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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions Between Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality (2nd Edition)


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, no date

Our Built and Natural Environments

 Download the report, The second edition of Our Built and Natural Environments (PDF) (148 pp, 4.3MB, About PDF): To order a hard copy of the report, email nscep@bps-lmit.com or call 800-490-9198 and request EPA 231-K-13-001.

Decisions about how and where we build our communities have significant impacts on the natural environment and on human health. Cities, regions, states, and the private sector need information about the environmental effects of their land use and transportation decisions to mitigate growth-related environmental impacts and to improve community quality of life and human health. In 2001, EPA published Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions Between Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality to show how development patterns affect the environment and human health. Since then, research has continued to clarify and better explain these connections. To capture this research, EPA has revised and updated the report, incorporating key findings from hundreds of studies.

The second edition of Our Built and Natural Environments (PDF) (148 pp, 4.3MB, About PDF):
  • Discusses the status of and trends in land use, development, and transportation and their environmental implications. Findings include: 1
    • The U.S. population is projected to grow 42 percent between 2010 and 2050, from 310 million to 439 million (Vincent and Velkoff 2010).
    • While the population roughly doubled between 1950 and 2011 (U.S. Census Bureau), vehicle travel during this same period increased nearly sixfold (Federal Highway Administration 2010 and 2012). However, evidence suggests that the growth of vehicle travel might be slowing in recent years.
    • Virtually every metropolitan region in the United States has expanded substantially in land area since 1950—including regions that lost population during that time (U.S. Census Bureau).
  • Articulates the current understanding of the relationship between the built environment and the quality of air, water, land resources, habitat, and human health. Findings include:
    • Biodiversity: For nearly all plants and animals, species diversity declines with increases in the amount of impervious surface, road density, time since development, human population density, and building density (Pickett et al. 2011).
    • Water: Development in watersheds reduces the quantity, quality, and diversity of stream habitat for aquatic life (Booth and Bledsoe 2009). As water is polluted and degraded, it can become unfit for drinking, swimming, fishing, and other uses.
    • Air: More than 38 percent of national carbon monoxide emissions and 38 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions come from highway vehicles. Stationary sources like power plants that provide energy to homes, offices, and industries are also major sources of pollution (EPA 2012).
    • Climate Change: Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector increased 19 percent between 1990 and 2010, due primarily to the increase in vehicle travel but partially offset by a slight increase in average fuel economy as older vehicles were removed from the roads (EPA 2012).
    • Health: While data are lacking to determine whether the built environment determines levels of physical activity and/or obesity, nearly 90 percent of studies found a positive association (Ferdinand et al. 2012), suggesting that the built environment is one of the many factors that could play a role in how much people exercise and levels of obesity.
    • Safety: Car crashes are the third leading cause of death in terms of years of life lost given the young age of so many car crash victims and the number of years they would have been expected to live if they had not died in a car crash. Only cancer and heart disease are responsible for more years of life lost (Subramanian 2011).

  • Provides evidence that certain kinds of land use and transportation strategies can reduce the environmental and human health impacts of development. Findings include:

    • Development in and adjacent to already-developed areas can help protect natural resources like wetlands, streams, coastlines, and critical habitat.
    • Residents of transit-oriented developments are two to five times more likely to use transit for commuting and non-work trips than others living in the same region (Arrington and Cervero 2008).
    • In general, the greater the population density of an area, the less the area's residents tend to drive (Transportation Research Board of the National Academies 2003). Doubling residential density across a metropolitan region could reduce household vehicle travel by between 5 and 12 percent (National Research Council of the National Academies, Driving and the Built Environment 2009).
    • Communities with streets designed for the safety of all users can encourage walking and biking and help people lead healthier lifestyles (Giles et al. 2011).
    • A review of green building retrofits of commercial buildings around the world found energy savings of 50 to 70 percent (Harvey 2009).
    • Water-efficient household appliances and fixtures can yield significant water savings, and careful selection of construction materials can conserve natural resources and improve indoor air quality. Site-scale green infrastructure can also reduce development's impacts on water quality.
EPA's Smart Growth Program has many resources that give more information on development strategies that reduce environmental and health impacts while improving quality of life, providing more housing and transportation options, and achieving other community goals. See our publications page and our topics pages for links to these resources.

AirTalk with Larry Mantle SR710 Tunnel Discussion

Here is the interview >>> http://media.scpr.org/audio/upload/2013/07/17/710_freeway.mp3

Reports can only help public transit's case


By Alex Roman, July 17, 2013

A new National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study solidifies what the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Transit Savings Report has been telling us for years now: riding public transportation can save users money.

The new report, “Driving Commuter Choice in America, Expanding Transportation Choices Can Reduce Congestion, Save Money and Cut Pollution,” found that if commuters integrate carpooling, public transit and telecommuting into their daily commutes, they could save more than $1,800 annually and reduce their total vehicle miles traveled by 10% to 50%.

This falls in line with APTA’s quarterly Transit Savings Report, however, APTA’s predicted cost savings is much higher — $816 a month, $9,795 annually, as of May 31 — because it factors in the cost of fuel and parking amongst other factors.

 “All across the country, a shift is taking place,” said Rob Perks, transportation state campaign director for NRDC in a press release. “Increasingly, Americans are choosing to live in walkable communities, where they have more transportation choices that allow them to live closer to their jobs, and shops and schools, rather than stuck in traffic. Along with the personal freedom these communities provide, it’s exactly the kind of growth our country needs to cut pollution, save money and create a vibrant quality of life.”

The NRDC’s report found that if 25% of Americans adopted one of these alternative driving choices, the U.S. could reduce annual transportation emissions by 3% to 12%, reduce transportation fuel use by billions of gallons per year and save consumers tens of billions of dollars in transportation spending each year. In addition, more choices in transportation would allow commuters to drive less, leading to less congestion in metropolitan areas, less wear and tear on roads, and less spending to maintain the nation’s infrastructure.

Specifically to transit, the report found that increasing transit round-trip work commutes by four round trips each month can reduce driving costs by 14% to 26%.

NRDC’s report also recommends policy solutions to invest in expanded transportation choices, including building more compact, walkable transit-oriented neighborhoods and better transportation solutions.

The findings of these two studies — that public transit is a key alternative for the traveling public — can only help the industry’s case with politicians when it comes time for a new transportation authorization bill. With the strain on federal funds continuing to be an issue, however, these studies can perhaps more importantly help the industry enforce its case when it comes to referendums at the state and local levels, which have found tremendous success over the last several years.

Should Metro build a freeway tunnel or take another route in the 710 project? (Poll)


Air Talk, July 17, 2013


Should the Metro Build a freeway tunnel to alleviate traffic?

 Should Metro build a 710 freeway tunnel?


Metro and CalTrans have already spent two years researching how to relieve traffic in Los Angeles County. Their study, SR-710, began in 2011 with 40 different traffic alternatives. By 2012, it became 12 options and is now narrowed down to five.

The study focuses on the gap between the 710 and the 210 freeways, forcing commuters to take local streets to travel north and south in the San Gabriel Valley. According to Metro spokeswoman Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap, there are 60,000 cars on Fair Oaks Avenue and 50,000 cars on Fremont Avenue per day and the gridlock in that area is very severe.

Metro’s five alternatives are:
  1. No-build: The only changes will be those already planned by local jurisdictions.
  2. Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management: Metro would improve the existing system by introducing strategies such as coordinating traffic signal timing and promoting carpooling and public transit.
  3. Bus Rapid Transit: By creating bus lanes, high speed and high frequency buses would run between 18 proposed locations.
  4. Light Rail Transit: Metro would build a 7.5 mile light rail with trains connecting East Los Angeles to Pasadena.
  5. Freeway Tunnel: A 6.3 mile four-lane tunnel would connect the end of the 710 freeway in Alhambra with the 210 freeway in Pasadena.
This study and the controversial freeway tunnel have spurred cities to go head-to-head. Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Marino and Duarte are in favor of this project. Mayor Steven Placido of Alhambra joins AirTalk to discuss how the 710 freeway was never supposed to end in Alhambra. Placido supports the freeway tunnel because he believes it would relieve traffic by 20 percent and the other options would only have a two percent effect.

However, South Pasadena, Pasadena, La Cañada, Glendale and Los Angeles oppose the freeway tunnel. Mayor Pro Tem of South Pasadena, Marina Khubesrian, also joins AirTalk to raise her concerns. She believes that this freeway tunnel is contrary to Metro’s efforts of reducing drivers through public transportation. In addition to air quality concerns affecting residential neighborhoods, opponents state the money just isn’t there to build a freeway tunnel.

The SR-710 study has caused the No 710 Action Committee to actively oppose the freeway tunnel. Committee members marched on the Fourth of July in protest of the tunnel. In contrast, Mayor Placido made last Wednesday “710 Day” in Alhambra.

All this debate caused the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board to recently vote on not accelerating the 710 project, giving Metro time to continue studying options. Metro will present their most recent research to the community on July 18, 20, and 23.

Which option should Metro pursue? What are your concerns about the five alternatives?

Metro is currently considering five options in the 710 project. Which one do you think is best?
Doug Failing, Executive Officer for Metro Highway Program; oversees the environmental study on the 710
Steven Placido, D.D.S., Mayor of Alhambra
Marina Khubesrian, M.D., Mayor Pro Tem of South Pasadena
For more information about Metro's community meetings on Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday, click here.

Driving somewhere? There's a gov't record of that


By Ann Flaherty, July 17, 2013

 An Alexandria Police Dept. squad car is seen outfitted with a license plate scanner mounted to the trunk, Tuesday, July 16, 2013 in Alexandria, Va. Local police departments across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movements of vehicles with a license plate using automated scanners. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, dumping that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or even years.
WASHINGTON—Chances are, your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.

Using automated scanners, law enforcement agencies across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.

As the technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and federal grants focus on aiding local terrorist detection, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge's approval is needed to track a car with GPS, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver's location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners assemble what it calls a "single, high-resolution image of our lives."

"There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU. The civil rights group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to a crime.

Law enforcement officials said the scanners can be crucial to tracking suspicious cars, aiding drug busts and finding abducted children. License plate scanners also can be efficient. The state of Maryland told the ACLU that troopers could "maintain a normal patrol stance" while capturing up to 7,000 license plate images in a single eight hour shift.

"At a time of fiscal and budget constraints, we need better assistance for law enforcement," said Harvey Eisenberg, chief of the national security section and assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland.
Law enforcement officials also point out that the technology is legal in most cases, automating a practice that's been done for years. The ACLU found that only five states have laws governing license plate readers. New Hampshire, for example, bans the technology except in narrow circumstances, while Maine and Arkansas limit how long plate information can be stored.

"There's no expectation of privacy" for a vehicle driving on a public road or parked in a public place, said Lt. Bill Hedgpeth, a spokesman for the Mesquite Police Department in Texas, which has records stretching back to 2008, although the city plans next month to begin deleting files older than two years. "It's just a vehicle. It's just a license plate."

In Yonkers, N.Y., just north of the Bronx, police said retaining the information indefinitely helps detectives solve future crimes. In a statement, the department said it uses license plate readers as a "reactive investigative tool" that is only accessed if detectives are looking for a particular vehicle in connection to a crime.

"These plate readers are not intended nor used to follow the movements of members of the public," the department's statement said.

But even if law enforcement officials say they don't want a public location tracking system, the records add up quickly. In Jersey City, N.J., for example, the population is only 250,000 but the city collected more than 2 million plate images on file. Because the city keeps records for five years, the ACLU estimates that it has some 10 million on file, making it possible for police to plot the movements of most residents depending upon the number and location of the scanners, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU study, based on 26,000 pages of responses from 293 police departments and state agencies across the country, also found that license plate scanners produced a small fraction of "hits," or alerts to police that a suspicious vehicle has been found. In Maryland, for example, the state reported reading about 29 million plates between January and May of last year. Of that amount, about 60,000—or roughly 1 in every 500 license plates—were suspicious. The No. 1 crime? A suspended or revoked registration, or a violation of the state's emissions inspection program accounted for 97 percent of all alerts.

Eisenberg, the assistant U.S. attorney, said the numbers "fail to show the real qualitative assistance to public safety and law enforcement." He points to the 132 wanted suspects the program helped track. They were a small fraction of the 29 million plates read, but he said tracking those suspects can be critical to keeping an area safe. 

Also, he said, Maryland has rules in place restricting access for criminal investigations only. Most records are retained for one year in Maryland, and the state's privacy policies are reviewed by an independent board, Eisenberg noted.

At least in Maryland, "there are checks, and there are balances," he said.

How “Buy America” Restrictions Can Cost America Jobs


By Angie Schmitt, July 17, 2013

Proponents of Buy America restrictions — regulations that require American-made sourcing for transportation projects supported by the federal government — may be well-meaning, but when applied to rail expansion, these rules can be pretty pernicious. There isn’t a large domestic passenger rail market in the United States, so there isn’t much of a domestic traincar manufacturing industry. When you throw Buy America into the mix, that can end up being a real problem for passenger rail projects.

The feds rejected a loan for Las Vegas-Los Angeles high-speed rail, saying plans to buy traincars from overseas (with a different pool of money) sunk the application.

Network blog Systemic Failure points to Ray LaHood’s rejection of a $5.5 billion loan application by a private group seeking to build high-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. LaHood cited Buy America rules to justify the rejection, but ironically, that means Nevada won’t be getting a whole bunch of jobs, the blogger writes:
Note that the loan was not going to be spent on the train-sets. They would have been purchased separately. But the mere fact that any non-US goods were to be used was enough to kill the project.

And how exactly is this rigid adherence to Buy-America supposed to create jobs?
Now some would argue that this was a bad project anyway. The line would have terminated too far from Los Angeles to attract enough ridership. I agree with that point, but the rejection letter makes no mention of this. So what happens when the next HSR application comes along — and it is a really solid application. Will the DOT again make unreasonable requirements on rolling stock?  There is no domestic HSR manufacturing, and it is unrealistic to expect HSR manufacturers to magically spring out of nothingness to market trains for a project.

What we have here is a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Domestic HSR manufacturing cannot exist without HSR lines being built. And HSR lines cannot be built if the DOT mandates domestic rolling stock.
Elsewhere on the Network today: This Big City lists its choices for the five best high-speed rail lines in the world. Half-Mile Circles explores the accomplishments of tactical urbanism. And Better Institutions looks at the challenge of reserving space for buses on roads that carry more transit riders than drivers.

Feds halt loan review for Las Vegas-to-California high-speed train"


July 12, 2013


WASHINGTON — The government has halted its review of a multibillion-dollar loan request for high-speed rail line connecting Las Vegas and Southern California, a potentially staggering hit to the ambitious project.

The development is a blow for XPressWest, which has envisioned itself having a major role in the region’s future. The company’s plans call for electric trains whisking passengers at speeds up to 150 mph between Las Vegas and, for starters, Victorville, Calif.
But two Republicans who have raised questions about the rail plan said they were told the Department of Transportation has decided to “indefinitely suspend its review of the XPressWest loan application.”

The department has not announced its move, but the lawmakers — Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — said their staffs were briefed and were told that “serious issues persist” with the application and that there are “significant uncertainties still surrounding the project.”
The lawmakers disclosed the decision in a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who heads the Government Accountability Office that has been reviewing the bistate project at their request. The letter began circulating among interest groups on Thursday.

The XPressWest application for a $5.5 billion loan has been backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who spoke recently with President Barack Obama about it.
Reid said Friday it is too early to turn off the lights.

“The administration has not permanently foreclosed the possibility of such an investment and I remain committed to working with them and with (principal developer) Tony Marnell and XpressWest to secure this vital investment for Nevada,” he said.

While confirming the loan process has been suspended, a statement delivered by Catherine Levy, an XPressWest spokeswoman, said, “It is our understanding the project still is being reviewed. We await further information and direction from the (Obama) administration.”

“I believe high-speed rail is an important aspect of Nevada and the country’s future,” Reid said. “In Las Vegas, I-15 to and from California is absolutely clogged and we must do everything we can to make it easy and safe for travelers to visit Las Vegas. But it’s also vital we do this right.”

According to Sessions and Ryan, the company was informed of the decision by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on June 28. It would have been one of LaHood’s final acts before leaving office. His successor Anthony Foxx was sworn in on July 2.

While in Nevada last week, Reid told reporters he had spoken with Obama about the project. It could not be immediately determined if that conversation took place before or after XPressWest was notified the application was being put aside.

The XPressWest application had been under review since December 2010. The project was previously called Desert XPress. Reid disclosed in April that investors were struggling to come up with funding to enable approval of a loan of about $5 billion. The federal infusion would finance the bulk of the $6.9 billion project.

It also has run into political problems. Sessions and Ryan, who are the top Republicans on congressional budget committees, pressed LaHood to reject the loan.

“The risks to the taxpayers from financing this project are untenable,” they said in a letter to the transportation secretary in March. They cited a report from the Congressional Research Service that said “few if any” high-speed rail projects have earned enough money to cover costs.

Critics have pointed to the proposed terminus at Victorville, 80 miles northeast of target customers in Los Angeles, as a reason to question the project’s viability. Investors envision Las Vegas-to-Victorville as the opening leg of a high-speed rail network that eventually would stretch to other cities in the West.

A year ago, XPressWest reached agreement with the Southern California transit authority to extend the California terminus to Palmdale, about 50 miles closer to Los Angeles.

No on 710 Tunnel Group to Hold Rally in Pasadena Saturday


By Dan Abendschein, July 17, 2013

 Opponents and supporter of the 710 extension at the Alhambra pro-710 event. Credit: Donna Evans

 Opponents and supporter of the 710 extension at the Alhambra pro-710 event.

The No on 710 Tunnel group will hold a rally against the proposed tunnel freeway extension at Blair High School in Pasadena prior to a public meeting on the project hosted by Metro.

The Saturday meetings is part of a series of public workshops updating the public on proposed projects to mitigate traffic in the 710 corridor - the study has come as part of a state-required environmental review that must be done prior to building the tunnel.

 The study has identified potential alternatives to the tunnel as well, including a no-build option, a bus rail transport option, a light rail option and a traffic metering option that includes new traffic signals and freeway ramp metering.  More on all options can be found here.

The rally starts at 8:45 a.m. prior to the 9:30 meeting.  The No on 710 group describes itself as "
fast growing association of cities, organizations, professionals and citizens who realize that the SR-710 tunnel is an unacceptable alternative to address regional transportation problems."

The group also rallied against the project on July 4 in South Pasadena and at a pro-710 event in the City of Alhambra.  The group claims to have members from all various cities in the San Gabriel Valley, Crescenta Valley and Northeast L.A and the July 4 protests included residents from Alhambra, Altadena, Glendale, La Cañada, La Crescenta and San Marino, according to event organizers.

For those interested in the public meetings on the 710, the schedule is below:

Thursday, July 18, 2013 – 6-8 pm
Los Angeles Presbyterian Church
2241 N Eastern Av., El Sereno

Saturday, July 20, 2013 – 9:30 – 11:30 am
Blair High School
1201 S. Marengo Av; Pasadena

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 6-8 pm
Langley Senior Center
400 W Emerson Av; Monterey Park

Study: Wealthier Motorists More Likely to Drive Like Reckless Jerks


By Angie Schmitt, July 16, 2013

You know the stereotype of the arrogant Porsche driver? Well, science says there’s some truth to it.
People driving luxury cars are more likely to fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk and to engage in other unethical, antisocial behavior, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Drivers of more expensive cars are more likely to cut off other drivers and violate pedestrians' right of way. Image: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A research team including Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner have been examining the way social status and wealth affects morality. Their findings — which are getting a lot of media attention — broadly show that wealthier, higher-status individuals are, essentially, more likely to cheat.

Piff and Keltner, working with researchers from the University of Toronto, conducted seven experiments. Two of them measured the behavior of drivers at four-way intersections and at crosswalks.

The team used vehicle make, model, and year as shorthand for the driver’s social status. In both cases, when controlling for the sex of the driver, time of day, and other factors, the research team found that higher-status drivers were more likely to cut off other drivers at the intersection or fail to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

In the first experiment, about 12.5 percent of drivers proceeded through an intersection without yield to other drivers with the right of way. The drivers of expensive cars were much more likely to engage in this illegal behavior — 30 percent of the drivers classified in the most “high-status” category cut off other drivers. In the second experiment, 35 percent of all drivers failed to yield to pedestrians, compared to 46 percent of those driving the fanciest cars.

The research team wrote that the findings are, of course, not to imply that morality is an absolute function of social class, but that “unethical behavior in the service of self-interest that enhances the individual’s wealth and rank may be a self-perpetuating dynamic that further exacerbates economic disparities in society.”

By way of explanation, the authors wrote: “Upper-class individuals’ relative independence from others and increased privacy in their professions may provide fewer structural constraints and decreased perceptions of risk associated with committing unethical acts.”

In terms of traffic enforcement, the findings provide more justification for graduated fines, which vary according to the motorists’ income. In European countries, where traffic fatality rates tend to be much lower than in the U.S., it is common to assess higher traffic fines on higher-income law-breakers.

Does Amtrak Know How Trains Work?


By Matthew Yglesias, July 10, 2013

Here's how boarding a train works. Once you have your ticket and you've ascertained what track the train you want to ride on is coming to and you're more-or-less ready to board, you walk to the appropriate platform. There you wait for the train. When the doors open, you get on the train. That's how I got on a train from Brussels to Strasbourg a few weeks back, and it's how I got on the train from Strasbourg back to Brussels. It's how you board a New York City subway train, and it's how you board a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority train. It's how the train stations in Rome and Paris and Berlin work. But—remarkably—it's not how you board Amtrak trains at Washington's Union Station.

At Union Station there's a bizarre process where they list a gate instead of a track. The gate is a door and the door is closed. Outside the closed door there is a long snaking line. You wait in line, and then eventually the door opens. Then everyone shows their ticket to an agent, walks through an ante-chamber of some kind, and only then do you reach the platforms.

The ticket-checking is completely superfluous because you could walk to any platform once you're out there. But it's also unnecessary because conductors check the tickets on the trains anyway. But then you walk to the appropriate platform and board the train that's waiting for you.

This method is both slower than the standard method and also involves overcrowding the interior of the station. Amazingly, Amtrak says it wants $7 billion to ameliorate track capacity constraints and station interior overcrowding when for the low price of $0 they could adopt standard train-boarding procedures and make progress on both of those fronts. The only possible advantage to the way Amtrak does it is to create a make-work job for the ticket inspector. But they could easily reassign the staff to be customer service agents at the booking windows.

The entire thing appears to have been designed by someone who's never actually ridden a train anywhere—including the Metro Red Line trains that depart from the very same station—butwho is very familiar with air travel and thus has decided to recreate the gates-and-queueing process that we know and love from America's airports. But planes only have one door, so bringing people through a single boarding gate doesn't create an additional inefficiency. There is also a security problem with just letting passengers wander around by the runways. But trains run on train tracks (seems obvious, but again it's unclear if key Amtrak staff have ever seen a train), and they have many doors. Absent these features and the consequent ability to have passengers wait on the platform, it would be totally infeasible to run rush-hour trains. The dwell time in the stations would be absurdly long. Which, come to think of it, Amtrak must actually know, because if you board at smaller stations (New Haven, MetroPark, etc.) the stations work just like every other train station in the world and the passengers wait on the platform. It's only at the big stations that the weird system is in use. You could maybe persuade me that some special feature of Penn Station in New York makes this unworkable (though I'm not clear what it would be) but Union Station in D.C. is a very normal train station. Why not just let people board the trains in a normal way?

Bicyclists and Car Drivers: Cease Fire

Pondering a More Bike-Friendly (Without Being Car-Unfriendly) Los Angeles Future


 By Joe Mathews, JulWill the Bicycle Kill the Car?_mainy 15, 2013

It’s time for a truce in the battle between L.A.’s bicyclists and automobile drivers, said a panel of transportation thinkers at a Zócalo Public Square/Grand Park event. Instead, it’s time for L.A. to secure funding, build new infrastructure, and remake its culture to include more modes of transit.
Noting the panel’s title, “Will the Bicycle Kill the Car?”, panelist Geoff Wardle, director of advanced mobility research at Art Center College of Design, told a large early-evening audience at Grand Park (which included several people in bike wear), “We have to get these different forms of transportation to collaborate, not to compete.” The more people can use bikes to make their way around the city, the fewer cars there will be, and the better traffic can be for everyone. “Eventually,” he predicted, “we will reach a tipping point.”

Wardle and his fellow panelists—LADOT bicycle coordinator Nate Baird and Move LA executive director Denny Zane—believe that Los Angeles is beginning a transformation that will lead to more bike lanes, more robust bike sharing, and more barriers to protect bicyclists from cars. But they also suggested that the transformation would be long and slow, and better behavior would have to come not only from car drivers but also from bicyclists.

“The problem is we’re in too much of a hurry,” said Zane. “And that’s partly because of the way we’ve designed our city.”

Baird said L.A. has a lot of opportunities to introduce new ways to get around, thanks to the city’s sheer size. “We have a lot of road to work with,” he said.

Throughout the event, the moderator, Los Angeles Times transportation reporter Laura J. Nelson, pressed the panelists for specifics on how they would reallocate L.A.’s road space.
While the panelists didn’t single out specific streets, they agreed that L.A. would benefit from establishing not just bike lanes but also cycle tracks (physically separated space for bicycles along the roadway) and what Wardle called “bike-dominant roads”—existing streets that would become bikeways.

Baird noted that for all the bike lanes that have been added, the city has yet to stitch them together into a coherent system. “The last two fiscal years we’ve done 150 miles of bike lanes throughout the city, but they don’t really connect to each other yet,” he said.

Whenever questions were raised during the event about the ability to secure funding for improvements, Zane struck a relentlessly positive stance, arguing that Southern California is in a “mojo moment” with huge public support for investment in transit. He noted that Measure R, the 2008 ballot measure that raised sales taxes to fund rail and other transit improvements, had passed, and he predicted that similar future measures would win overwhelming support.

“I think these things together—the will of the voters, the resources available for transformational investment, all of that has really created an opportunity for us to re-envision Southern California, not just Los Angeles,” Zane said.

But Nelson noted that despite support for big projects, small changes in Los Angeles’ transportation infrastructure, like new bike lanes, often meet fierce resistance from automobile drivers. What, she asked, can win them over?

No simple answer came to this question, but Wardle and Baird speculated that the changing nature of cars could diminish tensions between bicyclists and drivers. “As we get nearer and nearer to automated cars, cars that drive themselves,” said Wardle, “it frees up more space,” since the computers driving cars will make better decisions and use less space on the road than human drivers do.

Baird said he believed more road space for bicycles and other transportation options would be created by the use of narrower cars; narrow car models, he added, are already popular overseas.
The panelists also noted that more needed to be done to educate bicyclists about the rules of the road. Wardle pointed out that the bicycle culture in the U.S. is new, relative to the older bike culture in Europe, where he’s from, and Americans have much to learn. “If you apply for a drivers license for a car here, there’s a booklet you read,” he said. “I’m not aware of people being able to access similar information for riding bikes.”

Bottlenecks and the evening commute.


By Kendra K. Levine, July 16, 2013


During the evening commute there are often bottlenecks as people try to get home on fixe routes with finite capacity. Vickrey's "Congestion Theory and Transport Investment" (1969) decribes the problem of commuters trying to pass the bottleneck. A recent paper, "The evening commute with cars and transit: Duality results and user equilibrium for the combined morning and evening peaks" by Eric Gonzales and Carlos Daganzo tackles the commute problem looking at both the evening and morning commute, since mode travel decisions are often made based upon the travel needs for the whole day.
The paper then considers both the morning and evening peaks together for a single mode bottleneck (all cars) with identical travelers that share the same wished times. For a schedule penalty function of the morning departure and evening arrival times that is positive definite and has certain properties, a user equilibrium is shown to exist in which commuters travel in the same order in both peaks. The result is used to illustrate the user equilibrium for two cases: (i) commuters have decoupled schedule preferences in the morning and evening and (ii) commuters must work a fixed shift length but have flexibility when to start. Finally, a special case is considered with cars and transit: commuters have the same wished order in the morning and evening peaks. Commuters must use the same mode in both directions, and the complete user equilibrium solution reveals the number of commuters using cars and transit and the period in the middle of each rush when transit is used.
The whole paper can be found here.

Rail quiet zone plan put on hold in Glendale

Construction project on crossing is delayed because of funding glitch.


By Brittany Levine, July 16, 2013
 Metrolink train passes in Glendale

 A Metrolink train crosses Grandview Avenue in Glendale on Thurday, September 20, 2012. The city is set to begin construction on the Grandview Avenue and Sonoroa Avenue crossings in November.

Glendale's plan to apply for a "quiet zone" for trains passing through the San Fernando Corridor faces yet another delay.

Officials this week confirmed that a major safety improvement project for the Broadway/Brazil Street crossing has been delayed while the city of Los Angeles waits for the approval of $900,000 in federal funding to complete the portion of the project that falls within its border.

It's the latest in a series of delays that could push completion of the project — a vital part of creating a rail corridor safe enough to relax rules requiring trains to sound their horns where tracks cross streets — back to spring 2014. For residents who've been pushing for the designation, it was unwelcome news.

"I am very disappointed to have L.A. create such a disconnect between entities when we should be working together for the safety and benefit of the community," said Jolene Taylor, president of the nearby Pelanconi Estates Homeowners Assn., which for years has been lobbying for the quiet zone.
Before the city can apply for a quiet zone designation from the Federal Railroad Administration, several crossings have to undergo safety enhancements. Work has already been completed at some crossings and future improvements are in the pipeline.

But even after the work is done, a quiet zone isn't guaranteed.

Glendale has long been dealing with issues blocking safety enhancements to the Doran Street crossing, considered the most potentially dangerous in the San Fernando Corridor. Citing its proximity to a propane storage facility on the Los Angeles side of the tracks, Glendale wanted to close the crossing altogether. But Los Angeles fought to keep it open because it is an access point for emergency vehicles.

The two sides have since put a plan in place to build a grade-separated crossing as one option to improve safety and to maintain access for vehicle traffic. Since the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in April secured $40 million to construct either an underpass or overpass, Broadway/Brazil has become the new trouble spot.

Metrolink has been leading construction work on the crossing but work stopped about two weeks ago, said Public Affairs Director Jeff Lustgarten. Although most of the work under the jurisdiction of Metrolink and Glendale has been completed, improvements on the Los Angeles side have been delayed.

According to a statement from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, their work — traffic signal, signage, road and striping improvements — won't be complete until the spring of 2014. And officials don't plan to advertise for a construction contractor until January because they are awaiting approval of $900,000 in federal grant funding.

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who has been championing the crossing improvements, said he was disappointed by the delay.

"It's about improving safety and quality of life," he said.

Despite the delay, it would still have been years before Glendale could apply for a quiet zone.
Although the MTA has pledged to work on Doran Street, it could be at least two years before environmental and engineering documents are finished, and even longer before construction begins.
As of Tuesday, the Broadway/Brazil Street crossing was still closed to traffic. A timeline for it reopening to through traffic was not immediately available.

While the Broadway/Brazil Street crossing has remained closed during heavy construction, Metrolink is working with both cities on an interim solution to reopen the passageway to traffic in the meantime. The interim fix would likely involve re-striping and some type of traffic control, according to Lustgarten.

"Safety is our paramount concern, and the crossing can be reopened to vehicle traffic once all of the parties have reached agreement on the best and safest approach to the interim solution," he said.

Police: Bicyclist in Pasadena weekend collision dies


By Ruby Gonzales, July 17, 2013

PASADENA - A bicyclist injured in a collision with another bicyclist over the weekend has died, police said.

Pasadena Police Lt. John Dewar said hospital officials notified the police department Monday night about the death. An officer went to Huntington Hospital and was told the man died of head injuries about 6 p.m. Sunday, according to Dewar. He said the hospital didn't release anymore information citing a federal privacy law.

Authorities haven't released the name of the dead man. He was originally described by police as a 20-year-old Pasadena resident.

The man was injured Saturday night. Police said the man was westbound on Mountain Street with the flow of traffic when he collided head-on with a 17-year-old bicyclist heading east. The 20-year-old's head hit the pavement. Police believe he wasn't wearing a helmet.

Reminder: 1st of three SR710 Community Meetings

From Sylvia Plummer:

Thursday, July 18 -- 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Metro's SR-710 All Communities Information Session

Los Angeles Presbyterian Church
2241 N. Eastern Avenue
El Sereno

Metro and Caltrans will be hosting this information session 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

Bring your questions!

Casden-Project: Westsider Victory Comes with Skepticism


By Ken Alpern, June 28, 2013


ALPERN AT LARGE - As the last parties of the now-self-congratulatory era of Antonio Villaraigosa come to an end, the very real successes of the outgoing mayor offer insights and opportunities for our new, incoming mayor-elect.

Eric Garcetti can build upon Villaraigosa's high points while also avoiding some of the pitfalls--both self-induced and external in origin--that limited the successes of what is surely a New Era of Transportation for LA City and County.

I'll start by wishing Eric Garcetti all the best, and by acknowledging (if not proclaiming) that his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, was a true-blue Transportation Mayor.  Only a true Antonio-hater would fail to recognize that one of Mayor Villaraigosa's greatest successes was to reverse, overcome and move forward past huge obstacles to both the Wilshire Subway, Light Rail to LAX and the creation of citywide rail, bus and bicycle networks.

Eric Garcetti will not have to contend with the funding and legal limitations--popular with many of the voters, mind you--set by Zev Yaroslavsky and Henry Waxman that was the law of the land when Antonio Villaraigosa entered office.  My personal fury and feelings of betrayal by Villaraigosa (shared by quite a few transit advocates, by the way) in his land use decisions cannot and should not detract from my respect for how he handled these initial obstacles.

So Eric Garcetti has a chance--like Villaraigosa--to make the history books with respect to Transportation, but without the acrimony that was created between the Mayor and with both:
1) Neighborhood leaders, who for the most part encouraged a favorable vote on Measures R and J, but are now frightened and feeling betrayed by a lobbyist-friendly, developer-friendly Downtown and an enabling Planning that is really starting to put a bitter taste in Angelenos' mouths as to what transit will be.  After all, no one wants a transit line that will--in the end--worsen mobility and the environment.

2) Other cities and regions within LA County that also pay into Measure R and expect some reasonable payback in return for their own personal needs.  The Mayor of Los Angeles is NOT the Mayor of LA County, but needs to respect the other regions of the county, and recognize that the voters and taxpayers and commuters from outlying regions must be treated like partners and friends.
As with the Hollywood Millennium Project, the Casden Sepulveda Project (my favorite personal pet peeve as of late, as well as that of the majority Westside leadership) is an example of how Angelenos wanted a nice, tall glass of water (a transit line) with a twist of lemon (some mild-moderate density) and were then fire-hosed with sewer water by an uncaring Planning/Downtown that took their taxpayer rail construction money and used it against them.

There is an alternative arrangement that was in part forged and negotiated by Westside leaders of neighborhood councils and community groups, which has a dramatic downsizing of the project but still leaves a huge residential complex, with considerable traffic impacts, for a project that has many variances and is NOT A BY-RIGHT PROJECT, which means that there has to be a give-back by the developers to the community for this project. 

The alternative, as described by the Times is by no means certain, and the possibility of a last-second bait-and-switch by this team of Casden developers is very real and very typical of how they operate.  Concerned members of the community are strongly urged to attend City Council chambers on Friday, June 28th. 

And make no bones about it--the Westside community leaders, most of whom favored the Expo Line (and Measure R to fund it) are NOT happy with this project.  Are there transportation/transit benefits that will be paid for and established by the developers, particularly since the Westside city taxpayers paid roughly $15 million for a rail bridge over Sepulveda to allow this project to occur? 

Is there a Westside Regional Transit Center, or some related transit mall, with bus bays and/or other amenities for transit users to transfer from the many buses on Sepulveda to access the Expo Line?  Is there a sufficiently large bicycle and pedestrian facility, and a parking lot, for transit commuters of all transportation modes to access the Expo Line?   

Shall we remember that clogged roads and intersections impact bus traffic to/from the Expo Line? 

Clearly, the deal to have Casden build a wonderful transit center and transit-oriented development at Exposition/Sepulveda/Pico, arranged by Metro and the City of LA, was abused by a mean-spirited, nefarious, corporate opportunist who never gave a damn about transit as much as he just wanted to build a big Playa Vista-style development...except it would be even more dense than Playa Vista and set a horrible precedent for projects near the Expo Line Corridor.

(Playa Vista has about 110 dwelling units/acre, and the "compromise" has a potential of 150 dwelling units/acre)

Clearly, Metro and the City of LA will have to take charge of creating and establishing new transportation resources and centers, because Alan Casden has little to no interest in that (of course, Expo Line advocates could have told them that, all along).  The guaranteed transit, transportation, open space, parks, police/fire, education and other mitigations for this project, which again is NOT BY-RIGHT and requires variances, just are NOT there!

But enough of this project--if the new Mayor and City Council want to ask voters to raise taxes for road repair, infrastructure development and rail/freeway construction, then it will have to respect these voters' wishes to NOT have new transit-adjacent development claim to be "transit-oriented" and thrash the mobility, quality of life, environment and economic potential of the City.

Ditto for Garcetti needing to respect the will of San Gabriel Valley, South Bay and eastern LA County voters.

The ongoing questions surrounding the Crenshaw/LAX line must be answered.  A Leimert Park underground station is a boon to the community, but it comes at the expense of Westside and South Bay projects (like MetroRail to LAX and a Green Line extension to Torrance).  Unless megadevelopment can justify it, legal and engineering issues prevent an underground Park Mesa tunnel from being approved.

An agreement with the San Gabriel Valley to fund a Foothill Gold Line to Ontario Airport is needed to get their support for a Measure J-style extension of the sales tax needed to build a similar airport/rail connection at LAX.  Villaraigosa did his best to create an airport/rail transportation system, as well as a Wilshire Subway, but for Garcetti to finish what his predecessor started he must change the combative tone that Villaraigosa all too-often set with the rest of the county.

Eric Garcetti, Don Knabe, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mike Antonovich will need to work together to both finish what was started with Measure R, and make sure that bad projects are pushed aside while popular and good projects are fast-tracked.  Trade-offs should occur, and transparency with any future long-term Metro plans--and with county voters who will pay for these plans--is essential to replace acrimony with teamwork.

I wish Eric Garcetti well in his efforts, and look forward to working with him should he be the visionary--but not the combatant--that Antonio Villaraigosa was in promoting a better 21st Century City and County of Los Angeles.