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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Video by Joe Cano: Alhambra's Close The Gap Dis-information booth

A couple of photos and tips on safety when accessing center platforms on Blue, Expo and Gold Lines


By Steve Hymon, September 30, 2013



First, a big thank you to readers and media for their interest and articles last week about Metro’s efforts to reduce suicides, particularly along the Blue Line, the agency’s longest and busiest light rail line.

That said, the week ended badly when on Friday evening a man was killed when he walked into the path of a southbound Blue Line train at the Vernon station. The incident remains under investigation but Metro has confirmed that the crossing gates, warning lights and bells were working.

As it happens I spent some time along the Blue Line corridor last week shooting photographs for Metro, including the two above that were taken at the Vernon station.

The point of the top photo: the Blue Line trains are big, heavy and long — and they pass within feet of the entrance and exit to the train platform that sits between the Blue Line’s southbound and northbound tracks.

The second photo was taken to illustrate the difficulty in gauging distances along the Blue Line, which features long, straight sections of track. You may think the train is still far and you have time to get across the tracks. But you may be wrong with deadly consequences.

After watching people come and go to and from the station, I think there are three easy things everyone can do that would help improve safety:

1. Take off your headphones.

2. Put your phone in your pocket.

3. Keep your head on a swivel.

I saw several people walking to or from the platform staring at their phones and not even looking up despite the presence of traffic on Vernon Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard and two sets of train tracks — for the Blue Line and for Union Pacific freight trains.

Metro’s safety ambassador has a neat little trick: he stands in the path of those folks staring at their phones, forcing them to look up or walk into him.

Please be careful, everyone. The Blue Line, Gold Line and Expo Line all have platforms in the center of the tracks. They can work fine — but like many other things in life, they do require your full attention in order for everyone to get where they are going safely.


From Sylvia Plummer, September 30, 2013


The Long Beach City Council will meet Tuesday, October 1, beginning at 5:00 p.m.  On the agenda will be a recommended action to pass a resolution to support the “completion” of the 710.   This effort was initiated by 3 of the 9 Long Beach City Council members.  Their memorandum containing the proposed resolution is attached.  Also attached is a copy of the agenda.  We apologize for the short notice, but we were made aware of this only today.

Long Beach memorandum:


Long Beach agenda (first pages are blank): 

CALL TO ACTION:  We are asking all of you to send emails to the Long Beach City Council.  


STEP 1:   Send a brief email to each Long Beach City Council member, the Mayor, City Manager and the City Clerk (same message to all)Our messages should be polite and concise.  Remember, the goal is to get them to oppose or at least be neutral.  Please take action!  It won't require a lot of your time, and the impact of hundreds of messages could make the difference in swaying their votes.  The dozens of letters sent to the Monrovia City Council made a big impact and were mentioned by the City Clerk when she introduced the agenda item at the Monrovia City Council meeting on Sept. 3.  Monrovia failed to support the connection of the 710 tothe 210 via a freeway -- above ground or below ground.

Three of nine City Council members initiated this resolution, and we are not certain about the positions of the Mayor or the other City Council members on this issue.

Some points for your messages to include:
  • Be sure to tell what community you live in and what the impacts to your community will be.
  • Discuss the completion of the 210 to the 15 which resulted in the increase in traffic on the 210 we see today, turning the 210 into a parking lot a particular times of the day.  The additional 140,000 vehicles per day projected to use the tunnel will not facilitate goods movement to the inland empire nor to points north.
  • Since the rationale in the proposed resolution hinges heavily on the connection of the 710 to the 210 as completion of a goods movement corridor, it goes against Metro's denials of this as a motivating factor for the SR-710 project.
  • Point out that Metro has stated over and over again that they are evaluating the performance of the tunnel with and without truck traffic, and that if no trucks are allowed, it will not achieve the goods movement corridor.
  • Point out that this will be, of necessity and by Metro's own admission, a tolled roadway and that trucks may avoid using it for that very reason.
  • Discuss the various other options for goods movement (for example, by clean, quiet electric rail  transport systems) that would benefit ALL the communities of the I-710 corridor and prevent the communities of the 210 corridor from experiencing the same environmental and health damage that the I-710 corridor has suffered.

STEP 2:   Below is the list of names and email addresses.  Be sure to email everyone on this list.

Long Beach City Council officials:
City Clerk:  Larry Herrera               cityclerk@longbeach.gov
City Manager:  Patrick West        Patrick.west@longbeach.gov

Mayor:  Bob Foster                      mayor@longbeach.gov
District 1:  Dr. Robert Garcia            district1@longbeach.gov
District 2:  Suja Lowenthal            district2@longbeach.gov
District 3:  Gary DeLong                district3@longbeach.gov
District 4:  Patrick O’Donnell          district4@longbeach.gov
District 5:  Gerrie Schipske            district5@longbeach.gov
District 6:  Dee Andrews               dee.andrews@longbeach.gov
District 7:  James Johnson             district7@longbeach.gov
District 8:  Al Austin                      district8@longbeach.gov
District 9:  Steven Neal                   district9@longbeach.gov

STEP 3:  Able to Attend? (Be sure to check the agenda at the City of Long Beach website and attached).
For those that can attend and speak, or just come and support those that will speak, here is the city council meeting info:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

City Council Chambers
333 West Ocean Blvd. 
Long Beach, CA 90802

Meeting starts at 5:00 p.m.

Public Speakers are given up to 3 minutes to speak.  You do not need to complete a speaker card for agenda items.  According to the City Clerk's office, a line forms behind the podium, and you just get in line.

Man Falls From Party Bus on Freeway, Dies

Police are not sure why the 24-year-old man fell onto the freeway.


 By Kyler Jae, September 30, 2013

OC Sheriff's Department Most Wanted List
A party bus passenger was killed along this stretch of the 101 Freeway Sunday Sept. 29, 2013.

A man fell out of a party limo bus onto a Southern California freeway and was fatally struck by cars, the CHP said on Sunday.

The man was ejected from a Ford F550 party limo bus just north of Universal Studios Boulevard and landed on the freeway at 12:15 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol. He was struck by motorists and died at the scene.

Police are not sure how fast the party bus was traveling and how he came out of the bus.
"The person was ejected from the vehicle -- we don't know exactly how," said CHP Officer Chris Baldonado.

Responding officers found several vehicles parked along the right shoulder of the freeway. The preliminary investigation indicated that all drivers involved in the collision stopped at the location.
CHP investigators expected to have more information about the case Monday. 

The victim's name has not been released.

WATCH: Boston Man's Sudden Fall Onto Subway Tracks

Good Samaritans also jumped onto the tracks to aid the man and lifted him back onto the platform


 By Vishal Persaud, September 27, 2013

Man's Sudden Fall Onto Subway Tracks Caught on Video  An unbelievable fall and rescue was caught on video Wednesday night when a 33-year-old man fell onto the tracks of Boston's "T" subway system. 

 Go to the website to view the video.

An unbelievable fall and rescue were caught on video Wednesday night when a 33-year-old man fell onto the tracks of Boston's "T" subway system, New England Cable News reported. 

The man apparently hit his head and was knocked unconscious. The video shows him falling onto the tracks of the outbound Orange Line at Boston's North Station, with several people coming to his rescue and carrying him off the tracks.

"I thought it was a fight, but then again I seen the dude's shoes on the ground, I was over there and I had to run, I didn't care if I died at least I did something tried to save somebody's life instead of watching somebody die and get hit by a train," said 16-year-old Duncan Ketter, who ran across two sets of tracks from the inbound side to help the fallen man.

Two other good Samaritans also jumped onto the tracks to aid the man and lifted him back onto the platform. Duncan then ran across back to the other side, where his girlfriend was waiting and continued onto her house.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials said the fallen man and his rescuers were never in real danger since another quick-thinking rider notified a dispatcher of the fall and all trains were stopped in the area.

Officials said the man was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital with a minor head injury.
MBTA officials said the man who fell told them that he had two drinks after celebrating passing the medical boards and was on his way home waiting for the train.

But he doesn't remember falling onto the subway tracks. 

Week ahead: Freight in spotlight if Congress can avoid a government shutdown Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/transportation-report/shipping-and-cargo/325443-week-ahead-freight-in-spotlight-if-congress-can-avoid-a-government-shutdown#ixzz2gPNDaNAm Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook


By Keith Laing, September 30, 2013

Presuming the government remains open for business on Oct. 1 — by no means a certainty — the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing about the U.S. freight rail system.

In preparation for forthcoming bills that authorize funding for rail and road and transit projects, the Transportation Committee’s Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation will hold a hearing to hear “perspectives from users of the nation’s freight system.”

The panel will hear from International Paper Vice President for Consumer Packaging Tom Kadien, DuPont Sustainability Manager F. Edmond Johnston III, Nucor Steel Berkeley Materials and Logistics Manager William Roberson and Riceland Foods Public Affairs Vice President Bill Reed.

Meanwhile, if the government is shut down, it could have big impacts on transportation. The Department of Transportation has said that it would have to furlough 18,000 workers if Congress does not reach an agreement to keep the government open.

The agency said it would not furlough air traffic controllers, but the potential shutdown could result in a delay in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision on allowing airline passengers to keep their electronic devices on during flights.

The FAA had been planning to receive a recommendation from a committee it created to study the impact of electronic devices on airplane safety equipment.

However, the Transportation Department said on Friday that “aviation rulemaking” would be one of the FAA’s activities that would be suspended if the government is shut down on Oct. 1.

The FAA, which is the transportation department’s largest subsidiary, would go from 46,070 employees currently to 30,556 under the department's contingency plan. Outside of the Capitol, The Week magazine will hold a panel discussion on “America’s Infrastructure: Crisis or Opportunity?” on Oct. 3.

The Hill’s Keith Laing will be a member of the panel.

Bakersfield Residents Vow to Fight Retrograde Highway Plan


By Angie Schmitt, September 30, 2013

Bakersfield, California, plans to borrow $270 million to build a highway through one of its neighborhoods, despite residents' promise to sue.

Many American cities, at this point, are waking up with a sort of hangover from the “Interstate Era” that demolished urban neighborhoods to build life-sapping highways. Heck, some really proactive cities are demolishing their underused, elevated, antiquated urban freeways.

Then there are places like Bakersfield, California, where the Interstate Era continues to this day: One of the local government’s current ambitions is to build a highway through a thriving residential neighborhood. Network blog Systemic Failure calls it “one of the dumbest highway projects in the entire U.S.” Neighborhood residents aren’t going to let it happen without a fight, according to the Bakersfield Californian:
The secretary for the Westpark Home Owners Association, a group of residents whose houses would be destroyed if the Centennial Corridor freeway segment is built, threatened the Bakersfield City Council with a lawsuit Wednesday if the project continues.

“If you approve the validation action this evening, we will take you to court,” WHOA secretary Marc Caputo told the council as more than 40 Westpark residents sat and listened to council members share their doubts about going into debt to pay Bakersfield’s share of the federally funded Thomas Roads Improvement Program.

After more than an hour of debate, the council voted 6-1 to approve a validation action. It was the legal first step toward later borrowing as much as $270 million, to match $570 million in federal funds secured for the city by former U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield.

“I’m just imploring you to consider a no-build option,” said resident Kimberly Squires. “The money’s just not there. The benefit’s small, the harm is great.”
Some cities never learn (see also: St. Louis, Cleveland).

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn remarks on what a difference a stripe of paint can make. Switchboard NRDC celebrates a new California law that tackles the supremacy of car capacity in transportation planning. And This Big City explains Curibita’s 12-point plan for becoming a bike friendly city.

The Week in Livable Streets Events: Big Thursday, CicLAvia


By Damien Newton, September 30, 2013

It’s easy to look ahead to CicLAvia, but there’s a lot of other good events on the calendar this weekend.
  • Tuesday – Walktober kicks off with a “Day of Action” from our friends at Los Angeles Walks. The pedestrian advocacy organization is using costumes and colors to draw attention to pedestrian safety at three of L.A.’s unsafest intersections starting at 8 am at Hollywood and Vine. Get all the details for their other stops in Mid-City and Downtown Los Angeles at the Streetsblog Calendar Section.
  • ThursdayFood & Film @ the Train Tracks is an event showcasing the Glendale Metrolink Station, including the historic Southern Pacific Railroad Depot.  Feedback from participants attending the event will help inform the City and Project Team on how to move forward with policy recommendations for the neighborhoods around the Metrolink Station. Get the details at the Streetsblog Calendar Section.
  • Thursday – The Los Angeles Young Transportation Professionals and LADOT host a symposium to discuss how technology improvements impact transportation and community planning. Accelerate Los Angeles will be an engaging discussion of big ideas, creative problem solving, and cutting-edge technology with current and future leaders in the tech and transportation fields. The event starts at 6 at LADOT’s Downtown Offices. Details. 
  • Thursday – The coalition of environmentalists, homeowners and businesses in West L.A. and Santa Monica will meet to discuss not just whether or not Santa Monica should consider turning large portions (or all) of the city’s airport into a park, but what amenities the park should have. We have their flyer in our calendar section for this Thursday’s meeting.
  • SundayCicLAvia!
It feels as though we missed something. Did we? Let me know at damien@streetsblog.org.

Montreal to get more reserved bus lanes


By Brendan Kelly, September 30, 2013

Montreal to get more reserved bus lanes

Quebec Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault announces a program to expand reserved bus lanes during a press conference in Montreal on Sunday.

MONTREAL - The Parti Québécois government announced Sunday it will add 208 kilometres of reserved bus lanes in the greater Montreal area, at a cost of $84 million. Provincial Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault also said that the provincial government will up its financing of these reserved bus lanes from 75 per cent to 100 per cent of the cost.

Prior to this, the different transportation bodies, like the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM), footed 25 per cent of the bill for creating these reserved bus lanes.

Michel Labrecque, who is chair of the board of the STM, said this is great news for the city.
“We’ll be able to accelerate the amount of service with the same number of buses because the buses will come back quicker,” Labrecque noted.

Labrecque said reserved bus lanes are the best way to alleviate the congestion on the streets of Montreal.

“I will never convince a guy alone in his car to take the bus if he sees the bus stuck in traffic,” said Labreque. “To convince him, I need to show him efficiency and predictability.”

Gaudreault noted that they will be doubling the number of kilometres of reserved bus lanes in Montreal over the next two years with this initiative.

The Transport Minister said that traffic congestion in Quebec is costing the province more than $1.5 billion a year.

“We need to help our citizens get to their work more rapidly,” Gaudreault said. “All of the world’s major urban centres have reduced their traffic congestion by creating reserved bus lanes and Montreal shouldn’t be any different from any of the other cities around the world.”

The announcement was made Sunday afternoon by four PQ Ministers. In addition to Gaudreault, the heavy-duty lineup included Jean-Francois Lisée, the minister responsible for Montreal; Marie Malavoy, minister responsible for the Montérégie region; and Nicole Léger, minister responsible for Laval.

“Traffic congestion is not just a psychological problem,” Lisée said.

“Sometimes it puts us in a bad mood and a bad mood is certainly not the default position for Quebecers. So we have to create the conditions to put people in a good mood. But it’s also an economic problem and an environmental problem.”

Both Gaudreault and Lisée talked of how this initiative will significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions since, in theory, there will be less cars on the roads of Montreal.

“It’s about changing the model from single-car travel to collective transportation,” Gaudreault said.

They said the most pressing need is right at the centre of Montreal, but that all areas of the greater Montreal region would be receiving new reserved bus lanes.

China still leads the world in emissions, with no end in sight


By James West, September 28, 2013

 Power plant stacks tower over a town in China's coal country.

 Power plant stacks tower over a town in China’s coal country.

 People write about China’s growth so much it’s daunting to wring out something new. But — wow — when you see it for the first time in a few years, it still delivers one hell of a punch.

I lived in China for a year before the Beijing’s 2008 Olympics (a kind of development event horizon in China’s history, towards which the whole country hurtled), and I’ve been back regularly enough to marvel at changes firsthand.

But I have never before been as dumbfounded as during a train ride this week from Beijing through a swathe of China’s northeast coal belt. My colleague Jaeah Lee and I were whisked away from the capital on rails that carry sleek new bullet trains (in just two years, China will have completed 11,200 miles of high-speed railway lines, leaving the U.S. limping). We zoom at 186 miles per hour through unabated upheaval.

For a video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w07bq8JbAXQ

The scene could be a panel from a graphic novel. For hours, not a single bird stirred around the hundreds of empty skyscrapers that hang lifeless over farms; they will house the newly urbanized from China’s rural areas. Every bit of the shadowy landscape in China’s northeast has been pressed into the service of an all-pervasive industry: power generation. China continues to be the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the World Resources Institute. It’s clear to me how: Where one coal power plant stops, another begins. A thick brown air blows and for a moment the trees look like nature’s very own protesters, shaking their fists at the sky (the human variety are strictly banned — though public outrage finally forced the government to publish air quality data in 2012).

“I feel weak and powerless,” a young filmmaker surnamed Yang told me later in a Xi’an cafe when I asked him about climate change and pollution. “I’ve seen so many pioneering and brave people dare to stand up, only to be punished.”

This year’s tipping-point event for the public debate, dubbed by expats as “airpocolypse,” covered 2.7 million square kilometers (over 1 millions square miles) of the country with a pall of smog and impacted more than 600 million people. We pass through Zhengzhou, ranked among the four worst cities in China for air pollution; the city consistently registers levels well over China’s official scale for what’s called PM2.5 – dangerous tiny particles from coal-burning and industry. In the first half of this year, China’s levels of these particles were three-times worse than levels advised by the World Health Organization. It’s this kind of air pollution that contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, researchers say. My Beijing friends will call me a wimp, but I’ve developed a persistent cough these last few days. It’s hard to breathe.

“I think the air quality is awful all around the country,” a Chinese man surnamed Liang tells me (like the filmmaker, he didn’t want to give his full name). ”For average citizens, there are not many things we can do about it … We are not yet a democracy. Average people can only try to live their own lives.”

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released Friday, greenhouse gas levels are now higher than at any point in “at least the last 800,000″ years. With a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions now coming from China, the world’s most populous country will have an outsized influence on the future of climate change. That didn’t go unnoticed at the IPCC release in Stockholm, Friday. “If China can mind its business well, it will be a great contribution to the world,” said report co-chair Dahe Qin, speaking in Chinese in response to a question from a Chinese reporter, according to a translator.

There are some encouraging signs of change. The new government under Xi Jinping is finally taking seriously the threat of coal to China’s air: It’s simply untenable for any government, let alone one that depends so fundamentally on suppressing unrest, to ignore. This month, Beijing committed to progressively shut down its coal plants inside the city within four years,according to official plans that also reduce burning in China’s coal-producing provinces. Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping have agreed to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in refrigerants, in a move that could lead to a strengthening of the Montreal Protocol as an international climate agreement. And China has sunk millions into solar development, as you can see in the graph below, outpacing the U.S. dollar-for-dollar in renewable energy investment, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China’s National Development and Reform Commission — which looks after big-picture planning — announced earlier this year that  renewable energy investments in the country could total $294 billion in the five years ending in 2015. This includes the incredible growth of 22 percent from 2011 to 2012. A closer look at the data shows the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to compete with the world’s biggest clean energy player.
James West/Climate Desk
But it’s hard to have confidence staring out the window of this railroad car. The difference between inside our modern train and the turbulent outside world couldn’t be greater. Inside is quiet, air-conditioned and pleasurably fast. Outside, the environmental crisis continues to unfold before our eyes. It’s a sense of powerless shared by Chinese people we speak to.

“Under an ironfisted and strong government, what we normal people can do to change the country is very limited,” said Yang, the filmmaker. “That’s why I feel sad and disappointed.”

Train mysteriously runs loose in Chicago, injuring dozens


By Josh Levs, September 30, 2013

 A Chicago commuter train that was parked in a service yard somehow moved onto a rail line and smashed into an oncoming train early Monday, injuring dozens of people.

How it happened is a mystery.

"I don't know the last time, if ever, that this has happened" on the Chicago Transit Authority system, spokesman Brian Steele said.

There are "more questions than answers" about the incident in Forest Park, Illinois, he said.
At least 48 people were injured; 33 of them were transported to hospitals, Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone told CNN affiliate WLS. They are believed to have minor injuries.
It was not immediately clear how many passengers were aboard the train.

Investigators are not characterizing the incident as a runaway train at this point, Steele said.
A central question: whether anyone had climbed on board the empty train and set it in motion.

"In order for a train to move, it has to be energized," said Ronald Ester, vice president of CTA Rail Operations.

"We call it unlocking the master controller," he said. The train would have needed to be placed in power position manually.

Authorities are looking at video feeds from the platforms and from some rail cars. They're also interviewing workers who were nearby.

It's unknown whether there were criminal activities, Steele said. Authorities did not immediately find windows broken, doors pried open or graffiti on the train.

The train that caused the accident had four cars; the one with passengers aboard had eight.
The incident took place about 8 a.m.

Train service continued but did not stop at Harlem, near the site of the crash. Shuttle buses were made available.

Steele emphasized that the CTA has "a very strong safety record."

New Florida texting ban goes into effect Tuesday

Florida to become 41st state to ban texting while driving


September 29, 2013

 Texting and driving

After years of pushing, a new texting and driving ban will go into effect early next week. The law is aimed at keeping drivers safe.

 On Tuesday, Florida becomes the 41st state to ban texting while driving, but the state's version is one of the weakest in the nation.

"I hope we can do better and as time goes on, we will," said Ron Richardson, a driving instructor.

Police can't stop anyone just for texting, as they have to also have committed another crime.

A first offense will cost $30, and unless there is a fatal accident or injury, police can't search one's phone records.

Still, after five years of trying, sponsor Doug Holder is happy to finally have something on the books.

"It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been a good effort on everyone's part for everyone on the team," said Holder.

Lawmakers also refused to fund an anti-texting campaign, but the Florida Highway Patrol is using existing resources to get the word out.

"We're going to be out there. It's just another statute we're going to be looking for," said Capt. Nancy Rasmussen, of the Florida Highway Patrol. "So if we see somebody texting and driving, we will pull them over and stop that behavior."

Richardson said regardless of the law's weaknesses, it will be a great teaching lesson for students.

"It gives me extra information, be able to let them know distracted driving, which this is really about. They need to understand they need to be completely focused 100 percent of the time when they're behind the wheel," said Richardson.

A second offense will cost motorists $60. Getting in a crash will add six points to your license.

America's Fastest-Growing Counties: The 'Burbs Are Back


By Joel Kotkin, September 26, 2013


For nearly a half century, the death of suburbs and exurbs has been prophesied by pundits, urban real-estate interests and their media allies, and they ratcheted up the volume after the housing crash of 2007. The urban periphery was destined to become “the next slums,” Christopher Leinberger wrote in The Atlantic in 2008, while a recent book by Fortune’s Leigh Gallagher, The End of Suburbsclaimed that suburbs and exurbs were on the verge of extinction as people flocked back to dense cities such as New York.

This has become a matter of faith even among many supposed development professionals. “ There’s a pall being cast on the outer edges,” John McIlwain, a fellow at the Urban Land Institute, told USA Today. “The foreclosures, the vacancies, the uncompleted roads. It’s uncomfortable out there. The glitz is off.”

Yet an analysis by demographer Wendell Cox of the counties with populations over 100,000 that have gained the most new residents since 2010 tells us something very different: Suburbs and exurbs are making a comeback, something that even the density-obsessed New York Times has been forced to admit. Of the 10 fastest-growing large counties all but two — Orleans Parish, home to the recovering city of New Orleans, and the Texas oil town of Midland— are located in the suburban or exurban fringe of major metropolitan areas.

Fastest Growiing US Counties: 2010-2012
Counties over 100,000 Population
Rank County Equivalent Jurisdiction Growth
1 Williamson, TX 7.94%
2 Loudoun, VA 7.87%
3 Hays, TX 7.56%
4 Orleans, LA 7.39%
5 Fort Bend, TX 7.16%
6 Midland, TX 7.14%
7 Forsyth, GA 7.07%
8 Montgomery, TN 7.04%
9 Prince William, VA 7.04%
10 Osceola, FL 6.97%

Not surprisingly several of these fast-growth areas are in burgeoning Texas metro areas. The population of Williamson County, on the outskirts of Austin, has expanded 7.94% since 2010, the strongest growth in the nation over that period. Far from turning into a slum, over the past 25 years the county’s residents have enjoyed the Lone Star state’s fastest rate of income growth and the sixth-highest in the nation. With a strong tech scene – Dell is headquartered in the Williamson town of Round Rock — the county has increased employment by 73% since 2000, the third highest rate in the country.

Another Austin outer suburb, Hays County, ranks third on our list, with population growth of 7.6% since 2010 and 67% since 2000. Also impressive has been the growth of another Texas exurb, Fort Bend County, to the west of Houston.

Since 2010 the county’s population has grown 7.2%, and since 2000 employment has increased 78%, in part due to the expansion of energy companies outside Houston. Fort Bend County is now home to 625,000 people, considerably more than the total population of most major core cities, including Atlanta, Cleveland, Baltimore and Portland. Like many of the boom counties, Fort Bend is alsoincreasingly diverse, with a rapidly growing Asian population that is approaching 20% of the total. It is now the unlikely home to one of the nation’s largest Hindu temples.

In second place is Loudoun County, 25 miles from Washington, D.C., where the population has expanded 7.87% since 2010 and the number of jobs has grown 83% over the past decade. Much of this has come from tech and telecommunications companies, as well as growing numbers of jobs tied to Dulles Airport as well as the nation’s capital.

They are not on the road to “next slum” status: Loudoun is one of the nation’s wealthiest counties. Another D.C. exurb on our list in ninth place, Prince William County, Va., ranks among America’s 10 wealthiest counties in terms of per capita income.Most of the other fastest-growing counties have a similar profile, attracting large numbers well-educated residents to the fringe of urban regions.

What these findings demonstrate is that more people aren’t moving “back to the city” but further out.

In the last decade in the 51 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, inner cores, within two miles of downtown, gained some 206,000 people,  while locations 20 miles out gained over 8.5 million. Although the recession slowed exurban growth, since 2011, notes Jed Kolko at Trulia, suburbs have continued to grow far faster than inner ring areas as well as downtown. Americans, he concludes, “still love their suburbs.”

Rather than an inevitable long-range shift, the post-crash slowdown of suburban growth seems to have been largely a response to economic factors. The retro-urbanist dream of eliminating, or at least undermining, suburban alternatives depends very much on maintaining recessionary conditions that discourage relocation, depress housing starts, as well as lowering marriage and birthrates.

Where incomes are growing along with rapid job growth , suburban and exurban growth tends to be strong.  The metro regions that contain our fastest-growing counties — Austin, Houston, Nashville and Northern Virginia — all epitomize this phenomenon. For example, nearly 80% of all housing growth in greater Houston takes place in the areas west of Beltway 8 (the outer beltway). A similar pattern can be seen in the D.C. area, where the number of units permitted in Loudoun has more than doubled since 2007. In 2012 permit issuances were the highest since 2005, and the vast majority were for either detached or attached single-family houses.

This doesn’t mean the central areas of  thriving Washington or Houston are in decline; both core areas    enjoy modest population growth not seen in many more hard-pressed cities. But this highly visible and relentlessly promoted growth has not altered the fundamental pattern of faster development on the fringes.  As the economy strengthens, these trends will become evident in other areas.

It now seems clear that the preference for single-family houses did not change in the recession, but was just stunted by it. With construction starts up again— more than two-thirds single family — this trend is beginning to re-assert itself. Mortgage lending is now at the highest level in five years.

Indeed suburbia — or sprawl to use the perjorative term — is back even in the anti-suburban stretches of the San Francisco area, where suburban and exurban developers are once again pushing plans to develop new housing for the area’s expanding workforce. In long-suffering areas such as the Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, there has been a steady housing recovery, leading to talk of new development.

Other signs suggest that the widely predicted dense city nirvana may need to be put on hold. For example, car sales  — automobiles dominate transportation in most suburbs and exurbs — have been on the upswing, hitting a record in August. And despite predictions that the size of new homes would shrink, the median home size in the country has continued to rise, reaching a record high in 2012.Even shopping malls, long seen as doomed, are experiencing something of a resurgence.
Demographic forces should accelerate suburban and exurban growth. As the economy has improved, we are starting to see an uptick in the birthrate, and household formation.

Given the tendency of families to move to suburbs, this should spark further growth there in the future. High-density neighborhoods and the densest U.S. cities may be good for many things, and certain individuals, but not so much for families. During the last decade, suburbs and exurbs accounted for four-fifths of all household growth, a pattern that does not seem likely to change.

Indeed, what we are seeing now is not the “end of suburbs” but the end of a brief period in which peripheral development was quashed by the severity of the Great Recession. With the return of even modest economic growth, we can expect that most demographic growth will continue to favor suburbs and exurbs, as has been the case for the better part of the last half century.

It Takes Drivers 3 Months to Warm Up to Electric Vehicles


By Eric Jaffe, September 30, 2013

 It Takes Drivers 3 Months to Warm Up to Electric Vehicles

One of the biggest barriers to the spread of electric vehicles is the fear of having the battery run out on the road. The result of this "range anxiety," as it's often known, is that people want EVs capable of lasting much longer than necessary. In the United States, for instance, people drive about 40 miles a day on average but prefer EVs with a range closer to 300 miles.

That's a little like wanting a gas tank that never gets halfway to Empty.

Recently the German psychologist Thomas Franke arranged a trial to see what, if anything, might ameliorate these concerns in potential EV buyers. What he found wouldn't surprise clinical therapists but does present a bit of a paradox for the electric industry: the best treatment for range anxiety is to confront it behind the wheel. Franke and Josef Krems write in an upcoming issue of Transport Policy:
Thus, only customers with EV experience seem to rely on accurate estimates of their range needs when constructing their range preferences.
Franke and Krems drew their conclusion after holding an EV trial in and around metropolitan Berlin. They recruited 79 people to drive a MINI Cooper with a battery range of roughly 100 miles for a few months. The researchers collected information on driving habits during the trial — focusing on the average battery needs of participants, and asking them at various times what type of battery they prefer.

As expected, people in the study preferred a battery substantially more powerful than what they needed for their everyday commute. Test drivers gave a minimum acceptable battery range of 84 miles despite only driving 36 miles a day on average. Most people preferred a battery range that went far beyond their typical daily drives, and many preferred one that outlasted even their maximum daily drive:

But this range disparity did improve over the course of the trial. Before the test period, the minimum acceptable battery range was about 90 miles; after the trial, it was closer to 77 miles. Both of these preferences are greater than the average daily need, but the latter is more in line with reality.
In other words, as drivers got more comfortable with the EV battery, they adjusted their range preference down toward their actual range need.

The obvious lesson is that EV experience informs EV expectations. That's a tricky truth from a sales perspective, because it represents a bit of a Catch-22: people who are uncomfortable with the idea of driving EVs won't buy one, but people won't get comfortable with the idea of driving EVs until they buy one. Perhaps it's time to expand the traditional 15-minute "test drive" into something more like a 3-month "test ownership."

There's another point here that's just as critical. The study data suggest that range anxiety might not reflect fears of making it through an average day — instead it might reflect fears of making it through the longest day. If that's the case, then charging infrastructure (especially in metro areas) will also play a key role in reducing EV concerns. The reason conventional car buyers don't get "gas-tank anxiety" is not just driving experience but also knowing there's always a gas station nearby.