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 30, 2013

Federal New Starts dollars for two Metro rail projects could be threatened


By Steve Hymon, July 30, 2013

In my old life as a newspaper reporter, I learned after a while not to write too many sky-is-falling-because-our-budget-is-getting-cut stories. And I've tried not to put too many of those on The Source because, well, the last time I looked up, the big blue sky was still there.

That said, Metro is rightfully keeping a keen eye (as usual) on a bill before Congress to fund transportation in the coming 2013-2014 fiscal year that could positively or negatively impact the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector projects.

Here's the issue in a nutshell. The Democratic-controlled Senate version of the bill funds the federal New Starts program that, in turn, helps fund large and pricey local transportation projects. The Republican-controlled House version of the bill, however, only provides funding for projects currently receiving New Starts money.

That's a problem for the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector. The subway's first phase (to La Cienega) and the Connector projects are, respectively, $1.2 billion and $670 million in New Starts funding to compliment their Measure R funds. With no New Starts money, both projects could — emphasis on could — be thrown off schedule.

Here's the wrinkle: Both projects are expected later this year to sign full-funding grant agreements with the federal government in order to particpate in the New Starts program. Without such an agreement in place yet, the House version of the bill would deny the projects the New Starts money they need.

How will this be resolved? In a conference committee involving members of the Senate and House who will spend hours negotiating, cajoling and screaming at each other until the issue is resolved. Metro's government relations team is, of course, working on behalf of the agency and talking to members of both political parties in D.C. trying to persuade them that keeping both projects on track is good business and will likely create many jobs not just locally but throughout the U.S. because of the amount of raw materials needed to build new tunnels and track.

Water Powered Car Unveiled: Yes It’s Real


By Arjun Walia, July 28, 2013


Everyday the world becomes aware of technologies that have the potential to halt the unnecessary damage we continue to create using fossil fuels. We’ve been talking about it for years, transitioning our way of  life to be more harmonious with the planet and its natural systems. I’m not talking about solar or wind power (although great), I’m talking about clean and green technology that  render fossil fuel burning technologies inferior and obsolete.

One of these “new” technologies is a water fuelled car, and it has been unveiled on a number of occasions. It’s an automobile that derives its energy directly from water, and water alone. It is not hard to see why it’s not available to the masses. An engine powered by water would wipe out a large chunk of the fossil fuel industry and change the way these companies do business all together. The oil and gas corporations combine to bring in trillions of dollars every year. Inventions like these are a direct threat to the industry.


genepaxA Japanese company called Genepax unveiled their water powered car in 2008 in Osaka, Japan(1). It doesn’t matter if it’s tap, bottled, or lake water, any type of water can make this car run. An energy generator splits the water molecules to produce hydrogen and this is used to power the car. They use a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) to split the Hydrogen from the Oxygen through a chemical reaction. The cell needs only water and air, eliminating the need for a hydrogen reformer and high pressure hydrogen tank.

This isn’t a conspiracy! The reality of this device has been verified by patent offices all over the world. To search a Japanese patent, you have to go through the Industrial Property Digital Library (IPDL). This organization makes patents available to the intellectual property department of the Japan Patent Office. The IDPL provides over 60 million documents and their relevant information as published since the end of the 19th century. The fact that these are even published for patent pending says a lot.

Click HERE to view the water energy system patent. You can also visit  the Industrial Property Digital Library itself, do a “PAJ” search. Type in the publication number **2006-244714**. Documents are also on file with the European Patent Office, you can view them HERE. Reuters also did a brief report on the vehicle as you can see in the video below.
So what happened to Genepax? Approximately a year after revealing their device, the company shut down. They stopped displaying their device as well as promoting it. The only explanation given was a lack of monetary funds.



Genepax isn’t the only group to have come forward demonstrating that we can turn water into hydrogen fuel and use it to power cars. Stanely Allen Meyer is another one who invented a water powered car and it received very little attention when it came to making the news available to the masses. Today, it’s a fairly well known story due to the mass awareness that has been created around the story. Stan’s invention was picked up very briefly by a local news station in Ohio. You can view his patent HERE, it also describes the whole process. You can view the entire collective of his documents here

Here is another brief clip of Stan as he demonstrates his technology. Water contains a lot of hydrogen, as we know, which is a very efficient type of fuel. Converting water into hydrogen is 100 percent clean!

So what happened to Stanley Meyer? He was sued by potential investors, it was determined that his device was nothing revolutionary and simply uses the process of electrolyses. His claims were determined fraudulent, and  his technology was under investigation by a number of investors, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense. It was patent pending, all of a sudden Stan Meyer died suddenly in 1998 after dining at a restaurant. Many close to him, including his twin brother, believe Stan was intentionally poisoned. Stan claimed,, just before he died in  he restaurant parking lot, that he was poisoned.


Water makes the perfect fuel source. It’s comprised of two hydrogen atoms and one atom of oxygen. When the water molecule is separated into its two component atoms and oxidized as fuel, the result is equivalent to an energy output that is two and one half times more powerful than gasoline. The byproduct of the combustion is water vapour, totally pollution free, returning water back into the atmosphere. The process used is known as electrolysis, which is a method of separating elements by pushing an electric current through a compound. Various techniques for water splitting have been issued in water splitting patents all over the world. You can click here to look at a few from the United States.

Not to long ago, researchers at Virginia Tech extracted hydrogen energy from water. They discovered that the energy stored in xylose splits water molecules as-well, yielding high purity hydrogen. You can read more about that here. There are multiple examples of creating hydrogen by splitting the water molecule (2).

Another existing technology that can replace that entire industry is the Free Energy Device. Implementation of these two technologies alone would create one of the biggest technological changes in human history. The same group of people that own the big oil companies also own the mainstream media, so it’s not surprising that we don’t hear about these technologies. Scientists have been murdered, labs have been burnt down, and prototypes have been taken.

Alternative technologies are great, and obviously have tremendous implications. We must remember that the human race cannot create from the same level of consciousness that created this system in the first place. A change for planet Earth coincides with the change of heart more people are experiencing everyday. The key to move forward and enter into a new paradigm is simple, it’s love. With love, we’d already have these technologies implemented Because of greed, hate, fear and ego, they remain surprised, but only for now.

Hopefully this article inspires more to further their research on water powered cars. There are multiple stories with very similar endings for the parties who came forward with this ground breaking technology. Why do we continue to speak about change when we already have the technologies to implement change? One reason is because a large majority of people have yet to become aware of these alternative technologies. They are not marketed, publicized or given much attention. It can be hard to accept that there are people on the planet actually engaged in the suppression of such information, but unfortunately it’s a reality. We are living in the age of transparency, many of us are waking up to thoughts and ideas we never thought we would ponder. In some cases revealing these technologies can cost you your life, that’s how much opposition exists against it -for now. When a new technology becomes so evidently clear,  the implications are far reaching and can threaten multiple corporate interests.


Superior Court judge dismiss motion by Metro in lawsuits against Regional Connector project


By Steve Hymon, July 30, 2013

A quick update on a motion that Metro filed in Los Angeles Superior Court to dismiss three lawsuits filed in state court against the Regional Connector project: A judge has declined to rule on the motions and dismissed them.

The trial in the lawsuits is scheduled to begin Nov. 4. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits are Japanese Village Plaza, the Bonaventure Hotel and Thomas Properties Group. They have filed lawsuits against the project in both state and federal court. The lawsuits have not been consolidated but are being heard in state and federal court, respectively, in the same courtrooms and by the same judges.

Refer to:

Metro Responds to Regional Connector Legal Challenges


How planners deal with uncomfortable knowledge: The dubious ethics of the American Planning Association

Re:   A previous article on this blog:

Why Mega-Projects End Up Costing Way More Than Expected


 The original study: 

By Bent Flyvbjerg

Bent Flyberg-CITIES.pdf   157 pages


 With a point of departure in the concept ‘‘uncomfortable knowledge’’, this article presents a case study of how the American Planning Association (APA) deals with such knowledge. APA was found to actively suppress publicity of malpractice concerns and bad planning in order to sustain a boosterish image of planning. In the process, APA appeared to disregard and violate APA’s own Code of Ethics. APA justified its actions with a need to protect APA members’ interests, seen as preventing planning and planners from being presented in public in a bad light. The current article argues that it is in members’ interest to have malpractice critiqued and reduced, and that this best happens by exposing malpractice, not by denying or diverting attention from it as APA did in this case. Professions, organizations, and societies that stifle critique tend to degenerate and become socially and politically irrelevant ‘‘zombie institutions’’. The article asks whether such degeneration has set in for APA and planning. Finally, it is concluded that more debate about APA’s ethics and actions is needed for improving planning practice. Nine key questions are presented to constructively stimulate such debate.

Introduction: Uncomfortable knowledge

In organizational theory, uncomfortable knowledge is knowledge
that is disagreeable or intolerable to an organization. Rayner
(2012, pp. 5–7) identifies four strategies in increasing order of
sophistication for how organizations typically deal with uncomfortable
1. Denial represents a refusal to acknowledge or engage with
2. Dismissal acknowledges that information exists, and may
involve some minimal engagement up to the point of rejecting
it as faulty or irrelevant.
3. Diversion involves the creation of an activity that distracts
attention away from an uncomfortable issue.
4. Displacement occurs when an organization engages with an
issue, but substitutes management of a representation of a
problem for management of the problem itself.

A highlight of the study:

When planners lie with numbers

The author first became aware of APA’s approach to uncomfortable
knowledge about urban policy and planning when he and his
co-authors submitted an article to APA’s flagship academic publication,
the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA),
called ‘‘Underestimating Costs in Public Works Projects: Error or
Lie?’’ (Flyvbjerg, Holm, & Buhl, 2002). The abstract of the article
reads as follows:

‘‘This article presents results from the first statistically significant
study of cost escalation in transportation infrastructure
projects. Based on a sample of 258 transportation infrastructure
projects worth US$90 billion and representing different project
types, geographical regions, and historical periods, it is found
with overwhelming statistical significance that the cost estimates
used to decide whether such projects should be built
are highly and systematically misleading. Underestimation cannot
be explained by error and is best explained by strategic misrepresentation,
that is, lying. The policy implications are clear:
legislators, administrators, investors, media representatives,
and members of the public who value honest numbers should
not trust cost estimates and cost-benefit analyses produced by
project promoters and their analysts.’’

The article shows that as a consequence of cost underestimation
nine out of ten large public works projects have cost overruns. Cost
overruns are large, even when measured in conservative terms, i.e.,
excluding inflation and using the final business case as base line.
The study documents a cost overrun of 45% for rail projects, 34%
for bridges and tunnels, and 20% for roads. Standard deviations
are large, too, indicating risk to the second degree, i.e., risk of cost
overrun and of the overrun being much larger than expected. Most
interesting of all, overruns have been constant for the 70 years for
which data are available, indicating that no improvements in estimating
and managing costs have been made over time. Finally, the
study raises serious concerns that cost underestimation appears to
be deliberate in many cases.2

The TAP Card, Discouraging Mass Transit One Card at a Time

 By Matthew Hetz, July 29, 2013

The TAP card (Transit Access Card) is now mandatory to ride light rail and subway on the Metro system. The card works by swiping it across a reader to deduct fare. It is also used at the farebox on buses for Metro, Culver City, Santa Clarita, Foothill and other bus lines, but not all. Santa Monica Bus does not accept the TAP card. Here the TAP card is superior to fumbling for change or a dollar bill for bus fare.

At subway and light rail stations, the card is either swiped at a turnstile or at a free standing, short column, and when authorized, a readout gives the “Go” to proceed to the station waiting platform. The fare is deduction similar to a debit card. When the card works, it a system which is does what is expected. But when it’s bad, it’s very bad, and it is bad far too often.

There are too many unneeded difficulties in using the card, and they are very large and very annoying. Two of most glaring are the purchase of the TAP card, and later adding more money to the card. My latest travails of a TAP card started when it was suddenly no longer accepted on Culver City buses. Thinking it could be their mistake or computer glitch, I tried to use the card on a Metro Bus, but it was also denied.

I later learned that the cards are active for a limited time. Once the time is up, to the surprise of the transit rider, they are not accepted. There was no advance notice of this when purchased, nor later towards the expiration time.

With an invalid TAP card, I attempted to purchase a new one. My first attempt was to go to the TAP website, something I had done many times to put more money on the card in exercised in frustration.

The website for TAP is one of the most user unfriendly sites I’ve ever used. It is more than unfriendly, it is hostile in how little information is stated up front, how confusing and difficult it is to navigate within the website, and its overall amateurism. It looks and works like a beta version website for a high high school project, and that may be unkind to high school students.

The site is a jumble of instructions which lead back upon themselves. For example, when I needed to put more money onto a card I already owned I would click on the “Replenish Your Tap” link, and I would just remain on the page, which has instructions on how to replenish the card: “Replenish Online Visit our secure Web site (I am already on your secure website.) and follow the simple check out process under Fare Products to reload a monthly pass or zone pass using your credit or debit card.”

But I am already on the TAP website page to replenish the card, and each click to replenish leaves me on the same page. Why was I not immediately directed to a page to add money to the card? At the bottom of this text is a button, “Purchase Pass.” When replenishing a TAP card, the user already owns a pass. There is no need to purchase a new one.

I don’t want to purchase a new card, I just want to put more money on it. With “Fare Products” link, I am given a list of locations to go to for purchase, and again, the confusing option to “Purchase Pass” when I already own a pass.

Attempts to put more money on the card are journeys into rabbit holes. Sometimes it works. other times no. The language and instructions are confusing. Instead of just a simple “Put money in the card,” in clear and precise instructions, the TAP web user is asked if they want to put “product” on the card. Product is milk, cheese, computers, dishwashers, cars, items that are produced. I cannot put a tangible item on the card, I want to simply put an intangible on the card: money-electronic money. I want “fare,” which is money paid for transportation.

Using the TAP website is so frustrating that at times I just give up. In one case three attempts to put $20 on the card were rejected each time. However, when I next used the card there was $60 added to it. The sales went through despite rejection notices. Besides being stupid, this wreaks havoc with planning a personal budget.

With no working TAP card after the surprise expiration, and despite my misgivings on using the TAP website, I decided I would use their website to purchase a new card. This process is no better than the annoying exercises in futility in trying to replenish fare. Rejection followed rejection with more explanations which were in an indecipherable mix of English and computer programming code.
Defeated, I decided to call the TAP customer service number. I knew I could go to the the Culver City Bus offices or Culver City City Hall to purchase a card. However, I ride mass transit out of deep environmental concerns on air pollution, global warming and the acidification of the oceans from vehicle exhaust.

It seemed wasteful and hypocritical to drive (pollute) just to purchase the TAP card. If I took a bus, it would require a special trip outside of my usual bus commutes. I noted on the TAP website that Ralphs sells the TAP card. This was perfect since I shop at a close-by Ralphs. During my next shopping trip I would buy a new TAP card.

But this is TAP, and despite burned fingers I knew nothing is simple nor seems as it appears. I called my local Ralphs, which I was assured carried the card by the TAP phone representative. True to form, they didn’t carry the card. The closest Ralphs to me to purchase the card was in El Segundo, which is very much out of my way driving or by bus.

I then remembered that the TAP cards are sold in vending machines at light rail and subway stations. I’ve purchased Day Passes and added money to the my TAP card at these station vending machines. I was going to Culver City, and would swing by the Culver City Expo Line Station and buy a new card.

Here too, TAP fails to give clear instructions with confusion and conflicts between the use of “Fare” and “Product” and we are asked questions which do not yield easy answers because we don’t know.
Every time I use a TAP vending machine there are others who stand there baffled, trying to decipher the coded language. There is no simple “Add money for fare to card.” There needs to be explanations of the different fare types, trip differences between a day pass, monthly pass, and so forth. But there are no instructions, only questions thrown to the bewildered transit ride.

This creates a great deal of confusion for transit riders, and anxiety when they know their train is leaving soon, and they are stuck trying to figure out how to use the vending machine to buy a TAP to ride the subway or train and not get a ticket for riding without a TAP card. It should not be this difficult.

You can see these poor, confused people at any subway or light rail station, standing in front of the vending machine, dazed and confused, repeatedly pushing buttons hoping something, anything will make sense to purchase a TAP card or add fare.

After I purchased the new TAP card I went to their website for “Balance Protection,” to guard against theft or loss of the card. Following too many website links, I was directed to the page for Balance Protection. I entered the card number and established a PIN, and was rejected with: “Reseting Pin Failed !- Error: SiebelError: Card with Serial Number XXXXXXXXX not found(SBL-EXL-00151)***RAISE ERROR TEXT*** Error near no filename:1056 [RaiseErrorText()]. from no filename:1056 [BusComp_PreWriteRecord()]Card with Serial Number XXXXXXXXXXX not found(SBL-EXL-00151)(SBL-EXL-00151).”
Excuse me? I removed the card number for my security, but the rest is direct from the website. How does this help me?

I again called the TAP phone number, to register my complaint again on the incredibly incompetent website, and ask for Balance Protection for my new card. The phone rep. said she would add Balance Protection over the phone. A checking of the website today found that the card is still not under Balance Protection a week later, and I received the same error message.

Mike Bonin is the newly elected Los Angeles Councilman to District 11. In a recent Streetsblog article (bonin streetscape), he wants everyone to use mass transit just once in the hopes they will then become frequent transit riders. I support this idea, and wish him well, but already Bonin is defeated if the new rider has to use the TAP system with its muddled instructions, misdirections, rejections, incorrect information, defeating website and systemic hostility to users which is sure to send people back to the vehicles.

I am not alone in my complaints. A Google search of TAP Card has dozens of articles of the incompetence of the system and its hostility towards transit riders.

Whenever I call the Tap offices to try to either put more fare on the TAP card or purchase one, I tell the phone representative to send a memo to their supervisor with the complaint that their website makes no sense. Each time I do this, the phone rep. will say they get this complaint all the time.
Here is a situation where there are constant complaints from the public about an incompetent website for using public transportation, and nothing changes.

A Google search of TAP Card, Los Angeles, Management yields nothing. A TAP phone rep tells me TAP an independent third party, which seems to work in secrecy. The “Contact Us” links on their website leads back to an e-mail address, phone number, and a post office box.

Metro in Los Angeles is closely associated with TAP, but does Metro run the organization? If it is an independent third party, who is running this system? Are they paid? Are there paid consultants who concocted one of the worst websites on the net and one the most frustrating mass transit systems imaginable? I would like to send TAP management a complaint letter, but now that just seems ridiculous.

I had sent e-mails to TAP to register complaints and while these are registered on their website, I never received an e-mail, letter of phone call from them. Yet, my complaints were closed as resolved.

As a long time transit rider, the operations side of Metro remains mired in a disregard to the needs of transit riders. When the TAP card was first installed for subway riders, Metro installed the card readers at the entrance level. Metro does not issue transfers between its own trains or buses, so the Metro rider must pay fare for each ride. If a rider wanted to transfer between the subway Red and Purple lines, which share tracks and stations, the rider could not pay fare through TAP at the waiting platform but instead would have to go upstairs to the entrance level, swipe the card, then return to the waiting platform. This is nonsense. It increases odds the rider will very likely to miss a train and creates a complete waste of time. Thankfully Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky intervened to correct this, but the question is why didn’t Metro think of this in the first place.

The TAP systems needs a complete overhaul and reorganizing with transparency and accountability with the public naming of management. Going back to City Councilman Bonin and his wish to have everyone try riding mass transit once. Good luck, but with TAP, the odds of repeated riders are close to nil.

A Tale of Three Trains

By Ken Alerin, July 29, 2013


ALPERIN AT LARGE - There's often a big difference that keeps coming up between being declared "pro-train" and "pro-transportation":  it's a shame there ever has to be a difference, but count me in as part of the latter in that I love a train...when it makes good cost-effectiveness and impacts on our Economy, Environment and Quality of Life to build or upgrade a rail service.

Like it or not, there are times when proposed train lines are awesome new options for mobility, a point that is all too often dismissed by political conservatives (and by many Republican leaders).  Like it or not, there are times when proposed train lines just are not cost-effective and make terrible investments, a point that is all too often dismissed by political liberals (and by many Democratic leaders).

Hence, we have some political leaders who decry the automobile as nothing short of the anti-Christ, and others who decry trains as nothing short of the anti-Christ.  And most of us are left wishing our political leaders were a bit more flexible.

Yet having better access to major urban centers means having alternatives to driving (file this under "D For Duh!", especially for tourists), and having better access to rural areas, like our national parks, means having good road access (file this again under "D For Duh!", especially for tourists).
Not all of us have commutes that lend themselves to either automobile or train access or alternatives, and I've met conservatives who love buses and trains and liberals who would never use buses and trains.  Again, most of us are left wishing our political leaders were a bit more flexible.

This is our reality, as is the reality that the construction and growth of Los Angeles' major communities and surface streets were historically tied to where our train lines (Red and Yellow Cars, etc.).  Now, our communities' economic life-blood is often tied to the location of our freeways, and therefore building new train alternatives to driving needs to consider where our freeways are most congested.

So when we talk about new train lines and operations, political partisanship needs to be compartmentalized from whether it makes good economic sense.

Example #1:  The Desert XPress

I know I'll get yelled at by my more conservative friends, but despite the fact that I'm NOT a big fan of this project's biggest supporter, Senator Harry Reid, I always felt that this was one of more cost-effective and ideal plans to start California High Speed Rail.  Ditto for the Santa Barbara to San Diego corridor.

But it's dead for now, as it should be.

This project, which is to my understanding a high-speed rail/Metrolink compatible rail line between Las Vegas and Victorville, lost its funding officially by outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood because of its failure to adhere to a "Buy American" policy, but really did so because of pressure from a House and Senate that's focusing on budgets.

This is a $5 billion project that was originally supposed to enjoy private sector support, but increasingly was reliant on federal loans (i.e., the taxpayer).  Furthermore, the western terminus was in lonely Victorville.

So it's dead for now, but I still believe that having this option is by far superior than the MagLev and other crazy schemes that are by far more expensive, and with the understanding that this could have, and should have, been planned with a Palmdale connection, it's my hope that someone considers this option for the future after more urgent transportation needs are met.

This project's failure is similar to that of the problems facing our California High-Speed Rail project--I still consider this to be a big bait-and-switch scheme, with a $33 billion price tag suddenly tripling and with private investment suddenly disappearing, but I remain a supporter so long as it adheres to only a small middle-California high-speed rail but focused now on higher-speed rail for our successful Caltrain and Metrolink networks.

I honestly do question the legality of Governor Brown's change-order for our California High-Speed Rail, but also honestly believe that while Californians need more road and rail projects before this current plan, it will lay down the future for a lot more passenger and freight movement.
Time will tell whether we all got ripped off by our California High-Speed Rail project, and whether it, too, should have died like the Desert XPress...or whether posterity will thank us for this first step.

Example #2:  The Foothill Gold Line
As with the Pasadena Gold Line, which is enjoying speeds and ridership levels heretofore unthinkable after its humble start, this will be a great investment that the City of Los Angeles needs to show more love.

The San Gabriel Valley really wants this line, and if we want to fund our own City lines we need to recognize that this line will not only benefit those currently wanting an alternative to the I-710 and I-210 freeways to Downtown, but also to allow more investment and growth along those corridors lying outside our City limits.

I've no doubt that the Pasadena-to-Irwindale/Duarte extension of the Pasadena Gold Line, currently under construction and moving forward rather well, will be of benefit not only as an alternative to the I-210 or Metrolink to Downtown, but to folks wanting to commute to Pasadena (newsflash, Angelenos:  not everyone wants or needs to travel Downtown!).

Somehow, some way, we need to position the proposed extension of the Foothill Gold Line to Claremont much higher than it's been to date, because San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire commuters and political leaders of both parties really want it...and we'll never pass an extension to Measure R without this fought-for line.

Example #3:  The Expo Line
While Metro is making some great investments in both rail cars and mitigation for affected Crenshaw Line merchants it is also studying ways to develop more gates for Expo Phase 1 stations .

Ridership on this line has already reached projections years, if not decades, ahead of schedule, and it's no doubt that an Expo Line that reaches the beach in 2015-16 will allow us to access different parts of the City and County of Los Angeles in ways heretofore dreamed unthinkable.

Yet problems remain with respect to parking, signage, and its Downtown links with the Blue Line--all of which Metro is aware of, but is potentially limited by fiscal constraints.  One can only hope that more employers and commuters will be allowed tax advantages for encouraging Expo Line and other mass transit use, and one can only hope that more developers will be required to fund this system.

...and again, like a broken record, I'll argue that the stupid, NON-transit-oriented idea at Exposition/Sepulveda/Pico was a duping on a major scale by Alan Casden and his team of hucksters and developers, at the expense of Zev Yaroslavsky, Antonio Villaraigosa, the Expo Authority and Metro Boards and all of us taxpayers alike.

I doubt I'm the only one who awaits Metro and LADOT action on creating a parking/bicycle/bus/rail-friendly Westside Regional Transit Center on the publicly-owned Metro land near/under the 405 freeway to truly create the geographic and unique opportunity that exists at this Exposition/Sepulveda/Sawtelle/Pico site, because the Expo Line is as close to a Metrolink alternative that I-10 commuters will ever see in their lifetime.

So we've got the Desert XPress (which is DOA for now because of a lack of private investment) and the Foothill Gold Line (partially completed only, despite the enormous amount of private investment that awaits it) and Expo Line (also partially completed only but at least scheduled and en route to completion, with as of yet squandered private investment opportunities).

It's my belief that all of these lines should be built, at the right time, and under the right circumstances, but until the right connection of political and private investments are made their construction and funding will be herky-jerky and annoy taxpayers and planners alike.

Maybe this herky-jerky nature is also human nature...and maybe it's something that our new Expo and Metro Boards can confront and resolve to the mutual benefit of taxpayers, commuters and investors alike.

Big rig spills Burger King French fries on freeway near Sacramento


July 30, 2013

A super-sized order of French fries spilled onto Interstate 80 after a big rig caught fire early Tuesday morning in Auburn, north of Sacramento.

The brakes of the big rig carrying a delivery to a Modesto Burger King caught fire near the Applegate Road off-ramp about 1 a.m.

The fire ignited the front end of the trailer, according to Fox 40.

Firefighters were able to put out the fire in 10 minutes, but the trailer was expected to remain on the roadway for several more hours.

Officials used a tractor to remove the fries from the freeway.

BMW Electric Offered With Spare SUV to Ease Range Anxiety


By Chris Reiter and Angela Maier, July 29, 2013


 BMW Electric Offered With Spare SUV to Ease Range Anxiety





To avoid the fate of other slow-selling electric vehicles, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) will offer the new i3 -- a battery-powered compact car -- with a unique option: the use of a sport-utility vehicle. 

 Customers of BMW’s first electric model can book a conventional auto like the full-sized X5 SUV for several weeks a year for family trips or as a backup. The “add-on mobility” feature, for which BMW hasn’t yet revealed pricing, is part of the manufacturer’s effort to overcome a major concern about electric vehicles, namely getting stuck on the side of the road with a dead battery.

Other efforts to ease so-called range anxiety include an optional combustion engine to generate electricity on board, roadside assistance if the battery does lose charge during a trip, and a navigation system that shows charging stations. Those offerings are flanked by a sales force that makes house calls and special training for the car’s select dealers.

The point is to avoid a high-profile flop of the $41,350 i3, which was unveiled today at simultaneous events in New York, London and Beijing. The prestige project has cost BMW more than 2 billion euros ($2.65 billion), according to the Center of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.


Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer is convinced the car, which the company says will be profitable from the start, will give BMW an edge as it seeks to meet ever tighter emissions rules and still outsell Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi and Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz. While driving the i3 last weekend, he spotted a model from a competitor in his rear-view mirror.

“He was driving left, driving right,” Reithofer said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “He tried to overtake me, and then I accelerated and he was gone.”

BMW, the world’s largest maker of luxury vehicles, is beating its chief rivals to electrics aimed at their core customers. Audi, the No. 2, will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the A3 compact next year. Mercedes will sell an electric version of the B-Class compact in 2014.

“The i3 is important in terms of image for BMW because it keeps alive the message that the company is daring,” said Carlos Da Silva, an analyst with IHS Automotive in Paris.

BMW’s push into electric cars started five years ago after Reithofer, who was in New York for the debut, set about shaking up the company’s horsepower-focused culture.

Mission: Impossible 

He invited former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and one-time left-wing radical and German foreign minister Joschka Fischer to speak to company executives about challenges the world faces, including increasingly crowded cities, dwindling natural resources and pollution. These were all major issues for a company that builds performance-oriented cars engineered for German autobahns.

To confront the risks, Reithofer created a small team in 2008 led by Ulrich Kranz, the developer of the original BMW Mini, to look at what growing megacities might mean for the company. The effort was dubbed Project i and has since evolved into the BMW i sub-brand, the environmental counterpart to a high-performance line called BMW M.

The i3 -- a four-seat urban compact with a squat front end and plastic exterior -- is the first car for the sub-brand. Next will be the i8 plug-in hybrid supercar, which featured in the latest Mission: Impossible movie and will go on sale next year. More models may be on the way. BMW has trademarked i0 through i9, said Ian Robertson, BMW’s sales chief.

Carbon-Fiber Cell

“We have a lot of ideas,” Robertson said at a media briefing ahead of the presentation in London. “We’re not entering this market to be a niche player,” even though there are no concrete additions under development.

By creating the i3 from scratch rather than converting an existing model, BMW’s approach to electric vehicles contrasts with rivals. A focus on reducing battery size -- and therefore costs -- led to the use of lightweight carbon-fiber components for the passenger compartment, magnesium supports for the dashboard and aluminum for the chassis.

The 230-kilogram (507-pound) lithium-ion battery -- 20 percent of the car’s total weight -- is positioned beneath the passengers and between the wheels, raising the seating position and improving handling by giving the car a low center of gravity.

Hemp Doors

The 170-horsepower electric motor, which makes almost no noise, accelerates to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in 7.2 seconds, beating the 10.7 seconds for the base version of the 3-Series. Like other electric vehicles, the i3 doesn’t have a transmission, so acceleration is uninterrupted by gear changes. Energy recuperation from the car’s momentum starts as soon as a driver takes her foot off the gas, so hitting the brakes in normal city driving is almost unnecessary.

To gain extra range, the car features an ECO PRO mode, which slows acceleration and reduces the top speed to 120 km/h from 150 km/h. ECO PRO+ shuts off the flow of energy to the radio, heating and all other functions not needed for driving, extending the range 30 percent to about 200 km. A gasoline-powered range extender, which will add 4,500 euros to the price in Germany, allows the car to drive about 300 km before refueling.

The focus on efficiency extends to the design of the interior. The use of natural materials like hemp fibers in door panels and a contoured wood shelf in the dashboard helps give the car the feel of “a small loft on wheels,” Benoit Jacob, the i3’s designer, said after a test drive. The style differs intentionally from the sporty character of BMW’s conventional models and is intended to encourage a more economical driving style, he said.

Volt, Leaf

The i3, which goes on sale this fall in Germany, will cost 27 percent more than the base version of the 3-Series sedan, when it hits U.S. dealers in the second quarter of 2014. Nissan Motor Co. (7201)’s Leaf, the best-selling electric car, is cheaper at $28,800, yet costs more than twice as much as the comparable Versa sedan.

The price for the BMW car “looks lower than we had expected,” said Philippe Houchois, an analyst at UBS in London. “We are pleased to see that the gap between conventional and electric cars is coming down.”

Even with the competitive price, sales are expected to be muted, with few consumers willing to pay a premium for a vehicle that doesn’t offer the performance they’re used to. About 93,000 electric cars were sold worldwide last year, according to BMW. That’s the equivalent of about 0.1 percent of the global car market.

Electric-Car Hype

IHS forecasts that BMW, which is targeting annual sales of 2 million vehicles a year, including Mini and the i-series, will sell only 15,000 to 20,000 of the i3 a year, in line with Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA)’s Model S. That would trail the Nissan Leaf and General Motors Co. (GM)’s Chevrolet Volt, which the market researcher predicts will each sell as many as 100,000 vehicles annually.

Still, BMW is upbeat, with more than 90,000 consumers expressing interest in a test drive through company websites. The manufacturer also expects global electric-car sales to surge 61 percent to 150,000 vehicles this year. The sluggish starts of other electric models might in the end work to BMW’s advantage, said Juergen Pieper, an analyst with Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt.

“After the earlier hype about electric cars,” he said, “the expectations for the i3 are now so low that BMW is actually in a position to positively surprise with that car.”

'Bertha' to begin digging Seattle tunnel today


By Doug Esser, July 30, 2013

'Bertha' to begin digging Seattle tunnel today

SEATTLE  -- After years of planning and months of work, the world's largest tunneling machine is sinking its teeth into the soil Tuesday to drill a new route for Highway 99 under downtown buildings, the Washington Transportation Department said.

"Today is the day," spokeswoman KaDeena Yerkan said. "Everyone here is very excited. We've been planning for this for many years. It's nice to see we're going to start digging under the city and get the project moving.”

The tunnel will go under about 200 buildings, but officials don't expect any serious problems from the machine they call Bertha.

"We know exactly the path of Bertha and what she'll encounter along the way," Yerkan said.

The tunneling crew will be monitoring for settling and vibrations and is prepared to keep building foundations secure.

"So we're not worried buildings are going to tip," she said.

Bertha is 326 feet long and weighs 7,000 tons. It will leave a tunnel nearly 58 feet in diameter.

The $80 million machine is part of the $3.1 billion project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the double deck highway along the downtown Seattle waterfront. Built in 1953, it has carried 110,000 vehicles a day. Officials said the structure had to be replaced because it could collapse in an earthquake. Its removal is part of a project to renovate the waterfront, rebuilding the seawall, improving surface streets and adding new vistas of Elliott Bay.

Bertha was built in Japan and arrived by ship in April in 41 pieces. It was reassembled in a pit near the CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field stadiums.

It will take about 14 months to complete a nearly 2-mile tunnel. Bertha is projected to punch through to the surface near south Lake Union by October 2014. Traffic is expected to start using the four-lane toll tunnel by late 2015.

The Transportation Department and the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, held a June 20 dedication ceremony with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee calling it an historic occasion.

Bertha is named for Bertha Knight Landes, the first and so far only woman mayor of Seattle who was elected in 1926.

Metro Art Moves_DTLA: August 1 art tour


By Heidi Zeller, July 30, 2013 


Metro continues its new series of free summer art tours, Metro Art Moves_DTLA, on Thursday, August 1. The tours pair local artists with docent guides, who share stories about the artworks and lead activities to heighten tour-goer engagement, demystifying the Metro system along the way.

Meet promptly at 5:30 p.m. at the entrance to the 7th Street/Metro Center Station, at the northeast corner of Figueroa and 7th Street, on the street level. Tour has limited capacity. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The tours will lead to Grand Park’s Out of Office event, including live music and food trucks.
Want to grab a snack before Metro Art Moves_DTLA, or feeling a little hungry afterward? Show your TAP card and take advantage of special Metro Destination Discounts at locations near the tour route including Qdoba Mexican Grill, Tossed and Boba 7. Those who stick to ending their tour at Grand Park can use their TAP cards, provided on the tour, to score a free pair of sunglasses at the event information booth.

General Information

Tour takes place on the first Thursday of August and September from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Tours begin at 7th Street/Metro Center Station and end at Civic Center/Grand Park Station.
Tours have limited capacity. Reservations are highly recommended. To RSVP, email lej@metro.net.
The tours are approximately 90% walking; there are elevators and escalators in all of the stations.
Public restrooms are available at Union Station and at Grand Park.

Metro Art Moves Tours

Metro Art Moves tours are designed to attract new riders through arts-based transit experiences. The tours highlight Metro’s diverse collection of artworks, heighten the passenger experience in fun and engaging ways to boost public perceptions about transit, promote rider etiquette and offer opportunities for discovery.

Metro Art Program 

Metro Art implements the agency’s percent for art program, manages the care and maintenance of the system’s existing artworks and directs a volunteer docent council. From rail and bus stations to construction fences and poetry cards, art creates a sense of place and engages transit riders.
Since 1989, Metro has commissioned artists to incorporate artworks into a wide array of transportation projects throughout Los Angeles County. The agency has received numerous design and artistic excellence awards, and is renowned for its approaches to integrating art into the transit experience, and for engaging artists at all levels of their careers.
Docent-guided tours are offered the first Saturday and Sunday of each month. Tours for groups of 15 or more are also available by special arrangement. For more information visit metro.net/art and click on Art Tours or call (213) 922-4ART.

Morning Fizz: Internal SPU Email Details Tunnel Blunders


By Morning Fizz, July 26, 2013

 There definitely seems to be some Existential angst about the tunnel project.

 In mid-July, we reported that the Washington State Department of Transportation had issued a temporary stop work order on the Seattle Tunnel Project—the group of contractors doing the waterfront tunnel construction —after workers had slammed into a Seattle City Light electrical vault and a Seattle Public Utilities sewer line in late June.

Apparently, the June 24 and 25 STP construction mishaps were simply the latest in a long list of construction blunders. 

According to an SPU email sent to the mayor's staff this week, and obtained by PubliCola, titled "A brief history of Bored Tunnel construction impacts to SPU facilities," STP construction dating back to 2012 and running up through spring of 2013 has caused, among other things: "excessive settlement from dewatering," "red-alert level" water main "leaking," "failure to notify SPU of illicit discharge ... into Elliott Bay," "unusual readings in overflow monitoring system" resulting in a "third discharge violation," and "knock[ing] the the top off of a combined sewer maintenance hole and fail[ure] to notify SPU causing a dry weather overflow." 

The email also documents STP's petulant and delinquent responses to warnings. The email notes:

SPU isolates zone and requests replacement, or temporary main, so zone can be re-opened before Safe Have 3 cut & Cap; STP refuses. SPU refuses to send crews out for Safe Haven 3 work until the replacement is complete. STP backs down and constructs a temporary 8” and WSDOT verbally promises to provide a permanent 12-inch replacement after tunneling. ... STP indicates they will not proactively replace the Alaskan Way 12” [water main] from Main to Yesler before tunneling. SPU points out the risk to the Port and requests WSDOT to enforce their contract and WSDOT does so. STP has started construction of the replacement. ... Failure to timely replace temporary sewer constriction in Alaskan Way at King St. ... After a protracted battle starting in August 2012, STP replaces a temporary 12” flex pipe sewer constriction at downstream end of Alaskan Way 21-inch sewer at King Street in March 2013.

The final item in SPU's email documents the sewer line collision we wrote about, comically noting "see a pattern here?" and adding details we didn't have about near misses with electrical conductors, sewer backups, and reporting that "Workers are exposed to sewerage and require medical treatment."
With notes about Notices of Violation (NOV), and cynical commentary of STP's "Root Cause Analysis" (which STP was asked to prepare for WSDOT in response to all the problems), SPU concludes its email with a summary of the contentious relationship:

Currently WSDOT has shut down STP’s work on the west side of the north portal pit. WSDOT sounds like they are serious about getting STP in line. SPU, SCL [Seattle City Light] and SDOT are working with WSDOT to respond the STP’s root cause analysis. WSDOT wants the City to be satisfied with STP’s response. Attached is a DRAFT response from SPU to the RCA (XXXX is editing the SPU response as our legal Catcher in the Rye)
I'm not sure I get the Catcher in the Rye reference, but there definitely seems to be some existential angst at City Hall about the tunnel project.

California Prepares for a Future of Driverless Cars


By Katie Orr, July 25, 2013


 At a Ford Dealership in Northern Sacramento, Fleet Sales Manager Obeth Carlos Davila drives a new Ford Explorer off the lot. It’s equipped with a self-parking system, and is this year’s version of the car of the future

Davila drives along the road and activates the park- assist system. It directs him to drive slowly forward while it scans the curb for parking spots. It locates a spot and directs Davila to stop and put the car in reverse. He does and then takes his foot off the gas and his hands off the wheel. Davila watches as the car steers itself into a parallel parking space.

A self-parking car is a big step towards a future of self-driving cars. As you watch from the passenger seat there’s some anxiety and some amazement. There’s an urge to grab the spinning steering wheel and brace for impact with the surrounding cars. But again and again the car quickly and smoothly parks itself.

Davila says self-driving cars could catch on, once drivers are comfortable with giving up control.
“But it’s gonna take awhile,” he said. “I’m mean, sounds good, who knows, we might have flying cars in about ten years.”

That though amuses Bernard Soriano.

“We’ve got our hands full with autonomous vehicles right now!” he laughs.

Soriano is Deputy Director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. California is one of three states with laws allowing for some kind of driverless car. The legislature has directed the DMV to create regulations for them. Soriano said for now, the rules won’t let the public get driverless licenses.

“By the end of this year we hope to have the regulations in place to allow for the different manufactures to test their autonomous vehicles on our roadways,” he said. “By January 2015 we will be done with the regulations that will define the operation of these vehicles on our roadways.”
So who can operate a driverless car? And would the operator have to sit in the driver’s seat? Soriano said there are numerous questions yet to be answered.

“The question of liability is one that just comes to mind immediately,” he said. “I mean, who’s responsible? What happened? Is it the operator if the operator is not actually driving?”

Soriano recently discussed driverless cars with about 300 colleagues at the second annual Road Vehicle Automation conference at Stanford University.  Researchers, manufactures and regulators all gathered to listen to industry leaders like Volkswagen and Google and to collaborate on making the vehicles a reality.

Thousands of Fairgoers Board the OC Fair Express and Save Money


July 29, 2013

The OC Fair Express is on track to surpass the record-breaking ridership totals of 2012. After three weekends of service to the Orange County Fair, the OC Fair Express has recorded more than 31,000 boardings, which is a 23 percent boost over the same period last year.

The OC Fair Express provides non-stop bus service to the Orange County Fair from nine locations on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Bus rides are $2 each way and all OC Fair Express riders get a coupon good for a $3 admission into the fair.  The coupon provides a savings of $8 off a regular, full price admission ticket.

Due to the success of the service last year, two new OC Fair Express routes were added for 2013 — Route 642 from Newport Beach and Route 657 from Orange. Additionally, frequency was increased from every hour to every 30 minutes on the most popular routes, departing from Fullerton, Santa Ana and Huntington Beach.

There are only two more weekends left to visit the fair and take the OC Fair Express. As part of a special promotion, riders can take a photo during their trip and upload it on Facebook to receive fair food coupons, courtesy of special partners while supplies last. Visit the OCTA Bus Facebook page to learn more.

The OC Fair Express is made possible in part by a $342,000 grant provided by the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC). MSRC provides subsidies for cleaner transportation alternatives.

(Any chance of getting a LA County Fair Express?)
The OC Fair Express is on track to surpass the record-breaking ridership totals of 2012. After three weekends of service to the Orange County Fair, the OC Fair Express has recorded more than 31,000 boardings, which is a 23 percent boost over the same period last year.

The OC Fair Express provides non-stop bus service to the Orange County Fair from nine locations on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Bus rides are $2 each way and all OC Fair Express riders get a coupon good for a $3 admission into the fair.  The coupon provides a savings of $8 off a regular, full price admission ticket.

Due to the success of the service last year, two new OC Fair Express routes were added for 2013 — Route 642 from Newport Beach and Route 657 from Orange. Additionally, frequency was increased from every hour to every 30 minutes on the most popular routes, departing from Fullerton, Santa Ana and Huntington Beach.

There are only two more weekends left to visit the fair and take the OC Fair Express. As part of a special promotion, riders can take a photo during their trip and upload it on Facebook to receive fair food coupons, courtesy of special partners while supplies last. Visit the OCTA Bus Facebook page to learn more.

The OC Fair Express is made possible in part by a $342,000 grant provided by the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC). MSRC provides subsidies for cleaner transportation alternatives. - See more at: http://blog.octa.net/thousands-of-fairgoers-board-the-oc-fair-express-and-save-money#sthash.eTo0ZRJ9.dpuf

Public Meeting on Future of Union Station Coming Thursday


July 29, 2013

  Union Station
 Union Station

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in the process of developing a master plan for renovating, expanding and rethinking 75-year-old Union Station, and they want input from you — yes, you!

The agency is hosting a community workshop from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to discuss refinements to original draft alternatives. The proposed master plan will eventually function as a guide for developing Union Station and other nearby properties also owned by Metro. The Aug. 1 public input meeting will be live-streamed via Metro’s UStream channel. The Cathedral is at 555 W. Temple St. Additional information is at metro.net/projects/la-union-station.

Beverly Hills Fights L.A. Subway Extension


By Matt Reynolds, July 30, 2013


LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles County overlooked the dangers of building a 9-mile subway extension that crosses fault lines under Beverly Hills High School, the City of Beverly Hills claims in court.

     The city sued the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Superior Court, seeking an injunction against the Westside Subway Extension Project. Beverly Hills claims the project violates the California Environmental Quality Act, and wants the county to seek an alternate site.

     In the works for almost 30 years, the subway project would extend the Metro Purple Line from its terminus at the Wilshire-Western station to incorporate seven new stations.

     From Beverly Hills to Century City's Constellation Station, trains will travel northwest to Westwood, to a new endpoint close to West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital.
     But the city claims the plan to tunnel beneath homes and the 80-year-old high school endangers students and residents.

     "The high school's environmental setting is unique in that its grounds contain more than a dozen actively producing oil wells, as well as a number of former oil well sites," the 10-page lawsuit states.

     After the extension was approved, "no fewer than eight" studies warned of the "seismic risks" of tunneling beneath the high school, the city says. It notes that one of the "eagerly" anticipated reports came from the California Geological Survey - "the state agency tasked with identifying active faults."

     Planners said a rejected alternative for the extension, along Santa Monica Boulevard, would cross fault lines, and contend that the Constellation Station site is safer.

     But Beverly Hills says the study shines a light on a need for a "full and complete investigation and disclosure of the basis for Metro's conclusions."

     Santa Monica Boulevard station is now a "feasible" alternative, the city says.

     "New information in the post-approval seismic studies undercuts a key foundation for Metro's decision, namely, that the presence of faulting along Santa Monica Boulevard and the absence of faulting near Constellation Station made the Constellation Station site and associated subway alignment the most desirable alternative," the complaint states.

     Under a voter-approved tax measure known as Measure R, the Metro decided in June to break ground on the project much sooner than first planned. Beverly Hills says the accelerated schedule will increase air pollution, traffic and noise.

     The city this year filed a federal complaint against the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, for approving funding for the subway.

     Beverly Hills is represented by Robert Perlmutter with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger of San Francisco.

     Metro did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours Monday.

Las Tunas Drive in Temple City to have a major facelift


By Zen Vuong, July 29, 2013

 Las Tunas Drive looking west to Oak Avneue in Temple City Monday, July 29, 2013. The Las Tunas Drive Safety Enhancement and Beautification Project is Temple City's attempt to make its "downtown core" less of an "auto-dominated thoroughfare" and more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. City officials see this project as an opportunity to increase property value and sales tax revenue.

About six months into roadwork for the Rosemead Boulevard Project, Temple City staff are already thinking about more street construction on another major thoroughfare.

Construction workers may give Las Tunas Drive a makeover as early as a year and a half from Tuesday, said Mark Persico, Temple City's community development director.

"The Las Tunas Streetscape Project is an innovative opportunity to create a completely new street and to kick-start new investment and vitality in the city's historic core," Persico said. "For the last few decades, cars have been king. There has been a mind shift where people think differently. We are de-emphasizing the car and making it more attractive for people to walk and ride bikes."

Plans for the milelong street include putting in bike lanes, adding deciduous trees, increasing parking through angled spaces and reducing traffic lanes from five to three in the "downtown core," from Cloverly Avenue to Golden West Avenue, and a portion of the "midtown segment," from Sultana Avenue to Cloverly Avenue. The idea is to make Las Tunas Drive more appealing to pedestrians, bikers and consumers.

Temple City has budgeted about $16.9 million for the project, about $3.8 million less than it awarded to the Rosemead Boulevard Project.

Freedman Tung + Sasaki, an urban design and city planning firm in San Francisco, will refine its plans after Sept. 26 if the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority awards Temple City $6.9 million in transportation grants. Metro staff has recommended that its board of directors do so, Jose E. Pulido said in a city manager's report.

Resident Keith Canonic called lane reduction on Las Tunas Drive an "abomination." After all, about 1,200 drivers drive on it every hour during peak travel times, according to Freedman Tung + Sasaki in a presentation.

"Currently the traffic is so heavy that you can be sitting at an intersection through two changes of the light before moving on to the next light, Canonic wrote in an email. "All these improvements are meant to reduce the vacancy factor in the shops in Temple City. The real problem with vacancy is the economy. You can see vacant stores in Monrovia, Alhambra, Duarte, et cetera. No amount of this type of 'improvements' will solve the problem."

Persico, however, said drivers will be minimally affected, especially since buses will have a "queue-jump lane" or a cubby hole where they could park while they wait for passengers to board and depart.

"While we are reducing the number of lanes, we are shortening the red-light cycle so the same amount of vehicles will be accommodated," he said. "We're not saying we won't impact drivers. We've tried our best to accommodate drivers and bicyclists and pedestrians."

The project will revamp a downtown that began in 1924. City staff want to change Las Tunas Drive from an "auto-oriented thoroughfare" to a city gem and destination place.

The new Las Tunas Drive will include mid-block crossings and corner "bulb-outs" that would shorten distances between crosswalks. That means green lights for pedestrians and red lights for cars could both be shortened. 

The Las Tunas Streetscape Project also allows Temple City to differentiate itself from neighboring cities such as Arcadia, San Gabriel, Rosemead and Monterey Park, which all have plenty of "strip retail" with large parking lots, a staff report said.

The changes will increase property value and the city's sales tax revenue, Persico said. It's hard to give a numerical value to the anticipated economic catalyst, but whenever there is public investment, private property values go up, he said, citing Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia as an anecdotal example.

Because the current blocks span as much as 1,240 feet, people become less interested in walking, and shoppers are less inclined to browse, especially if they have to walk across the street, Pulido said in a staff report.

"Currently, the lengths of crosswalk crossings vary from 70 feet to more than 110 feet curb-to-curb," Pulido said in a report. "At wider intersections, slower-walking seniors and those with disabilities are often unable to cross completely before the signal turns red."

City officials have seen an increase in the number of restaurants on Las Tunas Drive. The restaurants increase foot traffic, and walkers will eventually want to pop into a store or two after their meal, he added.

Community pride for about 36,000 residents is also a factor, Persico and Greg Tung, an urban designer at Freedman Tung + Sasaki.

"Your town is more on the map," he said. "It's great to be able to have relatives in town and have a great place to show them."

For more information, visit http://lastunasdrive.com/december-19-2012/.

Drivers Hate Congestion Charges, but Does it Actually Work [Infographic]



 Congestion Charge.

From the success of congestion pricing in Stockholm to the lack of enthusiasm in US cities (and indeed, much of the world in recent years), congestion pricing is a subject that’s got much coverage here on This Big City. That’s why I was happy to see a new infographic published on this very topic, sharing information such as pricing in London, Singapore, Stockholm and Milan, as well as revenues generated in each of these cities.

Check out the infographic below for even more factoids. Does it change your view on congestion pricing?


Slideshow: Eight Ways to Fund Infrastructure Without Raising Taxes


By Mark Szakonyi, July 29, 2013

Let’s face it, unless there’s a sudden sea change, the U.S. Congress isn’t going to raise the motor fuels tax to increase transportation infrastructure spending any time soon. Transportation and business interests that include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can push all they want for the first such tax hike since 1993, but the bottom line is this: Most legislators can’t risk being painted by their rivals as tax-raising bureaucrats out of touch with the plight of average Americans. Funding concerns aren’t limited to surface infrastructure. The Senate’s attempt to allot more money to the nation’s ports through the proposed reform of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund isn’t a sure bet, nor is increased funding for the completion of the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

With the current surface transportation bill set to expire in 14 months, expect debate to heat up about how Congress can get more out of the funding it has. Make no mistake, the suggestions, including the creation of a national infrastructure bank and more interstate tolling, won’t be enough so solve the Highway Trust Fund’s looming insolvency. Support of each proposal isn’t universal, either. But they’re among numerous options that could help the nation slow the deterioration of its transportation infrastructure until the political will exists to make tough funding decisions.

Here, then, are eight suggestions for how the U.S. can shore up freight infrastructure without raising taxes.

Go to link below or to the website to view the slide show:


Integrating Land Use and Transportation VI: Industry


By Mark Vallianatos, July 29, 2013


Last month, Streetsblog introduced a six-part series by Mark Vallianatos looking at how city leadership can start truly integrating land use and transportation in the six geographic zones he outlined: parks, hills, homes, boulevards, center and industry. First, he outlined the series and wrote about parks. Later, “The Hills”, “Homes Zone”, “Boulevard Zones” and “Centers” got their turn.
Each section includes a “ preferred mobility” that the land use and transportation networks should support, a description of the land type and Vallianatos’ prescriptions.

Vallianatos is a professor at Occidental College and the Policy Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Board Member for Los Angeles Walks, and regular contributor to Streetsblog.

Without further ado…


Preferred mobility: zero-emissions freight
“So many [people] unneeded, unwanted in a world where there is so much to be done… Once upon a time, visitors could take a guided tour and see how tires were made, just as today, they can take a studio tour and see how movies are made.”

Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself

The Industry zone refers to portions of Los Angeles zoned for manufacturing and other industrial activities. I will be considering how the products and inputs and waste of these sites are moved throughout the city and beyond and how industrial land uses can fit with the rest of the urban fabric. As I wrap up this series, thanks to Damien for running it on Streetsblog Los Angeles and to many colleagues, experts, advocates & my students for talking to me (and teaching me) about land use & mobility in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles has grown by producing improbable things: a Mediterranean climate in North America; oranges without seeds; pictures that move; distant water; oil from the ground; weapons for the sky; a new relationship between cars, people and places. These and other industries attracted millions of people to the Los Angeles region and helped shape the economy, built environment and transportation in and around LA.

In a previous post about single family residences , I implied that the house + car relationship was the dominant factor in giving Southern California its distinct, pioneering role in sprawl and auto-dependence. Industry created patterns in this sprawl. Historian Greg Hise used the metaphor of the magnet to  describe how the region was planned as a multi-nodal area and how major industrial facilities attracted large scale residential developments.

As an example, Wade Graham in his contribution to the book Blue Sky Metropolis highlights how aerospace companies shaped the physical form of Greater L.A. 

“The Big Six aircraft manufacturers, all of which had started out in tiny rented spaces in districts within a few miles of downtown Los Angeles, soon spread out to locations near outlying airports where there was room to grow: at Burbank, Santa Monica, Inglewood, and El Segundo… The postwar Los Angeles that emerged was a regional city, with its nodes sown from the principal aircraft plants and grown into surrounding, purpose-built communities: North Hollywood–Burbank–Glendale (Lockheed, Vega), Santa Monica–Mar Vista–Culver City (Douglas, Hughes Aircraft), Inglewood–Westchester–El Segundo (North American, Douglas El Segundo, Northrop), Downey (Vultee), and Long Beach–Huntington Beach (Douglas Long Beach). These spreading clusters traced a ring roughly fifteen miles in radius around Los Angeles City Hall, linked by an emerging system of freeways.”

As aerospace continued to thrive during the cold war, its locations leapfrogged further into the exurban fringes of Los Angeles, helping draw populations into Orange and Ventura Counties and the Antelope Valley.

Employment in manufacturing and related industries once fueled migration to the LA region and provided a pathway into the middle class. More than 10,000 industrial workers were arriving in Los Angeles every month during much of World War 2 and into the mid 1950s and early 60s half of the manufacturing jobs in the county were in aerospace. One of the great tragedies of life in Los Angeles over the past 40 years, referenced in the quotation that opens this piece, is that these good jobs in unionized heavy manufacturing sectors like aerospace, automobiles and steel diminished just as the region was becoming more ethnically diverse and workplaces were becoming more open to women and non-whites.

With the end of the cold war, durable goods manufacturing jobs in the Los Angeles – Long Beach – Santa Ana metropolitan area fell by 32 percent just between 1990 and 1994 and Former Mayor Richard Riordan explained wage declines by saying that we were no longer “subsidized by people around the world to build things to kill people.”   Manufacturing is still the leading contributor to our gross regional product, but employment in manufacturing has continued to decline. According to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl, “352 of the 472 manufacturing subsectors classified by the U.S. Census Bureau have lost jobs since 2001 in Los Angeles” and manufacturing employment is down from over 800,000 in 2001 to 535,000 in 2012.

While employment in the logistics and transportation sector has made up for a small portion of these losses, the median hourly wage in the transportation sector is $13.05 and in the manufacturing sector it is $12.93, both significantly below the region’s $18.24 median wage.

From their heyday to the present, industrial land uses have also left a toxic legacy in Los Angeles. Petroleum extraction, refining and sales; power generation; manufacturing and goods movement have polluted groundwater, contaminated land, and emitted hazardous substances into the air we breath. After decades of intensive efforts to reduce air pollution in LA, there has been progress, but the areas is still ranked as having the worst ozone and fourth worst particle pollution in the United States.

The contamination, sounds, and smells of industry have made industrial land uses in Los Angeles undesirable neighbors for over a century. Battles over the right locations for and regulation of industry help explain why, to this day, manufacturing and warehousing is clustered along parts of the Los Angeles River. It is partly because early manufacturing relied on the river for power and to dump their waste into, and took advantage of rail infrastructure clustered near the river and downtown LA. But these clusters also exist because, in 1904, as residential areas rubbed up against industrial uses, voters (in one of the first ever use of the popular referendum) restricted slaughterhouses to two city council wards near the river, setting a pattern for exclusive industrial zones

Research and advocacy around environmental justice have shown that low income residents are more likely to live in neighborhoods burdened by the cumulative impacts of multiple sources of pollution, made worse by other health and socioeconomic challenges. The state of California has created a California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool “to identify California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution and most vulnerable to its effects.”

Putting my address into the mapping tool, I can see that the area where I live is considered to be in the top (worst) ten percent of zipcodes facing environmental health threats.
In recommending goals for Integrating land use and mobility in industrial zones in Ls Angeles, I’ve tried to juggle four goals. How to move products without poisoning people; how to preserve some land for industry jobs and economic activity; how to clean up industry; and finally, once industry is clean, how to reintegrate it into the fabric of the city.
  • Temporarily preserve space for industrial land uses. The City of Los Angeles has manufacturing zones primarily clustered near the Port, The Los Angeles River, South of downtown, and in parts of the San Fernando Valley. However most of the city’s manufacturing zoning categories allow other commercial uses and some multi-family housing. 
  • As commercial and residential development increases in formerly depressed areas close to industry, there can be pressures to rezone manufacturing districts. In some cases it is appropriate to rezone for mixed use, dense buildings, especially close to transit or when the industrial uses in question are low job and low wage businesses. But it is also important to retain some space for industry and industrial employment. The city should temporarily designate some areas as industrial preservation zones but regularly reassess the need for such single use zones.
  • Allow more flexible use of space by industry. Just as the City’s adaptive reuse ordinance for downtown office space allowed unused commercial space to be transformed into housing by granting more flexibility on parking, fire and structural rules, adaptive reuse policies for industrial buildings could allow older warehouses and industrial structures to be reused by newer industries. The City should allow new use without triggering high parking minimums and other hard-to-meet mandates.  Environmental standards should not be waived.
  • Clean up industry. As referenced above, low-income residents often face a higher than average burden of pollution from major sources of emissions like factories, refineries, railyards and freeways. Research in Los Angeles has also shown that common light industrial uses like gas stations and auto body shops are more frequent and cause more problems in some areas than is captured by government toxics reporting laws http://www.libertyhill.org/document.doc?id=202 . As a result, community organizations in Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington have collaborated on a Clean Up Green Up campaign http://cleanupgreenup.wordpress.com/ to address these hazards. A motion to find land use, planning and economic development policies to reduce pollution and attract green jobs to these neighborhoods passed the City Council in April 2013. Los Angeles should reduce pollution from all industries in all neighborhoods to speed the transition to a green economy. Stronger local, state and federal laws can help, as can clean industry incubators like the City’s cleantech corridor.
  • Integrate industrial uses with other land uses. As cleaner technologies, stronger environmental protections and more creative use of industrial space evolve in Los Angeles, the need to preserve and segregate land solely for industrial uses diminishes. A mid term goal for the City should be to integrate as much manufacturing and industrial uses as possible into the fabric of the city through mixed use zoning. This would help reverse the negative land use impacts of separate use zoning and speed the shift that UCLA professor Stephanie Percetl has labeled from the “sanitary city” to the “sustainable city”‎.
  • Require a rapid transition to zero emission transportation for large scale, inter-regional and international movement of products and materials. One of the LA region’s leading industries IS transportation. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the busiest and second busiest container ports in the United States. In 2009, the Ports accounted for 10% of particulate emissions, 7% of nitrogen oxides emissions, and 42% of sulfur dioxide emissions in the South Coast Air Basin. Imports and exports from the ports extend inland via trucks, highways, freight trains, railyards and warehouses. The pollutants emitted by ships, trucks, trains and yard equipment contribute to asthma, reduced lung development in children, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and premature death.  All of these links in the goods movement chain need to be made cleaner. The ports have adopted a clean air action plan and clean truck plan. California requires oceangoing  vessels to use lower sulfur fuels and slow down as they approach shore and to turn off their engines for shore power (or adopt equivalent controls) when docked. But much more can be done to transition to a zero-emissions transportation system for goods.
  • The Port of Los Angeles should create a system for on-dock ship-to-rail loading of containers with electrified rail transport to inland destinations. The Grid Project is one proposal along these lines (although I don’t have an informed opinion on its technical merits). This will reduce diesel truck traffic near the ports and eliminate the need for polluting inland railyards such as the proposed SCIG or the existing Commerce yard, the second most carcinogenic rail-yard in the state.
  • Develop electric truck technologies before building a network of truck lanes. SCAG’s long range transportation plan http://rtpscs.scag.ca.gov/Pages/default.aspx envisions spending tens of billions of dollars to create truck only lanes on the 710, parallel to the 60, and on the 215 to allow imports to be moved inland and up to massive logistics centers in the desert.  These lanes are supposed to be restricted to electric trucks sometime in the future, perhaps powered by overhead catenary lines. The RTP dedicates tens of millions of dollars to research on zero emissions trucks. The ratio (if not the exact amounts) of spending on clean tech versus new freeway/ truck lane construction should be reversed. Local governments should only construct a massive new truck freeway system (1) after electric truck technology is developed and is commercially available; and (2) after reassessing the need for new truck lanes following the implementation of electric on dock rail. As a starting point, the City of L.A. should support Community Alternative 7  for the potential expansion of the 710 freeway.
  • Work at all levels of government to clean and eliminate diesel locomotives. Railroads enjoy partial exemption from local and state regulation, making it difficult to require pollution control technologies or to outlaw the oldest, most polluting engines. Los Angeles should advocate for the Federal government to give more local authority over pollution from rail locomotives, and for railyards to be regulated as stationary sources of pollution.
  • Require cleaner, greener warehouses and trucks. The Los Angeles region has approximately 850 million square feet of warehouse facilities. As close as one can come to sprawl in a box, newer large warehouses are structures that are spartanly built; off limits to most human beings; accessed primarily by trucks. Warehouses are aimed at distant points: factories in china, railyards near the port, big box stores in Illinois, rather than connected to the fabric of life in the communities in which they are located. To reduce the pollution caused by trucks parked at or idling near warehouses; they should be electrified so that arriving vehicles can plug in rather than run their engines.
  • The cost of researching and installing clean goods movements systems should be partly born by fees on shipping containers, which can be passed on from importers (the largest of which are major retail chains) to consumers around the country (unlike the health costs of current goods movement infrastructure, which falls on residents and workers near ports, railyards, freeways, and warehouses).
  • Encourage local deliveries by zero emission vehicles. The use of trucks for local deliveries can impede traffic, block bike lanes, and create impediments for foot traffic due to extra curb cuts from loading docks.  As portions of Los Angeles become more dense and as vehicle lanes are repurposed for buses, protected bike lanes and broader sidewalks, there will be less room for larger trucks. The City should encourage the use of smaller, electric trucks and cargo bikes for a greater share of deliveries. One way to encourage more nimble and clean delivery vehicles is to institute size, place and time restrictions on deliveries by trucks but exempt cargo bikes and some smaller, zero emissions vehicles. Zoning rules could also reduce or eliminate requirements for loading bays and docks for enterprises that maintained a fleet of small zero emission bikes or mini-trucks.