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

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, July 15, 2013

Do you like Metro public meetings? What if I were to tell you they were meetings for the I-710 Big Dig and the High Desert Corridor? Not excited? Well, good news! There are also meetings for Metro
  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – We’ve written that despite being the largest highway expansion project being debated in the state, it dwarfs the I-710 Big Dig, that the addition of a High Speed Rail component makes the High Desert Corridor at least an interesting project. Read our article. Go to a meeting. There’s three this week, with more next week. Some are being live streamed.
  • Wednesday – Tour LaBonge comes to a close with a tour of Hollywood. Join our hero for this last ride. Details, here.
  • Wednesday, Thursday – It’s that time of month again. The Metro Board of Directors will meet next week, but this week is the committee meetings. Some of the chair positions have been shifted under new Metro Board of Directors Chair Diane Dubois. See what the committees are discussing, by visiting the Metro Board Agenda Page. Maybe the Mayor should get around to appointing members to the Metro Board of Directors.
  • Thursday, Saturday – Following the bizarre “710 Day” party in Alhambra, there are a handful of public meetings/updates for the 710 Big Dig project. Two are this week. One is next Tuesday. Get the details, here.
  • Saturday - West Hollywood will be hosting a walking and biking tour on Saturday, July 20th at 10:30am to look at our city streets and sidewalks and discuss what it feels like to be a pedestrian and cyclist in WeHo. I did one of these in Pasadena in 2008. It was great. If you can’t be there Saturday, or even if you can, check out their interactive website WalkBikeWeho.
  • SaturdayWalk the halls of the last great railway station built in the U.S. with fellow YPT transportation enthusiasts. Led by a knowledgeable Los Angeles Conservancy docent, we will explore Union Station and its rich history, architecture, art and culture on this group walking tour. The RSVP date was yesterday, so if you’re interested, you should let them know, pronto. Details.
  • Saturday - On Saturday, July 20th, 2013, through a sponsorship by Metro, C.I.C.L.E., with Bici Libre, will beat the summer heat with an evening bicycle ride to hear live music under the stars. We’ll bike from the Exposition Park Rose Gardens to MacArthur Park to experience the unique sounds and beats of Mucca Razza at Levitt Pavilion! The ride will connect two beautiful green public spaces in Los Angeles, stopping at MacArthur Park for the infectious sounds of Mucca Razza, a not so typical marching rock ‘n roll band. Details. Facebook.

Metro's Awesome Defense Against Regional Connector Lawsuits


By Neal Broverman, July 15, 2013

As with any public transit project in Southern California, the 1.9-mile Regional Connector light rail tunnel is currently buried in lawsuits. It's being sued by three different DTLA property owners who object to Metro's tunneling and construction methods and argue the agency didn't satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act with their environmental impact report on the project. The RC will connect the Blue, Gold, and Expo Lines and allow people to travel from Santa Monica to East LA and Long Beach to Pasadena without transfers; it'll also add three new subway stations in Downtown. Metro goes to court tomorrow to defend itself against the suits and they have a pretty good defense (other than that it's pretty environmentally-friendly to take tens of thousands of cars off the road): they didn't even have to do an EIR for the RC. The agency says they went above and beyond by conducting an EIR because the "California Legislature included a provision within CEQA that exempts projects such as the Regional Connector from the requirements of CEQA."

According to the legislature, CEQA doesn't apply to "[f]acility extensions not to exceed four miles in length which are required for the transfer of passengers from or to exclusive public mass transit guideway or busway public transit services." That sounds exactly like the RC.
Metro's statement about the RC legal challenges goes out of its way to say the EIR resulted in mucho feedback from locals, which helped refine the project. But regardless, Metro says defending the lawsuits will cost the transpo agency--and taxpayers--lots of money, so toss 'em out. We'll see if the judge agrees.

· Metro Responds to Regional Connector Legal Challenges [The Source]
· Regional Connector Archives [Curbed LA]

By Tyler Falk, July 12, 2013

As more of the world’s population moves to cities, congestion will only increase, the strain on urban transportation systems will only intensify, and the amount of energy used for urban transportation is set to double by 2050. But careful planning could lead to big savings for farsighted cities.

In a new report, The International Energy Agency says that we lose hundreds of billions of dollars in lost time and fuel because of crowded transportation systems. But it estimates that cities investing in improved energy efficiency of transportation systems could collectively save $70 trillion by 2050.

“Governments must think beyond individual technologies and electoral cycles, and consider how to build – and how to renew – cities that will accommodate and transport nearly 6.3 billion people by 2050. We must plan infrastructure, logistics and energy systems now that make sense today and over the coming decades,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, in a statement.

In the report, IEA makes numerous policy recommendations and suggests an “avoid, shift, and improve approach” to transportation planning. “Avoid” policies help reduce the burden on transportation systems — initiatives that promote telecommuting, for example. “Shift” policies encourage the use of more energy efficient modes of transportation — buses and bikes, for example. “Improve” policies make transportation systems more energy efficient. But it’s not a one-size fits all approach. The report makes suggestions that vary by city type — from sprawling cities to multi-modal cities.

Case studies in the report point to cities that have already implemented sound policies to improve transportation efficiency, from New York City reducing travel time with express bus service to Belgrade refurbishing its urban rail system and tripling passenger numbers in the first six months.
There’s already a lot of us living in cities and there will only be more urbanites in the future, so we might as well start planning for it and save a little money in the process.

Read more: IEA

Critical CA Bridge Now Under Construction

Project Will Keep Port of Long Beach Internationally
Competitive in Era of Big Ships, Increased Trade


July 13, 2013

Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement rendering


LONG BEACH, Calif. — Construction has begun on the $1 billion majestic bridge that will enhance Southern California's vital link to international trade and dramatically improve an important commuter and trucking corridor at the Port of Long Beach.
In the early morning hours, crews began demolishing the final sections of a U-shaped freeway off-ramp west of the existing Gerald Desmond Bridge. The ramp removal was needed to clear the path for the first sections of an iconic six-lane bridge that will provide a much-needed, taller clearance of 205 feet. This new bridge, which also will feature cable towers reaching 515 feet above the Long Beach skyline, is being built immediately adjacent to and north of the existing four-lane span that has been deemed obsolete. 
When completed in 2016, the new bridge will allow a new generation of big cargo ships to reach the inner berths at the Port. The project is part of $4.5 billion in improvements over the next decade aimed at modernizing Port facilities.
“As more big ships enter the Pacific trade routes, the Port of Long Beach must be fully capable to handle these larger vessels with optimum efficiency,” said Port spokesman John Pope. “This new bridge will improve critical infrastructure that will help keep Long Beach competitive in the global markets in the decades ahead.”
The new bridge will come at a time when bigger cargo ships are crossing the world’s oceans – and even bigger vessels are under construction. As one of the world’s busiest seaports, Long Beach continues to see steady growth in cargo volumes as shipping lines sign agreements to expand operations. A few months ago, Long Beach received a ship capable of carrying 14,000 container units–the largest container vessel to visit a North American port.
But when the Gerald Desmond Bridge opened in 1968, cargo ships were about one-sixth the size of what enters the harbor today. The existing bridge height, 155 feet, restricts these new, larger ships from reaching piers within the inner channels. 
The new bridge will raise the clearance over the Port’s inner harbor channel an additional 50 feet, giving it the tallest span height for a cable-stayed bridge in the U.S. and easily allowing big ships to pass underneath. 
Now that replacement construction is under way, Southern California will begin to see the approximately 8,000-foot-long bridge emerge in phases over the next three years.  Photos and video showing the progress will be routinely posted on the new bridge website: www.newgdbridge.com
At the same time, construction crews will begin to implement carefully designed plans to build a major piece of infrastructure with the least amount of traffic disruptions. For construction updates, traffic information and other details about the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project, go to www.newgdbridge.com

NOTE: Copies of bridge renderings are available at www.newgdbridge.com/pressphotos.

Pasadena man critically injured in crash between two bicyclists


By Brian Day, July 14, 2013

PASADENA -- A collision between two bicyclists left a 20-year-old Pasadena man fighting for his life at a hospital Sunday, authorities said.

The head-on crash between the man and a 17-year-old bicyclist took place just after 6 p.m. Saturday on Mountain Street at Garfield Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
The first officials to arrive at the scene found the man unconscious, the lieutenant said. "He appeared to be suffering from severe head trauma."

He was taken to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena where he was in "severely critical condition," Clawson said.

The teenage boy, also a Pasadena resident, suffered "little to no injuries" in the crash, he said.
Initial investigation revealed the man was westbound on Mountain Street with the flow of traffic and the teen was riding east on on Mountain Street against the flow of traffic when they collided head-on, Clawson said. The older rider, who was not believed to have been wearing a helmet, struck his head on the pavement.

An investigation into the cause of the crash was ongoing.

Friday Fun: It’s a bus! It’s a tram! It’s…Vienna’s new public transport


By Muriel MacDonald, July 12, 2013

 An early morning tram travels down a street in Vienna. Vienna’s new buses rely on the city’s extensive tram network for electricity. Photo by Julian Turner.

Vienna is home to one of the largest tram systems in the world, extending 227 kilometers throughout the greater Vienna area. But as the city has grown, trams have been supplemented with metro trains, gas-powered buses, and other forms of transport. This summer, in efforts to reduce emissions and create a cleaner, quieter downtown, Vienna is using its old tram infrastructure to power brand new electric buses.

During the day, the new buses will recharge their batteries in fifteen minute intervals using the tram system’s overhead power lines. At night, they will recharge fully at their charging stations. To date, only prototype electric buses have been in service in Europe. Vienna is the first city to operate a full fleet of electric buses throughout the city center. One of these buses has been experimentally running since the fall of 2012, but this summer, Vienna launched the fleet of twelve new buses, each of which can carry forty passengers.

These new buses, which cost twice as much as a comparable diesel bus, will replace old buses which ran on liquefied petroleum gas. Unlike trams, the buses can go anywhere, leaving the tram tracks and power lines behind. Unlike gas-powered buses, these buses will be cleaner and quieter as the roll through the heart of the city.

Of course, the actual electricity used by the buses is only environmentally friendly if it is sustainably generated. But creating an infrastructure which relies on electricity rather than gas paves the way for the development of affordable renewable electricity. The electric buses are also more energy efficient – even with current electricity sources, city officials estimate the new buses will reduce Vienna’s carbon dioxide emissions by 300 tons a year.

The new buses are part of a wider trend towards green transport systems in European cities. Vienna, along with many European cities, is striving to be a leader in green transport, thanks to the European Union’s serious climate targets. The New York Times called the electric buses part of a “slow-motion revolution in urban transit.” Many cities have found that investing in sustainable transport is one of the most efficient ways to reduce their emissions and meet their climate goals.

Though investing in new electric buses can be expensive, the ability of these buses to use the existing tram infrastructure reduces the city’s costs significantly. The innovative technology allowing these buses to charge off the tramlines was developed by Siemens, which expects the technology to take off in other cities with tram infrastructures. Siemens is already in talks with at least five cities in Europe and two in South America that have such tram lines.

As countries around the world work to reduce their emissions in the face of climate change, they will likely turn to innovative solutions like Vienna’s electric tramline-powered buses. In the meantime, Vienna’s streets are quieter and its transport is more sustainable.

The new buses are powered by electricity and energy efficient. Other cities in with tramways are good candidates for replicating this successful electric bus system

5 Ingenious Ideas For Parking All Our Bicycles

 As cycling takes off, places to put those cycles are starting to be in short supply (a city only has so many sign-posts). In bike happy Denmark, they’re testing some big plans for bike parking.


By Ben Schiller, no date

5 Ingenious Ideas For Parking All Our Bicycles

The global cycling boom is leading to an unforeseen problem in many cities: not enough parking. In places like Amsterdam, bike racks are overflowing, and even at home, parking is a growing headache. (Especially for vulnerable groups: I was talking to a blind gentleman from Boston the other day; he finds it increasingly hard to walk down the street on his own, such is the clutter of bikes.)

Ad hoc arrangements, where bikes are left dangling from lamp-posts or pressing into trees, aren’t going to cut it in the future. Not in an age of thousands of bikes, and when cycling is supposed to be a true alternative. "Parking is the last great piece of the puzzle. Nobody has figured out the golden solution in 125 years," says Mikael Colville-Andersen, head of the Copenhagenize cycling consultancy.

So what are the solutions? For some answers, we turned to one of the great cycling capitals: Copenhagen. Denmark, like Holland, is facing up to the parking issue, working out how to accommodate demand where space is very limited. Here are a few options it is exploring, plus ideas from other cities.


Where does Copenhagen fall on this list of best biking cities in the world?
In 2011, Copenhagen piloted the idea of "flex parking", where car drivers and cyclists share certain spaces. From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the lot is reserved for bikes; at night, cars get precedence. The idea is to cater to greatest demand. Around schools, in particular, there is a huge surge of bikes during the day.

The city trialed the idea at five locations, and is now considering a fuller roll-out as part of its bike-to-school program. Could other cities employ it? Maybe, says Erik Kjærgaard, from the design firm that developed it. But they may need to pay more attention to security. Copenhagen has little bike theft, so students left their bikes freestanding during the pilot. Other cities would probably need "butterfly racks" (strings of wire you put up from the road and attach to the bike) or to put in a rail near to the curb.


Check out these maps which rank the best biking cities in America.
Kjærgaard reckons there are 25 to 30 places in Copenhagen where demand for parking runs two to three times ahead of availability. "Every time we increase of the supply of places, they are taken the first day. The result is that there are still a lot of bicycles outside racks." He’s now involved in a project to identify more potential sites, and that inevitably means looking beyond the street, to the first floor of buildings, or to basements, or other underground, areas.

"There are always locations--stores, malls, pedestrian streets, entertainment spots--where cyclists need to park their bikes, and they don’t want to walk too long. You need to use basements or some of the lower floors in existing buildings, as you see in Japanese cities," he says. "Another possibility is to exploit the stations themselves. They often have large flat covers, and that puts you zero meters from the destination." Amsterdam’s Zuid Station has this underground garage, for instance.


These two-level racks are gas powered, making it easier to lift your bike up. The model is increasingly common near Danish stations, according to Troels Andersen, of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark (it collected other ideas here).


Cargo bikes, while elegant, are a particular menace parking-wise, because they take up so much space. Copenhagen has tested this pink cargo bike car: a fiberglass shell in the shape of a car, with four spaces. The 'automobile’ even has solar-powered headlights, making getting in and out easier in the dark.


Other cities have other ideas. Japan has automated shelters for sequestering bikes underground. Spain has these puppies. And then there are these parking towers from Germany and the Czech Republic, and a giant wheel solution from South Korea.

The problem with bikes cluttering up streets isn’t "too many bikes." It’s that we haven’t worked out how to park them yet.

Where Car Is King, Smartphones May Cut Traffic


By Ian Lovett, July 12, 2013


 Justin Riley stood next to his car, including the signature pink Lyft mustache, while waiting last month for a request on his iPhone for a ride.

 Los Angeles-area taxi drivers gathered at City Hall last month to protest ride-sharing through smartphones.


In Los Angeles, a protest against smartphone-based ride-hailing services, which have faced opposition almost everywhere they have appeared.

LOS ANGELES — After last call on Sunset Boulevard, the fledgling subway network here is no help for bar hoppers headed home. Sobriety checkpoints loom for anyone planning to drive. So taxis line the curb at 2 a.m., waiting for passengers.

But now licensed cabdrivers in this city where the car remains king are facing their greatest competition in half a century, from new ride-sharing programs that use smartphone apps to connect drivers and passengers. 

At the end of a night of drinking recently, rather than hailing a cab, Trisha DiFazio tapped an app called Lyft on her phone to summon a ride. Minutes later, a graduate student moonlighting as a driver pulled up in a Toyota S.U.V. with Lyft’s signature pink mustache affixed to its grille.
“This is so much cheaper than a cab, and so much easier,” said Ms. DiFazio, 31. “I absolutely think my friends drink and drive less because of this.” 

Transit experts say these new services, which appeal to younger riders, could play a crucial role in ending the reign of single-occupant cars (and unending traffic) in Los Angeles, and many young residents have embraced them as a cheaper, more reliable and, well, more fun way to get around the city. But some of the city’s licensed cabdrivers have another name for ride-sharing services: illegal bandit taxis. 

Last month, city regulators sided with the cab companies and sent cease-and-desist orders to Lyft and two other companies offering ride-sharing services, Uber and Sidecar, ordering them to shut down immediately. “It’s the Wild West with these operators,” said Tom Drischler, the taxicab administrator for the city’s Department of Transportation. “You have folks driving private cars and picking up strangers. Public safety is our assignment, and I don’t think it’s safe for the public.” 

All three companies have refused to leave town, asserting that agreements they made with state regulators allow them to operate anywhere in the state. 

Smartphone-based ride-hailing services have faced opposition from taxi companies and city regulators almost everywhere they have appeared, from Las Vegas to Cambridge, Mass. But the fight here is complicated by longstanding efforts by city officials to alleviate traffic and reduce drunken driving. 

Last week, on his first full day in office as the new mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti proudly proclaimed that Los Angeles was beginning to leave behind its culture of car ownership. And Juan Matute, director of the Local Climate Change Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that if more people used ride-sharing services — even just 3 percent of the population, he said — substantial reductions in driving in Los Angeles could result. 

“It would be easier to share rides that are incidental to daily life,” he said. 

Unlike the new companies, the taxi industry here, which pays about $4 million a year to the city in franchise fees and vehicle permits, is tightly regulated for safety. 

In addition to franchise and inspection fees, regulated taxis have to serve far-flung and low-income parts of the city where Lyft drivers need not venture. The city also requires cab companies to offer disabled-accessible vehicles, which William Rouse, the general manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab, said his company did at a loss. “If they’re going to skirt our entire cost structure,” he said, “then they’re going to be able to get away with charging less and still make a profit.” 

Rather than a metered fare, Lyft has a suggested donation, typically about 20 percent cheaper than a cab. Riders can pay as much or as little as they like, although those who frequently shortchange drivers have a tough time getting rides. 

Jano Youssefi, an Iranian immigrant who has driven cabs in Los Angeles for 15 years, said his income had dropped at least 20 percent in the six months since Lyft rolled into town. “We are not making money anymore,” Mr. Youssefi said. 

Yet, even as the threat of arrest hangs over drivers — some Lyft drivers removed the pink mustaches from their grilles after the cease-and-desist order — interest in the new programs seems to be on the increase. Drivers for Lyft and Sidecar use their own cars, and typically keep about 80 percent of the payments passengers offer, while the company keeps the rest. Uber also offers a service that connects passengers with licensed, professional luxury car drivers, as well as people driving their own cars.
Justin Riley, who began driving for Lyft a month ago, said he enjoyed the flexible hours, which gave him time to work on getting his tech start-up company off the ground. “It’s allowed me to discover L.A.,” he said. “I’ve met so many diverse people, heard so many great stories.” 

But Mr. Drischler, the city taxicab administrator, said the collegial environment was part of the problem. Before safety partitions were installed in cabs two decades ago, he said, one cabdriver was killed every 18 months in Los Angeles. “I’m honestly worried for the drivers of those companies,” he said. “I have two daughters in their 20s, and I would never let them drive for those companies.”
The California Public Utilities Commission is writing rules for smartphone ride-hailing services.

Organizations want to ensure that Blacks get work on Crenshaw/LAX Line

Two groups seek inclusion for African American construction workers


Lena Coleman, July 11, 2013

The Black Workers Center and Young Black Contractors Association are two local organizations that are passionate about ensuring that Black construction workers are included in the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor project, which will reportedly create 3,000 jobs for South L.A. residents. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) approved a $1.27 billion design/build contract with Walsh/Shea contractors last Friday

Drexel Johnson, founder and executive director of Young Black Contractors Association (YBCA), says the next step for his organization is to meet with the MTA and the City Council to inform them of his meeting with Walsh/Shea. Johnson says that although he met with the contractor at their Chicago offices back in March, he remains skeptical about the corporation’s willingness to have Black construction workers involved in the Crenshaw/LAX project. The 8.5-mile light rail line will run south from the Expo Line to the Green Line.

He, like other construction workers, has been disheartened by the lack of a Black presence on many large, government-funded construction projects. They also wonder why the community’s political and civil rights leaders have not spoken out about the disparity.

Johnson says he was given a commitment from Walsh/Shea that they would meet with him once the firm was awarded the MTA contract but, though he has followed up with the contractor, he has not heard back from them. Similarly, Johnson said he has not heard from the Los Angeles Urban League with whom he has been in contact. Johnson indicated that the Urban League is acting as a hiring agent for Walsh/Shea.

“The YBCA has very high regards for the Urban League, as it relates to their longevity of training and educating our youth in the community,” he said. “However, we feel that there’s a disconnect, a block or deflection, or some sort of misdirection planned against local contractors simply because the Urban League hasn’t contacted us.” Phone calls to the Urban League were not returned in time for their comments to be included.

Lola Smallwood Cuevas, director of the Black Workers Center, noted that she has visited a number of large construction sites that didn’t have any Black workers. She says Proposition 209, which prohibits public institutions from hiring workers based on race, sex or ethnicity, is the biggest issue. However, discrimination is illegal. Proposition 209 was passed in November 1996.

This isn’t the first project the Black Workers Center has been involved with, and Cuevas said the center has two strategies to ensure that Black workers will be involved at the Crenshaw/LAX construction site.

“First, we’re going to identify and find workers and educate them on how to network by attending board meetings, going to employment agencies and building relationships with contractors. Secondly, we will teach workers about the union. Knowing about the union is very important for contractors,” says Cuevas.

The construction on the Crenshaw/LAX line is expected to begin in the coming months. Those interested may contact the Black Workers Center at (323) 752-7287 and the Young Black Contractors Association at (323) 385-0639 for further information.

710 California State Auditor Report of Caltrans and General Services

From Sylvia Plummer, July 15, 2013

For those interested in receiving a copy of the 710  California State Auditor Report of Caltrans and General Services:    

Copies can be requested by:
calling  916.445.0255  
or online at   www.auditor.ca.gov
The  audit #: 2011-120

Each person can order up to five copies of the audit for free.

Read the results of the audit and think of the waste and destruction these rogues are committing in our towns. There has to be a recourse. 

United Caltrans Tenants (UCT) will conduct another series of workshops on the audit.  The workshop is 2 hours long.  They need at least 5 people to conduct the workshop.  

Contact Don Jones for more information:   donjustinjones@gmail.com