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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Study finds walking under the influence of a cellphone can result in injury or death


By Zen Vuong, August 8, 2013

A lady talks on the phone while pushing a stroller across Colorado Blvd at Fair Oaks Ave. The U.S. Department of Transportation said the number of pedestrian deaths has been on the rise in the last two years.

PASADENA - For the most part police officers don't ticket pedestrians walking under the influence of a mobile device.

An estimated 2 million injuries each year are the result of walking and talking, texting or fiddling with a cellphone, according to a study authored by Jack Nasar, a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University.

It's Nasar's third study of what he calls "distracted walking."

"When talking on a cellphone, you have distracted attention," Nasar said. "While your body may be in the environment, your head is somewhere else. When texting, your eyes aren't even in the environment."

For his most recent study, Nasar's team of researchers analyzed six years of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The system samples injury reports from 100 U.S. hospitals.

The study found that people under 30 -- especially males -- were more prone to cellphone-related injuries. The study will be published in Accident Analysis & Prevention journal.

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that about 4,430 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2011, an 8 percent increase since 2009.

As a result of its findings, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday it is offering $2 million to 22 of the nation's most deadly cities for pedestrians.

Among the worst: Los Angeles, San Francisco,

Stockton and San Diego.
 The money can be used for education or enforcement initiatives similar to a plan the Utah Transit Authority approved in March 2012 after a "rash of train accidents," The Salt Lake Tribune reported. As a result, residents of Utah face $50 fines for distracted walking near rail lines. Repeat offenses could cost $100.

Among road deaths nationwide, pedestrians accounted for 14 percent of traffic fatalities in 2011, a 3 percent increase over 2010, the NHTSA reported.

Nationally, a pedestrian is injured every 8 minutes and another dies every two hours, the NHTSA said.

Chris Cortes, who works in Pasadena, said he sees people using mobile devices and walking in public all the time. By his own admission, being distracted has caused Cortes to walk into bolted-down chairs on a corporate plaza because he was texting or talking on the phone.

Communicating through a handheld device isn't the same as talking to someone in the same room or car, Nasar said.

"Imagine you're in a car and driving, and you're about to hit something," he said. "The person next to you says something: They hit synthetic breaks (because) the two of you are actually in the environment."

People cross at the diagonal along Colorado Blvd and De Lacey Ave. some looking at their smart phone or talking as they walk. The U.S. Department of Transportation said the number of pedestrian deaths has been on the rise in the last two years.
 Nasar analyzed instances where cellphone use in public places put people into hospitals.
For example, a 14-year-old boy suffered chest and shoulder injuries because he fell off a 7-foot bridge into a rock-strewn ditch, the study said. Then there was the 23-year-old man who was hit by a car while chatting it up on his phone as he walked down the middle of a street.

In Nasar's study, data revealed that the number of cellphone-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms went from about 560 in 2004 to about 1,500 in 2010 even though the total number of pedestrians treated in emergency rooms dropped.

While the study's 2 million injuries finding is an extrapolated number partially based on car-related mobile phone injuries, Nasar said he imagines the real number is even larger.

"If you have an accident -- let's say you fall while you're having a conversation on a cellphone -- because of health care, many people won't go to the hospital," Nasar said. "Even people with insurance would probably go to their primary care doctor," so the emergency room data is a conservative estimate, he added.

Other studies have also confirmed Nasar's assessment of the danger of distracted walking.

Many people do not pay attention when they cross the street because of mobile devices, according to a University of Washington observational study published in December 2012. While most people they saw obeyed traffic light laws, only one in four pedestrians followed the full safety routine, including looking both ways before crossing, the study found.

Helen Han, a North Hollywood resident, said she uses her cellphone in courtyards and on sidewalks, but always puts it away when she's around oncoming traffic.

"I want to make sure I know where I'm walking toward," said Han, 23. "I want to make sure if I see cars around me."

But Han may be part of a minority. A woman pushing a baby stroller with two other kids in tow crossed Lake Avenue Wednesday afternoon with a cellphone tucked between her shoulder and ear.
Anywhere people go, they inevitably see pedestrians who are clueless about their surroundings because of a mobile device, Cortes said.

Consequently in 2011, cities such as Birmingham, Ala.; Waco, Texas; and Hesperia, Calif., had the highest pedestrian fatality rates. On the other hand, places such as Moreno Valley, Calif.; Glendale, Calif.; and Syracuse, N.Y., were deemed safest for walkers, according to the NHTSA.

People cross at the diagonal along Colorado Blvd and De Lacey Ave. some looking at their smart phone or talking as they walk. The U.S. Department of Transportation said the number of pedestrian deaths has been on the rise in the last two years.

MyFigueroa! Plan for LA’s First Protected Bike Lanes Clears Environmental Review


By Damien Newton, August 8, 2013


 The future Figeuroa Street?

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning released the Final Environmental Impact Report for the South Figueroa Streetscape Project (MyFigueroa!). The $20 million MyFigueroa! Project will bring Los Angeles its first protected bike lanes and a transit-only lane while removing some street parking and mixed-use travel lanes.

“As the first such protected bicycle facility in the City, the Figueroa Streetscape Project is a great opportunity to realize a truly multi-modal vision for our City streets, and will serve to attract a broader range of Angelenos into the emerging bicycle network,” writes David Somers with City Planning.

MyFigueroa! is a plan to create Los Angeles’ first Complete Street or Living Street. The project area includes four miles of streets that stretch from downtown L.A.  to South Los Angeles: Figueroa Street from 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles to 41st Street, just south of Exposition Park; 11th Street from Figueroa Street east to Broadway in the South Park neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles; and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Figueroa Street west to Vermont Avenue, on the south edge of Exposition Park. 

Different parts of the project will see different road improvements. For more details, visit the MyFigueroa! website.
Community groups, tra
ffic safety organizations, and residents have voiced overwhelming support for the plan both through written public comment and at community forums. However, the plan has proven controversial with businesses along the corridor, including car dealerships, and the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA).

As you might expect, the businesses are concerned that by balancing the needs of all road users, it will be less convenient for car drivers to get to their businesses. By design, many of the people doing business at a car dealership will be driving to it. So why South Figueroa? Somers explains that the importance of the corridor as a connector between Downtown Los Angeles and South Los Angeles makes it the perfect location.

“The location is appropriate as a first of its type, in that the project connects USC and Downtown, two areas with great potential to support low-cost beneficial travel options, as well as greater local economic activity,” he continues.

Original MyFigueroa! project plans included even bolder changes to the streetscape, including increased space for pedestrians and outdoor seating areas for businesses. However, after initial public comment in 2010 and 2011, these plans were dropped for the current plans. 

As we’ve seen with other attempts to mollify critics of progressive transportation, compromise doesn’t satisfy them. Despite the compromise changes, the Shammas Group, which owns automobile retailers along the corridor threatens to not go forward with a $20 million expansion project if the project goes forward. The Shammas Group’s comments can be read on pages 40-42 of this document.

While the release of the Final Environmental Impact Report is a good sign that the project is moving forward, it faces one opponent larger than AAA and car dealerships: time. The project is funded through funds from State Proposition C, and funding is default if the project has not completed construction by the end of December, 2014. LADOT and the project team are confident it remains on track to completion, but any significant delay could prove fatal.

Both former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Council Member Jan Perry, who represent the corridor, were vocally supportive of the project. Their successors, Eric Garcetti and Curren Price, have not formally weighed in either in support or opposition.

Designer plants a garden on roof of bus


August 8, 2013

It could be the ultimate in carbon-neutral motoring: a garden on the roof of your car. For the moment, however, it’s on the roof of a bus in Spain.

The “autocultural” single-decker has small shrubs and herbs sprouting from its roof. It can be watered naturally or better still, this being the blazing hot city of Girona, near Barcelona, by water from the vehicle’s air conditioning system.

The greenery is planted in a lightweight hydroponic foam that retains moisture and nutrients for the plants. It is attached to a stainless steel mesh that prevents the planted surface from shifting if the bus brakes suddenly.

The concept, called Phyto Kinetic, was created and designed by landscape artist Marc Granen. “My mission is to expand the garden area in urban environments, increase the absorption of CO2 and give public transport a new ecological and tourist attraction,” he said.

A bus company in Barcelona is considering adopting Granen’s idea – that is, if it can find enough green-fingered drivers.

Wireless charging electric bus debuts in South Korea


August 8, 2013

 A wireless electric bus, capable of being charged while stationary or driving, made its debut in South Korean city of Gumi this week.

The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV), developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), removes the need to stop at a charging station.  

RELATED: "German bus system to test Bombardier electric charging tech."

Two OLEV buses will run an inner city route between Gumi Train Station and In-dong district, for a total of 24 km roundtrip. The bus will receive 20 kHz and 100 kW (136 hp) electricity at an 85% maximum power transmission efficiency rate while maintaining a 17cm air gap between the underbody of the vehicle and the road surface.

OLEV receives power wirelessly through the application of the “Shaped Magnetic Field in Resonance (SMFIR)” technology. This is a new technology introduced by KAIST that enables electric vehicles to transfer electricity wirelessly from the road surface while moving. Power comes from the electrical cables buried under the surface of the road, creating magnetic fields. There is a receiving device installed on the underbody of the OLEV that converts these fields into electricity. The length of power strips installed under the road is generally 5% to15% of the entire road, requiring only a few sections of the road to be rebuilt with the xembedded cables.

The OLEV battery is one-third of the size of the battery from a regular electric car. The vehicle complies with the international electromagnetic fields (EMF) standards of 62.5 mG, within the margin of safety level necessary for human health. The road has a smart function as well, to distinguish OLEV buses from regular cars — the segment technology is employed to control the power supply by switching on the power strip when OLEV buses pass along, but switching it off for other vehicles, thereby preventing EMF exposure and standby power consumption. As of today, the SMFIR technology supplies 60 kHz and 180 kW of power remotely to transport vehicles at a stable, constant rate.

After the successful operation of the two OLEV buses by the end of this year, Gumi City plans to provide ten more such buses by 2015.

Bus travel is picking up, aided by discount operators


By Theodore Schleifer, August 7, 2013

Megabus on JFK Boulevard. Greyhound has learned from discounters' success: It now offers point-to-point, less-hassle, lower-price services.

 Megabus on JFK Boulevard. Greyhound has learned from discounters' success: It now offers point-to-point, less-hassle, lower-price services.

Intercity bus service has steadily grown nationally and in Philadelphia over the last five years, industry experts say, reversing a slow half-century decline across the nation.

Discount city-to-city operators, such as BoltBus and Megabus, came to Philadelphia in 2008 and have disrupted the local market dominance of Greyhound Lines. Changes here mirror trends across the nation, where the number of trips by discount carriers rocketed 30.6 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Discount operators' success has catapulted the bus industry forward. Bus traffic grew 7.5 percent between the end of 2011 and 2012, a drastic change from the average decline of nearly 1.5 percent between 1960 and 1980 and nearly 3 percent between 1980 and 2006.

BoltBus' and Megabus' growth in the area has been "astounding," said Joe Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, who tracks trends in the bus industry.

Both firms declined to release their ridership totals in Philadelphia, citing competitive reasons.
A Megabus spokesman said that Philadelphia was one of the company's top five markets and that Megabus growth in the area was roughly in line with national trends.

BoltBus general manager David Hall said Philadelphia was his company's top market; BoltBus enjoys 5 percent to 10 percent higher occupancy in this region than other markets it serves.
Between Megabus and BoltBus, 1.5 million travelers come in and out of Philadelphia each year, according to Hall.

"Discount operators have a cool, high-tech image that people find attractive," Schwieterman said. BoltBus and Megabus passengers can book point-to-point trips online, carry a ticket digitally on their phone, and board a bus at a curb a block from 30th Street Station, rather than at a terminal.

Also, it's relatively cheap. BoltBus fares from Philadelphia to New York typically are $10 to $20. Megabus fares are more variable: Tickets purchased far in advance or for buses that depart at undesirable times can be as low as $1. Greyhound's prices for a Philadelphia-to-New York trip be $12 to more than $20.

Customers at the Megabus location near 30th Street said Monday that it was mainly price that brought them to the discount operator.

"Price is all. I'm not picky," said Brian Raczynski, 20, who takes Megabus to New York about twice a month. "Megabus is good quality for me most of the time."

That is not to say that traditional Greyhound service has suffered appreciably. Greyhound, which owns BoltBus, has coped with the competition from within by launching Greyhound Express, which markets the point-to-point, low-hassle service of discount operators to its wealthier and older clientele.

Many customers at the Greyhound terminal at 10th and Filbert Streets said they either had not heard of the discount operators or thought Greyhound was worth the price.

"You want to try something cheaper, but when you go cheaper, it's not worth it," said Carolyn Gillis, 45, of Darby Borough, who said she has been riding Greyhound her entire life.

Greyhound similarly expanded to meet a new demand when the so-called Chinatown buses were subjected to a federal crackdown in June 2012. Between 1997 and 2007, Greyhound lost 60 percent of its market share in the Northeastern United States to Chinatown buses, according to Brian Antolin, a Philadelphia transportation researcher, who has worked for BoltBus.

Greyhound seized the market for itself by launching the Asian-community based Yo! bus service, explained Hall, the BoltBus GM. While BoltBus already had a high occupancy rate in Philadelphia, Hall said, traditional Greyhound service also benefited from the newly available customer base.

After a half-dozen years of Chinatown buses' eating into Greyhound traffic, Antolin said, specialty bus services are "how [Greyhound] has been able to combat all the losses."

Schwieterman warned, however, that the recent industry changes still total increased competition for Greyhound.

"The demise of the Chinatown carriers is benefiting traditional bus carriers," he said, "but that may not be enough to offset the market share lost."

Finally! Protected Bike Lanes May Get Key Federal Endorsement


By Angie Schmitt, August 8, 2013

Protected bike lanes are pretty much the bee’s knees. They make people feel safer riding a bike. They have led to significant increases in cycling and major reductions injuries to all street users.

Protected bike lanes could get a big boost from the federal government.

Cities are literally racing to install these things. Protected bike lanes are already in place in 32 American cities, and the total number is expected to double this year.

But for a very long time, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has refused to recognize these treatments in its influential engineering guides — a major barrier to the proliferation of protected bike lanes in the U.S.

But great news! Michael Andersen at the Green Lane Project says that protected bike lanes may soon get the official, unequivocal blessing of another powerful authority in the transportation engineering world: The Federal Highway Administration.
In a task order proposal request quietly circulated to selected contractors last week, the federal agency that oversees U.S. road design did exactly what many biking advocates have been urging it to do for years: It suggested that physically separated bikeways can be welcome improvements to American streets and kicked off a process intended to prove it.
It’s a move that could have big consequences for American cities whose traffic engineers have avoided building separated bike lanes due to a lack of federal guidance.

“This is the big thing on the technical side,” Green Lane Project Director Martha Roskowski said in an interview Tuesday. “This has been the big piece that we really need.”
As ordered by the FHWA, the forthcoming study will look at crash rates and types at 10 to 20 locations that currently offer physically separated cycle tracks, creating a set of recommended design standards and guidelines that FHWA’s influence might eventually integrate into the two bibles of U.S. road design: the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which discusses traffic signs, signals and markings; and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials road design guide, which discusses the shapes and materials of safe roadways.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Better Institutions takes a critical look at the many subsidies that encourage sprawl. This Big City shares some of the world’s coolest street furniture. And Mobilizing the Region points out that many of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians also have elevated obesity rates.

Dead Shark Mysteriously Ends Up on Subway, N Train Car Evacuated

The fish was riding the N train when it was found just after midnight


 For video:


A dead shark that mysteriously ended up on a subway train caused a stir among New Yorkers and forced an evacuation of the car early Wednesday.

A witness told NBC 4 New York that she boarded an empty car on the Queens-bound N train just after midnight at the Eighth Street stop in Manhattan.

Isvett Verde said the car "smelled extremely fishy," and when she looked down, she saw the sand shark.

"I mean, I thought I'd seen it all, but even that was a bit much," she said. "I have no idea how it got there or how long it had been there."

Verde said the shark continued to surprise passengers boarding the train as it rolled uptown.

The MTA said the conductor ordered riders out of the car at Queensboro Plaza, and when the train arrived at the end of the line, the shark was placed in a garbage bag and put in the trash.
The MTA said the car was inspected and returned to service.

There was no word on how the shark ended up on the train, which originated on Surf Avenue, in Coney Island.

"We don't know where it came from. We don't know how it got there," said Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman. "We assume it didn't get on on its own, it needed to be brought on by a human. Something's fishy about this." 

It is illegal in New York to own a sand shark as a pet or to bring it on a train, unless it's in a tank or proper container. But they are legal to eat, which is why they can be found at some city fish stores.
Subway riders were both skeptical and shocked Wednesday about the unexpected commuter that took social media by storm. 

"It had to be a prank," speculated one man.

"It's crazy, man," said one young tourist. "It's the craziest thing I've ever seen."

The Virtues of Repurposing Car Lanes for Buses


By John Greenfield, August 7, 2013


 Buses bogged down in traffic on 125th Street in New York City.

Slate business and economics correspondent Matt Yglesias ran an item today that nails the issue at the crux of the battle for the soul of Ashland Avenue. The CTA has proposed converting two of the travel lanes on the four-lane street to dedicated bus lanes, but the anti-BRT crowd is fighting the plan to take away space from cars and give it to people on buses. The Nimbys have floated their own proposal, disingenuously called “Modern Express Buses,” that would involve plenty of window dressing but keep buses bogged down in traffic, with zero inconvenience for drivers. Yglesias points out the virtues of reconfiguring streets like Ashland:
But the biggest possibility for bus transit wins requires something even more contentious than spending money—repurposing lanes. Virtually every street in America dedicates the majority of its space to private cars, whether as travel lanes or parking lanes. Far and away the cheapest way to speed the movement of people through congested space is to take some of those lanes away from cars and give them to buses. That will decrease your movement of vehicles, but increase your movement of people since buses are a much more efficient use of space. And it can be done at a fraction of the cost of building new transportation infrastructure from scratch.

BRT in Mexico City.

Hopefully, as more Chicagoans come to understand the value of repurposing lanes from cars and giving them to bus riders, support will grow for making historic changes to Ashland, and the weak-sauce MEB proposal will end up on the dustbin of history.

Historic Battle at Port of LA


August Picture7, 2013

A wave of protest may great members of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners when they meet Thursday in San Pedro.

The Los Angeles Conservancy is rallying supporters, asking them to attend the board's monthly meeting to demand that the commissioners upgrade their commitment to preserving historical assets at the West Coast's largest port.

Thursday's meeting is critical, since the commissioners are scheduled to vote on the final Environmental Impact Report for the Port of Los Angeles Master Plan Update. Conservationists feel the Port is not making a strong enough commitment to preserving historic buildings and sites.

"The Los Angeles Conservancy strongly believes that the historic buildings of Terminal Island should be preserved and reused rather than demolished," the Conservancy wrote in its position paper. "The proposed Port Master Plan Update limits opportunities to revitalize these places through adaptive reuse and, in some cases, calls for their demolition."

Port Department staff members, in their report to the commissioners, say that they have identified facilities associated with the former Japanese Fishing Village as being eligible for listing as a historic resource and have updated the draft Master Plan to accommodate the preservation of historical resources.

This isn't the first time that conservationists have expressed disappointment in the Port operations. A year ago, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Harbor's Terminal Island as one of America's most endangered historic places.

"Terminal Island presents an incredible opportunity to transform a vital piece of America's industrial past for new uses while also preserving an important part of our nation's cultural history," the president of the trust told Bob Pool of the Los Angeles Times.

The commissioners meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday at the Port of Los Angeles Administration Building, 425 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro.

Los Angeles Conservancy Terminal Island website:

LA Times:  Not a safe harbor for history

Port of Los Angeles Board of Commissioners agenda:

Port of Los Angeles Draft EIR Motion:


Rep. Chu discusses Gold Line, new office in Claremont


By Wes Woods II, August 7, 2013

CLAREMONT -- Rep. Judy Chu says she's on board for the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont and L.A./Ontario International Airport and will soon open an office here.

"I will not rest until we complete the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont," Chu, D-Pasadena, told an applauding audience at the Alexander Hughes Community Center on Tuesday. "And then, how about to the Ontario airport? This will truly not be a regional system until you get it going all the way to the Ontario airport. In fact, it will give us a greater incentive to go and park our car and use the Ontario airport as our main source of transportation within California and elsewhere. That's why we have to put our heads together and make sure we continue this."

Chu said at the end of her talk that she will open an office in Claremont next month. She was at the Community Center on Tuesday afternoon for a meet-and-greet with local residents.

She also expressed support for continuing funding for the Community Development Block Grant program and not cutting the program in half, which was proposed in late June in the House. 

Chu said her entire district stands to lose $2.2 million next year if the program for tutoring, health services, small business assistance and more "would be decimated" if it is cut.

"In fact, this year Claremont received nearly $140,000 in CDGB funds for housing, rehabilitation, senior case management and a job creation business incentive program," Chu said.

Chu also spoke in support of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national recreation area because if it's part of the recreation area, funds are given to make the area functional such as signage and to make trails where needed.

"I can't help but be impressed by this incredibly majestic site to the north of us," Chu said. "Those mountains provide 70 percent of L.A. County's open space and host over three million visitors a year. They are in such critical need of support and assistance. They are in a shocking state of disrepair with a lack of trails, signage and sanitary conditions."

Chu said that after 10 years the National Park Service released a special study that recommended a national recreation area in the area but it was revised and excluded the San Gabriel Mountains. She has since had meetings with groups of people and stakeholders to take questions.

On Sept. 7, she will hold a town hall at the Community Center.

"The input is so vital before I draft legislation," she said. "This idea is a hallmark, or can be a hallmark, of our region. We in California do not get our fair share of the tax dollar in parks. In fact, we are a donor stage. What we give out doesn't come back to us, especially in federal parks. This is one way to get the tax dollars back to our area to help improve the recreational opportunities for our residents. Also, what this can be is a hallmark for the San Gabriel Valley."

350,000 Electric Cars in SoCal by 2020? SoCal Edison is Getting Ready


By Chris Clarke, August 7, 2013

 Electric car on the streets of Long Beach

About a tenth of electric vehicles operating in the United States are charged up by power provided by Southern California Edison (SCE), according to a whitepaper the utility released Tuesday. The whitepaper, a slick if wonky piece of PR, details how SCE is trying to ready itself to serve an estimated 350,000 plug-in electric vehicles by 2020.

According to the whitepaper, "Charged Up," 12,000 of its current customers either own or lease electric cars, so increasing that number to 350,000 in the next six and a half years will take some doing. Of special importance will be making sure the utility's distribution grid can handle the increase in power demand at odd hours.

That's going to take some work,, as there are parts of SCE's grid that need some attention, and that extends to more than upgrading transformers to meet voltage demand. On July 31, SCE released a safety study in which the utility revealed that somewhere between 292,000 and 333,800 of the 1.4 million transmission and distribution poles in SCE's service area are beneath the company's safety standards in terms of potential failure. To SCE's credit, the standards it used in the survey exceed those mandated by the State of California. Still, that's a lot of substandard power poles. When people depend on electrical power not just to wake them up and make them coffee but to get them to work, an outage due to a broken power pole will be even more disastrous.

According to SCE, charging an electric vehicle can use as much power as the rest of the household uses in a typical day. If homeowners with electric cars opt to install a higher-voltage Level 2 charger, the resulting increase in instantaneous power demand can tax the local grid. But SCE says it's finding that about half of its customers with EVs use Level 1 chargers, which use regular 120-volt house current. "We're seeing a much lower impact on our grid distribution circuits than if more customers charged at the higher Level 2." The utility says that only about 1 percent of the transformer upgrades it's performed in the last few years have stemmed from demand for charging EVs.

Also of interest: SCE says it's gotten a lot of slack from customers with programmable car chargers who use the "end charge time" function, which instructs the charger to have the car's charged finished by a certain point. Using this function rather than the similar "start charge time" command means that vehicles don't all hit the system demanding juice when everyone gets home from work. Instead, the demand on the grid is spread out depending on each vehicle battery's individual charge level.

It's not all rosy in SCE's analysis. For one thing, people who live in multiple-unit dwellings still have trouble getting access to chargers. For another, SCE admits that people may start converting to electric cars more quickly than the utility anticipates, which might mean the company will have to work hard to upgrade its local circuits to handle the demand.

One factor that may cause that last scenario to come true: SCE reports that early-adopter electric car users it surveyed said their fears about being stranded with a tapped battery pretty much vanished after a short time in their new vehicle. Nissan Leaf owners surveyed generally charged their cars only once daily, generally at home, and they drove an average of 35 miles per day. Once that news gets around, electric cars may well get a lot more popular.

California Transportation Commission allocates close to $60 million to three rail-related projects


By Mischa Wnek-Libman, August 7, 2013

The California Transportation Commission assigned $59.25 million to two grade separation projects and a rail connector project.

The distribution of funds was part of a larger allocation of $487 million in funds to 82 construction projects aimed at improving transportation, safety and mobility throughout the state.

The Orange County Transportation Authority will receive $39.51 million to construct a rail overpass of BNSF tracks at Lakeview Avenue in Placentia. This project is designed to eliminate potential collision points and reduce traffic congestion, while improving the movement of goods.

The San Bernardino Associated Governments will use the $8.85 million in funds it received for a grade separation project in Barstow, segregating BNSF's line from Lenwood Road. The elimination of the grade crossing will lessen the impact of freight movement in the community, remove potential vehicular and train traffic conflicts and improve air quality since gate down time will be eliminated along with idled traffic.

Both grade separation fund allocations are contingent upon approval of a budget revision by the California Department of Finance.

The third rail project to receive funds is the Richmond Rail Connector. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will receive $10.88 million to construct an at-grade rail connector between San Pablo and Richmond on BNSF's Stockton Subdivision and Union Pacific's Martinez Subdivision. The project will improve freight movement to and from the Port of Oakland by allowing BNSF trains access to UP's Martinez Subdivision rather than have the trains travel through the city of Richmond to access the port.

Transit users could be victims as unions fight pension reform: Opinion


By the Los Angeles News Group Opinion Staff, August 6, 2013


Transit workers' unions are fighting with the state over the modest pension reform enacted last year, and it looks as if bus and train riders could get caught in the crossfire.

As our Steve Scauzillo reported today, union complaints to the U.S. Department of Labor have led the federal government to withhold more than $2.2 billion in grants to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority that would be used for bus and rail operation and maintenance, the Westside subway extension and a downtown connector tunnel.

This could lead Metro to make up for the lost money by cutting service or raising fares, hurting some of the people who can least afford it.

The Teamsters and other unions representing California transit workers argue that the changes in government employee pensions passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year violated their collective bargaining rights. They're backing a bill introduced in January to exempt about 20,000 transit workers from the changes. The bill, by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, a Democrat from Watsonville, is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

That bill should be defeated and the unions' complaint withdrawn, freeing the grant money and removing the threat of service cutbacks and fare hikes.

Imagine how many hard-working Southern California commuters the unions and their allies in Sacramento would be willing to inconvenience if the 2012 pension reform were really something to complain about.

That is, if it were real reform. Instead, it was a watered-down version of the originally proposed changes. It wound up raising the retirement age for new employees, raising the contributions from some employees, putting limits on annual payments and preventing pension spiking. All steps in the right direction. But not enough to call the problem solved.

The only good thing that could come out of the unions' complaints and the potential disruption for riders would be if they angered enough Californians to call for the more serious pension reform the state needs.

Let's All Stop Obsessing About the 'Next Great Thing' in Urban Transportation


By Eric Jaffe, August 8, 2013

It looks like Tel Aviv is really moving forward with this whole futuristic floating pod idea. Reports have surfaced that the city hired a U.S. consulting firm "to get the ball rolling, or pod sliding," as the Times of Israel put it. The pilot program, being developed by a company called SkyTran, could launch as soon as 2014, according to a Hebrew news article that I'm sure Wikipedia translated accurately.

History is full of examples of the next great transport idea. Today it's the floating pod, yesterday it was Elon Musk's Hyperloop, last year it was intercontinental airless tubes, back in 1908 it was Thomas Edison "perfecting" the electric car battery, and so on. Little mystery why we enjoy these stories so much. Living and working in the present can be hard. Living and working in a future city rendered without car traffic (or, for that matter, many other people), looks almost fun.

Nothing against this particular plan for floating pods. If nothing else the science seems sound, with NASA engineers having cooked up the concept. But the truth is transportation has very rarely changed with a great deal of speed or spectacle. The shape and pace of life today might stun someone who just woke up from a century-long cryogenic nap, plus woah like when did the Dodgers leave Brooklyn?, but the basic elements we use to navigate that life aren't astonishingly different.

The past is witness to mobility's incremental transformations. The very first railroads in this country were drawn by horses. The car itself was called the "horseless carriage." Automated vehicles, believe it or not, were being devised in ancient China. Bicycles have been in America since the late-19th century and some places still won't grant them their own lanes. Midtown Manhattan is filled with the chimes of what are essentially rickshaws.

All I'm saying is the leap from pedicap to pod, even in the most advanced city in the most advanced country in the world, would be an overwhelming one.
In fact, for all our occasional frenzy over futuristic transport modes, the real future of transportation may be the bus. Matt Yglesias at Slate reminded us of this just yesterday in a post about the relative dearth of bus-rapid transit in the United States. And BRT is hardly the only metric of bus progress out there. Simply reconfiguring a system that only runs downtown into one that reaches multiple employment destinations can make travel in some metro areas far more efficient.

This isn't to say we should give up all our visions for the future. The world needs dreamers, yes, and when their dreams do arrive, often in the form of new technology, the rest of us need to be prepared to discuss the social implications before it's too late. The fact that we don't all yet own a Google driverless car doesn't mean we shouldn't consider what happens when we do. The fact that we probably don't need a floating maglev pod transit system doesn't undermine the potential significance of maglev technology.

But it could undermine our ability to address the problems of the present. Psychologists have studied the human tendency toward fantasy, and they've found that imagining a crisply rendered future has the unintended effect of dampening our motivation to achieve it. By editing out the "obstacles, problems, and setbacks" we'll face en route to that goal, our fantasized futures might actually frustrate any real progress, as work from Gabriele Oettingen of New York University has found [PDF].
In other words, we're far better off with good expectations than great fantasies.

Again, this isn't to say we shouldn't think big, and it certainly isn't an argument for the status quo. Rather to say that a visionary might just as easily be someone who strives for the achievable instead of the incredible. As Jarrett Walker pointed out this weekend in a great editorial for the San Francisco Chronicle, we have enough of a fight on our hands to reprioritize urban transport by 2040 just using the modes and space we have today, let alone incorporating brand new ones.

Which brings us back to Tel Aviv. Strange that the city is attempting an unattempted form of transport when it's only just begun to build something as basic as a subway system. And evidently there are enough problems with the city's existing rail transit plans to occupy sharp minds for the next several years. A few of us can set our eyes on that next great transport system; the rest should probably stay focused on improving the ones we've got.

Global warming already having dramatic impacts in California, new report says


By Paul Rogers, August 8, 2013

Rising ocean waters. Bigger and more frequent forest fires. More brutally hot summer days.
These aren't the usual predictions about global warming based on computer forecasts. They're changes already happening in California, according to a detailed new report issued Thursday by the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Climate change is "an immediate and growing threat" affecting the state's water supplies, farm industry, forests, wildlife and public health, the report says. The 258-page document was written by 51 scientists from the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

Since 1895, annual average temperatures in California have increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to rise, the report found. 
Administration, among other agencies and institutions.

"Climate change is not just some abstract scientific debate," said California EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. "It's real, and it's already here."

Most Californians seem to agree. In a poll last month by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, 63 percent of the state's residents said the effects of global warming are already being felt, while 22 percent said they will happen in the future. Eleven percent said they will never happen.
Although California has done more than nearly every other state to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases, the report found, if it were a country, it would still rank as the 13th largest source of greenhouse gases in the world,ahead of France, Brazil, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

What the public may not realize, experts say, is how extensive the impact of climate change already is.

Since 1950, the report found, the three worst forest fire years in California -- measured by acres burned -- all have occurred in the past decade: 2003, 2007 and 2008. And the average number of acres scorched every year since 2000 is almost double the average of the previous 50 years -- 598,000 acres annually now, compared with 264,000 acres a year then.

"A report like this is Paul Revere. It provides an early warning, an early indicator of the challenges we face," said Matthew Kahn, a UCLA economics professor.

Kahn said that just as in past eras when Americans rose to meet threats, entrepreneurs in California will see opportunities to help reduce the impacts of climate change while making money, through industries such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, ocean desalination projects, better air conditioning systems and denser housing in coastal areas, which will remain cooler than inland areas as both warm in the decades to come.

"It's not like the Titanic where we just collide with the iceberg," Kahn said. "Most people want their children and grandchildren to have a great quality of life. We are going to get future Amazons, Apples and Facebooks out of this that will address the challenges."

But while opportunities may be going up, so are mercury readings.

Since 1895, annual average temperatures in California have increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to rise, the report found. The length and severity of summer heat waves are increasing.
The sea level at the Golden Gate, home to the oldest continually operating tidal gauge in North America, rose 8 inches over the past century as the world's glaciers and ice sheets have begun melting. Higher seas increase the risk of floods during storms in low-lying communities around San Francisco Bay, from Treasure Island to Alviso.

At Lake Tahoe, there are now 30 fewer days a year compared with a century ago when air temperatures average below freezing, the report found. And while 52 percent of the precipitation at the lake fell as snow in 1910, today only 34 percent does.

"Most Californians get it," said Kathryn Phillips, executive director of Sierra Club California. "The thing I find so frustrating is how bought in elected officials are to the belief they can't do the right thing because it will disturb oil companies and some of the most powerful interests in the state."
Among other changes, Phillips said, the state needs more incentives for solar and renewable energy and mandatory rules requiring more energy-efficient buildings.

In 2006, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a landmark law, AB32, requiring California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a drop of about 25 percent.
So far, however, emissions are up 3 percent since 1990, although they have dipped in the past five years because of the Great Recession and increased use of high-mileage cars as well as solar and wind power.

When it comes to the state's water supply, there's some good news: There is no clear trend in the amount of precipitation over the past 100 years, the report found. So California isn't getting less rain.
But the Sierra Nevada's glaciers have, depending on their location, shrunk from 22 percent to 69 percent over the past century. And spring runoff to the Sacramento River has decreased by 9 percent. That's because more precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow during California's warmer winters, the report found. And less runoff means less water for farms and cities.

Rodriquez said the amount of warming in the coming decades can be limited if the state, nation and world do more to reduce emissions and transition away from fossil fuels.

"We're doing what we can in California to address climate change," he said. "It's our hope that we can avoid some of the more extreme effects."

Putting CEQA to work for Sustainable Communities


By Autumn Bernstein, August 7, 2013

The ongoing debate over changes to the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, has been marked by polarization, exasperation and, more often than not, mutually-assured destruction. Overreaching efforts to gut CEQA’s core environmental protections are met by equally fierce crusades to prevent any significant changes to the law. Every year this political drama plays out in the theater of the Capitol, and every year we see little movement on CEQA in either direction.

This is overwhelmingly a good thing, as CEQA is California’s premiere law to protect the environment and ensure public participation in decisions which shape our communities. In many ways, CEQA continues to do exactly what it is supposed to do: ensure a thorough and transparent examination of the impacts of a project before it is approved.

However, there’s a growing recognition that current CEQA practice in urban environments may ignore or undermine important sustainability goals, such as reducing the number of automobile trips and protecting communities from displacement. Yet these considerations have been largely absent from public discussions about so-called CEQA ‘reform’ and many thoughtful observers have largely stayed on the sidelines of this thorny and contentious debate.

We just couldn’t help ourselves though.

Several months ago, ClimatePlan teamed up with the Planning and Conservation League and Greenbelt Alliance to pull together a dialogue of diverse stakeholders – everyone from infill builders to environmental justice champions – to discuss the relationship between CEQA and infill development. With expert facilitation by CEQA attorneys Bill Yeates and Rick Frank, we convened a small group of thought leaders to share, listen and learn from one another.

Over the course of four half-day meetings we found a surprising amount of consensus. So much consensus, in fact, that we decided to share our findings with leaders in Sacramento.

In late July, we sent a letter to Governor Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker Perez which outlined our consensus recommendations for CEQA. The Legislature is currently debating changes to CEQA in the context of SB 731 (Steinberg), and many of our recommendations could be incorporated into that bill.

Our key recommendations include:

Parking is NOT an Environmental Impact: CEQA’s analysis of parking can have unintended consequences. Even though parking isn’t mentioned in the CEQA statute or guidelines, some CEQA practitioners and judges still consider the reduction of parking availability an environmental impact, when in fact a surplus of free parking can actually harm the environment by encouraging automobile trips. CEQA should expressly eliminate parking as an environmental impact.

CEQA should take a Multimodal Approach to Transportation Analysis: CEQA’s analysis of transportation impacts tends to focus exclusively on automobile drivers. This is because CEQA relies on Level of Service (LOS), which measures traffic volumes and speeds, as the primary metric for transportation impacts. This can result in mitigations which actually undermine environmental objectives, such as widening roadways or lowering the density of new development. Conversely, projects that enhance transportation choices, such as bus and bike improvements, may be subject to CEQA challenges simply because they impact automobile LOS.

Instead of the outdated LOS metric, CEQA should require a multi-modal approach to transportation analysis. This approach should focus on protecting communities from the environmental and public health impacts of automobile trips, such as air quality, pedestrian safety, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Prioritize Strategies that Reduce Demand for Driving: CEQA should prioritize mitigation measures that reduce the demand for driving, such as free transit passes, car-sharing stations, improving pedestrian and bike facilities and limiting the availability of free parking. Less desirable strategies that increase vehicle trips or VMT (such as road widening or increased parking) should be pursued only when trip reduction strategies have been exhausted or are not feasible.

CEQA Should Address Economic Displacement: New development can increase land values and displace low-income residents, resulting in significant environmental, social, and health equity consequences. However, these impacts are not yet codified under CEQA. We believe these impacts should be incorporated into the CEQA framework, providing direction to jurisdictions on how to evaluate potential economic displacement of vulnerable populations, and adopt policies to prevent and mitigate those impacts. Such mitigation measures could include rent stabilization ordinances, inclusionary zoning, or condominium conversion restrictions.

Yesterday, we were excited to see that new amendments to SB 731 included one of our recommendations, the elimination of parking as a significant impact! We hope that SB 731 will continue to evolve (for the better) over the final weeks of the legislative session.  We’re not the only ones suggesting amendments, and some very destructive proposals are still lurking out there, so keep an eye on this one.  SB 731 goes to the Assembly Local Government Committee on August 14th.