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 25, 2013

California Earthquake Warning System Bill Signed, But Will It Be Ready Before Next Big Quake?


September 25, 2013

 California Earthquake Warning System

LOS ANGELES -- LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday ordered creation of a statewide earthquake early warning system that could give millions of Californians a few precious seconds of warning before a powerful temblor strikes.

The bill signed into law Tuesday directs the Office of Emergency Services to develop the system and identify sources of funding for it by January 2016. The system is expected to cost about $80 million to build and run for five years. The money cannot come from state general funds and the law doesn't specifically address alternatives, such as federal money or private sector partnerships.

"We need to develop this system without delay," said a statement from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored Senate Bill 135. "California is going to have an earthquake early warning system, the question is whether we have one before or after the next big quake."

Early warning systems are designed to detect the first, fast-moving shock wave from a large earthquake, calculate the strength and alert people before the slower but damaging waves spread. The U.S. has lagged behind Mexico, Japan and other quake-prone countries in developing a system that can detect a rupturing fault and provide enough time for trains to brake, cars to pull off roads, utilities to shut off gas lines and people to dive under tables and desks.

The system can't predict earthquakes and people at the epicenter won't get any warning, but those farther away could benefit.

During the 2011 earthquake-caused tsunami in Japan, millions of people received five to 40 seconds of warning depending on how far they were from the epicenter. The notices were sent to cellphones and broadcast over airwaves.

For several years, the U.S. Geological Survey has been testing a prototype that fires off messages to about two dozen groups in the state, mostly scientists and first responders. In March, it provided up to 30 seconds of warning of a magnitude-4.7 earthquake in Riverside County.

A full-scale system would mean upgrading current earthquake monitoring stations and adding some 440 additional sensors in vulnerable regions, such as the northern tip of the San Andreas near San Francisco and the San Jacinto Fault in Southern California.

We Could Fix America's Highways If Every Driver Kicked In an Extra $4.66 Per Month


By Eric Jaffe, September 25, 2013

We Could Fix America's Highways If Every Driver Kicked In an Extra $4.66 Per Month 
Don't let the instinctive uproar over high gas costs fool you: Americans should be paying more to drive. But "more" is a vague and relative word. Exactly how much more would it take to cover the costs of road maintenance and construction in the United States?

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently crunched some numbers and came up with an answer: $4.66 a month.

A one-paragraph primer in case you're new to the topic. The federal gas tax, which populates the Highway Trust Fund that pays for the major highways most drivers use for their commute, hasn't been raised since 1993. In the past five years Congress has injected at least $53 billion from the general taxpayer fund to cover the shortage. By 2015 the Highway Trust Fund will go broke.

What's to blame for this budget gap? Well, the increased fuel-efficiency of American automobiles accounts for some of the difference. Cars that get more miles to the gallon stop less at the pump and, by extension, deposit less into the Highway Trust Fund. But construction costs, which have increased 335 percent since 1972, have played an even greater role in the problem, says ITEP:
Fuel efficiency’s impact on the gas tax base is often cited as the main reason that gas tax revenues are falling short. In reality, however, the impact of construction cost growth on the gas tax rate has been far more important.
Together, fuel-efficiency and construction costs have reduced the value of the gas tax (relative to 1997) by 28 percent, with 22 percent assigned to construction and just 6 percent to better mpg:

These problems wouldn't be problems at all if the gas tax had been indexed to rise with inflation and to keep pace with construction costs. In that scenario, according to ITEP's calculations, the federal gas tax would stand at 29 cents per gallon, roughly a dime higher than it is today. Translate that into wallet form and you get a paltry $4.66 more each month in 2013, or about $56 more for the year:

So we could address much of the highway problem for what many Americans pump into app game cheats each month.

ITEP recommends a number of steps Congress can take to gets the Highway Trust Fund in order. First, obviously, the gas tax should be increased. It should also be configured to rise alongside construction costs and fuel-efficiency improvements. Second, it suggests a "smooth" adjustment period so drivers don't take a major tax hit all at once.

If the government had implemented such a policy back in 1997, it could have generated some $215 billion by now, ITEP figures. Even subtracting for the $53 billion transferred from the general fund, the trust fund would have had an extra $162 billion to improve America's crumbling roads and bridges or fund capital transit costs. Here's ITEP's vision of what the Highway Trust Fund should look like today:

Car-Crazy Thailand, the 'Detroit of Southeast Asia,' Emulates the Motor City in More Ways Than One


By Newly Purnell, September 25, 2013

 Car-Crazy Thailand, the 'Detroit of Southeast Asia,' Emulates the Motor City in More Ways Than One

A generous car-buying incentive program has hit a major pothole in Thailand, which touts itself as the Detroit of Southeast Asia—presumably referring to the auto manufacturing, not crushing levels of government debt—in the latest in a string of questionable stimulus programs. 

The $2.5 billion car-buying scheme was similar to the U.S. "cash for clunkers" plan, but without the clunkers—first-time buyers simply received a tax refund of up to $3,200 in an attempt to encourage lower-income Thais to buy domestically made cars.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra launched the program after massive floods in 2011 hit the country’s auto industry. Thailand is a regional hub for many car companies, especially Japanese manufacturers such as Honda, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, and autos comprise 12 percent of the country’s GDP, and at first the plan seemed to work like gangbusters, with 2012 auto production skyrocketing 67 percent from the previous year. 

But the problem with encouraging low-income buyers is they often can’t make their car payments. Reuters reported this week that more than 100,000 new buyers have defaulted on their loans, with their cars seized by finance companies. With the resulting used-car glut and the absence of the subsidies, demand for new cars has cratered, threatening the very industry that the plan was meant to help.
"The end of the incentives scheme created an irregularity which may trade off the benefits to some extent. We’ve come to see it as an unavoidable cost of the program," Nobuyuki Murahashi, President of Mitsubishi Motors (Thailand), told Reuters

The woeful outcome shouldn’t have been a surprise—the US cash for clunker program was widely seen as a failure for some of the same reasons in 2009. Unfortunately, Yingluck’s government seems to have a fondness for subsidy programs that don’t make much economic sense.
In an effort to shore up support among rural Thais, for instance, the government pledged by buy rice from farmers at a guaranteed price that was 50 percent higher than the market rate. The result: about $21 billion in Thai government losses since 2011, not to mention the loss of the Thailand's status as the world's biggest rice exporter. Vietnam and India took advantage of the misstep, and Thailand is sitting on a stockpile of millions of tons of rotting rice.
Another more recent economic policy created new subsidies for rubber farmers, who recently clashed with police in protests over their financial plight—after all, rice farmers got government funds; why shouldn’t they? Thailand is the world’s biggest rubber producer, and worldwide prices have dropped more than 45 percent over the last two years. 

Yingluck’s solution, announced earlier this month: $681 million in rubber farmer handouts. It is unclear how this subsidy will lead to anything but more losses for the government, since rubber prices are under persistent pressure due to decreased demand from China and Europe.
The recent economic policies have been costly: Thailand’s debt climbed to 44.3 percent of gross domestic product in June from 38.2 percent at the end of 2008. In June, Moody’s noted  that the country's "increasingly expensive" rice subsidy program is "credit negative," and threatens the government’s goal of balancing the budget in 2017.

"They’re running out of space because there’s a limit to how much they can borrow fiscally," Deunden Nikomborirak, research director of economic governance at the independent Thailand Development Research Institute, tells Quartz. She noted that "political commitments" like the car buying plan and agricultural subsidies are coming up against the country’s fiscal discipline guidelines, which are stipulated by the finance ministry.
"They’re hitting that limit," Duenden says.

Gold Line Foothill Extension update: concrete pours for another big bridge and grade crossings almost half complete!


By Steve Hymon, September 25, 2013

More good news for the Gold Line Foothill Extension project, which is adding 11.5 miles to the Gold Line between eastern Pasadena and the Azusa/Glendora border with six new stations in Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and two in Azusa.

Here’s the latest update from Habib Balian, CEO of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the line:
Over the last several months, the Pasadena to Azusa project has hit its full stride as our contractors continue to achieve important milestones everywhere along the 11.5-mile alignment. Nearly half of the at-grade crossings for the project are now complete, with six more currently under construction. The community impacted at each of these crossings and subsequent closures have so far been supportive and understanding so that our work can be completed in the least amount of time possible; for that we are grateful.

Earlier this week, the last concrete pour was completed for the 700-foot-long San Gabriel River Bridge (shown below). It was critical that all structural work using the river bed be complete by October, in time for the rainy season; and FTC is on schedule to achieve that goal.


FTC is also making great strides in completing the realignment of the nearly four miles of freight track between the San Gabriel River Bridge and the Glendora city boundary.

This work had to be completed without interrupting freight service into the San Gabriel Valley. All work is now complete on the eastern portion of the shared corridor – between San Gabriel Avenue in Azusa and the Glendora boundary. All at-grade crossing improvements within this section of the project are now complete, as well as three new freight bridges. Work continues on the realignment west of San Gabriel Ave.

At the Operations Campus, crews are nearly ready to start laying the six miles of track that will be installed within the $265 million facility. As of today, more than half of the 213 OCS pole foundations are drilled and poured, and the Maintenance of Way storage structure is nearly complete (see photos below of the site looking south over the future vehicle storage area, as well as my team viewing the new structure).


FTA agreement helps ID Buy America-compliant products


September 24, 2013

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced an interagency agreement that will make it easier for manufacturers and transit agencies to identify domestically made products, such as rolling stock and other steel and iron components that comply with FTA’s “Buy America” rules requiring at least 60% of the components must be manufactured in the U.S.
The agreement, with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) also will foster a growing network of U.S. equipment manufacturers and potential suppliers.

“The Department of Transportation’s Buy America program promotes American jobs, encourages innovation and revitalizes our manufacturing sector as we build a strong domestic supply chain for our nation’s infrastructure needs,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to support programs like this one so that more of America’s hard-working families have access to good opportunities and a brighter future.”

Through Buy America, FTA helps to ensure that transit vans, buses, streetcars and railcars funded with taxpayer dollars are built in the U.S. using American-made materials and labor. As part of the agreement, NIST will help FTA identify U.S. companies that make or have the capability to make products for the transit industry that are particularly difficult to source or are currently unavailable in the U.S. This will help to maximize compliance and minimize waiver requests seeking Buy America exemptions from the U.S. Department of Transportation. NIST will also conduct a series of outreach events to connect equipment manufacturers with potential suppliers.

“Our goal is simply to make sure that we invest America’s taxpayer dollars into America’s transit workforce and industry,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. “Between 2008 and 2012, FTA reduced the number of Buy America waivers allowing companies to source their materials off-shore from 37 down to just three, which clearly shows that our industry partners are finding new and innovative ways to make and assemble transit vehicles and other components here at home.”

Consistent with the Obama Administration’s efforts to boost domestic employment through infrastructure investment, FTA has dramatically strengthened its adherence and enforcement of its Buy America rules. FTA has vigorously investigated alleged violations and has also begun reviewing select rolling stock procurements to ensure that the vehicles rolling off the assembly line actually contained the percentage of U.S.-made infrastructure required under its regulations.

So, Apparently It's Cool to Hang Out of Moving, Tilted Cars in Saudi Arabia Now


By Mark Byrnes, September 25, 2013

With long, desert roads and a robust car culture, Saudi Arabia's stunt-loving drivers are well-documented and famously insane. But things like drifting, or "Hagwalah," the more dangerous Saudi version which involves using cars with front instead of back wheel drives, can only keep people busy for so long.

"Sidewall Skiing" is what's hot right now. The stunt involves incredibly good drivers balancing a moving car on one side (usually by driving one pair of wheels up on a ramp) while the passengers get out on the other. Once up on two wheels, the driver keeps the car balanced by steering. Sometimes the human cargo on board change some tires in the process.

If you're having a hard time imagining just how this looks, Reuters photographer Mohamed Al Hwaity recently snapped a few shots of "Sidwall Skiing" in action:


youths demonstrate a stunt known as "sidewall skiing" (driving on two wheels) in the northern city of Hail, in Saudi Arabia March 30, 2013. 

High five!


The Guardian has taken note as well, sending a video team to capture sidewall skiiers in action. One of the drivers claims "it's not dangerous," adding that "with the public present and safety measures in place, everything is fine." Yeah, okay:

Skiing has been around as a stunt performed on various TV shows and movies for a long time. But it doesn't normally include passengers hanging out the elevated side of the car.

While we'll never condone such activities, we must admit MIA's music video for "Bad Girls" makes the whole thing a little more seductive. Just not nearly enough to think it's worth trying:

Congrats, Saudi Arabia. You've managed to make the guy sitting on the hood of a moving car, a fleet of drifters chasing away a cop, and the dudes shooting rifles out a vehicle while drifting look almost tame.

Love or Hate It, User-Generated Urbanism May Be the Future Of Cities


By Jordan Kushins, September 23, 2013





Your regular commute is likely a bit of a drag: enduring traffic-clogged freeways, navigating inefficient public transport, hustling down blocks that could use a little TLC. But eh, that’s just modern life, right? Well... kind of. In some ways, navigating the realities of your day-to-day is a bit like backwards time travel. The world you step into when you walk out your front door was actually conceived a long time ago, when logistics of modern life were very, very different.

“The traditional model of city-making has historically involved experts with a definitive, long-term plan executed over time. The issue with that is that culture changes faster than infrastructure; we’ve surpassed our ability to keep up. One of the consequences is that we’re left living in cities we planned 50 to 60 years ago."

That’s Blaine Merker. He’s a principal and one of the co-founders of Rebar, an art and design studio in San Francisco set on evolving the way people interact and engage with their environment. He and his team are the co-founders of Adaptive Metropolis, an upcoming symposium focusing on a new wave of grassroots urbanism that addresses the needs of places and constituents—immediately. By the people, for the people. Merker calls it “user-generated urbanism,” or "collaborative city-making." But what, exactly, does that mean?

These ideas may be formed within traditional disciplines—architecture, engineering, landscape, design—but are adapted and promoted by locals who are most familiar with the problems and issues facing their areas. Merker describes three models:

Open Source

Merker points to Park(ing) Day as a prime example of "open source" urbanism. In 2005, the Rebar gang put two hours worth of coins in a parking meter and rolled out some sod in a spot on a San Francisco street. Eight years later, the open-source movement has gone global with some seriously impressive installations that encouraging people to slow down, have a seat, and experience their neighborhoods with a new perspective. Check out the map for a look at how this year's event—which took place on Friday, September 20th—went down. 

Love or Hate It, User-Generated Urbanism May Be the Future Of Cities


This approach doesn’t attempt to lay out an entire, established plan upfront. Merker compares it to software development: “Try to get a beta out and break it early,” he says. “Fail quick fail often in an urban context where the risks and stakes are lower.”

San Francisco’s Pier 70 is in the early stages of a 15-year redesign by Forest City that will transform the iconic locale into a mixed-use hub for creative businesses, living spaces, rotating pop-ups, and retail space. By mapping out a plan and slowly enacting various elements, Merker says the firm hopes to be able to gauge the popular response and adjust accordingly. 

Love or Hate It, User-Generated Urbanism May Be the Future Of Cities

Peer Network Design

These plans focus more on crossing boundaries between disciplines—and Merker mentions the sharing economy as a great example. Take our hyper-congested streets, 75 percent of which he says are dedicated to the movement and storage of private vehicles. The existence of services like ZipCar and City Car Share are taking a significant chunk of these off the road, subsequently reducing gridlock and freeing up the thoroughfares for other shared services. “Access instead of ownership,” he says. 

Love or Hate It, User-Generated Urbanism May Be the Future Of Cities

Social media has expanded the reach of these projects and put hyper-local efforts in an international spotlight, allowing for critical feedback and the dissemination of these ideas in other cities.
And of course, Merker's ideas have sparked some spirited debate, as well. Even those who appreciate these concepts in theory can be critical of the execution—just have a look at Alissa Walker's recent take on the aforementioned Park(ing) Day. But to the Adaptive Metropolis gang, these opinions are actually part of the plan. “Friction is an incredibly productive space,” Merker says. Dialogue is key, and the discussions that result from the tension between guerrilla movements and tactical solutions will get to the heart of what matters to the people who these changes impact the most. 

The symposium isn't just a way to catalog or blindly applaud the increasing real world examples popping up; Merker hopes to establish a critical framework to consider these projects beyond their relative "tweetability." Ultimately, he views the event as “the start of a manifesto,” a kind of a call to action for professionals and locals alike to rally together and collaborate on new ways to improve the places they call home.

“Station to Station” Coming to Los Angeles


September 19, 2013

 The LA Streetcar.

In New York, “Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening” art train kicked off and started its trek across the nation. This brain child of video artist Doug Aitken uses an Amtrak train to transport musicians and artists who will perform at 10 stops on the train’s trek from New York to California. The sides of the train would be fitted with LED lights forming a very long video screen that responds to the speed of the train and surrounding weather. LACMA is one of seven museums along the route that will partner with Station to Station and receive a portion of sales from tickets sold for music performances. The train will stop at Los Angeles Union Station on Thursday, September 26. Follow the train by visiting the official website.

Assemblyman Chris Holden supports the use of arbitrary Eminent Domain in Redevelopment


September 25, 2013

More bizarre behavior I'm afraid. Our Assemblyman came to speak to the City of Sierra Madre last night about what he called the "State of the State." It turned into a sales pitch for some very scary Sacramento initiatives. None more so than SB-1. Here is what Chris Holden's meeting handout had to say on that topic:

SB-1 (Steinberg) - Allows cities to establish a Sustainable Communities Investment Authority and direct tax increment revenues to that Authority in order to address blight by supporting development in transit priority project areas, small walkable communities and clean energy manufacturing sites.

That is, of course, the airbrushed version. Here is how the Los Angeles Times more accurately portrayed this bill:

Bill advances creating new redevelopment in California (link): Denounced by one property owner as a “communist land grab,” a bill is advancing in the California Legislature that would allow local governments to spend tax money to seize land from residents and provide it at a discount to private developers.

Dubbed by some as the “son of redevelopment,” SB 1 would replace redevelopment project areas disbanded more than a year ago with new Sustainable Communities Investment Areas.
The establishment of the areas would allow local officials to use money from the growth in property tax revenue, bonded indebtedness and powers of eminent domain to take properties from some and give them to others for economic development. Unlike the old redevelopment areas, government officials would not have to show that an area is blighted to be targeted.
“There is a big void without redevelopment,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told an Assembly committee Wednesday. The panel approved his bill, which he said “is good for jobs and its good for the environment.”
However, more than a dozen property rights activists testified against the bill before the Assembly Local Government Committee. The measure would have a “chilling effect on the rights of property owners,” and result in a “drastic loss” of farmland, said John Gamper, a lobbyist for the California Farm Bureau Federation.
After one woman called the measure  a “communist land grab,” Republicans also weighed in with opposition. Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) said many residents don’t trust government to have the power to take private property. “That’s of huge concern for most people in California, that the government will abuse that authority,” she said.
SB-1 is little more than a mechanism by which shady Sacramento politicians like Chris Holden can pay back the unions, developers and Realty organizations that shower them with money by allowing local government to seize the property of private individuals on the cheap. Done so that certain favored interested parties can build things like condo complexes and bowling alleys.

Sierra Madre is a town where the residents voted overwhelming to outlaw eminent domain. Chris Holden believes he has the right to not only reimpose it upon us from above, but do so in a way that gives the maximum possible rewards to his most prominent campaign donors. All backed up by the muscle of our pathological central state government.

We really need to work very hard to defeat this guy in the next election. He's dangerous.

Vanmoof's New Electric Bike Will be the Most Intelligent Commuter Bike in the World Read more: Vanmoof's New Electric Bike Will be the Most Intelligent Commuter Bike in the World | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building


By Lori Zimmer, August 19, 2013

green design, eco design, sustainable design, Vanmoof, Vanmoof 10 electrified bike, ebike, electric city bike
Vanmoof’s 10 is a sleek new electrified bike that could make any commute incredibly easy and high tech. The Dutch bike company‘s electric-assist city bike features an array of gadgetry like smart sensors, GPS tracking, an onboard computer and of course an electric power-booster. The super smart bike uses Vanmoof’s lightweight frame and has an integrated 209Wh battery system for smooth riding.

 green design, eco design, sustainable design, Vanmoof, Vanmoof 10 electrified bike, ebike, electric city bike

 Made from anodized aluminum, the Electrified looks like your typical stylish city bike. The bike’s front hub houses a 250W electrical motor which can power up to a speedy 37 miles per hour. The battery reaches its full charge in just three hours, making it easy to regain its power while you work.
The electrified bike can be switched into free-peddling mode, riding just like a regular bike, but when the commute gets tough, can employ a little electric help to get you home a little faster. The built in sensors monitor your commute, and adjust the electric power suited to the needs of the ride and terrain. The smart sensors detect when you need a little extra peddle power, and when you’re fine on  your own.

Other perks include an enclosed chain to keep work wear grease-free, a 40 lux LED headlight and tail light, and of course the GPS tracking system which can double as a recovery tool if the sweet bike is stolen. Presale of the bike have already been sold out, but the Vanmoof 10 Electrified will be on the market in April of 2014.

Could Nighttime Deliveries Solve a Lot of Our Traffic Problems?


By Henry Grabar, September 25, 2013

 Could Nighttime Deliveries Solve a Lot of Our Traffic Problems?

Jose Holguín-Veras would like you to guess how many deliveries are made in Manhattan every day.
3,000? 30,000?

"Between 200- and 300,000 per day," he answers. That's a lot of double-parked cargo vans and honking box trucks clogging city streets during business hours.

For the last dozen years, Holguín-Veras, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, has been trying to shift the burden of those deliveries to quieter nighttime streets. In a series of trials, he has evaluated the potential benefits of having New York's restaurants, shops and offices receive their goods between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., while most of us are in bed.

 t's an appealing thought, from an efficiency standpoint, and the results [PDF] are impressive. In a 2010 test period during which 25 "receivers"—industry slang for any business getting a shipment—opted to take deliveries at night, average truck speeds rose from 3 mph (daytime) to 8 mph (nighttime). The average length of each stop decreased by 72 percent. With little traffic to contend with, trucks made deliveries on time, and there were no parking tickets. Conducting off-hours deliveries is about 30 percent cheaper, the report concluded.

A slightly larger program, called deliverEASE, has been up and running since 2011. With funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, deliverEASE has offered $2,000 stipends to receivers like Whole Foods, Gristedes, CVS, and the Grand Central Partnership that commit to off-hours delivery.

This sort of targeted effort can be more effective than you might expect, because some receivers are much worse for traffic than others. "Grand Central Terminal is a dot on the map," Holguín-Veras says. But with a hundred businesses inside, it receives between 300 and 400 deliveries per day. All in all, Manhattan has 56 buildings that produce between four and eight percent of its truck-hauled freight traffic.

It may be hard to visualize how 300,000 daily deliveries contribute to Friday traffic in New York City, but Holguín-Veras says even a six percent reduction in that number—the sum of those 56 buildings—would have a noticeable impact on traffic and emissions. If 30 percent of deliveries occurred at night instead of during the day, the savings would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And that doesn't include the related benefits to those who try to navigate the city during the daylight hours.

Many citizens, though, care more about sleeping through the night than getting stuck in traffic during the day. The beeping and clacking of nighttime deliveries provoke complaints in nearly every city. New York, with its numerous mixed-used neighborhoods, will not be immune from a sort of NIMBY effect standing in the way of maximum delivery efficiency.

Holguín-Veras maintains that the issue is overblown. "That is a myth," he exclaims. "The truckers are so interested in making this work they will do whatever it takes to ensure that these things do not become a problem."

In the twelve years since he's been studying the issue, Holguín-Veras has learned that a focus on supplier behavior (i.e. high tolls) is not the right tactic. "Truckers are the weakest element in the supply chain. They simply swallowed the tolls," he says.

Instead, his programs have taken the issue directly to receivers, who have the power to make off-hours deliveries happen... overnight.

But the government can't offer $2,000 to every small or large business in the country, so a long-term shift to midnight freight will require other incentives. Naturally, Holguín-Veras has some ideas. First, receivers need to be made aware of the cost and reliability benefits of off-hours delivery. Second, they need to trust suppliers to make late-night deliveries on their own, to avoid incurring the cost of an all-night employee supervisor. (Thirty percent of businesses already trust their suppliers to do this, he says.)

Perhaps most importantly, Holguín-Veras thinks, consumers need to take responsibility for the issue. He envisions a notification system like the one that the NYC Department of Health uses to display the grades from restaurant inspections, with large letters in every restaurant and shop window.

"If we had a ratings system," he says, "customers like you and I could decide to patronize places that used sustainable delivery methods. I'm basically raising hell about doing that. Let's use the power of the consumer to change the behavior of the companies."

I asked if any city had tried to create such an incentive for off-hours deliveries.

"Julius Caesar mandated night deliveries in Rome," he responds. "The whole thing collapsed due to opposition of receivers and Roman citizens."

Firefighters make progress in Sierra and Madre brush fires


By Robert J. Lopez, September 24, 2013

 DC-10 battles Madre and Sierra fires

A DC-10 drops retardant Tuesday on the Madre fire in the Angeles National Forest above Azusa. A DC-10 was also used to battle the Sierra fire in the Cajon Pass.

Firefighters made progress in their efforts to control two brush fires burning in Southern California mountains, officials said Tuesday night.

In the Madre fire above Azusa, about 450 firefighters had the blaze 70% contained and were continuing to make headway, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The blaze broke out Monday afternoon north of California 39 in San Gabriel Canyon and briefly threatened several homes before ground crews and aircraft were able to knock down flames.

The Sierra fire in the Cajon Pass broke out Tuesday afternoon and quickly spread to 200 acres west of the 15 Freeway near Glen Helen Road, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Firefighters were dispatched to protect 20 to 30 mobile homes threatened by flames on Glen Helen Road between the 15 Freeway and Swarthout Canyon Road.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered Tuesday evening for that area, officials said. The evacuation orders would become voluntary at midnight.

The Forest Service credited an aggressive air attack in helping nearly 400 firefighters on the ground battle the blaze. The aerial assault involved five helicopters and six air tankers. The tankers included a DC-10, which drops thousands of gallons of fire retardant during bombing runs.

"Aircraft are making good progress," Forest Service spokesman John Miller told The Times earlier Tuesday.

The fire was expected to be fully contained by Friday evening, according to the Forest Service.

Century City tower site runs into quake fault questions

Los Angeles approved a residential tower without a fault review. But an MTA study suggests the site might lie over an active fault.


 By Rong-Gong Lin II and Rosanna Xia, September 24, 2013

 Century City, foreground

 The Santa Monica fault runs about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean to Century City, foreground, and is considered active by the state.

 Apparent fault under planned tower
 Graphic: Apparent fault under planned tower

When Los Angeles officials approved plans for a 39-story luxury residential tower in Century City, they declared the site suitable for development without a review of underground earthquake faults.

Not long after, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority examined the area as the site for a subway station. It was alarmed at what it found: an earthquake fault running below Santa Monica Boulevard. The MTA concluded that the area was too hazardous for the subway station.

The agency's research also shows a strand of the Santa Monica fault runs underneath the tower property.

Responding to questions from The Times about the site, the city acknowledged Tuesday that it did not require a fault investigation before the City Council approved the tower in 2009. Such a study would determine definitively whether the fault is actually below the proposed tower.

City Planning Director Michael LoGrande said in a statement "there may be new fault information revealed by other more recent nearby projects" that could prompt the city to require a fault study before the developer is given construction permits.

The tower development illustrates a loophole in state law banning new buildings directly above faults.

Experts say structures built on top of faults can be torn in two during a large earthquake as the ground splits. Los Angeles is sliced by multiple active fault lines. The Santa Monica fault, which runs about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean to Century City, is considered active by the state. Seismologists believe it is capable of producing an earthquake greater than magnitude 7.0.

But California has not yet drawn the fault on its regulatory map. As a result, the Century City property is not covered by the state's building ban known as the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act.

The city is already facing criticism over its decision to approve several developments in Hollywood without having required detailed fault studies despite their proximity to the Hollywood fault. Like the Santa Monica fault, state officials say the Hollywood fault is active and should be covered by the zoning law.
Westfield, which is building the tower, is taking steps to resume the project, which had stalled during the recession. A Westfield spokeswoman, Catharine Dickey, said in an email that the company hired a firm to conduct a detailed seismic evaluation now underway. She declined to say when the seismic study began or when it will be completed.
In a 2008 geology report filed by Westfield, the company said it relied on geological information available at that time and found "no active or potentially active faults located on the project site."
"Therefore, the proposed project would not result in substantial damage," the report said, "or expose people to substantial risk of injury."
Geologists said they were puzzled about why neither the city nor the developer paid more attention to the Santa Monica fault. Seismic experts have known about the fault and its approximate location for decades.
In fact, Santa Monica Boulevard follows the path of ancient earthquakes that left a smooth path for the Red Car trolley line that once ran along it, according to USC earth sciences professor James Dolan.
Experts said careful digging is necessary to determine exactly where the fault runs and whether its path actually compromises the footprint of the proposed Westfield tower. The MTA's maps of earthquake faulting in Century City are the most extensive to be published. But experts said simply relying on the report to determine the fault location is not enough, they said.
Dolan, a leading expert on the Santa Monica fault and a consultant for the MTA's fault study, said the cost of building a large project is so high that basic seismic research makes sense.
"This is a relatively minor expense, just for the peace of mind of knowing that your building isn't on the fault," he said. "It's imperative that they do detailed subsurface investigation to determine where the fault is and where the fault isn't."
The MTA's study of Century City cost $4 million and was extensive. Geologists for the transit agency performed a kind of underground sonar, extracted 56 soil borings and performed 192 tests that push a sensor into the ground, said geologist Martin Hudson, an MTA consultant.
The seismic experts confirmed that this area of Century City is in the middle of a complex zone of earthquake faults. In addition to the Santa Monica fault, to the east is an extension of the Newport-Inglewood fault, which produced the devastating 1933 Long Beach earthquake.
Quake safety concerns prompted the MTA to move its proposed subway station south, to Constellation Boulevard, where officials said there was no evidence of earthquake faults.

State Agencies Embrace $11 Mil. Initiative to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Roads


September 24, 2013
 UC Davis Prof. Susan Handy, director of the new National Center for Sustainable Transportation.

 UC Davis Prof. Susan Handy, director of the new National Center for Sustainable Transportation.

The California State Transportation Agency today joined the California Air Resources Board and California Department of Transportation in announcing support for a new national research program to support sustainable transportation.

“The California Transportation Agency is taking action to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation,” California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly said. “Caltrans is already reducing emissions by at least 160,000 tons annually—the equivalent of removing 31,000 cars off the road—while the high-speed rail system prepares to bring environmental benefits for years to come. This research program will help find even more way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preparing for the extreme weather events from climate change.”

The National Center for Sustainable Transportation at University of California Davis will receive $5.6 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $5.6 million in matching funds from state, regional and local agencies to support its research.

Examples of some research goals include: improving the durability of construction materials, improving mobility with new traffic control devices, and supporting the transition toward zero-emission vehicles and new fuel technology. In addition, the National Center for Sustainable Transportation at UC Davis will:

* Support technology and innovation that helps fight climate change and boost sustainability in transportation;
* Develop research that helps mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts; and
* Work with Caltrans and other state and local partners to deliver new transportation technology and innovation to help fight climate change.
logo_caltransCaltrans is also working with the UC Pavement Research Center, which is focused on improving the longevity and sustainability of construction materials. These innovations include new pavements that can be mixed at lower temperatures, reducing emissions and fuel usage. Caltrans has implemented many concrete and pavement strategies that are cutting statewide emissions by more than 108,000 tons of CO2 equivalent annually.

Caltrans is also cutting greenhouse gas emissions by reducing traffic congestion, expanding active transportation and embracing new technology in construction materials, alternative fuels, efficient lighting and renewable energy. Installing efficient roadway lighting and using alternative fuels and vehicles in the state fleet cut greenhouse gases by 41,000 tons of CO2 equivalent per year.

“To prepare for climate change and adapt to its effects, Caltrans is focused on preserving our state’s existing transportation infrastructure while continually innovating to find better solutions,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty in a letter introducing a 114-page report from 2013 documenting Caltrans activities to fight climate change. “Caltrans is also working with our other partners to cut greenhouse gas emissions by continually working to reduce traffic congestion, expand active transportation such as walking and biking, and also embrace new technology in construction materials, alternative fuels, efficient lighting and renewable energy,” Dougherty added.
Caltrans was one of the first state agencies to successfully certify its greenhouse gas emissions inventory with the California Climate Action Registry, a program committed to fighting climate change through accounting and emissions reductions.

Caltrans also engages in its own cutting-edge transportation testing and research through the California Transportation Laboratory (TransLab). TransLab conducts specialized laboratory and field testing, provides inspections, and gives expert advice on all phases of transportation engineering involving materials and manufactured products. TransLab engineers and technicians have earned a worldwide reputation as leaders in the field of materials engineering, seismic safety, and environmental analysis.

For more information on the new research program visit the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies http://www.its.ucdavis.edu/?post_type=slide-show&p=17078 

For more information on Caltrans efforts to fight climate change: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/orip/climate_change/documents/Caltrans_ClimateChangeRprt-Final_April_2013.pdf#zoom=75 

For more information on the Caltrans Transportation Laboratory visit http://www.dot.ca.gov/ctjournal/CTJ_2009_Is1_translab.html 

The California State Transportation Agency, which launched July 1, 2013, is responsible for transportation-related departments within the state: Board of Pilot Commissioners, California Highway Patrol, California Transportation Commission, Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, High-Speed Rail Authority, New Motor Vehicle Board and Office of Traffic Safety. The Agency was formed as part of Governor Brown’s Government Reorganization Plan, which became law in 2012. In June, the Agency announced $87 million in new federally-funded traffic safety grants administered by the Office of Traffic Safety. Last year, the Agency formed the California Freight Advisory Committee to help determine the state’s plans for freight-related transportation investments in California. The Agency also formed the California Transportation Infrastructure Priorities Workgroup, which will help set priorities for transportation spending and explore long-term funding options to deliver California’s infrastructure needs.