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 9, 2013

Metro Laughs Off Beverly Hills Purple Line Subway Fault Fears


By Eve Bachrach, July 9, 2013


The fight between Metro and the Beverly Hills Unified School District over the proposed Century City Purple Line station has hinged (at least theoretically) on what active fault lines may or may not be present under Santa Monica Boulevard and Constellation Avenue. Today Metro released its latest response to BHUSD's claims that Metro is trying to kill everyone with a station at Constellation. Did they cave? Have they finally admitted to a nefarious plot to blow up Beverly Hills High School? Of course not. As before, Metro affirms that the Constellation site has been thoroughly tested and found to be active-fault-free, while BHUSD's preferred station location "lies within an extremely complex zone of faulting." No luck this time, Beverly Hills; good thing you still have those several pending lawsuits to fall back on.

 Metro Responds to BHUSD Consultant Memo on Century City Station Location


By Dave Sotero, July 9, 2013

Today Metro  released its review of a Beverly Hills Unified School District consultant memo that challenged the agency’s geotechnical rationale  for choosing the Constellation site for the Purple Line Extension ’s Century City station.
The review, sent to Metro’s Board of Directors today, essentially says that nothing in the consultant memo changes the agency’s recommendations.  Read the report below.

Caltrans Confiscating Anti-tunnel signs in Delta!

From Sylvia Plummer, July 9, 2013

Jerry Brown's War on the First Amendment.  What happen to freedom of speech?


Jerry Brown's War on the First Amendment: Caltrans confiscates anti-tunnels signs
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Jul 9th, 2013 2:59 PM
"We are outraged that the Brown Administration is trampling the rights of business and land owners who have posted signs on their property opposing the Peripheral Tunnels," said Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “This is biased enforcement of little-used provisions to silence critics of the Governor's proposed Peripheral Tunnels.”

Comic strip courtesy of River News-Herald, Rio Vista, by RWL.

Jerry Brown's War on the First Amendment: Caltrans confiscates anti-tunnels signs
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Jul 9th, 2013 2:59 PM
"We are outraged that the Brown Administration is trampling the rights of business and land owners who have posted signs on their property opposing the Peripheral Tunnels," said Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “This is biased enforcement of little-used provisions to silence critics of the Governor's proposed Peripheral Tunnels.”

Comic strip courtesy of River News-Herald, Rio Vista, by RWL.
800_unknown.jpeg original image ( 936x656)

 Caltrans confiscating anti-tunnel signs in Delta


July 8, 2013

 Caltrans crews are confiscating "Save the Delta! Stop the Tunnels!" signs displayed by land and business owners in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, even though the signs are posted on private property.
Jeff Bennett, supervisor at the Caltrans Rio Vista office, says display of such signs is in violation of Streets and Highways Code 54053, because the message is supposedly a political campaign message and political messages cannot be displayed within 660 feet of a public right of way.
According to Mr. Bennett, the signs have nothing to do with the operation of the businesses at which they are displayed.
He says there is a $10,000 fine for non-compliance. At this point, while lawsuits have been filed against Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans for $54 billion in tunnels, there is no registered political campaign for or against the project.
The cost of the tunnel construction is supposed to be paid by those getting the fresh water out of the Sacramento River via the tunnels.

Caltrans' sign removal irks Delta backers

Tunnel foes see double standard in enforcing law
By Alex Breitler, July 9, 2013
On Sunday, Warren Smith walked out to Highway 160 where it crosses the north Delta land farmed by his family for four generations. There, he erected two signs opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's twin tunnels project.

On Monday, a Caltrans crew pulled up the signs and took them away, telling Smith that "political" signs had to be a certain distance from public roadways.

The crew was polite, Smith said, but he was baffled by their explanation. The signs were placed 6 feet off the highway on his own property, he said.

"I never dreamed we couldn't do that," he said.

Like many others, he's seen the large signs that tunnel supporters have erected along Interstate 5 on the way to Los Angeles, proclaiming a "Congress created Dust Bowl" and arguing for more water to be delivered from the Delta.

Those signs have been there for years. Smith's were allowed to stand just one day.

Smith contacted Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, director of Stockton-based Restore the Delta.

"I think it's utter hypocrisy on the part of the state, and I urge everyone who cares about the Delta to contact the head of Caltrans to talk about the uneven enforcement of this law," Barrigan-Parrilla said Monday.

Caltrans did not immediately respond to The Record's request for an explanation. Barrigan-Parrilla said she called the department's Rio Vista office and was referred to a Caltrans regulation regarding the placement of "temporary political signs."

That regulation says those signs cannot be placed within the right of way of any highway or within 660 feet of the edge of a "landscaped freeway."

Smith said the signs, about 2 feet by 3 feet, were placed about 6 feet off the highway, on opposite sides.

He argues the signs can't be classified as "political." A "temporary political sign," the regulation says, is a sign that encourages a particular vote in a scheduled election. No doubt the tunnels are a political issue, but the state plans to build them without a public or legislative vote.

Then again, the Caltrans regulations also restrict other forms of roadside "advertising," so it's unclear whether the signs would have been permitted even if they were not considered to be political.
It was also unclear how many other signs were confiscated Monday. Smith said he was told by the Caltrans crew that 30 other signs had been removed. Restore the Delta said it would retrieve the signs from Caltrans today and redistribute them.

Despite the setback, Smith might not be done trying to influence drivers on Highway 160.

"I'm going to put a sign on my chimney, I think," he said. "If they want to come to my house and climb up and take it off my chimney, then we've got ourselves a war going on."

Pasadena's Master Bike Plan

Posted by Johathan Edewards on Facebook, July 9, 2013

Pasadena took a big step today towards more sustainable transportation! The bike plan that was being proposed consisted mostly of "sharrows", which mix bikes and cars together on busy streets, expecting those painted bike stencils to do the work of protecting the men, women, & children who want to ride cycles from the 2,000 lbs autos that dominate our arterial roads. Now, we'll get protected bike lanes that separate bikes from cars, with buffer zones.
 Breaking News: 40min ago, Pasadena's Master Bike Plan got a huge boost. Municipal Services Committee sent it back for further work, instructed staff to add Protected Bike Lanes ("cycle tracks") to the plan, be "more ambitious" and improve Pasadena's (currently) poor accident rate, said "we'll fund it". Thank you Margaret McAustin, Terry Tornek, & Mayor Bogaard!! A notable suggestion by McAustin was to create a Bike-Only route running East-West spanning the entire city, that would inspire ordinary folks to get out and ride ("not just on vacation in other cities!") Thanks also to our coalition partners who have been working on this since our Forum on July 1st. Now, we'll keep your input coming on the specifics of where the protected lanes should go and what other steps should be implemented.

Detour map for Alhambra's traffic plan for July 10, 2013

From Jan SooHoo:

Detour map for Alhambra's traffic plan for tomorrow. Be sure to look at this!


Freeway expansion doesn't improve freeway traffic, but it does make local traffic worse


By Shane Phillips, July 8, 2013


 Columbia River Crossing from Vancouver, WA to Portland, OR in 1965.

There seems to be an uptick in freeway news lately, so I put together a highway edition of my semi-daily news roundup last week, including the updates on the apparent death of the Columbia River Crossing, the 1960s-style "Opportunity Corridor" proposed in Cleveland, and a broader anti-freeway movement taking hold in the Midwest. The self-defeating nature of highway construction and expansion is noted in each of these articles, as is the physical scarring of communities that usually accompanies these projects. Lost in the discussions of induced demand (focused on the highway itself) and community displacement and segregation (focused on  local residents and businesses) is the intersection of these two issues, local traffic.

Induced demand in the context of vehicle capacity simply means that building more space for cars encourages more people to use them. If I live in the suburbs and the city widens the freeway into downtown I might take a few extra trips into the city every month or decide that taking a job in the city is now feasible. The increase in average highway travel speeds also brings more distant suburbs and exurbs within driving distance, which encourages more development at the current sprawl boundary and beyond. These and other effects lead to more cars using the highway until the excess capacity is soaked up and traffic is just as bad as it ever was. According to most studies, about 80-90% of the excess capacity is soaked up within just five years.

This makes for a strong argument against highway expansion, but it ignores the impacts on local streets, which is far more severe. The problem here is obvious: unless 100% of the new highway users are bypass traffic--none of them using the highway to get into the city itself--local roads have to deal with a huge influx of additional vehicles. Many of those vehicles aren't bypass traffic, of course, so local streets (and their residents) are burdened with their presence and the congestion they bring.  And while federal- or state-owned highways can sometimes afford to increase their capacity, local roads usually can't. Besides being a poor choice from an return-on-investment and livability perspective, widening local streets to cope with the increase in vehicles is usually physically impossible--city centers are already built out and, thankfully, few people support tearing down homes and businesses just to expand local roads.

In an effort to visualize this phenomenon, I've made this simple graph, which shows a schematic of capacity vs total traffic on highways and local roads before and after highway expansion:


 Car use rises to meet increased highway capacity, and this has negative impacts on local traffic.

This illustrates two important facts: first, that increasing capacity doesn't actually improve the traffic situation on the highway; second, that it makes local traffic worse. The net result is to improve the lot of suburban and outer-city drivers at the expense of close-in city-dwellers.

To see why, imagine this scenario: you live 20 miles outside the city and want to get downtown, so you take the freeway there. The highway part of your trip used to take 30 minutes, but thanks to the new lanes it now only takes you 20 minutes. The last mile of your trip has slowed since there's a bit more local traffic, but it only increases from three minutes to five. All told, your trip time has decreased from 33 minutes to 25--great!

Now imagine you live in the city, five miles from the city center. It used to take your bus 20 minutes to get downtown, but unfortunately as a city resident you don't reap many benefits from the additional highway capacity. Instead, your trip is entirely on local roads, so all those extra cars coming into the city only slow you down. The trip that used to take you twenty minutes now takes thirty. The suburban visitor/commuter saved about ten minutes, and the city resident lost about ten, and all it cost was a few hundred millions dollars in construction and millions more in demolished buildings and businesses that are no longer producing revenue for the city. Money well spent, right?

There's only one way this equation makes sense, and it's dependent on the view that suburban traffic is more valuable than urban traffic. Tens or hundreds of millions of dollars is a lot to spend unless you sincerely believe that facilitating 30-mile trips is more important than encouraging five-mile ones, and that's a pretty insane view to take if you care about the economy, the environment, or peoples' health. Likewise, it illustrates a very clear preference for the needs of (often distant) cars over the needs of (usually local) transit. It also ignores the fact that the person living in the city is probably dealing with local traffic on a daily basis, while the suburb dweller is often only visiting on occasion, so the negative is very likely to outweigh the bad.

City leaders would be much better served spending that money on their actual constituents. If worse local traffic--including for cars--is a price they're willing to pay for better suburban access to the city (as many appear to be) surely they'd be willing to pay the same price to install a few bus-only lanes in heavily-trafficked regions to ensure that someone in the city actually sees some benefit. As far as I know, road paint is fetching a much lower price than concrete these days.

Tell Congress to Fund Our Roads


 Tell Congress to Fund Our Roads

Every day, drivers pay federal fuel and truck taxes to keep our roads safe and efficient. When properly spent, this tax is the fairest way to keep America moving safely. At its best, it's a "user fee" that enables drivers to pay as they go. But at its worst, the user fees are diverted and wasted for non-highway purposes.

Congress needs to eliminate waste and diversions. Then it should set the user fee at a fair rate to improve our obsolete, deficient highway system. If the user fee is too low, then the States try to slap tolls on their Interstates to make up for funding shortfalls. Obviously, tolling an existing free lane is unfair and a form of double-taxation. If the fee is too high, then there is more pressure to waste and divert fuel taxes for non-highway purposes.

It's up to Congress to set the fuel taxes at a robust, fair rate to keep our economy moving, improve America's quality of life, and prevent the tolling of the Interstate Highway System. Please treat America's drivers fairly and put the "trust" back into America's Highway Trust Fund!

China Air Pollution Study Claims Coal Burning May Have Shortened Residents' Lifespans


By Louise Watt, July 8, 2013

 china air pollution study
A man wears a mask as he walks to cross a street shrouded by haze in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012.

BEIJING — A new study links heavy air pollution from coal burning to shorter lives in northern China. Researchers estimate that the half-billion people alive there in the 1990s will live an average of 5 1/2 years less than their southern counterparts because they breathed dirtier air.

China itself made the comparison possible: for decades, a now-discontinued government policy provided free coal for heating, but only in the colder north. Researchers found significant differences in both particle pollution of the air and life expectancy in the two regions, and said the results could be used to extrapolate the effects of such pollution on lifespans elsewhere in the world.

The study by researchers from China, Israel and the United States was published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While previous studies have found that pollution affects human health, "the deeper and ultimately more important question is the impact on life expectancy," said one of the authors, Michael Greenstone, a professor of environmental economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"This study provides a unique setting to answer the life expectancy question because the (heating) policy dramatically alters pollution concentrations for people who appear to be of otherwise identical health," Greenstone said in an email. "Further, due to the low rates of migration in China in this period, we can know people's exposure over long time periods," he said.

The policy gave free coal for fuel boilers to heat homes and offices to cities north of the Huai River, which divides China into north and south. It was in effect for much of the 1950-1980 period of central planning, and, though discontinued after 1980, it has left a legacy in the north of heavy coal burning, which releases particulate pollutants into the air that can harm human health. Researchers found no other government policies that treated China's north differently from the south.

The researchers collected data for 90 cities, from 1981 to 2000, on the annual daily average concentration of total suspended particulates. In China, those are considered to be particles that are 100 micrometers or less in diameter, emitted from sources including power stations, construction sites and vehicles.

The researchers estimated the impact on life expectancies using mortality data from 1991-2000. They found that in the north, the concentration of particulates was 184 micrograms per cubic meter – or 55 percent – higher than in the south, and life expectancies were 5.5 years lower on average across all age ranges.

The researchers said the difference in life expectancies was almost entirely due to an increased incidence of deaths classified as cardiorespiratory – those from causes that have previously been linked to air quality, including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and respiratory illnesses.

Total suspended particulates include fine particulate matter called PM2.5 – particles with diameters of no more than 2.5 micrometers. PM2.5 is of especially great health concern because it can penetrate deep into the lungs, but the researchers lacked the data to analyze those tiny particles separately.

The authors said their research can be used to estimate the effect of total suspended particulates on other countries and time periods. Their analysis suggests that every additional 100 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter in the atmosphere lowers life expectancy at birth by about three years.

The study also noted that there was a large difference in particulate matter between the north and south, but not in other forms of air pollution such as sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide.
Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard School of Public Health who has researched the health effects of fine particulate matter in the U.S., said the study was "fascinating."
China's different treatment of north and south allowed researchers to get pollution data that would be impossible in a scientific setting.

Dominici said the quasi-experimental approach was a good approximation of a randomized experiment, "especially in this situation where a randomized experiment is not possible."
She said she wasn't surprised by the findings, given China's high levels of pollution.

"In the U.S. I think it's pretty much been accepted that even small changes in PM2.5, much, much, much smaller than what they are observing in China, are affecting life expectancy," said Dominici, who was not involved in the study.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti rode the bus to work, and other first week adventures


By John Rabe, July 5, 2013

7/5/2013: New LA Mayor Eric Garcetti meeting and greeting at Van Nuys City Hall

 7/5/2013: New LA Mayor Eric Garcetti meeting and greeting at Van Nuys City Hall, where he presided over the swearing-in of LA City Councilman Bob Blumenfield.

 New LA Mayor Eric Garcetti knows the honeymoon will end. "You can't run for office this day and age without being prepared for some people disagreeing with you; even hating you," he told me outside Van Nuys City Hall today. "But what's important is being mission-driven. Stick with what you believe in."

But, Garcetti says, as we conducted an interview in the back seat of the Mayoral SUV with a baby seat between us, his first week in office has been "awesome." How is it different from being city councilman? "Same school, different classroom. You're able to shape you day a little bit more, without city council or committee meetings you're mandated to attend." He can take a moment, he says, to sit at his desk and breathe and think.

Garcetti says he is probably the first LA mayor to hold open office hours for members of the public, pointing out there are literally six doors between the public and the mayor. That went well, he says, but he also held a different sort of office hours, riding the 92 bus to work one day this week. Not many people noticed, he said, until near the end. He says it's important for him to do frequently, as  a member of the Metro board.

SR710 North Sudy Meetings

Posted by Jan SooHoo on Facebook, June 9, 2013

I just received this response to a question I posted on the SR-710 FB page regarding the format of the upcoming 3 events. My question was prompted by the repeated use of the term "meeting" rather than "open house" by Metro reps at a recent event in El Sereno. Here is the reply: Hello Jan. I apologize for the late response. Metro and Caltrans will be hosting information sessions to share an update on the SR 710 North Study. This will include a short presentation given by the SR 710 study team followed by stakeholder discussion and a question and answer period. Please note that the information presented will be the same at each location. We hope to see you there!

Metro Getting More Disability-Friendly, Starting With South Pas


By Neal Broverman, July 8, 2013

For a video:  http://player.vimeo.com/video/14903184

 The Gold Line's South Pasadena station, formerly known as the Mission stop, is getting a little work done, reports The Source (that's a video of the South Pas station above). The remodel--with weekday-only work--is set to wrap up in September and will add new disabled-accessible ramps on both sides of the station; the ramps will replace existing stairs. The Source notes today that their buses and trains are accommodating tens of thousands more disabled people than previously--80,000 a month compared to 3,500 per month a decade ago (that's the most in the US). The transit agency is adding more signage indicating space reserved for disabled people, easier securement for wheelchairs, and more room for them on trains and articulated buses. 


Metro to reconstruct entrance to South Pasadena Station


By Anna Chen, July 3, 2013


Metro will begin rebuilding a new ADA-compliant access ramp to replace existing stairs on the southbound platform of the Metro Gold Line South Pasadena Station. Access to the platform will be available during construction for patrons traveling to Union Station. The work is expected to be completed by the end of September 2013.

Metro will have ambassadors at the station during peak hours to assist passengers using the ticket vending machines and the TAP validators at the station. There are eight ticket vending machines and six TAP validators at the station. Only two TVMs will be out of service during construction.
Construction will take place Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, Metro will rebuild the north end of the entrance on Mission Street for patrons with disabilities. The ADA-compliant entrance on the south side of the platform at El Centro Street will remain open.

For more information contact Customer Relations at (213) 922-6235. For schedules or to plan a trip, Trip Planner.

(Peggy Drouet: A reply I left on the Source site: If Metro keeps using the terms "connectivity" and "mobility," wouldn't they have put a ramp, rather than stairs, in when the station was built, not just for the disabled but for all the people having to lug suitcases up those stairs. El Centro is not convenient as a drop-off point and a scary one at night. The same for pickups. "Connectivity" equals Gold Line to Union Station where a connection is made to another train or to the FlyAway Bus. "Mobility" equals being able to make this connection easily with a suitcase. Also, has the elevator from the Gold Line at Union Station been cleaned yet? The last three times I have used it it was filthy.)



Alhambra to Close City Street to Promote 710 Tunnel

 The city will shut down a block of Fremont Avenue, a through street used to access the 10 Freeway, on Wednesday to promote the 710 tunnel extension.


By Dan Abendschein, July 9, 2013

 No 710 Action Committee members march in the South Pasadena Fourth of July parade on Thursday. Photo credit: Joe Cano.

 No 710 Action Committee members march in the South Pasadena Fourth of July parade on Thursday. Photo credit: Joe Cano.

The City of Alhambra will be shutting down a stretch of Fremont Avenue for three hours on Wednesday to promote a tunnel extension of the 710 Freeway.

The celebration will include "educational presentations and booths to raise awareness about air quality and reducing traffic congestion."

The city, which has long favored an extension of the 710, via a surface street or a tunnel, introduces the event on its website like this:

If you’ve ever sat in a traffic jam on the 10 or 710 freeways – or had to wait what seemed like an “eternity” at a local traffic light – you need to come and support Alhambra’s BIG “710 Day” celebration on July 10 (7/10/13) — a fun, family-friendly event to be held at Fremont & Valley from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The issue of the 710 extension has divided local cities - South Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge have been staunchly opposed, while San Marino's City Council voted to support the extension.  Members of the Pasadena City Council voted to oppose the tunnel as well but failed to convince a majority of the Council.

The Sierra Madre City Council has also voted against the tunnel and Glendale officials have raised concerns about its potential impact on Montrose.

For San Marino, South Pasadena and Pasadena residents who may be traveling south through Alhambra on Wednesday, the city recommends using Marengo Avenue as an alternative.

The event follows a July 4 protest by opponents of the tunnel in South Pasadena.

Patch asks: What do you think of Alhambra shutting down Fremont Avenue to promote the 710 extension?  Tell us in the comments

Research Suggests Livings Near Highways Can Cause Miscarriages


By Zoe Mueller, July 5, 2013
 An aerial view of an L.A. freeway cutting through a residential area.


Highways may tax more than just our wallets. This week, Reconnecting America, a non-profit focused on transportation and community development, called attention to the extent living near a highways can harm one’s health.

Most alarming? The fact that pregnant women living near highways are more likely to have a miscarriage.

Some 2,000-plus studies published since 1996 alone give us plenty of reasons to believe exhausts from motorized transport contribute to asthma, bronchitis and a constellation of illnesses that shorten lifespans.

But as Reconnecting America points out, one 2009 study, by the EPA’s Rochelle Green and others, found that “pregnant African-American women who live within a half mile of freeways and busy roads were three times more likely to have miscarriages than women who don’t regularly breathe exhaust fumes.”

And this hasn’t been the only study linking reproductive harm to exposure to traffic exhaust, according to Dr. Joan Denton, director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment at the California Environmental Protection Agency. This growing group of studies is adding urgency to air quality advocacy efforts that have, in cities like Los Angeles, been active for more than 50 years.
L.A. smog at its best.
Californian cities, and those of the Inland Empire region in particular, make the adverse effects of air pollution hard to ignore. Consistently ranking at the top of the American Lung Association’s annual list of cities with the worst air quality, these freeway-ensnared areas can no longer rely on pollution regulations alone to combat smog.

“If Southern California is ever to have consistently clean air, we need to take dramatic new steps,” Bonnie Holmes-Gen, the association’s senior policy director in California, told Reconnecting America. “At this point, anything that’s easy has already been done.”

Three doctors who practice in the Inland Empire added emphasis to this point in a group op-ed that ran in the Press-Enterprise in April. “If doctors were in charge of planning our cities, our cities would look very different,” they wrote. “Why? The answer is simple: The epidemic of air pollution and chronic disease in the Inland Empire is fundamentally linked to our built environment and dependence on vehicles… Changing the way we plan our cities can help reduce this burden of disease.”

We all know correlation isn’t causation, but this emerging body of research should at least raise a few red flags, and spark some more penetrating investigative research to discover just how much we are putting at risk when we build residential areas near highways (and vice versa).

For a good primer on the connection between traffic pollution and public health, see this 2011 Scientific American article.


Transit vehicle design: Comfortable, profitable


By Douglas John Bowen, July 2, 2013

  Metro-North M8
Metro-North M8

Until recently, the goal of most public transit advocates, pushing suppliers and agencies alike, was to simply get vehicles, preferably (but not even always) with adequate seating capacity. Sure, some minimal creature comforts were considered essential for Amtrak and/or VIA Rail Canada intercity service, even in their darkest days. But for mislabeled “commuter” operations, be they regional rail, heavy rail, or (more recently) light rail, the style, design, and even comfort were often, at best, secondary considerations for almost everyone involved.
Those days are gone.

It’s no longer cost versus comfort; it’s cost and comfort combined, says Scott Sherwin, vice president of marketing and strategic planning at Alstom. “You can’t have the tradeoff; you need to provide both comfort and cost” to market a successful transit vehicle, he says.

Marketing drives planning, production

Alstom is one of several suppliers pursuing the growing streetcar and light rail transit market in North America, convinced (skeptics notwithstanding) that the market can overcome “Buy America,” “Buy Canada,” or other obstacles. Though not dismissing those factors, Sherwin sees a larger problem and, fortunately, a solution as well.

Perhaps counterintuitively, he says, at present “streetcars are more expensive than light rail vehicles. They’re shorter and lighter and should be lower-cost equipment. The reason they’re more expensive is lower volume. As the volumes increase and the market matures, those costs should come down.”

WEBDSC 0075Some assert that the drive to maximize rail vehicle safety across all modes counters any hope of lowering cost while increasing comfort. That’s nonsense, asserts Cesar Vergara (pictured, with Railway Age Managing Editor Doug Bowen aboard a Metro-North M8, which Vergara designed), principal of VergaraStudio. Safety, Vergara says, “should affect the comfort level; it should improve it.” Asked if that doesn’t automatically drive up the cost, Vergara bluntly answers, “No. Period.”

“It’s [involving] the exact same amount of metals, plastics, fabric, and other materials,” Vergara points out. “It’s the shapes, color combinations, lighting, and layout that make a train attractive, inside and out. Unattractive trains are the result of lack of interest from the top down. There are formulas that can be followed to find out what the people really like and how to get there.”

“The trains we are designing and procuring today will start service in two-to-five years and be out there longer than most people working in the industry. We have to think in terms of inventing a better future, not repeating the boring status quo,” the industrial designer insists.

Sherwin agrees, pointing to Portland, Ore.’s embrace of both LRT and streetcars as the unavoidable North American model. “The attractiveness of the vehicle, a product for your passengers and citizens that’s attractive to look at, comfortable to ride—the industrial design is critical,” he says. The transit provider, and by extension the supplier, must “move beyond the functional to the aesthetic; without both, the product is not going to work.”

Market conditions bode well

With requirements from the Federal Railroad Administration and/or the Federal Transit Administration a constant factor, transit vehicle design still must deal with the idea, real or not, of “American exceptionalism.” But even here, industry players appear willing to adapt and adjust, perhaps because of the apparent shift in demographic trends in North America, some of which now appear to favor urban population growth after decades of urban flight.

Alstom’s Sherwin suggests that the change now recognized by many fields, including rail suppliers, may simply be more visible. “In the past 30 years, an average of one new light rail service was put into place each year in the U.S. and Canada; it’s been a ‘silent’ development,” he observes. “The trend is now more plainly visible: Many cities have plans for an LRT or streetcar system, or both.”
Citing Kansas City and Ottawa as potential and actual examples, respectively, of marrying rail transit to economic development plans, Sherwin says, “What Alstom has done with our Citadis vehicle is develop a vehicle that has the versatility to start as a streetcar, but be modified for future LRT additions.” Alstom has company and competition here; Siemens Mobility is offering modifications of its S70 LRT model for streetcar use in Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

Sherwin says that for passenger rail equipment, and particularly U.S. high speed rail development, the Federal Railroad Administration has been “doing a good job” in trying to leverage global standards out there today; that allows suppliers to come into the U.S. market “while not trying to completely modify their vehicles, and that reduces cost.” But “it’s different for transit, especially with mixed operations issues” involving safety concerns where passenger (or freight) rail shares right-of-way with DMUs, LRT, or streetcars (Sherwin cities NJ Transit’s RiverLINE as one example.) The Federal Transit Administration gets involved with these lines, but “you’re still under the jurisdiction of the FRA.”

Sherwin believes the FRA “is starting to make a move to allow global-style” safety standards involving crash energy management, not just crashworthiness, and he is encouraged by the progress made for transit vehicles, “though I think there could be more.”

Competing with the car

Rail transit already posts a far better safety record than cars do, but historically, U.S. and Canadian travelers have been little swayed by such a fact. Like so many other products (Sherwin points to cell phones and related items as a prime example), it may come down to design—the attractiveness of the product above and beyond its functional use.

Cesar Vergara paints rail transit’s primary competitor, the automobile, as an example of what can, and should, be offered in terms of design to rail transit riders.

“Automobiles are much safer and complex than they use to be in the past, but that does not stop the designers from making them more exciting, ergonomic, and comfortable,” he notes. “But what or who is stopping train designers from delivering a better train?”

Both Sherwin and Vergara say transit need not yield the field when it comes to aesthetics and comfort, something good design makes possible, something suppliers are ready to offer at a competitive cost. It’s something rail operators can, and should, commit to for their current and future customers.

Integrating Transit with Road Pricing Projects


July 5, 2013


(Center Identification Number: 77948)
This study examined various levels of the treatment of public transportation in conjunction with the implementation of managed lane highway projects. It details the ranges of transit investments identified in and associated with managed lanes that are in operation and those being planned, summarizes the range of those investments, and makes policy recommendations for the inclusion of public transportation elements into managed lane projects. The study includes a framework for deciding the appropriate extent to which transit should be incorporated into managed lane projects. Download the final report. For more information, contact Steven Reich at reich@cutr.usf.edu or Janet Davis at davis@cutr.usf.edu.
(Center Identification Number: 77948)
This study examined various levels of the treatment of public transportation in conjunction with the implementation of managed lane highway projects. It details the ranges of transit investments identified in and associated with managed lanes that are in operation and those being planned, summarizes the range of those investments, and makes policy recommendations for the inclusion of public transportation elements into managed lane projects. The study includes a framework for deciding the appropriate extent to which transit should be incorporated into managed lane projects. Download the final report. For more information, contact Steven Reich at reich@cutr.usf.edu or Janet Davis at davis@cutr.usf.edu.
- See more at: http://www.nctr.usf.edu/2013/07/integrating-transit-with-road-pricing-projects-2/#sthash.gmJXnlVX.dpuf

Goodmon Seeks Probe of Metro Board’s Tunnel Inaction


By Ari L. Noonan, July 4, 2013

Second in a series

Re “Bruised, Not Beaten, Crenshaw Vows to Continue Tunnel Fight”

Damien Goodmon Reflecting on last Thursday’s huge letdown at the Metro Board meeting when members declined to make a call on a light rail tunnel at the end of the Crenshaw Boulevard-to-LAX line, Damien Goodmon, a leading advocate, said “that meeting was perhaps our best opportunity in the last two years to get this done. But it was not our last chance.” 

Even though County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, called the Crenshaw neighborhood’s most powerful elected ally, pronounced the tunnel catatonic at best, Mr. Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, is pinning his next best chance on the group’s lawsuit against Metro. Aug. 15 is the next hearing.

“And a new mayor (Eric Garcetti) has been inaugurated,” he said. “There is reason to be hopeful.”
He turns up the palms of his hands when he recalls, frustratedly, the Metro Board saying repeatedly that it lacks the funds to build what Mr. Goodmon says would be a $60 million project.

If you were a Board member, “why would you not think, ‘Hey, this is $60 million. Why not go to D.C. and get some kind of grant funding for it,’ a trip former Mayor Villaraigosa undertook numerous times? Let’s go to the state, where we have powerful elected officials? Let’s see if we can’t have a conversation with the L.A. City Council. They put in $55 million last month. Let’s see if they can’t come up with another $60 million.

“The Board didn’t even allow us the opportunity to try last week. 

“Look at all the things that have been going on with Metro for the last 11 months,” Mr. Goodmon said, alluding to the “hidden information” that one finalists among building bidders said the tunnel could be constructed within the estimated cost. But this has not yet been publicly acknowledged by Metro, and the Board’s CEO, Art Leahy, recently denied a public records request by Mr. Goodmon’s group.  “He could not give us the records we sought, but this is what is so frustrating,” Mr. Goodmon said.  “Mr. Leahy did not prohibit Board members from going upstairs to his office and looking at the documents.” 

When Mr. Goodmon met with elected officials, he encouraged them to examine the documents. “Do it, and you will see for yourselves what we already know,” he told them. All to no avail.

On the day of the meeting, Mr. Goodmon’s allies emailed Board members, distributed pertinent information to them. “But,” he said, shaking his head, not one question about it.”
From here on, “it is just about what we do.”

Mr. Goodmon pledged file a request for an inspector general’s investigation of the Metro Board.
“What has been going on with them stinks,” he said.

Metro's SR-710 Tunnel Alternative: Single-Bore Variation

 From Sylvia Plummer:

Thanks to Sam Burgess for this information.

Since Metro's first community meetings (Geotechnical Study) about 3 years ago, they have only spoken of the tunnel alternative in the plural.  Their statements have not varied one bit: There will be two 4-lane/split level tunnels.  One northbound, one southbound. 
At the last Technical Advisory Meeting (TAC)--near the end of the meeting--Metro made it know that they were now studying a single bore tunnel.  Dennis Woods, South Pasadena's Transportation Manager, (and others) immediately objected, stating this was a slap in the face to the public as there had been no advance notice.  Dennis asked for more information on how and why this change in study was made.
Below is Metro's promised response.  The 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph is Metro's rationalization for this change in the tunnel study.

Tunnel Alternative: Single-Bore Variation

PREPARED FOR: SR 710 North Study TAC
COPY TO: Michelle Smith
DATE: May 24, 2013

At the last State Route 710 North EIR/EIS Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting, the introduction of a single-bore tunnel as a variation of the freeway tunnel alternative generated a few questions. This memo is intended to offer clarification. The initial concept 
for the freeway tunnel alternative included two separate split level bores, each with four lanes (two on each level). As a part of the environmental documentation phase of this
contract, variations of this concept are being studied to assess different traffic operations and demand management strategies, hence the need to study other configurations for the tunnel alternative.

A four-lane freeway tunnel with two lanes in each direction, all within a single-bore, is currently being studied. This tunnel variation is not considered a new study alternative because it is situated within the same footprint; has the same logical termini; and serves the same Purpose and Need for alleviating congestion on freeways and local arterials within the study area, as the initial concept for the freeway tunnel alternative – the split level dualbore

Also, all freeway tunnel variations will be evaluated with and without truck restrictions.

Metro's SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting

From Sylvia Plummer:  

Wednesday, July 10 -- 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

METRO Headquarters Building
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA  90012

Gateway Plaza Conference Room (3rd Floor)

1:00 p.m.  – 3:00 p.m.
s Public is allowed to observe

Final Agenda is below (SR 710 North EIR-EIS)

The same agenda will be used for the SOAC meeting on Thursday, July 11th


Los Angeles, CA  90012

Gateway Plaza Conference Room (3rd Floor)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013
1:00 p.m.  – 3:00 p.m.

Agenda Items

1.    Public Outreach and Community Involvement Update.……………..…….…………………Metro
2.    Update on Contract Parts 2 & 3 (Project Report & Environmental Studies Documentation): CH2M HILL
a.    Recap of April TAC and SOAC Meetings
b.    Status Update on Preliminary Engineering
c.    Status Update on Technical Studies
d.    Next Steps
3.    Open Discussion/New Business…………………………………………….……….All Participants
4.    Meeting Adjournment …………………………………………………………….. …………….Metro

*Next SR 710 EIR/EIS TAC Meeting #12 to be held in September 11, 2013 @ at Metro (location, date, and time TBD).

LA Streetsblog posts photo of No710 at 4th of July Parade


July 8, 2013

 NO 710 marches on the 4th. Citizens from Alhambra, Altadena, Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Los Angeles, Sierra Madre, La Crescenta, Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno marched in South Pasadena’s “Festival of the Balloons" parade on July 4th. Over 150 people marched as part of the NO 710 contingent.

NO 710 marches on the 4th. Citizens from Alhambra, Altadena, Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Los Angeles, Sierra Madre, La Crescenta, Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno marched in South Pasadena’s “Festival of the Balloons" parade on July 4th. Over 150 people marched as part of the NO 710 contingent.

More on Alhambra's 710 Day Street Closure

From Sylvia Plummer: Another suggested place to park: using Atlantic to get to Valley, park at CVS at Valley & Fremont

"710 Day" street closure


By Nasrin Aboulhosn, July 8, 2013


 Google Maps

Fremont Avenue between Mission Road and Valley Boulevard will be closed Wednesday from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. for "710 Day," according to Alhambra Community Services. Both Valley and Mission will remain open. City staff recommends using Marengo Avenue as a detour.

Alhambra city officials have pronounced July 10 "710 Day" and will be hosting a family festival at the arch park at Fremont and Valley to celebrate their efforts to close the freeway gap. According to the city website, the event will include "educational presentations and booths to raise awareness about air quality and reducing traffic congestion by CLOSING THE GAP via the proposed SR-710 extension from Alhambra to Pasadena."

Expanded, Simplified TIFIA Still Greasing the Gears of Highway Expansion


By Angie Schmitt, July 8, 2013


 The widening of SR 91 in Southern California is an example of the "innovative" TIFIA program providing more of the same.

A federal loan awarded to a California highway illustrates how TIFIA, the “innovative” transportation financing program that was expanded as part of MAP-21, is still funding business-as-usual highway projects.

U.S. DOT announced last week that it would back California’s SR 91 highway expansion in suburban Los Angeles with $421 million in low-interest loans. The project is a $1.3 billion traditional freeway widening with no special environmental or social merits. It will extend two express lanes and add two additional lanes on an eight-mile stretch between the Inland Empire and Orange County, and relieve the “local commuter nightmare,” according to Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA). The project was also the recipient of $20 million in TIGER grants.

Since the program launched in 1998, TIFIA has funded 32 projects to the tune of $10.5 billion. When it was dramatically expanded as part of MAP-21, guidelines for the federal loan program were changed so that essentially the only criterion for project acceptance is creditworthiness. Since then, observers have been wondering whether the “innovative” program would simply greenlight a backlog of highway projects. (Even when the program had more criteria attached to its loans, the Government Accountability Office found that it tilted toward “large highway projects.”)

While most TIFIA projects are about moving cars, not all of them are. Since MAP-21 was enacted, TIFIA has funded $219 million in transit and pedestrian projects — including the Orange Line Expansion in Dallas and the Chicago Riverwalk — and just more than $1 billion in highway projects, including SR 91. That’s about five dollars in highway spending for every dollar spent on sustainable transportation. This is basically the same split that existed before MAP-21. The GAO found that in 2010 and 2011, 16.6 percent of TIFIA funds were spent on transit.

Awarding this TIFIA loan was one of the first moves by new U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. In a press release last week, Foxx oddly called the road an example of “fix-it-first” policy, although it is quite clearly a road-widening project. “This project is a job creator that will improve mobility in the region and better connect Orange and Riverside counties,” Foxx said.

Will TIFIA continue to fund more of these “innovative” projects to build new highway lanes? It seems likely.