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, October 4, 2013

Metro Live call-in show set for Thursday, Oct. 17 on TV and streaming on the web


By Kim Upton, October 4, 2013

Here’s an opportunity to offer your opinions and ask questions of Metro officials. Metro will host a one-hour call-in TV show on Thursday, Oct. 17 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Called Metro Live, the show also will stream on the web at citytv.org.

Discuss Metro’s on-going and future street and highway projects with new Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois — Councilmember for the city of Lakewood — and Doug Failing, Metro Executive Director of Highway Projects.

The show will focus on Metro’s multi-pronged approach to battling traffic congestion — specifically as it pertains to major street and highway projects it is funding in partnership with Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation).

Metro Live will be accepting advance questions from the web but they must include a name and city location. Send questions to livechat@metro.net.

Metro oversees one of the largest bus and rail networks in the nation. But it also oversees three half cent sales taxes that provide funding for streets and highways. With this funding, the highway program is tackling some of the region’s thorniest traffic problems.

Viewers are invited to call in questions about on-going construction, like the I-405 and the I-5 widening, gridlock, potholes and efforts to better manage traffic flow between major streets and freeways.

Find out what projects are quickly headed for completion. (And which aren’t.) Learn why the modernization of goods movement from the ports is essential to our health and our pocketbooks as it creates millions of jobs locally and elsewhere. Ask questions about the ExpressLanes project on the I-110 and I-10 freeways and find out why tollways could be part of future highway construction and funding plans … and which highways might make sense.

Metro Live will air on Santa Monica City TV 16 and L.A. County TV 36 and will stream live on the web at citytv.org. Metro Live is co-produced by Metro and Santa Monica CityTV.

California sues federal government to protect pension reform and recover transit funds


By Steve Hymon, October 4, 2013

Two developments in Sacramento on Friday, as detailed in this news release from the office of Governor Jerry Brown:
SACRAMENTO – Moving to defend Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s landmark package of pension reforms, the state of California today sued the U.S. Department of Labor for improperly denying federal grants to California public transit providers after it erroneously concluded that the pension reforms constrain workers’ collective bargaining rights.

“Bringing this lawsuit is just another step to ensure that our pension system is viable long into the future,” said Governor Brown.

The court filing can be found here.

Governor Brown proposed legislation in September to ensure that $1.6 billion in federal grants continue to flow to transit districts after the U.S. Department of Labor denied grant money to the Sacramento Regional Transit District. The Sacramento transit provider is a co-litigant in the case, which the state filed through Caltrans, whose own federal transit grant was denied last month.

Today, the Governor signed the bill (AB 1222), authored by Assemblymembers Richard H. Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). The legislation temporarily exempts local transit agencies’ workers from the California Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2013 to allow the state to pursue its case in court and creates a state loan program to assist transit operators that have lost federal transit grants.

Earlier this year, Governor Brown sent a letter to acting U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Seth Harris on this issue.
The Department of Labor ruling jeopardized more than three billion dollars in federal grants for Metro, including money needed to help build the Regional Connector and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. The signing of AB 1222 allows those funds to once again flow (when or if the government shutdown ends); the lawsuit is intended to resolve the issue for good in court.

40 Percent of Americans Say Their Neighborhoods Are Unwalkable


By Kaid Benfield, October 3, 2013

Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe they should walk more, but forty percent say they do not do so because their neighborhoods do not have nearby services, shops, schools and work, according to a national survey released this week.

The lack of nearby walkable destinations ranks as the second most often cited reason for not walking. The survey found that the biggest neighborhood barriers to walking include a lack of sidewalks, drivers who speed, and drivers who talk on their phones or text. Crime ranks eighth overall out of 15 items as a neighborhood barrier to walking, but it ranks 5th among both African Americans and Hispanic respondents compared to 12th among white respondents.

The survey of 1,224 Americans nationwide was commissioned by Kaiser Permanente and conducted by GfK Custom Research. Assisting in the design of the questionnaire and analysis of the data were Professors Peter Tuckel and William Milczarski of Hunter College, City University of New York. All interviewing took place August 5 to August 13.

While six in 10 Americans describe their neighborhood as "walkable," individuals who live in more walkable neighborhoods ("with places where it is convenient to walk to services, shopping, schools and jobs") do, in fact, walk more. Four in 10 describe their neighborhood as "not very'" or "not at all walkable." A majority of Americans do not choose their neighborhood based on its perceived walkability, however.

These findings were presented at yesterday’s session of the National Walk Summit in Washington, D.C., which I attended. Christopher Fleury of GfK added at the meeting that a slim majority of the respondents support smart growth measures, including smaller home lots, to promote walkability.

Although Americans don’t walk as much as they believe they should, an overwhelming majority recognize that walking brings significant benefits. Nationwide, 94 percent of those surveyed said they view walking as good for their health. At least nine in 10 agreed that walking is a good way to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight and can help prevent heart disease. In addition, 73 percent said they believe their children should walk more.  (For a good summary of the many benefits of walking, go here.)

Americans also view walking as a good way to reduce stress and combat depression. More than eight in 10 respondents said that walking can reduce feelings of depression and 87 percent said walking helps reduce anxiety.

While the survey findings are encouraging to those of us who believe that land use factors are important to a healthy lifestyle, at least two audience members cautioned that, in their parts of the country, "walkability" was perceived as threatening to those who prefer suburban lifestyles. They advised that advocates should guard against using "walkable" as code for "high density."

Although it was surprising to me that even "walkable" is now on the list of threatening planners’ jargon, I do think the fear of high density is real. Those of us who live and work in big cities can get a distorted view of what is desirable. I think advocates need to get serious about supporting moderate-density alternatives in appropriate situations, along with neighborhood design measures that can soften the otherwise harsh effects of density.

Indeed, the research demonstrates that most of the environmental benefits of smart growth – including reduced automobile dependence and reduced stormwater runoff per capita – do not require high densities: the biggest performance improvements come at the lower end of the scale, as we move from large-lot sprawl to moderate degrees of compactness and, by the time we reach 40 to 50 units per acre, further environmental performance improvements are relatively insignificant. A dialogue about these issues is largely missing from the current discourse around smart growth, and that is unfortunate.

America's Most Productive Metros


By Richard Florida, October 4, 2013

 America's Most Productive Metros
 An oil field in Midland, Texas and the Google campus in Mountain View, California

I've written repeatedly about how spiky America's economic geography is. In the years since the economic crisis, this has only become more true, as powerhouse metros like San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C., continue to grow in importance. In 2012, the top ten largest metropolitan economies produced more than a third of the country's total economic output.

Economists of all stripes agree the single most important barometer of economic growth is productivity. As part of my recent essay in The Atlantic, my team at the Martin Prosperity Institute ran the numbers on productivity — measured as per capita real economic output or GDP — based on the most recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Productivity averaged $36,154 across all cities in 2012. But there was wide variation in productivity across America’s metro areas. The top ranked metro produced more than $100,000 per person in economic output, three times the average, while the lowest-ranked metro generated just $15,000, less than half of the national average. There were more than 30 metros that generated $50,000 or more in economic output per person, while more than a hundred produced less than $30,000 in economic output per person and eleven generated less than $20,000.

The map below, from MPI's Zara Matheson, shows the variation in productivity — economic output per capita — across America's metropolitan areas in 2012.

Notice the dark blue regions around many of America's largest knowledge economies, including the coastal centers. The map also shows the high productivity of knowledge regions in the center of the country, like Austin, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, and Boulder. The Energy Belt, especially along the Gulf Coast from Houston, Texas, to New Orleans, Louisiana, stands out on the map as well. Other energy economies that have prospered include Casper, Wyoming; Fargo, North Dakota; and Anchorage, Alaska.

The table below shows the top 20 most productive metros.

America's Most Productive Metros -- Real GDP Per Capita
Rank Metro Real GDP Per Capita 2012
1 Midland, TX $100,178
2 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $90,528
3 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT $80,158
4 Casper, WY $76,467
5 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $69,542
6 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC $69,468
7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-MD-VA-WV $66,433
8 Trenton, NJ $65,631
9 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $64,188
10 Anchorage, AK $64,174
11 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH $63,745
12 Corvallis, OR $62,560
13 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX $62,438
14 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA $62,028
15 Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA $61,777
16 Sioux Falls, SD $60,954
17 Boulder, CO $60,533
18 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA $59,172
19 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT $57,088
30 New Orleans-Metairie, LA $56,119

The top twenty includes a mix of knowledge and energy metros. Midland, Texas — in the core of the Energy Belt — took the top spot. It is the only metro to produce more than $100,000 in economic output per person. San Jose, California, the home of Silicon Valley, is second with more than $90,000 in economic output per person. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut, the finance and banking center of suburban New York, was third with more than $80,000 in output per person.

On the flip side, the least productive metros are concentrated in the Sunbelt, mainly in Florida, Arizona, and Texas. The five least productive metros in 2012 were The Villages, Florida; Lake Havasu City-Kingsman, Arizona; Sebring, Florida; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas; and Punta Gorda, Florida. Among large metros with populations of more than one million, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California was the only metro that produced less than $30,000 in real GDP per capita.

To better understand what ties this diverse group of top-performing metro areas together, my MPI colleague Charlotta Mellander also ran correlation analysis for GDP per capita for 2012 with various social, political, and economic factors. As usual I point out that correlation points only to associations and in no way implies causation.

But the findings are in line with what much recent research has found to be the main factors that contribute to economic growth.

First, productivity is associated with clusters of high-tech and innovation, with significant correlations to high tech industry (.56), innovation as measured by patents (.45), and especially venture capital-funded start-up activity (.67). The scatter plot above shows the relationship between the concentration of high-tech industry and productivity (or GDP per capita).

The highly productive energy metros of Midland, Texas, and Casper, Wyoming, are situated as outliers far above the fitted line. They have far greater productivity than their high-tech industry would predict. Their economic success, which derives from their energy endowments, while notable, is somewhat unique.

Productivity is also associated with human capital, measured either as the share of adults with college degrees (.54), or the share of workers in knowledge, professional and creative occupations (.52). The chart above provides a scatter graph of the relationship between the creative class and productivity. Again, Midland and Casper are outliers considerably above the fitted line.

Digging beneath these broad categories, productivity was also correlated with employment in management (.64) and science and technology (.57), and also with employment in arts, culture, and media occupations (.47). Interestingly, despite the high rankings of Energy Belt metros, there is a somewhat weaker association between productivity and employment in oil and gas industries (.32) and no correlation at all between GDP and employment in resource extractive fields.

Urban form — the size and density of metros — also appears to matter. Productivity is correlated with both the size (.42) and density (.43) of metros, which is in line with previous research.
Mellander also found weak associations between productivity and politics. Productivity was modestly positively correlated with the share of metro covers that voted for Obama (.21) and modestly negatively associated with the share of voters who voted for Romney (-.21). I'd caution against reading too much into these correlation statistics. Rather, this likely reflects the underlying fact that more liberal, Obama-leaning metros have higher levels of human capital, a greater share of creative class workers, and higher levels of innovation and high-tech activity to begin with.

While much has been made of the role of warmer climate in spurring the shift of population to the Sunbelt, Mellander’s analysis found only weak and negative correlations between productivity and mean January and July temperature (each of roughly .14).

The list of America's most productive metros is a combination of knowledge-economy centers like North Carolina's Research Triangle, Seattle and Portland, and the emerging Energy Belt, in boom towns from Houston and Midland, Texas to Casper, Wyoming. Unfortunately, too many Sunbelt metros that built their economies around real estate and inflows of people continue to falter. America’s new growth model, as I pointed out in this month’s Atlantic, is taking shape as a knowledge-energy economy.

A Cartoonist's Vision of a Car-Free Future


By Stephanie Garlock, October 4, 2013

 A Cartoonist's Vision of a Car-Free Future

St. Paul-based cartoonist Andy Singer has never owned a car, even though he's lived, over the last 47 years, in places as diverse as New York City, Ithaca, Oakland, Boston, and now the Twin Cities. He's clearly a minority among Americans, but he's made a career out of using art to convince others to rethink their romance with the automobile.

His latest is Why We Drive, a book released late this summer that uses political cartoons and historical photos to make the case. Many of his main arguments are familiar: he's anti-sprawl, pro-public transportation, pro-biking, and against the types of hidden government incentives that make these policies difficult to put in place.

But Singer takes a more visual approach to advocate for sustainable living. He chatted with Cities about his new book and how he's used his work as a cartoonist to make arresting visual arguments in favor of alternative transportation.

How did you become interested in issues of sustainability, transportation, and auto culture?

I had a moment in high school, going to a concert in Nassau County, Long Island. I bought tickets off a scalper, which turned out to be bogus, but the people whom we had driven there with got into the concert. So we spent three hours just trying to amuse ourselves walking around the parking lot [at the Nassau Coliseum]. And it was just this moment of realizing that everywhere you looked there was nothing but concrete and cars. And I think that was the first moment where I realized, wow, there are too many dang cars.

How were you inspired by some of the urban and suburban forms you see around you in St. Paul, where you live now, and other places you’ve made home, including New York and Boston?

I’ve just noticed in different places that I’ve lived that people like to visit old places. When you go to New Orleans, for example, people want to see the French Quarter, the older parts of it. Or when people are in Boston they want to walk the Freedom Trail and see Paul Revere's House and Beacon Hill and the old parts of Boston. There are historical reasons for that because they want to see the history behind something. But I think that people also like those spaces, and they like those spaces in part because they're walkable.

The first cartoon in the book — across from the title page — shows the 'Goldilocks' version of mixed use development. How did you come up with this idea, and how does it map onto how you view the discussions about density and urban development?

Another peeve I have is that there is pretty much a common awareness among people in New Urbanist circles that low-density sprawl, car-oriented sprawl is a bad thing — environmentally, socially, economically, etc. But there's also this non-agreement as far as how much density is too dense.
And there's this idea that we can have hyper-density that is somehow much more environmentally efficient than this low-density sprawl. I think that it could well be more efficient than low-density sprawl, but is it the most efficient level of density?

And you see when there’s a power blackout, in a lot of these hyper-dense cities, a lot of these buildings become uninhabitable because they require electric elevators and water pumps and all sorts of mechanical stuff to make them usable. You're not going to be able to get up to the 25th floor of your building and back down on a regular basis. And they require much more energy-intensive materials to build and to take down than, say, a three or four-story walk-up.

You write that you are "an advocate of car-free cities, car-free city sections and car-free living." How do your drawings try to illustrate how people should think about these possibilities?

I’m trying to encourage people to look at the pre-automotive sections of their own cities as a guide or an envisioning of what their city, or sections of their city, could look like without cars, at what life would be like without cars. I think a lot of times when you see something or you envision something, you understand it more. A lot of people see a freeway, for example, in the Twin Cities, and they think that that freeway has always been here. And maybe for their entire lifetime it's always been there. But they don’t realize that, wow, there used to be townhouses and apartment buildings and homes on that land before that freeway was put in, and people lived in a very different way 100 years ago.

Any last words?

If there’s a takeaway that I want people to have, for lay people or people who are not steeped in all this, it is to appreciate some of the ways that automobiles impact our landscape and impact our lives and our environment and economy.

But I think for people who are more into these issues, I want people to think about the tax structures, the way that in almost every state we have all of our motor vehicle fees and gas taxes being dedicated to highways. This tends to cause states to choose highway solutions to transportation problems, even when another solution using transit or better land use would be more appropriate. There are systemic forces that tend to drive highway building.


These "before and after drawings" represent Singer's visions of the different kinds of land development and sprawl that accompany rail vs. highway infrastructure.