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

Monday, August 5, 2013

Transit Funding: Bridges Burned and Lessons Learned?


By Ken Alpern, August 6, 2013


ALPERN ON TRANSIT - Yes, we can build another generation of transportation projects, with both federal, state, county and even city support in our lifetimes, if only we can acknowledge and learn from the horrible mistakes we've recently seen in the Transportation world...and in the Planning world, to boot, if we dare to end the decades-old debacle of treating Transportation/Infrastructure from Planning.

Not only does Main Street live in a different world than Wall Street, but Main Street lives in a different world than Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill, where one major political party favors airline/road subsidization and wants to end transit subsidization altogether, and the other major political party too often treats the automobile (and fossil fuels altogether) like the work of the Devil.

Which leaves the average American virtually shut out of planning, budgeting and construction of a 21st Century America.

After having vacationed with my family to the southwest U.S. National Parks with my family (including Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, Arches, Carlsbad Caverns and Mesa Verde), as well as the Native American geological and ancestral treasures that are adjacent to them, it's pretty clear to me or anyone else that cherishes these wonders that we still need the automobile--yet such a vacationing endeavor is increasingly becoming less affordable to the average American.

And after having eaten in delis and other restaurants both at home and abroad with my family, it's also evident that the cost of food (in large part predicated on federal law and artificial elevation of transportation/gasoline costs that forces food prices to go up to ridiculously high levels) is becoming less affordable to the average American and his/her family...particularly for healthy food.

So when we talk about the need to reduce carbon emissions and save the environment (a no-brainer) and the need to keep fuel costs low to allow BOTH automobile, airline, bus and rail costs to go down to keep things affordable for the average American (another no-brainer), those politicians and celebrities screaming how rail/transit or automobiles bespeak the end of the world not only disenfranchises that average American, but convinces him/her that we need more level-headed, and less politically-minded, leaders.

There is good news, however, with the 100-0 (and, of course, unanimous) Senate vote confirming former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx on June 27th.  The more one learns from Foxx, his history and his beliefs, the more one can believe that our nation does, indeed have a level-headed, inclusive and capable future.

My own experience as a pro-transit (and pro-transportation) Republican, married to a radiant and brilliant Democrat, is a small but relevant "proof positive" that the Republican/Democratic urban/rural conundrum of "rural equals Republican and urban equals Democrat" isn't always true and need not ever be true.

There are rural Democrats and urban Republicans who came to the conclusions of their political beliefs for very good reasons, and when it comes to federal, state and local Transportation/Infrastructure endeavors (and the Planning these endeavors generate) everyone benefits if we stop splitting urban and rural constituencies, and no one who's serious about improving our economy believes in the battles currently created and manufactured in Washington or anywhere else.

Transportation Secretary Foxx (can any of us who know of this exemplary man ever believe we once thought Antonio Villaraigosa was the right man for this job?) always saw, and still does see, the need to build rails where rails are needed, and roads where roads are needed.  Foxx also believes that high-speed rail is a part of our nation's future, but they have to be the RIGHT high-speed rail that carries freight transportation (and related private sector support) to ensure profitability (or at least a minimum of fiscal loss).

Part of why the Desert Xpress high-speed train from Victorville to Las Vegas lost its support from Foxx's predecessor, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (a Republican), is because it failed to fulfill the "Buy American" requirements and ensure American jobs in its construction and operations.  Also part of the reason it lost support, of course, is that Las Vegas wasn't being connected to major transportation/rail hubs like Downtown Los Angeles or Anaheim.

Closer to home, Foxx's support of BOTH road and rail, and of BOTH rural and urban transportation funding, must force us to revisit the efforts of former CD11 Councilmember Bill Rosendahl to create a Southern Californian airport/rail network.  Rosendahl is affable by nature, and cooperative by nature, but he ran into roadblocks with Orange County and Inland Empire politicians and other leaders who had agendas opposed to his "big picture" vision.

And frankly, it's not like Villaraigosa was sufficiently supported by former L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, who ignored Rosendahl's pleas to be appointed to the Metro Board, and who unnecessarily slapped down Inland Empire and South Bay politicians' own transportation efforts in their regions (the Foothill Gold Line and the South Bay Green Line extensions, in particular).

Add to this a horrible opportunity lost to create a quality transit-oriented development at Exposition/Sepulveda/Pico, with a Casden project enabled by the Expo Construction Authority that was as UN-transit-oriented as they came, as well as the outrageously-oversized Hollywood Millennium project (next to the Metro Red Line, an already-congested 101 freeway, AND a dangerous earthquake fault), and we've got huge pro-transit/transportation swaths of our City in virtual complete distrust of Metro and the City of Los Angeles.

And it's not like the Westside and Hollywood are anti-transit--they voted for Measures R and J, so the need to have the neighborhood councils and homeowner associations pay their money and sweat equity to be FOR transportation/transit projects is more necessary than ever.

But right now, their money, efforts and sympathies are directed towards fighting City Hall (and those developers City Hall enables) because the subways and light rails that were supposed to help mobility are now being eclipsed in their purported purposing to "build affordable housing" and to "promote smart growth".

...even if the affordable housing and smart growth that results from the Casden Sepulveda and Hollywood Millennium projects are neither affordable nor smart.

...even if those who fought Metro and the City (and their neighbors) to build the Expo Line were accused face-to-face of being racist by Alan Casden, one of the most repugnant individuals who's ever lived, because they had the temerity to question the benefits of his money-grab, land-grab, car-oriented residential development where a transit-oriented development should have been.

So as we move forward, and try to get past these horrible debacles, it's doubtful that we can count on a collective amnesia to ask the taxpayers to revisit the almost-passed Measure J and get the Metrorail into LAX, and a Valley-Westside rail project, unless both Metro and the City of LA coughs up a few apologies and policy changes to acknowledge that voters--both rural and urban--deserve to be treated like intelligent human beings who deserve to have their taxes spent appropriately.

And whose taxes don't result in improper planning that both LIMITS mobility and HURTS our collective Economy, Environment and Quality of Life.

Pension reform holds up $2.2 billion in federal transit grants to Metro

Union challenges to new pension law causes feds to freeze local grants for train projects and bus operations


By Steve Scauzillo, August 5. 2013

The federal government is withholding more than $2.2 billion in grants from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority due to complaints filed by labor unions over the state Public Employee Pension Reform Act.

If funding remains frozen in the fall, Metro's board will consider cuts to train and bus service and/or raising fares to make up shortfalls from undelivered operating grants, according to a July memo from Terry Matsumoto, Metro's chief financial services officer.

"The federal monies have been withheld since December. There is only so long we can cover this delay in both business and in capital," said Marc Littman, Metro spokesman.

Federal funding affects three areas: $244 million in operation and maintenance of bus and rail service; $1.3 billion for the Westside Subway Extension project through Beverly Hills to Westwood, and $662 million for the Regional Connector, which will extend the tunnel from the 7th Street/Metro Center station through downtown L.A. to connect the Blue, Expo and Gold lines.

The delay is holding up contracts from being let go, he said. Both rail projects would create about 43,000 jobs, he said.

If the dispute between the state and federal agencies is not resolved within the next few months, Metro fears the competitive federal grants won by the agency will be awarded to transit agencies in other states.

"There is a lot of competition for these," Littman said. "If this is delayed, they could either sit on these monies or they can give them to New York or to Florida or wherever."

Although Metro is the largest transit agency affected, the dispute over pension reform adopted by the Legislature and governor in October and implemented Jan. 1 affects numerous transit agencies across the state, Littman said.

For example, nearby Orange County Transportation Authority is still waiting to hear about $115 million in promised federal funds frozen as a result of the labor dispute. The dispute may curtail new bus purchases, certain bus maintenance programs and delay capital projects.

"Currently we are still awaiting a response from the U.S. Department of Labor," said Laura Scheper, an OCTA spokeswoman, Monday afternoon.

Foothill Transit, the West Covina-based bus agency serving the San Gabriel Valley, did not lose any federal grants, said spokeswoman Felicia Friesema.

Shortly after the pension bill became law, various labor unions representing mass transit workers filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor, basically saying their collective bargaining rights with regards to pension benefits were violated. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 952 in Orange County filed a complaint. In Los Angeles County, the Teamsters and the Amalgamated Transit Union as well as the United Transportation Union locals all filed complaints over the new law with the Department of Labor, Littman explained. None of the unions returned phone calls Monday.

While the state says it needed to rein in unfunded state employee pensions, the unions say the law violates the Federal Transit Act by taking away their rights to bargain for pension benefits. Employees of transit agencies receiving federal funds can file claims that can hold up federal dollars.

Matsumoto told the Metro board at its last meeting that the Department of Labor has not certified Metro "as an eligible recipient for federal grants." The decertification began in December. Also, the Federal Transit Administration has stopped processing new grant applications since that time.

"We are caught in the middle," Littman said. "We are desperately trying to work out a solution."

Staff members were visiting legislators in Sacramento on Monday, he said. In the past, board members have traveled to Washington to try to settle the issue with the federal agencies involved but to no avail.

Daniel Pellissier, president of California Pension Reform, a group that worked with the legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown last fall, said the unions are trying to get the Democratically-controlled Legislature to exempt mass transit employees from rollbacks on pensions that extended the age of retirement, capped retirement awards and required new workers to pay 50 percent of their own pension costs.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, authored legislation that would exempt about 20,000 mass transit workers from the pension reform act in order to free up federal transit funds. That bill is still in committee. Metro has not taken a position on the bill.

Pellissier said federal case law specifically says the workers must abide by state collective bargaining laws and that no federal rights were created. 

"The unions are making a frivolous claim to buy time and jam their own exemption through the Legislature," he wrote by email.

Littman said other states, such as New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin, have passed pension reform laws. Some gave transit workers exemptions.

"That is one option," he said.

On Monday, the California Supreme Court gave Metro some good news. The high court cleared the way for the second and final phase of the Expo Line extension from Culver City to Santa Monica. The court rejected a petition from Neighbors For Smart Rail, an opposition group that claimed the environmental review process was incomplete. That project, separate from the others being considered, may be completed by 2015, according to county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. 

So far, Metro and OCTA have not reached a resolution with their unions or the Department of Labor on the frozen grants.

Garcetti says he wants L.A. to shed its '800-pound gorilla' image


By Catherine Saillant, August 5, 2013

 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti greets the region's neighboring mayors during a gathering at Getty House.

Under a brilliant white canopy, mayors from dozens of Los Angeles County cities gathered on the back lawn at Getty House Monday to talk about public safety, traffic congestion, job creation and how they can better work together to tackle problems.

New Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti invited mayors from the other 87 cities in the county to his ceremonial residence and 63 (including representatives of mayors) showed up. Garcetti said he planned to make such informal get-togethers a regular occurrence during his administration.

“I’ve heard from so many friends in neighboring cities that we act sometimes like the 800-pound gorilla that doesn’t listen,’’ Garcetti said of Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city. “We say, 'It’s our way or the highway,' and you learn to hate L.A. and vice versa. That era is over.”

Monday’s session is an extension of an earlier so-called “listening tour” that the mayor took through city neighborhoods. Garcetti said that his listen-first impulse paid dividends during his 12 years as a city councilman representing Hollywood, Silver Lake and other communities and that he intended to replicate it as mayor.

“If you lay a foundation of leading by listening, I think it strengthens what you can do for the next four years,’’ he said during a brief interview. “These relationships are going to be critical.”
Malibu Mayor Joan House said she’s generally been impressed by Garcetti and thinks the mayor meetings are a great idea.

“Casting a wide net, increasing communication, is crucial,’’ House said.

San Dimas Mayor Curtis W. Morris, who’s been on his city’s council for 33 years and has served as mayor for 17, was more circumspect. “I came because I’m curious,’’ he said. “It’s a good idea, but we’ll see what comes of it.”

After brief remarks, Garcetti’s team broke the officials into groups and conducted rotating 15-minute sessions on jobs, traffic congestion, public safety and how to motivate a workforce after years of job cuts.

Another speaker briefly outlined the upcoming activation of the Affordable Care Act and discussed what cities could do to help residents enroll in a healthcare program. There were several no-shows, including Long Beach, the county’s second-largest city.

The region’s mayors had a lot to say. Several expressed concern about the state requiring local governments to take over responsibility for housing low-level criminal offenders. Others talked about ways to increase voter support for an extension of local transportation taxes, similar to the Measure J ballot question that narrowly failed to gain a required two-thirds majority in November.

Another group of mayors talked about how they could overcome a public view that many local political leaders are corrupt and government workers are overpaid. They agreed that the best tactic was to keep communication with residents open, produce facts and make records easily accessible.
By noon, after a group photo on the Getty House lawn, the event concluded. Garcetti said he would cherry-pick ideas from his counterparts and hoped they would do the same.

“Just because we’re 4 million people [in Los Angeles] doesn’t mean we can’t learn from a city of 20,000,’’ he said.

Credit Rating Agencies Uneasy About Toll Roads as Americans Drive Less


By Tanya Snyder, August 5, 2013

Toll roads aren’t the cash cows they used to be. The assumption that the roads will “pay for themselves” is no longer a reliable one, and credit rating agencies are taking notice.

A toll road through the San Joaquin Hills is getting half the traffic that was expected. Cases like this are making credit analysts nervous. 

In Orange County, California, traffic on the San Joaquín Hills toll road is half what was projected. A recent toll road extension outside of Austin, Texas, is also seeing just half the expected traffic volume, leading the company that oversees the road to cut toll prices in hopes of attracting more “customers.” Moody’s Investor Services has downgraded the company’s credit rating. In the DC suburbs, the Inter-County Connector and new high-occupancy toll lanes along the famously congested Capitol Beltway are both getting far less than half the use that was projected. In San Diego County, the private company that built and operated the South Bay Expressway went into bankruptcy when the cars failed to materialize.

The federal loan program for transportation, TIFIA, now looks at only one criterion when choosing projects. Prohibited from considering public benefit, regional significance, or environmental impact, U.S. DOT staff chooses projects on the basis of credit-worthiness alone. The conventional wisdom holds that toll roads are the natural beneficiaries of this approach, since they include a mechanism for paying the loan back — but stories like those above indicate that that assumption should be re-examined.

Fitch Ratings, one of the Big Three credit rating agencies, warned investors in June that it was concerned about the future profitability of toll roads, given that “Americans have driven less each year since 2004 and those ages 16 to 34 have reduced their driving more than any other age group.”
Fitch analysts cited the groundbreaking report, “A New Direction,” by U.S. PIRG and stated their own belief that “the recession and increase in gas prices only partially explain this broad trend.” They think the shift from suburban to urban living and changes in technology and work patterns mean a more lasting reduction in driving. As such, they state, “caution remains warranted when future projections are the basis for investment.”

“In our view, these trends could have an impact given the U.S.’s current dependence on the user-fee infrastructure development model,” Fitch analysts wrote. “If these reductions persist, greater public subsidies would be required to fund still-needed new projects and provide credit stability.”

Of course, road projects have always required subsidies. Nearly 50 percent of road spending is covered by general taxpayer funds.

A Pedestrian Is Killed in a Traffic Crash in the U.S. Every 2 Hours


By Emily Badger, August 5, 2013

A Pedestrian Is Killed in a Traffic Crash in the U.S. Every 2 Hours

Traffic fatalities in the U.S. have been on a steady decline for nearly a decade, the result of safer cars, (hopefully) safer driver behavior, and laws that enforce seat belt use and crack down on hazards like drunken driving. But even in the midst of that big-picture trend, a small subset of this same data has lately been worrisome: Since 2009, pedestrian fatalities have actually been rising. And compared against national traffic statistics, as riding in cars has gotten safer, this means that pedestrians have grown to represent a larger share of all traffic fatalities in the U.S.

In 2011, pedestrians made up 14 percent of those traffic fatalities, up from 11 percent a decade ago.

According to the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, this suggests a pedestrian is killed in America in a traffic crash every two hours, and injured every eight minutes. Twenty-one percent of children aged 10-15 who die in traffic crashes actually weren't in the car – they were pedestrians.

Citing this data, new Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx unveiled a federal initiative today with a little grant money behind it to try to roll back the rise in pedestrian fatalities (perhaps pedestrian safety will be to Anthony Foxx what distracted driving was to Ray LaHood?). The messaging campaign is built around a line that alternative transportation advocates will find familiar: Whether you drive a car, ride the train, or bike to work, at some point everyone is a pedestrian.

As for the money part: The DOT is offering $2 million in new grant money for 22 cities with pedestrian-fatality records worse than the national average to try out new education and enforcement initiatives. That's not a lot of money to divide many ways. But new federal initiatives with dollars attached are certainly better than PSA campaigns alone.

For some perspective, here is what the trajectory of total traffic fatalities has looked like since 2002, using NHTSA data:

Total Annual FatalitiesTotalFatalities2002200420062008201030,00034,00038,00042,00046,000
Over the same period of time, here are the pedestrian fatalities:

Annual Pedestrian FatalitiesPedestrianFatalities200220042006200820104,0004,2504,5004,7505,000
And the result of those two trends combined:

Percent Pedestrian FatalitiesPercentPedestrian2002200420062008201010.00%11.00%12.00%13.00%14.00%

Majority of U.S. teens delay getting driver's license, report says


August 5, 2013

 Image courtesy AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

The majority of American teens today delay getting a driver's license, according to new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Less than one-half (44%) of teens obtain a driver's license within 12 months of the minimum age for licensing in their state and just over half (54%) are licensed before their 18th birthday, causing concern among safety experts that young adult drivers are missing the benefits intended by graduated drivers licensing (GDL).
These findings mark a significant drop from two decades ago when data showed more than two-thirds of teens were licensed by the time they turned 18.

RELATED: "Young adults driving less, using public transit more."

"With one in three teens waiting to get their license until they turn 18, there's a segment of this generation missing  opportunities to learn under the safeguards that GDL provides," said Peter Kissinger, president/CEO, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "For most, it's about not having a car or having alternatives for getting around that are the top reasons cited for delaying what has traditionally been considered to be a rite of passage."

Contrary to some expectations, survey results suggest that few teens wait until 18 simply to avoid graduated driver licensing. Instead, a number of other reasons for delaying licensure were cited, including:

    44% – Did not have a car
    39% – Could get around without driving
    36% – Gas was too expensive
    36% – Driving was too expensive
    35% – "Just didn't get around to it"

Low-income and minority teens are the least likely to obtain a driver's license before age 18. Only 25% of teens living in households with incomes less than $20,000 obtained their license before they turned 18, while 79% of teens were licensed by their 18th birthday in households with incomes of $100,000 or more. The findings for licensure by age 18 differed significantly by race and ethnicity, with 67% for non-Hispanic white teens, 37% for non-Hispanic black teens and 29% for Hispanic teens.

"For a range of reasons, young adults increasingly are getting licensed without the benefit of parental supervision, extensive practice and gaining experience under less risky conditions that are the hallmark of a safety-focused licensing system," said AAA's Director, state relations, and teen driver issue expert, Justin McNaull. "Researchers and policymakers should examine whether existing state GDL systems — nearly all of which end once a teen turns 18 — can be modified to improve safety for these young adult novice drivers."

AAA has worked for nearly two decades to recommend that all states adopt and enforce a comprehensive three-stage (learner's permit, intermediate/probationary license, full/unrestricted license) graduated driver licensing (GDL) system for novice teen drivers. These programs require minimum holding periods and practice requirements for teens with learner's permits, followed by restricted licenses that limit driving at night or with peer passengers. These requirements help novice drivers safely gain the skills and experience needed to become safe adult drivers.

Previous AAA Foundation research found that states with comprehensive GDL systems have experienced a 38% decrease in fatal crashes involving 16-year-olds and a 40% reduction in injury crashes.

The researchers surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 1,039 respondents ages 18 to 20. The full research report and survey results can be found on the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization.

8 Ways Privatization Has Failed America


By Paul Buchheit, August 5, 2013


Some of America's leading news analysts are beginning to recognize the fallacy of the "free market." Said Ted Koppel, "We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another." Fareed Zakaria admitted, "I am a big fan of the free market...But precisely because it is so powerful, in places where it doesn't work well, it can cause huge distortions." They're right. A little analysis reveals that privatization doesn't seem to work in any of the areas vital to the American public.

Health Care

Our private health care system is by far the most expensive system in the developed world. Forty-two percent of sick Americans skipped doctor's visits and/or medication purchases in 2011 because of excessive costs. The price of common surgeries is anywhere from three to ten times higher in the U.S. than in Great Britain, Canada, France, or Germany. Some of the documented tales: a $15,000 charge for lab tests for which a Medicare patient would have paid a few hundred dollars; an $8,000 special stress test for which Medicare would have paid $554; and a $60,000 gall bladder operation, which was covered for $2,000 under a private policy.

As the examples begin to make clear, Medicare is more cost-effective. According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, Medicare administrative costs are about one-third that of private health insurance. More importantly, our ageing population has been staying healthy. While as a nation we have a shorter life expectancy than almost all other developed countries, Americans covered by Medicare INCREASED their life expectancy by 3.5 years from the 1960s to the turn of the century.

Free-market health care has been taking care of the CEOs. Ronald DePinho, president of MD
Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, made $1,845,000 in 2012. That's over ten times as much as the $170,000 made by the federal Medicare Administrator in 2010. Stephen J. Hemsley, the CEO of United Health Group, made three hundred times as much, with most of his $48 million coming from stock gains.


A Citigroup economist gushed, "Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals."

A 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services. A more recent study confirms that privatization will generally "increase the long-term costs borne by the public." Privatization is "shortsighted, irresponsible and costly."

Numerous examples of water privatization abuses or failures have been documented in California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island -- just about anywhere it's been tried. Meanwhile, corporations have been making outrageous profits on a commodity that should be almost free. Nestle buys water for about 1/100 of a penny per gallon, and sells it back for ten dollars. Their bottled water is not much different from tap water.

Worse yet, corporations profit from the very water they pollute. Dioxin-dumping Dow Chemicals is investing in water purification. Monsanto has been accused of privatizing its own pollution sites in order to sell filtered water back to the public.

Internet, TV, and Phone

It seems the whole world is leaving us behind on the Internet. According to the OECD, South Korea has Internet speeds up to 200 times faster than the average speed in the U.S., at about half the cost. Customers are charged about $30 a month in Hong Kong or Korea or parts of Europe for much faster service than in the U.S., while triple-play packages in other countries go for about half of our Comcast or AT&T charges.

Bloomberg notes that deregulators in the 1990s anticipated a market-based decline in phone and cable bills, an "invisible hand" that would steer competing companies to lower prices for all of us. Verizon and AT&T and Comcast and Time-Warner haven't let it happen.


As Republicans continue to deride public transportation as 'socialist' and 'Soviet-style,' China surges ahead with a plan to create the world's most advanced high-speed rail transport network. Government-run high-speed rail systems have been successful in numerous other countries, and England and Brazil both lament industry privatization.

As a warning to wannabe Post Office privatizers, Greyhound and Trailways once provided service to remote locations in America, but deregulation intervened. The bus companies eliminated unprofitable routes, and cutbacks and salary decreases, all in the name of optimal profits, resulted in drivers working up to 100 hours a week -- a fact to consider any time each of us ride the bus.

With privatization comes automatic rate increases. Chicago surrendered its parking meters for 75 years and almost immediately faced a doubling of parking rates. California's experiments with roadway privatization resulted in cost overruns, public outrage, and a bankruptcy; equally disastrous was the state's foray into electric power privatization. In Pennsylvania, an analysis of school busing by the Keystone Research Center concluded that "Contracting out substantially increases state spending on transportation services."


The industry is bloated with deceit and depravity. Almost all of the big names have taken part. Goldman Sachs designed mortgage packages to lose money for everyone except Goldman. Countrywide and Wells Fargo targeted Blacks and Hispanics for unaffordable subprime loans. HSBC Bank laundered money for Mexican drug cartels. GE Capital skimmed billions of dollars from its customers. Dozens of hedge fund managers have been guilty of insider trading. Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase hid billions of dollars of bonuses and losses and loans from investors. Banks fixed interest rates in the LIBOR scandal. They illegally foreclosed on millions of homeowners in the robo-signing scandal.

Matt Taibbi explained to us how financial malfeasance led to the bubbles in dot-com stocks and housing and oil prices and commodities that extract trillions of dollars away from society.

This is all the result of free-market deregulated private business. The best-known public bank, on the other hand, is the Bank of North Dakota, which remains profitable while serving small business and the public at low cost relative to the financial industry.


One would think it a worthy goal to rehabilitate prisoners and gradually empty the jails. But business is too good. With each prisoner generating up to $40,000 a year in revenue, it has apparently made economic sense to put over two million people behind bars.

The need to fill privatized prisons has contributed to mass jailings for drug offenses, with African Americans, who make up 13% of the population, accounting for 53.5 percent of all persons who entered prison because of a drug conviction. Yet marijuana usage rates are about the same for Blacks and whites.

Studies show that private prisons perform poorly in numerous ways: prevention of intra-prison violence, jail conditions, rehabilitation efforts. Investigations in Ohio and New Jersey revealed a familiar pattern of money-saving cutbacks and worsening conditions.


The notion that charter schools outperform traditional public schools is not supported by the facts. An updated 2013 Stanford University CREDO study concluded that privatized schools were slightly better in reading and slightly worse in math, with little difference overall. Charter results have shown an improvement since 2009.

An independent study by Bold Approach found that "reforms deliver few benefits, often harm the students they purport to help, and divert attention from...policies with more promise to weaken the link between poverty and low educational attainment."

Just as with prisons and hospitals, cost-saving business strategies apply to the privatization of our children's education. Charter school teachers have fewer years of experience and a higher turnover rate. Non-teacher positions have insufficient retirement plans and health insurance, and much lower pay.

If big money has its way, our children may become high-tech symbols and objects. Bill Gates proposes quality control for the student assembly line, with video footage from the classrooms sent to evaluators to check off teaching skills.
Consumer Protection

Warning signs about unregulated privatization are becoming clearer and more deadly. The Texas fertilizer plant, where 14 people were killed in an explosion and fire, was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over 25 years ago. The U.S. Forest Service, stunned by the Prescott, Arizona fire that killed 19, was forced by the sequester to cut 500 firefighters. The rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec followed deregulation of Canadian railways.

Regulation is meant to protect all of us, but anti-government activists have worked hard to turn us against our own best interests. Among recommended Republican cuts is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which rescued hundreds of people after Hurricane Sandy while serving millions more with meals and water. In another ominous note for the future, the House passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, which would deny the Environmental Protection Agency the right to enforce the Clean Water Act.

Deregulation not only deprives Americans of protection, but it also endangers us with the persistent threat of corporate misconduct. As late as 2004 Monsanto had insisted that Agent Orange "is not the cause of serious long-term health effects." Dow Chemical, the co-manufacturer of Agent Orange, blamed the government. Halliburton pleaded guilty to destroying evidence after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. Cleanups cost much more than the fines imposed on offending companies, as government costs can run into the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars.

People vs. Profits

As summed up by US News, "Private industry is not going to step in and save people from drowning, or help them rebuild their homes without a solid profit." In order to stay afloat as a nation we need each other, not savvy businesspeople who presume to tell us all how to be rich. We can't all be rich. We just want to keep from drowning.

A Los Angeles that was never built, and one still to come: Larry Wilson


By Larry Wilson, August 3, 2013

Can something that was planned but never built in Southern California still affect us? Of course it can, unless you are a relentlessly practical type who pretends to ignore what haunts our dreams.

And thus it was a huge collective sigh that escaped from many in the sold-out audience at last week's Aloud program on "Never Built Los Angeles" at the L.A. Public Library when panelists put up a slide of Olmsted Brothers and Bartholemew's neglected 1930 greenspace scheme that would have created five times more park space than the Southland has today, linking all of Southern California with corridors of meadows and trees.

Dreams don't have to go up; they can spread out across the landscape. What a missed opportunity that one was. How that plan would have improved millions of lives, then and now.

But we live in that now, and we've got some good stuff, otherwise many of us wouldn't choose to be here. Yet a person can still dream of what might have been.

And what ought not have been as well. Not every plan is a good one. As the library's Maureen Moore said in introducing the program, "many of the unbuilt projects were in fact disasters averted." Perhaps we didn't need what moderator Alan Hess called the otherwise estimable Lloyd Wright's "Mesoamerican fascist architecture" in his overly planned plan for downtown L.A.

But the original Pereira and Luckman plan for LAX, an airport no one loves, would have expanded its only great feature, the space-age "Theme Building," into a massive central domed terminal enclosed entirely in glass, and the artist's rendering is very cool indeed. Though that was one of its problems -- no one could figure out how to air-condition it.

And though I remembered hearing that when Walt Disney was originally envisioning Disneyland in the early 1950s, Anaheim had nothing to do with it. He hoped to put up the amusement park just east of Buena Vista alongside the L.A. River, and the drawings, which are now on view at the "Never Built" exhibit at the Architecture + Design Museum on Wilshire, show that it could have been very nice indeed. Instead, the Burbank City Council rejected the idea out of hand, saying it didn't want to have a "carny atmosphere" near its, uh, beautiful downtown.

Los Angeles has never been big on the kind of central planning that fueled the look and feel of Chicago and New York, and that was for a reason -- those who came West wanted very much not to be in those places. It's in several ways a blessing that Los Angeles' weak mayor system and intentionally almost powerless Planning Department doesn't allow for the sweeping vision of Manhattan's Robert Moses, the development czar who did just as he wanted with little public input. As Hess said, the dream of L.A. residents was "the idea of suburbia where everyone would have their own bit of greenspace: in their backyard." Show co-curator Greg Goldin spoke of the inevitable "tension between the horizontal and vertical" in planning Los Angeles County -- "and we know which won." Still, high rises happened, downtown and along Wilshire. Goldin added: "Downtown ... still sees itself as the center of this metropolis. ... Torrance," though, "still sees itself as the center of this metropolis!"

We can still fix what ails us, development-wise. The real problem with LAX is not the lack of a dome. It's the lack of rapid transit to get us there, even if we blew a 1920s plan for subways.

And the very good news, as visionary landscape architect Mia Lehrer said: "Rivers and streams are having a comeback" in the new Los Angeles, reflective of "our desire, and of our big ideas."

There is an unbuilt L.A. still worth creating, now and in our children's future.

A Bridge not too far – 10 LA Bridges with Big Parade LA


July 23, 2013

When one wants to explore the city of Los Angeles and learn about it’s culture, history and interesting past – you need to look no further than the cities chief pedestrian, Dan Koeppel.  Dan has been leading groups of people on walks up stairs, down hills, through tunnels and overpasses for years and I have had the opportunity to join his organize walks in the city I love.

Most articles that talk about Dan and his walks always start with the Cliche “Nobody walks in LA”, well we will spare you the silly reference to a missing persons song and just say that Dan has shown us that walking in LA is a look into the past and future of LA and requires very little but a sense of adventure and your two feet.   The Big Parade LA is the perennial event that Dan puts on each year that explores the stairs of Los Angeles that are a bygone connection of LA’s past to public transportation.  Last week he lead a group of walkers around Los Angeles on his 10 LA bridges walk.  KCET published a good primer on the 10 LA Bridges walk including the organization, way points, rules and structure in addition to an homage to Will Campbell who’s 10 bridges bike ride was in part an inspiration for this walk.

Having lived near Downtown Los Angeles I was very familiar with the bridges that connect the eastside to the city center.  Most of the time I ride my bike across these spans to get to NELA and environs and have had the opportunity to join one of Will Campbell’s aforementioned bike rides.
 Biking these bridges is certainly a harrowing experience, only one bridge has any biking related facilities and so you must share a lane on a narrow bridge with cars getting up to highway speeds.  Walking was the perfect mode to experience the bridges and take time to admire structures, features and the history.

It’s Chinatown Jake

The weather gods were smiling upon us on Saturday morning as the overcast sky provided much needed shade from the hot sun.  The meeting point was Chinatown Goldline Metro station.  Many of Dan’s walks include public transportation options from the start and ending points giving options to leave the car at home.  The commitment to public transit is important to highlight that Los Angeles is a city that is explorable even thought it covers a lot of square miles.  Dan has proven with his model that walking and riding transportation is fun and not that scary once you get the hang of the system.
As the group gathered I saw some familiar faces that I have seen on Dan’s previous walks and we all got our big hats, bottles of water and sunscreen organized for a fun day.  About 35 walkers joined from the start, but Dan organizes these walks so well that he has options to join in at any time.   Working north to south we did a zig zag pattern over the Los Angeles river.

The walk along Broadway through Chinatown offered city views from NELA, East LA and DTLA.  Once we got to our first bridge a surprise visit from city councilman Tom LeBonge as he pulled over to greet the group.  I am not sure what he said as I was a little behind taking pictures of the Goldline and DTLA which from the Broadway bridge is a premium view.  Once LeBonge finished his photo op, Dan started to discuss the history of the bridges in Los Angeles city and pointed out some details and facts of the Broadway bridge.  I wasn’t taking notes as I wanted just to enjoy the day so I will provide some links for the facts: KCET again has some good resources on the history of the bridges.
The walk covered 10 of the 27 bridges and as we made our way over Boadway to Sping St and then over Main street my reflection turned to the city we don’t see.  The city seen from a slower pace opens up.  When in our cars or even on a bike the city seems to be a Monet painting up close, but as you step back and slow down, we see the city unfold in front of us.  A piece of street art, a old sign, details of the old buildings stand out as you can focus and enjoy.


As the crow flies there are not a lot of miles between Broadway, the northern point of the walk and Olympic, the southern, but with the river, railroad, warehouses and freeways in the way it is hard to make a straight line path so we must zig and zag.  One of my favorite bridges oddly enough is one of the most nondescript and overlooked.  The Main st bridge is on the shorter side and really is not as sexy as some of the other bridges, but I like this bridge because it is the only one that is at grade with the railroad tracks.  So crossing the bridge you get views of the rail lines from north to south which to me is a interesting aspect of that bridge.

PED Crossing 

Broadway, Spring, Main to 1st we moved along at a good pace stopping to admire the neighboring bridges and learn a little about the one we were on.  Walking on bridges is certainly not an ideal pedestrian experience.  High curbs, narrow sidewalks, trash, broken glass and other road and human remnants make walking on these bridges less than ideal.  In addition cars get up to speed so you have racing cars to add to the mix.  Between the bridges were stretches of roads where we would cross over or under the freeway system, which to me is an even poorer pedestrian experience.  Cars speeding on a freeway makes a lot of noise and I notice it hard to hold conversations with my walk mates as we made our way.  So certainly these areas are not ideal for pedestrians, but the walk was certainly worth the noise.

As the walk moved on to the numbered street bridges, we entered Boyle Heights and were treated to Prospect park, Mariachi Plaza and Hollenbeck park as well as old interesting houses in various states of repair.  I’ve biked through these areas many times, but walking lets you see the people and houses and streets – it lets you be human.

A Bridge too far

After lunch we continued on 4th and then 6th streets both paramount in Los Angeles as the 4th st bridge is the link that Ciclavia has been using to connect the east side to DTLA and the 6th street bridge for it’s iconic status and views.  6th street was the end of the line for me.  I wanted to complete the cycle, but my feet were not accommodating.  With the 18 Metro bus stop in view I got my TAP card ready for a short ride to DTLA to catch the Redline.  The other Brave walkers continued on to 7th street and Olympic before heading over 4th street at Lorena and ending the walk at the Indiana Goldline station.

Overall this was a great experience.  Dan does a really good job of organizing and executing his walks.  The people are friendly and the history is interesting.  Here is the route the walk took, in all about 14 miles and change.

To learn more about the walks or the Big Parade LA you can check out the Facebook page or follow them on twitter.

Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan Community Meeting


August 2, 2013

With Metro’s purchase of Union Station the question became how can the transit agency improve and enhance the station’s functionality without ruining the historic station and it’s grand architecture.  I really didn’t have a vision of what Union Station could be, I have always seen the iconic station as a fixed structure that only minor improvements could be made.  Prior to yesterday’s meeting which can been seen archived here, I have not payed much attention to the planning process.

Metro’s project site does a good job of laying out the project goals and timeline of the current process.  In last night’s meeting metro staff and project consultants highlighted the past milestones of the project and the path forward to finalizing the master plan.  The project presentation worked through some of the alternative options that would improve transit connections, neighborhood connections, public space and programming and streetscape.

My first impression was positive as metro did a good job of outlining these goals and presenting solutions with a vision of a transit hub and community anchor that would be a place of efficient travel connections and destination in of itself.

The main issue right now is transit connections and their inefficiency.  Metro does a good job in highlighting the problem in this slide:


As you can see the purple groups are bus connections with all happen at the perimeter of the property where bus stops and streets are dark and uninviting and are far away from other transit connections like rail and subway.  Metro highlighted that Vignes and Ceasar Chavez get as many boardings as Patsaouras transit plaza yet the experience waiting for the bus is far from ideal on that corner.   To improve this they have proposed a central bus terminal that is central to transit connections and is a more inviting space to wait for the bus.  Executing this part of the plan would go a long way in making Union Station a far better transit hub than it is now.

Connections in front, in back and to surrounding neighborhoods is also a priority.  The current access outside the station is far from ideal and metro has addressed this with improved streetscape to Olvera street and improving the space in front by removing parking and making better use of open space.  Again a move that would connect the station better for pedestrians is good for everyone.  In addition, they talked about programming these public spaces to make Union Station more of a community hub.  I liken this to what Grand Park is doing by adding value with events and programs that appeal to the area.  Using Union station for other than just a place to get a train or bus is a great idea.

The major component to the plan is the improved passenger concourse which is the heart of the connections to transit, retail and public space.  Right now the concourse is narrow and dark running under the existing tracks.  Metro has 2 visions of improvement.  One is a North/South concourse located between the historic station and the current alignment of tracks with a bus terminal to the north along Ceasar Chavez.  The other is a East alignment that would wither go over/under that tracks with the bus terminal in a more central location.  Both approaches seem to make vast improvements, however from a connection standpoint the east/west concourse makes the most sense.  In either option the idea is an open concept with natural light and good flow for pedestrians and transit connections.


Overall I think metro has done a good job in taking broad brush strokes for the master plan.  Certainly they have done the work by studying usage and travel patterns and have envision plans that will certainly improve Union Station without harming the historic character.  Of course with Metro there is always the caveat.  No mention of funding or cost was presented with these initial offerings.  Certainly this early it is hard to knock out a budget, but the master plan will require the proper execution if they want to make this a world class transit hub and destination.  It is a long process so we will have to see if Metro and its partners can deliver.

I would encourage everyone to take a look at the presentation and website.

Culver City Council: Assign Police Patrols to Ballona Creek Bike Path


Petition by Nancy Adzentoivich, August 5, 2013

There have been increasing incidents of cyclists being attacked while riding on the Ballona Creek Bike Path. Most recently (as reported by the Culver City Patch), a man was made to crash while three men attempted to steal his bicycle. The man has been in the UCLA Medical Center for several days recovering from serious injuries sustained from the incident.
Many Culver City residents use the bike path to get their daily exercise, commute to work, walk their dogs, take family rides to the beach and to run and train for events. We should all feel safe using this beautiful car-free path as one of the perks of living in Culver City.
Jeffrey Cooper, Mayor, Culver City
Meghan Sahli-Wells, Vice Mayor, Culver City
Jim B. Clarke, Councilmember, Culver City
Micheál O' Leary, Councilmember, Culver City
Andrew Weissman, Councilmember, Culver City
Assign Police Patrols to Ballona Creek Bike Path!

Citizens have been robbed and attacked while enjoying the natural beauty of the Ballona Creek Bike Path. As a responsible community we must do what we can to ensure the safety of the many, many people, both young and old, who frequent this unique outdoor amenity of Culver City.

There have reportedly been increasing incidents of cyclists being attacked while riding on the Ballona Creek Bike Path. Most recently (as reported by the Culver City Patch), a man was made to crash while three men attempted to steal his bicycle. The man has been in the UCLA Medical Center for several days recovering from serious injuries sustained from the incident. The three assailants remain at large.

Many Culver City residents use the bike path to get their daily exercise, commute to work, walk their dogs, take family rides to the beach and to run and train for events. We should all feel safe using this beautiful car-free path - one of the perks of living in Culver City.

Please take some time to consider ways to make the bike path safer for all. Whether that be through increased police patrols, the addition of surveillance cameras or limiting access from certain points along the way, something must be done to increase the safety of our community.

The Ballona Creek Bike Path is a great selling point to people interested in relocating to our community. What a nice idea it is to gather up the family on a weekend morning to take a group ride to the Marina! We just invested funds to beautify the path along the Library and Elementary school. Let's not see that investment go to waste.

This is a serious concern and a serious health and safety risk to the now and future citizens of Culver City. Please put this on the agenda for a future Council meeting with some ideas for addressing the issue. 
[Your name] 

Go to website to sign petition.

Deadly Year for European Rail Still Safer Than the American Average


By Angie Schmitt, August 5, 2013

Does the recent train derailment in Spain, which killed 79 people, justify America’s onerous approach to regulating rail safety?

Annual fatalities on European passenger trains. Image: Systemic Failure via Eurostat

Millions of passenger kilometers traveled annually on European trains. Image: ##http://systemicfailure.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/quick-statistical-analysis-of-recent-european-rail-accidents/## Systemic Failure via Eurostat##
Millions of passenger kilometers traveled annually on European trains. Image: Systemic Failure via Eurostat

Federal Railroad Administration safety rules are designed to maximize “crashworthiness,” making U.S. passenger trains heavier and more expensive that their counterparts in European, where the safety approach is based on crash avoidance.

So what do we have to show for it? Not only is our passenger rail system less competitive, it’s also less safe, according to these calculations from Network blog Systemic Failure:
Even taking into account recent accidents, there is nothing especially dangerous about European trains.

Let’s assume that 2013 will be an historically bad year. In addition to the Spain and Paris crashes, there will be 89 other fatalities (89 being the highest recorded in the Eurostat database) — for a total of 174 fatalities. Even taking that into account, I calculate the overall fatality rate would be around .38 fatalities per billion passenger miles.

How does that compare to the FRA’s “World’s Safest” trains? Well, Amtrak has averaged .4 fatalities per billion passenger miles.
Also, just a reminder: Amtrak is still much safer than car travel. In the U.S. there are about 1.1 traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled [PDF] — making driving more than 20 times more deadly than rail.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment explains that Wisconsin DOT plans to destroy 11 acres of county land, which is currently forestland and butterfly sanctuaries, to crush gravel for its controversial $1.7 billion Zoo Interchange project. Carfree USA reports that Rome has moved to ban cars on some roads near the Coliseum. And Streets.mn says something’s off with Minneapolis’s newest transit plans.

Breaking: In Split Decision, California Supreme Court Gives Expo the O.K.


By Damien Newton, August 5, 2013

 It's over.

It’s official, Neighbors for Smart Rail is out of legal options. Earlier this morning, the California Supreme Court upheld rulings by every other court that has looked at the case and ruled that the Expo Construction Authority and Metro did not violate California environmental laws when creating the environmental documents for Phase II of the Expo Line.

Expo Phase II is an eight mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

Two lower courts and the California Public Utilities Commission ruled that the Expo Construction Authority (Expo) acted properly basing their traffic studies on future conditions instead of current conditions. However, attorneys for NFSR pointed to two cases Madera Oversight Coalition, Inc. v. County of Madera (5th District Court of Appeals, 2011) and Sunnyvale West Neighborhood Assn. v. City of Sunnyvale City Council (6th District Court of Appeals, 2010where state appellate courts ruled that agencies cannot use future conditions as a baseline when evaluating the environmental impacts of proposed projects.

For its part, Metro/Expo seemed unconcerned about the court case. While the Supreme Court refused to order a construction stay while it deliberated, Metro was so unconcerned it hired everything from general contractors to artists to complete the rail line.

Streetsblog will continue to update this story as reaction comes in from today’s Supreme Court decision and the actual decision becomes available for public review.

More at:  http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/08/05/breaking-in-split-decision-california-supreme-court-gives-expo-the-o-k/#more-86107

First phase of gate latching complete


By Anna Chen, August 5, 2013

Gates will be latched today at 7th/Metro, which concludes the first phase of gate latching. Here’s the press release from Metro:
The first phase of gate latching throughout the 16-station Metro’s Red/Purple line concludes today with operations at the 7th Street/Metro Center subway station, a process that began June 19 at Union Station to bring greater convenience, accountability and efficiency to all Metro riders.

Gate latching requires passengers to use a TAP card loaded with appropriate fare to pass through turnstiles at rail stations. TAP helps to strengthen fare enforcement and is utilized as fare media on eleven other transportation providers including Metrolink, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Antelope Valley, Torrance, Foothill and Montebello. By the end of 2014 a total of 25 carriers will be a part of TAP creating, for the first time, a seamless, regional transit system.

“Now that latching operations on Metro’s subway are being completed, we’ll soon start latching procedures on five stations on the Gold Line, which serves commuters from Pasadena to East Los Angeles,” said David Sutton, deputy executive officer of TAP for Metro. “Metro will be installing new gate help telephones at all latched Gold Line locations and the schedule calls for everything to be completed by October 14.”

Metro is analyzing data to determine if gate latching has affected fare evasion, ridership and safety with a report to the board of directors expected later this fall.

Metro and its transit partners have been rolling out TAP for several years and in addition to tracking fares, TAP gathers data on passenger usage so service can be adjusted to demand.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies and civilian security personnel provide added security on board trains and buses as well as at transit facilities and stations. They randomly check patrons on trains and stations using electronic fare checkers to ensure proper payment is made. With the new fare gating system in place, Metro can better monitor passenger flow and usage of rail stations.

Following latching on the Gold Line, 14 stations on the Metro Green line and six stations on the Metro Blue Line are scheduled to be latched by February, 2014. Because of size limitations on platforms and other engineering concerns, not all stations can be latched. Metro officials note that the stations are closely monitored from the Rail Operations Center and in the event of any equipment failures or other issues, gates can be unlatched remotely.  The gates also can be accessed by customers in wheelchairs. Extra customer support representatives are assigned at 7th Street/Metro Center to provide assistance.

Metro has 87 miles of track on six rail lines with nearly 360,000 daily boardings, including many long-distance Metrolink commuters who transfer at Union Station.