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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NFSR Is Not Done with the Supreme Court Yet


By Damien Newton, August 20, 2013


Neighbors for Smart Rail, the group of homeowners that has fought the Expo Line running through their community, isn’t quite done yet. Despite Streetsblog’s proclamation after the California Public Utilities Commission gave the Expo Line the green light that the appeals were over, NFSR is now appealing the Supreme Court ruling.

The initial Supreme Court ruling was that while the Expo Construction Authority should have used current traffic conditions as the baseline for their traffic study in their environmental support documents, that the error was not so grave as to force a new EIR. In fact, several lower courts upheld Expo’s environmental documents and some of the Supreme Court justices felt that the document was just fine, future traffic study and all.

While it’s a long-shot, NFSR feels that the ruling has enough holes in it that the Supreme Court could change its mind if they can prove that the court accidentally mis-stated the law in its conclusion.
For those not familiar with the Supreme Court appeals process, it goes like this.

Within 15 days of the decision, a request for rehearing may be filed if there is an important mistake in the appellate court’s decision in the appeal — like a major misstatement of fact, an error of law, major law or facts that were left out, or an important argument that was not included . No opposition to the petition may be filed unless the court asks for it.

The court can issue a new decision if it agrees with the rehearing request without holding more hearings. Or, they can hold more hearings or ask for a response brief from the other party. Or, they can reject it outright. Or, they can ignore it.

I talked to two attorneys about the chances for success for NFSR. One concluded that the plaintiffs, NFSR, are “nuts.” The other, while admitting it was a long shot, noted that for a group with deep pockets there is nothing really to lose by taking it.

As news breaks from the Supreme Court on this case, Streetsblog will continue to follow this story.

Arroyo Seco Foundation says La Loma footbridge will block environmental rehab


By Lauren Gold, August 20, 2013

La Loma Bridge at the intersection of  Arroyo Boulevard  and La Loma Street in Pasadena Tuesday, August 20, 2013. Members of the Arroyo Seco Foundation are voicing strong objections to plans by the city to build a new pedestrian bridge across the Arroyo Seco Watershed as part of the La Loma bridge restoration. The group says the city’s plan to leave the bridge, which would function as a construction bridge during the La Loma rehabilitation project, in place permanently contradicts promising environmental studies underway to rehabilitate the native habitat. (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)
PASADENA>> The long-antici­pated $17 million La Loma Bridge rehabilitation project is finally set to move forward next year, but members of the environmental-preservation community are concerned the project may be a roadblock for the future restoration of the Arroyo Seco natural habitat.

The project, which would close the bridge for 18 months while crews bring it up to modern earthquake and safety standards, has been in the works for 10 years, said City Engineer Dan Rix. During construction, crews would need to build a bridge across the concrete watershed for construction vehicles, and Rix said the plan is to convert that bridge into a permanent pedestrian walkway once construction is complete.

But the Arroyo Seco Foundation sent a letter to the city this month asking that these plans be reconsidered. “It doesn’t make any sense to build a permanent pedestrian bridge over a flood channel if the flood channel is going to be removed,” said Arroyo Seco Foundation Managing Director Tim Brick.

Brick and other environmental advocates have been waiting for decades for the opportunity to restore a flowing waterway into the Arroyo, which was converted to a concrete flood channel. Brick said building the bridge would be in direct conflict with this mission, which is also set forth in the Lower Arroyo Seco Master Plan approved by the City Council in 2003.

Rix doesn’t think the bridge would be a major issue should the dream of restoration become a reality. In the meantime, he noted that the city has heard requests for more pedestrian crossings in the watershed, which is popular among locals for its hiking and walking trails. Rather than build a temporary bridge that will just be torn down after construction, planners thought it made more sense to make the bridge permanent.

“The bridge could always be removed if they ever get approvals to remove the flood-control channel and put back a natural water course for this area,” Rix said. “It’s been a discussion for many years regarding removing the concrete channel and putting back a natural water course through the lower Arroyo ... but there is no funding that I’m aware of at this time for any such projects.”

Councilman Steve Madison said he also isn’t aware of any specific funding available for any environmental rehabilitation of the Arroyo, adding that before such a project could happen it would have to be carefully studied for safety issues.

As far as the pedestrian bridge, he thinks the issue should be revisited during the 18-month construction period. “I agree that it’s an issue long term whether we should change what’s there (in the Arroyo watershed), and I’m not committed to keeping it there long term,” Madison said.

Brick said a Watershed Ecosystem Study, done jointly by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Los Angeles County Public Works, that began in 2001 is finally heating up. USACE released a Feasibility Scoping Study on the issue in 2011. In May, the L.A. County Flood Control District urged the corps to accelerate and complete the final study, and L.A. County Public Works allocated more funding. Public Works has planned a workshop next week with cities along the Arroyo Seco to talk about concrete actions that might be taken.

“Now that the corps is getting ready to refine the project, this is really the opportunity to get serious about stream restoration down there,” Brick said. “We’ve been waiting a really long time for this study.”

Rix said the La Loma Bridge project is under review by Caltrans, which is expected to approve the project by the end of the year. Then the city will put out a request for construction bids and host community meetings to update residents and get input. Construction would begin in spring 2014 and be completed in fall 2015.

“It’s been a lengthy process,” Rix said. “We are really excited about moving this project forward.”

For more information, visit www.arroyoseco.org or www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/PublicWorks.

Upstart Tesla wins top U.S. safety rating; what will competitors do?


By Jerry Hirsch, August 20, 2013

 Telsa Motors Model S
 A Telsa Motors Model S parks at a charging station in Fremont, Calif.

Adding to a growing list of accolades, Tesla Motors' Model S has secured the title of safest car on the road.

In its first model year, the premium electric sport sedan is one of just seven cars since 2011 — among hundreds — to receive a five-star rating in each of three federal crash-test categories and overall.

Administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the tests also give a separate combined safety score, on which the Model S ranked better than any other U.S. vehicle, according to Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, an independent advocacy organization.

"Tesla has thrown down the challenge to the industry as a whole. We are a new company and we beat everybody," Ditlow said. "All the other automakers need to accept Tesla’s challenge and do as well or better as Tesla in NHTSA’s crash test ratings."

The NHTSA did not respond calls seeking comment.

PHOTOS: 10 cheapest cars that 35 MPG or better

The Palo Alto automaker trumpeted the results, the latest in a string of critical victories that most notably includes a tie for the highest overall rating ever given out by Consumer Reports, the trusted product-testing magazine. In May, the magazine gave the Tesla a score of 99 out of 100, a high reached previously only by the Lexus LS.

"The Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants," the Palo Alto automaker said in a statement.

Investors reacted by pushing Tesla’s stock up $4.68, or 3%, to $146.58 in Tuesday’s trading. Year to date, the stock is up almost 310%.

Federal regulators measure the severity of injuries that occupants of a vehicle would receive in a rollover, side and frontal crashes. The agency awards star ratings for each of those tests and an overall rating. In each case, five stars is the highest rating, one is the lowest.

Other vehicles also got five-star overall ratings, including the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra and Sierra Denali 1500 — the first pickups to do so. But the trucks only received four stars on the rollover tests.

The NHTSA test data also provide a combined vehicle safety score that’s not typically released to the public. The lower the score, the better, said Ditlow, who analyzed the ratings data for the Los Angeles Times. The Model S scored lower than any other car, he said, posted a .42. The next best vehicle was the Chevrolet Camaro, at .47.

"There are individual tests where another car has done better than a Tesla," Ditlow said. "But if you combine all the separate tests into one score, then the Tesla does have the best score."

The results also show just how hard it is to win the top rankings.

Honda, for example, has a goal of achieving five star ratings, but only the two-door model its 2013 Accord met that standard, Ditlow said.

By designing its car from scratch, it was probably easier for Tesla to get the top scores, he said. But that fact that so few cars get the top rating indicates that automakers need to commitment more money and staff to safety improvements, Ditlow said.

"If you want to engineer a safer vehicle, you can do it," Ditlow said. "The other automakers have decided to spread their engineering talent over other areas."

Tesla said the car's electric drive train - the lack of a gasoline engine - creates a safer design.

The car has “a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high-speed impact,” Tesla's statement said. “This is fundamentally a force-over-distance problem -- the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries.”

The architecture of an electric car also helped in the rollover test, the company said. Tesla tucks its large and heavy battery pack below the floor of the car, a factor that adds stability and also improves handling, it said.

Co-founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, Tesla is attempting to become the first successful U.S. automotive startup in nearly a century. It started selling the Model S about a year ago.

The price starts at $63,570 and climbs to more than $100,000 if a customer springs for a larger battery, which extends the vehicle's range to over 200 miles on one charge, more than double most electric cars. The Model S has received a strong reception from the automotive press.

"Slipping behind the wheel of the Tesla Model S is like crossing into a promising zero-emissions future," Consumer Reports said in its review.

The car is "brimming with innovation, delivers world-class performance and is interwoven throughout with impressive attention to detail. It's what Marty McFly might have brought back in place of his DeLorean in  'Back to the Future,' " the magazine said.

The top safety rating further adds to Tesla's reputation as a legitimate contender, said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

"This paves the way for Tesla to gain more acceptance among mainstream buyers in the years to come," he said, "provided that they are able to maintain the features, style and driving dynamics of the Model S in a more affordable package."

Already, brisk sales of the Model S helped Tesla earn its first profit, an $11.2-million gain, in the first quarter of this year. Tesla expects to sell about 20,000 — every car it can turn out — of the sport sedans this year.

Tesla’s finances also are being helped by special California and other environmental credits it collects every time it sells a Model S. It has sold about $150 million of such credits to other automakers so far this year.

It builds the car at a factory in Fremont, Calif., where it also plans to make the Model X — an electric SUV built on the same platform as the Model S and sharing much of its  technology — starting next year.

California Is The Hottest, Craziest State, According To Survey


By Lisa Miller, August 20, 2013

Which state should you travel to if you'd like to increase your odds of meeting someone physically attractive? What about if you want to do something crazy?
Luckily, you can kill two birds with one stone by heading to California.
According to a survey done by Business Insider, the Golden State is a winner in both those categories.

Business Insider asked 1,603 Americans via SurveyMonkey about their opinions on our 50 states.
When asked "Which state is the craziest?" the greatest number of respondents (25 percent) said California. New York came in second place, with Texas and Florida trailing behind.


The "Which state has the hottest residents?" question drew the strongest majority response of all questions asked. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed picked the West Coast state.


Unfortunately, not everyone has such a golden view of Californians. The state was also voted "most overrated," with 28 percent of the vote.

Sorry, Cali. You can't win 'em all.

Some other fun facts about how Americans feel about our country? Louisiana, unsurprisingly, was voted the drunkest. New York was voted the most arrogant and rudest state, with the best food.
New York also apparently has the best AND worst sports fans. Clearly most of the people who took the survey have never been to Philadelphia after the Eagles or Phillies lose a game.

For more survey results, or to see how your home state fared, click over to Business Insider

MAPS: A Poll Asked America Which States Were The Drunkest, The Hottest And Which Had The Silliest Accents

By Walter Hickey, August 20, 2013

The United States prides itself on being a union of independent states, each with their own unique reputation, personality, and aesthetic.

After seeing an excellent poll that asked Europeans what they thought of other European countries, we talked to our polling partner SurveyMonkey Audience to expand the questions and try it on Americans, to see how they felt about other states.

The results were hilarious, informative and tell you everything you need to know about the dynamic between the states.

We asked respondents — 1603 of them — to answer each question with a state that wasn't their own. The poll was carried out using SurveyMonkey's Audience feature, which was more accurate predicting the 2012 election than numerous traditional pollsters.

The following maps show that data. Look under each map for details when it comes to the color scale. The darkest color had the highest number of votes, the whitest color had next to none.

Massachusetts has the weirdest accent. Trailing close behind are Louisiana, Alabama, Minnesota, New York and New Jersey.

US State Poll Maps question 01
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Massachusetts, 264 of 1603 votes, 16%

New York scored around 20% of the vote for best food. California and Louisiana get honorable mentions.

US State Poll Maps question 02
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: New York, 305 of 1603 votes, 19%

Hey Alaska, the rest of America thinks your food sucks. 

US State Poll Maps question 03
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Alaska, 85 of 1603 votes, 5%

Besides their own state, people had the highest opinion of California. Colorado is also pretty popular. 

US State Poll Maps question 04
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: California, 194 of 1581, 12%

That's what you get, Texas, for always pulling the "We can leave America whenever we feel like it" card. 

US State Poll Maps question 05
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Texas, 167 of 1581 votes, 11%

California is considered the craziest state...

US State Poll Maps question 06
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: California, 403 of 1581 votes, 25%

...but California is also the hottest. Funny how things always seem to turn out like that. This question wasn't even close, it appears that Katy Perry was right. 

US State Poll Maps question 14
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: California, 713 of 1411 votes, 51% (!)

America had trouble deciding which state was the ugliest. We know it's in the south somewhere, with Alabama in the lead.

US State Poll Maps question 15
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Alabama, 113 of 1442 votes, 9%

Colorado has the most beautiful scenery in the country, followed closely by Hawaii. Honorable mentions to Alaska, Montana and California. 

US State Poll Maps question 12
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Colorado, 228 of 1545 votes, 15%

Kansas has the worst scenery. People also went out of their way to pick on Jersey on this one. 

US State Poll Maps question 13
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Kansas, 174 of 1487 votes, 12%

Louisiana go home, you're drunk. 

US State Poll Maps question 08
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Louisiana, 174 of 1568 votes, 11%

People love to vacation in Hawaii, Florida, and California. 

US State Poll Maps question 07
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Hawaii, 498 of 1568 votes, 32% (!)

New York is the most arrogant. 

US State Poll Maps question 09
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: New York, 612 of 1568 votes, 39% (!)

New York is also the rudest. Who could have guessed.

US State Poll Maps question 11
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: New York, 680 of 1545 votes, 44%

Georgia is the nicest, followed by Minnesota. The South gets high marks here, potentially because the rest of the country doesn't understand that "Bless your heart" is facetious.

US State Poll Maps question 10
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Georgia, 104 of 1545 votes, 7%

Massachusetts is the smartest. All those colleges probably. 

US State Poll Maps question 16
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Massachusetts, 342 of 1442 votes, 24%

Mississippi is believed to be the dumbest. 

US State Poll Maps question 17
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Mississippi, 237 of 1442 votes, 16%

New York is the home of the best sports fans.

US State Poll Maps question 19
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: New York, 193 of 1442 votes, 13 percent

Most likely due to the fact that most Americans have never been to Philadelphia, the rest of the country believes New York also has the worst sports fans. I blame John Rocker.

US State Poll Maps question 20
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: New York, 158 of 1442 votes, 11%

America is pretty down to mess with Texas on anonymous surveys.

US State Poll Maps question 21
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Texas, 301 of 1422 votes, 21%

All the usual suspects are considered overrated. 

US State Poll Maps question 22
Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: California, 394 of 1422 votes, 28%

While this was the most competitive category by far, people seem to believe that Oregon, Alaska and Maine are the most underrated. 

US State Poll Maps question 23

Walter Hickey / BI, Poll by SurveyMonkey
Max: Alaska, 78 of 1422 votes, 5%

Great job, America. 

The Day Pass Diary: Riding the Metro Orange Line


By Chloe Rodriguez, August 20, 2013

 Great Wall of Los Angeles. Photo by Chloe Rodriguez/Metro.

 40′ Gold Emmy Statue at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Photo by Chloe Rodriguez/Metro.

Get off at the Woodley station to get to the Japanese Garden. Photo by Chloe Rodriguez/Metro.

When people in LA County hear “bus rapid transit,” the first thought is the Metro Orange Line. What’s bus rapid transit? In the words of LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, “It is like a rail line on rubber tires.” The Orange Line has made great strides since its opening in 2005 by improving mobility through the San Fernando Valley, bringing faster travel times, and a chance to discover the rich history and beautiful scenery of the valley. With the help of Metro, you can experience BRT all day for only $5 with a $5 Day Pass.

Here are some historic stops along the Orange Line:

1. North Hollywood is the first stop on the Orange Line and it’s a great way to start the adventure. Here you can explore the Noho Arts District filled with historical sites like the 17 Hertz Studio where Metallica recorded their album Black, theaters, museums, and fine dining. One sight to see is the Life Size Bronze Statues of T.V. Stars, where you can meet Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, and the 40-feet tall gold Emmy Statue at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Love live theatre? Then catch a live show at the historic El Portal Theatre. Since its opening in 1926, the stage has seen vaudeville, silent movies, Academy Award winning films, and now live theatre.

2. Grab a bite in Noho at a discounted price with Metro at the Federal Bar. Show your valid TAP card and receive 10% off all food items. 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.

3. Off Valley College Station is one of the most historic murals in Los Angeles. Located along the concrete sides of the Tujunga Wash, the Great Wall of Los Angeles depicts the history of California through several panels; the first few panels begin with prehistory and colonialism and the following panels deal with events of the 20th century. It was created in conjunction with the rise of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s-1980s. The mural was designed by Judith Baca and executed by community youth and artists coordinated by the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC).

4. Van Nuys City Hall contains more than 49,000 square feet of space within an eight-story tower on a two-story base. The building was designed by Peter K. Schabarum at the height of the Great Depression. Because of the Northridge earthquake, the building underwent renovations in 2002 to retain its function as a city hall. The Van Nuys City Hall is located in the Civic Center, which has also been renovated to include more retail, office and restaurant space, and it’s accessible off the Van Nuys stop.

5.  Hop off the bus at Woodley Station to go to the Japanese Garden. Here you can stroll through six and a half acres of three classical designs: a dry karensansui, a wet garden with promenade chisen, and an authentic tea ceremony garden incorporating a 4.5 tatami mat tea room. The purpose of the garden is not only for a peaceful getaway, but also to relieve the overburdened portions of the wastewater collection system between the San Fernando Valley and the city’s main wastewater treatment facility. Enjoy beauty and serenity while saving the valley at the Japanese Garden.

6. Lake Balboa Park hosts a 1.3 mile jogging/walking path, a bike path, cherry blossom trees, a fly fishing area, and a lake where fishing is allowed. Also in the park is a hidden gem for aircraft lovers. At the Apollo XI Model Aircraft Field, you can find a model aviation enthusiasts from all over Southern California who enjoy building and flying radio controlled model aircraft. In other words, this park has everything.

7. The Orange Line has now been extended all the way to Chatsworth, home of the Wild West movies. But Chatsworth is more than just a Hollywood backdrop for Western movies. Here you can be a real cowboy and ride horses on trails at Stoney Point Park  or with the help of equestrian services from CB Sporthorses.

8. If you would rather take a more recreational route, the Orange Line provides a bikeway spanning from North Hollywood all the way to Chatsworth. This gives LA bikers a far greater reach into the San Fernando Valley. The bike path is protected, making it a fun ride for the whole family. And every stop along the Orange Line is just as accessible to bikers along the path.

L.A. Union Station Master Plan comment period is extended


By Steve Hymon, August 20, 2013

Thank you to everyone who attended the Community Workshop on Thursday, August 1, 2013. We hope the presentation and workshop provided a clear understanding of the revised alternatives and our vision for a staged development of the property. The refined alternatives reflect stakeholder feedback, additional technical studies and input from transit operators, and offer additional layers of design to the original diagrams presented in May.

If you missed the meeting and would like to view a recording of the presentation, we encourage you to check out our Ustream channel. In addition, a copy of the presentation in English, Spanish and Chinese will soon be available on our project website and our Facebook page.

We have extended the deadline to submit comments to August 30 and encourage you to submit your feedback to our refined alternatives. You can find the comment form on our project website under “Project Updates.” If you had a question that was not answered at the meeting, or if you have additional questions, please email the project team directly. All comments will be shared with the team and answers to all questions will be posted on our project website and Facebook page. You can submit questions and comments in the following ways:

LA Union Station Master Plan
One Gateway Plaza-MS 99-23-4
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Email: lausmp@metro.net
Phone: 213.922.2499

We have scheduled a Metro Board of Directors workshop on September 18 at 3:30pm to familiarize the Board with our proposed alternatives. We anticipate that the Board of Directors will make a recommendation on a preferred alternative in October 2013. In the meantime, we encourage you to talk to your friends and neighbors about the project. Continue to connect with our website, Facebook and Twitter pages as we provide updates throughout the process.

LA Union Station Master Plan Team

What Happens When a Town Puts People Before Cars?


By Sarah Goodyear, August 20, 2013

What Happens When a Town Puts People Before Cars?

Nearly three years ago, a Minnesota man named Charles Marohn published a piece called "Confessions of a Recovering Engineer" on the blog of his not-for-profit organization, Strong Towns. In it, he describes the priorities that he learned in his training as an engineer: first comes speed; then traffic volume; then safety; then cost.

Following those principles, Marohn was designing wider, faster roads to cut through the hearts of American towns. He discovered that the people in those towns often pushed back, asking why trees and sidewalk space had to be sacrificed in order to widen the road, and how their children could possibly be safer with cars whizzing by at top speed.

Armed with the prestige of his chosen profession and a pile of studies and guidelines that explained why bigger was always better, Marohn would explain that "these standards have been shown to work across the world," and that people who objected to the loss of trees and yard space and peace for their families were simply wrong.

Then, unlike many engineers, he started thinking about the human consequences of what he was doing:
In retrospect I understand that this was utter insanity. Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people. Taking highway standards and applying them to urban and suburban streets, and even county roads, costs us thousands of lives every year. There is no earthly reason why an engineer would ever design a fourteen foot lane for a city block, yet we do it continuously. Why?
The answer is utterly shameful: Because that is the standard.
Marohn, as the title of his piece implies, has rejected the standards he learned in school. He now travels the country spreading the word that things can be done differently – that America’s towns and cities can build streets that are safe and operate at a human scale, the old-fashioned way, and that they can save money and bolster their economies in the process.

That’s exactly what the village of Hamburg, in upstate New York, has done. According to an article in the New York Times, the leaders of this community of 10,000 rejected the proposed widening of U.S. Route 62, the local main street, back in 2001. After consulting with Dan Burden, a nationally known advocate for walkable communities, village residents approved an alternative plan by a vote of four to one.

Main Street. 

Main Street was rebuilt not as a high-speed funnel for cars, but instead as a pleasant shopping street with narrower traffic lanes, trees, and ample sidewalks. Roundabouts replaced intersections, and in the two years after construction was completed in 2009, crashes were down by 66 percent and injuries fell by 60 percent. "Accidents in [the roundabouts] need a tow truck, not an ambulance," a transportation department official told the Times.

Property values in the once-fading downtown have doubled and local business owners are investing millions in new projects. New residents have been attracted by the appeal of a village center where a simple walk up and down Main Street is a pleasure rather than something to be endured. Hamburg was, like many American towns and cities in the Rust Belt, in decline. Now it is thriving.
The improved quality of life and revived economic health of Hamburg echo the experience of Poynton in the United Kingdom, where a traffic-calming “shared streets” plan has rescuscitated a formerly traffic-choked village center.

The 20th-century model of traffic engineering is not only outdated, but is also downright hazardous to public health and economic development. Every year, communities around the world are demonstrating that there is another way. Treating a community’s streets like a sewage system that flushes cars through quickly and efficiently has been a disastrous experiment. How many more towns and cities will be gutted before the standards that Marohn learned in engineering school are scrapped?

Rebranding Buses and Public Transit.


August 20, 2013

The idea of rebranding public transportation always intrigues me.

I wrote a brief blog post about it last February and wanted to touch upon it again after reading the Wall Street Journal’s look at “The Commute of The Future” and how buses are trying to be more and more like trains.

I grew up in a small town where there only real forms of public transportation were riding your bike, walking or catching the school bus. It’s only in the past five years that I’ve really come to see the benefits of utilizing trains, taxis and the occasional bus. In a world that needs to urbanize and focus on sustainability, efficient public transportation is a must.

That’s why the ideas put forth in the Wall Street Journal piece are so intriguing. The story touches on how Cleveland and other select cities are working to rebrand the image of the “gritty, pokey, crowded bus by sending sleeker, more spacious and train-like buses onto certain commuter routes.” These new buses feature amenities that people would be more accustomed to finding on commuter and light-rail trains.

The goal is to attract passengers who don’t need to ride the bus to work – but choose to do so out of enjoyment and the recognition of the need to reduce traffic and push sustainable commuting. The new buses in Cleveland and other cities pushing this effort are finding ways to cut commute times and make the entire experience more enjoyable.

The full article is worth your time, and I encourage you to read it. There is also a strong interactive infographic that shows the different amenities these new buses offer. I’ve embedded a small snapshot below.

Port Eliminates 81% of Diesel Air Pollution

Report marks 6th consecutive year of air quality improvements

August 19, 2013


 The Port of Long Beach has cut diesel particulates by 81 percent since 2005, according to an analysis released today. The results for 2012 mark six straight years of improving air quality in the harbor area thanks to the Port's focused efforts to reduce air pollution caused by goods movement.

The reasons for air quality improvements include bigger ships carrying cargo more efficiently, newer ships with cleaner engines, the Jan. 1, 2012 deadline for full implementation of the Clean Trucks Program, increasing use of shore power, and a new low-sulfur fuel rule for ships that started in August 2012.

Compared to 2005 emissions levels, all of the key air pollutants from port-related sources were reduced in 2012. In addition to the drop in diesel emissions, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides have been cut 54 percent and 88 percent respectively. Greenhouse gases were lowered by 24 percent. The reduction in pollutants far outpaced a 10 percent decline in containerized cargo activity in the same period.

“We’ve been aggressively pursuing cleaner air for a long time and as you can see from these numbers, we are succeeding. We’ve committed to do even more, to continue to reduce air pollution and its health effects,” said Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Thomas Fields.

The report released Monday examines data from the 2012 calendar year. The study's results were reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The annual analysis of air pollution from port sources ― literally an “emissions inventory” ― is conducted to check the Port’s progress in improving air quality. The San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan ― created in 2006 ― maps out a strategy to reduce or prevent pollution from the ships, trucks, locomotives, tractors and cranes that move cargo.

For the complete emissions inventory, go to www.polb.com/emissions.

The Port of Long Beach is a recognized industry leader in environmental stewardship worldwide. The more than $150 billion in trade flowing through the Port of Long Beach each year creates more than 300,000 jobs in the Southern California region.

Media Contact: Art Wong, Port of Long Beach Assistant Director of Communications/Public Information Officer, (562) 283-7702, (562) 619-5665 (cell), or art.wong@polb.com.

Now Angelenos Can See Art While Waiting for the Bus


By Eva Recinos, August 19, 2013

Your bus ride just got more artsy, thanks to a new initiative.

In Los Angeles, art resides on concrete walls, buildings, billboards and more. So it's no surprise that you can now see it around Downtown LA and Boyle Heights on another public surface -- the bus bench.

Through a collaboration between the non-profit organizations DoArt Foundation and Make Art Public (MAP), a few bus benches throughout the city now display the work of artists Dulce Pinzon and Jon Rafman. The project came to fruition after both organizations worked with and Martin Outdoor Media and Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar (the bus benches reside in his district).
The L.A.-based DoArt Foundation focuses on getting people to create more art and discover new artists. Executive Director Carmen Zella wants the project to "deepen the conversation" about art and more. "It's about having larger dialogues about ideas and important political ideas in our society as well," says Zella.

The artists and their works speak directly to the themes of travel and also the urban space. Pinzon's photographs show immigrants performing a number of labor tasks while clad in superhero costumes. Rafman takes thrilling screenshots from Google Street View, scouring the world from his computer for small vignettes accidentally caught by the map camera. The photos range from funny to disturbing, including scenes like a man walking towards the camera with what looks like a gun in hand in Brazil, and Goofy in the middle of dancing at a Disneyland resort in Paris.

Jon Rafman's work on a bus bench.

Both bodies of work operate on a normally ignored surface -- a bus bench that many commuters turn their backs on while waiting. Zella feels that the moment when strangers wait for the bus carries "an intimacy" and is "an interesting moment to create that type of interaction" found when two or more people admire a work of art together.

"I believe art should be accessible to the public and MAP always has the best ideas and setting of how to bring art to the people, not the other way around," says Pinzon in an email.

Both artists also use creative ideas to put across complex messages. Pinzon's photograph of Spider Man washing a high-rise building window places an oftentimes overlook worker in a different light. "I always have ideas that take me by surprise," says Pinzon.

That surprise is what Zella hopes will spark conversation amongst those who see the works.
"Art can be provocative. It can be beautiful. But ultimately it's about a conversation," Zella says.

Cars In America: Is The Love Story Over?


August 18, 2013

Almost as soon as they started rolling off the assembly lines, automobiles became synonymous with freedom. And in the post-World War II boom our relationship with cars intensified.

It was about horsepower, status, being American, and for young people: rebellion. For generations cars inspired countless songs, books and movies. But now there are signs that our car culture is losing some of its shine.

The iconic 1973 film American Graffiti celebrated the deep relationship between American teen culture and the automobile back in the early 1960s. But that was 40 years ago, and a lot has changed since those days.

Studies show that teenagers are driving less, getting their licenses later, and waiting longer to purchase their first new car. NPR's Sonari Glinton recently hit the streets to find out why, and discovered not having a car or not being able to afford one, has become a lot more common. The negative stigma around not having a car has also seems to have waned.

"My girlfriend drives me everywhere. That sounds sad, and 20 years ago I'd be considered pathetic, but it's almost normal now to be that way," says Mike Clubb, who is in his 20s.

Micheline Maynard, a veteran journalist who's covered automobiles and transportation issues, now oversees the website CurbingCars.com. She tells NPR's Don Gonyea that one of the most cited reasons behind this trend of young people waiting to get a car or their driver's license is simply not having the time.

"Many states have now changed teen driving laws, so you have to spend a certain amount of time in the car with a parent," Maynard says. "And people just shrug and say, 'You know what, I don't need to get a license right now.' "

Another reason often cited is money. Maynard says the average cost of a new car is about $30,000, before factoring in car insurance. Add in the high price of gas in some places and owning a car is simply too expensive for a young person.

There are also more transportation options available for those without a car, Maynard notes, from bikes, to ride shares, hourly car services and public transportation.

"Public transit is seeing record demand at this point in time," she says. "I think people are looking at transportation now as 'I use my car when I need it, but if there are other cheaper, faster ways to get somewhere I'll use that as well.' "

All of this has car companies scratching their heads, Maynard says, about how to appeal to new and potential drivers.

People and families used to identify with the cars they drove. Car culture was huge just a few decades ago, but the shift away from that is what has created less emphasis on getting a car early, Maynard says.

"The automobile has shifted from a subject of adoration from most of the public, to something that's adored by a portion of the public," she says. "What we're seeing now is a move of the car out of people's hearts and into the garage — perhaps where they should have been all along."

Vanmoof's New Electric Bike Will be the Most Intelligent Commuter Bike in the World Read more: Vanmoof's New Electric Bike Will be the Most Intelligent Commuter Bike in the World | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building


By Lori Zimmer, August 19, 2013

green design, eco design, sustainable design, Vanmoof, Vanmoof 10 electrified bike, ebike, electric city bike

Vanmoof's 10 is a sleek new electrified bike that could make any commute incredibly easy and high tech. The Dutch bike company‘s electric-assist city bike features an array of gadgetry like smart sensors, GPS tracking, an onboard computer and of course an electric power-booster. The super smart bike uses Vanmoof’s lightweight frame and has an integrated 209Wh battery system for smooth riding.

Made from anodized aluminum, the Electrified looks like your typical stylish city bike. The bike’s front hub houses a 250W electrical motor which can power up to a speedy 37 miles per hour. The battery reaches its full charge in just three hours, making it easy to regain its power while you work. 
The electrified bike can be switched into free-peddling mode, riding just like a regular bike, but when the commute gets tough, can employ a little electric help to get you home a little faster. The built in sensors monitor your commute, and adjust the electric power suited to the needs of the ride and terrain. The smart sensors detect when you need a little extra peddle power, and when you’re fine on  your own.

Other perks include an enclosed chain to keep work wear grease-free, a 40 lux LED headlight and tail light, and of course the GPS tracking system which can double as a recovery tool if the sweet bike is stolen. Presale of the bike have already been sold out, but the Vanmoof 10 Electrified will be on the market in April of 2014.

Labor Department Meddles in California Transit Dispute


By Ivan Osorio, August 19, 2013

California public transit unions seem to have found a new, powerful bargaining tactic: If you don’t get your way in the legislature, threaten your state’s transportation funding. And it helps to have the administration in Washington on your side. California’s government and unions representing the state’s public transit workers are still negotiating, past the August 16 deadline imposed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for the state to give in to the unions’ demand to exempt transit workers from the state’s 2012 pension reform law or lose up to $1.6 billion in federal transportation funding.

After Governor Jerry Brown signed the pension reform into law last fall, the Teamsters and Amalgamated Transit Union filed complaints with the Labor Department, citing a provision in the Federal Transit Act that allows DOL to hold up federal transportation funds if states interfere with public transit workers’ ability to bargain collectively with their employers (transit authorities). California Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern defended the state’s pension reform law in February, saying that it doesn’t weaken collective bargaining and “merely modifies” the retirement plans that public employers can offer.

The Labor Department is clearly out of line in trying to impose its own interpretation of the law by threatening California’s transportation funding, especially in determining something as fuzzy as when collective bargaining is “impeded.” If DOL continues to try to browbeat California into giving in to union demands, state officials should consider taking the matter to court, the proper venue for legal interpretation. Furthermore, there is no good reason why federal transit funds should be tied to collective bargaining or any other such conditions. Congress should take a close look at amending the Federal Transit Act, as proposed in H.R. 2537, introduced by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). (H/T Marc Scribner and Trey Kovacs.)

CHSRA Signs Contract With Tutor Perini


By Robert Cruickshank, August 19, 2013

For those of you wondering what would happen the first business day after a Sacramento judge ruled that the 2011 financing plan violated Prop 1A, Governor Jerry Brown has a message:
The ruling raises some questions about the plan, but “it did not stop anything,” the Democratic governor told reporters during a Lake Tahoe summit.

“There’s a lot of room for interpretation, and I think the outcome will be positive,” Brown said of the ruling late Friday by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny.
And the California High Speed Rail Authority has its own message:
The ruling came just hours after the California High-Speed Rail Authority signed a nearly $1 billion contract authorizing a consortium led by Tutor Perini to design and build the first 30 miles of track from Madera to Fresno, rail authority board Chairman Dan Richard said.
Governor Brown and the CHSRA clearly believe that the ruling does not threaten the project’s survival or even its ability to continue moving forward. And Judge Kenny pointedly refused to order any injunction preventing the Authority from moving forward, holding that to a future hearing and noting that the final authority here may rest with the Legislature given the way Prop 1A was written.
But there are other reasons for HSR supporters to be hopeful. After reflecting over the weekend on the ruling, and reading it a few more times, some other points became clear.

Keep in mind that Judge Kenny based his ruling on the 2011 financing plan. But that plan was superseded by the 2012 Business Plan, which addressed the problems found in the 2011 financing plan. The 2012 Business Plan was what the Legislature used when they authorized the release of funds in July 2012. And that authorization was what Judge Kenny declined to block.

HSR opponents claimed a big victory on Friday, but it may prove to be hollow. In 2009 Judge Kenny threw out an early EIR, but the Authority was able to amend it and get it approved without any delay in project work. In this case it appears that the Authority already addressed these issues. Judge Kenny may not find that persuasive, but you can bet that the lawyers in the Attorney General’s office will make a big deal of it in the hearing to determine what remedy, if any, he will order as a result of Friday’s ruling.

Signing the contract with Tutor Perini is a big step forward for the project. Judge Kenny’s ruling still has to be dealt with. But Governor Brown, a shoo-in for re-election next year, is determined to move ahead, and the CHSRA now has a signed contract for construction. I’m feeling confident about this project’s future, and other HSR advocates should as well.

Why LA has Trains to Nowhere and Will We Ever Make Elusive MetroRail/LAX Connection


By Ken Alpern, August 20, 2013


TRANSPO LA - Although there are many hot-potato issues surrounding the modernization of LAX, one of the most infuriating and alienating issues to taxpaying commuters is the failure of Metro, LA World Airports and any other state or federal "powers that be" to create a first-rate, modern MetroRail/LAX connection.  

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Times journalist Laura Nelson to provide input for what is probably the most modern article to date on this topic.

So if any interested party wants to be brought up to speed on where we've been, and where we're going, to reach this long-sought rail/airport connection, it's vital to read this article--although it's highly unfortunate that the wonderful maps don't appear to be included in the above link. 
But do read the article.  I'll wait.

In short, there are three main reasons why we don't have this rail connection to LAX yet built, or even mapped out at this time.  The rail line is a victim of the map, a victim of a LA World Airports and Federal Aviation Administration "groupthink" that has a very low priority (if not contempt) for such a rail connection, and a victim of our local/state underfunding of major transportation/infrastructure projects.

But the map issue must come first, because it really does explain the historical, present-day and future challenges of such a necessary MetroRail/LAX connection--once called "the Green Line to LAX" but which is now different because of the advent of the approved and funded $2 billion Crenshaw/LAX light rail line.

The Metro Green Line was advanced decades-faster than originally planned in the 1980's and 1990's because of community mitigation for the I-105 (Century) freeway, and is the one major rail line that is NOT focused on a Downtown Los Angeles connection.  In other words, it truly addresses the needs of the outlying suburbs of LA County. 

Both the then-booming defense industry and the need for a rail maintenance yard in El Segundo led to the initial South Bay routing and western terminus. A North Coast Extension to and through LAX to Marina Del Rey was approved but lack of funding caused that extension to placed on indefinite hold.  An EIR of extending the Green Line eastern terminus to the Norwalk Metrolink station was also considered, but placed on hold.

So we have three "Green Gaps" of the Metro Green Line:  the gap to LAX and the Westside, the gap to the South Bay Galleria and to the rest of the South Bay, and the gap to the countywide Metrolink system.  These "Green Gaps" all plague this so-called "rail to nowhere" yet boasts a 40,000 rider/day figure that is a result of its connection to regional bus routes and the Metro Blue Line, and its future potential is huge.

In other words, the first step is often the most messy and painful, but the most vital in the long run.  But the Green Line is still somewhat of a "stand-alone" line and is both the victim of the map and of an as-of-yet incomplete system/grid that cries for multiple lines.

Enter the Crenshaw/LAX line, which former Mayor Villaraigosa thought would do much to finish the LAX/Green Line conundrum.  Despite outcries of race-based and cultural issues surrounding this $2 billion line, it ultimately is a connecting north-south line between the east-west Expo Line (Expo/Crenshaw station) and the east-west Green Line (Aviation/Imperial station).

But the gap filled by the Crenshaw/LAX line between the Expo and Green Lines does NOT answer the question of connecting MetroRail to the LAX central airline terminals some 1.5 miles to the west, does NOT answer the question of how Westsiders and Valley commuters will access LAX via MetroRail, and does NOT answer the question of whether there will be a direct Downtown/LAX line.
When the former Green Line Interagency Task Force, created and funded by former CD11 LA Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, first met eight years ago, the first question to be asked was, "What and where is the LAX/MetroRail link?"  That question still remains a thorny one, with different answers coming from different people...and it's STILL without consensus as to what that link is.

Please note that the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, while an excellent step forward, does NOT (to repeat) connect to the central airline terminals, proceeds down a publicly-owned rail right of way (the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way) that crosses the incoming airplane flight paths (and must have a FAA-required trench along that right-of-way), and turns north in Inglewood up Crenshaw Blvd. and away from a direct route to Downtown.

Lots of holes, lots of angry taxpayers and commuters, and lots of future needs to be filled.  So this is NOT an easy issue, but has two main approaches for Metro and LA World Airports and the City of Los Angeles to consider, both of which will require up to $1-1.5 billion that we don't now have assigned to connect MetroRail to the central airline terminals...which is the "true" LAX connection we all want and need:

1) An indirect People Mover to serve both the hotels, Consolidated Rental Car Facility and airline terminals on, and west of, the vital Century Blvd. commercial corridor.  This would allow for a new rail line, a separation of regional north/south commuters from an unwanted detour to the west, and potential safety/security issues to be addressed.

2) A direct rerouting of the planned MetroRail Crenshaw/Green Line trunk that would have the Crenshaw line proceed west to a station or two on the Century Blvd. commercial corridor, dive underground east of Terminal 1, have an underground station west of Sepulveda Blvd. to directly serve as a LAX central airline terminal link, and proceed back to the surface at Nash and the South Bay portion of the Green Line.

Problems and potential benefits abound with both options, but that's our main challenge for the future.

Another obstacle that the MetroRail/LAX link must overcome is resistance from LA World Airports and the FAA, which have little to no interest in prioritizing this rail/airport link. 

It is hoped that Mayor Garcetti's new Board of Airport Commissioners can demand that the northern runways and central terminals not be razed and reconstructed--in addition to the unnecessary expense, this would also complicate a future north-south rail line from LAX to the Westside and San Fernando Valley, to say nothing of risking the partial or complete shutdown of Lincoln and Sepulveda Blvds.

Finally, there is the funding--this is very low in current Metro priorities, and the federal government is not too bullish about funding urban rail projects.  Whether it's the GOP who don't care much about blue-state California, or the Democrats who always want rail and transportation priorities AFTER social welfare programs and other bloated expenses, this critical project just doesn't have the support in Washington we all want.

There will certainly be followup articles and opinions to the issues raised in Laura Nelson's article, but it's hoped that a resurgence of interest and focus on this vital rail project will perhaps be the final push needed to correct what is seen by many (perhaps most) as a long-overdue transportation gap, and an error in our long-range planning that should have been resolved decades ago.  

How Will the New Federal Guidance on Affordable TOD Affect Your Community?


By Michael A. Spotts, August 19, 2013

On August 14, 2013, the Federal Transit Administration released the final Policy Guidance for its Major Capital Investment Projects program, also known as New Starts/Small Starts. This program is the primary federal funding source for new transit investments, and this guidance sets the framework for the program’s competitive evaluation and ratings process. Enterprise and many of its partners have provided feedback to the FTA throughout the rulemaking process, which began in 2010. Our comments focused on promoting the coordination of affordable housing and community development activities with any new transit investments. We are pleased to see that the Final Rule (released in January 2013) and guidance reflect many of our recommendations, including incentives to expand transit access to low-income communities, preserve existing affordable housing and develop additional affordable units near new stations. We commend FTA for the steps it has taken to ensure that families of all incomes can benefit from transit expansion and the community investment that often follows.

Continue reading for more information on the guidance's importance and implications.

The Importance of Affordable TOD and Implications for Local Practitioners

Before getting into the details of the new guidance, it’s important to consider the reasons why we encouraged FTA to take affordable housing and community development into account in its funding decisions. Transit service is crucial to accessing jobs, health services and other everyday necessities for many low-income workers and families. New transit expansions can enhance personal mobility and contribute to increased economic development in the surrounding neighborhood.  Investment in these communities can have significant revitalization effects in previously disinvested areas, and property values near station areas can rise. However, this raises the prospect that the area may become unaffordable to low- and moderate-income households, who stand to benefit the most from the new transit access. Therefore, it is important for policymakers to consider housing affordability when making decisions about transit to ensure that people of all incomes can experience the benefits.
How does the New Starts Final Rule and Policy Guidance address this issue?
  • First, FTA will assess the degree to which the proposed transit project will reach existing affordable housing. In addition, FTA’s measure of mobility benefits provides extra weighting for trips made by transit-dependent persons. These incentives encourage project sponsors to ensure that the transit project reaches lower-income households from the outset.

  • To address the neighborhood change that often accompanies transit investments, the guidance also provides incentives for adopting plans and policies that preserve and expand affordable housing opportunities in the station areas. Enterprise and its partners are pleased that the final guidance placed a greater emphasis on preservation and the needs of very- and extremely-low income families.

  • Finally, the incremental costs of certain sustainability-related project features, such as energy-efficiency measures and transit-oriented joint development, are excluded from the calculations of cost-effectiveness. The previous calculation method penalized any additional project cost that did not result in direct and proportional increases in ridership, regardless of whether the project feature enhanced the transit system's overall quality. 
What do all of these changes mean for communities that are thinking about starting or expanding their transit systems? Most importantly, it means that regions planning transit projects will need to take a holistic view of the communities they are reaching and plan accordingly. It will be important for those working in transit and housing to start talking (if they haven’t already) – the sooner the better. There will be a learning curve that needs to be overcome as each side learns the nuances of the other’s field. Both the public and private sectors will need to engage in this discussion. Local stakeholders will need to take concrete actions to plan for growth in the surrounding communities and implement policies and tools that develop and preserve affordable housing. Timing is of the essence, since property values may begin to increase during the planning stage, a trend that can accelerate once the project is operational.

FTA has taken a strong step in the right direction toward promoting and investing in communities of opportunity. However, these changes will require adjustment on the part of practitioners. We anticipate that a number of questions will arise as the transit and housing fields take a closer look at the new guidance and consider how it will apply to their specific context. In anticipation of these questions, Enterprise will soon release a more detailed analysis of the New Starts Policy Guidance as part of its Policy Focus series of issue briefs. This brief will provide more specific implementation details and recommendations for action at the local/regional level. In the meantime, please contact me if you have questions or would like additional information.

Should We Be Embracing Golf Carts as a Cheaper Alternative to Electric Vehicles?


By Eric Jaffe, August 20, 2013

 Should We Be Embracing Golf Carts as a Cheaper Alternative to Electric Vehicles?

If you live in Kentucky, you may have noticed lately that a fair number of golf carts have strayed quite a bit from the course. These aren't poor golfers looking for an errant shot — at least, not exclusively. The Associated Press reports that multiple Kentucky municipalities have recently passed or are actively considering laws allowing golf carts on city streets.

The trend began back in 2008, when the state legislature awarded local governments the right to award golf carts the right to certain public roads. Initially there was a provision keeping the carts within 5 miles of a golf course, but that restriction was dropped in 2010. Now the permissible area has expanded to any road with a speed-limit of 35 miles per hour.

Kentucky is not exactly in uncharted waters here. In 1998, responding to growing concerns about golf carts on roads, the federal government created safety standards for a new class of vehicles called "low-speed vehicles." Those rules required LSVs to have basic safety equipment like headlights and seatbelts. (Oddly enough, the standards didn't apply to golf carts, since most didn't travel 20-25 m.p.h.)

Still, states had the final say where LSVs could go. While the initial idea was for this new class of vehicles to make a short trip into town, traveling primarily around communities (especially retirement communities) properly planned for LSV traffic, today all but four states allow LSVs to mix with traffic on regular roads — with relatively few restrictions:

Some Kentucky officials seem properly concerned about letting golf carts travel beside, say, Ford F-150s. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety believes all LSV drivers face significant risks on the road; in one crash test conducted a few years ago, the dummy in an LSV received fatal injuries when rammed by the equivalent of a pick-up going just 31 m.p.h. An actual golf cart, which barely provides sufficient protection from a well-struck golf ball, would no doubt fare far worse.

So why are so many people in Kentucky cities — and beyond — risking personal safety by cruising regular roads in golf carts and their kind? Well the simplest answer is money: the AP reports that Kentuckians have turned to golf carts as a way to avoid rising gas prices. But if that's the case, then why aren't these same people just buying full-sized electric vehicles?

The answer may still be money. One top-selling golf cart-style vehicle in the United States, the Polaris GEM, costs anywhere from $8,000 for the basic model to $15,000 for a six-seater. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt run about $30,000 and $35,000, respectively — and that's with big recent slashes to their sticker costs.

But money can't be the whole story. A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that people who drove LSVs used them for quick errands while keeping a primary car at home for longer trips. In other words, each golf cart-style vehicle is really a package with a conventional car; when you add the two together, you surely exceed the cost of the Leaf or the Volt, even before considering gas costs for the primary car.

Most likely the choice has more to do with the American love affair with fast and/or large cars. That's not going away anytime soon, but it can be nudged in a better direction by bundling EVs with buyer access to conventional cars. What the golf cart trend demonstrates is a broad awareness of the need to balance occasional SUV/luxury/pick-up demand with everyday EV use. That's something car companies themselves can offer, but it's also something that cities could encourage through partnerships with local car-share services.

Which brings up one more reason some city residents might turn to golf carts: local governments aren't doing enough to promote standard EVs.

Recently some policymakers from across Europe gathered at a workshop in the Netherlands to exchange ideas for encouraging EV use in cities. Their approaches fell into two general categories: politically difficult measures and rather quick "no-regret" policies. The latter included simple things like removing regulatory barriers to EV infrastructure, using EVs for the municipal fleet, and creating electric-only parking areas.

If city residents really just want to ride golf carts everywhere, then officials should help them do this as safely as possible. But if they only want to ride golf carts because there are too many barriers to full-sized EV use, then it's probably time — pardon the expression — to help them reach the green.