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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Teen drivers with teen passengers more likely to die in accidents


By Ashley Halsey III, September 26, 2013

 A study released Thursday shows that 15- to 17-year-old drivers are almost eight times more likely to get into a fatal accident while carrying two or more teenage passengers.

WASHINGTON — When a novice teen driver dies in a crash, odds increasingly are that there is another teenager in the car, new research shows.

For more than a decade, states have been imposing restrictions on teenage drivers that likely deserve credit for an overall decline in teenage traffic fatalities. But a study released Thursday shows that 15- to 17-year-old drivers are almost eight times more likely to get into a fatal accident while carrying two or more teenage passengers.

The analysis of 10 years of national traffic data notes that the 30 percent increase in deaths when other teens are present came at “the same time text messaging exploded in American society.”
“We can’t scientifically state that there’s a direct link between these two things yet, but it seems reasonable to suspect a connection,” said Russell Henk, a researcher at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) who wrote the study.

Drivers age 19 and under are three times more likely to die in accidents, and traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death in that age group.

From 2002 to 2011, the number of novice teenage drivers in fatal accidents dropped by 60 percent, but the percentage of fatalities that occurred when other teenagers were in the vehicle increased each year.

The District of Columbia and 47 states have adopted graduated licensing programs that put specific requirements on teenage drivers, including a restriction on the number of passengers they can carry. All states except Vermont and Nevada limit teen driving overnight.

Virginia, for example, permits no passengers under age 18 for the first year. Maryland allows no passengers under the age of 18 for the first five months. All three Washington area jurisdictions ban cellphone use by novice teenage drivers, as do 35 other states, and texting by all drivers is outlawed in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

The graduated licensing schemes lift restrictions as drivers age and gain experience, an approach born out by the study’s comparison of 15- to 17-year-olds with drivers in the next age group, 18 to 24. While deaths with teen passengers on board increased each year among the younger group, it declined over 10 years in the older group.

“Novice drivers (15 to 17 years old) are at a distinct disadvantage, not only because of their limited driving experience, but also because of their incomplete brain development,” the TTI study says. “Research has found that the prefrontal cortex of the brain — the region responsible for weighing the consequences of risky behavior — is the last part of the brain to develop.”

Less capable of correctly assessing risk, those teenagers are more easily distracted and more likely to take risks when other teenagers are in the vehicle, the report said.

House to hold hearing on driverless cars


By Keith Laing, September 25, 2013

he House Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing next month about "the future role of autonomous vehicles in U.S. transportation," officials with the panel announced on Wednesday.

Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) proclaimed driverless cars were "the future of transportation" after riding in one in his home state earlier this month.

“This technology has significant potential to make transportation safer and more efficient," Shuster said in a statement after his ride.  "We have to figure out how to embrace technology, in the way we build our infrastructure, comply with existing and future laws, and ensure the safety of the public."

That task will fall now to the Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), who will chair the Oct. 9th hearing. 

Officials with the panel said lawmakers would discuss "the potential impacts of the technology on the transportation network and federal policies that may be necessary for their integration into the infrastructure system."

$1 solution for Highway 99 tunnel? New proposal surfaces

 A simple price range of $1 to $1.25 might be an acceptable way to raise dollars with less traffic diversion than earlier Highway 99 tolling proposals.


By Mike Lindblom, September 25, 2013

After seven tries, the folks studying Highway 99 tunnel tolls may have untangled a knot — by suggesting a simple rate of $1.25 peak and $1 the rest of the time.

Those amounts are reduced from earlier peak numbers (as high as $3) that threatened to cause intolerable traffic diversion onto downtown Seattle streets, yet they exceed some low-cost scenarios (as cheap as 50 cents midday) that would tear a hole in the tunnel’s budget.

So-called “Scenario 7” hasn’t been approved, but will be discussed further in the next work session, tentatively scheduled for late October, said Maud Daudon, chairwoman of the Advisory Committee on Tolling and Traffic Management, after a meeting Wednesday.

Scenario 7 represents the best balance between generating money and minimizing traffic diversion, said Mark Bandy, traffic engineer for the state Department of Transportation.

Nonetheless, the DOT predicts 4,200 drivers would still avoid the tunnel during the three hours of peak traffic in the afternoon — enough to aggravate downtown congestion, especially if possible bus-service cuts occur, or if the state and city road departments fail to improve traffic signals and freeway bottlenecks.

Those 4,200 vehicles would be enough to fill two surface-street lanes downtown, plus one lane on First Hill east of Interstate 5, said Bob Chandler, deputy director for special projects at the Seattle Department of Transportation. Downtown has 17 to 19 north-south lanes, and there’s no space to build more, Chandler said.

Also, the city is moving to create protected bicycle lanes and a streetcar, while still maintaining bus lanes. A single collision, crime, protest or festival can trigger gridlock now.

“Our system really is rather fragile,” said Kevin Desmond, general manager for King County Metro Transit.

The agency is pressing for new taxes to avert a service cut next year, when state aid for Highway 99 transit and a King County $20 car-tab fee are both set to expire.

Daudon said a major challenge is to handle the economic boom from Amazon’s growth in South Lake Union and its three-tower campus planned for north of Westlake Center.
Ultimately, it will be the state Transportation Commission that decides the toll amounts. The advisory committee can only issue a recommendation.

Lawmakers have demanded that the tolls pay off $200 million in construction debt for the $3.1 billion replacement for the old Alaskan Way Viaduct, of which the $2 billion tunnel — scheduled to open by the end of 2015 — is the costliest part. Over 30 years, tolls also must cover $160 million in operating costs, a $190 million fund for major repairs, and $55 million to $85 million for insurance — and the estimated $350 million cost to collect the $1.1 billion in toll payments Scenario 7 is expected to generate.

The toll committee changed some assumptions to find a balance. Scenario 7 would charge tolls around the clock, and it assumes annual toll increases of 1.3 percent.

The embrace of seven-day tolling underscores how conditions for Seattle travelers are in flux, even in just four years since the tunnel was chosen. Transit ridership is growing rapidly, and only a third of downtown workers drive solo.

On Saturday afternoons, traditionally regarded as an off-peak time, it’s now common to see stop-and-go traffic on I-5 — so maybe there’s not such a temptation for drivers to use the freeway merely to save $1.

Handouts from SR-710 TAC Meeting #12 9/11/13

From Sylvia Plummer, September 26, 2013

METRO has posted online the handouts from the SR-710 Technical Advisory Committee meeting held on  September 11, 2013.  Lots of new information given in the handouts at the TAC meeting, lots of questions remain.

Be sure to look at these pages:

page 17 - Where are all the vehicles coming from for the Freeway Tunnel alternative?

page 37 - South Portal Ventilation Locations (2 proposed locations)

page 40 - Preliminary Operations and Maintenance Control (OMC) Building Concept

page 41 - (North Portal Ventilation Locations (2 proposed locations)

page 44 - Preliminary North OMC Building Landscape Concept

South Pasadena meets with Antonovich 9/25/13

From Sylvia Plummer with thanks to Sam Burgess, September 26, 2013

There was very limited time for discussion on the 710 issue, however, a few important points were made by Frank Quan of Metro.
On the question of who will make the final decision on an alternative, Frank Quan began with Metro's usual confusing statement.  So much so that Supervisor Antonovich twice asked him if he was saying that CalTrans was making the final decision.  Finally after some discussion Mr. Quan clarified:
1- The Technical Staff will make a recommendation on a preferred alternative to the Metro Board.
2- The Metro Board will either vote to accept the recommendation or vote for an alternative to their liking.  They will then forward this recommendation to the Director of CalTrans District 07.
3- The CalTrans District 07 Director will make a final decision on the locally preferred alternative and certify the EIR.
4- The final decision will not go to CalTrans/Sacramento or to the California Transportation Commission as there will be no state funds involved.
Also.  The only money now allocated for the 710 is the $780 million from Measure R and therefore they are looking at a P3 (for the tunnels).

There was also a discussion about completion of the Gold Line

This is from the Pasadena Star News article:

Yet Mayor Richard Schneider had a speedier solution in mind.
“The city of South Pasadena has always supported the Gold Line extension. We’re about $800 million short. May I suggest to you that you could take the $700-plus million for the (710) tunnel and put it into the Gold Line?”
City Manager Sergio Gonzalez echoed Schneider’s sentiments.
“Don’t waste time (with the SR-710 Environmental Impact Report).  Don’t waste money,” Gonzalez said.  “Just build the Gold Line and make everyone happy.”
Cities such as Alhambra, Monterey Park and San Gabriel have traditionally supported closing the 710 gap and have embraced the underground tunnel option, which now might include a toll if it is chosen.

South Pasadena’s City Council meets with L.A. County Supervisor


By Zen Vuong, September 25, 2013


 From left, Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian, County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Mayor Richard Schneider listen to City Manager Sergio Gonzalez speak about how much money is needed to expand the South Pasadena Community Center. City Council members shared concerns and made requests of Antonovich on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, at the Arroyo Seco Golf Course in South Pasadena.


  SOUTH PASADENA >> At a special meeting Wednesday, City Council members talked to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich about unfunded local and regional projects totaling nearly $828 million.

The City Council discussed building a South Pasadena Community Center, expanding the Arroyo Seco Bike Path and Trail to Montecito Heights in Los Angeles, improving 110 Freeway offramps and onramps at Fair Oaks Ave., and constructing a Gold Line extension to Claremont.

“I know everything we’ve been talking about has a steep price point, but our residents need some help,” Councilman Philip Putnam said.

It’s been three years since City Council members shared their concerns with Antonovich at a special meeting. Antonovich has served the county’s Fifth Supervisorial District -- all or parts of San Gabriel, Pomona, San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope Valleys -- for 33 years. He is also chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and serves on other boards and committees.

Antonovich agreed with City Council members on some issues, including Phase  2B of the Gold Line Foothill Extension project, which would stretch rail tracks from Azusa to Claremont.

“That’s what I’ve been advocating for years now,” Antonovich said. “We’re about $800  million short for Azusa to Claremont. It makes no sense for the people of the San Gabriel Valley to go to the 60, 105 — all these freeways just to go to LAX. We are the only metropolis in the U.S. that doesn’t have rail access to our airports. We have a fourth-world airport.”

A future Measure J proposition will help fund the rail project and could be put on the ballot as soon as June 2014, he said.

Yet Mayor Richard Schneider had a speedier solution in mind.

“The city of South Pasadena has always supported the Gold Line extension. We’re about $800 million short. May I suggest to you that you could take the $700-plus million for the (710) tunnel and put it into the Gold Line?”
City Manager Sergio Gonzalez echoed Schneider’s sentiments.

“Don’t waste time (with the I-710 Environmental Impact Report). Don’t waste money,” Gonzalez said. “Just build the Gold Line and make everyone happy.”

Cities such as Alhambra, Monterey Park and San Gabriel have traditionally supported closing the 710 gap and have embraced the underground tunnel option, which now might include a toll if it is chosen.
The City Council also discussed the bottleneck effect at the northbound 110 Freeway’s Fair Oaks Avenue exit. Schneider suggested widening the offramp to four lanes and allowing more green light time to reduce congestion. For the southbound onramp, he said two left-turn lanes often block traffic, especially during rush hour. So, South Pasadena should build a hook ramp to eliminate the need for a left turn, he said.

The problem, Schneider said, is the $16 million project is short $6  million. While Metro is obligated to match 75   percent of South Pasadena’s $10  million in federal funds, the funds might be taken away next year because the two parties haven’t been able to agree, Gonzalez said.
Schneider chimed in.

“Caltrans is very stubborn,” he said. “It’s not letting us split the project. The offramp is a $3   to $4  million project. They’re just being stubborn.”


Metro Board meeting roundup


By Steve Hymon, September 26, 2013

Wow. A Metro Board of Directors meeting that was shorter than the last Batman movie! That doesn’t happen often, readers.

A few items of interestingness:

Item 15 — The Board approved a competitive grant program framework to help fund a series of regional Open Streets events — i.e. CicLAvia type events — across Los Angeles County. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti cited the overwhelming success of CicLAvia in L.A. and said he would like to see more of these type of events promoting bike riding and walking both across L.A. and in other cities in Los Angeles County. Metro staff is working on finding an eligible funding source so that $2 million can be budgeting annually, beginning with the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Staff report

Item 16 — The Board voted to give Metro the authority to continue with planning and environmental studies for Measure R second- and third-decade Measure R projects. From a consumer standpoint, the decision could pave the way for draft environmental studies for the Eastside Gold Line Extension and South Bay Green Line Extension to be released in 2014. Staff report

As part of that item, Board Member Don Knabe introduced a motion that would include the I-710 North project in the Measure R acceleration financing plan that the Board approved in June. At the time, the 710 North project was excluded from the plan. The Board will consider the motion during its October round of meetings.

Item 38 — The Board approved an increase to the budget for the first phase of the Expo Line, from $932 million to $971 million. Metro is responsible for $7 million of the increase, the Expo Line Construction Authority for $32 million. Staff report

Item 55The Board approved a motion by Board Chair Diane DuBois that County Counsel revise public input rules that both maximizes public input and provides the Board more flexibility in conducting meetings. The Board will consider those changes in the future.

Fees, Penalties Nearly Quadruple Traffic Ticket Costs For Calif. Drivers


September 26, 2013

 (credit: iStockphoto.com)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The cost of a traffic citation in Southern California and statewide has risen dramatically over the last decade, according to state records.

KNX 1070′s Jon Baird reports even common infractions such as running a red light can cost drivers around $500 or more with fees and penalties.

While base fines for traffic offenses have remained relatively steady over the past two decades, assessments like $20 for emergency medical services, $60 for traffic school, and another $50 for court construction have nearly quadrupled ticket costs since 1993, according to the Judicial Council of California.

A red light infraction — which cost $103 in 1993 and $340 in 2003 — is now $490 for California drivers, while rolling through a stop sign will cost $238, nearly double the $130 fee from 10 years ago.

Much of the sharp rise in fines is attributed to tacked-on fees known as penalty assessments, which are set by state lawmakers in Sacramento. Revenue from such fees is typically earmarked for a wide variety of projects from criminal investigations to court construction, according to Judicial Council.

As fees inch higher, more working-class drivers who are unable to pay up are going to court to challenge tickets, which in turn is clogging up a court system already hampered by layoffs and closures statewide.

One Southland driver filling up his tank said the fees are excessive in the face of steadily climbing gas prices.

“They wanna suck everything out of us, man,” he said. “They’re gonna get you one way or another.”
Despite any potential public outrage, lawmakers are unlikely to reverse course on the penalty assessments after a 2006 report (PDF) by the California Research Bureau showed traffic violations can net more than $500 million annually for the state.

Move over and slow for the cone near highway work zones


By Anna Chen, September 26, 2013

Following a rash of highway incidents, Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and the California Office of Traffic Safety are asking motorists to move over and slow for the cone, both for the safety of those in the car and that of the highway work crews.
Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) today are calling on all Californians for their help in the ongoing effort to make highway work zones safer.
According to published reports, since September 16 four incidents, all of which were preventable, resulted in injuries to 15 persons:
  • On Sept. 16, a head-on collision between a passenger vehicle and a Caltrans truck on State Route 20 in Mendocino County sent both drivers and their passengers to the hospital with major injuries. The Caltrans workers had stopped to remove a dead deer from the roadway.
  • On Sept. 16, a contractor on flagging duty near State Route 191 in Butte County was struck by a vehicle and sustained major injuries. Authorities say the driver swerved to avoid another vehicle which had slowed down in front of them.
  • On Sept. 17, a CHP officer on Interstate 80 in Auburn positioned his cruiser into the path of a vehicle approaching a work zone at an estimated 65 mph. His intervention successfully blunted the vehicle’s approach, saving the life of a Caltrans worker who was removing debris from the roadway. The officer was knocked unconscious from the impact.
  • On Sept. 18, a big rig drove into a work zone on State Route 60 in Diamond Bar, injuring the driver, two Caltrans workers, and six members of a crew of court-ordered community service workers who were picking up roadside litter.
“Every day, highway workers put their lives in danger just by going to work,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “These incidents are a sobering reminder that we all must do everything we can to keep our highways safe. Motorists must slow down, watch out for highway workers and safely move over a lane when passing work crews.”
Californians can help keep highways safe by slowing down in work zones and complying with the Move Over law, which took effect in 2007 and was amended in 2009 to add Caltrans vehicles displaying flashing amber warning lights to the list of vehicles for which motorists must move over if safe to do so, or slow down.

Caltrans and the CHP work together in construction zones to monitor driver safety, and enforce the speed limit and the Move Over Law. When feasible, Caltrans allows an extra buffer lane between workers and vehicles in specific construction zones, so that workers previously separated only by orange cones have more space between themselves and oncoming vehicles.

“By moving over and slowing down, motorists can do their part to ensure the public, highway workers, and emergency personnel stay safe,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “The CHP will continue to work with Caltrans to ensure motorists are complying with the Move Over, Slow Down law.”

California has made significant strides in work zone safety since 1999 when Caltrans launched its Slow for the Cone Zone safety campaign. Since the inception of Slow for the Cone Zone, California’s work zone fatality rate has declined 56 percent compared to a drop of 32 percent nationally.

“Every day on every highway throughout the state, highway workers, emergency personnel, tow truck operators, and law enforcement risk their lives to make travel safer and more efficient,” said Chris Cochran, Assistant Director, Marketing and Public Affairs, California Office of Traffic Safety. “We can all help just by following the simple rule when we see flashing lights on the side of the road – Move Over, Slow Down.”

Highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Since the 1927, 180 Caltrans employees have died while on the job.

Federal highway funding crisis will hurt states, lawmakers told


By Curtis Tate, September 26, 2013

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) listens to testimony during a Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, March 29, 2011.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/09/25/5768667/federal-highway-funding-crisis.html#storylink=cpy
The federal highway trust fund will run out of money by 2015, which will have a “devastating impact” in states that rely heavily on federal funds for their road maintenance and construction needs, transportation officials told lawmakers Wednesday.

To preserve the fund, road builders and engineers, state transportation officials and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pleading with Congress to raise the federal gasoline tax for the first time in 20 years.

Transportation funding had brought Democrats and Republicans together in the past, but the parties are now deeply divided over fiscal policy, including increases to taxes that fund infrastructure.
If Congress doesn’t act, some warned, states will feel the pain.

“We have to act,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The country is counting on us.”

The fund typically supports about $40 billion a year in spending on highway and transit programs nationwide. But the Congressional Budget Office projects that in 2015, the tank will be empty.
“We are facing an epic crisis,” Greg Cohen, president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, told the Senate committee.

The current transportation bill expires in about a year, and getting a new one through a Congress split on practically everything could be a tough haul. It took three years to pass the current bill, which only lasts two years. Transportation funding bills in the past typically covered five to six years.

“I think we’re headed for a bit of a collision here,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
California, for example, could lose all but $18 million of the $3.5 billion a year it counts on.

According to the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials, such a reduction would stop work on hundreds of state-sponsored road projects, including a $95 million pavement rehabilitation on Interstate 80 in Sacramento County. And without those federal funds, the group said, California’s own highway fund could go broke soon after.

Congress hasn’t touched the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax that supports the highway trust fund since 1993.

The fund has lost more than a third of its buying power because of inflation. Americans were driving less during the recent recession. And fuel economy has improved, meaning less tax money collected at the pump to replenish the fund.

“It will go bankrupt a year from now,” said Michael Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

To head off that scenario, the CBO estimates that the tax needs to be increased by at least 10 cents a gallon and indexed to inflation.

“We all agree that we have to pay more,” Cohen said.

But tax increases are a touchy subject. Most Republicans in Congress have signed pledges not to raise any taxes, and many in both parties balk at the prospect of asking voters to pay more.
“It’s not fair or reasonable for middle-class families to endure a net tax increase,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the ranking member of the committee.

But taxpayers are paying the bill anyway. The highway fund hasn’t had enough money to cover what states need since 2008, so Congress has bailed it out with more than $50 billion in general revenues. With the federal government grappling with mandatory across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, “those days are over,” Boxer said.

In the meantime, states have raised their own gas taxes, replaced them with sales taxes and sought private-sector financing to meet their needs. Others are experimenting with toll roads or fees based on miles driven.

“The states are demonstrating great leadership,” Boxer said.

States on average rely on federal funds for half their annual capital spending on bridges and highways. Ten states count on federal funds for more than 70 percent of such spending, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

In South Carolina, federal funds make up 79 percent of state road and bridge spending. In Alaska, it’s 93 percent. The two states have the lowest gasoline taxes in the country.

Every state’s economy is interconnected by roads, especially the interstate highway system. But the highways are reaching the end of their lifecycle and require major repair and reconstruction. States are counting on lawmakers to come through.

“The states alone cannot solve our transportation and infrastructure issues,” said Greg DiLoreto, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/09/25/5768667/federal-highway-funding-crisis.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/09/25/5768667/federal-highway-funding-crisis.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/09/25/5768667/federal-highway-funding-crisis.html#storylink=cpy
“I think we’re headed for a bit of a collision here,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
California, for example, could lose all but $18 million of the $3.5 billion a year it counts on.
According to the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials, such a reduction would stop work on hundreds of state-sponsored road projects, including a $95 million pavement rehabilitation on Interstate 80 in Sacramento County. And without those federal funds, the group said, California’s own highway fund could go broke soon after.
Congress hasn’t touched the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax that supports the highway trust fund since 1993.
The fund has lost more than a third of its buying power because of inflation. Americans were driving less during the recent recession. And fuel economy has improved, meaning less tax money collected at the pump to replenish the fund.
“It will go bankrupt a year from now,” said Michael Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
To head off that scenario, the CBO estimates that the tax needs to be increased by at least 10 cents a gallon and indexed to inflation.
“We all agree that we have to pay more,” Cohen said.
But tax increases are a touchy subject. Most Republicans in Congress have signed pledges not to raise any taxes, and many in both parties balk at the prospect of asking voters to pay more.
“It’s not fair or reasonable for middle-class families to endure a net tax increase,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the ranking member of the committee.
But taxpayers are paying the bill anyway. The highway fund hasn’t had enough money to cover what states need since 2008, so Congress has bailed it out with more than $50 billion in general revenues. With the federal government grappling with mandatory across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, “those days are over,” Boxer said.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/09/25/5768667/federal-highway-funding-crisis.html#storylink=cpy

Cars losing grip on Seattle

In the war on cars, bikes and pedestrians are winning as Seattle has become one of only five major cities in the nation where more than 50 percent of the commuters don’t drive solo to work. 


 By Danny Westneat, September 25, 2013

The sidewalks of Seattle are filling up more these days with people walking to and from work, part of a shift in which the city is now among only   five major cities in the U.S. where more than half of the commuters don’t drive solo to work.

 The sidewalks of Seattle are filling up more these days with people walking to and from work, part of a shift in which the city is now among only five major cities in the U.S. where more than half of the commuters don’t drive solo to work.

Here’s an update in the war on cars: The cars are losing.

Well, OK, it’s not a total surrender. There are still plenty of cars whizzing to and fro in our utopia. But in Seattle anyway, cars have taken a beating of late.

Not necessarily by the government greenies and their supposed anti-car policies, though that may be part of the story. No, the cars were defeated by you.

You just don’t love them like you used to.

The latest census stats about how we live and get around were released last week. They suggest our city, if anything, hasn’t been doing enough to cater to an explosion in greener, car-free lifestyles chosen by many residents.

Seattle is now one of only five cities in the U.S. where more than half of the commuters no longer practice that hallowed American ritual — driving solo to the office.

As The Seattle Times’ FYI Guy Gene Balk reported last week, Seattle passed this symbolic tipping point last year, marking the first time in generations that driving to work alone hasn’t ruled our daily commute. (New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston are the only other cities where majorities do not drive alone to work.)

What has replaced driving alone in Seattle? It’s definitely not carpooling. The census figures show what many have suspected for years: Carpooling isn’t the answer. Since 2000, carpooling has dropped by 12 percent in Seattle.

In fact, if you add driving alone and carpooling together, slightly fewer workers use the car today than did back in 2000 — even though the workforce has grown by nearly 50,000 (and the city’s population by more than that).

So how are Seattle workers getting there? This is where it gets interesting. The most obvious guess — buses and trains — is up since 2000, but only enough to account for a third of the change.

The real sea change in commute patterns around here is in, believe it or not, bicycling to work (up 152 percent since 2000, to 15,000), working at home (up 76 percent, to 26,000) and old-fashioned hoofing it (up 56 percent, to 36,000).

Ten percent of Seattleites walk to work, fourth-highest among big cities in the nation.

This is not a poll of people’s opinions about how society ought to get around. It’s what Seattleites are actually doing.

It’s also just a Seattle thing, for now. Three-fourths of workers outside the city, in the suburbs, still drive to work alone.

But in the city, it’s like people increasingly are living a modern version of the village life. In fact, the total number of Seattleites who bike, walk or telecommute (77,000) now surpasses the total that commute by mass transit (72,000). Add all the non-car alternatives together and the fabled automobile is losing its grip.

Why? The city’s getting younger. The economy and the expense of cars, including city-led parking costs and hassles, are other factors. A recent Associated Press story about the waning car culture included this quote: “I don’t think it’s a change in people’s preferences. Give a person a good job 25 miles away and they’ll be at the dealership the next morning.”

Maybe so. There are still 180,000 Seattleites driving solo to work every day (one of whom is me). None of this is an argument we no longer need good roads or highways.

But shouldn’t Seattle spend more than a paltry 5 percent of its transportation budget on sidewalks and bike paths?

All the controversy the past few years about how city leaders are too bike-obsessed or are wasting money on road diets seems wildly misplaced. When you look at how their customers are choosing to live, the opposite is probably closer to the truth:

City leaders haven’t been obsessed with bikes or pedestrians enough.

A Cure for Bus Bunching


Spanishdriver copy.png

FALL 2013 -- Anyone who has ever waited for what seems like forever for a bus—only to have two or three arrive at the same time—has experienced “bus bunching,” a seemingly intractable problem for transit agencies and one that leaves bus patrons seething.

Now an ITS doctoral student and two transportation alumni, along with their professor, have devised a novel and practical solution to bus bunching. The system recently completed successful testing in a mid-size city in Spain.
The four—doctoral student Juan Argote, ITS alums Dylan Saloner and Ethan Xuan, and Professor Carlos Daganzo—have also formed a benefit corporation, VIA Analytics, to market their new product, which they have appropriately named “Tempo.”
Bus bunching occurs when one bus begins to fall behind due to traffic or an unusually large number of passengers at one stop. As it gets to each stop later and later, there are more passengers waiting to board, which puts the bus even further behind schedule.
At the same time, buses that follow have fewer passengers to pick up at each stop, and they gradually gain on the slower bus. And when buses fall far behind schedule, dispatchers must often send extra buses into service, which is costly.
Think of it this way: If a transit system were an orchestra, the conductor would keep each musician playing at a steady pace. The violins and the percussion, the brass and the wind instruments would all play their notes together and at the right time following the conductor’s baton.
Like a conductor’s baton, Tempo helps transit systems and its “orchestra,” the bus drivers, move together.

From theory to reality

Two years ago, the three transportation students were sharing office space on the fourth floor of McLaughlin Hall when they became interested in turning theory—a control algorithm originally developed by Professor Daganzo, then improved by former ITS Ph.D. student Josh Pilachowski, and finally, refined by Argote and Xuan—into reality. 
“What Carlos and Josh had done was significant,” explained Argote. “They went from discrete control to something that is continuously applied.” But that work was done at the theoretical level.
With Daganzo’s blessing, Argote, Xuan, and Saloner began working four nights a week and one day each weekend to refine the algorithm and then write the software. In a matter of months, they were able to turn the control algorithm into a practical tool that could control buses running both on a schedule or at regular intervals.
Using off-the-shelf Android tablets, Tempo allows dispatchers, but more importantly, bus drivers to continually monitor whether they are ahead or behind schedule.
Tablets are mounted in the bus so drivers can easily keep track of when they’re running ahead or behind schedule by glancing at the colored bars, each representing a minute, instead of conversing with dispatchers. Red bars tell drivers to slow down, green bars to proceed normally. The blue bars indicate the driver is on schedule.
“This seems very simple, but coming up with the interface was a pretty complex project because we had to devise something that both drivers, inspectors, management and all layers of the transit agency could agree upon, something that could be understood quickly and intuitively,” said Argote.
Juan Argote holds Tempo, a tool whose colors help bus drivers know when to speed up or slow down to avoid bus bunching. 
For the driver, Tempo is an assistance tool that provides recommendations to speed up or slow down based on the state of the entire bus system. Additionally, Tempo detects when the bus is at a station. “If needed, it displays a countdown timer designed to optimally balance passengers’ travel times and wait times,” added Saloner.

The Spanish experiment

San Sebastian, Spain, an idyllic seaside city near the French border, has a forward-thinking transit agency, Dbus  with 110 buses serving a metropolitan area population of about 400,000.
By chance, the transit agency’s president, Gerardo Lertxundi, had seen a newspaper interview with Professor Daganzo, who was in Barcelona in March of 2012 to receive an honorary degree.
The two discussed the students’ bus-bunching project, and Daganzo suggested the agency talk to Argote, who is Spanish, and would be in Spain a few months later. The discussion went well.
“This transit agency is way ahead of most other agencies and is a real arrowhead of ITS development in transit. It was a perfect match for us,” explains Argote.
Tempo helped the bus line achieve an on-time performance index of better than 80 percent at all stops. 
In the winter of 2012, Argote and Saloner installed the tablets in 16 buses on two lines to start the data collection process.  Argote returned again in April 2013 to help the transit agency test the new system. The researchers were pleased to learn that Tempo was able to provide better adherence to a schedule without affecting the line’s speed.
“This is important because there is always a trade-off between regularity and the speed of service,” said Argote.
They also determined that Tempo helped the bus line achieve an on-time performance index of better than 80 percent at all stops. Moreover, the variance of the deviation from schedule was reduced to between 30 and 60 percent, which resulted in an approximate 10 percent decrease of the system’s passenger waiting time.
Via Analytics was established as a benefit corporation, a new corporate form recently created that provides a dual mandate to allow the corporation to consider both profits and social benefits in its decisions.
In September, Dbus expanded Tempo to a third line. In October, Via Analytics and Dbus will present the final results of the Tempo experiment at San Sebastian’s city hall.

Improving Berkeley’s campus shuttle system

In the meantime, the new company is venturing into several other areas of public transit.
They are in discussions with Bay Area transit agencies to implement the Tempo system in their fleets.
They are also developing a new product to help bus drivers drive “greener” by providing feedback from the engine as they brake and accelerate.
Closer to home, they are developing a real-time passenger information system for the UC Berkeley campus shuttle, which moves students, faculty, and staff around the campus perimeter. The small UC Berkeley shuttle system offers a good environment for experimenting with new technology solutions.
As part of that project, the Berkeley researchers will make their passenger information code open source, and will soon announce a competition open to all to equip the little shuttle system with “the best passenger information system in the world,” says Saloner.
  Ethan Xuan, Juan Argote, Dylan Saloner and Professor Carlos Daganzo, founders of Via Analytics

Roads Kill: Mapping the Automobile’s Global Body Count


By Tanya Snyder, September 25, 2013

 Go to the website for an interactive map.

“If road fatalities are viewed as a disease, the United States has proven that it is one that can be eradicated. The North American country had only 3 road deaths per 100,000 citizens in 2010, the lowest among industrialized nations.”

Imagine if the U.S. really did have the safest streets in the industrialized world. Tens of thousands of lives would be saved each year. But as you’ll see on the Pulitzer Center’s Roads Kill Map, we’ve substituted “the United States” for “Sweden” – the actual global leader on traffic safety, with an aggressive national strategy to eradicate vehicular deaths.

As for the U.S., we were “an early pioneer in road safety standards,” but “with 11.4 deaths per 100,000 citizens, the U.S.’s overall driving record is still poor compared to other wealthy nations,” according to the Pulitzer Center.

With the Roads Kill map, the Pulitzer Center set out to raise awareness of the various forms that vehicular carnage takes around the world, and how the epidemic of traffic fatalities can be quelled.
The global road death toll has already reached 1.24 million per year and is on course to triple to 3.6 million per year by 2030.

In the developing world, where this pandemic has hit hardest, it will become the fifth leading cause of death, leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other familiar killers, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent Global Burden of Disease study.
Three years into the UN’s “Decade of Action” on road safety — with its goal of saving 5 million lives over the course of the decade — the problem is only getting worse in many places.

Different factors contribute to traffic deaths in different places. The Pulitzer Center’s map shows where alternative vehicles, like three-wheelers, are beginning to pose problems, notes that traffic deaths spike around Carnivale in Brazil, and identifies a host of other traffic issues of particular importance to specific countries.

Under-reporting is rampant — Pakistan reported fewer than 5,200 highway fatalities in 2010, but the WHO thinks it’s actually upwards of 30,000. North Korea gave itself perfect scores on all aspects of road safety compliance.

A new drunk driving law in the Phillippines could help lower its rate of 9.1 traffic deaths per 100,000 people. “But the new law fails to establish a legal blood alcohol content level for intoxication — leaving that to the judgment of the police,” the Pulitzer Center says. “Critics of the law see it as a golden opportunity for police to collect bribes.”

In Liberia, pedestrians account for 66 percent of road deaths.

Australia just may be the next Sweden. The Pulitzer Center calls the country “the poster boy for reforming bad habits.” Known for being the world’s most reckless drivers in the 1970s, Aussies have cleaned up their act and reduced traffic fatalities by 80 percent. Australia’s traffic safety performance now rivals that of many European countries.

Bogotá: Social Transformation by Improving Transportation?


 By Luis Lozano-Paredes, September 24, 2013

Siemens and C40, the cities Climate Leadership Group, recently announced the ten winners of the inaugural City Climate Leadership Awards, which are given to different cities around the world that demonstrate “excellence in urban sustainability and leadership in the fight against climate change.”

For me it wasn’t a surprise that Bogotá, Colombia won the award for Urban Transportation, even considering the problems that have challenged the city’s transportation system recently.

'Transmilenio' BRT System Bogota, Colombia

The Bus Rapid Transit system, “TransMilenio,” launched in 2000, has reached almost 75% of the city and its metropolitan area is near ten million inhabitants. Future projects involve replacing all of the bus fleet with hybrid and electric vehicles and an even more ambitious plan involves the replacement of the entire taxi fleet with electric cars, while completing the transportation system of the city with new “Metro” lines.

However, one may ask, can there be a true social change within cities of the developing world (with all the social and economic problems that those cities confront), by only improving the efficiency with which people move from ‘A’ to ‘B’?

The answer is, for cities like Bogotá, that yes, there can be.

Transmilenio system map Bogota, Colombia

Transportation, especially public transportation, is a marker of democracy and social equality. As former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa said many times: “True democracy is when the city shows by its urban design that a person on a $10 bike or who pays a $2 ticket is equally important to that in a $20,000 car.” Peñalosa also declared that “a developed city isn’t one where the poor have cars but one where the rich use public transit,” making the issue more popular than ever.

New electric taxis Bogota, Colombia
Improved transportation can improve the quality of life for the lower and middle classes by making it easier and more comfortable for them to get to work. Additionally, the quality of urban design that develops along new projects helps the city’s evolution into a new identity.

Do you think investing in transportation is a good start for changing a city? Or should social change come from some other place?

Boxer: Replace gas tax with wholesale oil fees to pay for transportation projects Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/transportation-report/automobiles/324595-boxer-replace-gas-tax-with-wholesale-oil-fees-to-pay-for-transportation-projects#ixzz2g0MyjbqN Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook


By Keith Laing, September 25, 2013

The chairwoman of the Senate committee that oversees infrastructure projects said on Wednesday that the federal government should replace its 18.4 cents per gallon tax on gasoline purchases with a fee that is paid by oil wholesalers.

Getting rid of the federal gas tax in lieu of a wholesale oil tax increase would help close an approximately $20 billion shortfall in transportation spending Congress is looking to solve, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said.

"There are many ideas out there, and the one that I'm leaning toward myself, although this is going to be a decision of the [Senate] Finance Committee ... is to do away with the per-gallon fee at the pump and replace it with this sales fee as they've done in Virginia and Maryland," Boxer said during a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"It would fund the highway program for six years ... I think, and it would do that by doing away with all the other fees," Boxer continued. "It's a very exciting idea.

Since the 1930s, Congress has paid for transportation projects by collecting a tax on each gallon of gas that is purchased by drivers. Currently the federal gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993, brings in approximately $35 billion a year.

The most recently approved surface transportation bill that was passed by Congress in 2012 included approximately $54 billion per year for infrastructure projects, which advocates say is barely enough to cover the cost of maintaining the current state of the U.S. transportation system without making any improvements.

Boxer spoke about being "in the trenches" with GOP members of the Senate committee on Wednesday during the passage of the 2012 transportation measure, which was dubbed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act.

That measure was paid for with the package of trust fund sweeps and fee increases in addition to the money from the gas tax. The cobbled-together funding package was only enough to cover transportation spending for two years, unlike other road and transit funding packages that have historically lasted five or six years.
Boxer said on Wednesday that there was bipartisan agreement that Congress needed to find a new funding source for transportation, which she noted was rare amid a larger debate about possibly shutting down the government over healthcare.

"We're here on an issue that has united us, and that's good thing, given that we probably couldn't pass a Mother's Day resolution around here," Boxer said. "I think it's excellent that we can agree that transportation is something we can rally around and work together on."

The current law that provides transportation funding is scheduled to expire in September 2014.

Boxer said that Congress could avoid having to pay for transportation projects with money from other areas of the federal budget again when that time comes by replacing the taxes that are paid by drivers at the pump with levies that collected when gas stations purchase their supplies.

"I really believe we can get a sustainable funding source for transportation," she said. "I believe this, I've seen some ideas that are quite compelling on how to do this. Simplify things, get one funding source, follow the lead of some of our states that are turning to a percentage highway fee that is paid at the refinery level. This could bring in more than all of the other taxes bring in for transportation." 

LADOT: We Know What We Know, and We Know What We Don’t Know; Homeowners: We Don’t Know What We Want to Know


By Ted Rogers, September 25, 2013

I was expecting a war.

What I found was, at worst, a cool — not even cold — détente. And a lot of unanswered questions.
Maybe we can all get along after all.
A train — and maybe a bike path — will run through it

Recently, Streetsblog disclosed the terms of a settlement between LADOT and a small group of homeowners in the Cheviot Hills area regarding the bike path planned to parallel the upcoming Expo Line extension into Santa Monica.

The group of seven homeowners lining the south side of Northvale Street had challenged the environmental documents used to approve construction of the bikeway behind their homes in a pair of lawsuits.

The settlement provided for the usual options, such as extra lighting and a privacy wall to keep prying bike eyes and noises out of their back yards. But it also included a provision for public meetings to gather input on the design of the Northvale segment bikeway.

The first of those meetings took place last night at the Palms Rancho Park Community Library on Overland Avenue.
A capacity crowd in attendance when David Somers of City Planning and LADOT Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery opened the meeting; every seat in the small room was taken, and people lined all three walls in the back and leading to the front of the room.

This time, it wasn’t bicycle supporters packing the house; instead, the room was filled mostly with local residents, many of whom appeared to arrive primed for anger. And the outnumbered bike riders seemed ready to fight for their pathway.

At least, that’s how it started out.

Michelle Mowery adresses the crowd

Mowery noted that this was just the start of the final stage in a design process that had begun 12 years earlier; one that had considered — and rejected — a number of options along the way. And that funding requirements dictated that, unlike the first phase of the bikeway which is made up largely of on-street bike lanes, the entire second phase leading from Culver City to Santa Monica would be a Class 1 bikeway, either built off-road or physically separated from motor vehicle traffic on the street, depending on the location.

However, she also made it very clear that this meeting concerned only the section of the bike path running behind Northvale between Motor to Overland Avenues, turning away any questions that didn’t specifically address that area.

And she stressed that city planners had as many questions about the design of this project as the people in the audience did. And that this meeting was less about answering their questions than it was about gathering the input city engineers would need to design the final project.

Some questions she could answer, some she needed to get the answers from them. And some would depend on the work by city engineers in the days to come.

The design problems, she said, stem from the fact that the train tunnel underneath the I-10 Santa Monica Freeway is too narrow to accommodate a bike path, as is the trench the train will run through in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood. As a result, planners are forced to move the bike path away from the railroad right-of-way at that point.

Just where was a matter to be determined, based at least in part on the input from this meeting.
Placing the bikeway on Northvale itself wasn’t practical due to a steep 10% grade that would tax the abilities of many bike riders; city planners try to limit hills on bike paths to no more than a 5% grade. The same problem ruled out most, if not all, of the other streets in the area, as well.

That meant the bike path would most likely have to go behind the homes, using a combination of existing Caltrans and sewer easements west of Motor before returning to the trench. After that, options include cutting a 12 foot ledge into the side of the trench, or placing it at grade next to it, while a separated bikeway might be considered on Motor to get riders past the freeway overpass.
The project, she said, was to be funded with Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds which became available in July of this year. Estimates were based on in-trench placement with retaining walls to hold back the earth next to it; anything else should be less expensive.

Input from last night’s meeting was to be considered in designing the bikeway, with a 75% completed design due back at the next meeting in January of next year. The construction phase is planned for January 2015, and actual work should begin in July 2015 in anticipation of opening to public use in July of 2017.

As one resident said, though, “If you don’t know where you’re going to put it, our comments are kind of moot.”

Mowery responded that they were there to collect input for the engineers to consider.

“What we do know is that it is a bicycle path, and a bicycle path is, by definition, separated from traffic,” she explained.
Audience at Expo Line Northvale bikeway meeting.

For the most part, the comments that followed were surprisingly constructive.

A few people said the bikeway needs to accommodate riders who would travel from the coast to Downtown, to the disbelief of many in the room. Others asked for access points allowing riders to exit the pathway at the library and local schools, as well as the Westside Pavilion shopping mall a few blocks away.

Access points were, in fact, one of the key points of contention. A number of commenters — some of whom identified themselves as part of the seven who had filed suit — asked for no access points leading into their neighborhood between Motor and Overland, while others were willing to consider a single access point at Dunleer, roughly a third of the way through the neighborhood.

Still others — mostly bicyclists, including Bicycle Advisory Committee member Jonathon Weiss — wanted to be able to access the neighborhood at any of the seven streets that intersect Northvale. As bike advocate Eric Weinstein pointed out, it is an inviting area to ride through, and multiple access points could entice riders to exit the path on their way to nearby Century City or Beverly Hills.

Which is exactly what at least some of the residents at the meeting were afraid of.

One woman pointed out that homeowners banded together to buy and gate the land leading to the trench behind Northvale a number of years ago, after experiencing problems with fires, as well as homeless people taking up residence behind their homes. Others expressed concerns that people along the pathway would get into their backyards and peer into their homes, and that they could be liable if anyone got hurt trespassing on their property.

Mowery responded that steps would be taken to address those concerns, including reducing fire risk and keeping people out of their yards.

Meanwhile, bicyclists stressed the need to be able to get off the pathway in case of an emergency or to avoid a dangerous situation — especially if the path is built below ground level, where riders won’t be visible to those on the street or in nearby homes.

It was also pointed out that some that people who live in the neighborhood will want to ride the bike path with their families, as well, and wouldn’t want to have to ride all the way to Motor or Overland just to get to it.

That seemed to result in grudging acceptance of the need for at least some access points to and from the bike path from the surrounding neighborhood. Even if at least one resident was concerned that bike riders would use the pathway to burglarize their homes before pedaling off into the night.

Note to non-bike riders: It is really, really hard to ride a bike with a 60” flatscreen balanced on your handlebars. Which is not to say it can’t be done. But thieves are far more likely to drive to your house so they can clean you out without having to worry how they’re going to get all that loot home.

Locked gate at Dunleer Bridge

That led to calls to lock the gates at night, just as the single pedestrian bridge leading from the library and park into Cheviot Hills is supposed to be locked from 9:30 pm to 6 am.

Mowery pointed out, though, that studies have shown installing bikeways on abandoned railways like this usually results in a decrease in crime as more people travel through the area.

Meanwhile, the LACBC’s Eric Bruins explained that homeowners shouldn’t want the access points to be closed at night because it will create exactly the sort of problems they say they want to avoid. Locked gates, he said, would let dangerous people know they can hang out there without fear of being discovered or interrupted. He added that many women are likely to use this path for late night commuting, and closing the access points will put them at risk.

Weiss explained that, for security reasons, there was a need to provide good sight lines for people riding the bike path, especially women. And as a result, it should be built at grade for greater visibility.

However, building at grade could jeopardize some of the stately trees along the route that at least one audience member said should be preserved. Bruins responded that there might have to be a trade-off; a street-level bikeway could require a difficult choice between saving those trees and preserving on-street parking.

In addition, there were multiple requests for street signs and wayfinding signage along the path, wherever it ends up being built. According to Mowery, this was already under discussion; in fact, the city has a half-million dollar wayfinding program under development now.

The devil, as they say, lies in the details.

Whether everyone, or anyone, for that matter, will be satisfied with the plan the city will come back with in January is won’t be known until that plan is unveiled.

The local homeowners present last night wanted far more answers than they got, though they seemed willing to offer their input once they realized they weren’t going to get them, at least not now. And the bike riders who came in prepared for debate focused more on design details as the night wore on.
There was little tension left in the air when the meeting ended. For the most part, people on both sides milled about, discussing various fine points with one another.

And perhaps realizing that there are no sides to this debate.

Just details to be worked out for everyone’s benefit.

Apple Maps Directed Drivers Onto an Actual Airport Taxiway


By Mark Byrnes, September 25, 2013

If you want Apple Maps to give you directions to the Fairbanks International Airport, there's a good chance it'll shoot back with "Directions Not Available." After the last few weeks, that's probably for the best.

All throughout September, and perhaps before that, unassuming drivers were being sent by the famously faulty navigation tool on a "turn-by-turn route" onto one of the airport's actual taxiways, leading out-of-town drivers to then cross the runway. Eventually, they ended up at the wrong side of the passenger terminal.

Google's suggested route from downtown Fairbanks to the airport (blue) versus what Apple Maps was suggesting to drivers up until today.

On September 6, a driver was stopped by airport personnel, police and the TSA after they ended up on the runway. Airport staff quickly filed a complaint to Apple through the state Attorney General's office. "We asked them to disable the map for Fairbanks until they could correct it, thinking it would be better to have nothing show up than to take the chance that one more person would do this," Melissa Osborn, the airport's chief of operations, told the Alaska Dispatch.

But Apple still hadn't fixed the problem by September 20, when it happened again, so the airport barricaded the troublesome route. Apple finally disabled the directions today as of 10 am, Alaska time.

That's not to say the drivers were totally innocent. "These folks drove past several signs. They even drove past a gate," Osborn told the Dispatch. "None of that cued them that they did something inappropriate."

The directions provided by Apple sent users on an access road for general aviation pilots, concluding with instructions to go to "Taxiway B" (known as "Taxiway Bravo" by those familiar with the airport). To Apple's credit, the directions never said to cross the main runway, drivers just kind of assumed that's what they were supposed to do.

Last August, a gossip column in the Anchorage Daily News reported that Rep. Les Gara faced the same dilemma on his way to catch a plane. But unlike several others, he elected to listen to common sense instead of his smartphone:
The directions took Les, who's been in Fairbanks many times, along unfamiliar roads. "I figured it was a shortcut," he told Ear.

He was correct. The app voice directed him onto the runway of the small plane airport, which really was the fastest way to get to the big plane he had a ticket for.

"I made an executive decision not to drive down the runway," Les said. He did make his plane, but just.
We tried Apple's now-disabled route ourselves with Google Street View to see what those confused, technology-dependent drivers would have encountered:

Here's University Boulevard and an entrance sign for "East Ramp." No red flags yet.

Soon after, drivers cross a sign that says "NOTICE: AIRPORT PROPERTY." Perhaps not convincing enough to turn around.


We made the right turn on Float Pond road, where Apple would have directed. But here's a gate. And a sign that reads "PROCEED WITH CAUTION ALL ROADWAYS IN THIS AREA ARE USED BY AIRCRAFT. YIELD TO TAXIING AIRCRAFT." No matter your preconceived notions of Alaska, this should start feeling wrong. This is where the Google Street View stops. 

When we turn around, we come across a sign with a bunch of letters and numbers that only people who fly planes could understand. Something about turning off your ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) and checking "121.5 at shut down" before you head back on the regular roads.

Angie Spear, the airport's marketing director, is sympathetic to the misguided drivers. "They could see the terminal on the other side of taxiway," she says. But she also reminds us that anyone on this route, after passing through the gate seen above, would have come across flashing lights and more signs telling drivers that no vehicles were allowed.

As you probably know, this is not the first time Apple Maps has done something weird or potentially dangerous. Besides occasionally creating unique visual experiences for users, it once led people looking for Dublin's airport to a farm 11 miles away called "Airfield" and stranded Australian drivers, looking for the city of Mildura, Victoria, in a national park.


In Paris, Thefts and Vandalism Could Force Bike-Share to Shrink


By Feargus O'Sullivan, September 26, 2013

In Paris, Thefts and Vandalism Could Force Bike-Share to Shrink

While North America has been buzzing with enthusiasm over the relatively recent introduction of bike-share, there’s been some sobering news recently from a city that's had its system in place since 2007. Home to the largest bike-share program outside China, it turns out Paris has been losing its bikes to theft and vandalism. A lot of bikes.

According to figures unearthed by Le Monde last week, 9,000 bikes from Paris' Vélib' bike-share system were damaged or stolen last year. As of this summer, 35 bike stations across the city had been shut down for repairs or due to bike shortages, leaving gaps in availability that can’t be fixed even by the usual daily redistribution of bicycles back to outlying stations. The costs incurred by this wave of theft and vandalism are huge. A new bike costs €650, while repairs to damaged or vandalized bikes cost €450 on average. The Paris City Hall official responsible for monitoring the scheme reckons thefts and repairs cost €1 million last year.

Even with ongoing repairs and replacements making up some of the shortfall, Paris bike-share numbers have dwindled sharply. Of the 23,800 bikes that have been provided or promised since it launched, only 14,000 will now remain in service. What makes this crime wave more striking is that by contrast, London's bike-share system has seen only 143 thefts since it began in 2010. So why are Paris's figures so terrible compared to its northern neighbor?

The answer lies partly in the sheer ambition of Vélib'. With 12,000 docking stations, it extends beyond the boundaries of Paris Intramuros and out into the suburbs of the Petite Couronne area of greater Paris. This means that, unlike London’s scheme, which limits itself to a central area, 8,000 bikes and a meager but more easily monitored 570 docking stations, it’s of real use to suburban commuters.

Unfortunately, it's in Paris's outlying districts where most theft and vandalism is taking place, with incidents clustering in the relatively lower-income 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements that form a crescent around northeast Paris. There’s also far less video surveillance in Paris. While London's public spaces are all but saturated with CCTV cameras, many of Paris's bike-share stations are not monitored, directly or remotely.

This means arrests are few, with a modest 15 made for Vélib' thefts last month. As for the perpetrators, there have been some instances of criminal gangs hacking the system's master codes and helping themselves to large numbers of bikes, while one Vélib' bicycle was even spotted on the streets of Bamako, Mali. The typical thief, however, is believed to be a teenage male from a lower-income suburb, who may in fact be excluded from bike-sharing because he doesn't have the credit or debit card necessary to register.

Various reasons have been given for the wave of thefts. Some have floated the idea that poor kids are hitting back at what they see as mainly Bobo bike-share users. Others have insisted that teens are simply bent on wanton destruction, while it’s also been noted that a minority of thieves are people stealing bikes to ride home on when they’re drunk.

Whatever the reasons, the huge losses are causing a rethink of the scheme’s scope. While remaining one of the world’s largest bike-sharing programs, City Hall estimates that the ideal number of bikes should be a slightly smaller 18,000, more than are currently in circulation, but less than its ambitious initial targets. This will inevitably mean decommissioning some stations, shrinking the scheme’s ambitions but possibly making it more viable. While it may save Vélib', there’s something singularly disappointing about this reduction. Many cities see their currently small bike-share systems as kernels from which larger programs will ultimately grow. They'd do well to look at Paris over the next few years to see what, if any, the manageable limits of bike-share should be.