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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Are Public-Private Partnerships Becoming False Advertisements?


By Brian Addison, September 17, 2013

Amidst much brouhaha last week, the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse opened in Long Beach, formally replacing the dilapidated mid-mod 1958 courthouse on Ocean Boulevard.

The Courthouse

People are—rightfully so to an extent—quite happy: it looks more like an art museum than a place to face criminal activity. And even more, the project was a much-touted public-private partnership (P3)—basically a single contract between a private firm and the government—for the cool cost of $395M.

Then why would a nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor, the Legislative Analyst’s Office of California, release a report stating that the actual cost is $490M? And are P3s not as bright and shiny as they appear to be—and more importantly, pillage our wallets instead of saving us a little bit?

According to an article in The Recorder which referenced the report, “The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) used skewed assumptions to justify building the new Long Beach courthouse under an untested public-private financing scheme.”Last I checked, “skewed assumptions” and “financing schemes” are not the best way to describe one of the state’s two largest P3 projects, with the other being San Francisco’s Presidio Parkway Transportation Project by Caltrans. And the report is no less minced in its wording: it indicates that AOC and Caltrans have not aligned their projects with the best P3 practices that research has indicated, including transparency and castigating other procurement options—such as a design-bid-build approach—in such a bad light that a P3 approach was perpetually favored.

As stated on the site of the Judicial Branch of California, the private company must “cover all risks related to design and construction–such as any additional work needed to pass building code agency reviews and receive permits, any costs related to construction delays, and even latent defects in the architectural or engineering design.”

Put simply: a private firm designs and builds it while receiving a yearly state fee to manage it. In direct numbers, that amounts to a 35-year lease to the private firm with the state handing over a staggering $2.3B in return over the course of the lease if inflation continues at the rate it is currently at.

This isn’t to mention the cost that the City of Long Beach will be shouldering to transfer inmates via van since it will no longer have a tunnel connecting the Police Department to the new courthouse. That is going to cost $279,000 to start up and a current-day cost of $243,000 per year to operate.

The additional costs for transferring inmates is nothing new: 5th District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske brought up the fact that a tunnel should have been put into the original bid back in autumn of 2011. On October 4 of that year,  Councilmembers Gary DeLong, Robert Garcia, Patrick O’Donnell and Dee Andrews supported the city paying $1 million in start-up costs for the tunnel (which was estimated by the City to cost somewhere between $7M and $10M).

The report goes onto state a very basic point: California taxpayers have overpaid for two infrastructure projects—risks that Susan Fainstein pointed out in 2008 when she noted that P3s all have “a striking physical similarity among the schemes and also a convergence embodied in private-sector involvement and market orientation.” In more succinct terms: a market-led approach to city planning that has led to disaster is some places, most prominently the Ørestad project in Copenhagen.

So what are we to precisely do when we need massive, essential infrastructure upgrades—the new courthouse is expected to be able to handle tens of thousands of more people per month in addition to streamlining processes—but face dire economic constraints?

The LAO report suggests not abandoning the idea entirely but codifying four major alterations through the legislature: One, write into state law specific criteria surrounding P3 project selections; two, require comparisons to other procurement options; three, require the Public Infrastructure Advisory Commission to approve state P3 projects rather than entities like the AOC or Caltrans; and lastly, require the aforementioned commission to hire and use experts in P3, state finance and procurement, while continuing to develop research that would expand the best practices possible for P3 projects.

This not only seems logical, but essential. So only one question remains: Why aren’t we talking about this?

Reminder: Made in LA Ride III this Saturday!


By Anna Chen, September 17, 2013

 Take a ride by the river! Photo: Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp.

 Take a ride by the river!

Pickles, surfboards and all things bikes! Enjoy a ride along the L.A. River and learn about places that manufacture and create goodies in L.A. at the next Metro sponsored, C.I.C.L.E. led bike ride “Made in LA” along the L.A. River.

The free bike ride meets at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 21. The meeting location is accessible from the Metro Gold Line Lincoln/Cypress Station or Metro Bus 90/91, 94, 794, 84/68, 251, 751. Use Trip Planner for more options.
Here’s the full press release from C.I.C.L.E.:
On Saturday, September 21, through a sponsorship by Metro, C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change thru LIVE Exchange), with the LA River Corp, will lead a community bicycle ride, “Made in LA” along the LA River. This expedition, open to all cyclists, will pedal through and around Cypress Park and expose riders to businesses that make products right here in Los Angeles. Participants will visit Grain Surfboards, Kruegermann Pickle Factory and swrve (stylish urban bicycling apparel designers). Cyclists can see, taste and experience products made for and by Angelenos!

As with all C.I.C.L.E. rides, this ride is family-friendly, leisurely paced and will return to the starting point at the end of the evening. C.I.C.L.E. rides are fully supported, led by trained Ride Leaders and volunteers. The ride is under 8 miles. Prior to the ride we will address safe street riding and group ride etiquette to ensure smooth sailing.

When: Saturday, September 21, 2013
Time: Meet at 10:30 a.m., the ride will leave promptly at 11 a.m.
Where: Los Angeles River Center and Gardens
570 W. Avenue 26
Los Angeles, CA 90065
Neighborhood: Cypress Park

Accessible by Metro Rail and Metro buses: Metro Gold Line Lincoln/Cypress Station and Metro bus lines 90/91, 94, 794, 84/68, 251, 751. Plan your trip at metro.net.
Special note: Meet in the front parking lot. Weddings will be taking place in the gardens. Please be respectful of other users of the property.

What to bring: Bring water, a snack, and a bicycle in good working order. This ride is FREE and open to anyone, but all participants should be able to ride a bike safely with the ability to brake, change gears, and balance while stopping and starting. All participants under 18 MUST wear a helmet and be escorted by a parent or guardian. Children under age 8 should be on a tag-a-long, bike trailer, tandem, or other safe child-carrying device to participate in the ride.

About C.I.C.L.E.: Cyclists Inciting Change thru Live Exchange (C.I.C.L.E.) is a nonprofit organization working to promote the bicycle as a viable, healthy, and sustainable transportation choice.

About Metro Los Angeles: Metro is the planner, operator and builder of LA County’s expanding public transportation system. The agency plays an important role in bicycle planning across LA County, funding more than $155.5 million for bicycle projects since 1993, facilitating first mile/last mile connections to transit and supporting bicycle transportation through various policies and programs. Metro’s sponsorship of CICLE events helps fulfill the agency’s goals of encouraging bicycle trips and promoting safe cycling skills.

About the LA River Revitalization Corporation: LA River Corp is a non-profit venture charged with catalyzing responsible real estate and related economic development along the L.A. River. Our mission is to transform the L.A. River to improve people’s lives by carrying out sustainable land use projects, advocacy for river friendly policy, and programs for community benefit. Our major campaign, Greenway 2020, works with public and private partners to complete a continuous 51-mile Greenway along the L.A. River by the year 2020.

Learn about Light Rail options on the SR-710 Gap


Learn about Light Rail options on the SR-710 Gap: Wed., Sept. 25 @ 6:45 pm

The Transit Coalition

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 from 6:45 PM to 8:45 PM (PDT)

Los Angeles, CA

Event Details

This is a chance to learn about the Light Rail options along the SR-710 gap and rail on the High Desert Corridor from the expert.
Join The Transit Coalition at a unique tell all evening to learn about the future of the LA Rail Corridors and Roads. Doug Failing,  Executive Director of Metro Highway Programs will present a unique program you don't want to miss, as you will learn how local transportation rail and road projects are evolving.
If you are in the transit, engineering, architectural or construction industry, this means you NEED to attend to get inside details. If you are a transit advocate, this will give you an idea about how progress is being made to create these projects.
How will some of the Key Challenges be addressed, funded and resolved? 
What is going on with efforts to get this these improvements funded? What are the challenges and the soutions? How are things working? Sign up and enjoy this program. Our presenter Doug Failing can be considered the expert on this subject.
How can this be done? This is a unique discussion, as you will get a sense of what can be done next and how it can be accomplished.
Come to our Transit Coalition Dinner Meeting on Wednesday, September 26, 2013, featuring the Executive Director of Metro Highway Programs, Doug Failing. Our speaker may not answer every question, but you'll learn a lot about the latest developments. Find out first hand, by joining us.
Note: You must prepay for food by noon Wednesday, September 26, so the food order can be submitted.
First @ 6:55 p.m. we will have introductions and go over some of the latest transit developments.

At 7:05 p.m, we will start the program, so make a goal to be there at the start at 6:45 p.m.

Doug Failing will present and answer questions until at least 8:15 p.m. and then we will cover the business of other transit activities in Southern CA.

This is your Open Invitation from The Transit Coalition to join us for our Wednesday, September 26, 2013 meeting at Metro Gateway Headquarters, (Gateway Conference Room on the 3rd Floor) in downtown LA from 6:45 p.m. to 8:55 p.m. At this gathering, we will discuss current transportation developments and present a recap of the other transit-related projects underway throughout Southern California.
There will be other reports at the meeting such as Metro, Amtrak, Metrolink and the 30/10 -- America Fast Forward Plan, as well as a review of actions to transit and state and urban rail service. Also, we will talk about other projects such as Expo, the Westside Extension, the Downtown Regional Connector, the Wilshire Busway, the Westside / SF Valley Rail Tunnel and the Crenshaw Line.

To see our location, see this Google map. If you have trouble locating the meeting, call 818-419-1671.

If we know you are coming, we will look for you, so you don't stay lost from us. Note: If you want to get the an e-mail meeting reminder directly, write and you can get on the list for future events.

Pass the word. If you or anyone is interested, get them there Wednesday, September 26Please pass this invitation along to anyone who might be interested in joining us. Call if you have any questions. Thanks, Bart Reed
Note: If you need a scholarship to attend, please write: bart.reed@thetransitcoalition.us. You must register to attend and no one registered will be turned away. However, if you don't register and show up, please pay $25 cash at the door.
About The Transit Coalition: The Transit Coalition is a non-profit association whose goal is to increase Transit Options and Mobility in Southern California by mobilizing citizens to press for sensible public policy to grow our bus and rail network. Þ--Þ--Þ
Have questions about Learn about Light Rail options on the SR-710 Gap: Wed., Sept. 25 @ 6:45 pm? Contact The Transit Coalition 

When & Where

Metro Gateway Headquarters, Gateway Conference Room
1 Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 from 6:45 PM to 8:45 PM (PDT)

Town Hall Metting Tonight

Posted by Pasadena City Councilperson Steve Madison on Facebook, September 17, 2013

Just a quick reminder that we'll be holding our District-Wide Neighborhood Town Hall tonight at 6:30 at the Rose Bowl’s New Club Lounge in the Press Box. Hope to see you all there!

Chicago residents challenge freight yard expansion


By Tammy Webber, September 14, 2013

 In this  Sept. 13, 2013, photo taken in Chicago, Prentiss Jones removes an air pollution monitor from a fence in front of a home in the city's Englewood neighborhood. Residents, along with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, will monitor diesel pollution in neighborhoods surrounding a Norfolk Southern inter-modal rail and truck yard for the next two months. The railroad wants to expand, but residents want them to take steps to lessen potential pollution. Photo: Tammy Webber

 In this Sept. 13, 2013, photo taken in Chicago, Prentiss Jones removes an air pollution monitor from a fence in front of a home in the city's Englewood neighborhood. Residents, along with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, will monitor diesel pollution in neighborhoods surrounding a Norfolk Southern inter-modal rail and truck yard for the next two months. The railroad wants to expand, but residents want them to take steps to lessen potential pollution.

CHICAGO (AP) — Residents in one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods have complained for years about diesel fumes, noise and vibrations from a blocks-long rail yard that slices through their community. Now, plans for a massive expansion have prompted them to do something they say the city and company won't: Test the air around their homes for elevated pollution levels.

With the help of environmental advocacy groups from Chicago and California, community activists in Englewood last week installed two pollution monitors that will sample the air for two months at various points around the Norfolk Southern yard, where about a dozen freight trains and more than 1,200 semitrucks load and unload every day —all powered by diesel fuel and idling constantly while large metal freight containers are transferred from one to the other.

The 140-acre yard handles more than 480,000 containers a year, but the company wants to expand it by about 85 acres to accommodate another 800 diesel trucks a day, and is buying vacant lots and homes from the city and private owners.

Residents say the plan, backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will simply add to the neighborhood's pollution, which a nearby interstate and another rail yard also contribute to, and cause elevated levels of asthma and other health problems.

"I think the railroad has completely not acknowledged the welfare of the neighborhood," said 74-year-old Julian McClendon, who lives about 1,000 feet from a railroad embankment — where he says trains often sit and idle while waiting to get into the yard — and a block from where the expanded yard would end.

"I hear the train noise and I smell the pollution on a regular basis (especially) at night and in the early morning hours," said McClendon, who has lived in Englewood for more than 50 years and wants the railroad to conduct an environmental impact study.

A spokesman from Norfolk Southern did not return phone or email messages Friday.

Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner for Chicago's Department of Housing and Economic Development, said Friday that federal officials regulate train and truck pollution, although the city "continues to work with Norfolk Southern, the community and environmental groups to adequately address all the concerns related to the expansion, including its economic impact, infrastructure needs and the environment." Emanuel eliminated the city's Environment Department.

Diesel emissions include harmful chemicals and microscopic particles that can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing respiratory and heart problems. The issue of pollution from locomotives has been raised across the country, as rail traffic increases and yards expand.
In Chicago, the problem can be particularly acute because the nation's largest freight lines pass through the city, often creating a bottleneck that can leave trains idling for days.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Chicago advocacy group working with the residents, released a study in July that predicted the planned Norfolk-Southern expansion would increase diesel pollution several blocks from the site, including at levels exceeding federal safety limits. But the company, which plans to use cleaner-running locomotives, insists that the expansion would not increase pollution and disputed the group's analysis, said Faith Bugel, a senior attorney at the ELPC.
She believes monitoring will demonstrate the problem with hard data. The monitors were provided by the Richmond, Calif.-based group Global Community Monitor.

Bugel said ELPC wants the company to upgrade all freight-handling equipment — including tractors, cranes and forklifts — or install pollution filters on them, and wants the city to reduce traffic congestion from the semitrucks that sometimes queue on local roadways waiting to get into the yard.
She also said that complying with existing environmental laws isn't enough in communities where polluting activity is concentrated or comes from numerous sources, "especially when we're documenting pollution at a level that will be harmful."

"The heart of the problem is that the laws we have ... are insufficient," she said. "We're finding out on a daily basis that diesel pollution is much more harmful than was thought."

7 tips for sharing your car without going broke


By Greg Hanscom, September 17, 2013


The idea is seductively simple: Most of us use our cars just a tiny fraction of the time. Why not make a little money by renting out the neglected speed racer, rather than just leaving it sitting in the driveway, or worse, racking up bills in a parking garage?

“Rent your car, get paid.” That’s how one car-sharing company, RelayRides, puts it on its website. “Earn up to $1,000 a month sharing your vehicle.” Steve Webb, RelayRides’ press guy, tells stories about car owners who have given up their day jobs to become “micro-fleet managers.”

You might be tempted to think like Erinn Hutkin, a Chicago journalist who was laid off from her job at a suburban newspaper in January. She saw an ad from RelayRides while looking for work online and thought, “Here’s a way to make some extra money by not doing much of anything.”

But if all this sounds a little too much like one of those “make $100,000 a year working at home” schemes, surprise: You are right to be a little skeptical.

If my personal experience, interviews with a half-dozen RelayRides car owners, and a look over the national RelayRides listings are any indication, the vast majority of car sharers are not making any money. In fact, with the exception of a few owners who do high-volume business, and folks who rent out high-end cars for big bucks, I’d guess car-sharing is a losing proposition for almost all of them.

David Iverson, a Chicago investment salesman, says he averages $500 a month renting his 2008 Nissan Xterra. His phone rings off the hook with prospective renters, he says, but the expenses rack up, too. He just got slapped with a $786 bill for new brake pads and other routine maintenance, and soon he’ll need to shell out for new tires, too.

“When you factor in parking, insurance, and wear-and-tear, I’m probably breaking even,” Iverson admits. But he’s cool with it. “I like to think I’m doing this in a more altruistic sense, for a community.”

Nothing wrong with that. As most of the people I spoke to for this article said, car-sharing just seems like “the right thing to do.” Share your car, and a handful of your neighbors might be able to get by without one, meaning fewer cars clogging the highways and parking spots.

But if your aim is making money — or if you just want to do a little good for the world without driving yourself directly into bankruptcy — there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. Here are a few suggestions from folks who’ve played the game, and learned some lessons the hard way:

1. Run the numbers

Don’t think that when you’ve shared your car, it’s just out there racking up the profits — because it’s also out there wearing out. Rent it enough, and the oil will need to be changed, the brakes and tires will need to be replaced, and every once in a while, something big will need to be fixed. (Trust me. I speak from experience.)

The American Automobile Association estimates that it costs $9,122 to own and operate the average sedan for a year. Some of these expenses, like insurance, you’ll incur regardless of whether you share your car or not, and that figure includes the cost of gas, which renters cover when they use your car. But most costs, including maintenance, tires, and depreciation (that is, the decline in resale value), go up the more your car is driven. Here’s the breakdown from the AAA’s 2013 driving costs report:
Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.
To get a sense of how much it costs to own and operate your car, check out the AAA’s “Your Driving Costs 2013” brochure [PDF].

2. Factor in your time

One of the biggest costs of car-sharing doesn’t show up in the cost-of-owning-a-car reports, and that’s the hours you’ll spend setting up rentals, vetting prospective renters, and keeping the car in ship shape. While short-term rentals bring in more per hour, several RelayRides owners I spoke with told me they like the longer-term rentals better. “From a dollar-and-cents and practical perspective, longer rentals are so much better for me,” Iverson told me. Getting a car cleaned and checked out in between multiple hourly rentals is just too much hassle — and if one renter returns a car late, which is not uncommon, the next person in line is apt to be miffed.

Bear in mind, too, that you’ll be working on other people’s schedules, which often means fielding rental requests and handing off keys when you’re supposed to be working at your day job. That may not be a problem if, like Iverson, you work for yourself, from home. But Mary Blair Conor, of Seattle, learned this the hard way. Her husband, Jeff, talked her into renting their 2006 Scion xA, only to discover that most people wanted to do business while he was at the office, miles from home.

“Once we realized most people didn’t want to rent a car at night, I started handling the renting,” Blair Conor says. “He’s just not available to actually do any of it.”

A “mobile access” kit can help with this, allowing renters to get into the car using a smartphone. Ezeibe Anosike, a business student at the University of Chicago who rents out his 2007 Volkswagen GTI, has an arrangement with the valets at his parking garage, who check renters’ licenses and give them access to the vehicle. But many owners like to hand off the keys in person, to eyeball their renters and let them know that there’s a human behind this car, not just a corporation.

And maintenance and repairs take time, too. Everyone I spoke to said RelayRides was good about 
covering the cost of repairs for damages incurred during rentals, but even if the company’s insurance policy covers the expense, you may still need to get multiple estimates — and your car may be out of commission for weeks while repairs are made.

3. Set appropriate prices

Given what you now know about the costs of owning this gas guzzler and keeping it clean, tuned, insured, and ready to rent, you now have some basis for setting your prices. If my experience is any indication, the prices that RelayRides suggests may be far below what you’ll need to cover your costs. My advice to you would be to spend more time looking at what local rental agencies and “carshare” companies like Zipcar charge, and less time looking at other cars for rent on RelayRides or other “peer-to-peer” platforms. (Note, too, that the big guys change their prices with the seasons, as demand rises and falls.)

You also have a couple of tools that allow you to limit the number of miles renters put on your car. The first is to simply jack up the rates for longer-term rentals. “If they’re taking it for a week, that means that they’re driving from here to Nevada and back,” says Paul Supawanich, a San Francisco transportation planner who has rented out his 2008 Subaru Outback almost 300 times. “We tried to price it such that more people would use it for around-town trips.”

RelayRides also allows you to set a daily limit on mileage and charge renters by the mile when they go over the limit. But that doesn’t stop renters from overshooting, and the company keeps almost a third of the penalty charges.

4. Be picky about who you rent to

RelayRides checks would-be renters’ driving records, ruling out anyone with a major driving violation or more than a set number of minor violations. “It’s not like Craiglist where you’re just praying to god that the person is who he says he is,” Blair Conor says. But some people are more trustworthy than others — and even if they’re not trashing your car, returning it late can throw a wrench into the works if you’re trying to run a business — or, you know, get someplace you need to go.

Car-sharing attracts younger renters who don’t qualify to rent from the big agencies, many of which refuse to rent to anyone under 25. “I pay clear attention to renters,” Anosike says. “I look at their ratings and comments people leave, and I discriminate.”

Got a prospective renter who hasn’t built up a reputation on the car-sharing platform you’re using? Sometimes they have reputations elsewhere. I was able to check out one renter via Airbnb, where she had a whole pile of positive comments and reviews.

Play your cards right, and eventually you won’t have to rent to total strangers: “We’ve been renting for two years now,” Supawanich says. “In that time, we’ve developed a solid group of regulars who I would have no hesitation renting my car to.”

5. Err on the side of oversharing

A number of people told me that the best thing you can do for your car-sharing business is to be super clear about your expectations and your rules. “I’ve tried to be overly communicative,” Supawanich says. “That way whoever is renting knows that I’m paying attention.”

He also sends a clear message to renters by keeping his car well-maintained and clean. They see that, Supawanich says, and “they get some sense that the owner cares about that car.”
All of that communicating also tells you something about the person who wants to rent your vehicle, says Blair Conor: “One hundred percent of the time, if they’re flaky about communication, they’ll be flaky when they rent.”

6. If something goes wrong, deal with it right away

RelayRides boasts a $1 million insurance policy on all cars that are rented through its website, but the policy only covers damages that are reported within 24 hours. And even the smallest car parts can cost a pretty penny. Blair Conor says one renter accidentally pulled off the knob that allows her back seat to fold down. Her husband thought he could fix it, but let it slide, and now it looks like the whole mechanism may need to be replaced.

After a bad experience with a renter who damaged his car and denied it, Anosike has started using a vehicle inspection form, asking renters to check the car for damage before they drive away — just like a car rental agency.

7. Brace yourself for heartbreak

My last bit of advice? Prepare yourself emotionally to watch the love buggy ride off into the sunset with someone else at the wheel. It’s a big, cruel world out there. Shit happens, even to the best of drivers. “I love my car but I’ve had to learn to distance my emotions,” Anosike says.
More on that in the next post …

This is part 3 in an occasional series about car-sharing. Read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

The Green Way: How to limit your in-car pollution exposure


By Steve Scauzillo, September 14, 2013

Now I have proof.

Driving in traffic with the windows down or with the roadside air being sucked into the passenger cabin is bad for your lung health.

Real bad.

That’s what I’ve been telling my family for years but have felt like the boy who cried wolf.

Until now.

USC, the prestigious institution south of downtown L.A., released a study last week that measures in-vehicle exposure levels for particle pollution.

Scott Furin, the assistant professor of preventive medicine and Neelakshi Hudda, a research associate in the environmental health department of Keck School of Medicine, teamed up on this one. They concluded your car’s ventilation system can be an effective tool in stopping you from breathing in soot, diesel, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and any of the so-called particulate pollution that can lodge deep into your lungs and make you sick.

What they’re saying is also common sense.

When you ride in the car, hit the recirculate button. That way, the diesel exhaust from that 18-wheeler or the bits of carbon that fly off the millions of car wheels don’t end up inside your car and eventually in your lungs. Inside a car is becoming a place you don’t want to be in smoggy L.A. It’s like a gas chamber when you add in freeway gridlock.

“Short of driving less, putting your ventilation to ‘recirculate’ is the best way to reduce exposure to all types of vehicle-related pollution,” Fruin said.

And then he adds this whopper: “An hour-long commute to work or school can double your daily exposure to traffic-related particulate air pollutants.”Double your risk if you have the air conditioning sucking in air from the outside, instead of recirculating the air inside the car.
If your car is old and doesn’t have a HEPA filter or a “recirculate” button, you might want to avoid jammed freeways and take the surface streets. Side streets with less traffic (the key words here are “less traffic”) produce fewer pollutants, thereby lowering the risk to you of getting lung cancer or heart disease or asthma.
Again, common sense.
These researchers hit the nail on the head: The concentrations of particle pollutants on the L.A. freeways are five to 10 times higher than on other roadways. All those exhaust pipes so close together can’t be good.

If you’re not sure, ask your mechanic about how to activate your recirculation setting on your car. This is so important and is also an easy thing to do to protect yourself from some of L.A.’s smog. It is more effective than wearing a surgical mask. The USC researchers say a car seven years old (the average age of a car on a freeway) set on recirculation settings reduces the amount of particles inside the car from 80 percent to 20 percent. And these are the smaller particles, the ones that bypass the human defenses. The reduction of larger particles is also great, from 70 percent to 30 percent, as compared to air ventilation settings that suck in outside air.

Put another way, you get 70 percent to 80 percent less crud inside your car with recirculation settings activated as compared to car settings that bring in the outside air.

Riding the freeways with the windows down maximizes exposure to roadside pollutants. The levels inside the car equal the levels outside the car. Wow.

When I was doing research on another story, I stood at a freeway entrance to the 10 Freeway to ask people questions. I was surprised how many had their windows down on a hot day. The reason? Their cars didn’t have working air conditioning systems.

I propose that carmakers make air conditioning systems (with recirculation switches) mandatory. Vehicle AC or just a recirculating air system are more than comfort features. They are safety systems like air bags and seat belts.

These simple practices could add years to your life and your children’s lives.

Six Select Amtrak Trains to Serve ALL COASTER Stations

Six new trips every day* will beef up the COASTER schedule when Amtrak Pacific Surfliner® trains begin serving all COASTER stations (see schedule below). The agreement between North County Transit District and Amtrak will allow any passenger with a valid COASTER fare to ride the three northbound and three southbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains at no additional charge.  

That's right! More trains - same great fare! So easy, too! Board one of the designated Amtrak trains and show your valid COASTER fare. This exciting new service begins Monday, October 7 and is made possible through the support of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) efforts to enhance public transit options in the region. Information about Sorrento Valley commuter bus connections for these trains will be coming soon. 


It's Not Just Crazy Drivers: LA Streets Are Designed For Road Rage


By Shane Phillips, September 15, 2013

Still shot from viral video of a man seriously raging on an LA freeway.

One of my fellow classmates moved to Los Angeles recently, and this was how she summarized her experience thus far: "People here are all so laid back, but as soon as they get in their cars they go insane!" She's from New York, so I'm sure "laid back" is relative, but she's right: people change when they get in their cars here, becoming more aggressive, easily (and visibly) frustrated, and meaner. Highway congestion tends to get the brunt of the blame for this, and that's understandable, given that it's the worst in the nation.

Often overlooked, however, are the local and arterial streets in the region, which seem to be designed with the specific intent of frustrating drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike. They often encourage dangerous, aggressive behavior and breed animosity between those in vehicles and those on foot. I've been in LA a month; here's what I've seen so far.

Left-turn signals

This was by far the most surprising difference between LA and other cities I've been to. In most cities, if left turns are allowed at major intersections they have left-turn arrows that turn green for a few seconds, then they turn red and the forward-traveling traffic is given the green. Here, when you need to take a left turn at an intersection, you are usually given a turn lane, but no light to accompany it. You wait until all the traffic in the opposing lanes clears out, then you go. Or, if it never clears, as is the case at hundreds if not thousands of intersections across the city, you wait until the light turns red and then you go, as do one or two people behind you. If you don't run the red light, expect to be honked at vigorously and angrily, because obeying the traffic signals while making a left turn in LA is just not done.

I'm kind of making light of the situation here, but make no mistake, this is an incredible dereliction of duty on the part of city traffic engineers (or whoever is ultimately responsible). Not only does it make drivers needlessly anxious and angry with one another, it's also ridiculously dangerous. The city has given drivers literally no alternative but to blatantly ignore traffic laws, at great peril to themselves, other drivers, and pedestrians. I've already seen several very near misses as a result of this—it's just a matter of time before someone really slips up and gets themselves or someone else killed.

I assume the reason this is so common is throughput: several lanes of traffic can travel at once with a catch-all green light, rather than giving an extra signal turn to a single lane of left-turning drivers. It probably does have some positive effect on traffic. (At least, if you ignore delays caused by collisions with other cars or people.) But—and I really shouldn't even have to say this—encouraging people to illegally drive through several lanes of green-lighted cross-traffic and a crosswalk that people may have already started moving through is not the way to improve traffic flow.

Push-button crosswalk signals, aka beg buttons

People may not give much thought to these since they show up all over the city, even very pedestrian-heavy areas like downtown and Koreatown. If you don't walk often, or don't really think very hard about how these buttons work, as a pedestrian you might think these buttons are in place for your benefit. In truth, they exist to optimize vehicle travel, not that of pedestrians. (Gary Kavanagh at Streetsblog LA has a good recent writeup on the subject.)

In cities with good walking infrastructure it's taken for granted that there will be pedestrians waiting to cross the street, so they're automatically given a turn when traffic moving in the parallel direction is given the green light. This does have an impact on traffic. Since pedestrians cross the intersection slower than cars, the green light for cars may often stay green longer than it takes for all the cars to get through. This slows things down for cars waiting in the perpendicular directions, but it gives pedestrians sufficient time and safety to cross the street.

By comparison, at many intersections in Los Angeles there are buttons you must hit if you want to be given the walk signal. If you don't manage to hit it before the parallel traffic gets a green light, you're out of luck. The green light will be shorter for cars, and you're instructed to wait for a whole new light cycle. The thing is, there's no functional difference in the way traffic is moving through the intersection when you don't get to the button in time—the difference is that you have less time to cross, cars see you have a red "don't walk" signal at the crosswalk, and they don't necessarily expect you to walk. I and many others still do because it's completely safe, so long as we're aware of what the cars around us are doing and we're across by the time the cross-direction traffic is given the green. But drivers who see a pedestrian walking against a stop signal may get angry that they're being blocked from turning since they're unlikely to understand how the signal works. Combine this with a busy intersection with no left-turn arrow for cars and you've got a recipe for road rage. And that's to say nothing of how unnecessarily dangerous this can be.

As a side note, getting rid of all of these crosswalk buttons would also be cheaper in the long run, as no more would need to be installed, nor would they need to be maintained any longer. And when they do break, what are pedestrians to do? In those cases they're left with no safe means of crossing the road.

Right turns on red

This is by no means unique to LA, but in tandem with other street design problems in the city, right turns on red just add to the madness. They don't belong in big cities, LA or otherwise.

If you're waiting in your car at a red light in Los Angeles you can take a free right as long as the crosswalk and the lane you're turning into are clear. This causes a huge amount of collisions with other drivers and with pedestrians, which is problem enough, but it also causes endless annoyance and frustration to drivers in pedestrian-heavy areas.

The reason is that rather than just wait 20 seconds, drivers are encouraged to try to inch through the intersection when a gap in pedestrian traffic shows up, but anyone who's tried to navigate this delicate maneuver is familiar with the heart-in-your-throat feeling you get when someone seems to jump out of nowhere and you have to stop abruptly (or when someone just needs to hurry the hell up and get through the crosswalk). Now there's a pedestrian angry with you—and rightly so, since they probably feel like you could have seriously injured them—or you're angry at the inconsiderate ped, or both.

It may sound counter-intuitive that limiting the rights of drivers would make them better off, but in this case some paternalism is warranted. The time savings you get from threading the needle through a group of pedestrians is meager, of course. More generally, this fits with a street design ethos that seems to expect professional-level driving skill from the entire population—as does the lack of left-turn signals at intersections. If the 90% of drivers who think they're above average were actually correct, this might be okay, but in the real world building your roads so that only the most skilled can use them safely is a recipe for disaster. (As a side note, this might also discourage people from "cruising" in high-traffic areas looking for parking—estimated to be responsible for as much as 74% of downtown traffic—since the penalty for constantly circling around the block taking right turns would be much higher if you had to wait at every light.)

In either case this just adds to the stress of driving. If you've tried driving in an area like downtown you've almost certainly been yelled at by a pedestrian; it was probably as you blocked the crosswalk and they flipped you off and walked around your car. It wasn't intentional, and you felt appropriately contrite, but I can almost guarantee you ended up in that position while trying to take a free right turn. Once again, the city's design pitted you against the pedestrian and the results were predictable.

These are mostly easy fixes in the grand scheme of things, both in technical difficulty and expense. Maybe some of the congestion savings yielded from the massive traffic light synchronization effort can be used to improve safety and reduce the tension and stress of commuting.

I'm still a new resident to Los Angeles and sure to have missed some things. What other street design problems have you seen here, or in other cities? Have you seen any particularly innovative solutions?

TRUCKERS: Deadline looms for cleaner diesel engines


By David Danelski, September 16, 2013

 Maria Rodriguez watches her husband, Jose Rodriguez as he prepares his semi truck for a job on March 28, 2013 in Jurupa Valley. The family makes a living through goods movement by being truckers.   STAN LIM
Maria Rodriguez watches her husband, Jose Rodriguez as he prepares his semi truck for a job on March 28, 2013 in Jurupa Valley. The family makes a living through goods movement by being truckers.

As many truckers face a Jan. 1 deadline to retrofit their engines with pollution controls, some big rig operators are anonymously turning in their competitors for driving vehicles that fail to comply with California’s tougher emission rules, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Reporter Tony Barboza found that  truckers themselves are “the No.1 tipsters” to the California Air Resources Board,  which regulates car and truck emissions in the Golden State.

They are “placing anonymous calls and sending emails to finger competitors they say are gaining an unfair advantage by not upgrading their engines or installing expensive filters that capture harmful diesel particulates before they are released into the air,” Barboza reported.

Our recent Air of  Risk  series of about Southern California”s on-going battle with harmful air pollution  included  a story about Jose Rodriguez, a Jurupa Valley-based  independent trucker who expects to spend about $15,000 on a required diesel soot filter for his 2000 Peterbilt that he must install for the end of the year.

I spent a day riding with Rodriguez as he picked up or dropped off loads in La Mirada, Long Beach and Los Angeles before continuing east to the Phoenix area.  The job involved waiting hours outside warehouses and skillfully tying down and wrapping tarps around cargo on his flatbed so it  would arrive safe and intact.

I  gained an appreciation for Rodriguez and all the other men and women who work long hours behind the wheel to deliver the goods that keep our economy humming.  And it certainly would be unfair for Rodriguez to dig deep into his pockets for the sake of  more healthful air — if  his competitors  did not.

Exclusive: Hertz adds Tesla Model S to Dream Car fleet

 The Tesla Model S is the new must-have for high rollers. As a result, it's the electric car that makes the most sense for high-end rental fleets.


By Jim Motavalli, September 16, 2013

tesla model s on the road
That guy who just drove by in a Model S? He may be renting it from Hertz.
In terms of social media, the Tesla Model S rules. It gets by far the most mentions on Facebook, Twitter of any electric — some 49,967 of them during the one-week period from Aug. 21 to 28. It’s a buzz car, the one everybody wants and is talking about.
If I was running a rental car fleet, I’d want to have at least one Model S as the pride of the fleet, and Hertz feels the same way — it’s adding three of them to its “Dream Car” collection. The Teslas will rent for $600 a day, a relative bargain compared to the $1,500-a-day the Ferrari F430s and Lamborghini Gallardos that Hertz also rents. Other luxury cars are bargains: a Porsche 911 might be $500 a day and an AMG Mercedes $279. The first 100 miles are free, but after that you pay $1.49 a mile, and there’s a security deposit, too. Prices and requirements vary according to location.
According to Tesla's Shanna Hendriks, “We’ve seen interest from rental car companies and fleet buyers who want to provide their customers access to a high-performance sedan, which also happens to be electric.”
Hertz was already offering the Tesla Roadster, which is now out of production. Mark Frissora, Hertz’ chairman and CEO, says adding the Model S was “an easy choice” and “a thrill.” The first three cars will be available at California airports LAX in Los Angeles (one) and San Francisco's SFO (two). The company will likely add more because Hertz Dream Cars are offered in 35 markets.
It’s not surprising that one of those 35 markets is Vegas, where supercar rental fleets line the streets. Never underestimate the human urge to look like a big-time operator, at least to the valet parking guy. Hertz Las Vegas employee Riley Fairchild says that “the top-end rental business picks up when the high rollers hit town Thursday to Sunday.” They're not driving Corollas.
Tesla Model S
Speaking from experience, I can say that supercars take some experience to drive, so it’s also not surprising that Dream Cars sometimes get wrecked. A customer did $45,000 worth of damage to a Porsche Panamera recently, Fairchild said.
Incidentally, the way to make a supercar a more permanent part of your life — without actually spending $200,000 or $300,000 to buy one — is to join one of the high-end car clubs. Through them, I’ve sampled some real exotics in New York, New Jersey and Miami.
Jersey’s Vulcan Motor Club, for instance, will hand you the keys to a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a Maybach 62, or a Lamborghini LP560-4. The company had a Tesla Roadster, too, but it’s been cycled out of the fleet. At Vulcan in 2009, I drove five exotics, including an Aston Martin DB9, a Ford GT40, and that Tesla Roadster, and found the battery vehicle more more fun to drive than any other of the cars.

Middle Harbor will combine two aging container terminals into one of the world's most technologically advanced and greenest facilities.

The project will double capacity and support 14,000 new jobs — while cutting air pollution in half.


 Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE4E1e8mjLk&list=PL7C2CA9F8905EBCFE

The Port of Long Beach has signed a 40-year, $4.6 billion lease with Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) and its subsidiary, Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT), for the Middle Harbor property, in the largest deal of its kind for any U.S. seaport.
The nine-year, $1.2 billion project will upgrade wharfs, water access and storage areas, as well as add a greatly expanded on-dock rail yard. The project will cut air pollution and add thousands of jobs to the economy. Construction is well under way; work on the project started in spring 2011.

Project Highlights

  • Rehabilitate and modernize aging infrastructure at Piers E and F to meet business and consumer trade demands
  • Dramatically reduce air pollution and health risks as new equipment and efficiencies are built into the terminal
  • Create about 14,000 permanent jobs in Southern California
  • Generate 1,000 temporary construction jobs a year during the next nine years
  • Implement aggressive environmental measures of the the Green Port Policy and San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan
  • Reduce traffic impacts through increased use of on-dock rail

Phase 1 construction:

  • Renovate the existing Pier E container terminal
  • Widen and deepen Slip 3
  • Fill 22 acres of Slip 1
  • To access the Project Labor Agreement for Phase I, click here

Phase 2 improvements:

  • Connect the Pier E terminal to the Pier F container terminal by filling an additional 40 acres
  • Expand the on-dock rail yard from 10,000 linear feet to 75,000
  • From the existing 294 acres, the project will create one consolidated 304-acre container terminal, which includes 55 acres of newly created land

Environmental Protection

In keeping with the Port's Green Port Policy and the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, the project will minimize or eliminate negative environmental impacts from shipping operations. To improve air quality and reduce environmental impacts, the Project includes:
  • Shore power for ships
  • Expanded on-dock rail to shift more than 30 percent of the cargo shipments from trucks to trains
  • Cleaner yard equipment
  • Electric rail-mounted gantry (RMG) cranes
  • Green Flag Vessel Speed Reduction program requirements
  • Use of low-sulfur fuels for ships' main and auxiliary engines
  • "Green building" (LEED) environmental standards
  • Storm water pollution prevention
  • Solar panels
  • Reuse or recycle waste materials such as concrete, steel, copper, and other materials during construction


After extensive environmental review and public participation, the Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the project's EIR in April 2009. The Long Beach City Council upheld the Board's decision in May 2009.

Are cost estimates for transport projects reliable?


By Alan Davies, September 17, 2013

Oxford’s Bent Flyvbjerg reckons underestimating the costs of transport infrastructure and overestimating demand is so chronic we need to consider sueing forcasters and maybe having some serve time

Inaccuracy of transportation project cost and benefit estimates by type of project, in constant prices (Flyvbjerg)

I can’t think of too many major public infrastructure projects that ever came in on budget, much less in line with early stage cost estimates. For whatever reason, they almost always exceed the original figure that got them the go-ahead.

Yet these days early estimates of the cost of building new rail lines are routinely criticised as inflated or excessive, usually by those who feel strongly that a particular project, or class of projects, should proceed. Some believe governments strategically over-estimate costs (like the $114 billion cost of east-coast High Speed Rail) in order to deflate public pressure to build them.

The available evidence, however, overwhelmingly shows the opposite: that governments, authorities and technical experts consistently under-estimate the cost of projects and over-estimate demand. This is a subject I explored a couple of years ago (Why do the worst infrastructure projects get built?) and it’s worth revisiting.

I drew on the work of Professor Bent Flyvbjerg from Oxford University’s Said Business School, who argues that under-estimating the cost of major infrastructure projects and over-estimating the demand is so chronic that forecasters deserve some harsh medicine. He says:
Some forecasts are so grossly misrepresented that we need to consider not only firing the forecasters but suing them too – perhaps even having a few serve time.
Australians have plenty of experience with underperforming infrastructure projects. For starters, just in transport alone, there’s Brisbane’s Clem 7 and Airport Link road tunnels, Sydney’s Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels, the Brisbane and Sydney airport trains, Melbourne’s Myki ticketing fiasco, and the 2,250 km Freightlink rail line connecting Adelaide and Darwin. And they’re just the ones we know about!

Professor Flyvbjerg says cost overruns in the order of 50% in real terms are common for major infrastructure projects and overruns above 100% are not uncommon. Writing in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy (Survival of the un-fittest: why the worst infrastructure gets built – and what we can do about it), he argues that demand and benefit forecasts that are wrong by 20–70% compared with the actual outcome are also common.

Transport projects are among the worst performers (see exhibit). Professor Flyvbjerg examined 258 transport projects in 20 nations over a 70 year time frame. He found the average cost overrun for rail projects is 44.7% measured in constant prices from the build decision. For bridges and tunnels, the equivalent figure is 33.8%, and for roads 20.4%. The difference in cost overrun between the three project types is statistically significant and the size of the standard deviations shown in the exhibit demonstrates the high degree of uncertainty and risk associated with these sorts of projects.

He also found that nine out of 10 projects have cost overruns; they happen in all nations; they’ve been a constant over the last 70 years; and cost estimates have not improved over time.

And it’s not just under-estimation of costs. Errors in forecasts of travel demand for rail and road infrastructure are also endemic. He found that actual passenger traffic for rail projects is on average 51.4% lower than forecast traffic. He says:
This is equivalent to an average overestimate in rail passenger forecasts of no less than 105.6 per cent. The result is large benefit shortfalls for rail. For roads, actual vehicle traffic is on average 9.5 per cent higher than forecasted traffic. We see that rail passenger forecasts are biased, whereas this is less the case for road traffic forecasts.
He also found that nine out of ten rail projects over-estimate traffic; 84% are wrong by over ±20%; it occurs in all countries studied; and has not improved over time.

Thus the risk associated with rail projects in particular is extraordinary. They face both an average cost overrun of 44.7% and an average demand shortfall of 51.4%.

Professor Flyvbjerg identifies three possible causes for these errors. One is technical error – this relates to factors like inadequate data and the inherent difficulty of forecasting the future. It is the customary defence when projects fail. Another is psychological error, like optimism bias. Finally, there’re political and economic explanations, where promoters, investors and politicians deliberately under-estimate costs and over-estimate benefits.

Based on the various projects he examined, Professor Flyvbjerg rejects both technical and psychological theories as the primary cause of errors. He points the finger at political explanations – “strategic misrepresentation”, as he describes it. Promoters, advocates and forecasters have an incentive to intentionally under-estimate costs and over-estimate benefits to obtain approval and funding for their projects. This results in:
an inverted Darwinism i.e. survival of the unfittest. It is not the best projects that get implemented, but the projects that look best on paper…..Forecasting is mainly another kind of rent-seeking behaviour, resulting in a make-believe world of misrepresentation which makes it extremely difficult to decide which projects deserve undertaking and which do not.
Apart from “having a few forecasters serve time”, the key way to address the problem, he recommends, is via use of ‘reference class forecasting’. In essence, it involves comparing the project against a large sample of similar past projects to determine the range of cost and benefit miscalculations.

Virginia Postrel interviewed Professor Flyvbjerg for Bloomberg.com. He told her when ‘reference class forecasting’ was introduced in the UK it stopped a number of projects dead in their tracks. “This has never happened before”, he told her.

It’s possible that the initial assessment of $114 billion to construct east-coast HSR might be too high. But if it were to go ahead, it’s far more likely it would ultimately be shown to be too low. For the most part, claims that early estimates are too high are another case of strategic misrepresentation.

Port of Long Beach posts its busiest month in six years


By Karen Robes Meeks, September 16, 2013


 The container yard at the Long Beach Container Terminal in Port of Long Beach (Calif.)

 As retailers prepare for the holiday shopping season, goods movement in August at the Port of Long Beach posted its busiest month in six years, according to figures released Monday.

The Long Beach port moved 630,292 container units in August, a 16 percent spike from the same time a year ago. Imports rose 19.2 percent to 327,817 units, while exports jumped 20.2 percent to 154,118 units. Empty containers shipped overseas to be replenished with goods, went up 5.8 percent to 148,357 units.

The port — which has been seeing bigger ships coming in thanks to two of the world’s largest shippers expanding there — is having its busiest month since October 2007. Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. and France-based CMA CGM recently decided to make the Port of Long Beach their West Coast hub.

Meanwhile, cargo movement at the Port of Los Angeles remained even last month, with overall goods flow up 0.4 percent with 709,675 units when compared to August 2012. The flow of imports in Los Angeles dipped 1.41 percent to 355,682 units last month while exports fell by 3.84 percent to 158,484 units. Empties, however, were up 7.96 percent in August.

The Los Angeles port’s numbers have been stabilizing after five months of declines after Mediterranean Shipping Co. and CMA CGM transferred their business from Los Angeles to Long Beach. It’s the second straight month that the nation’s busiest seaport moved more than 700,000 units.

Art Wong, spokesman at the Port of Long Beach, said he is encouraged by the numbers at both ports, which may signal a better than expected recovery.

“It’s a good sign,” he said.

 Nationally, retail imports continue to show incremental improvement,although there’s reason to be optimistic, industry watchers said.

“As the economy continues to slowly improve, retailers are stocking up for their most important sales season of the year,” said Jonathan Gold, National Retail Federation vice president for supply chain and customs policy.

“Merchants have been very cautious so far this year, but our forecasts show that they plan to make up for it in the next few months.”

To prepare themselves for the holiday shopping seasons, retailers traditionally begin receiving shipments of goods from August to October.

Biden: US Could Be Left Behind on Infrastructure


By Bruce Smith and Russ Bynum, September 16, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden implored Americans on Monday to find the resources to invest in its ports, warning that the U.S. will fall behind its competitors unless it spends now to bolster its infrastructure.

Addressing a crowd of about 300 on a wind-swept dock in Charleston, S.C., Biden said the U.S. is behind the rest of the world. He cast infrastructure projects as key to a broader strategy of growing the middle class, calling them a big win not just for local communities, but the entire nation.

"Every time we invest in infrastructure as Democrats or as Republicans — every time we have done it — the economy grows and it grows good, decent-paying jobs," Biden said.

The Charleston swing by Biden and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was the latest stop in an ongoing effort by the vice president to shine a light on the nation's ailing roads, bridges and ports in hopes of encouraging more investment despite opposition by many Republicans to more government spending.

The two visited the Port of Baltimore last week, and after visiting Charleston on Monday, Biden headed to Savannah, Ga., whose port is a keen rival with South Carolina.

Before speaking on the Charleston docks, Biden and Foxx met with officials at the South Carolina State Port Authority's Wando Terminal in nearby Mount Pleasant. They chatted for a time with longshoremen who took a break from loading three massive container ships that were at the docks.
Charleston is working on a harbor deepening project expected to cost more than $300 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the project, but Biden said he already knew what that study would likely conclude.

"We'd better deepen it to 50 feet," Biden said. "Otherwise, guess what? We're going to be left behind, because other ports are going ahead and doing it."

Like other East Coast ports, Savannah and Charleston are scrambling for federal permits and funding to deepen their shipping channels to make room for supersized cargo ships expected after the Panama Canal finishes a major expansion in 2015. On the East Coast, only the ports of New York, Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., have water deepen enough to accommodate the massive ships with full loads and at lower tides.

In Georgia, Biden gave one of the strongest endorsements yet for the $652 million proposal to deepen the Savannah harbor, telling about 500 port workers and invited dignitaries at the dock: "We are going to get this done, as my grandfather would say, come hell or high water."

Georgia officials have been working to deepen the 30-mile Savannah River shipping channel for 17 years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave its final approval a year ago. Biden's support comes as Georgia port officials wait for Congress to lift a spending cap placed on the project in 1999 that's now almost $200 million short of the latest estimate. Then it's up to Congress and the president to fund 70 percent of the cost.

The South Carolina project is awaiting a final recommendation from the Corps that is expected in 2015, said Brig. Gen. Ed Jackson, who commands the South Atlantic Region of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But a favorable recommendation would still require Congress to earmark money for the project.

The vice president's visits gave port officials in Georgia and South Carolina a chance to cite White House support for what are considered top economic development projects in both states.

"I think it's safe to say we've got the full backing of the administration to get this project going forward as quickly as it possibly can," said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Biden, who is contemplating a third run for president in 2016, joked about potential employment opportunities as he donned a baseball provided by the Savannah port.

"In case you were wondering, it says Georgia Ports Authority," Biden said. "I may be needing a job."

MegaProject 86: LA Metro shortlists four teams for ARTI P3 project


September 16, 2013

California Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have announced that four teams have been shortlisted to participate in the Request for Proposals (RFP) process for the design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Accelerated Regional Transportation Improvements Project (ARTI Project) through a public-private partnership (P3) agreement.
The agencies have released the names of the consortia but companies included in them are not known:
  • Accelerate LA
  • Accelerate Los Angeles
  • LA Accelerated Mobility Partners
  • LA Mobility Partners
The deadline for submissions of the SOQs was 07/19/2013 and the forecasted award date is 10/31/2014.
The concession term will be 35 years after scheduled completion, or any earlier substantial completion, of all project elements.
The project:
The Project consists of the following six elements, all of which are located in Los AngelesCounty.
  • Element 1: I-5 North Capacity Enhancement
  • Element 2: I-5 North Pavement Rehabilitation
  • Element 3: SR 71 Gap (I-10 to Mission Boulevard)
  • Element 4: SR 71 Gap (Mission Boulevard to Rio Rancho Road)
  • Element 5: Soundwall Packages 10 and 10A
  • Element 6: Soundwall Package 11
The estimated investment to design and build the Project is approximately $730.4 million, expressed in year of expenditure (YOE) U.S. dollars.

Transit Villages are the way to save farms, open space


By Rod Diridon Sr., September 16, 2013

California's Department of Finance projects nearly 60 million Californians, up from today's 38 million, by 2060. That's like dropping New York's population on our beautiful state, but the growth can't be avoided. 

That human deluge can be accommodated, as in the past, with massive urban sprawl that decimates the last Central Valley farms and our valley's water supply and hillside views. That will create terminal gridlock, exacerbate climate change and jeopardize the continued economic and environmental viability of Silicon Valley.

Or we can create "transit villages" on top of many of the valley's current 50-plus rail stations.
Transit villages can accommodate much of our area's expected growth in more affordable housing atop a podium platform built right above the stations and station parking. These multi-acre platforms would be restricted to pedestrians and bicyclists with parks and family amenities interspersed between high-rise apartment and condominium towers. The podium-level floor would be dedicated to convenience commercial, neighborhood association community rooms, preschools, libraries and so on.

The transit villagers would tend to work along the transit system. So the morning commute would be an elevator to the podium floor, drop the kids at preschool, proceed by elevator to the ground floor transit (BART, light rail, commuter rail) and take that "horizontal elevator" to work. That trip is reversed at the end of the day, picking up groceries, laundry and the children on the podium level, and arriving home without having to buy $4-plus-per-gallon gas or fight parking, congestion and the baby's car seat.

Other countries with more population per acre than the U.S. seem to have more open space. Indeed, traveling through Europe or most of Asia is primarily through valuable, protected farm land with intermittent high-density cities built on top of and around rail stations. That eliminates the need for a second car, drastically reduces the carbon footprint, provides the riders and revenue that the transit systems were designed to accommodate, creates a healthy sense of local community and significantly reduces the urban sprawl, congestion and pollution that threaten our valley's future.

The regional Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission recently approved Plan Bay Area, which calls for transit villages, although often in the form of higher-density neighborhoods near rather than on top of train stations. Some of the valley's cities are beginning to consider those plans with the support of many in the region's
industrial, environmental and professional planning communities. But neighbors often seem opposed without understanding the concept or the alternatives to accommodate inevitable growth.

A relatively timid example of this idea is the five- to six-story proposed development, with ground floor commercial, at 785 The Alameda diagonally across from the San Jose Diridon Station and near the SAP Center. While worthy of support, the number of proposed units is modest for a site so well-served by transit.

The rail transit stations in the valley cost billions of dollars to build and were predicated upon nearby development and transit ridership that transit villages represent. The valley could aim for a more comprehensive approach to these valuable rail transit interchanges and proceed now to master-plan, zone and expedite the building permits for compatible developments. Our rapidly growing job base and our rapidly warming planet deserve our urgent best effort to accommodate the unavoidable population-growth avalanche with sustainable transit villages rather than more urban sprawl.

Will This Giant Bus Reshape City Traffic?


By Adele Peters, September 16, 2013



What if, instead of dedicated bus lanes, buses had hollow centers so cars could drive through them? This idea first surfaced a few years ago, but now China TBS Shipping has released a new video showing how it would work in more detail. It's an interesting way to keep public transportation moving.