Purpose

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

Friday, September 27, 2013

Metro Says 710 Study Team is Active in Pasadena

http://www.pasadenanow.com/main/state-route-710-north-study-noise-and-other-studies

September 26, 2013

According to Frederick C. Dock, Director of Transportation for the City of Pasadena, Metro’s SR 710 North Study team has informed Pasadena that members of the study team will be conducting noise measurements at the following schools: Sequoyah School, Waverly School and New Horizon School.

Additionally, on Wednesday, September 25th, Biologist began field work at the following locations: Arroyo Seco trail where it crosses under the SR 134 freeway and Lincoln Avenue where it crosses under the SR 210 freeway.

Comments or question can be directed to Metro at SR-710 Study, Once Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, (855) 4SR-7100 or email sr710@study@metro.net.

For online comments http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/commentquestion-form/

Metro Motion - Fall 2013

http://www.metro.net/news/metro-motion/

Now in high def, Metro Motion is even sharper than before. In this episode, hunt for world-class Korean cuisine … via Metro, of course. Meet a squad of seriously cool seniors who are seriously committed to learning Metro so they can live a more mobile life. Find out where BRT is breaking ground and why Metro is a world leader in this form of transit innovation. Hear new Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois explain why our highways must be part of a successful 21st Century mobility plan. And take to two wheels to admire the flora, fauna and flavors of the Arroyo Seco bike way. The Gold Line can take you there.


 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6gB1-ob4Xg#t=664

Your Metrolink “System-Wide” Weekend Pass May Not work on Metro. Here Is What to Do.

http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/09/27/your-metrolink-system-wide-weekend-pass-may-not-work-on-metro-here-is-what-to-do/

By Erik Griswold, September 27, 2013







One of the best transportation bargains on offer in Southern California is the Metrolink’s Weekend Day Pass. The agency, offers a ticket on Saturdays and Sundays that allows the holder to ride anywhere on Metrolink’s service, albeit reduced from weekday offerings, for just $10.

It’s so popular that beginning two weeks ago, Metrolink began to run out of the special stock it is issues tickets on, stranding customers connecting to the Red and Purple Lines at Union Station at turnstiles that do not open. Metro does not have any staff present down in the Subway’s fare mezzanine to assist.

Metrolink Ticket without TAP RFID Chip
Click on the image to see if full sized.

Like all Metrolink tickets and passes, this one also includes a free transfer to “most connecting transit.” In the past year, as what I refer to as “Metro’s Turnstile Fetish” finally came to a climax. Dates were set for gate latching. Rather than ripping out and returning the turnstiles which had sat in free-spin mode for close to four years, a solution was found to allow Metrolink passengers to retain their long-held right to freely transfer, and be able to open the “latched” turnstiles now found at all the Subway (Red/Purple Line) stations.

This came in the form of a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chip, compatible with Metro’s TAP fare system, which was imbedded in each Metrolink ticket that had as its destination Los Angeles County.

But, with recent changes to their fare structure, Metrolink has begun to run out of ticket stock with the embedded chip and persons buying Weekend Passes. This has led to Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) dispensing tickets that do not have the ability to open the turnstiles at any of the Subway stations, even though those TVMs do not ask which county the purchaser intends to travel to when the Weekend Day Pass is purchased.

Because there is no guidance on either Metrolink’s or Metro’s websites on this matter, and my e-mails to Metrolink’s Director of Public Affairs were not returned, if you get one of these tickets, as shown above, you will need to speak to Metrolink Customer Service Personnel at Union Station who will assist you with obtaining fare media that can open the turnstiles.

This may take a bit of time, for in my experience, these individuals roam the platforms and the station tunnels and are not necessarily in one spot at all times. And the Metrolink Customer Service Windows located at both ends of the station have not been open on weekends.


Also, these usually teal-shirted Customer Service are not to be confused with either the on-train staff or the numerous private security guards Metrolink has employed in a Quixotic quest to reduce their already extremely low fare evasion rate of 4%. You can also try your luck at the newly-installed hands-free intercoms, but my sources say that the agents staffing these were still unaware of the issue last weekend, and were unwilling to assist.

So allow sometime to make your transfer to the Subway if you end up with one of the un-chipped Weekend Day Passes.

And do note from the photos above that both the “TAP” and the “EZ-Pass” logos appear to be overprinted on the ticket itself; do not be surprised if an overzealous bus operator or inspector on the Light-Rail lines initially refuses to honor them.

How this all came to be is a story in itself for another blog post, but I wanted to give Streetsblog readers the heads up on this situation before the weekend.

California adds $72.5M for cleaner diesel trucks, deployment of advanced vehicle technologies

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/09/20130927-arb.html

September 27, 2013

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) announced an additional $72.5 million in funding for state programs that will improve public health by helping to clean up California’s fleet of cars, trucks and buses.

The Air Resources Board will move $8 million from other clean vehicle projects into ARB’s Truck Loan Assistance Program. Additionally, the board was briefed on additional funding the Legislature recently made available for clean car, truck and bus programs. Funding was approved for three specific programs.
  • The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project received an influx of $44.5 million to help California consumers purchase plug-in hybrid and zero-emission cars and light trucks. The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project provides individuals, nonprofits, government entities and businesses a rebate of up to $2,500 on a first-come, first-served basis. This can be combined with an up to $7,500 clean vehicle federal tax credit and various other regional incentives. More than 33,000 rebates have been issued since the program launched in 2010, and consumer demand has surged to about 2,500 rebates per month.
  • Funding for this year’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project was increased by $10 million to $15 million. This program provides vouchers of up to $55,000 to help California fleets purchase cleaner, advanced technology trucks and buses. Since its inception in 2010, the program has helped deploy more than 1,600 hybrid and electric trucks and buses in California. ARB expects vouchers to become available at participating dealerships beginning this December.
  • ARB’s Truck Loan Assistance Program received an additional $18 million to help small business fleet owners finance truck upgrades required under the ARB’s In-Use Truck and Bus Regulation. The program has leveraged state funds to provide about $210 million in private financing since 2009 to help truck owners purchase cleaner trucks, exhaust retrofits and truck efficiency upgrades. With this additional funding, the program will continue to support small business truck owners to gain access to cleaner trucks. The Truck Loan Assistance Program is implemented in partnership with the California Pollution Control Financing Authority.
The rebate and voucher incentive programs are designed to accelerate the number of advanced-technology vehicles purchased.

Legislature OKs CEQA Changes

http://www.independentnews.com/news/article_a062d632-26de-11e3-9ea9-001a4bcf887a.html#.UkWJkd5btDI.twitter

By Ron McNicoll, September 27, 2013

A bill that would bring limited changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for signature or veto.

The bill, SB 743, was approved overwhelmingly on Sept. 12, one day before the end of the Legislature's session.

The bill cleared the Senate and Assembly by large bipartisan majorities. The Valley's two state senators, Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and Mark DeSaulnier, voted for the bill, as did Assemblymember Joan Buchanan.

Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, wrote the bill. There were several co-authors from the Sacramento area.

Originally SB 743 applied only to one project, a new arena for the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, to be located in downtown Sacramento. However, at Brown's urging, Steinberg blended in some of the points in another of his bills, SB 731. Those provisions will apply to certain infill projects throughout the state, as designated by local governments in qualified areas.

For example, the bill would mandate that parking and aesthetics standards not be considered as significant impacts on the environment in urban areas, which are places with at least 50,000 population. Those projects must be on an infill site and within a transit priority area, as defined in the bill.

Steinberg said that suits over aesthetics and parking "are most commonly used as CEQA litigation hooks to slow or terminate a new development project."

Another aim of the bill is to modernize the statewide measurements against which traffic impacts are assessed and resolved, said Steinberg.

Currently, new traffic lanes and additional parking are methods used by communities and developers to deal with traffic that will be generated by more development that generates more air pollution, said Steinberg.

Steinberg wants to see traffic planners use a new metric for congestion relief, by looking at the role of "mass transit stations, which won't be subject to CEQA litigation." Traffic planners may also develop metrics for development outside of the transit areas, says the bill, in an apparent suggestion, not a mandate.

Residential development in a transit priority area is already exempt from CEQA suits, provided that a full EIR has been completed, and the project does not deviate from the local specific plan. SB 743 expands this exemption to include mixed residential and commercial uses.
The changes that would result from the bill would occur only in areas that are designated by local governments for smart growth infill, not for all development in California. The bill calls these designated areas "infill opportunity zones."
A designated project would have to be located within one-half mile of a major transit stop, as defined in state code. It would have to be in a "high-quality transit corridor," which is one with service no more than (transit arriving) 15 minutes apart during commute hours.
An example of an eventual infill zone in the Valley could be Dublin, which prides itself on transit-oriented development. The city built high density housing near two BART stations. Wheels' Rapid buses, which run every 15 minutes along Dublin Boulevard, run on weekdays, and connect to Livermore.
However, Dublin has not yet reached 50,000 population, which would qualify it as an urban area. However, at 46,000 in the 2010 census, and continued rapid growth, that time may come soon.
JUDICIAL COUNCIL OBJECTS
The bill also sets out a 270-day period for the courts to hear CEQA suits on projects. This provision drew strong objection in a letter to Brown on Sept. 17 from the California Judicial Council.
The 270-day clock begins running even before a lawsuit is filed, at the time that begins a process known as certification of the record.
The 270-day schedule is impossible for the courts to fulfill, said the letter's author, Daniel Pone, senior attorney with the council. The courts are underfunded, and have other calendar-mandated cases to hear, such as juvenile and criminal cases, and civil cases in which a party is at risk of dying.
All such calendar-mandated cases would take longer to adjudicate, if the courts also have to make way for the SB 743 mandate. This "undermines equal access to justice," said Pone.
Among environmentalists, Sierra Club California opposes SB 743 as special legislation for the Kings arena.
Kathryn Phillips is director of Sierra Club California, which is the lobbying arm for the Sierra Club. Phillips said that there have been other bills aimed at change in CEQA regulations for sports stadiums, specifically for one in Los Angeles, and another elsewhere in Southern California.
"Proponents (of the Kings arena) said they'll have an environmentally friendly project, and mitigate all kinds of things. If that's the case, there is no reason to receive special treatment, because they are doing the right thing," said Phillips.
Sierra Club California also did not like the 11th hour timing of the bill's changes. The vote came on Sept 12. The amendments came out on the previous Friday, Sept. 6. "There was was no opportunity for adequate public review," said Phillips. The organization is lobbying Brown to veto the bill.
Jeremy Madsen, executive director of Greenbelt Alliance, also commented on the last-minute adoption.
"In general, last minute changes mean that you and I and 99 percent of Californians have no idea what's going into this legislation," said Madsen.
Greenbelt Alliance was tracking SB 731 before it was merged in part with SB 743. However, the organization never endorsed either bill.
Madsen did like the fact that the bill recognizes that traffic congestion is not an environmental violation of CEQA in itself, and that people can sue if there were an air pollution violation resulting from congestion resulting from a project.

Gate latching hits a roadblock

http://zev.lacounty.gov/news/gate-latching-hits-a-roadblock

Zev Yaroslavsky's Blog, September 26, 2013

 

 Elevated light rail stations, like in Culver City, are among the next targets for latching.


L.A.’s subway system has locked its gates and finally moved past an honor system that’s been in place for more than two decades. But it’s a different story at dozens of Metro light rail stations, which usually have stand-alone fare-card readers but no barriers to entry.

David Sutton, Metro’s deputy executive officer in charge of the gate-latching project, said that won’t change any time soon. Last week, in response to a July motion from several members of the Board of Directors, Sutton and his team released a report on the feasibility of installing lockable turnstiles on Phase 1 of Expo Line and at future stations throughout the expanding rail system.

“We’re not going to be able to lock them all,” Sutton said. “Some of the stations just don’t lend themselves to gates because of the space available and the cost.”

The primary reason is safety, said Rick Meade, who manages station construction for the agency. The National Fire Protection Association requires safe evacuation of platforms within 4 minutes in case of an emergency, as well as clearance to a “safe distance” within 6 minutes.

“As soon as you put gates on there, your exiting calculations are going to change because you have an obstruction that slows everything else down,” Meade said. Underground and aerial stations have space to accommodate enough gates for a swift exit, he said, but street-level stations usually do not. For those, increasing the size of platforms is often the only solution, a costly proposition that can encroach on traffic lanes or other property.

Some stations on the light rail system are already equipped with turnstiles, and their latching is slated for completion by February, Sutton said. On the Gold Line, the 5 out of 21 stations with turnstiles were latched earlier this month. Next up is the Blue Line, where 6 of 21 stations are scheduled to be latched in December, followed by all 14 stations of the elevated Green Line.

Along all Metro’s light rail routes, there currently are 41 stations where customers can enter without a barrier requiring payment, including the entire first phase of Expo Line. Sutton and his team examined the possibility of installing barriers at all non-gated light rail stations and have identified 13 for further analysis.

For Expo’s first phase, Metro estimates it would cost $3.1 million to add gates to three elevated stations, an investment the agency says could be recouped within 7 years because of increased fare collection. At the street-level stations, where there’s no room for gates, Metro is planning to add more stand-alone card validators at a cost of $173,000, plus $141,000 in annual operating expenses. Sutton said the non-gated card readers have been effective elsewhere in the system in reminding riders who want to comply with the rules to tap their fare cards.

“With gates and these kinds of things, it keeps honest people honest,” Sutton said.

Sutton said he plans to return to Metro’s Board of Directors in January with a full engineering analysis of what would be needed to install gates and additional card validators on Expo’s first phase, which goes from downtown to Culver City.

A similar gating scenario is being faced by Expo’s second phase, which will end in Santa Monica and is now under construction. At least two of the seven stations in that phase could not have locked gates, while four others are able to accommodate barriers and one other is being reviewed. For future rail projects that have yet to be designed or constructed, lockable gates will be required, Sutton said.
Meanwhile, on the Red and Purple lines, where gates have already been latched, preliminary data on fare collection for August is encouraging, showing a 22% increase in ticket machine sales over the same month last year—worth more than $614,000. Sutton said many free riders have left the system, opening more seats for paying customers.

The latched stations have also been a help to law enforcement, said Lieutenant Sergio Aloma, a transit services officer with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which is tasked with policing the system.

“Any time you can latch stations, it is better from a fare enforcement standpoint,” Aloma said. “I just wish we could latch them all.”

Aloma said latching even some gates allows officers to be deployed in larger numbers to non-gated locations. The increased visibility of law enforcement, he said, works as a deterrent to would-be fare evaders.

Aloma also said that, even at stations where gates are locked, dedicated scofflaws will find ways to beat the system by, for example, sneaking through access points for disabled people or jumping turnstiles. On the other hand, some riders may make honest mistakes such as forgetting to tap their fare cards when transferring lines as they try to figure out the new system.

“In some cases deputies have to use discretion and determine whether we need to take a customer-relations viewpoint or an enforcement viewpoint,” Aloma said. “This is still new and we want to educate folks on how to use the system.”

SoCal: Thinking Outside the Rails on Transit


 http://citywatchla.com/8br-hidden/5783-socal-thinking-outside-the-rails-on-transit

By Joel Kotkin, September 27, 2013


 



 NEW GEOGRAPHY-To many in the transit business – that is, people who seek to profit from the development and growth of buses, trains and streetcars – Southern California is often seen as a paradise lost, a former bastion of streetcar lines that crossed the region and sparked much of its early development. Today, billions are being spent to revive the region’s transit legacy. 

Like many old ideas that attract fashionable support, this idea, on its surface, is appealing. Yet, in reality, the focus on mass transit, however fashionable, represents part of an expensive, largely misguided and likely doomed attempt to re-engineer the region away from its long-established dispersed, multipolar and auto-dependent form.

Traditional transit works best when a large number of commuters work in a central district easily accessible by trains or buses. New York and Washington, D.C., where up to 20 percent of the regional workforces labor downtown (the central business district), are ideal for transit. Even in those metropolitan areas, however, the auto is king.

In contrast, less than 3 percent of Southern Californians work in downtown Los Angeles. Overall, despite all the money sunk into new rail lines around the country, Americans’ transit commuting is overwhelmingly concentrated in a few older “legacy” cities. Altogether, 55 percent of transit work trips are to six core cities: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, and 60 percent of those commutes are to downtown.

In contrast, in the Los Angeles-Orange County region, barely 6 percent of workers take transit, one-fifth the rate in New York. Yet we’re a bunch of committed strap-hangers compared with Phoenix, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas-Fort Worth, where, despite surfeits of new trains and streetcars, 2 percent or less of commuters use public transit. Even in Portland, Ore., widely proclaimed the exemplar of new urbanism and transit investment, the percentage of commuters taking transit is less today than in 1980. Portland is now contemplating cutbacks that could eventually eliminate up to 70 percent of its transit service. 

Imposing Past on Future

This miserable record reflects how trains, a largely 19th century technology, have limited utility in a contemporary setting. Indeed, the only way to make it work, planners insist, is if the population is moved from their low-density neighborhoods to high-density “pack and stack” areas near transit stops, while suburban businesses are dragooned to denser downtown locations. This is the essence of the recently approved Bay Area Plan.

Although these kinds of strategies have never materially reduced automobile use – the Bay Area Plan itself says automobile use will still increase by 18 percent over 30 years – the bureaucratic logic here is almost Stalinesque in the scope of its social-engineering ambitions. As Bay Area journalist and plan advocate John Wildermuth puts it, people know they should take transit but don’t because it’s very inconvenient. But by forcing three quarters of new residents into dense housing, some with no parking, he reasons, it then will be “easier for them to either give up their cars or, at least, use them a lot less.”

Yet getting people to change their way of life, as many central planners have discovered, is not as easy as it seems. The highly dispersed San Jose-Silicon Valley area, the economic epicenter of the Bay Area and worldwide information technology, has a commute trip market share barely a third of major metropolitan area average… . Building “one of the longest” light rail systems in the United States in 50 years has barely moved the percentage of transit commuters over the past three decades.
What the Bay Area Plan will probably accomplish is to boost housing prices ever further out of reach, both in urban areas and in the suburbs. With new single-family development effectively all but banned, prices of homes in the Bay Area already are again rising far faster than the national average and now are approaching two and half times higher, based on income, than in competitor regions such as Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Tex., Houston or Raleigh, N.C. 

Environmental Imperative?

Greens and their allies in the high-density housing lobby long have suggested that “peak oil” and rising prices will inevitably drive suburbanites out their cars. But, clearly, recent advances in U.S. oil and natural gas production may have already made this moot. Transit activists increasingly have focused on climate change to justify massive spending on expanding transit and forcing recalcitrant suburbanites from their cars.

This logic is largely based on the notion that suburbanites must travel greater distances to work. Yet, a study by McKinsey & Co. and the Conference Board found that – largely because of the impact of higher energy standards for cars forecast by the Department of Energy – sufficient greenhouse gas emission reductions can be achieved without reducing driving or necessitate “a shift to denser urban housing.”

The fundamental limitations of transit in dispersed cities further weakens environmentalists’ claim. Ridership on some transit systems is so sparse that cars are more energy efficient. Then, there’s the oft-mistaken assumption that higher-density housing will reduce congestion and travel. But in multipolar areas like Southern California, traffic congestion and resultant pollution generally becomes worse with higher density.

There may be other, more technologically savvy ways to reduce emissions and energy use. People have cut automobile use the past three years but their reduced travel is not showing up so much in transit usage, but, rather, is driven by other factors such as unemployment and the high price of gasoline.

But, arguably the biggest reduction can be traced to the rise of telecommuting. Over the past decade, the country added some 1.7 million telecommuters, almost twice the much-ballyhooed increase of 900,000 transit riders. In Southern California, the number of home-based workers grew 35 percent, three times the increase for transit usage. By 2020, according to projections from demographer Wendell Cox, telecommuting should pass transit, both nationally and in this region, in total numbers. 

What About the Poor?

Perhaps the most compelling argument for transit stems from serving those populations – the poor, students, minorities – who often lack access to a private car. Yet, for workers in newer cities, public transit often is not an effective alternative. Brookings Institution research indicates that less than 5 percent of the jobs in the Los Angeles and Riverside-San Bernardino areas are within reach of the average employee within 45 minutes, using transit. The figure is less than 10 percent in the San Jose metropolitan area, the same percentage as for cities nationwide. Moreover, 36 percent of entry-level jobs are completely inaccessible by public transit.

Not surprisingly, roughly three in four poorer workers use cars to get to work. Recent work by University of Southern California researcher Jeff Khau finds that car ownership is positively correlated with job opportunities; no such relationship can be proven with access to transit.

At the same time, we should look at more-flexible systems, notably, expanded bus and bus rapid transit, which work better in dispersed areas and are less costly. Most rail systems tend to cannibalize most of their riders from existing bus lines, which explains the small net increases in total transit ridership. 

Transit too expensive

Costs matter, and will become more important as cities and counties face the looming threat of fiscal defaults. In this respect, rail systems essentially steal from other transit – notably, the buses used mostly by the poor – and from hard-pressed city and county general-fund budgets. Gov. Jerry Brown’s outrageously expensive high-speed rail, which will principally serve the affluent, takes this unfairness to an extreme.

Instead, we should push far more cost-effective ways to provide transportation options, including those from the private sector, such as the successful Megabus, which provides efficient, quicker and far-less expensive transport between cities than either existing rail or short-haul airline flights. USC’s Khau suggests the private sector also could enhance solutions for lower-income commuters through car loans and car-sharing services such as ZipCar and and Lyft, a mobile app that links riders with drivers.

As we attempt to figure out ways to improve both the environment and people’s economic prospects, innovative 21st century solutions – from telecommuting to car-sharing – may prove more effective than relying on the 19th century technology of rail. We should not blindly follow transit ideology but focus on how to improve people’s mobility in ways other than the overpriced, inefficient and often far-less-equitable solutions being bandied about today.

Shipwrecked

http://citywatchla.com/lead-stories-hidden/5782-shipwrecked

By Jack Humphreville, September 27, 2013

 




LA WATCHDOG-The Port of Los Angeles is in desperate need of new management, starting with the five Harbor Commissioners, the Executive Director, and other members of the politicized senior management team.

For the first eight months of 2013, imports of fully loaded containers are off by 6% while exports are down 11%.  This downward trend will mostly likely continue as ports in Canada and Mexico expand and improve their operations and efficiency.

This trend will only be exacerbated when Panama completes the widening of the Canal in 2014, allowing Asian manufacturers direct access to the large population centers serviced by ports on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean.

The Port is also considered an unreliable partner.  In the past, our high cost and inefficient port has been shut down because of work stoppages that caused major problems for retailers during their peak Christmas shopping season, resulting in billions of lost sales.

The Port has a business unfriendly reputation in the shipping industry, ranging from retailers to shipping companies to the trucking industry.  For example, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest importer by far that has been blackballed by the City of Los Angeles, has diverted most of its traffic to other ports around the country.  Maersk Lines, the world’s largest shipping company, has invested up to $300 million to expand its operations in Mexico as a result of its frustration with our Port, its management, and their policies.  And the trucking industry is still smarting over its protracted legal battle with the Port over the “company employee” provision of the Clean Truck Program.

The Port has also been a dumping ground for politically connected City employees. Over the past decade, the number of employees at the Port has increased by about two-thirds while volumes of loaded imports have essentially remained flat.  Furthermore, the number of political appointees in the executive ranks has tripled, costing millions, while at the same time, replacing hard working employees who had an excellent understanding of the Port’s operations and good working relationships with the Port’s major tenants.

There are numerous brush fires at the Port which, when taken as a whole, indicate a failure of management. 

We have recently heard about the multimillion dollar cost over run on the Angelena II, the Port’s 72 foot yacht that is used for public relations.  There are the plush executive offices that cost millions.

There is extensive last minute travel and the very expensive hosting of the conference for the International Association of Ports and Harbors in Downtown LA.  There are numerous below market leases and over the top community benefits to please the political establishment.  And do not forget the failed investments in Balgon and Vision Industries.

The Port is too important to the economy of Southern California and the City of Los Angeles to be left in the hands of political hacks and quacks.

If Mayor Eric Garcetti is serious about reforming how government works in LA, the place to start is with the Port of Los Angeles.  We need five independent Harbor Commissioners that have the expertise and experience to understand this very competitive industry that is both capital and labor intensive, to help mend the relationships with shipping community, and to provide guidance to the new Executive Director.
We also need a new Gener
al Manager for the country’s largest port that has the respect of the nation’s retailers and the shipping community, is willing to tackle the problems facing the Port in this era of significant change, and has the wherewithal to implement change, even if it annoys City Hall and its cronies.

Eric, the ball is in your court.

Oakland introduces color to bike lanes to increase safety

http://www.caeconomy.org/reporting/entry/oakland-introduces-color-to-bike-lanes-to-increase-safety

By Cheryl Getuiza, September 25, 3013



 


San Francisco. Pasadena. Los Angeles. San Diego. Long Beach. What do all of these California cities have in common? Each has made building up innovative infrastructure for safe and convenient bicycling a big priority. The city of Oakland can’t yet be added to that list, but the City is hoping to change things up a bit.

“We’ve used the green treatment in a shared lane situation where it has been used, to date, in traditional bike lanes,” said Jason Patton, PhD, Oakland’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager.
This experimental design, green in color, was painted on the travel lane to help bicyclists and motorists share the road. Green color is now approved for use in dedicated bike lanes, as many cities have done. Oakland is also experimenting with painting bicycling markings, called “sharrows,” on the actual travel lane on 40th Street.

The city is conducting the experiment along with with the Federal Highway Administration and California Traffic Control Devices Committee.

“Green was recently approved for standard treatment for use in bike lanes but it hasn’t been approved for a standard treatment in a shared lane situation,” said Patton. “This regulatory process, recognizing there’s a need for innovation and evolution, has a process for experimenting with non-standard devices.”

The traffic experimentation process Patton refers to allows cities to submit a proposal to state and federal regulators, who can use the data collected to decide if the non-standard features like the sharrows can become an acceptable standard.

For readers unfamiliar with protected lanes (that would likely be most Angelenos), cyclists often ride in the “door zone,” the area immediately adjacent to curbside parking into which car doors open. Usually drivers have to squeeze by bikers.

This project, part of the City’s Bicycle Master Plan, seeks to improve access for bicyclists to MacArthur BART.

“It’s one of the major east-west thoroughfares in that area. There’re nearly 100,000 people that live within a two-mile radius of MacArthur BART. There are about 5,000 that live within a half a mile but there’re 96,000 that live within two miles.”

“It’d great if we can get those 5,000 people to walk to BART, but if the bike shed is effectively bigger than the walk shed--more people are willing to bike than they are willing to walk--you can get a lot of efficiencies out of that,” said Patton.

The City is promoting bicycling as healthy, non-polluting and affordable transportation to realize its sustainability and livability goals.

“In Oakland’s master bike plan, one of the emphasis is connecting surrounding neighborhoods to bike stations. Recognizing that if people can get to BART safely by bicycle, people aren’t making very short trips by car, short trips being high polluting trips and also causing parking issues at BART stations.”

The project will be implemented in phases and data will be collected during that time with final reporting completed in 2015.

So far, reactions from the biking community have been positive.

“People were saying that drivers tend to be giving them a little bit more consideration, they don’t feel as threatened by the drivers that were out there in terms of drivers honking from behind, or passing too close or going too fast.”

However, motorists have yet to fully adopt the idea.

“Some of the comments we’re receiving are—‘What are you doing here? Why are you doing this? Why do people need to ride bikes on 40th street?’” said Patton.

Since 2006, the City has been working to improve bike access. This just might be the answer.
“We’ve been trying to figure it out the past 7 years and we’ve finally come up with a compromised solution that everybody could live with that still has opportunity to increase bicycle safety.”

Like Oakland, some cities throughout California, are beginning to get somewhat more serious about implementing facilities to better integrate bicycling into their transportation mix.

An important takeaway is that cities, regions and the state need to make sure that major infrastructure projects are results-oriented like Oakland’s cycling sharrow experiment. California’s infrastructure agencies should spend its scarce resources on investments that will prove to boost the state’s triple bottom line of economic prosperity, environmental quality and community health. That’s one of the goals of the California Economic Summit’s Infrastructure Action Team, which will be releasing a list of actions the state can take to give the state’s roads, rails and bikeways a leg up.

California getting more of its oil by rail


The oil boom in North Dakota has fueled a shift for California away from in-state, Alaskan and foreign sources. The move comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of oil shipped by train.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-oil-rail-20130927,0,3532885.story

By Ralph Vartabedian, September 26, 2013

 Oil train disaster

 The July oil train disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in Canada has fueled heightened scrutiny in the U.S. of transporting crude by rail.


Oil extracted from massive new fields in North Dakota and other states is rolling into California in growing quantities aboard long-haul freight trains, paralleling a surge in crude moving on rail across North America.

More than 200,000 barrels of crude per month were imported into California this summer, a fourfold increase from early 2012, according to data compiled by the California Energy Commission. Though the total amount is still small, it marks a little-noticed departure from the state's reliance on its own declining oil patches, the Alaskan North Slope and foreign nations, led by Saudi Arabia.

But the use of rail to move oil amid rapidly expanding U.S. production is coming under growing regulatory scrutiny after the horrific explosion of an oil train in Canada's Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killed at least 42 residents in July. An unattended train with 72 tank cars hauling crude from North Dakota's Bakken Shale fields rolled downhill into the city and ignited an inferno that destroyed half of downtown.

Canadian investigators and U.S. oil experts have identified a number of grievous safety lapses tied to the accident. In its aftermath, the Federal Railroad Administration issued an emergency order that requires new safety procedures for hauling crude. And the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said it may demand more puncture-resistant tank cars.

Hauling crude into California involves traversing some of the most challenging mountain passes in the nation. And though runaway freight trains are rare events, they have the potential to cause big damage. A 31-car train rolled downhill for about 30 miles in 2003, crashing in Commerce with a load of lumber that damaged property and injured a dozen people. If it had been highly volatile Bakken crude, which can burn like gasoline, the damage would have been far greater.

The rise in rail shipments in part reflects successful opposition to new pipelines to accommodate U.S. oil production, which has jumped 41% since 2006. Environmentalists have fought the construction of new pipelines, such as the Keystone XL that would link Canadian and North Dakota production fields to refineries in Texas. Railroads, meanwhile, are carrying 25 times more crude than they were five years ago.

Though railroads have sharply improved their safety in recent years, moving oil on tank cars is still only about half as safe as in pipelines, according to Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane University Energy Institute.

"You can make the argument that the pipeline fights have forced the industry to revert to rail that is less safe," Smith said.

The shift to rail is not entirely the result of the inability to build pipelines, however. Refiners increasingly like the flexibility of buying crude even when there isn't a pipeline to carry it.
Tesoro and Valero Energy, both based in Texas, say they plan to start or increase their use of crude brought in by rail at their California refineries. Valero is seeking a permit to build a new rail terminal at its Bay Area refinery. Some North Dakota crude is also being shipped aboard barges down the West Coast to California, after arriving on rail in Seattle. Phillips 66, which owns refineries in Northern and Southern California, said it had received barged shipments of Bakken crude.

"Right now, North American crudes are the lowest cost and highest quality anywhere in the world," said Valero spokesman Bill Day. "California is at a disadvantage because it doesn't have pipelines that can bring in crude from North Dakota or Texas."

It is widely expected that a large new rail terminal somewhere in the Central Valley will be built to tie into California's pipeline network, which mainly serves the state's own crude oil industry, according to Philip Verleger, an oil industry consultant.

The import of shale oil from North Dakota, Colorado and other states is something of a teaser for the California oil industry, which is focused on its massive resource, the Monterey Shale. The vast formation under the Central Valley contains an estimated 15 billon barrels of oil, three to four times larger than North Dakota's Bakken field.

Though California still ranks as the third-largest oil producing state, its output is only half as much as it was two decades ago. Exploiting the deposits by hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, would face sharp opposition by environmental groups, and recently enacted state legislation on the practice could throw a chill on its development when new regulations are implemented in two years.

"We have the opportunity to develop oil domestically and we should avail ourselves of it," said Western States Petroleum Assn. spokesman Tupper Hull. The group says that development of the Monterey field would create up to 2.8 million jobs and add $222 billion to the state economy. Hull said tapping California's oil makes more sense for public safety and the environment than importing out-of-state oil by rail.

In the Pacific Northwest, where as many as 11 refineries are planning oil-by-rail shipments, hundreds of protesters gathered near the Washington-Oregon border in August to protest the plan. A new terminal to transfer rail oil to ships on the Columbia River would threaten schools and a newly developed waterfront in the event of an accident like that in Quebec, said Trip Jennings, an organizer at the environmental group Portland Rising Tide.

"The corporations want to push the public safety aspects of this under the table," he said. "We are talking about a ticking time-bomb moving through our cities."

The shift to rail has grown over the last five years. In 2012, U.S. railroads transported 234,000 rail cars of crude, each containing about 30,000 gallons, up from 9,500 rail car loads in 2008, according to the Assn. of American Railroads. In the first and second quarters of this year, the volume doubled over similar periods in 2012.

The growth gained little attention until the Quebec accident, which occurred on the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a short-line railroad that is privately owned. The train was parked overnight on a hill on the main line, rather than on a siding, while the engineer went to a hotel. One locomotive was left idling to provide power for the train's air brakes. At some point, a fire broke out in the locomotive and disabled the air brakes, which had not been set properly to compensate, investigators believe.

Canadian investigators also have determined that the crude was mislabeled on the cars as having a lower volatility, though it was nearly as combustible as gasoline.

"This Quebec accident ranks as one of the most incompetent industrial accidents I have ever heard of," said Verleger, the oil industry consultant.

The Federal Railroad Administration in the U.S. issued an emergency order in early August, prohibiting railroads from leaving crude oil trains unattended without getting prior regulatory approval. It also now requires train crews to confirm with dispatchers the number of hand brakes applied to parked trains, as well as the grade, tonnage and length of the train. Railroad administration spokesman Kevin Thompson noted that rail accidents had dropped by 43% over the last decade.

Meanwhile, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration moved this month to begin tightening safety standards on tank cars, specifically to make them more resistant to punctures. The current rule generally requires a loaded car be able to resist impacts at up to 18 mph. Whether stronger tank cars could have prevented the devastation in Lac-Megantic is unclear, though some kind of action seems warranted, officials said.

"Now is the time to make sure safety regulations are robust enough for the increased hazmat movement on our rails, roads and in our pipelines," agency chief Cynthia Quarterman said.

Spills of crude during transportation are fairly common, though most are minor. There were nearly 200 incidents involving crude transported in pipelines in 2012 and 100 incidents involving tank cars, according to the agency's database. Vastly more oil flows in pipelines than along railways.
But the proportions are changing.

Not since the early days of the oil industry, Verleger said, when John D. Rockefeller helped pioneer oil pipelines, has the transportation of crude been so much in flux.

MORENO VALLEY: Gingerbread Man helps nab crosswalk violators

http://blog.pe.com/breaking-news/2013/09/26/moreno-valley-gingerbread-man-helps-nab-crosswalk-violators/

By Brian Rokos, September 26, 2013

 Riverside County Sheriff's deputies watch for violators as the Gingerbread Man crosses Eucalyptus Avenue in Moreno Valley on Thursday, Sept. 26. (Photo: Brian Rokos/Staff)

 Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies watch for violators as the Gingerbread Man crosses Eucalyptus Avenue in Moreno Valley on Thursday, Sept. 26.


Yes, that really was a 7-foot-tall Gingerbread Man — wearing sneakers — walking back and forth across Eucalyptus Avenue in Moreno Valley.

Yet the costumed deputy was invisible to most of the 13 motorists who were cited in a 50-minute span during a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department  pedestrian decoy operation Thursday morning, Sept. 26.

The drivers were accused of failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This crossing was in front of Rainbow Springs Elementary and just down the street from Sunnymead Middle School.

Most, Sgt. Bill Guimont said, claimed they never saw the brown fairy-tale character with the round head.

“Our concern is if they can’t see a 7-foot Gingerbread Man, then how are they going to see their son or daughter that is only 5 feet tall walking through a crosswalk,” Guimont said.

Seven other drivers were cited for other violations, and four vehicles were towed because the drivers didn’t have valid licenses.

The Sheriff’s Department had received complaints about drivers cutting off students as they crossed Eucalyptus at Running Deer Road and several times nearly striking the crossing guard. So Thursday morning at 8, five deputies on motorcycles arrived, along with Deputy Chris Gastinger, who put on the Gingerbread Man costume.

Gastinger has participated in the stings for two years. The Moreno Valley station has also used Santa Claus and the Human Traffic Cone as decoys and is one of the few Inland agencies to employ costumed decoys.


The purpose of the operations, Guimont said, is to educate drivers about the crosswalk laws and make them more aware of the dangers, especially in front of schools.

Cpl. Jimmy Hamrick said there is confusion among the public about what the Vehicle Code says about drivers and pedestrians intersecting. The bottom line is that both have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of the other. Neither always has the right of way. A pedestrian, for example, cannot step into the crosswalk at the last second, failing to give the driver time to stop. And a driver must try to avoid a jaywalking pedestrian.

In the case of crosswalks, once a pedestrian — or Gingerbread Man — safely steps into the street at a marked or unmarked crosswalk, the driver must stop, no matter how far away the pedestrian is, and stay stopped until the pedestrian reaches the far curb, Hamrick said. He added that he once investigated a case in which a driver began to proceed after a child had apparently passed, but the child suddenly doubled back and was struck.

Some law-enforcement officers do not hold drivers to the letter of the law — as long as the pedestrian is far away while coming or going, the driver may proceed —  but on Thursday, the deputies were not allowing any leeway.

As Gastinger crossed Eucalyptus, the motorcycle officers waited on Running Deer. If Gastinger saw a violation, he would signal by raising the Gingerbread Man’s right arm.

Chuong Cao was pulled over after driving through the crosswalk on the far side of Eucalyptus after the decoy had taken a few steps into the street. He was stopped in the parking lot of the elementary school as he attempted to drop his son off.

Cao protested that he was watching the crossing guard — she was on the curb at the time — and said the Gingerbread Man had barely entered the crosswalk.

He was still handed a ticket, accusing him of violating Vehicle Code section 21950(A).
“Understand, we’re here for your kid’s safety,” Deputy Dean Colbert told Cao.

Hamrick said most of the drivers cited Thursday were exceeding the 25 mph school-zone speed limit, making it difficult for them to stop for pedestrians of any height or appearance.

A Sunnymead student, seventh-grader Armando Morales, said he was glad to see the enforcement.
“It’s safer because kids won’t get injured,” he said.

Other passersby praised the deputies and described traffic dangers. Students high-fived the Gingerbread Man and at least one parent snapped a photograph.

Guimont said that the enforcement is working: Five pedestrians were killed and 72 injured in 64 accidents in Moreno Valley 2012. In 2013, two pedestrians have been killed with 33 injured in 29 accidents.

“The parents need to slow down — that’s the bottom line,” Gastinger said. “In front of these schools during these hours is the most dangerous place in the city.”

L.A. Councilman Joe Buscaino proposes $50,000 reward in fatal hit-and-runs

http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20130926/la-councilman-joe-buscaino-proposes-50000-reward-in-fatal-hit-and-runs

By Larry Altman, September 26, 2013




























Katharina Luna-Alvarez, center, a cousin of Manuel Ayala who died in a Wilmington hit-and-run on Sept. 16, 2013, is comforted. Friends and family gathered Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 as L.A. Councilman Joe Buscaino held a press conference to announce legislation to combat hit-and-run drivers. 

Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino said Thursday he will propose a standing $50,000 reward for information that helps LAPD officers find the “cowardly” motorists who strike and kill innocent people on the city’s streets and speed away.

Flanked by family members of 26-year-old Manuel Ayala, who was fatally injured on a Wilmington street last week, Buscaino said he also wants California Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would double the statute of limitations on hit-and-run crimes from three to six years, and urged state legislators to increase the penalties stemming from hit-and-run deaths, raising them to the same level as alcohol-related fatalities.

The bill, AB 184, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Burbank, was approved by the state Legislature earlier this month and sent to the governor on Sept. 19, the same day the San Pedro father was removed from life-support machines.

“I don’t want to live in a city where we allow 30 people to be killed every year by someone who leaves the scene of a crime without any consequence,” Buscaino told reporters on Pacific Coast Highway near Wilmington Boulevard. “It’s a cowardly act and we will not put up with it in the city of Los Angeles.”

The proposed standing reward will be introduced Friday at the Los Angeles City Council meeting.


Ayala, a young father of a 4-year-old daughter, was struck Sept. 16 as he crossed Pacific Coast Highway in midstreet about 7:50 p.m. As he walked north, a gray Toyota sedan going west hit him.
“I never expected I would have to bury my own son,” said his mother, Laura Schumann.

Ayala, who lived with his girlfriend, Mayra Duenas, and daughter, died while making his way toward Placentia to visit his grandmother and mother. Without his own car, Ayala rode the bus and possibly stopped in Wilmington to say hello to friends. When he did not show up in Orange County, family members tried to find him but had no luck. They were horrified to learn two days later that he was lying brain dead in a South Bay hospital.

“Please help us find this killer that left my brother-in-law on the floor,” Brenda Viveros said. “I can’t understand, I can’t wrap my head around how somebody could just hit somebody, briefly look over, see what damage they caused and just drive off.”

Ayala’s death devastated his parents, his girlfriend of eight years, and other family members and friends. A guitar player, he started music and computer courses in San Pedro just two weeks before his death, hoping to one day repair computers and create software. He enjoyed taking his daughter fishing at Cabrillo Beach, his mother said.

Viveros described Ayala as “an angel sent from heaven.”

“How could you just leave him like that?” Viveros said to the unknown driver. “You could have stopped. You could have got out. You could have given comfort. You could have held his hand. But instead you decided to leave him.”

Viveros urged the driver to come forward to give the family closure.


“How would you like it if somebody left your son on the floor just like a dog?” she said. “How would you like it?”

Los Angeles police Detective Sandra Smith said police obtained some surveillance camera footage of the gray Toyota and believe it was driven by a woman. The car is a two- or four-door sedan and likely has front-end damage, especially to a fog light.

Had the driver stayed at the scene, she would not have been considered a criminal, Smith said.
Buscaino, who represents the Harbor Area, said he also will propose a separate reward to help find the driver who struck Ayala. Los Angeles City Council members propose rewards for homicides and other crimes in their districts regularly, but Buscaino’s standing reward for hit-and-run crimes would be different.

“It’s a sign to send a clear signal : If you leave the scene of an accident, you are a coward, you are a criminal and you will be treated as such,” Buscaino said.

What the IPCC found: The big news from the new climate assessment

http://grist.org/climate-energy/what-the-ipcc-found-the-big-news-from-the-new-climate-assessment/

By John Upton, September 27, 2013




 developed-earth

It’s extremely likely that humans have been the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s, according to a landmark report from the world’s top panel of climate scientists. And we’re failing in our efforts to keep atmospheric warming below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit, which many scientists say is needed to avoid massive disruption.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conducted an epic review of climate research over the last three years. It is summarizing the most important findings in its fifth assessment report, which offers the clearest picture science has ever painted of how humans are reshaping the climate and the planet.

 Here, in a nutshell, are the main findings of a summary [PDF] of part one of the assessment report, which focuses on the science of climate change:
Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. …

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.
The IPCC also concludes that oceans have absorbed more of Earth’s excess heat since the 1990s than was the case during prior periods, explaining what climate deniers wrongly describe as a warming slowdown. And the panel revised downward the lower limit of warming that’s expected once we double the atmosphere’s CO2 concentrations, but left the upper limit unchanged from its 2007 assessment.

For background on the IPCC and this assessment report, be sure to check out this explainer.
And to save you the trouble of reading the dense 36-page summary released on Friday, we’ve rounded up highlights here — key numbers, facts, and graphs:

Carbon emissions

1 trillion tons: That’s the amount of carbon dioxide we could release into the atmosphere while keeping global warming under 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

We’ve already released more than half that amount, mostly by burning fossil fuels and producing concrete, but also by tearing out forests and other ecosystems. A scientist involved with the study told The New York Times we will hit the limit in 2040 unless serious steps are taken to reduce carbon emissions.
Click to embiggen.
IPCC
Click to embiggen.
Land temperatures

2.7 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 4.5 Celsius): That’s the “likely” range of temperature rise once CO2 levels double in the atmosphere to 560 parts per million. The level was 280 ppm in pre-industrial times, and recently rose above 400 ppm.

Although it’s “virtually certain” that there will be more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cold ones, occasional cold winter extremes will still occur.
Click to embiggen.
IPPA
Click to embiggen.
Ocean temperatures

0.2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.1 Celsius): That’s the rate at which the upper 250 feet of the oceans are warming every decade.

More than 90 percent of Earth’s extra heat is being absorbed by the oceans, where it’s affecting currents and causing water to expand, contributing to rising seas.
Click to embiggen.
IPCC
Click to embiggen.
Sea levels

1/8th of an inch (3.2 mm): That’s the annual rate at which seas have been rising since 1993.
The two main contributors to the rising seas are melting glaciers and warming waters, which expand as they heat up.
Click to embiggen.
IPCC
Click to embiggen.
Ocean acidification

26 percent: That’s the increase in hydrogen ion concentration at the surface of the world’s oceans since the Industrial Revolution, corresponding to a pH decrease of 0.1.
Oceans have absorbed about 30 percent of the CO2 that we have released into the atmosphere, and that’s what has caused the rise in acidity.
Click to embiggen.
IPCC
Click to embiggen.
Rain, snow, and hail

It is “likely” that the number of regions where heavy rains have already become more common is greater than the number of regions where heavy rains are now occurring less frequently.
The contrast between wet and dry regions will continue to increase, with wet areas getting wetter and dry regions growing more parched. Similarly, the contrast between wet and dry seasons will also become more pronounced.
Click to embiggen.
IPCC
Click to embiggen.
Snow cover

11.7 percent: That’s the reduction in the extent of June snow cover every decade in the Northern Hemisphere between 1967 and 2012.

Snowfall rates are expected to increase over Greenland and Antarctica. In Greenland, scientists have “high confidence” that snowfall will increase too slowly to make up for faster melting rates, though that may not be the case in Antarctica.
Click to embiggen.
IPCC
Click to embiggen.
Ice

303 billion tons: That’s the amount of ice that the world’s glaciers have lost every year since 1993.
The speed with which Greenland’s ice sheet is melting has increased substantially — 237 billion tons of ice were lost yearly from 2002 to 2011, up from 37 billion tons per year from 1992 to 2001. Meanwhile, Antarctica lost 162 tons of ice per year from 2002 to 2011, up from 33 billion tons annually from 1992 to 2001.
Click to embiggen.
IPCC
Click to embiggen.

A Multimedia Project Designed to Humanize the Public Bus Driver

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/09/these-stark-poignant-portraits-remind-you-bus-drivers-are-people-too/7040/

By Eric Jaffe, September 27, 2013

The city bus driver doesn't get as much of our empathy as he or she probably should. The health hazards that come with the job are enormous. The risk of being attacked by angry riders — especially lately — is equally frightening. Too often bus drivers seem to personify the most exhausting and frustrating aspects of urban life.

So it's refreshing to see a new multimedia project, "Driving Richmond," celebrating the bus driver as an actual person. This collection of stark portraits and often-poignant vignettes of 15 drivers from the Greater Richmond Transit Company reminds us that they, too, have a human story to share. The project showed at a street-art festival held at an old bus depot earlier this month and now lives online.
"Many people see the bus driver as just a component of a bus and not this figure that has a passion, if you will, for driving a bus," says Vaughn Whitney Garland, a doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University who curated the project. "So it was kind of amazing to see this work, this documentation, bring that awareness to people."

Garland hopes the series not only presents Richmond bus drivers in a more personal light but also raises public interest about the poor state of the city's transit system. Until recently, the city council rather than the transit authority had control of the bus system — resulting in a number of route inefficiencies. Garland says his five-minute bike commute would take nearly an hour by bus.

"For me, if we could make a successful public transit system, then it really helps out the growth and vitality of the city," he says. "It brings jobs. It brings people down into the city center. It makes the city stronger. I think we've kind of lost that over the years, when we do these massive sprawls out to the country."

We've included five pictures and excerpts from the oral histories below, but the whole exhibition is highly recommended. In addition to Garland, the "Driving Richmond" collaboration involved photographer Michael Lease (who took the portraits), University of Richmond professor Laura Browder (who conducted the interviews), and artist Benjamin Thorp (who created audio portraits).

BRUCE KORUSEK


Michael Lease, "Bruce Korusek," 2013
I took my first bus picture when I was five. My mother and I'd been to Byrd Park and we were walking by the bus garage. I said, 'can I take a picture of those buses?' and, you know, she gave me the camera and I took the picture. And I still have the picture.
DEBORAH HOPKINS


Michael Lease, "Deborah Hopkins," 2013
You’re like a doctor, lawyer, psychiatrist, minister. You do all these things because people need someone to talk to. It’s a very good career if you are people-oriented. If you don’t have the patience of Job, you’re not gonna make it.
ROBERT SCOTT


Michael Lease, "Robert Scott," 2013
Some time they be running up to catch the bus, I’ll wait for them. You know. But I had to get used to that. Because here people will say, ‘hey, somebody’s coming!’ I wasn’t used to that. Because in New York and New Jersey, it’s almost 24/7. You know, catch the next one, somebody’s following behind you. Here it’s more personal.
MARCIA SCHMIEGELOW


Michael Lease, "Marcia Schmiegelow," 2013
The attacks on drivers have increased so much. It’s becoming more and more dangerous out there. Nationwide, passengers are attacking drivers. And that’s why the unions nationwide are fighting to have more convictions on people that attack drivers. There need to be heavier laws on that.
MARSHALL AVENT


Michael Lease, "Marshall Avent," 2013
When I came here, it was predominantly white and that was the way of the world. I came in ‘73. I’m told that when African Americans first started driving the buses that white folks used to call the police on them. Said they stole the bus.