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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Metro promotes Rail Safety Month — and a look at Metro Rail’s accident numbers


By Steve Hymon, August 29, 2013

There was a very no-nonsense article posted on Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's website today about Blue Line safety. The piece doesn't pull any punches, noting that the number of accidents and fatalities on the Blue Line remains higher than Metro's other rail lines.

One point I want to clarify because the article combines numbers for 2012 and 2013. In the past calendar year — since last Aug. 29 — there have been five fatalities on the Blue Line, including three suicides.

If breaking it down by calendar year, in 2012 there were 35 accidents and nine fatalities on the Blue Line, including four suicides. Through nearly eight months of 2013, there have been 21 accidents and three fatalities on the Blue Line, including two suicides.

This is obviously a grim kind of progress when it comes to deadly accidents — if 'progress' is an the appropriate word. At least the numbers are seemingly moving in the right direction, perhaps a reflection of some of the work Metro has done in the past year to improve rail safety. Those efforts are detailed both in the ZevWeb article and below.

For those who want to see the actual statistics, here are the accident numbers for 2012:

Blue Line: 35 accidents, 9 fatalities
Expo Line: 5 accidents, 0 fatalities
Green Line: 1 accident, 0 fatalities
Gold Line: 5 accidents, 0 fatalities
Red Line: 1 accident, 1 fatality
 2012 total: 47 accidents, 10 fatalities

Here are the accident numbers for 2013:
Blue Line: 21 accidents, 3 fatalities
Expo Line: 2 accidents, 0 fatalities
Green Line: 1 accident, 0 fatalities
Gold Line: 3 accidents, 0 fatalities
Red Line: 3 accidents, 1 fatality
 2013 total: 30 accidents, four fatalities

Metro is holding a media event next week to promote Rail Safety Month in California. Here is the news release from Metro:

During California Rail Safety Month in September, Metro Is Reminding the Public to Observe the Three Es and Stay Alert Around the Trains

September is Rail Safety month in California, making it the perfect time to remind everyone to practice safe behavior near Metro trains. In 2009, the California Legislature designated September Rail Safety Month to encourage government, industry and local citizens to improve rail crossing safety and support for rail safety.

“Significant progress has been made but as long as accidents continue, we will continue our efforts to stop them,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. “During the past year Metro has aggressively pursued a program to stop rail-related accidents and suicides along rail by pursuing the three Es: education, engineering and enforcement. We're encouraged by the significant drop in accidents and suicides but we want to remind the public that there are only so many signs and gates we can put up and so much fencing. They must take responsibility for their own safety and remain alert around the trains.”

Although there has been a dramatic reduction in Metro Blue Line accidents this year (3 fatalities versus 8 during the same period last year) — and other rail lines are experiencing low accident rates similar to previous years — Metro continues to develop methods for keeping vehicles and pedestrians aware of and away from moving rail.

The Metro Blue Line is a good example of how public education and Metro engineering efforts have resulted in a safer line, both for passengers and for those who travel near and across the tracks.
Metro Safety Ambassadors — many of whom are retired rail and bus operators — are assigned to various spots where accidents have occurred in the past. On the Blue Line, 14 Ambassadors are positioned at seven key locations in two shifts, Monday through Friday, when accidents are likely to occur, to answer questions and to warn and educate pedestrians and passengers about the dangers of standing too close to the tracks and trying to beat on-coming trains. They also are there to remind patrons and pedestrians of good safety behaviors, such as looking both directions when crossing the tracks since trains come from both directions.

Metro's safety education department has conducted yearly presentations at 160 schools within a 1.5-mile radius of the alignment. It has developed videos and CDs on safe and unsafe behaviors around tracks and trains. Suicide prevention signs have been installed at all stations and at high-speed gated crossings. Additional safety material has been distributed to 250,000 doors near the Blue Line.
And earlier this year, Metro began an innovative partnership with the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center, which works with referrals from Metro to help stop suicides along the Blue Line.
A variety of engineering efforts also have been instituted. They include:

– A closed at-grade crossing on Flower Street
– Four quadrant gates and vehicle detection loops at six intersections
– Flashing “Train” signs as replacements for stagnant “No Left Turn” signs in some places
– Additional flashing lights and bells at several gated crossings
– Swing gates at several high-traffic pedestrian crossings
– Railroad-type barriers at several crossings
– Colored stamped crosswalks and pavement markings
– Electric horns as replacements for mechanical horns on the trains
– Headlights modified on all light-rail trains to flash alternately
– Installation of in-pavement warning lights

Law enforcement also has been heavily involved in the education process. Motorcycle patrols by Transit Services Bureau have been monitoring high-risk areas where accidents have occurred in the past. Law officers have conducted targeted enforcement at high-risk crossings, issuing dozens of tickets to encourage behavior changes.

But the public is reminded to stay alert and to practice safe behavior near rail. Rail runs on a line set in stone. It can't change its mind or its path. But people can.

Car-Free and Car-Lite in LA: where to live


By Joseph Lemon, August 29, 2013

 Bumper to bumper traffic towards LAX, Los Angeles County, Southern California, United States of America
 Go car-free and avoid this.

In light of recent U.S. Census Data that suggests car-lite and car-free households are on the rise in Los Angeles, we’ve compiled a list of the best locations in the region where minimal car use (car-lite) or never needing a car at all (car-free) is possible. Though there are many subtle lifestyle adjustments to reduce car dependency which don’t require packing up and moving, by far the best opportunity to make a significant change is when selecting a new place to live or work.

Whether you’re a new or future resident unfamiliar with the lay of the land or a longtime Angeleno looking to escape a grueling commute, keep reading. For our regular readers, please don’t forget to tell us what neighborhoods you think should make the list by commenting — this is a post we want to be helpful to those who already live here and those moving to our region.

The list is by no means scientific and we recognize that no neighborhood will be a one-size-that-fits-all. We made our choices by taking into account factors such as access to transit, pedestrian-friendliness and bike access (using scores from walkscore.com), local amenities and connectivity to other neighborhoods. Give it a few years and this list may very well change as Metro continues to build the transit system with funding from Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by local voters in 2008.

Culver Hotel (Photo: Joseph Lemon / Metro)
Photo: Culver Hotel

Culver City wouldn’t have appeared on this list prior to 2012, but thanks to the opening of the Expo Line last year, the city has joined the ranks of one of regions top transit-oriented locations.
Its appeal to the car-free crowd will only increase when the Expo Line is extended to Santa Monica, which is expected to open in 2016. For now, Culver’s transit options work best for those who work or go to school in the east, where the Expo Line currently connects them to the University of Southern California and Downtown Los Angeles. 

To the west, Metro Rapid Line 733 connects Culver to Venice and the beach and Santa Monica; alternatively a bike lane on Venice Bouelvard does the same for two-wheelers. The Ballona Creek Bike Path also runs on the outskirts of Culver, leading bicyclists to Marina Del Rey and the beach bike path that runs south to Hermosa Beach and north to Santa Monica and Will Rogers Beach. The city’s proximity to other Westside neighborhoods makes on-demand transit like Lyft or Uber reasonable options for an evening out, and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus and Culver City Bus serve the city and surrounding areas.

Downtown Culver isn’t lacking things to do either: gastropubs, restaurants, a movie theater and historic landmarks are all within at most a 10 to 15 minute walk from downtown, along with adjacent residential neighborhoods. Grocery stores and smaller markets are scattered around the the central district and are fairly accessible by walking and biking, depending on your exact location.
The factor hindering Culver City from becoming a true car-free city is its lack of north-south bus routes connecting it to nearby work and entertainment centers like Beverly Hills, Century City and West Hollywood. There are a few options, but they’re not as convenient as they should be.


Transit Score: N/A*
Walk Score: 84, Very Walkable
Bike Score: N/A*
* scores unavailable.

4. Pasadena

Old Town Pasadena
Photo: Old Town Pasadena

The city of Pasadena is located about 11 miles northeast of downtown LA. For its residents it provides a functional mix of both urban and suburban. The city has six Gold Line stations, three located in the median of Interstate 210 and three south and near Old Pasadena and it’s an 18-minute to 29-minute ride to Union Station from those stations.

Although the city has been very slow to develop a decent bike plan — much less implement it — there are plentiful cycling opportunities in the area, including many of them on quiet residential streets. With better bike connections to Gold Line stations, Pasadena may have been even higher on our list. To the city’s credit, it has given away bike vouchers.

If you’re an apartment dweller, there are plenty of options here as well — the city has been on an apartment and condo building boom since the Gold Line opened.

The Gold Line, of course, serves the region’s transit hub at Union Station and also continues to East Los Angeles. The Gold Line is also being extended 11.5 miles east to Azusa (the Gold Line Foothill Extension project, forecast to open in 2016) and a separate project will allow Gold Line trains to run through downtown L.A. (the Regional Connector project, forecast to open in 2020). Pasadena is also served by several Metro bus lines, Foothill Transit and the Pasadena ARTS bus, which focuses on connecting neighborhoods to the Gold Line and commercial areas. The Metro Local Line 80 and Metro Rapid Line 780 buses run west from Pasadena to Eagle Rock, Glendale, Los Feliz and Hollywood

By far the city’s most car-free friendly business and entertainment district is Old Town Pasadena (Del Mar and Memorial Park Gold Line stations), with a secondary nod to the Lake Avenue business district; there is also the Hastings Ranch area in eastern Pasadena, which is more of a traditional suburban environment and has its share of big box stores. With an array of stores, coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor seating, pubs, movie theaters, parks and the occasional parade or event, you’ll pretty much be set for an afternoon or an evening out. When it comes to filling your refrigerators and cupboards, Pasadena has a handful of major grocery stores and at least three are within a block or two of a Gold Line station. including the giant two-story Whole Foods on Arroyo Parkway.


Transit Score: N/A*
Walk Score: 68, but most of the city is easily walkable
Bike Score: 71, Very Bikeable

3. North Hollywood (NoHo Arts District)
Photo: NoHo Red Line Station entrance
Photo: NoHo Red Line Station entrance

As the terminus of both the Metro Orange Line and Metro Red Line, North Hollywood — or more specifically the NoHo Arts District – is a solid, affordable transit-oriented hot-spot. If you work or spend much of your time in Universal City, Hollywood, Downtown L.A., Warner Center or Burbank Media Center (Burbank Bus), your daily commute is a straight-shot by either bus or train from the North Hollywood Metro Station.

In particular, North Hollywood is by leaps and bounds the part of the San Fernando Valley that is best connected to the region’s transit system. It’s a 10-minute ride to Hollywood and a 25-minute ride to the heart of downtown L.A. on the Red Line — with easy transfers at Wilshire/Vermont to the Purple Line and at 7th/Metro Center to the Blue Line and Expo Line. It takes about 30 minutes to reach Union Station, the region’s transit hub. The Orange Line connects to destinations across the Valley; it’s about a 40-minute ride to Warner Center.

For recreation, there’s North Hollywood Park, the Chandler and Orange Line Bike Paths, and no shortage of gyms and fitness centers. For entertainment and nightlife there’s a Laemmle Theater, over three-dozen live performance theaters and an increasing number of trendy bars and restaurants. The neighborhood is host to a farmers market on Saturdays and is anchored by a Ralph’s grocery store at its center.

The neighborhood has boomed the past decade in large part due to the completion of the North Hollywood Red Line Station in 2000 and assistance from the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency. Much of this growth occurred along a stretch of Lankershim Boulevard – the area’s primary north-south thoroughfare — between the North Hollywood and Universal City / Studio City Red Line stations.

If you need a break from NoHo but want to stay close to home, neighboring Universal City and Studio City are two easy-to-reach options. The entertainment and retail offerings at Universal CityWalk are only one Red Line stop away (about a four-minute ride). From there you can also transfer to the Metro Rapid Line 750 or Metro Local Line 150/240 to Studio City via Ventura Boulevard, a corridor lined with an eclectic mix of stores and shops, as well as some of the Valley’s more renowned restaurants and bars. Another bonus for locals: need to get to the airport?

Supershuttle provides free shuttle service from North Hollywood to Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport.
North Hollywood’s car-free standing could be bolstered with better connectivity to Burbank’s pedestrian-oriented Downtown Burbank and Town Center in the east, where a four mile trip currently requires at least one bus transfer and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.


Transit Score: 65, Good Transit
Walk Score: 86, Very Walkable
Bike Score: 68, Bikeable

2. Koreatown
Photo: Intersection at Wilshire / Vermont
Photo: Intersection at Wilshire / Vermont

Koreatown (K-Town) is a neighborhood generally located northwest of downtown and southeast of Hollywood with historic Wilshire Boulevard at its center. A hub of Korean cultural activity since immigrants began arriving in the 1960s, the Koreatown of today rose from the ashes of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, whereafter Korean-American business owners began rebuilding and reinvesting in the area. It is the most dense neighborhood in Los Angeles County and is home to the largest population of Koreans outside of Korea. Despite the name, it is actually a very diverse area, attracting a variety of people and backgrounds.

K-Town’s relatively central location places it directly in-between major east-west Metro Rapid bus routes as well as a Metro Red Line station at Wilshire/Vermont providing direct access to Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and Downtown LA. An additional two Metro Purple Line stations run down Wilshire through the commercial core of the neighborhood (also known as Wilshire Center) with stations at Wilshire/Normandie and Wilshire/Western, and will eventually run to the Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood when the Purple Line is extended in three phases; the first to La Cienega is forecast to open in 2023. Metro Rapid lines crisscross through major thoroughfares heading toward Westwood and Santa Monica to the west, the Metro Expo Line to the south and Hollywood to the north.

As for the living, there are three major grocery stores and an ample supply of mom-and-pop markets in the area. Koreatown is also known for its 24-hour nightlife, its variety of restaurants and bars and of course, great Korean cuisine. Unfortunately, the locals we talked to are pretty tight-lipped about their favorites, so you’ll have to find the gems on your own (though we’ve heard there’s this thing called Yelp…and articles like this).


Transit Score: 79, Excellent Transit
Walk Score: 90, Walker’s Paradise
Bike Score: 64, Bikeable
1. Downtown Los Angeles

Photo: Downtown LA at 7th / Broadway
Photo: Downtown LA at 7th / Broadway

No surprises here. Take a look at the Metro Rail map and you’ll see why Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) takes the prize for the best place to live car-free in LA. By leaps and bounds, downtown L.A. has the easiest access to transit — both for traveling within the very large downtown area and traveling beyond on Metro bus and rail lines, Metrolink and Amtrak trains and the many bus lines operated by other transit agencies. 

The other reason that downtown is ranked first on our list is that it has come back from the dead. Although it has always been the top job center in our region, downtown in the latter half of the 20th century increasingly became an overparked, moribund version of its former self that had plenty of jobs but lacked things residents could easily find in the ‘burbs. Such as a grocery.
Times have changed; downtown now has a Ralph’s and a Target and a smaller version of a Walmart — the old standby of the ‘burbs — is coming to Chinatown. The city of L.A. adjusted its zoning code in the ’90s, making it easier to revamp old buildings into residential buildings. And developers began gobbling up vacant lots and other sites in order to build an array of apartments and condos. Many have parking, in fact — but the fact is downtown is becoming more convenient and driving far less necessary.

With two transit hubs at 7th Street / Metro Station and Union Station, Long Beach, North Hollywood, Pasadena, Culver City and East LA are all within direct reach. If you live here, using Metro Rapid buses expands your options with direct connections to West L.A., Westwood and Santa Monica. For short jaunts, there are bike lanes on some major streets, and Metro Local buses will get you just about anywhere else. Consider on-demand transit options like Zipcar (with Metro Discount), Lyft or a good old-fashioned taximeter cabriole and owning a car as a DTLA resident could almost be a crime.
When it comes to amenities for residents, downtown is turning a corner. New grocery stores, shops, bars and restaurants are filling long-vacant buildings or being built over former parking lots. For extracurricular activities, Staples Center, LA Live, Walt Disney Concert Hall, MOCA, Grand Park and historic cultural enclaves like Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Olvera Street are all in your backyard.

Downtown Neighborhoods:

Downtown L.A. consists of at least a dozen smaller nabes, below are a few you will likely find during your search:
  • Financial District
  • Historic Core
  • City West
  • Bunker Hill
  • South Park
  • Little Tokyo
  • Chinatown
  • Arts District

Transit Score: 99, Rider’s Paradise
Walk Score: 92, Walker’s Paradise
Bike Score: 69, Somewhat Bikeable

Honorable Mentions:
So tell us your thoughts: what neighborhoods or cities do you think are the best places to live a car-free / car-light lifestyle? If you’re already car-lite or car-free, any tips?

Longshoremen say it's not a threat, but Seattle tunnel project may force work stoppage at port


By Chris Sullivan, August 29, 2013

 But Williams says a possible work stoppage is not a threat. It's about health and safety, "It was like a dust storm that blew a significant cloud across the terminal which halted operations. No one could see what they were doing to perform their necessary operations as far as loading cargo to the vessel."

The Longshoremen's Union says it isn't a threat, but it's warning the Port of Seattle that container operations at Terminal 46 could be impacted by the Seattle Tunnel Project and the ongoing dispute with work on the dig.

ILWU Local 19 President Cameron Williams says dust and debris from dirt removal at the tunnel site forced union workers to shut down container operations briefly last week.

"For whatever reason there was a plume of dust that was created either by the belt offloading some very fine concrete material or dust coming out of the pit from whatever was taking place in the pit."
The letter sent by the union to the Port of Seattle could be interpreted as a somewhat veiled threat that union workers might stop operations at the sign of any dust, just to make a point about the ongoing dispute the union is having with tunnel project managers.

But Williams says this is not a threat. It's about health and safety, "It was like a dust storm that blew a significant cloud across the terminal which halted operations. No one could see what they were doing to perform their necessary operations as far as loading cargo to the vessel."

The union is currently feuding with Seattle Tunnel Partners over four jobs on the dirt removal from the tunnel site. The union says the project managers signed an agreement to give them the jobs but then failed to follow through. Seattle Tunnel Partners says they were forced to sign that deal under duress.

The union has been picketing the site for over a week.

The National Labor Relations Board is considering several complaints against the ILWU, filed by other unions, which is highly unusual.

Williams says it is what it is. "The objective for the ILWU was to preserve traditional longshore work. It's unorthodox for other unions to file those claims and charges against the unions - but that's the case in this matter."

The longshoremen are asking the Port of Seattle and the Seattle Department of Transportation to get involved now to force the Seattle Tunnel Partners to hire its employees.

But for now, the Port's Jason Kelly says it's staying out of this dispute. "This is an issue between the Seattle Tunnel partners and the labor on the project. This is an issue we're watching closely, but ultimately it's Seattle Tunnel Partners and WSDOT that need to resolve the situation."

Digging on the tunnel could be forced to stop within a few weeks if this labor dispute continues. Workers are running out of room on Terminal 46 to put the dirt.

How to use the Google Maps to plan a transit trip


By Steve Hymon, August 29, 2013

There was a question posed on Twitter yesterday: is there an interactive map of the Metro system to help plan trips?

The answer: Google Maps, which has both a desktop and mobile version. Both are easy to learn. They’re not bombproof, but I’ve found Google Maps is generally pretty accurate and the most popular trip planner among Metro’s riders — the reason there was some unhappiness among our riders last week when Metro bus and train info temporarily didn’t show up on Google Maps due to a technical glitch.

That was fixed earlier this week. And the timing is good: there’s also a new version of Google Maps available for desktop computers. It’s not a radical makeover, but has a cleaner appearance than earlier versions.

Many of you likely know this already, but I thought I would run through it for new riders or those who haven’t used the Google tools before. Here’s how to use both the desktop and mobile versions as an interactive trip planner:

1. Go to Google Maps on your web browser at https://maps.google.com/ if you’re on a desktop. If on a smartphone, download the Google Maps app for either Android or iPhone.

2. If using the desktop version, Google Maps will take an educated guess at your current location according to your computer’s IP address; if you want a different location, just type it in the search bar at the top left corner of the screen.

On the mobile version, click on the arrow at the bottom right corner of your screen to get your current location. Then double tap to zoom in.


3. On the desktop version, zoom into the area where you’re located, then go to the ‘Getting Around’ bar under the search bar at top left corner of the screen. Click on ‘transit’ and a map of transit lines including bus stops should appear. Here’s a map of Metro lines overlaid on downtown L.A.:

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 8.33.52 AM

You can also go directly to the trip planner by clicking on the search bar at top left and then clicking on ‘directions.’


On the mobile version of Google Maps, first tap on the three bars at bottom lefthand corner of the map and then choose ‘public transit’ in the sidebar that appears….


…when you click on public transit, you get a map of transit lines:


4. Desktop: Click on a transit stop and you get scheduling info. In that box, click on directions to plan a trip.

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 8.40.28 AM
Mobile: Tap on a transit stop and then swipe up on the white bar at bottom up to get schedule info.
photo (6)

If you tap on the direction you’re traveling, you then get a list of times that trains will arrive. For example, here are the times that trains are leaving Pershing Square bound for Union Station. Of course, this is a bit of an odd example — at Pershing Square riders must remember that there are also Red Line trains running to Union Station, so the wait at mid-day is only an average of six minutes between trains.

photo (8)

And that’s it. I hope this helps you get around and please feel free to comment if you have any tips or tricks to share.

Broad Daylight Bicycle Road Rage Injures Biker, Destroys Bike, Leads to Arrest


August 29, 2013

A minivan driver flew into a rage and allegedly intentionally swerved into a bicyclist Thursday afternoon shortly before 4 p.m. in an Old Pasadena incident which sent the bicyclist flying and left his bike destroyed, police said.

The road rage attack unfolded as the blue van traveled south on Fair Oaks Ave. near Union St., Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said. The bicyclist, a 24 year old man, was travelling alongside.
The can’s driver believed the bicyclist was crowding the van and riding too close, and a confrontation ensued. At that point, Clawson said, the driver swerved into the bicyclist in a move which “we believe was intentional.”

The bicyclist was thrown from the bike, which was dragged under the moving van and destroyed.
Pasadena Fire Dept. spokesperson Lisa Derderian said responding paramedics transported the victim to a local hospital with complaints of foot pain as the result of being hit.

Clawson said the minivan’s driver was located and arrested about an hour and twenty minutes later near South Fair Oaks Ave. and Arlington Dr. He was identified by police as James Hildebrand, 60, of Pasadena.

Hildebrand was booked into jail, charged with assault with a deadly weapon, Clawson said.
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety website, Pasadena ranks first for the highest percentage of vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle collisions in comparison with the 53 California cities of similar populations.

While Pasadena does have more cyclists per capita then most cities, with 88 percent more bikers than the state average, in comparing the average amount of miles ridden in those 53 cities, Pasadena still ranks 10th for its high amount of bicycle accidents.

With those statistics, Pasadena is dangerous for all users of the road, but especially cyclists.

Kittens Delay Subway in Brooklyn


By Ted Mann, August 29, 2013

he New York City subway will see your shark and raise you two kittens.

Runaway felines were the cause of Thursday’s extended outage on the B and Q lines in Brooklyn, as police tried to catch the two kittens who had strayed onto the tracks.

Weeks after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was moved to explain how a dead two-foot shark might have ended up on an N train at Queens Plaza, the agency on Thursday demonstrated its runaway cat protocol.

After the two kittens were spotted on the tracks near the Church Avenue station in Brooklyn at 11:06 a.m., the MTA shut off power to the third rail on a section of the subway’s Brighton Line, suspending regular service from DeKalb Avenue to Brighton Beach.

 That, a spokeswoman explained, was so that the police officers who went into the tracks to roust the cats wouldn’t be at risk. Also, she said, so that the MTA did not accidentally “fry” the kittens.

Regular service on the B and Q trains resumed at 1:09 p.m., and no cats were harmed in the making of Thursday’s delays, the MTA said, but that did not make Thursday’s animal wrangling mission an unqualified success.

In the case of the subway shark, the offending animal was dispatched to the custody of a garbage can on Ditmars Boulevard. But on Thursday, the MTA said, the kittens got away.

These Bikers Race for Last Place

Cyclists say slow riding is response to hard-core fitness world 


 At the July Slow Bike Race in Newburyport, Mass., slowpokes win.

Nearing 60 years old and looking to shed a few pounds, Carey Rogers decided it was time to get more active. His achy knees ruled out basketball, and he never liked to run. So he spent a bunch of money on a bike, joined a cycling group in his hometown of Nashville, and off he rode.

Or rather, off they rode. Mr. Rogers fell so far behind the herd of Lycra-clad speedsters that he turned around and headed home. "I think I got lost on the way back," he said.

Fortunately, Mr. Rogers found some like-minded plodders in Nashville Slow Ride, a club for bikers who forgo skinny seats and speedometers for a more poky pace. "I've never seen a hill I couldn't walk up," said Mr. Rogers, a newly retired state health-care analyst. "That's sort of our attitude."

Cyclists who are looking for tough workouts have plenty of company. But for other bikers, that is just not how they roll. Instead, they are meandering over to "slow-bike" clubs that are cropping up around the country. There was even a Slow Bike Race last month in Newburyport, Mass. The last one to cross the finish line won.

"Slow it down there, Scott!" a cheering squad yelled.

Leisurely cycling has long been popular in places such as Denmark. But an entire generation in the U.S. has come to see cycling as a sport or intense recreation, said Mikael Colville-Andersen, a well-known bike advocate and the chief executive officer of Copenhagenize Design Co., a Danish urban-design firm.
Mr. Colville-Andersen blogged about his thoughts five years ago, wondering why, if there were slow-food and slow-travel movements, there couldn't be one for cyclists who just want to look around and enjoy the ride. Now, his "Slow Bicycle Movement" group on Facebook has 7,300 members.
"There are a kabillion websites/forums/blogs out there for those who enjoy riding fast/competitively in Lycra and gear and what have you," the site says. "THIS is OUR place."

Participants say slower riding is a backlash to today's hard-core fitness world, brimming with boot camps and mud runs. Molly Peterson, a 46-year-old librarian in Fairhope, Ala., said people in her tennis league were cursing and throwing rackets. "It can be pretty ugly," she says.

In 2011, she launched the Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore, an Alabama club with 100 members and a mission statement: "No Spandex needed!" In Tennessee, the Murfreesboro Slow Ride Cyclists, which formed two months ago, calls itself "a never-get-left-behind fun bicycling group" with "baskets encouraged."

"We're mostly focused on ringing our bells and waving at kids and just cruising around and chatting with the person closest to you in line," says Sarah Murray, a 40-year-old manager for the city of Chicago who founded the Slow Bicycle Society in Chicago in 2009 and has watched membership grow to 300 from 15 people. She rides a three-speed upright.

Average cycling speeds are hard to figure since bikes differ widely. But Ms. Peterson's group in Alabama says its riders mosey along at the low end of a range of 8 to 10 miles an hour. Over in Huntsville, Ala., the Spring City Cycling Club's "steady-pace fat-burning ride" touts an average pace of 15-17 mph. For comparison: British cyclist Bradley Wiggins won 2012 Olympic gold by covering the 27-mile men's time trial course at an average speed of 32.4 miles per hour.

On a recent Sunday, Boston Leisure Bicycling, whose outings often include ice cream stops, led a ride on a trail northwest of Boston. Kim Remondi, a 46-year-old real-estate agent, wore a T-shirt, cargo pants, and sneakers and rode an upright Schwinn, while another participant donned purple flip-flops.

As the group gathered, newcomer Robert Gomez arrived, introduced himself, and said he had read about the ride online, and wanted to give it a try. The 40-year-old manager at a medical-supply company wore the attire of the weekend warriors: painted-on shorts, cycling gloves, and a jersey.

Organizer Greg McColm gave him a skeptical once-over. "You look like a serious cyclist, Rob."
The friendly group rolled along, chatting, and doing about 10-minute miles, while faster cyclists frequently whizzed by with warnings of, "On your left!"

Mr. Gomez sped ahead, saying he wanted to get pictures.

"He is serious," Ms. Remondi, said, watching him go.

As the Boston Leisure riders stopped at an intersection for a picture, a female cyclist coming from opposite direction barked, "Can you move?"

"She has the racing stripes on," Ms. Remondi said. "Some of them get a little testy."

Later, Mr. Gomez said the ride was "pleasant," but he might join something a "little more fast-paced" next time.

A few days later, the third annual Slow Bike Race was getting under way in Newburyport, a coastal town 40 miles north of Boston. A block was cordoned off, with six lanes drawn in chalk. Before World War II, slow bike races were popular at fairs, particularly in England and Europe, and they are enjoying a resurgence, Mr. Colville-Andersen said.

There were 35 entrants, several riding old beaters.

"I don't believe we've ever had any spandex in our slow bike race, but we do have a peanut," said organizer Cyd Raschke, eyeing a contestant dressed in a nut costume.

Even in the world of take-it-easy biking, the competition can get fierce. Participant Gail Fayre, the 51-year-old chief medical officer at a local hospital, had deflated her tires to slow her down. The night before the race, she ran through the course and "tried to go as slow as I could."

The course stretched 75 feet. Racers, who went three at a time, were allowed to weave side to side but couldn't go out of their lane or touch a foot on the ground. Spectators lined the brick sidewalks, sounding confused. "Go Manfred!" they yelled to a man who was ahead of the pack."Wait—don't go!"

Afterward, marketing manager Lisa Markowski, wearing a Team Sloth shirt, analyzed her loss. "I should have braked more," she said.

One Simple Tip That Could Save a Cyclist's Life


By Sarah Goodyear, August 27, 2013

 One Simple Tip That Could Save a Cyclist's Life

The other day when I came out of my house in Brooklyn, an ambulance was just pulling up to the curb around the corner from me. A crowd of people had gathered on the sidewalk, and the story quickly started to come out: a young man on a bicycle had been knocked down when the driver of a delivery van opened his door into the cyclist’s path.

The victim was conscious and moving all his limbs when I saw him being loaded onto the stretcher, and there was no blood on the scene. But from the way he was acting – clearly in pain and favoring one side – it looked like he might have broken or at least dislocated his shoulder or arm.

Getting "doored" by drivers or passengers exiting a car is one of the greatest hazards facing a person on a bike in the city. It’s also one of the most unnecessary. In Chicago, which has led the way in documenting such crashes in the United States, there were 250 doorings in 2012 – up from 170 in 2011. You can see a map of the 577 such incidents reported in the city between 2009 and 2012 at WBEZ’s website.

 Doorings can easily kill a cyclist, as in the case of the 23-year-old Brooklyn woman who was killed when she fell under a bus after being doored in 2010 (that driver allegedly left the scene to go to a baby shower after completing her parking job). In Chicago last October, 32-year-old Neill Townsend – an experienced bike commuter – was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer when he swerved to avoid being doored on his way to a work meeting. There are countless similar cases.

The saddest thing about these cases is that dooring is perhaps the most preventable conflict between drivers and cyclists. For the person on the bike, staying out of the "door zone" by riding farther from the line of parked cars is the best solution.

But the onus should really be on the person exiting the car. Chicago recently doubled its fines for dooring violations to $1,000, which sends a welcome signal to drivers that the city takes the problem seriously. But fines won’t reverse crashes that have already happened.

Checking for cyclists should be a routine and heavily emphasized part of driver education, especially now that many more cities are encouraging cycling and installing painted bike lanes, which often put cyclists right in the door zone unless they are riding at the lane’s far edge. Using your mirrors and also turning to look over your shoulder are the best way to do it – just the way you avoid crashing when changing lanes in traffic.

But I’ve recently seen a few mentions of what seems to be the simplest and most elegant fix of all: train drivers to open their doors with their right hands when they’re exiting the car, forcing them to turn their bodies so that they are automatically looking over their shoulders (in countries with right-wheel drive, obviously, the hands would be reversed).

I’ve heard that this practice is taught to Dutch drivers as part of their education, but have recently seen that claim disputed by Dutch drivers in various comment threads. Considering how hard it is to get a driver’s license in Holland – taking between 30 and 60 lessons before you pass is not uncommon – drivers there are already much better-trained and more conscientious then they are in the U.S. Almost everyone there has spent a lot of time using a bicycle for transportation as well, and so consideration for cyclists just makes sense. So maybe Dutch drivers don’t need the right-hand-door-opening trick.

But in American cities, with an exploding population of cyclists and still-oblivious drivers, it could just be the perfect way to prevent more doorings and more deaths.
Try it yourself. Spread the word. It could save a life.

Neighborhood Coyote Watch

From Carla Riggs, August 29, 2013

Yikes! What's next in our neighborhood?

"Thank you" to our neighbor, John Blasewitz for passing along this information to us. There were TWO coyotes in his backyard this morning at 4:45. John lives in the 100 block of the street.
I'm grateful for all the early morning people who spot the animals and let us know.


Close the 710 Gap

From Sylvia Plummer, August 29, 2013

The "Close the 710 Gap" group (City of Alhambra) has sent out another email message asking their people to email the City of Monrovia to support the completion of the 710.  A copy of the email is below.  We need to counter this action with our emails, Instructions are near the bottom of this email.  

City of Alhambra email:

From: 710 Close the Gap <710closethegap@cityofalhambra.org>
Date: Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Dear 710 Close the Gap Supporter:
Monrovia’s City Council meeting is only a few days away and the City Council needs to hear that you support the freeway. 
We have prepared a draft email message that you are welcome to cut and paste into your email to the City Council, City Manager and City Clerk.
We have also included a list of email addresses  for Monrovia’s City Council members, City Manager  and City Clerk. 
Please send your email of support to all of these individuals as soon as possible.
Thank you for your support.
710 Close the Gap

Dear Monrovia City Council, I am writing to encourage you to vote to support the completion of the 710 freeway.  The gap in the 710 freeway affects all of the residents in the San Gabriel Valley.  Closing the gap will end bottleneck freeway congestion, cut-through street congestion, while improving air quality, health and quality of life issues.  Thank you for your consideration.
Email Addresses: 
    1. Mary Ann Lutz, Mayor – mlutz@ci.monrovia.ca.us     
    2. Alexander C. Blackburn, Councilmember – ablackburn@ci.monrovia.ca.us  
    3. Becky Shevlin, Councilmember –  bshevlin@ci.monrovia.ca.us 
    4. Steve Baker, Councilmember – sbaker@ci.monrovia.ca.us   
    5. Tom Adams, Councilmember – tadams@ci.monrovia.ca.us  
    6. City Manager Laurie Lile – llile@ci.monrovia.ca.us    
    7. City Clerk – aatkins@ci.monrovia.ca.us

 End of City of Alhambra email.

Instructions for NO 710 Group:

CALL TO ACTION:  If you have not already done this, please send an email to the Monrovia City Council ASAP and ask them to vote against the Resolution to complete the SR710, also ask friends & family to email them as well.  


The Monrovia City Council will meet Tuesday, September 3rd, beginning at 7:30 p.m.  On the agenda is a recommended action to pass a resolution to support the “completion” of the 710.  A representative(s) of Metro will speak at this meeting, it could be Doug Failing or someone from his staff.  Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director of SCAG, has also been asked to speak at this meeting.


STEP 1:   Send a brief email to each Monrovia City Council member, the City Manager and the City Clerk (same message to all)  Our messages should be polite and concise.  Remember, the goal is to get them to oppose or at least be neutral.  Please take action!  It won't require a lot of your time, and the impact of hundreds of messages could make the difference in swaying their votes.  I have heard that Monrovia wants the Gold Line completed to Claremont and that it's a top priority for them, so be sure to include the point below that is highlighted in blue.  

Some points for your messages:
  • Be sure to tell what community you live in and what the impacts to your community will be.
  • Impacts to Monrovia will be similar to those in Pasadena, La Canada, Arcadia, La Crescenta, Sierra Madre and other 210 corridor communities – an increase in car and truck traffic, noise, pollution, spillover during congestion to their surface streets.
  • Mention the 294,000 truckloads of dirt that will be excavated from the North Portal located next to the 210.  The dirt will be hauled by trucks on the 210 to Irwindale during the many years it will take for construction of the tunnel.  
  • Discuss the completion of the 210 to the 15 which resulted in the increase in traffic on the 210 we see today.  
  • Point out that Measure R money NOT spent on the 710 extension can be transferred to the transit budget and could be used to complete the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont (currently not funded), directly benefiting the citizens and City of Monrovia.  Emphasize that there is a procedure in place for doing this at Metro.
STEP 2:   Below is the list of names and email addresses.  Be sure to email everyone on this list.

Monrovia City Council members:

Mayor:  Mary Ann Lutz    maryann@lutz-co.com

Councilmember:   Tom Adams    thomas.adams@century21.com
Councilmember:   Alexander C. Blackburn    ablackburn@ci.monrovia.ca.us 
Mayor Pro Tem:   Becky Shevlin      beckyshevlin@gmail.com 

Councilmember:   Larry J Spicer       lspicer@ci.monrovia.ca.us
City Manager:    Laurie Lile      llile@ci.monrovia.ca.us
City Clerk:    Alice Atkins        aatkins@ci.monrovia.ca.us 

STEP 3:  Able to Attend?

For those that can attend and speak, or just come and support those that will speak, here is the city council meeting info:

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

City Council Chambers
415 S. Ivy Avenue
Monrovia, CA  91016 

Meeting starts at 7:30pm

Public Speakers are given up to 5 minutes to speak.  

Please wear No-710 T-shirt or red shirt or white shirt.
More from Alhambra

Cabbies Push Back Against Uber and Lyft

Stuck in a tightly regulated profession, taxi drivers are chafing at rideshare apps' success


By Joseph A. Lapin, August 29, 2013

 It was a Friday night in June when former Lyft driver Yago Rodriguez picked up four women in Santa Monica outside the Buffalo Club and unknowingly drove his vehicle into a sly game of bumper cars. Rodriguez (who has asked not to be identified by name) was about to pull away from the curb when, he says, a taxi hit his front bumper — the very bumper plastered with Lyft's famous fuzzy pink mustache.

"That's when I felt another hit from behind," Rodriguez says. "Another cab had bumped into my rear bumper."
Rodriguez says the women started to panic, but he calmed them by saying he would handle it.
"So I grabbed my knife, and I got out of the car," Rodriguez says. He walked over to the taxi that had struck his front bumper and tapped its window with the tip of the knife. "You better get this fucking car out of the way, or I'm going to stab your tires out," he told the driver. "Then I'm going to get back into my car, and I'm going to push your car out of the way."
The driver threw up his hands and peeled away.
A Lyft spokeswoman did not respond to the Weekly's request for comment by press time.
Lt. Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department says no reports have been filed about altercations between Lyft and taxicab drivers. However, Lewis says numerous Lyft drivers have been cited for failing to comply with local ordinances, and "there have been stings to make sure they're operating in compliance with the law."
Over the last few months, tensions in the region have grown between traditional taxi drivers and Lyft drivers, ever since a letter from L.A. city officials ordered Lyft — and similar, taxi-like services Uber and SideCar, all of which transport citizens to various locations (arranged via a smartphone application) — to shut down.
Taxi drivers are reporting a slump in business, and some drivers have defected to Uber and Lyft. In late July, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a proposal that would allow companies like Lyft to continue to operate in California as Transportation Network Companies, dealing another blow to the taxicab industry — and adding to the tumultuous environment.
"We were driving down Venice Boulevard," Rodriguez says, recalling another incident in June, "and a cabdriver was on the right side. He was waving his fists at my passengers and yelling at them. Then he cut me off and nearly T-boned me. He jumped out of the car and started to write down my license plate number."

A source at the Santa Monica Police Department acknowledges that there have been "grumblings" about altercations between Lyft and taxicab drivers. In particular, some Lyft drivers avoid LAX, which is considered unsafe territory, with its hoards of cabdrivers capable of joining together against a lone, pink-mustached Lyft car.

Rodriguez says Lyft actually advised its drivers to approach LAX at their own risk and only if they felt safe doing so.

Taxicab drivers are upset about the incursions on their livelihood, and are directing their anger toward the new industry. But there is more going on here than new competition. The cabbies themselves say the creaky, antique nature of their industry and its rules also are to blame.

At the Authorized Taxicab Supervision (ATS) holding area adjacent to LAX on a recent Tuesday, yellow, green and blue cabs from all nine taxi companies franchised by the city of Los Angeles to pick up passengers within city limits are parked as planes fly overhead and land several hundred yards away.

Many of the taxi drivers are waiting their turn to pick up passengers, smoking cigarettes underneath a freeway on-ramp. Some are immigrants — Eastern European, Pakistani, Indian — who struggle to find the words in English to express their frustration, but it's clear it stems from the idea that Lyft and Uber don't have to follow the same rules they must.

They are frustrated because they are required to wait in this holding lot for passengers at LAX, while Lyft and Uber are allowed to operate freely, which means they also can avoid passing on extra fees to their passengers.

The Authorized Taxicab Supervision system was created to maintain order and safety at LAX, as well as keep out bandit taxis. Fares from the airport are longer and usually the best money, so there is a lot of competition. In 2007, then–L.A. City Controller Laura Chick issued a report, "Audit of the City's Contract With Authorized Taxicab Supervision Inc." Chick found that an "award of a sole-source contract to ATS may not be in the best interest of the city."

Under ATS regulations, each cabdriver is restricted to a five-day rotation, which corresponds to a letter on his taxi. Before each pickup, the cabbie must pass an electronic gate, where a $4 fee is deducted automatically from his ATS debit card. That fee is divvied up between Los Angeles World Airports and the ATS bureaucracy. The passenger actually pays the $4 fee on top of the fare.

"I can't get a state license as a taxi driver," says Mesfin Tadesse, a driver for United Independent Taxi. He is referring to Lyft drivers and their ability to operate as Transportation Network Companies and thus avoid regulations imposed upon taxis by local ordinances. "My license is under the city of Los Angeles. ... You are chained by the city rule."

Taxi drivers must abide by the rules of each city, which charges its own permit fees or franchise fees, and it's quite a jumble: Some can't pick up passengers in certain locations unless they pay the fee or can acquire the license, which can be tough.

If a driver doesn't have a license to operate in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, he can't pick up there. If he does, he can be fined.

Yet Lyft can operate in any location — as long as its drivers are contacted through the app. And these drivers are not assessed the fees imposed on taxicab companies, fees that hit the cabdrivers.

Under the PUC proposal, Lyft drivers would pay more insurance. On the other hand, cabbies must purchase "seals" and pay a fee for bandit-taxi watch, car leases and other costs in addition to insurance.

"We provide our functions in a tight regulatory environment, and the regulatory environment imposes costs on us," says William Rouse, general manager of Yellow Cab and one of nine members of the ATS board. "We're now in a state of competition where ... competitors are able to skirt huge portions of our cost structure."

While Lyft is surely changing the transportation landscape and providing a cheaper and faster service, there's no question that these innovative firms threaten jobs in the taxicab industry. But is Lyft actually causing the instability, or is it the inability of organizations like ATS, with its multilayered regulations, to evolve with a new technology?

"They can pick up anywhere in the city of Los Angeles," Tadesse says. "I can't pick up right here in El Segundo. I can't because I don't have a state license. Uber and Lyft, they can pick up anywhere. That's unfair."

Behzad Bitaraf, general manager at ATS, had "no comment" when asked about the relationship between ATS and Lyft drivers.

Yellow Cab's Rouse argues that without all these rules, there would be disorder; taxis would fight over customers and begin cheating passengers in order to make a living; and the entire city wouldn't be covered, leaving less lucrative areas of the grid without service.

But perhaps a little disorder in the taxicab industry is just what the city needs in order to change regulations so cabdrivers have a chance to compete against "ride-sharing apps" like Lyft, which raised $60 million in venture capital last spring.

Maybe a competitive and modern transportation environment in L.A. can finally free Angelenos from the drudgery of the city's highway hypnosis while giving taxicab drivers a chance to maintain their quality of life and their jobs.

As one taxicab driver at ATS says, "We are working here because there is no other option."

On Transportation's 'History of Dividing Us'


By Emily Badger, August 28, 2013

 On Transportation's 'History of Dividing Us'

Newly minted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has an interesting blog post up today recognizing the role of transportation in civil rights, both good and bad, in connecting Americans throughout history as well as dividing them. His brief history of transportation, as seen through the lens of today's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:
When escaped slaves sought their freedom, they traveled on the Underground Railroad.
In the mid-1950s, a young woman who sat down and refused to get up—she did it on a transit bus. And the boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system resulted in changes that spread across the South.

The Civil Rights Movement was about all Americans having access to the same opportunities. And our transportation system connects people to those opportunities.
But unfortunately, transportation also has a history of dividing us. In many places, railroads have served to identify people who were living on “the wrong side of the tracks.” And rarely in the last century did an urban interstate highway plow through a neighborhood that wasn’t characterized as poor.
In many communities, the legacy of urban highway construction has proven much harder to undo than invisible racial barriers like red-lining. Foxx does not go quite so far as to acknowledge this, but highway construction has also played a major role over the last half-century in enabling white flight from American cities into the suburbs, dividing families (and financial resources) on a much larger geographic scale as well.

Still, it's noteworthy for the top transportation official in the federal government to give voice to the role of transportation in creating, maintaining, and correcting inequalities. That conversation is much more complicated, and harder to have, than one about traffic congestion, highway capacity or commute times.

Foxx mentions ongoing efforts to reclaim communities divided by highways in Columbus, Ohio, and New Haven, Connecticut, two projects that signal a different kind of transportation policy than existed 50 (or even 15) years ago.

“Sometimes,” Foxx writes, “the way we build bridges is by actually building bridges…and roads and transit.”

Diagram of where Rosa Parks sat on the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery in 1955, from the Records of the District Court of the United States National Archives and Records Administration-Southeast Region, East Point, GA.

Lawmakers Look to Revive Los Angeles' 1984 Olympic Plan to Reduce Traffic


By Ryan Holewell, August 28, 2013

The 5,000 pound Olympic rings used in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles before being taken to a facility to be restored to their original golden luster.
 The 5,000 pound Olympic rings used in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles before being taken to a facility to be restored to their original golden luster.

As congestion continues to worsen, policymakers are faced with a dilemma: how to relieve it when there's no money for new roadways and often no room to build them.

A 27-year old plan could hold some of the answers.

In 1984, when  Los Angeles hosted the Olympics, many worried how a city famous for its traffic would move athletes, journalists and spectators -- not to mention everyday Angelinos -- during the two-week games. So city, regional and state officials doubled down on a plan of attack.

As reported in a retrospective by the (now defunct) CityBeat:

Their plan included: More car-pooling and bus-riding. Major incident response teams were on full alert, around the clock. Traffic flows on Figueroa and Flowers streets were switched to one-way. Commercial deliveries were made at night. Telephone hot lines kept the public informed. School buses were used to shuttle attendees, the press, and athletes to different sites. Employers allowed their workers to have flexible shifts or work from home. A specific traffic management plan was put into motion each day. The result: Congestion was reduced by about 60 percent, and truck traffic was down by as much as 16 percent during peak periods.

The good news was the plan worked. The bad news was it only lasted for a couple weeks until the Olympics were over, and Los Angeles gained its place in traffic infamy.

But one part of the plan, involving trucks, has periodically continued to pique the interest of some lawmakers, who say it could be key to solving congestion in urban areas in California -- and beyond.
During the Olympics, there was a voluntary ban on trucks using freeways during peak hours. The vehicles were accommodated by the temporary suspension of ordinances prohibiting pick-up and delivery of goods before 7 a.m.

Steve Adams, a councilmember in Riverside, Calif. -- about 50 miles east of L.A. -- is not the first politician to say it's worth reviving that concept, but he is the latest. Adams, who's a Republican running for Congress against freshman Rep. Mark Takano, touted the idea during a transportation conference earlier this month.

 "We do not have the money to expand the capacity of freeways and highways," Adams tells Governing. The short- and mid-term solution is taking trucks off the road during the daytime hours and putting them on at night." The idea is a part of a plan for his region he calls "Operation Free Flow."

Adams says the issue is a particularly pressing one in Riverside, which has been impacted by congestion from trucks moving freight to and from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

"The benefits are obvious... you've expanded the capacity instantaneously," Adams adds, noting that such a plan would also improve air quality, since traffic causes more pollution when it travels at the slow speeds drivers experience during heavy congestion.

Adams envisions a scenario in which short-haul delivery vehicles could purchase a permit to make their rounds during the day, while large long haul-trucks would operate at night. The result would be less congestion for everyday motorists, and faster trips for truckers, who could travel further on a single shift during off-peak hours. He says the plan would cost governments less money than building and expanding new roads, and most importantly, it would have an immediate impact.

Would it work? According to a report from the Institution of Transportation Engineers, during peak hours in Los Angeles during the Olympics, truck traffic was down 6 percent overall and down more than 15 percent on some freeways. The result was a 58 percent reduction in truck-related freeway accidents across the region. By most accounts, the plan was a hit.

But part of the reason it worked was because it was always envisioned as temporary. A few years after the Olympics, a study conducted by transportation consultants Cambridge Systematics for the California Department of Transportation found that a ban on truck travel on freeways during peak times was unlikely to be feasible.

One of the biggest impediment would likely be the trucking industry, which wouldn't be happy with seeing its schedule become dramatically less flexible. When then-L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley tried to introduce a version of rush-hour ban in the early 1990s, based on the Olympics plan, the industry criticism was fierce. "We don't call it a truck ban," then-California Trucking Association chairman Robert Crites said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We call it a business ban."

It's just not trucking companies that would be impacted by such a ban. Businesses and warehouses accepting deliveries would have to adjust their staffing schedules to off-peak hours. That could mean higher costs, according to several studies of the issue, since businesses would likely need to hire extra night-time staff or pay existing employees more to work late hours.

Adams says he believes the policy could be enacted by county and city governments. "You want to keep the state and federal governments out of it altogether," he says. But it's unclear how that could be possible, given that states generally have jurisdiction over big freeways. Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times reports, Bradley's plan died largely because it may have violated interstate commerce laws.

Still, other versions of trucking bans are in place. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, possible policies to addressing congestion associated with trucks include restricting deliveries to nighttime, raising tolls on trucks during peak periods, and providing incentives to trucking companies to shift to off-peak hours.

Boston and Cambridge, for example, have instituted policies that limit downtown delivery trucks to certain routes. Bans on day-time deliveries also exist in some other U.S. cities and several European capitals.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, meanwhile, assess a fee for using container terminals during the day. That fee provides an incentive for freight carriers to use the terminals at night. And those nighttime operations are funded by the daytime fees. About 40 percent of containers cargo traffic shifted to off-peak hours during the first three years, according to the program's administrators.

None of those policies, however, go as far as an outright ban on truck traffic on freeways during rush hour like Los Angeles saw during the Olympics.

Still, while trucking bans haven't been implemented here in the U.S., they're becoming more common in others parts of the world,namely the Middle East and parts of Asia. In just the last few years, heavy trucks have been banned entirely, or during peak hours, in and around Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Manila.

Adams is undaunted in his goal, and he says the work abroad is proof that the concept is feasible. "We don't need to expand (freeways) to eight or 10 lanes," he says. "We need to smartly run them."

Completed Colton Crossing overpass to eliminate rail bottleneck

Concrete flyover in San Bernardino County was constructed to speed up cargo and lessen diesel emissions from waiting trains. The project came in under budget and ahead of schedule.


 By Dan Weikel, August 28, 2013

 A Metrolink train passes under the new flyover structure intended to relieve train bottlenecks at Colton Crossing
 A Metrolink train passes under the new flyover intended to relieve train traffic congestion at Colton Crossing.

One of the worst railway chokepoints in the nation was eliminated Wednesday with the opening of a $93-million overpass that separated two busy tracks at historic Colton Crossing in San Bernardino County.

Under a hot morning sun, federal, state and local officials cut the ribbon for the 1.4-mile concrete flyover designed to speed cargo through Southern California and stop harmful diesel emissions from trains that used to wait up to four hours for their turn to go through the old street-level crossing.

"Nov. 8, 2011, was the groundbreaking," said Raymond W. Wolfe, executive director of the San Bernardino Assn. of Governments. "Two short years later, we are now celebrating a new era in railroading. It's truly an engineering feat for those who build infrastructure."

Originally estimated to cost $202 million, the project was completed well under budget and eight months ahead of schedule. Officials attributed the cost and time savings to innovative construction techniques, cooperation among government agencies and a competitive market that produced bids that were lower than expected.

The 43-foot-high span replaces Colton Crossing, built in 1883. It is about 57 miles east of Los Angeles. Over the years, the crossing for what became the main tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. remained largely unchanged, except for modern track and signals.

Located off Interstate 10 near Rancho Avenue, the old crossing saw Burlington Northern's north-south tracks intersect Union Pacific's east-west tracks at right angles, forcing trains to proceed one at a time. More than 100 trains use the tracks daily, including those of the Metrolink commuter service, which shares the Union Pacific route.

Because Burlington Northern controlled the crossing for years and gave its trains priority, Union Pacific suffered the vast majority of delays, with many of its trains halted just short of West Colton Yard, one of the Union's Pacific's largest freight facilities.

Robert Kern, a veteran Union Pacific engineer who is now a senior operations manager, recalled that he could make a run from Yuma, Ariz., to Colton — about 200 miles — in seven or eight hours only to be stopped at the crossing for one to two more hours before he could proceed into nearby Colton yard. Occasionally, he said, the delay lasted four hours.

"You can't imagine how disheartening that was," Kern said. "This project will be a godsend."

Regional transportation planners say the chronic delays in rail shipments made the Colton flyover a priority for goods movement in Southern California, especially for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest combined harbor in the United States.

Almost half of all U.S. imports shipped in cargo containers flow through Los Angeles and Long Beach before they travel by truck and train to other parts of the country. If trends continue, the amount of containerized cargo handled by both ports is projected to increase from 5% to 6.6% annually until 2020.

The flyover project is a public-private partnership involving Caltrans, the San Bernardino Assn. of Governments, the city of Colton, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern. Funding came from the railroads as well as state and federal sources, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Proposition 1B, which provides money for goods-movement projects in California.