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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Monrovia City Council Votes to Support 710 Gap Closure

Although the council voted to support the closure, they changed the resolution's language as to not appear in favor of the tunnel or any other plan.


 By Melanie C. Johnson, September 4, 2013

The Monrovia City Council supports closure of the 710 freeway gap between Pasadena and El Sereno but does not favor any particular method for doing so at this time.

The council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to reaffirm a previous resolution dating back to 1989 supporting the gap's closure, but altered the language at the urging of Councilman Alexander Blackburn as to not appear to be in favor of more freeway construction specifically.

Councilman Tom Adams voted no.

Adams said while he supports the 710 freeway gap closure, he doesn't think it will ever be completed.

"It's to a point now where we're throwing good money after bad," he said.  "If you can't get this done in 50 years, than you probably can't."

During a public hearing that lasted more than three hours, proponents and opponents of the project, mostly from neighboring cities, shared their views on long-delayed project.

Doug Failing, executive director of Metro's highway program, gave a presentation on five alternatives being studied: one that calls for doing nothing, a second involves improvements to intersections, a third would boost bus routes, a fourth pushes for more light rail, and the fifth is freeway construction that includes a tunnel.

 Hassan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Associated Governments, said his organization will respect whatever alternative is chosen but doing nothing is not an option.

"Whatever it is, this gap needs to be closed," he said.  "We're talking about millions of people being affected."

However, opponents of the closure are convinced that the tunnel is really the only option on the table.

Michael Cacciotti, a South Pasadena councilman, presented the opposition's side and called on Monrovia to join his city, Los Angeles, La Canada-Flintridge, Glendale, and Sierra Madre in fighting the extension.

Cacciotti said the way to close the gap is to bolster the light rail system, not open up the 710 freeway and other highways to more traffic.

"What would happen if the 710 opened up," he asked. "It would be a nightmare on this 210."

Monrovia city officials said the public has been vocal on both sides of the issue. City Manager Laurie Lile said the city received about 60 emails on the subject. 

In recent months, Monrovia also has received requests from the city of Alhambra and the city of South Pasadena, the former asking for reaffirmation and the latter calling for opposition of further consideration of the project, according to a report to council.

After a discussion, the council members opted to agree to vote for the process of evaluating the options to continue. Mayor Mary Ann Lutz said a vote against the resolution would be saying no to all options, including the light rail one.

"There will be more traffic no matter what gets done," Mayor Mary Ann Lutz said.  "The resolution we are talking about reaffirming does not speak to any specific method of continuing the 710."

Would you like to see the 710 freeway gap closed? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

Comments to the article:


Buzlightyear aka marty September 04, 2013 at 06:45 PM
710, 710, 710 blah, blah blah......I remember in 1987, I read it was finally approved. My friend laughed and said, "I have heard that my whole life. I won't believe that until I see it." This has been going on for 60-80 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_710#History I think we will be teletranporting before this is resolved. 
rubberband September 04, 2013 at 06:59 PM
We should just close it off, BUT LEAVE it like it stands, and put a restaurant there...RIGHT THERE in that weird wth spot......make it a dive-diner with sassy old school old waitresses and awesome diner food. It'd be incredible! Call it "The 710 Wait"...... and maybe it can make back some of the money that has been lost with a huge cult following...t-shirts that read "The 710 is coming...someday...meanwhile have a burger!' --- 
rubberband September 04, 2013 at 07:07 PM
even found ya a pic.....http://www.interstate-guide.com/images710/i-710_ca_fnt_13.jpg------------ pull off RIGHT THERE have a shake and a cheese burger served to ya by a surly brilliant old school waitress, and wait out the traffic.

Public private partnerships reduce cost and risk for taxpayers, expert says


By Bruce Johnstone, September 4, 2013

Public private partnerships reduce cost and risk for taxpayers, expert says

Leonard Gilroy with the Reason Foundation speaks during a Frontier Centre for Public Policy luncheon at the Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina on September 4, 2013.

REGINA — Public-private partnerships (P3s) are not without their pitfalls, but generally deliver public infrastructure projects on time, on budget and at lower overall cost for taxpayers, a P3 expert told a luncheon Wednesday sponsored by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform for the Reason Foundation, a U.S.-based conservative think-tank, said that P3s transfer the risk of cost overruns and construction delays to the private sector, while maintaining public ownership and control of assets.

Gilroy said more than 200 P3 projects have been undertaken in Canada in the last two decades. In fact, close to 5,000 water and waste water treatment plants in the U.S. have been built using the P3 model, while Canada has seen more than 20 water/waste water facilities built using P3s.
And the experience with P3s in the U.S. has been mainly positive, with 93 per cent of public sector clients choosing to renew the contract with their private partner.

In recent years, P3s have been gaining in popularity because of increasing fiscal pressures on government and the resulting “infrastructure death spiral’’ caused by insufficient maintenance or artificially low rates that starve infrastructure projects of funds for needed upgrades.

“That’s another reason why the public-private partnership is increasingly attractive is because it puts the private sector on the hook for long-term operations and maintenance,’’ said Gilroy.

The key to any P3, of course, is the contract between the private sector supplier and public sector buyer, Gilroy added. “The public-private partnership is based on a fixed cost, fixed schedule, fixed delivery date, with penalties for being late. That’s one of the reasons that (P3s) are able to transfer the risk of cost overruns (to the private sector partner).”

While not familiar with the current debate over P3s in Regina, Gilroy said the same debates have been raging in Canada and the U.S. for years, much of it centering on concerns about “privatization’’ of public assets, increased risk for taxpayers, layoffs, higher costs and excess profits.

For the most part, the fears are unfounded, he said. First of all, P3s do not transfer ownership from the public sector to the private sector. “The government is retaining control of some important things that relate to the public interest,’’ such as rate-setting and ownership of the assets, he said.

As for risk transfer, the private sector is responsible for taking on most, if not all, of the risk. “If the private sector fumbles the ball and doesn’t live up to its end of the bargain, you have the ultimate power to revoke the contract.’’

While financing costs may be higher, over the life-cycle of the project, the savings from the greater operational efficiency of P3 tend to offset the higher borrowing costs, he added. “That gap (between the cost of P3 and conventional infrastructure projects) is value for money.’’

As for layoffs, P3s will retain most, if not all, of the employees. “It’s very rare that you get layoffs. Layoffs in any P3 I’ve seen are five per cent or less.’’

Federal agency questions strict procurement rules surrounding infrastructure contracts


By Mike De Souza, September 4, 2013

 John McBride
OTTAWA, ONT.: SEPTEMBER 4, 2013 -- John McBride is the CEO of P3 Canada, a new crown corporation that was set up to promote public private partnerships in infrastructure projects across the country, from his 6th floor offices at 100 Queen St. in Ottawa, Ont., Sept. 4, 2013.

OTTAWA-Strict regulations surrounding the competition process for public infrastructure contracts can lead to cost-overruns and unpleasant surprises for taxpayers, says the head of a new federal crown corporation created by the Harper government.

In an interview with Postmedia News, John McBride, the CEO of PPP Canada – an agency introduced in the 2007 federal budget to promote public private partnerships while overseeing more than $1 billion in grants for infrastructure projects – said that an open dialogue with potential firms, combined with appropriate monitoring from an independent watchdog, could produce better infrastructure at a lower cost.

McBride said that some are “very nervous” about having open discussions with bidders during a competition process because of regulations that restrict those conversations. But he said the restrictions could prevent governments from learning about weaknesses in proposals for major transportation, water systems, hospitals, social housing or other public infrastructure, that could lead to delays and cost overruns.

“If you over interpret that (regulatory system) and have no dialogue with the private sector, you cannot benefit from their input in that process and you don’t get the innovation and perhaps the best results,” he said. “The private sector wants to have a dialogue and everyone wants it to be fair.”

Public private partnerships, also known as P3s, are meant to reduce taxpayer costs – such as a toll bridge or highway built and managed by a private firm but owned by a government –  or transfer financial risks to the company or consortium involved in the contracts.

McBride, appointed in February 2009 as the first head of the corporation, said that open competition and discussions, combined with having an independent “fairness monitor” for oversight, would discourage favouritism or bid-rigging systems such as those now under review at an ongoing public inquiry on corruption in the Quebec construction industry.

“You want to have that dialogue before you’ve lost the discipline of the competitive process that gets you your best bid,” said McBride, who previously worked in senior management positions at Industry Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has also introduce new rules for federal infrastructure funding that require large projects, worth more than $100 million, to undergo a screening determining whether they would work better as a public private partnership before federal dollars can flow.

The federal budget gave the corporation $10 million to support municipalities in their reviews, and McBride said it was prepared to pay up to half the administrative costs of those that require a detailed analysis.

He said that even if a municipality determines the project can’t be done as a P3, the review process will help it anticipate long-term needs.

‘”It’s a very systematic process of thinking through a project which is the kind of thing, I would argue, you should be doing, no matter what,” said McBride, who also estimated that only about 15 to 20 per cent of public infrastructure projects in Canada could now be done through public-private partnerships. “A little up front planning and analysis can save a whole lot of grief, down the road.”

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which represents cities across Canada, said it welcomed new funding to help pay for reviews, but suggested that cities need more infrastructure investments in general to help them build new partnerships that save money.

“When the bill just to take a look at a P3 runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the question is whether P3 Canada thinks what they’re proposing is really enough to expand the P3 market to the extent they’d like to,” said Claude Dauphin, president of the federation and mayor of the Montreal borough of Lachine.

The corporation, which is now focusing on two major bridge projects near Montreal and Windsor, that are slated to be done as public private partnerships, has also pledged to pay for up to 25 per cent of costs of projects it approves for funding.

NDP transport, infrastructure and communities critic Olivia Chow said that the corporation can play an important role in offering services and support for cities that are pursuing or developing contracts for public private partnerships. But she questioned the logic behind new requirements for P3 reviews before offering federal funding, adding that the government has removed requirements for some screenings to look at environmental impacts.

“If you’re telling municipalities what to do, that’s already offensive enough,” Chow said. “Now you’re asking municipalities to spend precious dollars that they don’t have to see whether (proposed projects) fall into this (option) of P3.”

McBride said he believed the federal government’s view is that it wants to make investments that get the best value for taxpayers and nobody is forced to accept that money.

Meantime, McBride said he’s pleased with the growth of the new corporation that has offered funding for more than a dozen major projects in partnership with provinces and their own respective agencies as well as municipalities. But he believes the corporation’s mandate should actually be to shut itself down.

“My ultimate goal is frankly to work us out of a job,” he said. “The ultimate goal should be that P3s should just be a standard way of doing business.”

PPP Canada at a glance: A crown corporation introduced in the 2007 budget with a mandate to promote public-private partnerships in infrastructure projects and distribute federal investments in major projects that adopt the model. The corporation now has about 50 employees, working in partnership with other jurisdictions and its counterparts in provincial governments. It has distributed most of the $1.25 billion in funding from the 2007 budget to more than a dozen different projects across the country. It also received a new $1.25 billion grant to distribute for future P3 projects in the coming years.

The corporation runs with an annual operating budget of about $12 million. It is also required to provide advice on major government infrastructure projects, worth more than $100 million, about whether they should move forward as a traditional contract or as a public-private partnership.

Quirky street sweeper turns out to be nuisance


September 3, 2013

 Quirky street sweeper turns out to be nuisance

A car with 12 rotating brooms sweeps the street in Mohe, Heilongjiang province, Aug 31, 2013. The new street sweeper, however, was not accepted as expected, causing complaints that the sweeper actually makes the road dustier than ever.

Tunnel project feud grows following labor dispute


By Matt Markovich, August 29, 2013

See website for a video.

 SEATTLE - A dust storm has stirred up a controversy with the viaduct replacement tunnel project, and it plays a role in an on-going labor dispute.

The longshoremen union says its workers temporarily shut down operations on two container ships last week, because of an apparent dust storm cloud coming from the tunnel project next door.

"And that dust plume traveled over that space effecting the operations at Terminal 46," says Cameron Williams, president of ILWU Local 19. "It was a health and safety issue."

The union says workers stopped work, waited several minutes and resumed work when dust cleared, but any delays cost shipping companies money.

The union has now sent a letter to the Port of Seattle complaining about several dust incidents with an implied warning - there could be more terminal delays because of the tunnel-related health and safety concerns.

"I wouldn't say that was a threat," Williams says. "It's a real likely scenario if a dust cloud, or any kind of safety issue, arises from the project."

A spokesperson for the Port of Seattle said the deal with the tunnel project is that there will be no disruption with terminal services, and that this letter really stems from a labor dispute with Seattle Tunnel Partners, who were named best-value bidder for the project in December 2010.

For nine days, longshoremen have been picketing the tunnel project over four jobs the union says are contractually theirs.

The jobs involve off loading tunnel dirt from a conveyor belt to a barge that will take the dirt to Port Ludlow. Maritime loading and unloading at the port are longshoremen jobs.

An arbitrator ruled the barge loading involves a contract with the tunnel project, not the port.

The longshoremen say the dust shut down has no connection to the labor dispute, but Seattle Tunnel Partners say the longshoremens picket line blocks access to Terminal 46.

"ILWU dispute is holding up work on the tunnel project," says Chris Dixon, Seattle Tunnel Partner spokesman. "Seattle Tunnel Partners cannot access Terminal 46 because the ILWU picket line is blocking Seattle Tunnel Partners access to Terminal 46."

Dixon continued, "Without being able to access Terminal 46, Seattle Tunnel Partners cannot operate the tunnel boring machine."

The real test of resolve will come when the dirt starts moving on the conveyor belt, and a barge shows up to take it away.

Bertha hasn't dug much in the 3 weeks she was supposed to be operating, only going about 20 feet so far.

State of California proposes legislation to keep federal transit funds flowing to Metro and other agencies


By Steve Hymon, September 4, 2013

Some good news: it appears that a temporary solution has emerged to prevent Metro from losing $3.6 billion in federal funds due to an ongoing dispute over pension reform between the state of California and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The solution involves a state bill exempting transit agencies from pension reform while allowing for the Labor Department's ruling to be challenged in court.

Some quick background:

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said earlier this year that pension reform signed into law in California last year (known as PEPRA) violates the collective bargaining rights of transit workers represented by the Amalgated Transit Union.
That, in turn, would violate the Federal Transit Act, meaning that Metro and other large transit agencies in California are ineligible to receive most federal funding.
That could cost Metro $3.6 billion in funds that would be used for everything from day-to-day operations to key grants and loans absolutely vital to build such projects as the Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector.

Here is the news release from California Gov. Jerry Brown; please note that the $1.6 billion in the first paragraph does not include the full array of funds that transit agencies could lose.
And here is the legislative update from Metro's government relations staff:
PEPRA/13C UpdateGovernor Brown Proposes Legislation to Keep Federal Transit Money Flowing; Will Defend Pension Reforms in CourtAs outlined in our recent communications on this issue, Sacramento Regional Transit today was notified by the United States Department of Labor that they are now decertified from receiving federal funds.
Governor Brown has also now proposed legislation which would exempt other transit agencies from the pension reform law so that federal funds would continue to flow while the litigation proceeds.
The legislation AB 1222 will be carried by Assembly Member Bloom.
I would like to thank our Board Chair Diane DuBois and Director Zev Yaroslavsky for meeting with the office of Governor Brown, Assembly Speaker Perez, Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg and Assembly Member Bloom during their recent trip to Sacramento as well as Director Pam O’Connor who also worked with Assembly Member Bloom on this issue.
I would also like to thank Mayor Eric Garcetti for his outreach to the Administrations of President Obama and Governor Brown. We will continue our advocacy efforts with Assembly Member Bloom and legislative leaders in both houses to move this bill through the legislative process.
Concurrently, we will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Labor to ensure the free flow of federal transportation dollars. The favorable resolution of this issue will safeguard over $3 billion in federal grants, new starts fund agreements, and loans that we anticipate receiving in the next twelve months.

What To Do After an Accident When the Police Fail to Respond?


By Farid Yaghoubtil, September 4, 2013

(Farid Yaghoubtil is an attorney with the Downtown L.A. Law Group. Following last week’s story on the LAPD’s failure to cite a driver in a crash involving a cyclist, Yaghoubtil asked if he could write a piece on what cyclists can do to get the best legal results after a crash…not that it would have helped in last week’s incident. – DN)

The moments immediately following a traffic accident can be confusing, leaving the victims in a state of bewilderment and shock.  In the most serious accidents, the injured parties are hopefully quickly transferred to a local hospital where they are given immediate medical care.  Dealing with the aftermath of the accident becomes an ancillary concern, and the focus justifiably shifts to the well-being of the accident’s participants.  However, what about situations where an ER visit is not necessarily needed? 

The first step in any traffic accident situation would be to contact local police department and have them write up a report regarding the accident.  While many accident victims are tempted to forego this crucial step, it is essential to resist this urge.

Many times, the at-fault party accepts fault immediately following the accident, only to change their story once they speak to their insurance provider or when they are in a courtroom setting.  Without a police report that confirms the true story, innocent victims are frequently left with only their word in defending their position.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that time and again the police department, especially in busy metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, will simply refuse to come out to the scene of the accident.  In fact, Ted Rogers of Biking in L.A. recently reported  on the story of Melanie Freeland, which is one of the most egregious examples of police inactivity we have ever seen.

Whether this is due to police indifference, a general lack of resources, or simple police bureaucracy, the fact remains that accident victims are sometimes  left dealing with the repercussions without the benefit of police involvement.  This can be especially crippling for victims that are left with thousands of dollars worth of medical and property damage bills.

Therefore, in light of Mr. Roger’s report, the following is a list of additional measures that should be taken after an accident that could protect your rights following an accident.

1. Witnesses can be your best friends – Other than a police report, independent witnesses are the most credible pieces of evidence in proving your innocence.  Look out for anybody who may have witnessed the accident, politely ask for their information and if they would be willing to provide a statement in the future.

2. Take pictures – Sometimes, the only way to demonstrate how an accident actually occurred is to reconstruct the scene of the crash.  Take pictures of all the motor vehicles involved, the scene, the road, skid marks, injuries, or any other picture that might help in proving your case.

3.  Look at nearby businesses – Many business have surveillance that not only monitor the store, but also the surrounding areas.  Unfortunately, these videos are usually disposed of, sometimes after only one day.  Make sure you contact these establishments to see if they have video surveillance that can be beneficial to your cause.  If so, ask them to preserve the evidence.

4.  Get a statement from the at fault party – With the advent of the Smartphone, almost everyone has a video camera at their disposal.  Ask the at-fault party to make a statement.  Individuals are far more likely to be honest immediately after the crash rather than a few days or hours later, when the initial shock has subsided.

* Although this article focuses primarily on how to act immediately following an accident, I wanted to add one final note on uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage.  UM/UIM coverage protects innocent accident victims in situations where the at-fault party does not have sufficient insurance coverage, or fails carry any coverage to pay for all the damages.  It also protects individuals in hit-and-run accidents, where the perpetrator is never found.  Most people have never heard of UM/UIM coverage, but with more and more people driving without insurance, it can often be the single most important aspect of an insurance policy.  UM/UIM coverage not only protects victims of car accidents, but any type of motor vehicle crash such as bicycle, pedestrian and motorcycle accidents.

Los Angeles Needs You for Bicycle and Pedestrian Counts


By Damien Newton, September 4, 2013

“I never see people ride on the existing bike lane, why should we extend it?”
To find out more about the 2013 bicycle and pedestrian counts, visit the LACBC's L.A. Bike and Ped Count website.

“The census shows that less than 1% of people bicycle, even if a new bike lane doubles the amount of people biking, it’s not worth losing a travel lane/parking lane.”
“Nobody walks in my neighborhood.”

As advocates, you are likely to hear some version of each of these comments. In people’s desperation to cling to their car culture, it seems car culture warriors will trot out the same tired arguments, no matter how often they are beaten down.

But you know what never loses and argument? Data. Cold hard facts are the best answer to conjecture. And the best data comes from the data we collect ourselves.

“This bicycle and pedestrian count is a massive undertaking, requiring 450 volunteers for 900 hours of counting.  But the data is worth the effort,” explains Eric Bruins with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “Because of the counts in 2009 and 2011, we know that bicycling increased 32% during that time generally, and 101% at locations that added new infrastructure.  There have been over 150 miles of new bikeways added since the last count, making this year’s count critical for measuring the effectiveness of those investments.”

For the 5th time, the LACBC is doing the work that the City of Los Angeles should be doing and holding a series of bicycle and pedestrian counts next week. This year, Los Angeles Walks is joining them, for a truly multi-modal event. While the counts are next week, volunteers need to go through a short training course being held tonight, tomorrow night or Saturday.

“In a city that counts cars every day, we need to ensure people walking, biking and catching transit are counted as well,” explains Deborah Murphy, the founder and executive director of Los Angeles Walks. “We see the massive volunteer undertaking of the 2013 City of LA Bicycle and Pedestrian Count as an example of how much residents in the City of LA care about creating a city that is safer and more inviting for people to be able to walk, bicycle, and use transit to meet their daily needs.”
Both trainings and counts will take place in all corners of the city. The city has built and painted 150 miles of bike infrastructure in the past three years, and this year’s counts are crucial to show how that investment is paying off.
“With so much at stake, we need your help to make sure all these new locations have volunteers to fill them,” Bruins explains. “Please volunteer to count onTuesday, September 10th from 7 to 9am and from 4 to 6pm and on Saturday, September 14th from 11 to 1pm.  Trainingsare conveniently located throughout the city the week before the counts.”

The Coming Battle Over Electric Bicycles


By Henry Grabar, September 4, 2013

 The Coming Battle Over Electric Bicycles

Around this time last year, Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, was pedaling home when he experienced a quirky moment of convergence.

Just as he passed a fellow cyclist mounted atop a jaunty penny-farthing bicycle, with its comically mismatched wheels, an electric bicycle zipped past them both. Technologically speaking, it was the past, the present, and the future of the bicycle, all riding side by side, if only for a second.
The electric bicycle has so far remained a novelty item in the United States, but manufacturers, retailers, and analysts say that will soon change. Fueled by soaring numbers of bike commuters and rapidly evolving battery technology, the electric bicycle is poised for a breakthrough, if it can only roll over legal obstacles and cultural prejudices.

The market "has been growing very consistently since about 2008," says Larry Pizzi, the president of Currie Technologies, one of the nation's largest distributors of e-bikes, as they're called. "They haven't become mainstream. But they're getting closer."

Sleeker and cleaner than the clunky rides of yore, the newest wave of commuter e-bikes are nearly indistinguishable from regular bicycles. Many have motors located in the hub of the rear wheel, which on the best models, can sense the pressure on your pedals and contribute assistance accordingly. A full charge at a standard wall outlet can take a rider dozens of miles at the federally mandated speed of 20 mph.

For potential riders, there are two main drawbacks: cost and weight. A nice electric bicycle tends to cost around $2,000, and to weigh roughly 50 pounds, twice as much as a normal bike. Both metrics figure to get smaller as the bikes grow more popular and technology improves.

Because e-bikes are a generic consumer product, like pens or lamps, there's no firm data on how many are sold in the U.S. But Pizzi says Currie's sales have grown around 20 percent each year. Other e-bike companies, like Florida's ProdecoTech, report that their business has doubled over the last year. With a $1.5 million grant from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Berkeley and San Francisco will launch a pilot e-bike sharing program next spring. Copenhagen will also debut an electric bike-share program.

The consulting group eCycleElectric estimated that the overall market for e-bikes in the United States doubled between 2012 and 2013. A more conservative analysis, by Navigant Research, has annual sales crossing the 100,000 mark in 2018.

Legally, the electric bicycle landscape is messy. The New York City Council voted in May to ban all electric bicycles (for the second time, no less), which has left owners in the city confused and cautious. Even a local bicycle retailer told me he was unsure about the law's scope.

Across the United States, too, electric cyclists are caught in a web of conflicting ordinances. Few legal codes properly distinguish between "throttle" bikes, which operate like motorcycles, and "pedal assist" bikes, which send power to the wheels only when the cyclist pedals. Access to infrastructure also varies from city to city. E-bikes are for the most part permitted in bike lanes (where they are permitted at all), though banned from multi-use paths in cities like Denver and Boulder.

Looking for lessons abroad, which proved a successful tactic for U.S. cities researching bicycle infrastructure, yields few obvious suggestions. In the bike-mad Netherlands (pop. 17 million), over 100,000 electric bicycles are sold each year, to little controversy. Singapore's boom in electric bike consumption, meanwhile, has activists calling for more regulation.

In China, where some estimate the electric bike count at 120 million, the battle over the "silent killer" — so-called for the e-bike's quiet approach that leaves pedestrians oblivious — has raged for over a decade. Citing pedestrian safety, Beijing banned electric bikes in 2002, only to repeal the prohibition in 2006. In Shenzhen, where e-bikes were reportedly responsible for 15 percent of all traffic accidents and 64 deaths in 2010, banned electric bikes in 2011. Guangzhou banned them in 2007, but police confiscating e-bikes sparked riots this summer.

In the U.S., where e-bike speed and horsepower regulations are tightly enforced, there's no evidence that electric bicycles are more dangerous. Advocates point out that man-powered bikes routinely exceed the 20 mph limit of the e-bike.

While many cycling advocacy groups in the U.S. see e-bikes as a lure for drivers, the elderly, and the sweat-averse, a certain suspicion remains. "To the core cyclist, it's cheating," Loren Mooney, the editor of Bicycling Magazinehas said. City governments are wary, and some "regular" cyclists fear that the spread of electric bicycles could stoke pedestrian vitriol, as it did in Chinese cities.

Bias narrows the market, advocates say. "The biggest challenge for the e-bike industry is that distribution points are few and far between," says Larry Pizzi. Out of more than 4,500 bicycle shops in the United States, fewer than one in six sell e-bikes.

That could be a huge missed opportunity for independent outfits. "Bike shops and traditional bike retailers need to get their heads out of the sand and realize that electric bikes are a huge opportunity, and a huge potential market we have struggled to reach," Clarke, of the League of American Bicyclists, says. "I don't think it takes a genius to realize these things are selling like hotcakes in both Denmark and Germany."

Clarke posits that this obstinacy may be due to the unusually self-conscious nature of cycling in the U.S. Even as bicycle commuting is entering the mainstream, its core acolytes have continued to treat the bike as a cult-like object rather than a regular consumer product. How can supporters dispel the sense that, as the Guardian's Steve Caplin wrote in a defense of the mode, the electric bicycle is "masquerading as a bike"?

I asked Clarke if he didn't feel some resentment when his electrically powered comrade sped past in the bike lane.

"For a fleeting second," he conceded. "But I'd rather have someone riding that bicycle than not." 

The Moscow Metro Is Like a Gorgeous Russian History Museum


By Mark Byrnes, September 4, 2013

The Moscow metro is one of the most extensive and heavily traveled subway systems in the world, transporting about 9 million people around the city each day.

But it also serves as a sort of museum of Russian history. Opened in 1935, the marble walls, high ceilings, stained glass, mosaics and chandeliers were a testament to the values of Joseph Stalin and his Communist party. Ironically enough, while the stations were built and designed with Soviet labor, the main engineering work was done by British workers.

Stalin ordered the arrest of many British engineers on the project for espionage, because they had gained so much inside knowledge about the city's subway system. The engineers were eventually deported and whatever business climate existed between the two countries was effectively killed.
The system is currently under expansion, and is expected to grow an additional 90 miles by 2020. That would make it the third largest subway system in the world, behind Beijing and Shanghai.
Below, via Reuters, a look into the average day on Moscow's subway system:

People walk near the entrance to Arbatskaya metro station, which was built in 1953, in Moscow August 17, 2013.

People walk through Prospekt Mira metro station in Moscow August 14, 2013. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson) 

Two men in matching shirts travel down an escalator at a metro station in Moscow August 12, 2013.

A woman works at a news-stand in the Moscow metro August 14, 2013.

A woman walks on the platform as a train arrives at Mayakovskaya metro station, which was built in 1938, in Moscow August 17, 2013. 

A ceiling panel is seen in Novoslobodskaya metro station, which was built in 1952, in Moscow August 17, 2013. 

A stained glass panel is seen in Novoslobodskaya metro station, which was built in 1952, in Moscow, August 17, 2013. 

Men use their mobile phones as they stand in front of a mosaic depicting former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin at Biblioteka Imeni Lenina metro station in Moscow August 13, 2013. 

A woman touches the nose of the "lucky dog" statue at the Ploshchad Revolyutsii Metro station in Moscow, August 14, 2013. Commuters believe that rubbing the nose of the bronze dog statue will bring them good luck.


A woman reads a magazine in Chistye Prudy metro station in Moscow August 16, 2013. 

A woman and a man hold their heads as they walk toward a train at a Russian Metro station in Moscow August 11, 2013. 

A train driver pulls into Biblioteka Imeni Lenina metro station in Moscow August 14, 2013. 

A map of the Moscow metro system is seen behind a poster warning passengers to avoid the closing doors on a metro train in Moscow August 17, 2013

Passengers travel on a late night train on the metro in Moscow August 11, 2013. 

Two women read a book as they sit in a train on the metro in Moscow August 10, 2013. 

Passengers travel on a late night train on the metro in Moscow August 11, 2013. 

A couple embraces on a train on the metro in Moscow August 17, 2013. 

Passengers walk down a concourse at a metro station in Moscow August 10, 2013. 

Two couples embrace as they travel on a train on the metro in Moscow August 10, 2013. 

Two police officers travel on a train at a metro station in Moscow August 15, 2013. 

Passengers walk down a concourse at a metro station in Moscow August 10, 2013.
Some of my photos of the Moscow subway, September 2012 (Peggy Drouet):


Napthine's east-west tunnel, it's just not cricket

Creating a bigger road to fix congestion is like loosening your belt to fix obesity.

By Ross McMullin, August 12, 2013
Australia's Usman Khawaja walks off after being given out during play on the first day of the third Ashes cricket test match between England and Australia.
 Australia's Usman Khawaja.

The bewildering decision that Australian batsman Usman Khawaja endured at Old Trafford recently has been universally condemned. It was denounced by cricketers around the world, Kevin Rudd castigated it, and Cricket Australia even lodged a formal protest.

The Khawaja dismissal was mystifying because the evidence the third umpire examined pointed so clearly to the opposite conclusion. It was incomprehensible.

In fact, the Khawaja verdict was the worst decision since - well, since another shocker earlier this year. The decision to embark on an expensive east-west freeway tunnel remains similarly mystifying.
Denis Napthine claims that drivers frustrated by traffic gridlock on the Eastern Freeway will welcome his tunnel. This is absurd - 80 per cent of the traffic coming off the freeway doesn't head west, it turns south into similarly clogged Hoddle Street. As freeway users know, Napthine is spouting nonsense. It's pretty simple. If you watch where the ball went, you know Khawaja wasn't out. If you watch where the cars go, you know the east-west tunnel won't fix Eastern Freeway congestion.

Moreover, it's a colossal waste of money and the return on this immense outlay will be meagre.
When the cost/benefit ratio was examined, the analysis (based on authoritative, well-established modelling) demonstrated that for every dollar spent the return was only 50 cents. ''That should have been the end of it'' as ''the project is simply a waste of money'', declared Paul Mees, Melbourne's internationally acclaimed transport expert, in his last public appearance before his untimely death.
Instead, the Napthine government concocted a spurious measurement of its own in supposed justification of the tunnel. If this unusual method of calculation was convincing, the Premier would be flourishing it, but he claims it has to stay secret - which only reinforces the conclusion that it's a Dodgy Brothers exercise.

What the government should be doing is clear. It should construct a rail line along the centre of the Eastern Freeway, which would connect with the existing train line to the city at Hoddle Street. This would be a much better solution to freeway congestion - and would cost far less - than the east-west tunnel. The environmental impact would be much more favourable as well.

It would be better for everyone frustrated by the freeway crush. Some drivers stuck in the traffic will see trains going past day after day, and will conclude that getting on board is a no-brainer. As they do, the traffic will decrease, which benefits even those tenacious drivers who can't bear not driving to work. So everyone would end up better off with rail. And there would be funds available for other urgent transport priorities such as road/rail separation and updated signalling, the kinds of advances that would facilitate the connection of the new line to the existing network.

Melbourne's congestion problems have become dire, and it's crucial that appropriate remedies are chosen. Selecting the east-west project as the primary solution, thereby depriving other major infrastructure options of funds for many years, is preposterous. As one observer put it, creating a bigger road to fix congestion is like loosening your belt to fix obesity.

The Victorian government, previously criticised for being an infrastructure ditherer, now claims the east-west tunnel will generate thousands of construction jobs. But there will be numerous construction jobs in whatever major infrastructure projects eventuate. The crucial thing is to choose the right ones, not one big wrong one.

Indeed, it's such a mystifying decision that there is surely a hidden agenda, some pundits have concluded. They have predicted that big trucks will be encouraged to proliferate along the new route and the Eastern Freeway.

Other commentators have emphasised the dubious financial arrangements, which have left taxpayers liable for risks worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Even Transurban, the CityLink operator, concluded that the funding model ''just doesn't work''.

Moreover, the Liberals are doing the opposite of what they promised during the previous election campaign. In November 2010 they not only ruled out an east-west tunnel if they won office; they also promised to construct a rail line to Doncaster along the Eastern Freeway.

The Liberals' cynical effrontery knows no bounds. Besides doing precisely the opposite of their pre-election promises, they've now declared they will hijack the reservation that has for decades been preserved for a rail line to Doncaster, and use it to widen the freeway. They are also threatening to sign long-term contracts for the tunnel's construction just before the next election, in order to prevent voters from having any say at the ballot box on this massive project that is massively flawed.

This is outrageous. In equivalent circumstances, when John Howard ruled out a GST in opposition but reversed his stance in office, he took his changed position to an election and obtained a mandate for it.

However, Denis Napthine is proposing to do the opposite. This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Melbourne's existence, yet he's treating the electorate with contempt.

And he has Tony Abbott's support. Abbott has said he will provide $1.5 billion for Napthine's tunnel even though it's a conspicuous non-solution and he hasn't seen the document that purports to justify it. For the improved public transport that Melbourne desperately needs, Abbott will contribute nothing.

No wonder many Victorians have concluded that the Liberals' decision on the east-west project is as bad as the notorious dismissal of Usman Khawaja.

High-speed rail may adversely affect Central Valley, report finds


By Alison Fu, September 4, 2013


While the planned high-speed rail that will connect Northern and Southern California may boost the Central Valley’s economy, lack of adequate planning may lead to environmental harm, according to a recent UC Berkeley and UCLA report.

The Aug. 20 report advocates building high-speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles but notes the possibility of losing significant tracts of farmland to large-scale single-family home construction in the Central Valley that may accompany economic growth.

“(High-speed rail) can provide people with mobility and provide an economic boost for cities,” said Ethan Elkind, the report’s main author and the climate policy associate at both UC Berkeley’s and UCLA’s law schools. “The risk here is that high-speed rail is growth-inducing. Businesses will want to move to the areas close to the train stations … the question is, how will it be accommodated?”

According to the report, cities in the Central Valley tend to construct large tracts of single-family homes, which Elkind believes is an inefficient use of land. If cities plan early, they can build more densely, which will reduce both the amounts of pollution and farmland destroyed.

“High-speed rail is a safe way to travel compared to autos,” Elkind said. “It electrifies the transportation and moves us away from using petroleum.”

Aaron Fukuda, an opponent of the rail plan and a lifelong Central Valley resident, thinks the negative impacts of the project outweigh its benefits.

“I think they thought (the Central Valley) was a blank canvas with nothing of significance and that people would just move out of the way,” Fukuda said. “There is really a lack of concern for us here.”
Fukuda believes a better location for the railway would be adjacent to Interstate 5, which would be less intrusive to current farm plots. He also worries that the railway will increase economic inequality for those in the Central Valley who are unable to afford bullet-train fare.

The diffuse interests of Central Valley counties may also complicate rail construction, the report said, because the region lacks a single governing body.

The report also addresses issues regarding the railway’s funding, a concern echoed by Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

“The vast majority of the money we have will be spent on building the route in the Central Valley,” Lowenthal said. “But right now, we have no money to connect the center to the extremes, Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A, allowing the state to sell up to $9.95 billion in bonds to partly fund the development of a high-speed rail system from Sacramento and San Francisco through the Central Valley to Los Angeles and San Diego.

Studies estimate the cost of the stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles to be $68.4 billion, with the cost of the lines to Sacramento and San Diego to be determined.

“I really want it to be successful,” Lowenthal said. “But I’m worried.”

According to the report, the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles branch is expected to be completed in 2028.

EDITORIALS: State must learn from Bay Bridge debacle, and soon


Posted on Facebook by Anthony Portantino, September 4, 2013

Years late, billions over budget, riddled with construction errors – but also stunning, iconic, beautiful – the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge finally opened to regular traffic Monday night. Due to last-minute uncertainty about when it would open, Monday’s earlier ceremonial opening was low key, not the grandiose extravaganza originally planned. That was probably a good thing.

There’s no doubt the bridge is a visual marvel. A self-anchored suspension bridge – 2,047 feet long, its steel cables forming a distinctive triangular pattern as they cascade down from a 525-foot tower – it is the largest such structure in the world. The suspension bridge attaches to the skyway portion of the span, two side-by-side bridges that gracefully curve toward Yerba Buena Island from Oakland.

The new bridge replaces the old double-decker structure built in the 1930s and damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The new bridge is much safer, and less vulnerable to earthquakes. Unlike the old bridge, the new span’s open design provides sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay. It reminds us that California can still do big things.

But the new bridge also offers lessons on how not to manage big public works projects, useful examples of missteps to avoid in the future as the state embarks on its next big transportation project – high-speed rail.

The bridge’s more than $4 billion in cost overruns and decade or more of delay can be blamed in part on politicians squabbling over design. Gov. Pete Wilson initially wanted a bare-bones structure. His vision, dubbed derisively “a highway on stilts,” was rejected by local politicians who fought for something more grandiose. It took years to settle on a design.

In the last few years, as the bridge has been under construction, mismanagement at the California Department of Transportation has become the focus of attention. The Sacramento Bee’s Charles Piller broke stories about faulty inspections. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on bolts that failed on a key seismic safety device. A special steel saddle was designed to replace the broken bolts. Even now, there’s concern that maintenance costs will increase as a result of the mistake.

Brian Kelly, secretary of the state’s new Transportation Agency, says the state has learned a lot about how to manage mega projects from its troubled Bay Bridge experience. Vigorous and constant independent oversight is essential. So is transparency – letting the public know early and often what the expectations and the challenges are. Also for large projects, Kelly says, phasing is important, cutting the project into smaller chunks that are easier to manage.

There is no shortage of big transportation projects on California’s horizon. High-speed rail is the obvious and most important. The state cannot afford the same delays, cost overruns and construction mistakes on its bullet train that marred the Bay Bridge project. After the bridge debacle, high-speed rail will be a key test for the state’s newly organized Transportation Agency. Is it up to it?

Monrovia City Council Meeting September 3, 2013

 Councilmember Tom Adams, Councilmember Larry J. Spicer, Mayor Mary Ann Lutz, Mayor Pro Tem Becky A. Shevlin, and Councilmember Alexander C. Blackburn. Photo by Peggy Drouet.

The City of Monrovia had been asked by both the cities of Alhambra and South Pasadena, opposing sides of the 710 Gap Freeway closure to reaffirm Resolution No. 89-48. See below.

Speakers both for and against the freeway extension spoke at last night's meeting. The Yes 710 people were not very convincing as to how the extension would help the city of Monrovia. On the other hand, the No 710 people were convincing as to other options other than a tunnel to relieve congestion in the San Gabriel Valley, especially a light rail option. The Monrovia City Council did not reaffirm Resolution 89-48, but, instead, wrote a new resolution:  "The City Council voted to affirm its support for closing the transportation gap existing along State Route 710." Transportation gap can be accomplished through expanded public transit via LRT, BRT and TSM/TDM, and is consistent with multi-mode low build. The Monrovia City Council members also indicated that they will bring up the issue again when the EIR is completed in 2014.

Representatives from Metro,  the head of SCAG, various mayors from cities both opposing and supporting the tunnel, other present and former elected officials, and many concerned and knowledgeable citizens attended the meeting. Most of the No 710 people wore either red or white shirts--there were a good number of them--and the Yes  710 were supposed to wear blue shirts, especially the blue shirt with Close the Gap written on it. We saw one of these shirts--on Barbara Messina, councilwoman from Alhambra and a leading proponent of the 710 tunnel--and one blue sport shirt and one blue dress shirt.

Joe Cano filmed the part of the council meeting dealing with the 710 issue and the video will appear on this website when it is completed.

Metro and Yes 710 Harry Baldwin in the front row. Michael A. Cacciotti, councilmember and former mayor of South Pasadena, who gave the most convincing presentation against the 710 tunnel. He described the present Los Angeles light rail and subway system in depth and showed all the gaps in it and how they should be filled. Public transportation--Yes; 710 tunnel and more freeways, No. Photo by Peggy Drouet.

September 3, 2013
Laurie Lile, City Manager
Reaffirmation of Resolution No. 89-48, a Resolution of the City Council of the City of Monrovia,
County of Los Angeles, State of California, supporting completion of the Long Beach Freeway (State
Route 710 (SR-710) Freeway)
To consider the City’s position on the completion of SR-710 and if appropriate to reaffirm
the Council Resolution adopted in 1989 supporting the gap closure.
In 1989, the City Council adopted Resolution 89-48 to affirm their support for the
completion of the Long Beach Freeway, now more frequently referred to as SR-710. In a letter
conveying Resolution 89-48 to Governor George Deukmejian, Mayor Bob Bartlett expressed concern
that the state’s failure to complete the project was resulting in adverse traffic impacts in Monrovia. In
2001, Mayor Blakely reiterated the City’s position in a letter to Yvonne Braithwaite-Burke, Chair of the
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). In this letter, Mayor Blakely cited
compliance with regional transportation plans, as well as local traffic impacts, for reasons that the SR-
710 project move forward. These background documents are attached to this report.
In recent months, the City received requests from the City of Alhambra and the City of South Pasadena
for the Council to again consider its position on this issue. In the case of the City of Alhambra, the
request has been to reaffirm the City’s former position, and in the case of the City of South Pasadena,
to reverse the City’s position and oppose further consideration of the project.
This has been a polarizing issue for decades and it continues to generate strong opinions on both sides
of the discussion. City staff has received a number of emails from the public on this topic and the
messages received as of August 27, 2013 are attached for Council consideration.
The State Route 710 North Extension Project has been included in SCAG’s 2012-2035
Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), and it has been included in previous RTPs since the 1990s. In
addition, both Metro and Caltrans are in the process of preparing the EIR/EIS for the corridor. A recent
SCAG memo from SCAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata to SCAG’s President Greg Pettis provides
an assessment of the benefits of the project, and is attached to this report.
At this time, Staff is not recommending that the Council take any position on the alternatives under
consideration by Metro and Caltrans—only that the Council reaffirms its position that it generally
supports the completion of the SR-710 freeway.
This action will not result in any direct environmental impacts.
The Council’s action to reaffirm its previous position on the extension of the SR-710
freeway will not result in any direct adverse fiscal impacts to the City of Monrovia.

The Council has a number of options available with respect to this issue:
1) Reaffirm Resolution 89-48 by adopting Resolution 2013-41.
2) Direct staff to prepare a resolution for a future Council agenda that expresses a position in
opposition to the extension of SR-710.
3) Rescind Resolution 89-48 and make no statement of support or opposition on the extension of
Staff recommends that the Council reaffirm Resolution 89-48 by adopting
Resolution 2013-41
If the City Council concurs, the appropriate action would be a motion to approve Resolution 2013-41.

Monrovia City Council Meeting 09/03/2013

 Photos by Joe Cano:
No710 shows up in force to convince Monrovia to stay out of the SR710 tunnel issue. As usual the same stale arguments are cited by the proponents of a tunnel.
 No 710 people in red and white shirts. The blue shirts in the back are Monrovia
Explorer Scouts.

Doug Fielding, Metro's Executive Director, Highway Programs

SCAG Hasan Ikharata

 The Mayor of San Marino almost died getting to the podium (he really was in bad shape). 
Spewed the same BS as Messina.

Marina Khubesrian, M.D., Mayor Pro Tempore So. Pasadena. Gave medical facts 
against building the tunnel.

Barbara Messina had called for a 'Sea of Blue
' to show for support 'Closing the Gap'. 
She was the only large blue spot in the council chambers, the rest of the pro710 tunnel people
 were all suits from Caltrans & Metro.
Freddie Hannen reading from the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce website contradicting 
Barbara Messina's argument about traffic.