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

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why millennials are ditching cars and redefining ownership


By Noah Nelson, August 21, 2013


Zach Brown's preferred mode of transportation is his skateboard. Brown, 27, is an artist and actor who doesn't own a car.

 Zach Brown's preferred mode of transportation is his skateboard. Brown, 27, is an artist and actor who doesn't own a car.


Part of a series of stories produced in collaboration with Youth Radio on the changing car culture in America.

You might think there's one place in America you absolutely need a car: Los Angeles. You'd be wrong.

"I have been in L.A. without a car for two years now," says Alyssa Rosenthal, a makeup artist.
Rosenthal's job means lugging a professional makeup kit — think of a small toolbox filled with enough supplies to make a supermodel or a zombie (or a zombie supermodel). Point being: It's heavy, and it's her responsibility to get it to the movie set.

"It's not easy. It's definitely a big challenge, but I make it happen," Rosenthal says. "Public transit really is blowing up in L.A. right now. The trains go a lot of places, and it makes it sometimes easier to get to locations with traffic and everything in L.A."

That "blowing up" Rosenthal refers to is new transit options like the Metro Expo Line, which opened last year. It's already surpassing rider projections.

Here's a stranger fact: At 28, Rosenthal is part of a trend of millennials who are giving up, putting off or just not buying cars.

This has left car companies scratching their heads.

"As we've talked to consumers in this age group about how they feel about owning the car, the car companies kind of think about this as, 'Well, that's sort of a silly question because of course everybody wants to own a car,' " says Jill Hennessy, clinical professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She studied the attitudes of millennials toward the car-buying process. The short answer: They're a lot different from baby boomers and Gen Xers.

"When we've talked to millennials, they actually answer that question quite thoughtfully," Hennessy says. "While they do still want to own a car — not as much as they want to own a smartphone, by the way, that's the physical possession they're most attached to — they are thinking about, 'Do I need a car or not?' in a way that I think five years ago or 10 years ago we wouldn't have seen to the same extent."

It's not just cars that millennials question owning. Nearly any possession you can think of stopped being an "of course" and became a "hmmmm" for millennials. Hennessy says they're wondering whether "it's not so great to own everything anyway." She says the economy has been a big part of that shift. Millennials have witnessed the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. They've watched their parents struggle with financial insecurity no matter their education level.

For someone born before Ronald Reagan was in office, this sounds like a nightmare. But Hennessy says that millennials are so gosh-darn optimistic that they put a positive spin on it. "They're much more likely to find value in experiences than they are to find value in things," she says.

This is a paradigm shift — mark your '90s retro bingo card — that extends beyond cars to things like housing. What's helping drive this trend? It's all those smartphone apps — with their emphasis on social networks and on sharing experiences.

Take Zach Brown, 27, an L.A. artist and actor who doesn't own a car.

"I don't feel like I actually buy things for myself. Like, people will go out and buy clothes or buy music or electronics or things like that. Most of my spare time is spent just hanging out with friends, and you don't necessarily have to purchase anything in order to do that," Brown says. "Art supplies and food — that's the majority of where my excess money that I don't spend on a car goes to."

Brown is friends with Rosenthal, who finds herself spending her spare cash less on things and more on experiences. "I love going to the movies and I like going to concerts a lot," she says, "and I like listening to music. I use Spotify and I listen to Pandora and things like that, but as far as purchasing those things I don't typically do it."

That's why we see all kinds of companies — from movie studios pumping out films in IMAX to Apple adding iTunes Radio to their phones — putting an emphasis on the experiences they can provide as the shift from an industrial to a service economy enters a mature stage.

For these two millennials, food is a big line item.

"It is a culture that I really do enjoy — going out to eat," Rosenthal says. "Getting a good drink and being in that atmosphere; it's a lot of fun."

The simple pleasures and the bare necessities. Perhaps millennials are on to something.


Councilman Cedillo’s awkward move to Highland Park*


August 20, 2013

 Upper portion of original windows were replaced with new glas
Upper portion of original windows were replaced with new glass

The City Council today will take up a motion by Councilman Gil Cedillo to  pay more than $4,000 a month for office space in a landmark Highland Park building whose owner got in trouble this summer for violating the city’s historic preservation laws.

Cedillo’s new Highland Park field office will be located on the ground floor of the Highland Park Masonic Temple, an approximately 90-year-old brick building at the corner at the corner of Figueroa Street and Avenue 56 that is listed on the National Register of  Historic Places.   In June,  city  inspectors ordered the owners to stop work on a project that had removed a strip of original, leaded glass at the top of the ground floor windows, according to Patch.    For many years,  the leaded glass had  been covered up by signs  until the windows were uncovered during a renovation of the building in the 1980s.

The current building owners told Patch that they replaced the leaded windows with new glass because the old windows were broken and repairing them would have been too costly. But city officials said the owners should have obtained permission to remove the windows since the building is protected by federal and city historic preservation laws.

The building owners said the window replacement had nothing to do with Cedillo’s new field office, which is being relocated from Lincoln Heights.  Cedillo’s campaign office was located in the same space.

Cedillo’s staff does not seem to care much about whether the windows are new or old.  A story in EGP News said that Cedillo’s staff was working to resolve the issue, which had delayed the move into the new field office.

Meanwhile, in Lincoln Heights, many activists and residents are not happy with Cedillo’s plans to move the field office to Highland Park from their neighborhood, where the office has been located for about 25 years. Cedillo’s staff told EGP News that the new Highland Park field office will have more visibility and easier access. But many Lincoln Heights residents are still upset, said EGP News:

Manny Rodriguez, a lifelong resident of Lincoln Heights, said the field office’s closure was a “bitter blow.”
* Update: The City Council approved Cedillo’s motion to have the city negotiate a lease for the field office.

City Council approves a motion to study the feasibility of fixing LA’s streets in our lifetime


By Ted Rogers, August 21, 2013

In the end the vote, as usual, was unanimous.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 15 to 0 this morning, not to fix the city’s crumbling streets, but to study how to fix them.

And more importantly, how to pay for it.

Potholes like this could — could — be a thing of the past; photo from The Source

The vote came on a proposal from Council Members Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander to put a $3 billion dollar bond issue on next year’s fall ballot to repair 8,700 of the city’s 28,000 lane miles of city streets. Currently, 38% of the city’s streets are graded D or F on a typical A through F scale, and are being allowed to deteriorate because the cost of rebuilding them is too high.

That estimated cost has doubled, from $1.5 billion to $3 billion, since the city first considered fixing the streets nearly a decade ago. And it’s predicted to double again within another 10 years if nothing is done to fix them in the meantime.

The proposal, now called Save Our Streets Los Angeles, first came up early this year when the two council members suggested putting it on the May mayoral ballot. However, it was quickly pulled in the face of opposition from property owners who would have borne the $28 annual cost of the bond issue.

It also faced opposition from various other groups, including bicycle and pedestrian advocates who considered the proposal dead in the water unless it incorporated a complete streets approach that would benefit all road users, as well as fix LA’s 10750 miles of sidewalks, an estimated 40% of which need complete reconstruction.

However, the presentation from the two council members compared that $28 cost to the estimated $750 in additional vehicle-operating costs paid by LA motorists due to the poor condition of the roadways.

Of course, drivers aren’t the only ones at risk from bad roads. A pothole or crack in the roadway that might be a mere annoyance to a motorist can result in severe injury, or worse, to a bicyclist who has to swerve around it or risk falling in front of oncoming traffic after trying to ride through it.

And today’s presentation noted that the city already faces lawsuits from pedestrians injured while walking — or often clambering over — the jumble of broken sidewalks that only serve to discourage strolling through many parts of the city.

Fortunately, there’s a lot to like in the proposal to study the proposal that passed the council today.
  • Long term preservation of streets to maintain an overall B grade
  • Use of alternative paving materials to reduce the heat island effect
  • Sidewalk and alley construction and repair, as well as possibly vacating under-used streets and alleys
  • A complete streets approach to serve all road users, including motorists, transit users, bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, children and the elderly
  • Possibly more Green Streets, similar to the Elmer Avenue Project in Council District Six
Of course, none of that is guaranteed to make the final ballot proposal. The current motion only says that city agencies should consider the feasibility of incorporating them into it.
Then there’s the question of how to pay for it.

The motion passed this morning instructs city agencies to study a number of financing options, ranging from government grants and borrowing against future revenues, to the previously suggested property tax increase. Along with more inventive proposals, including funding strategies that could replace declining gas tax revenues, tapping future Waste Hauling Franchise Fees, or charging fees to vehicle owners, such as a local vehicle registration fee, gas tax or tolls.

If passed — and that’s a big if, given the current two-thirds super-majority currently required to pass a bond issue — the result could be smoother, safer and healthier streets and sidewalks for everyone who lives in or moves through LA. As well as a promise of tens of thousands of new jobs to complete the task, whose salaries would benefit businesses and boost tax rolls throughout the Los Angeles area.

Of course, it all depends on what survives the city’s feasibility study, which is due back before the council by next July.

And yes, they promise there will be many meetings in the meantime to give everyone a chance to weigh in.

You can read the full motion that passed the city council here (#23).

P3's a risky deal: CUPE National President available to comment on Conference Board report


August 21, 2013

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Aug 21, 2013 (Marketwired via COMTEX) -- The Canadian Union of Public Employees is available for comment on the Conference Board of Canada report called "Experience pays: The growing value of public-private partnerships In Canada." 

"As expected with a report funding by P3 companies, this report soft-pedaled the serious issues facing P3 and trumped up the benefits and expansion of P3s," said CUPE National President Paul Moist. "There's no mention of the massive problems at P3 projects like the McGill University Health Centre or the cancellation of the Ontario gas plants."

The report was funded by Alberta Infrastructure, Infrastructure Ontario, Infrastructure Quebec, Partnerships British Columbia, PPP Canada, and The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, all groups with a vested interested in the status quo for P3s. 

"Many municipalities are saying no to these risky deals, which often mean handing over control of public services and infrastructure to for-profit corporations," said Moist. "Case after case illustrates that P3s can lead to higher long term costs for taxpayers, a loss of control of public assets, and greatly diminished public accountability and oversight." 

"And when auditors have really looked at the numbers they've found that P3s invariably don't provide value for money and cost more than they would if they were provided traditionally," added Moist.
CUPE has conducted significant research into the true costs of P3s. Our latest report can be found at http://cupe.ca/municipalities/questions-guide-municipal-officials.

As Union Station makes changes, will they consider the people who use it?


By Erik Griswold, August 21, 2013

24x36 Poster

On rather short notice, approximately one week ago, Los Angeles Metro announced major changes to the way Union Station will be allowed to be used during the overnight hours of 1am to 4am.

This is one of the many changes public transportation users have begun to see in the wake of Metro’s February 2011 purchase of the station (or “Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal” to railroading purists) from TPG Capital. TGP Capital had just acquired the property itself through a spinoff deal with ProLogis, which had merged with a development company called Catellus, the descendant company of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads’ property holding interests.

While the addition of the newer food and retail options — including the upgrading of the main waiting hall’s newsstand to one operated by the French multinational Relay, as well as the addition of Famima!, Subway, Starbucks, etc. — were begun under the Catellus/ProLogis ownership, further improvements that Metro has proposed will fundamentally alter the interior and exterior of a station that, up until the early 1990’s, had more pigeons than people.

One of the first visible changes made under Metro ownership was the posting early this spring of some directly-quoted portions of the Metro Code of Conduct on signs around the station, including my favorite, the prohibition on “Unavoidable Grossly Repulsive Odor” (6.05.160). This set of regulations, which was adopted in a somewhat off-the-radar method, was originally intended to be applied to the much smaller (and potentially “sealed”) single-purpose rail and bus transit facilities, and vehicles, that were exclusively Metro’s domain.


Posted Code of Conduct Before

Now, apparently, the code is also being applied to all of Union Station, which is a multi-faceted and open facility with all kinds of users and uses that are not taken into consideration on other Metro property. In other words, it appeared that some portions of the code were about to impose Metro’s rules on the customers of other transportation providers and tenants at Union Station even if those carriers and tenants themselves did not also have the same restrictions on their vehicles or at their own stations or in their establishments.

One example was the posting of Metro’s restriction against persons under 14 not being allowed to ride Metro with a bicycle without being accompanied by an adult (6.05.040). This is not the policy of other transportation providers which use Union Station, but by posting it, Metro was essentially banning all persons under 14 with a bicycle who were without an adult from even passing through the station property, even if all they wished to do was buy an ice-cream at Downtown L.A.’s only Ben & Jerry’s.

Fortunately, thanks especially to the work of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and others, Metro has apparently accounted for some of those conflicts, and has now reposted these restrictions on Union Stations users apparently with the broader context of a modern transportation hub in mind. However, Metro’s code itself is unchanged and it is unclear what portions of it apply to Union Station or if the multiple law enforcement entities that patrol Union Station will be enforcing it.


Posted Code of Conduct After

When the new Code of Conduct signs were installed, another new sign (see image at top of this post) was installed on the reverse side advising that effective Monday, August 19th at 1 am (i.e. earlier this week), the station would be “changing its hours of operation” and:
Between 1:00am and 4:00am, ticketed passengers and those persons with lawful transportation purposes will be directed to a designated seating/lounge area. Those persons without authorization or permission to remain in Union Station or on the facility property will be required to leave the premises.
This sign also contains a map showing where “ticketed passengers and those persons with lawful transportation purposes” are supposed to wait. Roughly, it is the area where one finds the iconic Los Angeles Union Station seats bounded by the Relay Newsstand, the Wetzels Pretzels, the Amtrak information booth and the See’s candy kiosk.


This policy will be enforced by the newly-red-jacketed “Ambassadors in the employ of Universal Protection Service” who are a contractor for Metro specifically assigned to Union Station, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Transit Service Bureau.

To the non-transit-using observer or those who do not work outside of the Monday-Friday 9-5 shift, Union Station might be considered to be “done for the day” once the last Metrolink and Amtrak trains leave and arrive just before Midnight. Certainly it was not all that long ago that the Metro Red Line Subway, which was the only Metro Rail line serving the station, would shut down at about that time.

But Downtown Los Angeles and its transportation hub is slowly turning into a 24/7 activity center.

With the arrival of the Metro Gold Line, and it’s Roybal extension to East L.A. (which converted the “terminal” into a “station”), rail transit at Union Station is a nearly 21-hour operation even on a weekday, due to the logistics of operating a 20-mile (32km)-long light rail line which has only one car-barn. Add in the recently extended Metro service on “Friday and Saturday Nights” and this window grows further.

From my study of the various providers’ current timetables (See combined schedule of operations here) during the traditional work week (Mondays through Fridays) between 12:50am and 4:10am, forty-three arrivals and departures take place at Union Station. On weekends (Saturday and Sundays) that number climbs to seventy-six!

Note that in these totals I have chosen to include the arrivals ten minutes before 1:00am and departures ten minutes after 4:00am as the users of these trips will likely be impacted by the new security policy as they reposition themselves into, out of, or through the Union Station property during the 1:00am to 4:00am time period.

That’s more arrivals and departures on a weekday, than the station saw in an entire day in 1990.
However, it should be remembered that a traveler using Union Station in 1990 would have found themselves using either Amtrak’s trains departing from the railroad tracks or Amtrak’s “Thruway” buses which depart from the Amtrak Bus Bays just west of the Amtrak baggage carousel (located behind the Subway Sandwich Stand).

There was no grand East Portal to the then-gloomy pedestrian tunnel under the train platforms or Patsaouras Transit Plaza beyond. Entry to the tunnel under the strict control of Amtrak personnel and passengers were only permitted access when walking to or from trains.

Passengers were boarded through “gates” along a wall which stretched all the way from the current Amtrak ticket widows to the Amtrak baggage carousel room. You can still see the only remnants of this wall (and passenger-control doctrine) today when you line up, as Amtrak would like you to at most of its stations, for Surfliner departures at the still-intact gates E and F.

Today the station is a vibrant place, and while not nearly as lively as most of its overseas contemporaries (which benefit from their nations’ larger per captia investments in public transportation and special exemptions from local laws on store opening times), Union Station, long the location of a reliably-“stocked” taxi stand, now has retail open 24 hours a day, and has since 1990 added:
  • The Subway platform
  • The Light Rail platform (in the place of tracks 1 and 2)
  • Patsaouras Transit Plaza which hosts transit buses, Megabus and LAX FlyAway Services
  • The always-open Gateway Center Garage
  • The “Bus Rapid Transit station” where the El Monte Busway meets Alameda Street.
UnionStationNodes credit LA Metro

This last facility is currently outside the newly restricted area and it has been there since the El Monte Busway opened in 1974, but it will be replaced in 2015 with a busway platform more adjacent to the Patsaouras Plaza and will then be connected to the rest of Union Station. It is therefore likely to fall under this new control policy when completed, so I have included the departures from it in my survey of timetables, especially since Zev Yaroslavsky would have you accept that the Metro Silver Line (Metro Bus Route 910), which uses it as its Union Station stop, is “like a rail line on rubber tires” and is shown on the Metro Rail Map. Foothill Transit’s Silver Streak bus to West Covina, Pomona and Montclair stops at this facility, shares the same pricing system (fare, media accepted) with the Metro Silver Line as far as El Monte and runs 24 hours per day.

With all of these varying points of egress to and from Union Station property, and with the move via technology from the majority of ticketing being issued on at a staffed window to it now being done through vending machines (scattered around the station property), SMS codes, smartcards, barcodes on smartphones and the coming future of near-field communication (NFC)-enabled devices, the definition of a “ticketed passenger” has changed dramatically in the past two decades.

As I, and many others, have had more than a few Kafkaesque encounters with Metro staff and contractors in the past (how, for example, can one be “ticketed” in advance for a transit bus that uses a farebox?). I turned to Paul Gonzales Metro’s Senior Media Relations Officer for some answers to questions:
Question: If the person is not “ticketed” but wishes to purchase one, are they allowed to stay, and what is the process by which they are permitted access to the various places that tickets are sold with in Union Station? Is merely stating that they will travel considered “transportation business”?

Answer: The desire to purchase a ticket is transportation business, but the person must purchase a ticket. If a person says he/she is waiting for the next conveyance, that qualifies as transportation business. But the person must take that conveyance or they will be required to leave.

Question: At what point before departure will the person be allowed to leave the waiting area to go to their desired transportation departure? Must they wait for an escort as is the case with Amtrak departures today?

Answer: When the conveyance arrives the person should go to the boarding location. Regular Amtrak procedures apply for boarding. [Except Amtrak does not have any trains leaving during this time period-Ed]

Question: What provisions are there for persons wishing to leave the station to, for example, smoke tobacco (take a cigarette break)?

Answer: A person with valid transportation business is allowed in the designated waiting area. A ticket allows the person to enter even if they leave to smoke.
It is understandable that Metro does not want Union Station to become a place that people are either uncomfortable with or afraid to enter, as has been the (thankfully) temporary fate of other large transportation facilities all over the world in living memory. However, it is also incumbent upon the decision-makers at Metro to recognize that there are already many legitimate uses of Union Station in the “wee hours,” and these will only increase in the future. Just because someone is working the third-shift or needs to get somewhere early in the morning does not justify their being hindered in making connections, especially by Metro staff or security contractors who themselves may have never ever traveled by any mode of transport other than a car. There is already a disproportionate amount of scrutiny and intimidation aimed at users of alternative modes of transportation in Southern California than is tolerated by those who use automobiles as it is.

Please let Streetsblog LA know what your experiences are with this new policy as it is implemented.

Union pickets Seattle tunnel project over 4 jobs


By Mike Baker, August 20, 2013

— Longshoremen began picketing Tuesday at the site of Seattle's $3.1 billion tunnel project after claiming four jobs along the waterfront have been improperly given to workers with other unions.

A couple dozen members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union blocked access to the waterfront area where the four workers would be operating. ILWU Local 19 President Cameron Williams said the mobilization will continue until there is movement toward giving the work to the longshoremen.

Boring at the tunnel project began just a few weeks ago, as the world's largest tunneling machine started digging a pathway that will ultimately carry vehicles under downtown. The longshoremen are upset about four jobs that involve loading excavated dirt onto a barge.

Williams said the ILWU members are upset because they believe a contract signed earlier this year gives them the barge-loading jobs. ILWU workers view the waterfront positions as their territory.

Chris Dixon, project manager for contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners, said the contract signed in April was done under duress because the ILWU was refusing to offload the boring machine unless officials agreed to provide them the four jobs now in dispute. An arbitrator ruled last month that the jobs should go to building trades workers under a larger project labor agreement, Dixon said.

Officials aren't planning to begin barge work for about two more weeks, but Dixon said there is some work that needs to be done along the waterfront over the coming days. Dixon said he's not sure what the next steps will be.

"We don't want to escalate the issue," Dixon said. "We're just kind of seeing how things transpire over the next day or two, instead of having some kind of immediate reaction to the situation that would worsen the situation."

The tunnel boring project is expected to take about 14 months to make a nearly 2-mile journey, with the machine surfacing near south Lake Union. Vehicles are expected to begin using the tunnel by late 2015, and the removal of the viaduct will be part of a larger project to renovate the Seattle waterfront.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/08/20/2740466/union-pickets-seattle-tunnel-project.html#storylink=cpy

Repairs set to begin for SR-2/I-5 connector


By Anna Chen, August 21, 2013

About a month and a half ago, a tanker fire damaged the tunnel that connects the northbound I-5 to the northbound SR-2. Caltrans has now completed structural testing and is set to implement repairs. Work is scheduled to begin in October.

Here’s the full press release from Caltrans:
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has completed structural testing of the tanker-fire damaged northbound SR-2 to northbound I-5 connector and has determined solutions that will repair the damaged walls, columns, outrigger beams, and pavement.  The repair work is expected to begin in October and finish before Christmas.  The overall cost of repairs is currently estimated at $16.5 million.

The following solutions will be used to allow the safe opening of the connector:
  • Hydrodemolition will remove any degraded concrete from the surface of the structure.
  • Shotcrete is a slurry of concrete that is sprayed at a high velocity to fill damaged voids.
  • Epoxy injections will help seal cracks in the concrete and provide additional strength to the structure.
  • Repave the damaged roadway.
  • Upgrade the connector’s lighting, metal beam guardrail, and add anti-graffiti coated paint.
Currently, the project is in the design phase to detail what sections need repair or need to be upgraded by the future contractor.
“After several rounds of exhaustive tests, we are confident that our solutions will be quick and cost effective,” said Acting District 7 Director Carrie Bowen.  “Emergency projects are always fluid, but we are moving as much red tape as possible to safely open this connector for all motorists.”

The intense heat from the tanker fire on July 13 caused extensive damage to the pavement, walls, support structures, drainage, and lighting within the northbound SR-2/northbound I-5 connector tunnel, requiring it to be closed.

Experience pays: The growing value of public-private partnerships in Canada Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1425494#ixzz2ccsPBvZb


August 21, 2013

Infrastructure projects completed as P3s on time and on budget
OTTAWA, Aug. 21, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada has emerged as a leader in the creation of efficient public-private partnerships (P3) for building infrastructure. A Conference Board of Canada report, released today, finds that 83 per cent of projects met the goal of being completed early or on time.

"P3 delivery is enhancing the long-term quality of public infrastructure and delivering value for taxpayers. Canadian companies are also developing expertise in P3 projects, which is creating opportunities to export their services around the world," said Vijay Gill, Principal Resource Associate.

"But the P3 model is not intended to replace traditional procurement processes altogether - it is one tool in the toolbox. Any potential P3 project must be rigourously evaluated to ensure that the benefits outweigh the costs."

The public sector has turned to P3 projects as an alternative way to build and maintain roads, institutions, waste management facilities and other public infrastructure. Traditional infrastructure projects are built by private firms funded by the public sector. In contrast, P3 projects are financed by the private sector, which is paid partly depending upon the results - such as the completion of the project on time and on-budget, and/or ongoing operations and maintenance.

"The public is increasingly aware that Canada's infrastructure of roads, transit and health and community facilities is aging and in need of renewal. Meanwhile, there has been a growing public acceptance of a greater role for the private sector in providing infrastructure across the country," said Gill.

L.A. council considers funding $3-billion street repair program


By Laura J. Nelson, August 21, 2013

 Los Angeles pothole
 A street worker places cones on the road near a large pothole near Lincoln Park in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday is expected to take  preliminary steps toward approval of a $3-billion borrowing program to pay for the repair of 8,700 miles of badly damaged streets.
Lawmakers are weighing a 1% increase in property taxes on Los Angeles homeowners for 29 years to pay for the program. The revenue would be used to resurface and rebuild the worst streets, part of a 60-year backlog of repairs.

Council members Joe Buscaino and Mitchell Englander hope to include a proposal to issue city bonds for the work on the fall 2014 ballot. A two-thirds majority of city voters would have to approve issuing the debt.

If the bond package is approved, staff will report in 45 days on a variety of questions, including whether alleys and sidewalks could also be repaired with the money. Officials will also explore other funding options for street repairs, including tolls, vehicle fees or a change to the California gas tax.
Since 2005, the city has paid for normal upkeep and maintenance on good-quality streets, but has left a backlog of severely damaged roads largely untouched.

Laying down slurry seals the dark coating of asphalt, oil and water that keeps roads with minimal damage in good condition costs about $25,000 a mile. Digging up deeply cracked and pothole-riddled streets and rebuilding them can be 10 times as costly.

Between 2005 and 2013, the estimated cost to repair the worst roads doubled from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. Officials say that if they do not act now, the cost will double again in the next decade.

5 Cities Buy More Than Half of All Electric Vehicles in U.S.


By Damon Lavrinc, August 19, 2013


t’s a stat that should surprise absolutely no one. More than half of all electric vehicles in the U.S. are silently running around five major cities.

According to the auto industry wonks at R.L. Polk, 52 percent of EVs in the country are based in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Exactly as you’d expect — although Atlanta wouldn’t have been our first guess.

The breakdown is just as predictable, with San Francisco accounting for 19.5 percent of EV sales or leases, followed by LA with 15.4 percent, Seattle at eight percent, NY at 4.6 percent, and Atlanta bringing up the rear at 4.4 percent.

The reasons for the EV domination in big cities are obvious. Aside from a more robust charging infrastructure, in California there are numerous tax cuts — both at the state and local level — for EV drivers, and combined with HOV lane access, the incentive to go electric is strong. Access to carpool lanes is also available in Georgia (one reason Atlanta makes the list) and New York, where EV drivers can get a sticker to access the 40-mile stretch of the Long Island Expressway that leads into NYC.

Then of course, there’s the range issue. With the exception of the Tesla Model S, all EVs on sale today can barely break the 100-mile mark on a single charge, making them more suited to urban environments, running around cities, and commuting. A more progressive mindset doesn’t hurt, but it’s obvious that incentives are a major driver of EV adoption. And more states need to realize that

UCLA could teach L.A. commuters to improve traffic


By Alison Hewitt, August 19, 2013

 Bruins using public transit
The number of UCLA employees using public transit has nearly doubled since 2000.
Ever wish Los Angeles traffic moved better? It might if more commuters followed UCLA's example by using more alternative transportation and fewer cars.

Although more than 70 percent of commuters in Los Angeles County drive alone in their own cars each day, data released this month revealed that only 51 percent of UCLA employees drive alone. That's a difference of hundreds of thousands of annual car trips at UCLA. Imagine if all Southern California freeways had that many fewer cars.

The Clean Air Commuter Survey, an annual project by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, was administered by UCLA Events and Transportation from March to June. The survey also found that for the first time in UCLA history, more commuting students walk to campus than drive. Nearly 75 percent of students are alternative commuters.
The number of car trips in and out of UCLA has declined steadily since 2003, and is lower now than it was in 1990. The dramatic increase in the use of alternative transportation by UCLA students, staff and faculty is partly the result of a sustained campaign by UCLA's transportation department to encourage alternative commuting methods like public transit, vanpools, biking and walking.
"We greatly appreciate our green commuters here at UCLA and encourage others to join in the effort to improve the environment and reduce traffic," said Renée Fortier, the executive director of UCLA Events and Transportation. "From 2012 to 2013, the campus had a reduction of nearly 92,000 drive-alone trips to campus. For the first time ever, UCLA is within striking distance of our Climate Action Plan goal of having 50 percent of employees using alternative transportation."
Through its transportation department, UCLA offers subsidies on bus fares, maintains a fleet of vans for shared rides, grants parking discounts to carpoolers and motorcyclists, gives out perks through its Bruin Commuter Club, and provides discounted access to Zipcars for alternative commuters who need a car for a day.
During the 2013 survey, 51.2 percent of employees drove alone, compared with 53.4 percent in 2012 (see table). The change was largely due to increases in the number of employees walking and biking to campus, with 13 percent of employees walking and 3 percent biking (see pie chart). Public-transit riders made up the largest portion of alternative commuters, at 14.6 percent, followed by walkers, carpoolers, vanpoolers, bikers, telecommuters and motorcyclists.
Among commuting students (see pie chart), 27.5 percent walk to campus, edging out the 25.4 percent who drive alone. Another 22.4 percent take public transit, 9.6 percent take the university's "Bruin Bus," and 5.5 percent bike. Many of the remaining commuters carpool or ride motorcycles, and a few take advantage of transit options you won't see in the employee data: motorized and unmotorized scooters.
A video from UCLA Events and Transportation gives a quick-hit overview of all of the alternative transportation options available to UCLA commuters to help Bruins who feel tied to their cars.

The Problem With Treating Pedestrians Like Drivers


By Angie Schmitt, August 20, 2013

After U.S. DOT released a report earlier this month on pedestrian safety, media outlets around the country raced to produce indictments of “drunk walking."

We design places that make crossing the street mortally dangerous, then blame pedestrians for their own deaths.

“Drunk Walking Leads to Pedestrian Fatalities,” exclaimed Tulsa’s News on 6, as if people on foot have the same responsibility to be sober as people operating fast, heavy machinery. “Among pedestrians aged 25- to 34-years-old who were killed, half were alcohol-impaired,” wrote the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Alison Grant, applying the same .08 percent blood-alcohol standard that’s used to measure driving impairment. These articles stop just short of saying a legal prohibition on “drunk walking” is the next logical step.

Applying the same behavioral standards to walking that we attach to driving is a creeping trend. The New York Times has ruminated on the “dangers of distracted walking.” In California a new Senate resolution encourages education in “defensive walking and biking” as a response to pedestrian fatalities among children.

It may be tempting to use driving terms to frame discussions about pedestrian safety because driving is, in many places, the default mode of transportation in the U.S. But there’s a problem with simply assigning the responsibilities that come with driving — like being sober, not texting — to walking. Walking is a right, not a revocable privilege like driving.

Kids walk. Blind people walk. People with poor judgment walk. That’s not going to change, and we shouldn’t pretend it can or will. Texting while walking, or trying to cross the street with .09 percent blood alcohol content should not put people at risk of an early death.

Pedestrian deaths are a systemic problem, and the problem isn’t that people are texting, or drunk, or not being defensive enough. Pedestrians aren’t, in themselves, doing anything dangerous, at least until you add cars to the equation.

The core problem is that it isn’t safe for people to walk. In too many places, this is because we’ve designed intersections like high-stakes obstacle courses for people on foot. We allow people to drive at potentially fatal speeds in pedestrian-rich areas. And now we’re talking about pedestrian deaths in a way that equates walking with driving.

It’s a powerful testament to the structural inequality faced people on foot in this country that a report about 4,000 pedestrian deaths each year could be framed as an indictment of “drunk walking.”

MTA remains defiant as BHUSD consultant slams agency’s ‘presumptions’


August 20, 2013

Last month, MTA claimed that BHUSD consultant Kenney Geoscience’s findings brought “no new information” in the fight against the Purple Line’s Constellation Boulevard station. Now, the consulting group’s founder has fired back against Metro’s apparent misinterpretation of his data.

“I think Metro is presuming that my map should be interpreted as fault activity, and it should not,” said Dr. Miles Kenney in an interview with the Beverly Hills Courier. “It’s more of a guideline to understand the local structure…where faulting might be similar.”

Kenney’s original report used the MTA’s own definitions to determine that the agency’s preferred Purple Line Subway alignment actually encounters 11 active faults.

“Metro behaves as if they fully understand the fault system,” Kenney said. He went on to say that the area is “poorly understood” and requires far more research before coming to a conclusion.
“I don’t see how they can dismiss Constellation Station based on the data I’ve reviewed,” said Kenney.

Despite in-house studies requiring faults to be considered “active” unless proven inactive, Metro has refused to acknowledge that their own rule would require the faults discovered by Kenney Geoscience to be classified as “active.”

Still, months after supposed fault lines below Beverly Hills High School were debunked by the California Geological Survey, the MTA is refusing to alter their initial conclusions. A second reputable agency has even stepped into the mix.

“At this point, I’m not entirely sure what logic the MTA is leaning on,” said Jake Manaster, current president of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. “By continuing to stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the verifiable research of multiple agencies, Metro’s position is making less sense by the day.”

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has continually alleged that due to earthquake faults beneath the school, the existing buildings could be declared seismically unsafe and new construction would be blocked. With these allegations, Metro has routed tunnels directly below the high school and subsequently, drastically lowered the land buyout price BHUSD would receive if the school is ultimately destroyed. 

Not only has the Metropolitan Transit Authority refused to change their position, but they have also refused to even admit they were wrong in their initial findings.
After being blindsided by MTA allegations, BHUSD went on the offensive and tasked a team, led by engineer Tim Buresh of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Project, to definitively investigate the matter once and for all.

However, even with the school district’s beliefs verified, MTA refused a delay of the final decision.
In response to the quick refusal, the Beverly Hills Board of Education scored what seemed to be a serious coup when securing the California Geological Survey to intervene and confirm their data. Yet even with incontrovertible scientific evidence backed by the state’s own agency, MTA has continued to stand behind their initial findings.

Is traffic always bad?


By John Norquist, August 21, 2013

No one likes being stuck in traffic. That’s why people complain about congestion. Yet it’s just as true that popular destinations tend to be crowded. Fifth Avenue in New York, Market Street in San Francisco, Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills are all congested, but people keep coming back to shop or hang out. Maybe we should view congestion, in the urban context at least, as a symptom of success.

If people enjoy crowded places, it seems a bit strange that federal and state governments continue to wage a single-minded and expensive war against traffic congestion. Despite many hundreds of billions dollars spent on increasing the capacity of our roads, they've not yet won, thank God. After all, when the congestion warriors have won, the results aren’t often pretty. Detroit, for example, has lots of expressways and widened streets and suffers from very little congestion. It also has lost 2/3 of its population and is in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee.


.After all, congestion is a bit like cholesterol – if you don’t have any, you die. Like cholesterol, traffic exists as a "good kind" and a "bad kind." Congestion measurements should be divided between through-traffic and traffic that includes local origins or destinations, the latter being the "good kind." Travelers who bring commerce to a city add more value than those just driving through, and any thorough assessment of congestion needs to be balanced with other factors such as retail sales, real estate value, and pedestrian volume.

Fighting traffic congestion by merely adding more road capacity is what urban thinker Lewis Mumford, in his book "The City and the Highway," called a "monochromatic" transportation system. In his critique of the Texas Transportation Institute’s "2010 Urban Mobility Report," University of Connecticut engineering professor and CNU board member Norman Garrick wrote that we "lost sight of the fact that a transportation system affects almost all aspects of daily life and that its value should not be judged purely on the basis of how well it affords the easy movement of vehicles." In doing so, we fail to recognize the way traditional streets shape successful, self-reliant, and stimulating places.

Garrick's research points out that just 21% of average household income is spent on transportation in the state of New York, while in Mississippi, 41% of average household income goes toward transportation costs, almost all related to driving motor vehicles. In a political paradox, knowing how each state tends to vote, Garrick notes that New York is far less dependent on the federal government for its transportation budget, with only 15% of its funds coming from Washington D.C. In contrast, Mississippi relies on federal largesse for 41% of its total transportation budget.

Early in my time as mayor of Milwaukee, my Public Works director and his staff of traffic engineers came to me with a $58 million proposal for adding right turn lanes to "congested" intersections. The plan involved significant property demolition. My response was to ask if they planned on drawing their pensions after retirement. They looked at me strangely, and then answered yes. I replied, "Then why do you want to destroy the tax base that supports your pension?"

From that day forward, they understood the necessity of balancing their desire for faster speed with the fact that people need street corridors not only to travel but also to shop and socialize. Attempts to accommodate through-traffic by widening streets can destroy the surrounding value of a neighborhood. When the property values or retail sales are part of the cost–benefit calculation, road-widening starts to look like a dubious investment.

New York's Greenwich Village reaps the financial rewards of its perpetual vehicle congestion. In a recent analysis, Eric Dumbaugh of Florida Atlantic University reported that each 10% increase in per capita traffic delay was associated with a 3.4% increase in the per capita gross domestic product of a region.

This doesn’t mean that cities should strive for congestion but that they should recognize that traffic is often a sign of dynamism. Moving vehicular traffic is obviously a necessary function, but by making it the only goal, cities lose out on the economic potential created by the crowds of people that bring life to a city.

With governments at all levels short on cash, maybe it's time to broaden the goals for our streets. It’s time to retire the expressway in an urban context. It should be replaced with a system that examines the performance of street networks, including transit where relevant, and considers economic and social value along with vehicle distribution. It should be a system that measures the value and effectiveness of a city’s street network. If departments of transportation and local governments take a closer look, they may find value in congestion. After all, real estate prices seem to confirm that preference, and shouldn’t our infrastructure reflect that and add value to the place where it is built?