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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Driver Speeds Off After Crashing Into Expo Line Train, Injuring Six


August 26, 2013

 (credit: CBS)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The driver of a car sped away after reportedly smashing into an Expo Line train in South Los Angeles on Monday, leaving six passengers on the train injured.
The collision occured at approximately 2:45 p.m. near the Vermont station at Exposition Boulevard and Raymond Avenue, according to Paul Gonzales of Metro.

Two of the victims were taken to hospitals to treat minor injuries, while four others were examined by paramedics at the scene, according to LAFD’s Erik Scott.

The accident resulted in a 15 minute delay, as passengers were transferred to another train.

Service on the line was back to normal by 4:12 p.m., according to Gonzales, who also reported that the damage to the train was limited to its “skirts”, which are the “under carriage covering” hiding the wheels.

More Than 100 Violators Cited for “Distracted Driving” Monday


August 21, 2013

Pasadena Police handed citations to at least 100 individuals who were caught operating their cellphones or being distracted while driving last Monday.
The department deployed 15 officers on motorcycles throughout the district, especially along main thoroughfares such as Lake Avenue and around school areas, Lt. Pete Hettema told the Pasadena Star-News.

Hettema added that the variety of violations cited include texting, talking on phone, putting a make-up and driving with a dog on the driver’s lap.

The cost for violating cell phone laws start at $162 for the first offense and $285 for subsequent offenses. Other violations for actions that can be classified as distracted driving can range even higher.

“We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn’t stop some people from continuing to do it,” said Pasadena Police Department’s Chief, Phillip L. Sanchez. “This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use while driving. We hope people realize the danger involved and change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families, and others on the road.”

The campaign coincides with the opening of Pasadena Unified last week as well as the start of the new school year.

“With all of the kids and pedestrians out around the schools, it’s a really important time for us to remind everybody the extra few seconds it takes you to pull over to make that call or to send that text are worth it to save a life,” Hettema told the Star-News.

Pasadena Police holds five to six one-day crackdown of these violators annually with the funds provided by the state Office of Traffic Safety.

According to data provided by the Pasadena Police, the officers have issued 1,800 tickets for talking while driving and 473 for texting last year. In 2011, about 3,000 people in the United States were killed due to having distractions while driving.

“The Pasadena Police Department’s enforcement efforts are intended to keep people alive and make our roadways safer,” Pasadena Police Chief Philip L. Sanchez said in a statement.

The state’s ban of talking while driving in 2008 has decreased the death rate of drivers who were killed due to the use of phone while behind the wheel, according to a study conducted by the Safe Transportation Research & Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

“We are very encouraged to see the usage figures decline, especially after the increase last year”, said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. “But any number is too high, since any usage of cell phones while driving takes away too much of our brain’s ability to react to what is happening on the road, not to mention when our hands or eyes are disengaged also.”

Celebrate World Car Free Day on Sept. 22


 The  Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board is making it easier than ever to discover LA without a car. Car Free LA features a series of self-guided "car free" vacation itineraries that offer a new way to experience the hidden gems of LA’s diverse neighborhoods via foot, bike and Metro. Prefer a guide? Meander along LA’s many bike paths with expert car free, tour operators like Bikes and Hikes LA or take a specialized walking tour with Malibu Discovery or Melting Pot Tours. You can also rent a bike from Pedal or Not or Perry's to cruise along LA's beaches. Whether it’s culture, coastal attractions, global cuisine, music or architecture, see it all car free.

Google Transit once again showing Metro bus and train routes


By Steve Hymon, August 26, 2013

And they're back! Google Transit appears to be showing Metro bus and rail routes once again.

A technical glitch dating to last week had resulted in Metro being dropped from the popular Google Transit tool, meaning some of our riders were getting some very interesting and often out-of-the-way advice when trying to plan their transit trips.

Thanks everyone for their patience!

SR-110 full freeway closure planned tonight


By Anna Chen, August 26, 2013

Late-night travelers be forewarned, the 110 will be closed from Glenarm to Orange Grove tonight from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Here's the press release from Caltrans:

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close the northbound and southbound Arroyo Seco Parkway (SR-110) between Glenarm Street and Orange Grove Avenue from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Ramps within the closure limits also will be closed.Detours will be in place.The closures are in relation to a slab replacement project from College Street to Orange Grove Boulevard in South Pasadena. All American Asphalt is the contractor on the $800,000 project.

Tesla outselling Porsche, Range Rover in California


August 26, 2013


 The first Model S leaves the new European Tesla assembly plant in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

The company dubbed the Apple Mac of the car world has officially conquered California, America’s most important and trend-defining car-buying state, and now it has its sights firmly set on doing the same on the other side of the Atlantic with the opening of its first European production plant.

The latest figures from Quartz reveal that despite the fact that it is a small fish in a huge pond, Tesla not only is holding its own in the US but in California is already outselling many of its premium competitors. The numbers for June 2013 show that the Model S, a luxury four-door electric car with a range of up to 500km on a single charge and a price tag of $70,000, is currently in greater demand than Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, Volvo, Fiat and a number of US brands including Buick, Cadillac and Lincoln.

The company is compared to Apple because, like the computer and device maker, Tesla’s customers become evangelists for the brand and as a result spread the word. As noted technological thought leader and erstwhile editor of Wired magazine Chris Anderson has said: “I think people who drive Teslas are getting religious in the same way that people got religious when they first used Macs, or experienced multi-touch. It’s going to change everything.”

The car has already become the must-have vehicle in Silicon Valley, where they can be found in Google, Yahoo and Apple car parks, and now the company is aiming to have the same impact on the other side of the Atlantic. The first European Model S deliveries began in July and now the company has officially opened its first European plant. The facility, located in Tilburg, The Netherlands, will assemble Model S electric cars for the French, Belgian, German and of course Dutch markets and is the first step towards a larger European operation that, according to the company’s European sales director, Bryan Batista, Sales Director Europe, will see “15 Tesla stores and service centres opening across the continent over the coming months.”

Reform of CEQA requires compromise

A bill to update the California Environmental Quality Act, which often hampers development in the state, has passed the Senate and is being debated in the Assembly.


 By George Skelton, August 25, 2013
 Capitol Journal

 Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez at a Capitol news conference in June.

SACRAMENTO — California's economy is crawling back, but the state still suffers from a national reputation for being anti-business.

It's a high-tax state. But even worse for entrepreneurs and investors, California is known as a "no build" zone because of an agonizing maze of regulatory red tape.

"A number of companies do not invest in California because of the regulatory environment," says Gary Toebben, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I've also heard companies say they're not going to build any more here because they've recently done something in Nevada or Texas or Colorado and, 'Wow, it took me six months there when it would have taken six years in California.' "
A particularly annoying speed bump is the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970. It requires developers to undergo a long public process of detailing their projects' potential environmental effects.

Supporters credit the landmark law with significantly helping to clear the air, keep the water clean and, among other pluses, prevent greedy developers from building on ominous earthquake faults. All true.

But CEQA also has been blatantly abused by union blackmailers — "greenmailers" — who threaten to derail a project with an environmental lawsuit unless the developer caves in to their labor demands.
Private enterprise likewise has dirty hands. Businesses try to drive off competitors with lengthy, costly suits that make a development financially unfeasible.

And the law is a handy tool for NIMBYs ("not in my backyard") fighting local projects. It's understandable that they'd battle an oil refinery. But maybe they shouldn't be allowed to use environmental protection as a guise for thwarting low-income senior housing.

Now there's pressure on the governor and state lawmakers to eliminate the worst CEQA abuses before the Legislature adjourns for the year Sept. 13. But there's not a lot of optimism.

"If you were a betting person, I'd put the odds at a little less than 50-50," says Toebben, who's co-chairman of a CEQA reform coalition.

Problem is, most labor and environmental lobbies resist any meaningful change. And die-hard CEQA reformers, including Toebben, are aiming for the moon without the political thrust to get there.
Democrats, who dominate the Capitol, are beholden to labor for campaign cash and enjoy being buddy-buddy with environmentalists.

Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, has talked a good game about CEQA reform. "The Lord's work," he has called it. But he seemingly has been waiting for the Lord to do it.

In April, Brown opined that the issue was too difficult for the Legislature. "The appetite for CEQA reform is much stronger outside the state Capitol than it is inside," he said.

Recently, however, the governor has ordered his Office of Planning and Research to work with Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who's trying to negotiate a compromise among warring interests.

Oh, yes, there's also another problem: Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) don't get along very well.

Last year about this time, Steinberg scuttled a CEQA reform being pushed by Pérez, who's still irked about it. "This law is far too important to rewrite in the last days of the session," the Senate leader said then. But that's what Steinberg is trying to do now, although he'd point out that — unlike Pérez — he has been pecking away at the task for months.

Pérez recently expressed doubt that anything significant would be passed. "I don't think there's a vehicle" — bill — "yet in place that's substantive," he told reporters. "There's a lot of discussion, but not a lot of movement. I'm not optimistic."

Steinberg — an eternal optimist — insists there is, too, movement. "It's coming together," he asserts.

Basically, Steinberg is focusing primarily on urban "infill" projects, those that reduce sprawl and shorten long carbon-burning commutes. That has been his crusade for years.

But now the senator also has an added incentive: He promised the National Basketball Assn. that if the league kept the Kings in Sacramento, which it did, he'd make sure CEQA was streamlined to expedite construction of a modern downtown arena.

"CEQA needs serious updating, but I don't believe it's fundamentally broken," Steinberg told me. "We don't need regulatory streamlining for every project. Refineries, big boxes, auto malls — the law works in those incidences.

"Reform ought to be about incentivizing the kinds of projects that our public policy calls for and the people of California want. More infill. More downtown revitalization. More renewable energy.…"
Brown apparently would go further than Steinberg but has been quiet publicly.

Steinberg is proposing that parking and aesthetic issues — view-blocking — be eliminated as litigation hooks on infill projects. City councils would settle those disputes. Traffic congestion would be removed as litigation issues on all projects, whether downtown or in the boonies.

Under the senator's proposal, judges could allow noncontroversial parts of a project to proceed rather than stopping the whole shebang as now happens.

Business interests contend that Steinberg's bill not only doesn't go far enough, it takes a step backward by offering new opportunities for frivolous suits. The senator shakes his head.
"I'm standing a little bit alone," he says. "Enviros and labor are uncomfortable with the whole concept. They like things the way they are."

The bill, SB731, has passed the Senate and is expected to clear the last Assembly committee Friday. But intense negotiating won't occur until after Labor Day. And fighting probably will continue until the final night of the session.

Politics is the art of the possible. And what's possible on CEQA reform is something like what Steinberg is offering — unless Brown flexes his muscle.

Taxes or gasoline: What drives up cost of driving in California?


By Jerry Hirsch, August 26, 2013

 California has the second highest driving costs in the nation, according to Bankrate.com.
California has the second-highest driving costs in the nation, according to Bankrate.com.

Taxes, not gasoline prices, are the reason California is the state with the second-highest cost for operating a car, Bankrate.com contends.

Californians pay an average $1,809 in taxes and fees for their cars, the financial website said. That’s almost double the national average of $1,058.

Overall, Californians pay an average of $3,966 annually to operate a vehicle. That compares with a national average of $3,201.

Drivers here pay an average of $980 for gasoline, slightly below the $1,028 average.

That may sound odd considering pump prices in California are among the highest in the nation, but Bankrate cites federal data that show residents here drive fewer miles than the national average. Californians drive about 8,600 miles per capita compared with the national average of 9,600, according to the Department of Transportation.

PHOTOS: The 10 cheapest cars that get 35 mpg or better.

When it comes to insurance, Californians pay an average $786, just above the $762 national average.  They pay $390 for repairs, somewhat higher than the $353 national average.

Georgia, at $4,233, has the highest annual cost of motor vehicle operation; Oregon at $2,698 is the least expensive. Oregonians benefit from the absence of a state sales tax as well as relatively low car insurance costs, Bankrate said.

Bankrate said it determined total car-ownership expenses using median insurance premiums for 2006 to 2010 from the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners, average 2012 repair costs from CarMD.com and taxes and fees from Kelley Blue Book. It derived gasoline spending from government statistics and GasBuddy.com average pump prices.

Start the Presses: To the Bay Area and back


By Dan Evans, August 23, 2013
 Megabus passengers get on board for a San Francisco trip.

At just after 10 Monday morning, I hiked up the steep steps of a Megabus coach outside the downtown Burbank Metrolink station.

The company, which has most of its routes on the East Coast, recently opened up service between Burbank and the Bay Area. Not being one to pass up an opportunity to travel on the company dime, I did an overnight in San Francisco to check it out.

Muggy air greeted me on the upper deck, belying the tips I had read online about how cold it could get onboard. I found a seat near the middle of the packed bus and sat down heavily.

As the half-dozen people who got on in Burbank filled the remaining seats, our fellow passengers looked on impatiently, waiting for us to sit so the driver could start the engine and crank up the increasingly needed air conditioning.

It came on with a blast, inducing a shiver from my seatmate. Kim Johnson, originally from the San Fernando Valley, recently moved with her husband to the Bay Area suburb of Pittsburg. Down in Los Angeles for a baby shower, she said she prefers riding the bus to flying.

"Especially with all of the security you have to go through at the airport," she said. "It's all necessary, but it's just so much easier to take the bus."

Johnson, a gregarious and cheerful African American woman, said she loves the conversations she has on the bus. People are just so friendly, she said, and you never know who you're going to meet.
That goes, of course, both ways. Her extended family is connected with the famed Roscoe's Chicken and Waffle chain. There appears to have been a falling out, though, as Roscoe's website only lists Herb Hudson as the founder, with no mention of the Johnson clan.

Johnson parenthetically acknowledged this, noting her family is now running two restaurants — one in Oakland and the other in nearby Walnut Creek — under the name "Home of Chicken and Waffles."
"We can't use the name," she said simply.

Johnson said she still gets tickled about how people react when they enjoy the food. Some tap their feet, she said, others shake their head, and still others lick their fingers.

"And I especially get a kick out of watching white people eat it," she said with a laugh. "What is it? Chicken and waffles? An omelet?"

As we talked, the bus crested the Grapevine, heading north into Central California. At night, the road can feel like an extended tunnel with two of California's largest cities at either end. During the day, it's not much better, unless of course you're not driving.

After entering the vast nothingness that is the I-5, the bus became library-quiet. I fell asleep, waking up as we pulled into Oakland and, shortly after that, San Francisco.

There, I met up with a college friend, Joe Eskenazi, a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly. About two years ago, Joe traveled the opposite direction by bus — though he only took city and local routes. After 16 trains and buses and 32 hours, he fragrantly showed up at Union Station in Los Angeles — and promptly ran into former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Some guys get all the luck.

My trip was considerably easier and involved no politicians. Other than minor hunger pangs from forgetting to eat before I got aboard, I had no complaints.

The ride took seven hours each way, essentially the same amount of time it takes to drive. After 14 hours of bus travel in two days, here's the review:

• The bottom level is the only one that has tables. Show up early if you want one.

• The bathroom is spotless. I know, I was surprised too.

• Every seat has electrical outlets.

• The highly advertised Wi-Fi is pretty much useless.

• Bring a sweater, as it can get cold once they turn on the air conditioning.

• It's not clear if you are allowed eat on board, but the drivers don't seem to care if you do. On the way up, our driver said that if anyone from Megabus corporate ever asked the name of the person who said we could eat or drink, that we should give the name "Steve." Our driver's name was not Steve.

• The bus north makes a stop for food a few hours into the ride; going south, it was about five hours in. The stop is 25 minutes sharp.

• Megabus pushes its $1 fares but this is clearly a gimmick, as that price is so rare as to be functionally nonexistent.

• However, even at full price — which seems to top out at $42 — the fare is equivalent to the cost of the gas you'd buy to drive yourself.

It's a good deal, safe, convenient and comfortable. I suspect I'll be traveling again, and soon.

Dispatch From The Future: Uber To Purchase 2,500 Driverless Cars From Google


By Ryan Lawler, August 25, 2013

uber logo

July 25, 2023 — As part of its second-quarter earnings announcement today, local transportation and delivery giant Uber announced its biggest bet on autonomous vehicles yet, saying it would purchase 2,500 driverless cars from Google. In addition, the two companies have agreed to a deal in which Uber will share data from its local transportation services with Google, which will use it to further improve its own autonomous car-routing algorithms.

Uber has committed to invest up to $375 million for a fleet of Google’s GX3200 vehicles, which are the company’s third generation of autonomous driving cars, but the first to be approved for commercial use in the U.S. The deal marks the largest single capital investment that Uber has made to date, and is also the first enterprise deal that Google has struck for its new line of driverless vehicles.

The next generation of driverless car

It’s been just five years since Google announced it would begin manufacturing its own driverless cars, and just two-and-a-half years since those vehicles have hit the streets. But the company is already on its third car model, following the first-generation GX1000 two-seat “commuter” model and its followup GX2100 five-seat family sedan.

The GX3200, which was shown off earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show, is Google’s latest effort to produce a fully electric, fully autonomous vehicle. The car seats four comfortably and has room for up to three suitcases in its rear storage compartment. Like previous Google models, each car acts as its own wireless base station, so that passengers can connect to the Internet through Google’s WirelessGig service.

Due to its low weight and the latest in fuel cell technology, the GX3200 can get up to 750 miles of travel on a single charge, or about 48 hours on standby mode. Like Google’s other autonomous vehicles, the GX3200 is designed to find and dock in the nearest Google PowerUP station whenever it’s not in use.

But unlike the first-generation GX1000 or the follow-up GX2100, this latest car from Google is meant strictly for non-personal use. With it, Google is targeting the enterprise market of local transportation providers like Uber, as well as various municipalities like New York and Chicago. The idea is that those cities could finally do away with their outdated taxi systems and move to a more fully automated fleet of on-demand vehicles.

An on-demand, autonomous Uber

For Uber, meanwhile, the purchase could represent a more driverless future for its local transportation service. While the company has experimented with the use of autonomous cars as part of its fleet, those cars still needed an Uber “driver” present in case of an emergency. However, since the GX3200 has been licensed for commercial use in several states — such as California, New York, Illinois, and Washington — Uber will be able to deploy the cars without drivers in several of its largest markets.

The company hopes to have its first set of driverless cars on the road by the end of the year, introducing a new service called uberAUTO using those vehicles in one or two of its markets at first. Based on the reception there, Uber says it could have the service available in up to 10 markets by the end of next year.

As part of the deal, the companies will work together to install the latest Uber logistics software directly into the vehicle, and Uber will share some of its traffic and routing data back to Google. With that data, Google says it will be able to provide more accurate real-time information to all cars that are part of its autonomous driving network.

In general, the move to so-called driverless cars and on-demand transportation services has resulted in faster commute times and less congestion in many major cities over the last five years. Uber claims that its service has reduced traffic by up to 35 percent already in many of its biggest markets, and putting more efficient driverless cars on the road should only help improve that.

Meanwhile, the move to autonomous cars, though just a few years old, is already starting to benefit drivers and passengers alike. In California, where the state is testing so-called “autopilot lanes” on the freeways, driverless vehicles can speed up to 120 miles an hour, drastically reducing commute times. And while it’s still early, Google has yet to have an autonomous vehicle be found “at fault” for a major accident, even at those high speeds.

Driver and Auto Manufacturer Concerns

That said, not everyone is happy about the idea of on-demand, driverless cars. When the news was first reported several months ago that Uber and Google were in talks, some of Uber’s drivers expressed displeasure at the idea of being replaced by autonomous vehicles, waging protests outside of its international headquarters in San Francisco.

When asked how the deal would affect its worldwide workforce on the company’s earnings call today, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said driver concerns are a bit overblown. Uber has more than 50,000 contractors as part of its driver network globally, but he said the Google fleet purchase won’t drastically reduce that number.

“This will affect a very small portion of our worldwide driver base,” Kalanick said, noting that the Google cars will only be deployed in the small number of markets where they are legal for commercial use. He also pointed out that drivers who were affected as part of the company’s uberRIDE transportation division could also transition to its uberDELIVER local delivery service, which continues to grow around the world.

The move to more on-demand transportation has also been a shock to the traditional auto manufacturers. Drastically reduced demand for cars in urban and even some suburban areas where Uber operates has sent shares in companies like Ford and General Motors to five-year lows. With auto sales lagging, those companies have introduced their own on-demand rental and transportation services, but consumer interest has been lackluster so far.

Shares in Uber, meanwhile, continue to soar. Its stock was up a whopping 10 percent in after-hours trading on news of the deal, bringing shares to an all-time high.

Metrolink’s Shrinking Ridership


By Noel T. Braymer, August 9, 2013

Dropping Metrolink Ridership

 Graphic from LOSSAN

Why is ridership declining on Metrolink? There are many reasons. Much of the rise in ridership recently in public transportation is directly the result of spikes in the price of gasoline and cost of driving a car. Since last year the price of gasoline has more or less stabilized and even dropped a little. People are also buying new more economical cars to replace their gas guzzlers.The recent fare increase by Metrolink hasn’t helped either. Most of this decline in ridership is for commuters headed to Union Station. One factor that hasn’t helped were the problems of trying to transfer to LA Metro trains with new turnstiles that would require a TAP card. The use of Metrolink paper tickets with TAP chips embedded in them has solved that problem. Part of the problem is lack of job growth in downtown Los Angeles, government jobs in particular are shrinking.

Here are excerpts from  the Corridor Trends information item in the LOSSAN TAC agenda  for Aug 8, 2013

Metrolink Service Performance
Average weekday ridership on Metrolink trains in June 2013 recorded a 4.1 percent decrease from a year earlier. This decline is part of a trend that started last year when ridership growth began to decelerate in November 2012, and turned negative beginning in January 2013 (Figure 1). Since January, Metrolink has been experiencing a decline in average weekday ridership every month. Losses reached 4.1 percent in June, but could be limited to less than 1 percent in July 2013. Ridership losses are systemic and are impacting all lines, with the exception only of the Inland Empire Orange County (IEOC) Line (Figure 2.). Weekend ridership continues to be strong. Although weekend ridership has been growing by 30 percent annually, it has not translated into new weekday commuters…

Downtown Los Angeles lags the region in job growth, in part, because of the high concentration of the government sector, which has been shedding jobs.Downtown Los Angeles also experiences increasing office vacancy rates. “Negative absorption rates will likely continue, meaning the vacancy rate is not likely to drop any time soon.”(Los Angeles Business Journal, July 22, 2013).

Where ridership is growing on Metrolink is during the weekends and service between Orange County and the Inland Empire. In other words on the trains where most ridership doesn’t get off at Los Angeles Union Station. A major factor for ridership growth on the weekends is the $10 dollar pass. The fact that ridership is growing where there is no service to downtown Los Angeles says that there is a market for rail travel to and from other places besides downtown Los Angeles.Yet management at Metrolink seems to see this as a problem, instead of an opportunity.

There is good news, Metrolink is expanding service starting August 18th on Sundays from 3 to 6 round trip trains on the Antelope Valley Line. This will be the same number of trains for Sunday as on Saturdays between Los Angeles and Lancaster. Did Metrolink planners suggest this? No, this was the idea of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Member Michael Antonovich who represents the Antelope Valley. Supervisor Antonovich is also on the Boards of LA Metro and the SCRRA which oversees Metrolink. Increased frequencies usually increases ridership on any rail passenger service on all trains of that line. With the ability of the Weekend Pass to attract riders this should help too. Supervisor Antonovich as part of his request for this service also asked that connections be improved on the Antelope Valley Line to other Metrolink trains and Amtrak.

What is the best way to jump start Metrolink’s ridership? Certainly it isn’t with fare increases and slowing boardings by inspecting every passenger’s ticket at the platform. Metrolink should create a Weekday Day Pass for all of Metrolink. I would suggest a $35 dollar Pass good all day on all Metrolink lines. Will someone use this pass to ride all of Metrolink’s 512 route miles in a day. A few maybe but not many people would. I suggest $35 dollars because this is slightly higher than the highest round trip fare on Metrolink for a single line. There is no need to discount trips like from Oceanside to Los Angeles. But this will open up major new markets for longer trips transferring at Union Station. People are always looking for a good deal. At this price many more people will travel on Metrolink between San Bernardino and Oxnard, Lancaster and Riverside or Oceanside and Pomona plus all other stations in between.

Who would discount travel by train on a day pass? Well how about the Coaster Trains in San Diego County. They have a $12 all day pass good on the Coaster as well as the Sprinter Trains, the Trolley and all bus connections in San Diego County. This day pass wasn’t always $12 dollars. Originally it was $14 dollars but North County lowered the price to increase ridership and revenue. They also recently lowered their regular trains fares as well. The Coaster often has special prices for seasonal services. Now during the Del Mar Horse Racing season the Coaster has an $11 dollar pass called the Pony Express for rail and connecting bus service to Del Mar. Coaster Ridership by the way isn’t declining.

Now one objection to this idea is what about the crowding on Metrolink during rush hour? Well if you are losing ridership doesn’t sound like crowding is the problem. A Weekday Day Pass on Metrolink will increase ridership and revenues. This should lead to more promotion of existing  connections and to better connections where there is the most demand. Schedules can be improved for better connections and service in some cases can be expanded with more frequencies. So if during rush hours some trains get crowded what can be done? Run trains with more cars and fill them up. Metrolink has plenty of surplus cars now so lack of equipment should be the least of their worries.

Air board will start monitoring pollution next to SoCal freeways

Under EPA requirements, monitors will be installed at four sites, providing data about what the 1 million Southern Californians who live within 300 feet of a freeway are breathing.


By Tony Barboza, August 25, 2013

 Jason Low, atmospheric measurements manager for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, stands at a special air monitoring station along the 710 Freeway in Long Beach

Jason Low, atmospheric measurements manager for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, stands at a special air monitoring station along the 710 Freeway in Long Beach. 

Air quality regulators will begin monitoring pollution levels near major Southern California traffic corridors next year, for the first time providing data important to nearly 1 million Southern Californians who are at greater risk of respiratory illness because they live within 300 feet of a freeway.

Under new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, air pollution monitors will be installed at four sites next to some of the region's busiest freeways. Similar steps will occur in more than 100 big cities across the country.

Scientists have linked air pollution from traffic to a long list of health problems, including asthma, heart disease, bronchitis and lung cancer.

Though tens of millions of people nationwide live within a few hundred feet of a major road, monitoring stations established to measure common air pollutants typically have been placed away from such thoroughfares and other obvious sources of contamination. That's because the monitors are intended to measure pollution across entire regions to determine if they are within health standards set by the state and federal government.

Of the South Coast Air Quality Management District's 35 air quality monitoring stations measuring pollutants across a four-county basin of 17 million people, none sits close to a major roadway. Environmental groups say that system underestimates exposure levels in many neighborhoods.

The new monitoring is likely to have broad implications. If, as expected, the new data show higher pollution levels, environmental organizations and neighborhood activists almost certainly will call for local officials to take more aggressive steps to reduce emissions and curtail residential development near freeways.

"We will do everything possible to make sure people who live near those roadways get the protections they're entitled to," said Angela Johnson Meszaros, an attorney for Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, one of several advocacy groups that sued the EPA last year to force it to require fine-particle pollution monitoring near Southern California freeways.

Air quality regulators are now moving in that direction.

"In a place like Los Angeles where a lot of people live next to busy freeways, what you measure near a roadway may actually be representative of what people are exposed to in the basin," said Philip Fine, who is in charge of the South Coast air district's network of monitors.

Scott Fruin, a professor of preventive medicine at USC, believes the EPA's action is long overdue.

"We have known about the adverse health impacts of living near freeways for almost 20 years but don't routinely monitor air quality there," said Fruin, whose studies have found that pollution concentrations along Los Angeles freeways that are five to 10 times higher than elsewhere in the city.

Health studies show that the most vulnerable are children, whose developing lungs can be harmed for life by air pollution. In the landmark Children's Health Study, USC researchers found that children living near busy freeways have higher asthma rates and reduced lung function.

Complicating the picture are new findings by UCLA and the California Air Resources Board that pollutants from cars and trucks can drift more than a mile from Southern California freeways, suggesting that air pollution's effects could be more widespread than previously thought.

Gledy Martinez, who moved into an apartment a block from the 110 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles four years ago, said in Spanish that at the time, "I didn't think about how there was a freeway close by."

The 30-year old cafeteria worker has learned to sleep through the noise from the more than 260,000 vehicles that pass by each day, but she now fears that the exhaust fumes and fine particles that drift over from traffic are unhealthful for her family.

Her 2-year-old son Bryan suffers from bronchitis, and his doctor can't pinpoint the cause. It could be that their studio apartment is too humid or has too many bugs — or it could be from the pollution from the freeway.

Under EPA rules to be phased in over three years, starting in January, the largest metropolitan areas must put four monitors within about 160 feet of major roadways to measure nitrogen oxides, fine particulates and carbon monoxide. Smaller areas will be required to have between one and three monitors.

The EPA said it has required monitoring near urban roads before, notably for lead and carbon monoxide in the 1970s and '80s, when vehicles were fueled with leaded gasoline.

Air monitors in Southern California have tracked pollution at a distance from major roads for decades, documenting the sharp improvement in the region's smog levels in response to ever-tightening pollution controls. One station in Azusa has been running since 1957, not long after Caltech scientist Arie Jan Haagen-Smit first linked smog to automobile tailpipes. Cars, trucks and buses now account for nearly half the region's smog-forming pollution.

For the new roadside monitoring sites, the South Coast air district is using a formula taking into account traffic volume, particularly diesel trucks, which pollute more than cars. Some of the top candidates include I-5 near Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim and a two-mile stretch where the 57 and 60 freeways join near the agency's headquarters in Diamond Bar.

Another potential site is an experimental air monitoring station inside a graffiti-covered shipping container next to the 710 Freeway in Long Beach. The station has been used for scientific studies in recent years, pumping air into a stack of instruments that can track pollution levels 50 feet from the rush of traffic.

Back in her small apartment, Martinez said she welcomes the new monitors.

"You can see there are too many cars, a lot of exhaust, and we don't breathe clean air," she said in Spanish. "For me that's a big worry, more than anything, for my kids, because they are the ones who are still developing."

BRT is great, but highway buses aren't BRT


By Steven Yates, August 23, 2013

Are highway toll lanes a great way to provide rapid bus service all over the region, or a sneaky way to widen roads under the auspices of improving transit? 

Planners at the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) are currently preparing a Regional Transportation Priorities Plan. It will be a sort of wish list of transportation projects and strategies the DC region may want to consider funding some time in the future.

One interesting concept they propose is to widen nearly every highway in the region with a new set of variably-priced toll lanes, like the express lanes that recently opened on the Beltway in Virginia.
The idea is that tolls would be set high enough to ensure traffic on the lanes moves quickly, which would simultaneously improve car congestion and provide all the benefits of a dedicated busway. Sounds great, except it never works that way in real life.

Why this won't work as promised

There are two big problems with this approach.

First, transit is most effective when it's located along dense, mixed-use corridors, where riders can walk to their destination on at least one end of the route. Highways never work very well, because the land use surrounding highways is inevitably spread out and car-oriented nearly all the time.
Even Metrorail stations in the most prosperous parts of the region have trouble attracting development if they're in a highway median.

And without surface bus lanes on downtown streets, highway buses will get clogged in downtown traffic just like cars.

That's not to say highways shouldn't have good buses. Of course they should, because there are some trips that can be served that way. But you will never succeed in building a truly great transit system when it's built as an afterthought to highways, because the land use drives ridership.

That brings up the second big problem: Transit lines that are promised as an afterthought to highway expansion are always the first thing to be cut when money runs low.

That's exactly what happened on both the Beltway express lanes in Virginia and on the ICC in Maryland, which both use variably-priced tolls to keep traffic moving.

In Virginia, the Beltway HOT lanes were originally sold as "HOT/BRT lanes." But planners stopped promising BRT before construction even started. Now there are a handful of commuter buses that use the HOT lanes, but they're nothing like a true all-day BRT line.

In Maryland, planners never promised BRT on the ICC, but they did promise good bus service. Lo and behold, just a couple of years after opening the ICC, the state proposed to eliminate 3 of its 5 bus routes.

Today, neither the Beltway nor the ICC have bus service anywhere near as good as the regular bus lines on 16th Street in DC or Columbia Pike in Virginia. Say nothing of BRT. On the other hand, those highways got built.

A better alternate exists, but isn't in the plan
Oddly, the TPB's proposed plan doesn't say anything about BRT on arterial roads, where it's more likely to do the most good.

Arterial roads have the most demand for bus service, and produce the most bus ridership, precisely because they're the main streets with all the mixed-use destinations.

That's why Montgomery County, Arlington, and Alexandria are all working on actual BRT projects on arterial roads.

But the upcoming BRT lines in Montgomery, Arlington, and Alexandria could be so much more effective if they were coordinated into a larger regional network. As the main cross-jurisdictional planning agency for the DC region, TPB should be helping to plan that network, with lines in Fairfax, Prince George's, and DC.

Instead, they're mucked up pushing a highway plan that doesn't really do much good for transit.

Tell TPB to look at arterial BRT instead
The draft Regional Transportation Priorities Plan does say arterials should have "bus priority," such as MetroExtra-like limited stop routes. That's good, but why not push for something better? With many jurisdictions looking at arterial BRT anyway, there's no reason to hold back.

TPB is good at studying alternatives. In fact, they've already completed multiple studies looking at the variably-priced lanes idea. They should give at least as much attention to arterial BRT.

TPB is still accepting public comments on its draft plan, but today is the last day. They need to hear that a few buses won't convince transit advocates to support the biggest expansion of sprawl-inducing highway capacity in the DC region since Eisenhower. They need to hear that the proper place for transit is arterial roads, not highways.

A Hitchhiking Spot For Cyclists


By Joop De Boer, August 23, 2013


The Dutch Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond) has teamed up with artist Mapije de Wit to create public hitchhiking spots for bicycle riders in the city of Utrecht.

Signs were illegally attached to street poles at six places close to the city’s central train station. The texts on the signs say that this location is an ‘official’ hitchhiking spot for cyclists. People who want to get a lift on the back of a bike should stay close to sign and make the famous international hitchhiking gesture with their arm. Passers-by on bikes could offer them a lift to another spot in the city.

Hitchhiking spot for cyclists in Utrecht
Hitchhiking spot for cyclists in Utrecht
With this initiative the Cyclists’ Union wants to ask Dutch bicycle owners to be a little more social by offering others a ride if possible. According to the Dutch NOS News, the idea seems to work. Lots of people are willing to offer strangers a lift on their bikes. City officials say that they like the plan, but have to remove some of the signs as it is forbidden to install your own signs in public space.

Is the future of transportation local?


By Tony Lucadamo, August 23, 2013

With the Highway Trust Fund now insolvent, policymakers are looking for new sources of transportation funding. Some experts have a surprising answer: local government.

If handled correctly, that could mean a big opportunity for regional government.
In the past, Congress passed multi-year reauthorizations or simply raised the gasoline tax to keep up with traffic congestion. But as new transportation demands have arisen, Congress has failed to reform revenue streams to keep pace.

In the words of former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, the federal government no longer has “the stomach” to go beyond an annual funding bill.

The current system, he says, focuses more on “squeaky wheels” than larger problems. He references the FAA sequestration fight as an example. Only when home districts started complaining did Congress act.

This is untenable in the long-term.

The “squeaky wheel” approach skews the system. By placing the focus on solely the loudest, most immediate needs, larger problems go ignored. The institution of an overarching long-term strategy is bypassed.  

Mineta’s remarks came as part of a recent event hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center at the National Press Club in Washington. Six former transportation secretaries came together to discuss, among other things, highway financing.

As a solution, Mineta and many of his peers propose that state and local offices must initiate a “bottom-up” approach.

Without a larger reform bill, local government must get involved as a matter of necessity. The lack of consistent financing has created a vacuum. And regional governments are the most realistic candidates to fill it.

Those present referenced the innovative practices, strong oversight, smarter budgetary methods, and less dysfunctional legislatures as strengths of local government.

Mary Peters, Transportation Secretary under George W. Bush, claims that money might “bubble up” in a similar way to welfare. Because local governments have a “more narrow focus on revenue streams” they are in a strong position to provide answers.

One of President Clinton’s transportation secretaries, Rodney E. Slater, cites the role of state and local government as the “laboratory for democracy.” In his view, it is the states that can provide fresh ideas at a time when innovative thinking is in short supply.

Andrew Card, a former Transportation Secretary and White House Chief of Staff under George W. Bush, says it is also an issue of “bookkeeping.”

Because states are able to amortize their funding figures, the resulting budgets are more realistic. Essentially, in an era of fiscal constraint, it helps to have accurate data. Good bookkeeping in turn leads to credible proposals that restore the faith of Congress when deciding who gets appropriations.

But Mineta’s point in the end is likely the most convincing.

We have entered the post-Highway Trust Fund era. Resources are drying up. And Congress is showing little intent of raising the gasoline tax anytime soon. Thus, the need for partial state financing is perhaps an unavoidable reality.

This puts stress on state coffers. However, it simultaneously presents a major opportunity.

If state and local governments are all competing for the same piece of a shrinking pie, then the strongest, most credible bidders will have the chance to get momentum behind an expansive portfolio of transportation projects.

Many states are doing just that.

Brookings coined the term “can-do states” for this group of forward thinkers. So far, the two prevailing ideas are an increased tax on gasoline as well as the expanded use of public-private partnerships to fund major projects.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx knows local government well. He used to be Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. He will likely be looking for a few flagship projects to put his stamp on events early in his tenure. 

Which states lead the vanguard remains to be seen.

20/20 Gives Cover to LAPD on Hit and Runs, Reminds Advocates Why Mainstream Journalism Can’t Cover Hit and Runs


By Damien Newton, August 26, 2013


ABC’s 20/20 news magazine focused Friday’s episode on the dangers of driving and did so in one of the most ham-handed ways possible. “Highway to Hell” was remarkable for many reasons, but the kicker was the love letter from 20/20 to the LAPD for its response to our local hit and run crisis.

After a bizarre two-part story on a family that got lost on an unplanned trip into Death Valley that was somehow blamed on their GPS, 20/20 switched focus to the LAPD and the “Capitol of Hit and Run” crashes. The reporter talks to three whole people in her piece, Detective Felix Padilla of the LAPD, the victim of a solved hit and run crash, and the defense lawyer for the driver responsible for the aforementioned hit and run crash. The piece mentions that L.A. has the highest rate of hit and runs in the country, as verified by reporting in L.A. Weekly and a report by the University of Michigan. It then explores how great the LAPD is at addressing this problem.

Anyone watching the piece that is not familiar with the LAPD’s history of ignoring hit and run crashes in all but the most serious cases, the shocked reaction to the LAPD’s rose-colored-glasses recently presented to the City Council or the hours of research and testimony at public hearings by concerned citizens that finally pushed the agency to examine its procedures would come away assuming that the main reason L.A. has a hit and run rate three times the national average is Southern California’s high number of illegal immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants, it’s ABC who referred to them as illegal, are scared to interact with the police so the number of potential witnesses for hit and run crashes is artificially reduced says ABC.  The transition between ABC’s statement that this “might be” a cause and Padilla’s next quote is a little awkward, so the viewer is left uncertain whether the LAPD detective inferred guilt onto undocumenteds or whether ABC did.

There’s a lot of factors that play into the high rate of hit and runs in Los Angeles including lax investigations, lack of will to prosecute, laws that encourage running over staying if you were drinking, road design that encourages fast driving and media outlets that publish where DUI checkpoints are located. But the ABC news piece mentions none of these and briefly focuses on “illegal immigrants” as a cause. The solution is more people reporting hit and run crashes…and the high tech “CSI department for cars” that the LAPD apparently uses from time-to-time.

And it’s too bad, not just because the 20/20 story will make it harder for advocates to make the case that the LAPD needs to do more, but also because the real story would make for great television. It’s full of all the elements that make for great television news: horrific crashes, bungled investigations, heroes with movie-star good looks, crusading journalists and a bureaucracy that is as concerned with protecting its reputation as it is addressing the issues.

As for 20/20′s portrayal of the LAPD as a department doing its best to tackle the hit and run crisis, let’s remember some of the hit and run cases covered on Streetsblog. We have the case of Susanna Schick, where the victim claimed she was hit by a car that veered into the bike lane and LAPD stated that the experienced cyclist fell off her bicycle. There’s the case of Don “Roadblock” Ward, who had to complete his own investigation after the LAPD refused to look into the crash that left him lying bloody in the street.

Let’s not forget the truly worst policed hit and run case ever. Andres Tena was hit from behind and saw his friend’s bike dragged for blocks before the LAPD stopped the vehicle with the bicycle still under the black hummer’s hood. Unbelievably, the LAPD blamed the bicyclists for “running into” the hummer. The LAPD actually threatened to press charges against a cyclist who was hit from behind for damage to the several ton vehicle that nearly killed him.

More recently, LAPD Sgt. Arturo Yanez likely helped his daughter cover up her own experience hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene.

None of this is mentioned is even hinted at in the 20/20 story, nor was the LAPD’s embarrassing victim-blaming presentation to the City Council Public Safety Committee last month.

It’s cool that LAPD has the tools to solve hit and run crimes. It’s great that they sometimes bring those resources to bear and even occasionally solve a case or two. But to do a full segment on a network television about the hit and run crisis in Los Angeles and not even begin to look at whether or not the LAPD could be doing more isn’t sound journalism. It’s malpractice. And by giving cover to an embattled agency just when it’s beginning to respond to the cacophony of complaints might just  make the lives of those fighting for safer streets even more difficult.

Thanks a lot ABC. Do us a favor and stick to reporting on families that don’t realize they should plan out their car trips into Death Valley.

Seattle's New Streetlights Are 40-Foot-Tall Singing Flowers


By John Metcalfe, August 6, 2013

 Seattle's New Streetlights Are 40-Foot-Tall Singing Flowers

When a city needs a psychedelic landscaping job and the guy who sold Jack the giant beans isn't available, Dan Corson's the person to call. The Seattle-based artist has a portfolio stuffed with alien-looking botany projects, from a lawn of green lasers in Florida to streetlights in Portland shaped like carnivorous plants and now, under the Space Needle, 40-foot-tall flowers acting both as lamps and troubadours that croon when people get near.

The Pacific Science Center commissioned this trippy artwork for its novel design and use of solar electricity – the petals of each "flower" are studded with photovoltaic cells that allow them to shimmer in vibrant hues. (How the science center had time to erect this installation while under attack from giant spiders is a mystery.) Corson initially wanted to call the piece "Humming Heliotrope" but settled with "Sonic Bloom." Those names are references to the sculptures' auditory component: The flowers can tell when people are nearby, and respond with a glorious, churchlike chorus of ooooohhs! and aaaahhs!

Similar to Jim Sanborn's sculpture "Kryptos" at the headquarters of the CIA, Corson's towering field of flowers includes an element of secrecy. The stalk of each bloom is striated like a barcode and holds a coded message; however, the artist is playing it close to the belt and won't say what is hidden. He did have plenty else to talk about in a recent (and slightly edited) email exchange, beginning with an alternate vision for the project involving weird science's go-to instrument, the theremin:

Can you explain a little bit about the project's background?

Originally I was going to have four flowers "hum" and activate with their own tones, and a fifth that was going to be an optical theremin that would be the "lead singer" while the others acted as the backup band. Optical theremins work within a narrow range of light to produce a wide range in sound, and as we explored the idea, it turned out to be (from an optical and aural perspective) not the best solution. So I worked with a friend and local sound and electronics engineer to fine-tune a system that would work.

Are these flowers supposed to be any particular genus?

The flowers are not specific but are inspired by a certain stage of development of the flower of the Australian Firewheel Tree, Stenocarpus sinuatus [Ed: also known as the "White Beefwood"].
The frosted acrylics that extend beyond the spine of the petal were specifically designed to glow during overcast Seattle days. They also light up at night from "stamen lights" that allow the solar cells to be seen from the adjacent Space Needle.

How would you describe the collective music they make?

The tones range from the key of D minor to D major over a few octaves. They are a looped sample of choral voices. Some of the samples have more vibrato in them. Some people have said it was like being in a "temple of the sun."

The tones are activated by individual microwave-motion sensors. I was always thinking that a group could compose music with these by having a person stand at each flower and a conductor would point to the performers to create the sound. I have had people already come up saying they want to compose a dance for the space.

Why'd you include the bar codes, and can you give a hint to what they mean?

I wanted to use stripes and knew the color palate I wanted to explore. So then I thought about the order of them. I looked into Morse code (I had done that before) and then looked into other cyphers and decided in the end to do barcodes. I liked being able to make a puzzle that did not look like a puzzle and also encourage kids of all ages to explore different layers of the project. It will not be easy but with a bit of sleuthing, it should work.

Brilliant Gadget of the Day: A Stylish Ring To Replace the Transit Farecard


By Jenny Xie, August 23, 2013

 Brilliant Gadget of the Day: A Stylish Ring To Replace the Transit Farecard

The days of rummaging frantically for the card that gets us onto public transit may be over.
A team of engineers from MIT has created the 3D-printed "Sesame Ring," which has an embedded RFID tag that lets you tap it to a RFID-based fare reader and hop on. Watch the demo:


The team first conceptualized the ring in January; a working prototype was tested by over 300 university students in Singapore. The waterproof Sesame Ring now works with the MBTA transit system in Boston -- which uses the RFID-based Charlie Card. The first commercial batch of Sesame Rings just opened to the public through a Kickstarter campaign. The $17 early bird special is already sold out, but for a donation of $20 or more, you can get a black or gold ring delivered by Christmas. More colors and personalized designs are available with a bigger donation.

The campaign is just one day old and it's already nearing the $5000 goal. The team said over email that if the funding pace continues, they'd gladly fulfill the additional requests, as well as look into better methods of fabrication (i.e. using injection moulding to give the rings more hardiness and a matte finish) and accommodating more types of Charlie Cards (i.e. monthly auto-renewal and senior citizen passes).

Fun Fact: Sesame Ring's design was in part inspired by the MIT tradition of an intricately designed class ring, seen here on Iron Man, a fictional alum of the university: