach because of the removal of the trucks from the 710 Freeway. We will do a local jobs hire and workforce training program. We do support the Port of Long Beach. Historically, almost 60 percent of the containers that we handle at our facility in Commerce are Port of Long Beach origin/destination containers. We will be supporting the terminals at Long Beach with our facility. So there is benefit on the City of Long Beach side.

LBBJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?

DiCamillo: I am honored to serve the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. I'm going to give it my best. I love Long Beach. I love the diversity of Long Beach. I think we have a lot to build on in the industries we have here. We have a great downtown that has a lot more potential. We've got beach communities and neighborhoods that all have unique personalities. I love that about Long Beach. I think we've got the small city personality but big city potential and I want to help build on that in any way I can.

Port of Long Beach: Harbor leaders to fund demonstration of pollution-curbing technology

http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_23578129/port-long-beach-harbor-leaders-fund-demonstration-pollution

By Karen Robes Meeks, July 1, 2013




LONG BEACH - Harbor leaders voted Monday to pay $2 million to test new technology that would essentially vacuum up ship-generated pollution.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners unanimously agreed to fund the demonstration of a proposed "wharf-based, 'sock on a stack'" Advanced Maritime Emissions Control System.

The demonstration, to be done in two phases, is to show that an Emissions Capture System can link to a ship's exhaust stack from a barge-based unit safely and successfully. 

"The significance of this $2 million contract allows the Port of Long Beach to effectively reduce port pollution in half by supporting a technology that will capture all the emissions out of a ship," 
Commissioner Rich Dines said. "And that is for all ships. This is every ship that currently calls at the Port of Long Beach and will call at the Port of Long Beach."

The knowledge gained from this demonstration will be valuable beyond the seaport, Dines said.
"This technology will not only support the Port of Long Beach in reducing emissions but for ports around the world," he said.

Green incentives continue.

In other actions Monday, the board unanimously supported the one-year extension of a dockage incentive program for bigger, newer ships.

Put More in Your Bank Account and Less in Your Tank by Taking Public Transportation

Riding public transportation saves individuals $9,743 a year

 http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2013/Pages/130627_TransitSavingsReport.aspx

By Chad Chitwood, June 27, 2013


Washington, D.C.  -  Commuting via public transportation relieves stress; stress on you, your car, and more importantly your bank account by putting more money in your pocket and less in your gas tank.  According to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) June Transit Savings Report, individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can save, on average, more than $812 this month, and $9,743 annually.  These savings are based on the cost of commuting by public transportation compared to the cost of owning and driving a vehicle which includes the June 26, 2013 average national gas price ($3.54 per gallon- reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate. 

APTA releases this monthly Transit Savings Report to examine how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car.

The national average for a monthly unreserved parking space in a downtown business district is $166.26, according to the 2012 Colliers International Parking Rate Study.  Over the course of a year, parking costs for a vehicle can amount to an average of $1,995.

The top 20 cities with the highest public transit ridership are ranked in order of their transit savings based on the purchase of a monthly public transit pass and factoring in local gas prices for June 26, 2013 and the local monthly unreserved parking rate.*
 City
 Monthly
 Annual
1
New York
$1,215
 $14,578
2
San Francisco
$1,074
 $12,893
3
Boston
$1,056
 $12,673
4
Chicago
$984
 $11,804
5
Philadelphia
$971
 $11,650
6
Seattle
$961
 $11,530
7
Honolulu
$946
 $11,349
8
Los Angeles
$921
 $11,054
9
San Diego
$874
 $10,487
10
Portland
$862
 $10,346
11
Minneapolis
$850
 $10,201
12
Denver
$846
 $10,151
13
Baltimore
$833
 $9,994
14
Washington, DC
$818
 $9,813
15
Pittsburgh
$792
 $9,500
16
Cleveland
$789
 $9,463
17
Miami
$766
 $9,194
18
Atlanta
$763
 $9,153
19
Dallas
$758
 $9,099
20
Las Vegas
$745
 $8,946
*Based on gasoline prices as reported by AAA on 6/26/13

Methodology

APTA calculates the average cost of taking public transit by determining the cost of the average monthly transit pass of local public transit agencies across the country.  This information is based on the annual APTA fare collection survey and is weighted based on ridership (unlinked passenger trips).  The assumption is that a person making a switch to public transportation would likely purchase an unlimited pass on the local transit agency, typically available on a monthly basis.

APTA then compares the average monthly transit fare to the average cost of driving.  The cost of driving is calculated using the 2012 AAA average cost of driving formula.  That formula is based on variable and fixed costs.  The variable costs include the cost of gas, maintenance and tires.  The fixed costs include insurance, license registration, depreciation and finance charges.  The comparison also uses the average mileage of a mid-size auto at 23.1 miles per gallon and the price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline as recorded by AAA on June 26, 2013 at $3.54 per gallon.  The analysis also assumes that a person will drive an average of 15,000 miles per year.  The savings is based on the assumption that a person in two-person household lives with one less car.

In determining the cost of parking, APTA uses the data from the 2012 Colliers International Parking Rate Study for monthly unreserved parking rates for the United States.

To calculate your individual savings, with or without car ownership, go to www.publictransportation.org

LACMTA turns to Protran for pedestrian/trespasser warning systems

http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/m_and_w/lacmta-turns-to-protran-for-pedestrian-trespasser-warning-systems.html?channel=5&

By William C. Vantuono, June 28, 2013



  LACMTA turns to Protran for pedestrian/trespasser warning systems



The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has engaged Protran Technology for pedestrian and trespassing detection/warning systems on its surface-running light rail network.
Protran is adding to its Protracker Advance Warning technology, originally deployed five years ago to protect track workers and hi-rail vehicles by alerting them and light rail vehicle operators to each others’ presence on the right-of-way, and to enforce civil speed restrictions.
 
LACMTA is now taking delivery on Protran’s Pedestrian Warning System and Trespass Detection System. These systems communicate with the existing LRV-mounted Advance Warning Protracker equipment. They are expected to be delivered within the next two months.

“Our Pedestrian and Trespass systems give an advance warning to pedestrians that a train is approaching while simultaneously warning the train operator that trespassers are on the right-of way,” said Protran Technology Director Peter M. Bartek. “Working with agencies like LACMTA, which is at the forefront of safety technology and is regarded as one of the top agencies when it comes to safety, including that of its track workers, has been excellent. We are grateful to be part of such a great team.”

Major Renovations at LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal: 'We Want to Bring Back the Romance of Travel'

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karin-e-baker/big-renovations-at-lax_b_3497914.html

By Karin E. Baker, June 27, 2013


 2013-06-25-1TTbeautyshot_dan_16x9_130524_as.jpg



Angelenos, prepare to celebrate changes at LAX harkening back to the days when international travel was an elegant affair. After too many years with an outdated, substandard international terminal, LAX is about to enjoy a chic, ├╝ber-modern international terminal that recalls times past, when departing on a journey was truly glamorous and not just a depressing means to an end.

LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal has undergone a major renovation, which includes both an improved passenger experience and an aesthetic overhaul. The transformation includes the creation of a dynamic multimedia environment inspired by international destinations. A team of designers collaborated on the project, including Fentress Architects, the terminal's designer; Sardi Design, specialists in immersive environments; and Moment Factory, the project's executive content producer.
2013-06-25-1BLA_20130619_258.jpg


Moment Factory is a cutting-edge, multimedia studio known for creating highly inventive, often interactive, public events. Headquartered in Montreal, Moment Factory's previous projects have included such vital experiences as Madonna's Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2012, Arcade Fire's Zygote Ball drop at Coachella in 2011, and numerous Cirque du Soleil collaborations. The LAX project is their largest undertaking to date. Seven massive media features that tap into LA's history as the world's entertainment capital now enliven the International Terminal's Great Hall.
I spoke to Sakchin Bessette, Moment Factory's Creative Director, at LAX after checking out the revamped terminal.

"We want to bring back the romance of travel and enhance the travel experience," Bessette shared. "In the past, traveling was an exotic adventure of discovering new lands, but it became a very logistical experience to travel. Waiting in security, waiting in lines, wondering if you'd make it in time, and getting your documents together."

Perhaps the most exciting new feature is the Time Tower, a 72-foot-tall video clock tower/elevator featuring four sides clad in vibrant, changing screens. Bessette described the Time Tower thusly:
"It's more of an architectural piece. We play with the perception of time and how time is perceived while you travel to different time zones. Each side has six arms that stick out and represent every time zone. On the hour strike, it transforms. It opens and you see the inside mechanics of the clock. You have a bunch of dancers that do a show, so it's also entertainment."
2013-06-25-1BLA_20130619_200.jpg

Photo credit: Moment Factory
We checked out the Story Board, a massive series of LED screens displaying films of Los Angeles and various destination cities.
"The Story Board is more of a cinematographic experience. It represents the industry of Los Angeles and the nature in So Cal and around the world. It's more of a short film approach, more cinematic than architectural. We went to Rio and South Africa to shoot different pieces for it."
Among the other media features are two series of 10 28-foot-tall columns featuring visuals and sound effects synchronized with videos of different destinations.

"So if there's a flight leaving for Moscow, there's a piece of content synchronized with Moscow," Bessette shared. "They're static until people walk by -- then they start to move. People walking generates their movement. They interpret the cities people are traveling to while conveying the movement and motion of travel. Things come alive when you start moving around."
2013-06-25-1beautyshot_SB_JUN_16x9_130613_as.jpg

Photo credit: Moment Factory
You might think all this video activity could be over-stimulating, but the designers planned for that.
"Because of the size of these features, if you watched at the speed you watch on a TV or a personal device it's a very fast pace -- the MTV approach. Here the objective is to calm people down and create a relaxing experience so we had to bring it down. It's about being more hypnotic, more ambient."
I asked Bessette what he hopes to achieve with this project.
"We wanted to create a bit more magic. The only magic these days of travel is looking through the porthole and seeing the clouds and the sunset. We want people, once they enter the terminal, to get that sense of wonder and say, "Oh, right, I'm on a journey here. I'm not just going from A to B."

I-405 widening plan public meeting set for next month in Long Beach

Traffic engineer says Orange County should fund fixes to intersections

 http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_23569205/i-405-widening-plan-public-meeting-set-next

By Eric Bradley, June 29, 2013

 
LONG BEACH -- The public will have a chance to comment this month on a highly-criticized plan to widen the 405 Freeway that now calls on Long Beach and Caltrans to pay for some improvements to local intersections. 


Long Beach city traffic engineer David Roseman signaled Friday that the city is not amenable to paying for such work.

"From our perspective, if there's impacts in Long Beach from the project, we would think the proponents should fund those mitigations," Roseman said.

The public and city can weigh in and ask questions about the widening project between Costa Mesa and the border of Los Angeles and Orange counties on July 24.

The California Department of Transportation and the Orange County Transportation Authority released a draft environmental impact report and environmental impact statement on the plan in May 2012. Officials received comments regarding potential traffic impacts in Long Beach, and a supplemental draft EIR was issued on Friday.

The updated information suggests negotiated "fair share" payments from the OCTA to Long Beach and Caltrans for the cost of improvements at intersections impacted by increased traffic.
By its nature, the terminus of the project alarmed city officials in Los Angeles County, including Long Beach, because it would squeeze the traffic of the expanded portion of the freeway into fewer lanes of the 405 and 605 Freeway in Long Beach.

Three options were presented in the initial draft EIR.

One would add a single, general-purpose, non-toll lane in each direction of the 405 between Euclid Street and the 605 at a cost of $1.3 billion.

Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever, Fountain Valley Mayor John Collins, Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar, Seal Beach Mayor Michael Levitt, Westminster Mayor Margie Rice and Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Devin Dwyer signed a pledge supporting a second option that would add two non-toll lanes in each direction at a cost of $1.4 billion.

The third option, which includes a toll lane, would go from the 73 Freeway in Costa Mesa to the 605 and would cost $1.7 billion, according to OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik. It would also add a single free lane in each direction.

Two additional concepts were proposed in April, one adding another general purpose lane in each direction and converting the existing carpool lane into a single high occupancy vehicle toll lane requiring a minimum of three vehicle occupants. The other option was ruled out as unfeasible due to its traffic impact on surface streets in Orange County.

Roseman said the plans will have far-reaching effects on the 405 in Long Beach and surrounding surface streets.

"We from the city would encourage all of our residents to take a look at this environmental document, and to express their opinions and come out to the community meeting to let Caltrans and OCTA know what they think about the project," he said.

The July 24 meeting is from 6-8 p.m. at Hill Classical Middle School, 1100 Iroquis Ave., and will be attended by project representatives and will include informational boards about the widening, set to begin in mid-2015.

The supplemental EIR and traffic study can be viewed at dot.ca.gov/dist12/405/index.htm.

Public comments on the report will be accepted through Aug. 12.

Those may be made in person, via email at 405.SupplementalDraft.EIR.EIS@parsons.com or submitted by mail to Smita Deshpande, Branch Chief, Caltrans -- District 12, Attn: 405 SDEIR-DEIS Comment Period, 2201 Dupont Drive, Suite 200, Irvine, CA 92612.



The Exaggerated Benefits of Electric Cars

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/07/01/the-exaggerated-benefits-of-electric-cars/

By Angie Schmitt, July 1, 2013

Just how green are electric vehicles?

Ozzie Zehner, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, says it’s not as clear-cut as we generally assume. In an article published in Spectrum, the news arm of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Zehner notes that researchers have come to some widely divergent conclusions.
A life cycle analysis by the National Academies found that electric vehicles will impose greater total environmental costs per mile than standard gasoline-powered cars.

Industry-funded research tends to paint a rosy picture of how electric cars, powered by clean fuels, will curb carbon emissions, Zehner writes. He cites electric vehicle research from Stanford University’s Global Climate & Energy Project, which has received $113 million from ExxonMobil, General Electric, Schlumberger, and Toyota.

Once you take into account the full life cycle of the vehicles and environmental costs in addition to carbon emissions, electric cars look a lot less green. Zehner refers to a life cycle analysis by the National Academies that considered the full environment costs of electric cars, including the manufacture and disposal of their batteries, which found no benefit compared to conventional cars.
In addition, Zehner writes, comparing electric cars to gasoline-powered cars gives short shrift to other strategies to reduce the environmental impact of transportation and land use, like transit and walkable communities, which provide additional social benefits:
There’s no doubt that gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars are expensive and dirty. Road accidents kill tens of thousands of people annually in the United States alone and injure countless more. Using these kinds of vehicles as a standard against which to judge another technology sets a remarkably low bar. Even if electric cars someday clear that bar, how will they stack up against other alternatives?
The federal government offers generous tax credits — up to $7,500 – to people who buy an electric vehicle. And a number of states will do you even better; West Virginia offers electric vehicle owners up to $15,000 in tax breaks, the highest in the nation. But tax credits for electric vehicles tend to be regressive, Zehner says. The average Chevy Volt owner makes $170,000 annually.

Rather than using that money to subsidize electric cars, taxpayers would get a better environmental bang for their buck with interventions like transit expansion, more targeted emissions testing policies, and making places more walkable and bikeable.

“Catastrophic failure”: Adventures in car sharing, part 2

http://grist.org/cities/catastrophic-failure-adventures-in-car-sharing-part-2/?utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&sub_email=pdrouet@earthlink.net

By Greg Hanscom, July 2, 2013

 

 

 Sharing was supposed to make me feel better. Instead it made me feel like this.

 Sharing was supposed to make me feel good. Instead it made me feel like this.

The air-conditioning compressor: Sounds harmless enough — another of those little metal widgets bolted under the hood of your car. But under the right circumstances, it can be a killer. I know. It offed my car-sharing experiment.

If you’re just joining us, last winter, my wife and I decided to rent out one of our cars as a way to cover some of the costs of owning it — a decision I wrote about in the first story in this series. We listed the car through RelayRides, one of several new companies that facilitate this sort of “peer-to-peer” car rental.

Our first transaction went smoothly. John, the guy who rented the car, brought it back right on time, gas tank full, and not obviously any worse for the wear. He’d had it for two weeks, and put 500 or so miles on it, and we had a cool $246 to show for it. (John had paid more than that, but RelayRides takes 25 percent off the top to cover insurance and other expenses, plus a handy profit, I’m sure.)
It was a decent start, but it wasn’t even a third of what we’d spent to prep the car for renting ($775 on a full tuneup and deep clean). It would take a lot more renting before we covered our start-up costs and started to chip away at the $860 a year we pay to keep the car registered and insured. Our dream of making enough to buy a cargo bike seemed a long way off.

I started to look a little closer at our P&L. One of my biggest concerns before I’d rented the car was the risk of someone wrecking it and us being left carless, or worse, liable for injuries suffered in the wreck. I’d gone so far as to contact the Washington state insurance commissioner to be sure that RelayRides’ carrier was approved through the official channels. The short answer was “no,” but a commissioner’s spokesperson did not think that would be a problem.

“RelayRides is using a non-admitted insurer, but they do have coverage,” Rich Roesler wrote in an email. “We’ve received no complaints. At this point, we don’t foresee enforcement action by us against them.”

But the smaller expenses began to worry me — and the paltry amount of money we were making by renting it didn’t help.

One of the benefits of car sharing, from a renter’s perspective, is the cost, which can be significantly cheaper than renting a car from one of the national chains. I’d set our rental prices based on RelayRides’ recommendations for what I could get for a Subaru in Seattle: $6 an hour, $33 a day, or $164 a week.

Car rental rates fluctuate with the seasons, however. When, in early summer, I compared my rates to what you’d pay Zipcar or its parent company, Avis, it was clear that I was undercharging pretty dramatically: For a Ford Escape from Zipcar, I’d pay $11 an hour or $83 a day. For a week with an “intermediate SUV” from Avis, I’d pay $399.99. Those numbers are roughly double what RelayRides had suggested for me.

I could hike my rates, track the numbers through the seasons, and adjust accordingly, but what would I have to charge to make up for all the invisible costs that silently added up while my car was out in the world — the slow wear and tear, the depreciation in value? To gauge that, I turned to the venerable American Automobile Association, which puts out an annual report on what it costs to own and operate a vehicle.

When I’d originally figured our expenses, I’d included just the insurance and registration, but AAA uses a much more comprehensive system that takes into account insurance and registration, plus taxes, depreciation, and other “ownership costs” as well as “operating costs” like gas, maintenance, and tires. By this measure, it costs me 77.3 cents per mile to operate a four-wheel-drive SUV, the category that comes closest to capturing my Subaru. (To figure out your own driving costs, check out AAA’s handy brochure [PDF].)

So how was I doing? Let’s look at John’s trip to Mount Baker. Using AAA’s system, and subtracting the cost of the gas (which he bought) and the finance charge (we own the car outright), I figured I shelled out $246.93 just to keep the car legal and running for John’s ski vacation. He’d paid me, what, again? $246. I’d rented my car for two weeks, and taken a 93-cent loss in the bargain?
Still, this was pretty crude math, and many of these invisible expenses seemed quite abstract. As far as we could tell, our renters had taken good care of our car.

But as if on cue to back up the AAA’s data, the bills began to roll in: a $44.84 oil change, a $100 insurance deductible to repair a cracked windshield. In May, I got a bill for a bunch of bridge tolls that one of our renters had unknowingly racked up. He ran a check over soon after I texted him about it, and apologized profusely, but that was time I could have spent working. The opportunity costs were mounting, too. I was sliding deeper into the red by the week.

Then came the A/C compressor. We’d rented the car to a young couple, Heidi and Jimmy, from San Antonio. Neither had a reputation built up on RelayRides, but Heidi had a solid background with Airbnb, and from that I gathered that she, at least, was trustworthy. “What the hell,” we thought.
Hell is right: When the duo arrived back at our house later that week, Jimmy held what looked like a dead rat snake in his hands — the shredded remains of our A/C compressor belt. He’d tried to find a replacement, but failed. They were very apologetic.

Mike, our friendly neighborhood car mechanic, wasn’t smiling after I gave him a few hours to look over the car: “What has happened to your A/C is what we call ‘catastrophic compressor failure,’” he said. “It’s a big term, and it means big money.”

The compressor, he explained, exploded — or imploded, I’m not really sure which — and then proceeded to spread shrapnel all throughout the cooling system. Total estimate for the repair and car colonic: $1,500.

Mike tells us our A/C would’ve blown up anyway — nothing the drivers did caused the catastrophe. But they added mileage and got us there quicker, and now we were stuck with a car that had no A/C and a hefty repair bill to boot.

I’ve written the RelayRides support team to ask if their insurance will cover the fix, as the blow-up did happen on their watch.  But a recent email from Rich Roesler at the insurance commissioner’s office doesn’t inspire confidence: On May 31, after New York state issued RelayRides a cease and desist order due to insurance issues, Roesler wrote to say, “At this point, we’re urging folks to be very cautious about signing up — particularly since many personal auto insurers will NOT cover you if the car’s being — essentially — rented out.”

In the meantime, we don’t have the cash on hand to pay for the work, and we’ve decided it’s best not to rent the car sans A/C — it’s been hot, even in the Pacific Northwest. It’s back to the driveway for the Subaru. We’re out of business. Womp womp womp.

What, if any, lessons do my misadventures in car sharing hold for the rest of you? Well, keep in mind that this is one person’s experience — and a person who obviously did a lot of his homework on the fly. I could have pimped this ride a lot more aggressively, tracked the seasonal rental market and adjusted my rates accordingly, and rented the car for shorter periods of time, which would generally net more money per mile. But a few words to the wise for those who would rent out their own cars:
  • This stuff takes time. From airing rental requests to checking people’s online reputations and the never-ending challenge of keeping a vehicle cleaned and maintained, you’ll burn some hours on this little business.
  • You’ll also burn money. A car is a risky vehicle for a business venture. Cars are expensive to maintain and full of hidden costs and unpleasant surprises. There are a lot of moving parts, as they say, and those parts break.
  • Finally, if you do decide to get into car sharing, you should probably do it for more than the money. You better really like the idea of a pooling your resources with your community, and keeping a few other cars off the streets.
As for us? Perhaps it’s just as well that our car-sharing career came to an untimely end. After working through all this hassle, and looking again at our lives in the city, we’ve decided that being a one-car family isn’t such a bad option after all. We’re trading in our second car for that cargo bike we’ve been drooling over.

Heck, maybe I’ll rent that out on a part-time basis (there’s an app for that), make a little money for groceries. Last I checked, bikes don’t have A/C compressors that go kerflooey when you least expect it, and I don’t need the neighborhood auto mechanic to change a flat or grease the chain.

Tune in next week to learn about a couple of people who claim that they’ve actually turned car sharing into a business — with profits and everything.

 

July 4th SR-710 Press Release


From Sylvia Plummer, July 2, 2013

Word is out that many SR-710 opponents will march in the South Pasadena July 4th Parade




Don't Tread on Us!

Sent by Sylvia Plummer, July 2, 2013