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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Metro Rail gate latching proceeding faster than expected; five Gold Line gates to be latched in mid-September


By Paul Gonzales, August 30, 2013

Latching of gates on the Metro Red/Purple Lines was completed August 5, 2013, three weeks ahead of schedule, meaning latching can proceed on the Metro Gold Line without delay. The first gates were latched on the Red/Purple Lines at Union Station on June 19, 2013.

Five Gold Line stations will be latched on Monday, September 16, two in East Los Angeles at Mariachi Plaza and Soto Street and three stations in Pasadena at Sierra Madre Villa, Allen Avenue and Lake Avenue. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) will staff the stations one week prior to latching through Monday, September 30, 2013 to ensure safety and to alert passengers of the schedule for latching.

New floor decals in distinctive yellow colors will be installed soon on the walls and floors near turnstiles with the slogan “TAP is Your Ticket.”

TAP is a universal fare system used by Metro Rail, Metro’s 2,000 buses and 10 other municipal transit agencies. Metrolink has its own TAP-enabled card that permits Metrolink passengers to transfer to Metro Rail with no extra charge. TAP allows passengers to transfer seamlessly to another carrier without having to fumble for change or figure out what a particular carrier charges. In addition, TAP provides up-to-date passenger data so service can be adjusted for demand, if needed.

TAP can be purchased at TAP vending machines at all Metro Rail stations, at nearly 500 retail outlets including many Ralphs markets and participating check cashing services. A TAP card can be reloaded and reused. TAP can be purchased online at http://www.taptogo.net and it can be registered so that if a TAP card is lost or stolen the card and remaining value can be returned.

The original schedule called for Sierra Madre Villa, Allen and Lake Stations to be latched on Monday, October 14, 2013 with Mariachi Plaza and Soto Stations scheduled to latch the following week on Monday, October 21, 2013.

SR-710 Extension Project Call to Action

From Sylvia Plummer --SR-710 Extension Project Call to Action: Sample letter for you to use as a framework

Another member of the No 710 Action Committee distributed the letter below as a sample that could be used for submission to the Monrovia City Council. In the interest of time, you can opt to use it directly or to expand it with facts about the issues that are most important to you.
You don't need to add your complete address, but please do include your city. It is very important that we continue to get the word out that the 710 issue is not about South Pasadena any more. Instead, there are many cities, neighborhood councils and organizations that oppose the extension of the 710 to the 210 and who want better transportation solutions.


Subject Line: Sept 3, 2013, Agenda Item #AR-1

Dear Monrovia City Council,

I am writing to encourage you to vote NO to the completion of the 710 freeway. The proposed 710/210 freeway connection affects all of the residents in the San Gabriel Valley and the 210 corridor. Building this freeway will not lessen freeway congestion as proven by the Missing Link Truck Study commissioned by SCAG (http://tinyurl.com/q2398ox) and by the LaCanada Flintridge analysis (http://tinyurl.com/ohfs2qo). Cut-through street congestion in the immediate area of the freeway will be a direct result of the tolls required. Regional air quality degradation that adversely affects the health and quality of life issues in Monrovia will occur due to the increase in truck traffic on the 710 and 210 freeways (see planned Long Beach/ LA ports expansion http://tinyurl.com/qbpkrah).

Please thoroughly research the impacts to your community before you act. If you don't have time to research this issue before the vote (No710.com), then please postpone a vote until you are satisfied that you understand the impact it will have on the 210 freeway and its direct affect to the town of Monrovia.

Thank you for your time.

Your Name


Send your email to 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

Six Destinations to Celebrate America!


August 29, 2013

Amtrak Washington Union Station

With the Labor Day holiday upon us, we’re feeling extra proud to be American. To celebrate the extra day off  this weekend, we hope you’re setting out on a great big adventure!
If you’re still looking for a little inspiration, here are the top six Americana destinations in our system. Let us know your faves in the comments section below.

1. Washington, D.C.: This seems like an obvious choice, but the nation’s capital is full of unexpected historical landmarks in addition to the tourist staples. For example, Ben’s Chili Bowl has become a civil rights institution over its 55 years in business. The half-smokes aren’t bad either!
Route: Northeast Regional

2. Philly: Ah, the City of Brotherly Love, home to Rocky and birthplace of the culinary gem that is the Philadelphia Cheesesteak. From art, music and architecture to a steel-frame outline of Benjamin Franklin’s house, Philly is a gem of a destination along our Northeast Corridor.
Route: Northeast Regional

3. New Orleans: If you’re looking for a funkier spot to spend your Labor Day weekend, try heading South to Nah’leans. That jazz-loving city also hosted the final battle in the War of 1812, which protected America’s recent deal, the Louisiana Purchase, from the invading Brits! Take that Kate & Wills!
Route: Crescent

4. Memphis: This Tennessee city gets to claim Elvis, B.B. King and Justin Timberlake as its hometown heroes, so it’s no surprise Memphis is one of the country’s most revered music cities. From the hot nightlife on Beale Street to the cool history in its Rail Museum (really, it’s great!), Memphis shouldn’t be forgotten as a great destination!
Route: City of New Orleans

5. Sacramento: As the capital of California, Sacramento is rich in state history. The gold rush at nearby Sutter’s Mill, the pony express and even the first transcontinental railroad all started here! What are you waiting for?
Route: Capitol Corridor

6. St. Louis: The gateway to the west and a heck of a sports city, St. Louis has a great mixture of American history and entertainment. In fact, it’s where Lewis and Clark set off on their great expedition across the vast American landscape all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps their starting point should be your destination this Labor Day!
Route: Illinois Service

Love this retro 1980s Amtrak graphic? Head to history.amtrak.com for more cool images!

Calif firms settle over illegal imports for $3.5M Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/08/29/5692265/calif-firms-settle-over-illegal.html#storylink=cpy


August 29, 2013

Two California consulting firms have agreed to pay more than $3.5 million to settle allegations they falsely certified that more than 24,000 recreational vehicles imported from China met emissions standards under U.S. law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The EPA and the state of California filed separate lawsuits in federal court in 2011 against MotorScience Inc., MotorScience Enterprise Inc. and the firms' owner, Chi Zheng.

The state will receive 20 percent of the penalties and the federal government will receive 80 percent, the agency said in a statement.

MotorScience was an engine certification consultant that helped overseas vehicle manufacturers and importers get EPA certificates stating their engines met clean air standards — a requirement of doing business in the U.S.

An EPA investigation, however, found the company secured the certificates for many vehicles without doing testing, resulting in the illegal import of 24,478 all-terrain recreational vehicles.
A number for MotorScience Enterprise was disconnected and a representative could not be reached for comment.

The agreement also states that, for the next 15 years, MotorScience and Zheng must undergo a strict monitoring process before they do any work involving off-road vehicles and engines.

MotorScience would test a small number of vehicles for import and then use those results repeatedly to get certificates for other vehicles, the EPA said. In at least three instances, those vehicles exceeded the federal limits for hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

This is not the first time MotorScience has been in trouble with the EPA.

In 2010, the agency voided 12 certificates held by four U.S.-based importers of Chinese recreational vehicles who were clients of MotorScience.

The firms are based in the City of Industry about 30 miles east of Los Angeles.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/08/29/5692265/calif-firms-settle-over-illegal.html#storylink=cpy

What the 'Google Bus' has taught us?


By Brian Antolin, August 29, 2013

Earlier this summer residents of several neighborhoods in San Francisco took to the streets, protesting the network of “Google Buses,” or private commuter shuttles contracted by tech companies, operating from the Bay area to Silicon Valley. The name “Google Bus” became the moniker for similar services offered by other companies because of the scale and scope of Google’s operation. The issue these residents had went beyond the concept of transportation for reverse commuters or the use of buses. Rather, their argument involved the size, scope and effect of these buses on their neighborhoods.
The service began in the early 2000s, as Google and other tech companies sought different ways to cater to their workforce. The service not only allowed employees an easier commute, it also enabled greater productivity en route to and from work with Wi-Fi and power outlets.

In 2007, according to a New York Times article by Miguel Helft, the Google shuttle network stretched from Concord in the north to Santa Cruz in the south and served approximately 1,200 people. A blog post from Transportation Nation earlier this summer mentions that these private networks (for most major tech companies, not just Google) transport approximately 14,000 people from San Francisco alone. They also note that these private bus networks have at least one stop in virtually every neighborhood in the city. 

Demand for services

Why was there such a drastic increase in demand for these services? As competition for talent to these companies intensified, these private transport networks evolved as well. The reason for this was two-fold: it served as a tool to recruit millennials who wanted to live in the city and connected the remote locations of these companies to the vibrant tech and start-up community fostered in the city. In turn, the value they presented to their workforce and future employees was that they could work for the  companies and stay connected to the urban lifestyle they desired.

While providing the mobility for these young professionals to work in Silicon Valley and live in the city, the socioeconomic landscape of neighborhoods in San Francisco began to change. Longtime residents were priced out of rent-controlled homes, while more and more Silicon Valley employees moved in. With the emerging shift in population came more buses to shuttle them to work. Soon, these neighborhoods had two to three buses on each block lined up to serve the reverse commuters.  While loading commuters, these buses often blocked city transit vehicles operated by Muni, another contention of both residents and city officials.  In essence, the coaches became a symbol of the divide between the haves (Silicon Valley employees) and have not’s (longtime residents).

Catalyst for economic growth

While the “Google Bus” phenomenon cannot be replicated directly in size, scope and effect everywhere, the methods for their success can. First, the “Google Buses” have reinforced the fact that transportation is a catalyst for economic growth. By mobilizing people to work, the areas where they commute to and live stand to benefit. Second, methods of transport must also be agile enough to adapt to how and why people travel. Fueled by companies seeking to meet the changing needs of their employees, these private networks thrive on flexibility in operation and managing its scale.

Finally, this movement solidifies the fact that the future of transportation and technology as industries are intertwined. Each industry focuses on mobility either directly (transportation) or indirectly (technology), thereby creating synergies around movement. How we develop solutions that leverage both the power of technology and transportation, while meeting the changing demands of customers ultimately provides the key to our future.

Rowena Neighbors Super Angry About Bike-Friendly Road Diet


By Eve Bachrach, August 29, 2013



Well it looks like the Rowena Avenue road diet chickens are coming home to roost in Silver Lake. Or something. Now that one lane of traffic in each direction has been removed from the street to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, car traffic has backed up and drivers are taking their unsafe ways to area backstreets. To the chagrin of the residents of those backstreets. Recently, to demonstrate the problem, several drivers on Waverly Drive helpfully drove right through stop signs or committed other moving violations right in front of a group of residents discussing the traffic problems with city council staff. According to the Eastsider, a traffic officer informed the group that there had been no increase in traffic crimes since the road diet went into effect, but the residents want relief. Though there's no city money to install speed humps on Waverly, the group was told they could fundraise to have them installed. Which we're sure is just what they wanted to hear!

· Few traffic solutions in sight for a Silver Lake street [ELA]

· Silver Lake's Rowena Slimmed to 2 Lanes Plus Room For Bikes [Curbed LA]

Update: LAPD traffic investigators evidently don’t believe other cops who witness a right hook bike collision


August 29, 2013

Evidently, cops aren’t credible witnesses.

At least as far as LAPD traffic officers are concerned.

Imagine you’re riding along when a driver right hooks you — not just turning across your path, but illegally making a right turn from the left lane — and in the process, not only violates your right-of-way, but causes a collision.

And for once, not just one, but two cops witness the whole thing.

And then…


That’s exactly what happened yesterday morning, when Melanie Freeland was making her regular bike commute from Highland Park to Downtown LA.

She was riding on North Broadway through Chinatown around 8:40 am, in the right peak hour lane — that is, what would normally be the parking lane, but converts to a regular traffic lane to accommodate rush hour traffic.

As she was passing the Far East National Bank at 977 N. Broadway, the Lexus traveling in the lane on her left — what was, in effect, the center of three lanes — suddenly turned into the building’s parking lot. The driver cut across the lane Freeland was riding in, without warning, forcing her off the roadway and causing her bike to collide with the car’s door and front panel.

A classic right hook, with the extra added benefit of an illegal turn from the wrong lane. Without signaling, no less.

If that’s not clear, just imagine you’re in the right lane of a two lane street, and the driver on the left suddenly makes a right turn directly in front of you.

And for once, a cop saw the whole thing.

Two police officers — one in uniform, the other in plain clothes — were on their way to court when the collision occurred right before their eyes. They pulled over to offer assistance, calling for an ambulance and staying with her until a regular traffic officer arrived to investigate.

Both officers — I’m leaving out the names of all the cops involved, though Freeland provided their names and badge numbers* — said the driver failed to signal or yield the right-of-way. But even though they were the ones who witnessed the wreck, it would be up to the traffic cop to actually issue a ticket.

The officers gave their report to the traffic investigator, then left for the courthouse.

And that’s when everything went to hell.

The investigator told Freeland he couldn’t issue a ticket or determine fault in the collision because he did not actually witness it, saying he “could not issue a traffic ticket for something he did not see.”
Never mind that two sworn officers did. As well as a security guard for the building, who supported the first officers’ version of events.

So Freeland smartly asked to speak with the traffic officer’s supervisor. Yet when the Sergeant arrived, she repeated the exact same sentence.

And added that “It is not a crime to hit a pedestrian.”

Note to police: bike riders are not pedestrians. We have all the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicle operators, and are allowed on every public street cars are allowed to use, with the exception of some limited access freeways. Calling us pedestrians implies we belong on the sidewalk and belittles our legal right to the roadway.

While it’s true that police officers are generally prohibited from writing citations for traffic violations they don’t witness, I’ve been assured by officers that they can write a ticket or make an arrest based on clear evidence pointing to responsibility for a collision or other violation.

And if the testimony of two cops who witnessed the whole thing — as well as a third independent witness — isn’t clear evidence, I don’t know what the hell is.

Instead, the officers sent just as clear a message that, as far as they’re concerned, bikes don’t’ belong on the street. And good luck getting justice.

Just like the bad old days of LAPD’s anti-bike, windshield bias I thought we’d left long behind us under Chief Beck’s more enlightened leadership.

As Michael MacDonald put it in an email informing me of the case,
There are a lot of things wrong in this picture, not the least of which is that LAPD has again made it clear that cyclists are essentially fair game. I am particularly frustrated that someone I know that had made a concerted effort to make a mode shift towards cycling and to educate herself to ride safely now feels no degree of protection on the road, and is deterred from ever commuting by bike in Los Angeles again.
Fortunately, Freeland does not appear to have suffered any serious injuries, although she was due to be examined by a physician late yesterday.

She’s following up with the original officers, and contacting the department’s bike liaison for the Central Traffic Division. And she plans to reach out to Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Jose Huizar to express her disappointment and call for safety improvements on Broadway.

Police officers also tell me you should contact the Watch Commander overseeing the officers involved as quickly as possible after an incident like this.

But make no mistake.

Yesterday the LAPD failed Melanie Freeland.

Tomorrow, it might be you.

*My purpose here is not to embarrass the officers. The LAPD was been provided with all the names and badge numbers; it’s up to them to deal with the individuals involved.

Update: Okay, now I’m pissed. Melanie Freeland emailed this morning that she tried to call the bike liaison officer for the Central Traffic Division after I passed his contact information on to her. Except the desk officer who took the call initially refused to put the call through, significantly misrepresenting her case and saying “I know the same laws he does.”

She was finally able to leave a message, but hasn’t heard back yet.

Under former LAPD bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer, the department made great strides in improving relations with the bicycling community. But the expanded bike liaison program is absolutely meaningless if self-appointed gatekeepers are allowed to screen their calls.

And no one should ever have to face an argument when reaching out to anyone in the department for help.

I’ve praised the LAPD as one of the most progressive and bike-friendly police departments in the county since Chief Beck took over. But this is starting to feel like a huge step back to the bad old days.
Update 2: Freeland reports she spoke with the Watch Commander on duty at the time of the incident. Who turned out to be the same Sergeant who came to the scene and backed up the original traffic officer. 

In the course of a long conversation, the officer described a Catch 22 that makes it almost impossible for the department to issue a ticket to anyone. Which goes a long way towards explaining the wild west mentality of LA streets, where drivers feel entitled to do virtually anything without fear of consequences.
I called the Central Traffic Division and asked to speak with the Watch Commander on duty yesterday. As I probably should have guessed it was [the Sergeant she’d spoken to at the scene].  I explained to her my phone conversation with [the desk officer] and she stated she did not know why he would state it was a rear end incident when it wasn’t.  We talked at length about why a citation would not be issued for this offense.  She stated that in order for a traffic citation to be issued two criteria must be met. An LAPD officer must witness the incident and be trained in traffic laws (taken the special course in traffic). Because the [traffic officer] didn’t witness the incident it did not meet the two criteria. Secondly, the officer who did witness the incident is not trained in traffic laws, so again it does not meet the criteria.  Thus it is now my understanding, due to the letter of the law that it is not possible for the LAPD to issue a citation to the driver who hit me.
But aren’t all officers trained in traffic law at the Academy? 

And are you seriously trying to tell me that a uniformed LAPD officer lacks sufficient judgement and training to determine that a driver failed to signal and violated the right-of-way of another road user?

Sorry, but this explanation sounds like BS.

And if it isn’t, even worse.

Suicide Swerve


By Richard Masoner, August 28, 2013

Last night, Ted and I discussed this unlikely report of a cyclist’s accidental death. The cyclist, 20 year old Justin Price, was riding to work in the shoulder when, according to witnesses, he suddenly swerved into the side of a passing tractor trailer. Although the truck driver, Kerry Williams, heroically tried to avoid Price, Price hit the truck. Price bounced off of the side of the truck, but he apparently didn’t have enough — police say Price swerved back to the truck again, after which he, sadly, perished after he ended up under the trailer.

Anybody who reads news accounts of road cycling traffic collisions frequently find mention of these inexplicable “suicide swerves,” in which the hapless driver is just driving along when that maniac on a bike inexplicably swerves right into the car.

Those who share the road with traffic realize what probably happened: the motorist passed with inches to spare, or they move over a little to pass but then merge right into the cyclist’s space on the road before the pass is complete. In either case, the results can be tragic for the cyclist, even if the cyclist did everything right.

Amelie Le Moullac was killed two weeks ago when, according to those with the windshield perpsective, she “swerved” into the side of a truck in San Francisco. The presumption of guilt on the cyclist has prompted local bike advocates heap heavy criticism on the SFPD for their cursory investigation. In Santa Cruz, the police reported a cyclist swerved into a passing gravel truck in 2007, when the accident reconstruction for the subsequent civil suit showed the truck driver likely hit the cyclist in this fatal collision.

Because these reports putting blame on the cyclist are so common, many people — Ted and I included — sardonically refer to these reports as a “suicide swerve.” A subset of these — the infamous “Single Witness Suicide Swerve” or SWSS — comes from the days of Usenet and possibly predates even that. The SWSS refers to a crash with a single surviving witness — the driver of the motor vehicle — who swears to a credulous investigator that the cyclist just swerved right in front of the driver. The presumption of guilt on the cyclist is reflected even in our traffic collision statistics, which show a majority of bike-vs-car collisions are caused by the cyclist.

During this online discussion, we discovered some people take exception to our use of the word “suicide.” Suicide is, after all, a serious and sensitive topic for many people, and some thought the term was used as click bait. We explained the usage, however, and our friends understood. Most cyclists probably don’t have a death wish, but just want to get from point A to B. The idea that cyclists intentionally swerve into the sides of passing trucks is, frankly, offensive, yet many investigators seem to believe that’s how we behave.

Yes, there’s stupid behavior that will kill you, and I’ve seen plenty of it in my part of California. I’ve watched cyclists try to squeeze into a too small space on the road, and I’ve occasionally been the idiot party myself, both on bike and in the car. I’d wager, however, that many “swerves into traffic” are instances where a passing driver doesn’t have room to pass, or passes with only inches to spare while expecting superhuman agility on the part of the cyclist to hold his line.

I applaud the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition demands for better investigations of bicycle fatalities in their city.

Labor Day Weekend Traffic in L.A. Will Be Much Worse Than You Think


By Sarah Fenske, August 29, 2013

You only wish traffic will be moving this fast tomorrow.

This just in: Your commute tomorrow is going to blow.

That's according to the good people at INRIX, who use complicated but oh-so-precise forecasting to explain what's happening on L.A.'s roadways (and, OK, sell their traffic app, too).

See also: Los Angeles Reclaims Title as America's Congestion King

Spokeswoman Chryst'l Sanchez tells the Weekly that INRIX's forecasts show a 39 percent increase over normal weekday traffic in Los Angeles tomorrow, the Friday before Labor Day. All those people trying to skip town, wouldn't you know?

She explains:
Since 2011, L.A. saw a slight decrease in traffic on the Friday before Labor Day; however, because the latest traffic data shows traffic is back on the rise for six consecutive months (according to the latest INRIX Gridlock Index), the company forecasts a sharp spike in traffic this year because more people are hitting the roads and spending as the economy continues to bounce back.
How bad is that increase? Among the six big U.S. cities the company looked at -- L.A., New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston -- L.A.'s is the worst. The average increase nationwide is predicted to be just 10 percent compared to our 39.

We're told that 3-5 p.m. will be the worst time to be on the roads tomorrow, so either plan to duck out before lunch or stay late at the office.

Or, how about this? Stop being part of the problem already and just stay home.

More Evidence That Unemployment Doesn’t Explain the Decline in Driving


By Tanya Snyder, August 29, 2013

 Only one state shows up on the Top Ten lists for both VMT reduction and unemployment increase: Florida. But Nevada, whose jobless rate has tripled, actually increased driving. Source: U.S. PIRG

For those who say driving rates will pick right back up again when the economy’s really humming, here’s something to chew on: In a report released this morning, “Moving Off the Road,” U.S. PIRG presents further evidence that unemployment rates and driving rates have changed independently of each other.

Transportation reformers have made the case that there are multiple reasons behind the dip in driving rates, and that many of these factors will continue to have an impact long after this economic slump is over. If the change is in fact a lasting one, it signals that conventional forecasts of escalating traffic are wrong, strengthening the case for overhauling car-centric transportation policies in favor of transit, biking, walking, and more efficient land use.

Today’s report from U.S. PIRG builds on their previous, groundbreaking research showing that young people are leading the reduction in driving rates and that the Driving Boom has decisively ended. These findings have become common knowledge, frequently referenced by top federal officials, members of Congress, and even international credit rating agencies.

The Drop in VMT Isn’t About Unemployment

The PIRG report compares changes in driving and joblessness in all 50 states from 2005 to 2011. The authors call it “a useful natural experiment to examine different factors behind America’s reduction in driving,” and it provides ample evidence that unemployment doesn’t explain the drop in VMT. If the Americans were driving less because jobs are scarcer, for instance, it would stand to reason that the states hardest hit by unemployment would be those with the biggest drops in VMT. But that’s simply not true.

For example, the top state for unemployment growth was Nevada, whose jobless rate tripled between 2005 and 2011. And Nevada is one of just four states that’s actually driving more now than during the peak years of 2004-2005. (Two of those four states are in the Gulf South — Alabama and Louisiana — where the devastating Hurricane Katrina obviously affected travel during the driving peak year of 2005.)

And the number one state for VMT drop? Alaska, which has reduced its mileage by a whopping 16.23 percent since 2005. So Alaska must be suffering with staggering unemployment, right? Not so. Every state in the union experienced some growth in unemployment, but in Alaska it was just a 10 percent increase — from 6.9 to 7.6 percent.

This scatterplot shows that even the very weak correlation between decreased VMT and increased unemployment is skewed by the extreme outlier of North Dakota. Image: U.S. PIRG

One state is an outlier on both fronts: North Dakota, which has seen a massive surge in energy development. VMT hasn’t just risen in North Dakota since 2005, when it started dropping everywhere else — it’s soared. VMT there has grown by 12.29 percent — nearly four times the growth rate of the next-place state. Even North Dakota’s jobless rate has risen — but only by 3 percent. It still has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

Report author Phineas Baxandall of U.S. PIRG even turned the employment numbers around to see if they matched the dip in driving better if you counted “declines in the employed share of their working-age population,” a slightly different way to measure joblessness. But no dice: Among the 23 states in which driving miles per person declined faster than the national average, only 11 saw faster-than-average declines in the employed share of their working-age population. And among the 10 states with the greatest reductions in the employed share of population, only two were also among the 10 states with the largest reductions of driving.

The hypothesis that the dip in driving rates is linked to rising joblessness makes logical sense, and there’s undoubtedly some truth there. “After all,” as Baxandall writes, “states with sharper increases in unemployment will have a steeper reduction of commuters and residents with greater fear of job loss will be less likely to drive to the shopping mall or the movies.”

But the economic slump and joblessness simply can’t explain the large and enduring drop in driving rates. Baxandall has explored some other possible factors in previous reports: the way that technology has replaced the need for some trips; the growing preference for walking, biking and transit instead of driving, especially among young people; the rising price of gas.

So Then It Must Be About Urbanization or Telework, Right?

In “Moving Off the Road,” he also debunks some theories that might otherwise seem to hold water. For example, Millennials have been moving back to cities — places where distances are shorter and more destinations can be easily reached by foot, bike, or transit. It would stand to reason that more people living in cities would mean fewer miles driven, right? But while the most urbanized states do have the lowest driving rates, the states that saw the greatest growth in urbanization between 2005 and 2011 weren’t at all the same ones that saw the greatest drop in VMT. “On the contrary,” Baxandall writes, “the four states in which the rural share of population increased during this period also reduced per-capita driving.”

Still, the mysterious lack of correlation between urbanization and driving might be explained by the fact that “the more important population shifts are not between rural and non-rural areas but between suburbs and more densely populated cities.” Continued migration from suburbs into cities could well continue to reduce driving rates.

Another logical factor in the driving decline is the rise of telework. More and more jobs can be done remotely, and 9.5 percent of all workers say they work from home at least one day a week. But Baxandall says those people may not have to drive to work, but they’re finding ways to fill in those miles.

“Home-based arrangements — and particularly telework — may encourage people to live in more rural settings further away from their place of employment, which could increase how much they drive,” Baxandall writes. “The most recent National Household Travel Survey indicates that 9 percent of city commuters telecommute even once per month, compared to 14 percent of suburban commuters and 10 percent of rural and town commuters.”

But a majority of miles driven are for non-commuting purposes. And it’s the non-work driving that has seen the sharpest reduction. People have reduced their travel for family and personal errands twice as much as they’ve reduced their work travel. They’re driving less for social and recreational reasons, too. The reduction in driving to and from work was actually less than 16 percent of the total reduction in miles driven.

Less Road-Building For Less Driving

Still, the drop in driving has been dramatic. Nationally, per-capita VMT peaked in 2004 and had fallen 7.4 percent by the end of 2012. And the trend is particularly pronounced among the young, the famous Millennial generation that’s got everyone scratching their heads. Average driving miles for Americans aged 16 to 34 fell by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.

GDP and VMT, which followed the same path for decades, have parted ways. Image: U.S. PIRG

Another reason we can be sure that these trends aren’t mainly a product of the recession is that they began before the recession. Per-capita driving peaked in 2004 — three years before the start of the recession. The number of vehicles per person also peaked before the recession. And they haven’t bounced back since the recession technically ended in June 2009. And Gross Domestic Product and driving rates, which have tracked closely together for decades, have “uncoupled,” as you can see in the image above.

There are a combination of reasons for the decline in driving, and it’s still unclear just how much weight each one has. U.S. PIRG has done an excellent job showing that the changes in travel behavior can’t simply be chalked up to any one factor, even something as seismic as the Great Recession. One way or another, Baxandall says, “policy makers can stop wondering whether American driving trends are changing” — and they should start changing transportation policy in accordance with people’s changing behavior.

“Correctly identifying a long-term plateau or reduction in driving would provide enormous opportunities to avoid waste and invest in the future,” he writes.

Why Is Hitting a Car Still Considered More Serious Than Hitting a Person?


By Damien Newton, August 30, 2013

 How do we get LAPD to treat crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians as seriously as those involving cars? For the record, the LAPD claimed repeatedly and publicly that this Hummer had full license plates.

On Sunday, July 28, I was playing in the back yard with Sammy when we heard a horrible sound of twisting metal come from the front of the house. Grabbing my phone, I ran out of the house to see if anyone was hurt in what was surely another car crash at the corner of Federal and National. A dazed looking man wobbled out of a truck, and a less woozy looking man was already out of his car walking over to the truck. Not seeing anyone on the phone yet, I pulled mine and called 911. Moments later, I heard sirens. When the firetrucks arrived, I went back in the house. Everyone was fine and the authorities arrived.

Later that night, an LAPD investigator called me back wanting to know if I had witnessed the crash. I had not. He thanked me for calling and I wished him luck.

To their credit, the LAPD was taking the crash seriously. Good for them.

Sadly, this doesn’t happen everytime there is a crash. At Biking in L.A., Ted Rogers recounts the story a Melanie Freeland, a bicyclist that was hit by a car earlier this week right in front of two LAPD officers. While both officers agreed that the vehicle driver made an illegal turn, the Department is not issuing a ticket. The frustrated cyclist followed up with the LAPD on the phone and immediately after the crash, but can’t get the Department to take her case seriously.
I called the Central Traffic Division and asked to speak with the Watch Commander on duty yesterday. As I probably should have guessed it was [the Sergeant she’d spoken to at the scene].  I explained to her my phone conversation with [the desk officer] and she stated she did not know why he would state it was a rear end incident when it wasn’t.  We talked at length about why a citation would not be issued for this offense.  She stated that in order for a traffic citation to be issued two criteria must be met. An LAPD officer must witness the incident and be trained in traffic laws (taken the special course in traffic). Because the [traffic officer] didn’t witness the incident it did not meet the two criteria. Secondly, the officer who did witness the incident is not trained in traffic laws, so again it does not meet the criteria.  Thus it is now my understanding, due to the letter of the law that it is not possible for the LAPD to issue a citation to the driver who hit me.

It’s 2013. It’s been three years since the LAPD decided to start riding along on Critical Mass. The LAPD Bicycle Task Force has been meeting for nearly five years. We shouldn’t still be fighting for the police to take it seriously when a car breaks a law and hits someone. On July 28, the LAPD was clearly investigating a crash that no LAPD officer witnessed. On August 28, they pleaded helplessness when a car hit a bicyclist, despite two officers witnessing the crash.

Why is it so hard to get them to do the same when cops do witness it, just because the scofflaw driver hit an unprotected cyclist and not a protected driver? More than anything, this is what Los Angeles needs to change before it can ever be considered a bicycle friendly city.

Chinatown Buses Beware: Feds Launch Surprise 'Strike Force' Inspections

By Emily Badger, August 30, 2013

 Chinatown Buses Beware: Feds Launch Surprise 'Strike Force' Inspections

Chinatown buses are known for a lot of things – their bare-bones service, their close quarters, their appeal for anyone who doesn't possess Amtrak-caliber cash. They are not, on the other hand, known for their regulatory rigor.

If you board one in the next two weeks, though, you may be in for some serious transportation-safety theater. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced this week that it's rolling out a "strike force" of surprise inspections on intercity bus travel in all 50 states (with emphasis on what they suspect are the shadier operations). Law enforcement officers and commercial motor vehicle inspectors will be popping up, unannounced, at terminals and drop-off points to board buses and pick over everything from windshield wiper fluid to tire pressure.

Vehicles caught violating safety standards, warns FMCSA head Anne Ferro, "will be put out-of-service on the spot and not allowed to continue."

The agency actually did this earlier this week in Philadelphia for the benefit of the media in unveiling the effort. As Philly.com described the awkward scene:
WHEN BUS DRIVER Trulio Arias stopped at the National Constitution Center in Center City yesterday morning to drop off 36 Chinese tourists, he figured he'd have a quiet hour to himself before he retrieved them and headed to New York City, their next stop.

Instead, Arias became the surprise star of a news conference held by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to announce a national blitz of bus inspections. As TV cameras recorded and the Chinese tourists waited nearby, city police inspected Arias' bus and ordered it out of service until a mechanic could arrive to replace a well-worn rear tire.
So what happens to you if you've got a ticket for one of these suddenly decomissioned buses? Good news: Federal law has actually anticipated this scenario. As the agency tells us:
Consumers who bought a ticket on a bus company that FMCSA has recently placed out-of-service may be entitled to a credit from their credit card company under the Fair Credit Billing Act if they paid for the ticket by credit card.
Pay for it by debit card or cash, though, and you're out of luck. For the rest of you, the FMCSA will helpfully refer you here.

Texting a Driver Could Make You Liable for a Crash


By Eric Jaffe, August 30, 2013

Texting a Driver Could Make You Liable for a Crash

 Often overlooked in the conversation about distracted driving is the fact that it takes two to talk or text. At the scene of every accident caused by a driver on a cell phone, there's an invisible presence on the other end of the line. Well, that forgotten party might not stay out of the sight much longer.
This week, a New Jersey court ruled that someone who "knowingly" distracts a driver via text can be held responsible if the message leads to a crash [PDF]:
We hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.
The opinion goes back to a tragic accident from 2009 that occurred in Mine Hill Township, New Jersey. A teenager named Kyle Best, driving a pick-up truck, veered across the double center line shortly after sending a text message, and struck a motorcycle carrying Linda and David Kubert. The Kuberts each lost a leg in the crash, and the unfortunate incident gave rise, in part, to a new measure that helps prosecutors bring cases against drivers who violate the state's hands-free law.

The Kuberts settled with Best, but they also filed suit against the person he'd been texting, Shannon Colonna. According to court records, Best and Colonna texted back and forth 62 times on the day of the accident. The phone sequence suggests with little doubt that Best was distracted by the exchange: Colonna texted Best about a minute before the accident, Best texted back just moments before it happened, and Best called the police 17 seconds later.

A lower court dismissed the initial claims against Colonna on the grounds that she had no legal duty to avoid texting someone — regardless of whether or not that person was driving — but the Kuberts appealed on the grounds that Colonna was "electronically present" in the car and therefore aided and abetted the accident.

Which brings us back to this week's ruling, handed down by the appellate division of the New Jersey Superior Court. The court ruled in Colonna's favor. (Colonna said she didn't know Best was driving, and the content of the texts weren't available to dispute that position.) In doing so, however, two of the three appellate judges disagreed with the lower court's reasoning and argued that someone sending a text message does, in fact, have a legal responsibility not to distract a driver:
We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.
To be clear, the ruling does not let drivers off the hook, nor does it prevent someone from sending a text out of fear the recipient might be driving. The court opinion states that a person should not be liable for transmitting an electronic message simply because another person might become distracted by that message. (By logical extension, if a driver read a tweet just before an accident, the injured party shouldn't be able to sue the handler of that Twitter account.) At the end of the day, drivers still bear full blame for their behavior behind the wheel.

But two of the appellate judges argued that the situation changes slightly if someone sending a text "had special reason to know" that the recipient was not only driving but would read the text immediately and be distracted as a result. In that case, the conduct could be considered "unreasonably risky" — the texting equivalent of covering a driver's eyes — and the person sending the message might also become liable for civil damages. This passage from the main opinion sums up the court's belief best:
The sender should be able to assume that the recipient will read a text message only when it is safe and legal to do so, that is, when not operating a vehicle.  However, if the sender knows that the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately, then the sender has taken a foreseeable risk in sending a text at that time. The sender has knowingly engaged in distracting conduct, and it is not unfair also to hold the sender responsible for the distraction.
To put the new precedent into a single sentence: don't text someone you know is driving, especially if you think that person will read the message right away. Whether or not the ruling holds up in other courts, that seems like good advice to live by.

Crazy Darrell Steinberg's New Redevelopment Scheme Is Based On An Extreme Form Of Eminent Domain


August 30, 2013


(Mod: It is a law potentially so bad that you might wonder how it could ever possibly exist. Darrell Steinberg, the father of the risible SB 375, who is the soon to be termed out leader of the Democratic controlled California State Senate, wants to revive redevelopment in California, and would base it on an extreme form of Eminent Domain. Called SB 1, in the possibly not too distant future government officials wishing to take your property could base their decision on whether you are using your property "efficiently" or not. An example of "inefficient property use" perhaps being an inconvenient single family home located in a area designated for "sustainable" high density development. CalWatchDog has posted an article about this example of wretched government excess - link - and I thought I should share it with you here.)

NEW: SB 1 would brand ‘inefficiency’ as blight - Should government get into the business of judging people on the “efficiency” of their property?  SB 1 would grant government that capacity — along with the power to take that property if officials decide it’s being “inefficiently” used. SB 1 is by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Two years ago Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished redevelopment in California to transfer from local governments $1.5 billion to the state budget. Redevelopment allowed local governments to declare anything, even nice homes and businesses, as “blight,” seize the property and give it to big-box retailers.

SB 1 would reintroduce property redevelopment. But this time, it only would apply to property that would comply with the “sustainable communities strategy” of SB 375, another Steinberg bill that became law in 2008 when signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. SB 375, among other things, mandated Plan Bay Area and other regional transportation, housing and land use plans throughout the 18 regions of the state.

SB 1 is really the financing and zoning vehicle for creating the new high-density, Plan Bay Area/sustainable communities lifestyle.  SB 1’s projects, paid with the new redevelopment money, would have to be high-density and restrict parking.

The SB 1 buildings also would have to be located within one-half mile of public transit, be “walkable communities” or be green energy manufacturing sites.  Other styles of redevelopment are not included
in this bill, as they are not the way we are supposed to live under the sustainable communities vision.

New bureaucracies

SB 1 would allow counties and cities to create Sustainable Community Investment Authorities, which would be new government agencies separate from the governments that created them. The SCIAs would be established without citizen concurrence and would be beyond direct citizen control. And the SCIAs would wield the authority of eminent domain, taxing and bond issuance for building such projects within a specified geography.  Such projects would have other specifications, including construction under prevailing (union) wages, and large funding for subsidized housing.

In order to acquire property for high density development, the bill expands the definition of blight to include a new concept of “inefficient use.” Under SB 1, suddenly inefficiency has become the big problem.  Or, the big excuse.  A host of societal ills are blamed on it, such as a poor economy, high housing prices, pollution and more.


What is inefficiency?  It is not defined in the bill, nor are its alleged ill effects substantiated in any way. But because inefficiency is suddenly deemed so problematic, it is given powerful status for determining blight.

Normally, slums and damaged property can be determined to be blighted, which enables them to be acquired under eminent domain and rebuilt.  Eminent domain is also used to acquire property for public use, such as for new roads.  There is an extensive body of case law that has clarified what is blighted, so property owners are safe from abusive governmental takings.  This would be superseded by the new inefficiency doctrine.

Since the workings of the free economy are deemed inadequate for creating efficiency, under SB 1 the government must use bureaucratic force to create it.  Conveniently, SCIAs could rely on this new legislative definition of inefficiency to acquire property under eminent domain, without a formal process of finding slum-like blight conditions.  So, depending upon how an SCIA grades what a person is doing with their property, the owner’s ability to keep it comes at the grace of the SCIA.  Since the lifestyle the government wants is high-density-urban, anything rural, neighborhood, single family, small commercial, small farm or suburban seems perpetually vulnerable to the inefficiency charge.

In Plan Bay Area, resident surveys told the regional planning bodies that they didn’t want regional planning by unelected bureaucrats.  Further, the Plan itself concluded that “stack and pack housing” (i.e., sustainable communities/transit oriented development) did not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which was the whole point of the Plan. Yet, the Plan was approved.

SB 1 would allow the Plan to be imposed despite citizen objections.

(Mod: In Sierra Madre "Sustainable Community Investment Authority" powers would likely fall upon the newly constituted EENER Commission. Which perhaps was the true purpose of its establishment all along. Could you imagine an EENER meeting where a discussion about the land use efficiency of your home would be discussed? And whether or not it should be taken from you? That is what is at stake here.)