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 12, 2013

Here's the Plan For 35-Minute LA-to-SF Hyperloop Tube Travel


By Adrian Glick Kudler, August 12, 2013




This afternoon, SpaceX/Tesla founder Elon Musk put on his straw boater, wheeled out his piano, and finally gave his song and dance on the initial plans for the much-teased Hyperloop. The Hyperloop is supposed to be a better, faster, more efficient mode of travel--you know how tech dudes are gonna save the world with disruption or whatever?--and would supposedly get passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, the California High-Speed Rail Project has been delayed yet again and is getting more expensive by the minute, so nice timing, Musk.

Basically (very basically), the Hyperloop would shoot aluminum pods on a cushion of air through a raised steel tube at about 800 mph; the pods would have air compressors on the front to move high-pressure air around and behind it. That's all explained in more detail in the proposal, but for the layman, Musk also outlines a potential LA-to-SF route with possible track and car designs--and while he's previously said this is just an open-source idea he's putting out into the world for someone else to deal with, he apparently spent a conference call moments ago talking himself into building a prototype ("Time frame for demo is either 1-2 years or 3-4 years, depending on how much he wants to focus on other things instead," according to Gizmodo. It'd be another four to five years after that for the full build-out.).

So like we said, the magical Hyperloop would fly between Los Angeles and San Francisco in about half an hour. Musk imagines "capsules departing as often as every 30 seconds from each terminal and carrying 28 people each. This gives a total of 7.4 million people each way that can be transported each year on Hyperloop." (He figures out ticket prices to about $20 ["plus operating costs"] one-way.) He's outlined a route that pretty closely follows the 5 Freeway, but dodged questions on the conference call about right-of-way and land acquisition (which has been a long and expensive ordeal for the high-speed rail project); he writes that, since the tube can be built on pylons, "you can almost entirely avoid the need to buy land by following alongside the mostly very straight California Interstate 5 highway, with only minor deviations when the highway makes a sharp turn."

Stations, he says, would cost around $125 million and be "minimalist but practical and with a boarding process and layout much simpler than airports" (they'd still have security screenings). Los Angeles and San Francisco are the only firm stops, but Musk also suggests extensions running to San Diego, Las Vegas, Sacramento, and Fresno. He estimates just the LA-to-SF route would cost $6 to 7.5 billion, which is about on par with just the Central Valley leg of the high-speed train.

Mayor Garcetti Appoints LA City’s First International Trade Director


August 12, 2013

This month TPR sat down with Stephen Cheung, the Mayor of Los Angeles’ first Director of International Trade, to discuss the purview and capacity of the new position, which coordinates between the Port of Los Angeles, LAX, and City Hall. With trade being a central component of the LA regional economy, and with the infrastructure of trade constantly evolving, Cheung works for goods movement, logistics, storage, and transportation to operate as smoothly as possible to retain customers doing business in and through LA. The growth of ethanol trade with Brazil serves as an example of how LA is making strides to adapt. 

Stephen Cheung
“We are expecting total trade between the US and Brazil to be about four billion gallons a year in the near future. In context, the US imported about 400 million gallons from Brazil in 2012.” -Stephen Cheung
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in early July that you would be serving as the city’s first Director of International Trade with liaison responsibilities for both the harbor and airport. What’s the mission of this newly created position? 

Stephen Cheung: The position is housed within the economic development division of the mayor’s office, so the overall approach is to use international trade as a way of stimulating the economy, as a way of creating jobs. I find it very exciting that we have this opportunity to utilize and partner with two proprietary departments—the busiest container port and the third busiest airport in the US—making use of their resources, skills, and understanding of international trade to streamline processes and to make conducting business with Los Angeles more effective.

Elaborate on your experience with City of Los Angeles public service. Why did you accept this position within the mayor’s office?

Prior to my current position, I was the Director of International Development with the Port of Los Angeles.  I took this position because I saw it as a great opportunity to take the experience and knowledge I’ve gained working with international communities and working on trade missions for the City.

Working in the mayor’s office provides you with the opportunity to see the bigger picture. However, you may not see the day-to-day details of business, including contract negotiation and lease agreements. It was very interesting to be part of a city department to see the inner workings of how decisions are made, and to understand the opportunities and challenges that international companies are facing. Having an understanding of that level of detail and bringing that perspective to city hall allows me to participate in a more comprehensive approach towards addressing problems for our customers.

What’s the importance of the mayor’s office having oversight over international trade and having both city proprietary departments planning and acting together? 

With international trade, you often see close ties with logistics, goods movement, and other industry networks. Los Angeles is an international gateway. The port and the airport and two important structures for facilitating goods and cargo movement in and out of the Los Angeles region and throughout the United States.

To be able to coordinate with the two proprietary departments can help streamline many processes, and we can make sure our customers are able to go to one central location for answers. We need to understand the entire approach to goods movement from moving cargo boxes, to customs and border patrol, and to working with our logistic and transportation network in the region to ensure that goods and cargo reach their distribution centers, warehousing facilities, or to other locations beyond the LA region. Having oversight of the two departments and a better understanding of goods movement will help our office better coordinate with the departments and our customers.

This past month you were invited to speak to a trade and investment delegation from Brazil about the opportunities for trade through the Port of Los Angeles. Give us the context and themes of your presentation. 
The Port of Los Angeles has bee
n working with the Brazilian Consul General’s office for a few months on this project. We have been working to identify emerging markets and commodities that might be beneficial to the region. We look at the challenges that we face as a region, and tried to find trade opportunities for our businesses.

From that investigation, we gained a better understanding of the California Air Resources Board’s policy on the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The LCFS aims to decrease the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 3.5 percent in 2016 and 10 percent in 2020. To be able to reach that goal, there are different approaches being considered, one of which is to mix ethanol fuel into our gasoline supply to lower the carbon intensity. California has been blending corn-based and other types of ethanol into our gasoline.

Currently there is a developing trend to move away from corn-based ethanol because some research indicated that corn-based ethanol might not be as environmentally acceptable because of the higher carbon intensity when compared to sugarcane-based ethanol. In light of the developing trend and upcoming Low Carbon Fuel Standard, we saw a need to investigate bringing sugarcane ethanol to California. From our understanding, there is currently no other place in the world except Brazil that has the capacity and developed facilities to produce the amount of sugarcane ethanol needed by Californians.

And the significance of CARB’s impending changes to its low carbon fuel standards to the Port of Los Angeles infrastructure investment planning is… ?

We are expecting total trade between the US and Brazil to be about four billion gallons a year in the near future. In context, the US imported about 400 million gallons from Brazil in 2012. That’s a significant increase. We need to prepare now with planning for infrastructure development so that we have the ability and capacity to handle the potential increase in sugarcane ethanol trade to Los Angeles.

If the companies supplying fuel to Angelenos are unable to meet the CARB requirement, there will be negative consequences—potentially increasing the price of transportation fuel in Los Angeles. That is not going to create a business-friendly climate in the region. We want to be able to address that issue now and to ensure a smooth process in anticipation of the requirement.

What’s being considered by the Port and the City of Los Angeles to take advantage of CARB’s 2016 tightening up of its transport fuel regulations?
The Port of Los Angeles is very forward thinking. As a government agency, we don’t always have the ability to conduct business-to-business deals. However, we can establish the climate and environment to facilitate business transactions. We have learned to utilize our ability to access various levels of government levels internationally to help local companies.

In 2012, the Port of Los Angeles conducted a trade mission to Brazil with the mayor’s office. Our delegation included companies from the Los Angeles area that stand to benefit from trade with Brazil. We met with a number of different business and trade groups, including an organization called UNICA—the sugarcane ethanol industry association of Brazil—that represented many sugarcane mills in Brazil. We discussed policies, needs, and the demand for ethanol products from California.

The discussion about the need for sugarcane ethanol started with the trade mission to Brazil. We would like to continue to coordinate with our partners, such as the Brazilian Consulate, to invite more companies involved with the ethanol industry to come to Los Angeles to examine our facilities and infrastructure. The City would like these industry experts to give us feedback on what we need to do to get ready. We would also like to provide matchmaking services for our local companies that could benefit from ethanol trade with Brazil.

Stephen, trade with Brazil is just one example of projected growth of exports and imports into and from the San Pedro Bay Ports. Address the infrastructure needs of the Port of Los Angeles if it is to successfully accommodate growth and compete.

The Port of Los Angeles has been very aggressive in terms of getting ready for the future. We have dedicated quite a bit of funding for infrastructure projects—$1.3 billion. In this fiscal cycle alone we have $399 million allocated to capital improvement projects to enhance port facilities and to prepare for the newer and larger vessels calling North American ports.

The Port of Los Angeles is facing stiff global competition, which has become more and more intense. The Panama Canal is one of the challenges we are anticipating. With its expansion projects, newer and larger ships could potentially move directly from Asia to the East and Gulf Coasts. For the Port of Los Angeles to ensure that current and future customers continue to utilize Los Angeles as the preferred destination for international trade, we must be able to effectively and efficiently accommodate these larger ships.

It’s not easy to prepare for the arrival of the bigger ships because they demand a lot of resources. For example, the largest ships will require a very deep port due to the sheer number of cargo boxes they carry. We’ve therefore spent $370 million to complete our channel deepening project this year to accommodate the largest vessels. The main channel at the Port of Los Angeles is now at 53 feet.
We are also working with our customers and marine terminal operators to ensure their infrastructure and their terminals can handle the largest ships. Furthermore, we conduct international business development trips to meet with customers and negotiate deals so that they will remain at the Port of Los Angeles. We work with our customers to develop infrastructure improvement projects. In fact, we just got back from Taiwan and reached an agreement with Yang Ming to invest $122 million on their facilities at the Port of Los Angeles to ensure they can expand their operation, bring in bigger cranes, and develop rail and backland facilities to efficiently handle the largest ships.

  Besides facilities at the Port, there is an enormous need to ensure we have a robust goods movement distribution network. We’re working with the rail lines and distribution centers to facilitate trade through the region. We have over 100 trains coming in and out of Los Angeles every single day. No other port can compete with us when it comes to our ability to get our goods to the Midwest and East Coast quickly and efficiently, because we have this extensive rail capacity.

We also have a vast network of warehouse and distribution space spread across the Los Angeles region. With over 1.2 billion square feet of warehouse and distribution space within 50 miles of the Los Angeles region, our customers can process goods quickly in and out of the region without being slowed by traffic. Furthermore, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach invested over $2 billion to develop the Alameda Corridor, which allows us to move our goods efficiently through Los Angeles and the downtown area to the Inland Empire without having to cross road traffic since it’s an entirely separated corridor.

The trade growth opportunities you’ve shared bring with them the challenge of greening the port and the communities surrounding the port. Address what the port should be considering to meet the promise of the economic development opportunities you just described.

The port can grow and green and the same time. That has been their approach. The two ports joined together to create the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006, which they renewed five years later. It’s a $2 billion project delivering reduction in air emissions from port traffic and activities. The signature program is the Clean Truck Program, and we’ve replaced about 16,000 dirty trucks with around 12,000 2007 EPA-compliant clean trucks. In just five years since the program’s existence, we’ve reduced truck emissions from trucks operating at the ports by 80 percent. We’re still figuring out the latest number, but it’s approaching 90 percent.

We’re not stopping there. We’re also working with our rail lines and terminal operators to change their cargo handling equipment, and we’re working with the vessels coming in to the port in order to continue our efforts to reduce emissions so that we can grow and green the port at the same time.

We will soon interview Congressman Earl Blumenauer on the subject of an Atlantic Magazine piece titled, “Flood, Rebuild, and Repeat: Are we ready for Superstorm Sandy Every Other Year?” Mayor Bloomberg in New York has moved to update NY City’s infrastructure. What’s Los Angeles’ plans for fortifying infrastructure in response to climate change and/or a catastrophic event?

The port has a number of emergency plans in place when it comes to disasters. We have a maritime training center that works with the port police, with the coast guard, and with a number of agencies to respond to many types of emergencies, whether natural or security related. We feel comfortable with our plan, but we’re always looking for improvements.

We work closely with the US government to learn what the state of the art techniques are, and they often look to the Port of Los Angeles as a leader in testing these new technologies. In the last few years we’ve received around $90 million in federal funding to institute new security and disaster response technology here at the Port of Los Angeles.

Stephen, your experience includes cleantech. Could you comment on how trade and cleantech fit together?

There’s a huge tie-in between cleantech and international trade. President Obama has a national export initiative and has been challenging local governments, municipalities, and businesses to increase their exports. We know that over 90 percent of the consumers live outside of the United States, so we know we need to do a better job of making sure we sell our goods to the international community.
In Los Angeles, we have the ability to create things that cannot be created anywhere else. We’re still the number one manufacturing center in the United States, so we have the equipment and talent base. We have USC, UCLA, and Caltech. My understanding is that we have the most patents coming out of these three universities compared to any other region. We also produce the most PhDs in the world.

Going forward, the opportunity to export these clean technologies is enormous. And if we’re able to do that, we’re creating jobs here locally. So I think our job, from the city government’s perspective, is to open doors and give access to these international communities, whether through international trade missions or through reverse trade missions we’ll be inviting to visit the Los Angeles region. These are specific buyers we’ll be inviting from China, Korea, and Japan, Southeast Asia and Latin America. We want them to understand the infrastructure that we’re developing here and the solutions that we’re able to offer their customers in their countries. They need to know about the resources we have available in Los Angeles including our diverse economy, international trade, cleantech, education, and other industries.

 f we again interview you in six months, what might we addressing in regards to trade policies and investment by the City of LA?
Hopefully we’ll be talking about how to handle the large volume of cargo coming through the region. I think we’ve been very aggressive in developing international plans to bring in more cargo, and as our economy recovers we see potential in regions such as Southeast Asia and Latin America. If we’re successful in securing more cargo, then we must continue to think about the infrastructure need in the long-term future to make sure there is no congestion and negative impact to the local communities.

I think it can be a win-win situation. Over the past few years the port has worked diligently with our partners to develop a growth strategy that is satisfactory to the community. Our waterfront project, which brings the community back to the waterfront, represents about $1 billion, so the community stands to benefit when the port prospers.

Public-Private Partnerships in Transportation


SLA Presentation
 (Click on above to see the presentation.)

Transcript of Public-Private Partnerships in Transportation

Current funding Creating PPP Information Resources International Practices PPPs at
Los Angeles Metro International Practices Adapting International Practice Problems:
Pricing per gallon
Fuel efficient vehicles
Decrease in automobile travel
Has not increased since 1993

Pricing based on vehicle miles
Other tax strategies
PPPs Gas Tax Gas Tax vs. Mileage Information:
Best practices
Key legislative elements
Where to find it:
State DOTs
Public Infrastructure Advisory Commission
Major Legal Issues for Highway Public-Private Partnerships (NCHRP Legal Research Digest 51, 2009)
Public Sector Decision Making for Public-Private Partnerships (NCHRP Synthesis 391, 2009)
The Effect of Public-Private Partnerships and Non-Traditional Procurement Processes on Highway Planning, Environmental Review, and Collaborative Decision Making (SHRP2, 2013) Contracts Modifications: Because PPP contracts are generally long-term, a robust modification protocol is needed to deal with potential changes.
Contracts range from 25 - 50 years
In the UK the Department's Representative (DR) has three main roles:
Performance monitoring
Financial monitoring
Contract administration Normalizing Procurement: Aids in maintaining a level playing field and foster accountability and transparency during implementation.

Selecting Projects: Adopt a policy for handling unsolicited proposals.

Managing Revenue: Question of whether the public sector should transfer the revenue risk fully to a private entity.

Managing Contracts: The robustness of a contract is critical, no contract can cover every contingency. Must be malleable. U.S. PPPs Early US PPPs:
Gained attention in the 1990s
E-470 Toll Road in Colorado
AB 680, California's 1989 legislation: concessions under Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain Model.
Chicago Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road Project Selection: Procurement regulations must allow the public owner to use alternative delivery systems. Overview Current funding situation
What is a PPP?
U.S. PPP Programs
International practices in PPPs
PPPs at Metro
Creating PPP information resources
Conclusion Identification: Candidate projects are identified according to requirements.
Assessment: Public-Sector Comparator (VSC) and conducting a Value-for-Money (VFM).
Market Preparation:
Demonstrate feasibility through an "illustrative design"
Statutory requirements, such as environmental permits
Site surveys
Preparing rights-of-way acquisition
Starting on stake-holder agreements
Maintaining a risk register Design-Build Models Los Angeles Metro & Public-Private Partnerships What is a PPP? International Practices International Practices Revenue Transfer Mechanisms Real Tolls: User fees which can make revenue risk difficult to predict.

Demand Risk-Sharing: Bidders propose boundaries, the government sets a threshold.

Variable Length Concessions: Contract ends when certain financial targets are met.

Upside Sharing Provisions: If expected revenues are not met, private investors bear the consequences.

Direct Payments: Government pays the PPP contractor periodically as milestones are met. Image courtesy of DC Streetsblog The private partner may be a single company, but most often it is a team of organizations that have come together to execute the partnership. The public partner (government): The private partner: Source: http://finance-commerce.com/2011/02/the-nuts-and-bolts-of-a-design-build-partnership/ 18.4 cents per gallon Can PPPs offer
a solution? PPPs have enabled 10 - 20% of government infrastructure worldwide
Successful PPPs all over the world
FTA estimates funding shortfall of $14.8 billion annually
The U.S. has under-invested in transportation and infrastructure over the past 15 years Risk continuum: Design-build projects by state in 2003: Successful US PPPs:
Virginia Initiatives
Texas Projects
Florida Port of
Miami Tunnel Public Partner – Project development risk
Overall policies and control
Environmental process and clearance
Stakeholder support
Political commitment
Funding sources Roles and Responsibilities Used when revenue (tolls or other user-based fees) are projected to be sufficient to cover most or all project costs

Public subsidy may not be necessary

Concessionaire accepts actual toll revenue stream (risk) as sufficient to:
Build, operate and maintain the project
Provide reasonable return on investment for equity investors
Provide repayment of debt services on borrowed funds Revenue Risk/Concession Model May be used for all projects, including those with insufficient user-based revenue (i.e. tolls) to cover capital and O&M costs, but have sufficient public funding sources to cover project funding gaps

Allows long-term leveraging of public funds and user-based revenues to accelerate delivery

Consolidates benefits of integrated
project design, construction, operation and maintenance, realizing life-cycle cost savings Availability Payment Model Delivery decision: D/B, DBF, DBFO, DBFM, DBFOM

If concession includes maintenance, private partners have incentives to design and build sustainable construction and service model

If private partner also operates the facility/service, maximum efficiencies are introduced Procurement Approach Strategic analysis and business case development precede decision
Capital costs, O&M costs, lifecycle performance and public funding are integral elements in delivery assessment
Calculation of value-for-money between public (traditional) delivery and proposed PPP delivery is required
Which approach provides best value? Project Delivery Determination PPP potential evaluation is step by step process. Move on to next step if current effort shows positive results: PPP Project Evaluation Los Angeles Metro Board adopted PPP Framework and Work plan
Set the stage for identifying PPP candidates in 2009 LRTP and Measure R program
Authorized procurement of PPP consultant team, InfraConsult, LLC with subs:
KPMG, LLP, Nossaman LLP, HDR Inc., and Sharon Greene + Associates PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT Partner with private sector
Share risks and rewards
Utilize private financial sources for equity and debt to finance construction
Establish private investment and debt service for repayment as “availability payment”, based on availability of facility Financing Approach Most projects need public funding support in addition to user-based revenue to repay equity and debt

PPPs are a financing and procurement approach – not a substitute for funding
May increase finance capacity by accessing new private capital sources, and may reduce costs
Public sector still has to identify a source of revenue Free Money? Public Partner – Project development risk
Overall policies and control
Environmental process and clearance
Stakeholder support
Political commitment
Funding sources
Private Partner – Project implementation risk
Design and construction
Facility operation/maintenance/management Sector Roles/Responsibilities Projects with greatest likelihood of success for private participation:
Clearly defined, environmentally cleared, high-priority projects with demonstrated public sector commitment
Equitable and effective risk allocation
Transparent, well-defined procurement process, with early initiation where feasible
Programmatic/portfolio approach to P3s Program Approach High Speed Rail Regional Setting Accelerated Regional Transportation Improvements
(ARTI) 6 projects ($770M) Achieve cost savings
Operations - performance-related concessions and system availability-based contracting
Capital - design and construction efficiencies
Enhance cash flows
Private financing mechanisms
Leverage Measure R revenues and other public funding sources
Utilize new funding sources
Value creation and user revenue streams (e.g., transit-oriented development, road tolls) Achieve accelerated project delivery
Project activities in “parallel”
Ensure project quality throughout life cycle
Private financial participation (“skin in the game”)
Reduce risks
Eliminate/lessen risk of project cost overruns/change orders
Reduce public sector risks by strengthening project interfaces
Complement federal funding Focus on Project Life-Cycle Accelerating project delivery
Reducing costs through contracting and construction efficiencies
Allocating risk effectively: design, finance, construction and operation
Reducing lifecycle/O&M costs through productivity improvements
Leveraging local revenue
and federal funds
Creating regional jobs Metro P3 Program Objectives Possible rail and tollway
connection between the San
Fernando Valley and Westside
Consider LAX/Airport
Likely mega-concession with
full revenue risk transfer to
Estimated cost preliminarily
$5 billion to $15 billion
Estimated revenue could
leverage the development of
a project in the range of $10
billion in capital cost Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor Project assumption for P3 analysis is twin 57’ diameter deep bore tunnels, approximately 21,000’ long
Four lanes each direction
Phased construction possible
Tolling and P3 delivery
appear to provide adequate funding for $5.5 billion project SR 710 North Gap Public-Private Partnership
delivery of freight corridor –
$2.5 billion
Additional strategic analysis
needed to understand tolling
implications of zero-emission
Coordination with California
Department of Transportation I-710 South Corridor NEW 63-mile east west corridor from SR-14 past I-15 to SR-18
50-mile Freeway/Toll facility
NEW High Speed Passenger Rail from:
Existing Metrolink Station in Palmdale to XpressWest Station in Victorville
One seat high speed ride from LAUS to Palmdale could make highway toll facility and rail facility self-financing and self-supporting as $6.5 billion Public-Private Partnership concession High Desert Multipurpose Corridor ARTI as Public-Private Partnership ARTI – Six Elements Accelerated Regional Transportation Improvements Metro’s Potential PPP Candidates Short list PPP Information Resources: PPP Information Resources: TRB, TRID NCHRP, SHRP2 Private Partner – Project implementation risk
Design and construction
Facility operation/maintenance/
management East Croydon Bridge, London, UK PPP procurement processes
PPP project delivery
Project management Source: Metro.net, Sepulveda Corridor Project Matthew Barrett June 9, 2013 Source: AECOM, Eastside Goldline Extension Source: Metro.net Initial project screening
Strategic assessments
Business plan development Source: Metro.net, Measure R Projects Source: Metro.net, Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Source:
Metro.net Source: Orange County Transportation Authority Source: Metro.net, Public-Private Partnerships Source: Metro.net, Public-Private Partnerships Source: Metro.net, Public-Private Partnerships Source: Metro.net, Public-Private Partnerships General Transportation Innovation Research Committee Source: 91expresslanes.com Source: Metro.net Source: Metro.net, Expo Line opening
See the full transcript

'Shovel-ready' bullet train construction delayed again

Serious construction could start in 2014 — when 2012 had been promised. Experts say officials underestimated the challenges of the $68-billion project.


By Ralph Vartabedian, August 11, 2013

 Proposed bullet train
This section of California 58 in Kern County is roughly a quarter mile south of the route for a bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco proposed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

  • The start of construction on California's bullet train, one of the nation's largest "shovel ready" public work projects that was awarded stimulus funding three years ago by the Obama administration, is slipping past already-delayed target dates, interviews show.

In early 2012, state officials said construction would begin that year. Early this year, officials adjusted their sights, saying they would begin building the massive new transportation network in the spring, later announcing the groundbreaking would take place in July.

Now, it appears that serious construction may not begin this year, and could be delayed into 2014.
Factors contributing to the sluggish start include delays in getting a construction company under contract and lack of key federal permits.

Postponing construction work raises the risk of future cost increases and suggests that state officials underestimated the challenges of the $68-billion project, according to construction experts.

"It is not as shovel-ready as they thought it was," said Bill Ibbs, a civil engineering professor at UC Berkeley who consults on major construction projects, including high-speed rail, around the world. "The construction industry is starting to heat up, and, as it does, it is harder to get qualified people, and material costs increase."

Ibbs and others say a one-year schedule slippage before construction starts would be worrisome. The delays are coming after repeated warnings from state watchdog agencies that the bullet train agency is understaffed and lacks the resources required to manage such a complex project. The state high-speed-rail board and Chairman Dan Richard have made hiring staff to fill long-standing
vacancies a priority. But the agency also has had to contend with turnover in the management ranks.

Ron Tutor, chief executive of Tutor Perini, the firm chosen in June to build the first phase of the project stretching north from Fresno, said his firm is months from beginning substantial construction because it has considerable engineering and design work to complete. And, as of Friday, Tutor's firm, which is supposed to build the initial 29 miles of the system by 2017 for $985 million, was still awaiting a formal contract from the state.

"The way I see it, the earliest any real construction can start, other than demolition or clearing, is after the first of the year," Tutor said in an interview. "We will have to complete design work and get permits."

The state needs hundreds of parcels of land to build the first 130 miles of rail bed from Madera to Bakersfield by 2017. So far, it has made 106 offers to buy land and has "taken possession" of one parcel, according to a spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Many Central Valley landowners oppose the project and are expected by real estate experts to fight any attempt to seize their farms, businesses or homes.

At this point, Tutor said, the lack of land is "academic" because of the engineering work that remains to be done. The state is using a "design build" process, in which selected companies will be responsible for both designing and building various sections of the system.

Tutor said he could begin some demolition sooner than next year but is concerned about mobilizing to start work and then having to stop until design of system structures catches up. "That doesn't really accomplish a great deal, if we don't get the engineering completed," he added.

Under federal agreements, the state must spend all of the Obama administration stimulus funding and a matching amount of state funds by October 2017— about $5 billion of the $6 billion total for the first phase through the Central Valley.

The authority did not respond to questions about the latest delays. A spokeswoman said Tutor Perini's contract "commits both parties to deliver the project on schedule, which meets the deadline of 2017."
William Grindley, a former executive at the World Bank and a critic of the project, said one risk of delays is that the U.S. economy will strengthen significantly next year and drive up construction costs. The agency plans to issue at least three more contracts to complete 130 miles of the system in the Central Valley by the federal deadline.

If construction starts Jan. 1, 2014, the federal deadline would require spending roughly $3.75 million per day, including weekends and holidays — one of the fastest rates of spending on a major construction project in U.S. history.

Two major freight railroads, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, have not yet reached agreement that would allow the state to build structures near or over their rights of way. A Union Pacific spokesman said a deal is still under discussion.

A key ruling also is pending on a lawsuit that contends the project violates the terms of the 2008 voter-approved ballot measure that allocated $9 billion for the project. A decision in Sacramento Superior Court is expected by the end of the month.

There has also been limited progress in getting key federal approvals for the project, including two permits by the Army Corps of Engineers to cross waterways along the route from Merced to Fresno.
One of the permits would allow the state to build a crossing over the Fresno River. It requires completion of an analysis of how the bridge might affect the river's flow. The analysis is awaiting a detailed bridge design by Tutor's firm. Ryan Larson, a corps official in Sacramento, said once the design is submitted, it will take four to six months to examine the permit request.

The state also needs a permit allowing various construction-related intrusions into rivers and waterways along the route from Merced to Fresno. But no action can occur on that request until the rail authority completes a supplemental environmental study, gets approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which assesses effects on endangered species and submits a plan to offset damage to wetlands along the route, said Kate Dadey, the lead regulator on the project with the corps.
"Until we have it in our hands, we cannot move forward on a permit," she said.

The rail authority can start building away from rivers and wetlands before obtaining a permit, Dadey said. But that would be "at their own risk," she said, adding that projects typically do not proceed without such permits in hand.

The bullet train "is an extremely complicated project," she said. "There is still a fair amount of actions that have to occur before groundbreaking."

Motor Mouth Face-Off: Vote on the Most Cringeworthy Car-Centric Quote


By Angie Schmitt, August 12, 2013

It can be a revealing moment when a public official lets slip with a quote that inadvertently tells you what he really thinks of policies to improve walking, biking, or transit.

We asked our readers around the country to send us the most egregious “Motor Mouth” quotes they could dig up. Now we need you to help us choose the most heinous.

Here are the six contenders — blaming victims and dismissing multi-modal solutions to traffic problems — followed by the Motor Mouth poll.

Peter Coccaro, president of the City Council in Vineland, New Jersey

In a story about pedestrian deaths on Route 47, Coccaro told the Press of Atlantic City that the problem is jaywalking:
“There’s actually no legitimate crossing area,” he said of many sections of Route 47 where traffic signals and crosswalks are a significant distance apart. “They just jaywalk. We’ve had some issues with pedestrians.”
Translation: Saddled with a dangerous, inhospitable road? It’s the pedestrians’ fault!

Tom Bruff, transportation manager for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)

In a Detroit News story about the region’s most dangerous intersections in the Detroit region, Bruff expressed bafflement about the high rate of crashes in Macomb County:

Half of the most crash-prone intersections are in Macomb County, which has a smaller population than Wayne and Oakland counties. Its population, however, has been growing — it had 840,978 residents in 2010 and 847,383 in 2012 (up 6,406 or 0.8 percent), according to the latest Census figures.

“There’s no rhyme or reason why it has so many high-crash intersections,” said Tom Bruff, transportation manager for SEMCOG.

“Although it should be noted that the road commission has been making improvements to traffic signals at intersections for the past few years.”
Translation: The regional transportation agency has no idea what makes roads in the sprawling suburbs so dangerous.

Bob Garner, Tulsa City prosecutor

Speaking at a City Council hearing last month, Garner dropped these two bombs:
Exhibit A: “I understand your concern. I ride a bicycle also. And I have been passed on numerous occasions way too fast by motorists. And I also realize that when possible, just being a smart person, use the trail. If they provide a bicycle trail and I can get to point A to point B on a trail, it’s safer for me as an individual to do that.”

Exhibit B:  “I don’t know why you’d want to ride a bicycle on 71st Street. And I hate to say this, I take the trail to that location. I do go to some of those restaurants with my wife and I. And I made a determination for my own safety and my wife’s safely; we’ll stay on the sidewalks even though that’s probably a violation of the city ordinance… that’s just exercising sound discretion for everyone concerned.”
Translation: There is never a good reason to bike in the street, even if it means breaking the law, which I’m not too clear on despite being the city’s top prosecutor.

Davide Wrone, spokesman for the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic
Wrone gave these quotes to the St. Louis Post Dispatch and a local CBS affiliate.
Exhibit A: “As a matter of policy, we don’t build dedicated bike lanes. St. Louis County salutes the bike-riding community, but we manage our system in the knowledge that motor vehicles comprise the vast majority of our customer base.”

Exhibit B: “We’re a highway department, not a bicycle department.”
Translation: Instead of giving people more transportation options, we’d prefer to stay in the downward spiral of car dependence and endless sprawl until we’re bankrupt.

Maryland likes to place the onus for street safety on pedestrians. Image: Maryland State Highway Administration Facebook page

David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration

Here’s Buck in talking about the dangerous conditions on Route 3 in the Capital Gazette:
“The safest way to get across the road is to cross at marked crosswalks,” said Buck, who estimated that 90 percent of pedestrian-related accidents are caused by pedestrian error.
Translation: If pedestrians would just quit getting in the way of cars, they wouldn’t get hit.

Rita Robinson, former general manager for Los Angeles Department of Transportation

Here are Robinson’s remarks on community opposition to a plan to turn Pico and Olympic Boulevards into one-way streets and change the lighting in an effort to turn to turn neighborhood streets into mini-highways:
“We realize there is a great deal of pain, in regards to change. There is always is, it doesn’t matter what it is. Whether it’s going to a new school or deciding on a new cleaners. It’s always difficult.”
Translation: We are so oblivious, we can’t distinguish legitimate safety concerns from NIMBYism.

Larry Klimovitz, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council
Klimovitz was overheard saying the following while giving a tour of his office, according to Pedestrian Error:
“For transportation, the federal government requires us to coordinate as a region to make decisions. For all this other stuff we do, it’s voluntary. So, for example, water quality, housing, bike/ped …”
Translation: Biking and walking are not transportation.

There you have it. Which is the worst? Elect the Motor Mouth champ:

Which quote is the worst?

Climate change in California; state summarizes the ongoing impacts


By Steve Hymon, August 12, 2013



The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment last week released its latest report on the impact of climate change on the Golden State. As the above chart shows, the state is convinced that temperatures are rising and evidence now exists of their impacts.

This is a topic I try to harp on. Why? There has been several noteworthy reports that have found that one way to reduce your greenhouse gas footprint is to take transit. The gist of it: buses or trains carrying a lot of people at one time are more efficient than most cars carrying one or two passengers (hybrids and electric cars are only four percent of the vehicles on the road in the U.S.).
Here are two reports worth reading:

New UCLA study finds Gold Line and Orange Line produce less smog and fewer greenhouse gases in near- and far-term

Public transportation’s role in responding to climate change (FTA)

While polls indicate a majority of Americans believe the Earth is warming, the same polls also show that far fewer Americans believe it’s a serious problem. Perhaps that’s one reason that transit agencies in the U.S. have failed to use climate change as an argument for taking buses and trains — although many agencies, such as Metro, are actively seeking to reduce their own greenhouse gases.

What do you think? Is that a missed opportunity or is it best for transit agencies to steer clear of the climate change issue at least in their marketing efforts? Comment please.

Destination Discount: Save on tickets to the Hollywood Bowl


By Chloe Rodriguez, August 12, 2013

The Hollywood Bowl on a warm summer night. Photo by Chloe Rodriguez/Metro.

 The Hollywood Bowl on a warm summer night. Photo by Chloe Rodriguez/Metro.

The Hollywood Bowl is synonymous with the atmosphere, ambience and activity of summer. You can listen to great music ranging from classical to jazz to rock and enjoy a delicious picnic with a loved one. This season, artists such as Yoyo Ma, Diana Ross, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Vampire Weekend, and The xx will take the stage to play concerts under the stars.

Sounds like a great night, right? But there’s only one problem: parking. Instead of paying for parking, ride the Metro Red Line to the Hollywood/Highland Station and take a free shuttle to the concert.

Not only that, Metro is offering a 20% discount on most Tuesday and Thursday classical concerts all summer. Just show your valid TAP card at the box office or enter code METRO2013 when purchasing tickets online. The exclusive discount is part of Metro’s Destination Discounts program. Go Metro to participating locations and events and you’ll save on admission, get discounts on meals, and receive free gifts.

To plan the route that’s best for you, use the Trip Planner.

Sometimes a hybrid is greener than an electric car


By Lisa Hymas, August 9, 2013

 green-colored car
Which car is greenest in your state? Find out.

If you live in California, the most climate-friendly car you can drive is a Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid. If you live in Ohio, you could go easier on the climate by driving a regular ol’ non-plug-in Prius. And in Vermont, the best pick would be an all-electric Honda Fit.

That’s according to a new report from Climate Central: “A Roadmap to Climate-Friendly Cars.”

Here’s how the researchers explain the state-by-state differences:
An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it. And in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for their electricity there are many conventional and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are better for the climate than all-electric cars.
The report includes a handy interactive map that shows you the top 10 choices for your state.
The researchers arrived at their conclusions after considering states’ electricity sources plus the amount of energy used in manufacturing cars — which, in the case of electric cars and their batteries, is a lot.
In 39 states, a high-efficiency, conventional gas-powered hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, is better for the climate (produces fewer total “lifecycle” carbon emissions) than the least-polluting, all-electric vehicle, the Honda Fit, over the first 50,000 miles the car is driven.
But in the four states with the cleanest grid electricity, “the mpg equivalents of the best electric vehicle are dazzling,” says the report, “ranging from more than 2,600 mpg in Vermont, to 380 mpg in Washington, 280 mpg in Idaho, and 200 mpg in Oregon.”

Cleanest, in this case, means lowest in greenhouse gas emissions. In the Pacific Northwest, emissions are low because so much electricity comes from hydropower. In Vermont, it’s because so much electricity comes from nuclear. Of course, goings-on at Fukushima remind us that nuclear is definitely not “clean” in all senses.

The bottom line, says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: “figuring out the best car to drive is harder than you think.” Which gives me a perfect opportunity to plug Greg Hanscom’s new post on how to make cities more bike-friendly.

Riding lessons for U.S. cities from one of Europe’s bike capitals


By Greg Hanscom, August 12, 2013

 copenhagen cyclists
You cannot hope to be this stylish, ja?

This is the final piece of a short series about bicycles in Copenhagen. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

During my short trip to Denmark last month, I spent a good amount of time on a heavy, black cruiser bike rented from my hotel, exploring the city of Copenhagen and surrounds in search of lessons in bike culture, infrastructure, and policy that I could bring back home to the states. Some of my most productive time, however, was spent out of the saddle sitting at sidewalk cafés, talking to designers, planners, and policy wonks. Also, I spent loads of time drinking copious amounts of beer and/or coffee, and watching the beautiful people pedal by — most of them on “granny bikes” like mine.

I spent an entire afternoon at one café with Mikael Colville-Andersen, the CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co. Colville-Andersen makes a living as a provocateur and a preacher, spreading the gospel of biking to cities around the world. He makes a strong case that we should take our streets back from the traffic engineers, and instead design them with people in mind. He also says Americans need to take bicycling back from the bike tribes — the hipsters, speedsters, and bike messengers — and make them as ordinary as the black granny bikes on Copenhagen’s streets.

“Subcultures are actually a hindrance to building cycling,” Colville-Andersen said. “From an American perspective, I think you need to get the subcultures to shut up.”

I spent an hour on another afternoon drinking gypsy-brewed beer with Kasey Klimes, an urban data specialist with Gehl Architects, the firm that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg hired to help make his city more bike friendly. Klimes did a study on Queen Louise’s Bridge, one of Copenhagen’s main bike thoroughfares. After the city doubled the width of the bike tracks on the bridge and made other improvements, bike traffic increased by a third. Car traffic, meanwhile, dropped by half. Forty percent of those drivers found other routes, Klimes found, but 10 percent “just disappeared.” Apparently they decided that riding the bus or biking was a better option.

And in fact, when asked why they bike rather than drive, the great majority of Copenhageners respond that it’s simply the quickest, most convenient way to get around. Health and economic concerns are factors, too. Protecting the environment? Hardly a blip on their radar:

City of Copenhagen
(Copenhagen city officials have worked hard to make biking easy. For details on their methods, which one planner described as “the carrot, the whip, and the tambourine,” check out part 2 in this series.)

On my last day in Copenhagen, I spent a few hours at yet another sidewalk café, talking with two fellow Americans who are working to get more people riding bicycles back home — and have some significant cash to throw at the problem, thanks to the enlightened self-interest of companies that make and sell bikes.

Zach Vanderkooy is the international programs officer for Bikes Belong, a Boulder, Colo.-based nonprofit that gets its funding from U.S. bicycle manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Randy Neufeld is director of the SRAM Cycling Fund, a philanthropic arm of the company that makes Rock Shox and other bike components. Their main focus these days? Make American streets look more like the ones in Copenhagen.

Vanderkooy and Neufeld believe that there’s a large chunk of the American public that is poised and ready to bike. They cited work by Roger Geller, the bicycle coordinator for the city of Portland, Ore., who argues that fully 60 percent of the city’s population is curious about biking, but they don’t do it. Why? “It’s dangerous.”

Here’s a chart breaking breaking Portland’s populace into the bikers, the non-bikers, and the yet-to-be convinced. If you want the thinking behind all this, Geller has written a whole report on the subject [PDF].
4 types of cyclists
Roger Geller
The key to moving people from the yellow “interested but concerned” zone to the green “enthused & confident” zone? Get rid of the fear factor, Vanderkooy and Neufeld said. That is, create a cityscape where they feel safe riding a bike. Traffic calming devices, neighborhood greenways, and bike trails all help, Neufeld said.  “But the missing tool in the U.S. is protected bike lanes.”

By “protected,” he meant bike lanes that are separated from car traffic by more than a flimsy white line. Here’s how they do it in Copenhagen:
copenhagen cycle superhighway
Greg Hanscom
They’ve put a line of car parking spaces — and an occasional tree — between the cyclists and the cars. It may seem like a small thing, but it makes an incredible difference. Rather than riding in constant fear of being clipped or flattened by a passing motorist, you’re free to tootle along, cigarette in one hand, cellphone in the other. (OK, don’t do that  – but the Danes do.)

Cities from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., have installed protected or separated bike lanes in the past few years. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has vowed to install 100 miles of them during his four-year term. And Vanderkooy and Neufeld are hoping to make it spread further. Vanderkooy’s group, with funding from the SHRAM Cycling Fund, is sponsoring the Green Lane Project, a campaign that works with a half-dozen U.S. cities at a time to create protected bike lanes.
This is all fine and good, but I had to ask: Is biking in U.S. cities just a fad, fueled by a young generation that can’t afford cars?

Neufeld, a veteran bicycle activist who founded Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance, doesn’t think so. He pointed to “megatrends” like a disinterest in driving among millennials, the decline in overall driving miles even as the recession has lifted, and the rising price of gasoline. Those trends are unlikely to turn around any time soon, he said. “None of this smacks as ‘fad’ to me.”

Instead, Neufeld thinks that we’re seeing an unprecedented opportunity to change American transportation culture for the better. “This is the big one,” he said. “There’s never been change at this pace. Bicycling has never been this popular.”

And for U.S. cities that have embraced bicycling in recent years, it’s not really about bikes, Vanderkooy said. “It’s about attracting young people and talent to your city. It’s about better economic performance, economic health, and public safety. Mayors have begun to embrace biking as purely a rational act, to make their cities competitive.”

With that, Neufeld looked at his watch, his eyes lighting up like a kid who woke up on Christmas morning and found a shiny new bike under the tree: “You guys want to go watch rush hour on the bridge?”

He was talking about Queen Louise’s Bridge, of course, that shining, squeaking emblem of Copenhagen’s rebirth as a bicycling city. And watch we did, joining the throngs of locals lining the railings.

I woke up at 3:30 the next morning, still discombobulated by the time change, and decided to go for a run. The sky was starting to get light as I ran past Queen Louise’s Bridge, and the crazy Copenhageners were still at it. Clusters of young people lined the sidewalks, cheering bicyclists as they pedaled past. One group had a portable sound system — in the front of a cargo bike, of course — and was throwing an impromptu dance party. Couples sat on the railing, looking east, waiting for the sunrise.

As the sun crested the skyline, a cheer went up, and the people on the bridge slowly collected their things, mounted their bikes, and started home. And so did I — I had an airplane to catch.

Feds say environmental law does not apply to California high-speed rail


By Juliet Willaims, August 9, 2013

SACRAMENTO -- California's high-speed rail project is no longer subject to the state's rigorous environmental laws after a federal transportation board ruled that it has oversight of the project, the state attorney general's office argues in a brief filed Friday. 

The June decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board -- which was sought by opponents of the bullet train -- pre-empts the authority of the California Environmental Quality Act, the state argued in the filing made on behalf of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

"The STB's decision concluding it has jurisdiction over the entire high-speed train system fundamentally affects the regulatory environment for the project going forward," the state said in the brief submitted to the Third District Court of Appeals.

Opponents of the project could lose one of their most significant legal tools if a federal judge agrees with the state's argument. Critics of the rail line have repeatedly sued the state alleging violations of Environmental Quality Act.

The state asked the court to dismiss a 5-year-old lawsuit filed by the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto seeking to block the bullet train through the Pacheco Pass south of San Francisco. They argued that the route would harm the environment.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge dismissed their suit in February but they appealed to the federal court, which last month ordered both sides to answer the question "Does federal law pre-empt state environmental law with respect to California's high-speed rail system?"

The $68 billion project will have to comply with stringent environmental laws regardless of the court's decision in the Atherton lawsuit. But if the court sides with the state, it would mean complying only with the National Environmental Policy Act, and any lawsuits would have to be filed in federal court.

An attorney for the cities, Stuart Flashman, was on vacation and unavailable, according to a voice mail recording at his office. He did not immediately respond to an email sent late Friday.

Rail authority Chief Executive Jeff Morales said there is "overwhelming overlap" between the two
environmental laws, and that high-speed rail is committed to environmental protection even beyond the laws, such as requiring fuel efficient technology for construction and a carbon-neutral project.
"Those are things that aren't strictly required under federal or state law and that would not change based on the outcome of this," Morales said in an interview Friday.

Ironically, it was opponents of high-speed rail project, led by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California, who first sought the federal oversight of the project, believing it would delay or even derail the bullet train by forcing it to comply with federal railroad regulations.

The Surface Transportation Board ruled in June that while it does have authority over the proposed 800-mile system, the rail authority could begin work on the first 65 miles of the project from Merced to Fresno if it maintains the current route and mitigates environmental damage caused by construction.

State lawmakers approved the first phase of the line last summer, allowing the state to begin selling $2.6 billion in voter-approved bonds for construction in the Central Valley. That approval allowed the state to tap $3.2 billion from the federal government, but it's still unclear where the state will get the rest of the money.

RCSD to host rally on I-405 toll lanes


 August 11, 2013


The following information was released by Rossmoor Community Services District.

The Rossmoor Community Services District (RCSD) is hosting a community wide “Rally” to receive citizen input on the potential for toll lanes on the proposed I-405 Improvement Project. While the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has selected Alternative 1 for the project which does not include toll lanes, the OCTA has released Concepts A and B which could reintroduce toll lanes.

 The reason cited for this change in direction is that the federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requested a “Degradation Study” on the effectiveness of current HOV lanes. The study concluded that HOV lanes are not moving traffic at a faster rate than general purpose lanes. The FHWA has let it be known that if this situation is not remedied, that federal funding may be withheld for the State Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Since Caltrans has the final say on the configuration of the project, the public needs to weigh in on OCTA’s upcoming approval of the project’s configuration.

The main objection to the toll lane scenario is that additional lanes will be added to the project without a corresponding capacity at the Los Angeles County line. The result will be a bottleneck at the I-405/I-605/SR 22 interchange. The affect on Rossmoor and surrounding communities will be a substantial increase in noise, light and air pollution to nearby residents, seniors and school children.
The Rally will be held at the Rush Park Auditorium, 3021 Blume Drive in Rossmoor. The Rally will commence at 6:00 p.m. on August 12, 2013. The public is invited, as well as officials from neighboring cities so that the sentiments from the public can be included in the public record for the environmental impact report on the project.

Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Red Line (Part 2)


By Matthew Tinoco, August 2013

As a continuation of our last Part 1 article, we continue this week with the portion of the Red Line between the Vermont/Santa Monica station, and the line's end in North Hollywood. Getting to the Red Line isn't hard, and Metro's website has a map which includes parking information throughout the network. Westsiders can connect in from the Metro Expo Line, which takes you right into Downtown. Angelenos to the south can ride the Blue Line to 7th/Metro, and those who live along the Gold Line can use it to get to Union Station.

A warning to Valleyites; the North Hollywood and Universal City Station parking lots are filled very quickly on weekdays, so be prepared to look for parking around the station. Alternatively, you can usually find lots of street parking around the Laurel Canyon Orange Line station, and then ride that one stop to the North Hollywood Red Line station.

Purchase a day pass for your TAP Card; it's only $5. If you don't have a TAP card, a day pass and TAP card combo will cost you $6. Day passes make sense if you're going to more than one stop along the line, so if you're exploring or transferring, you'll want one.

I've include six of the Red Line's 14 stations (And the Red Line's terminus is Union Station, a station which I detail in the Gold Line Part 1 guide.)

Guatemalteca on Santa Monica (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)


Guatemalteca is an example of Los Angeles food culture at its best. The Guatemalan bakery and restaurant specializes features a variety of both bread and dish options and they make an amazing chile relleno. Jonathan Gold dubbed it a "locus of Guatemalan-American life in central Los Angeles."
Directions: Exit the train at the Vermont/Santa Monica Station, and walk almost two blocks west of the station. The restaurant is on the south side of Santa Monica Boulevard, between New Hampshire and Berendo. It's located at 4770 Santa Monica Boulevard.


Skylight Books:

Although they aren't as common as they should be, Los Angeles does host its fair share of quality independent bookstores, including Skylight Books in Los Feliz. Skylight books is a well-stocked, mid-sized bookstore stocking the usual stock of classics, fiction, biographies, and history books, as well as left-leaning books. It's easy to find books that promote cycling and occupying (wall street) alike. Skylight Books is in a minority of bookstores that remains profitable into the digital age too. Check out their events calendar.

There are tons of awesome restaurants surrounding the bookstore, including Juicy Burger and Fred 62.

Directions: Exit the Vermont/Sunset Station and walk straight north on Vermont. You don't have to cross Sunset or Vermont. Skylight Books is located about two blocks north of the station at 1818 N. Vermont Avenue.

Amoeba, the Dome, and the Pantages (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)

Pantages Theatre:

Although Hollywood and Broadway really aren't that compatible, the Pantages Theatre provides a bit of crossover ground where some of the largest Broadway shows can take the stage here in L.A. Productions like Wicked, The Book of Mormon, and Catch Me if You Can have all run there in the past. Tickets aren't inexpensive, but it never fails to disappoint, and is itself a beautiful work or art-deco architecture itself. Check out the theatre's website for more information on what shows run/when/how much. The Wizard of Oz is going to be the Pantages' first production of its 2013-2014 season, starting on September 17th.

Directions: Exit the Hollywood/Vine Station. The theater is directly across the street from the station exit on the opposite side of Hollywood Boulevard at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard.
Amoeba Music:

If you haven't been to Amoeba Music you're missing out. There I said it. But Amoeba Hollywood is the largest independent music store in the world. Regardless of what your taste in music taste is you will be able to find something inside the enormous store that you like. Los Angeles Magazine even voted Amoeba the greatest thing about L.A. a couple years ago too! Amoeba is also known for providing free concerts to storegoers. The store's calendar will provide information on who's playing when, but be warned--the line to get in can sometimes wrap around the block!

Directions: Exit the Red Line at the Hollywood/Vine Station, and try to use the Vine Street exit. Walk south along Vine until you reach Sunset Boulevard. Cross Sunset and turn Right. Amoeba is located at the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga at 6400 W. Sunset Boulevard.

Cinerama Dome:

Nothing says Hollywood like the Cinerama Dome movie theater. The theater, presently operated by Pacific Theaters, has an established history of being one of the flagship first-release theaters in Tinseltown. The Dome offers a prime selection of movies to see, popcorn to eat, and previews. Check out ArcLight's website for a list of shows and times.

Directions: Exit the Red Line at the Hollywood/Vine Station, and try to use the Vine Street exit. Walk south along Vine until you reach Sunset Boulevard. Cross Sunset and turn Right. The Dome is located at 6360 W. Sunset Boulevard, right next to Amoeba.

The Hollywood Bowl (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)

Hollywood Bowl:

Easily the most iconic venue in Los Angeles, the Hollywood Bowl never fails to leave performance goers with a sense of wonder and appreciation for both the natural beauty of Los Angeles' natural setting and the talent of the musicians on stage. The Bowl's location in the Cahuenga Pass allows concert-goers to feel separated from the rest of the city. The Bowl's online calendar will help you select an event if you haven't been yet this summer. In the past, I've viewed the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and TV on the Radio at the Bowl, as well as John Williams 'Maestro of the Movies' spectacular (scheduled for late August, grab your light sabers!). Also performing later this year is Vampire Weekend. If you've never been to the Hollywood Bowl, make a point to visit before the end of the summer concert series. It's a true Los Angeles experience.

Directions: Exit the train at the Hollywood/Highland Station. You can walk north on Highland towards the Bowl, but it's about a mile. Luckily the Hollywood Bowl offers a shuttle service from various places around the city, including the Hollywood/Highland Red Line Station. More detailed instructions may be found at the Hollywood and Highland website. 

Miceli's Italian! (Photo by Matthew Tinoco)

Miceli's Pizza:

Miceli's Pizza is a quaint, cozy restaurant located just south of the Universal City Station on Ventura Boulevard. The restaurant, which specializes in Italian food, comes fit with live music inside too, consisting usually of an opera singer and accompanying piano player. All the waiters are capable singers, often adding their own tones to the performance. The restaurant's atmosphere is relaxed and the lighting is low, making it a good spot for a date. The food is quite tasty, and portion sizes are generous leaving you very full and a delicious lunch for the next day. Check out the restaurant's menu online, at their website.

Directions Exit at the Universal Studios/Studio City Station through the Lankershim/Bus exit. Walk south along Lankershim towards Ventura, passing under the Freeway. Cross Ventura and turn left (crossing Lankershim too). The restaurant is just about a block to the east of the intersection at 3655 Cahuenga Boulevard.

The Republic, Vicious Dogs, and the El Portal Theatre (Photos by Matthew Tinoco)

NoHo Arts District:

Give the Valley a chance, and you can find some really cool things here! The area around the North Hollywood Red Line station has been undergoing revitalization for the past 15 or so years, resulting in a district today filled with galleries, theaters and eateries. Take a jaunt over to Vicious Dogs where you can find, what are easily, the best Hot Dogs in L.A. County (Not Pinks, Carneys, Cupids etc.). Try the sweet and spicy dog. I usually wrap them in bacon too, but each to his/her own taste. If you're in a dessert mood, The Republic of Pie offers you an almost infinite selection of pies. The banana cream pie is perfect. But don't overlook their other options, including a slew of fruit, cream and meat pies. The Republic doubles as a lunch spot and cafe, offering a variety of coffee options and 'single-serving' sized pies.

The neighborhood is home to the most extensive theater district in Los Angeles. More than 30 independently-operated theaters, like the El Portal Theatre picture above, find their home in North Hollywood, each with their own distinct production style. Check out the NoHo Arts district website for more information on productions throughout the district.

Directions: Exit the subway at the North Hollywood Station. The bulk of the arts district is along Lankershim and Magnolia, to the south of the station. Walk around, and see what you can find! Vicious Dogs is located at 5231 Lankershim Boulevard, The Republic of Pie is located at 11118 Magnolia Boulevard.

Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Expo Line
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Gold Line (Part 1)
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Gold Line (Part 2)
Metro Adventures: What To Do On The Red Line (Part 1)

Metro to the End of the World


August 10, 2013

Taking the subway, light rail or bus to far off places is something a broad reaching system lets you do.  Metro and it’s municipal transit partners makes it easy for you to get throughout  Los Angeles county with relative ease.  Certainly getting from Downtown LA to the farthest reaches of the west coast on a 2 seat ride is a pretty good deal.  Of course some areas of Los Angeles may need 2 or 3 transfers and there are certainly undeserved areas of transit, but that is a post for another day, today we are going to have fun.

I like making challenges for myself by planning to use transit when I can easily drive.  So when I looked at the Metro System map  I was impressed they had a limited stop bus (344) to Palos Verdes.  With the addition of the super fast Silver Line (910) service I would be able to get from Downtown LA to the cliffs at the edge of the world in a little longer than it would take to drive.

Getting to  the end of the world is actually easier than planning an outing to the San Fernando Valley as the 344 has a decent frequency with buses running until about 8 pm.  The silver line has frequent enough service to make this trip a walk in the park.  So with my TAP card in hand with stored value cash purse I was ready for a day on the coast.  Checking the Next Bus service or other transit apps is always useful for knowing when the bus will arrive.

With the Silver line bus pulling up to the stop at 3rd and Grand I was ready for adventure, but unfortunately the adventure didn’t start out as planned.  I asked the driver for a day pass using my card, he acknowledged me with a nod and I TAPped my card on the reader.  He looked at me with the that deer in the headlight stare as the TAP fare box beeped.  ”oh I thought you were going to pay with cash, the machine just took a regular Silver line fare and not a Daypass” said the driver.  I said well I am riding all day so I still need a daypass.  He mashed some buttons on the reader and said OK.  But of course nothing happened.  The card was read in the system already so he said come back in 7 min or so.  Well I figured he may screw up again so I decided to just get a daypass on my transfer to the 344.  Strike one for Metro, but I am heading to the coast so I guess it’s not that bad.

The Silver line is really a great service if you are heading to south LA or the south bay area.  It whisks  you passed all the traffic on the 110 with limited stops using the Harbor Freeway Express lanes.  The bus was filled with people wearing their Sunday best including a gentleman with his bike.  The bike rack was full, but the driver let him take his bike on in the back because he was going only one stop and the bus was not that full.  Kudos to the driver for bending the rules in a common sense scenario that helped someone to get to church on time.

The quick ride to harbor gateway transit center was nice and efficient.  The wait time for the 344 was about 10 min, not too bad.  Boarding the bus I asked the driver for a daypass using the stored value on my card.  She looked at me and said that is not possible.  She said you can only use the card with stored value for a regular fair and not a day pass.  I was confused because I know I have loaded a daypass on this card before using the automated ticket machine at the Redline subway stop.  I asked again and she just told me to tap my card.  Still confused I complied with her request and took my seat figuring she was mistaken but not worth the hassle to argue.  Strike Two!

The 344 has a limited stop route which is nice because it does have to cover some distance from the Harbor Gateway transit center to Rancho Palos Verdes.  The ride was quick as there were very few people getting on and off the bus.  Winding our way through the hills we twist and turn offering peeks of beautiful views of the ocean.  The stop at Hawthorn and Palos Verdes West Dr was my stop to get off with my final destination of Point Vicente Light house just a few hundred yards away.  As I exited the bus I mentioned to the driver that I have had both a daypass and stored value on my TAP card before.  She said well maybe it’s different at the subway, so I just shook it off and said “Have a nice day”.  The intersection houses a shopping center with a Starbucks, restaurants and most importantly a Trader Joe’s. Having access to gather provisions for a picnic makes it nice not having to lug all that on the trip there.  With the makings of a nice lunch I walked to the lighthouse park.  When I got the the street I saw the bus driver waiting at the layover area and she waived my over.  She asked if I was traveling more today and I said yes.  She grabbed a paper transfer and marked it for daypass use.  She said that I should show the paper with my TAP card and tell the driver there was a problem loading a daypass.  I thought that was a nice gesture and thanked her but ultimately I found out later from Metro Customer Service that she can and should have loaded a daypass on my card with the stored value.

Point Vicente with the lighthouse, park and interpretive center is a great place to spend time exploring, hiking and relaxing.  It was a great day hiking the trails with beautiful views in all directions.  The lighthouse is closed to the public as it is a Coast Guard Facility but they do open it once a month for visitor to go to the top and view the inside.  The interpretive center is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers about the history, flora and fauna of the area and often have programs and guided hikes.  It is a really great place and I had a wonderful picnic.

I hit the 7-11 adjacent to the bus stop and then waited for my ride back to the transit center.  The 344 ride back was uneventful and I was soon back at the Harbor Gateway transit center.  About a 20 min wait for the Silver line and then off to Downtown.  Again a nice quick ride and I was back in the city.
Overall the trip was fun and didn’t take too long.  The silver line ride is about 25 – 30 min and the 344 is a little longer at about 45 min.  Not bad to get to the end of the wold.

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