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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Report: Devil’s Gate Dam cleanup will generate hundreds of truck trips, air pollution


By Steve Scauzillo, October 24, 2013


 The Devil’s Gate reservoir basin including the Devil’s Gate Dam and Hahamonga Watershed Natural Park in Pasadena, Monday, Sept. 14, 2009.

PASADENA >> A long-awaited environmental review of the Devil’s Gate Dam project released Thursday estimates the removal of between 2.4 million and 4 million cubic yards of backed-up sediment will require a maximum of 400 truck trips per day for five years.

The draft environmental impact report for the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project says the project, which may begin in 2015, will pollute the local air, cause aesthetic impacts and add to traffic — impacts listed as “unavoidable.”

However, the 675-page EIR released by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works also says the $70 million project will not have any significant environmental impacts in 14 other areas, including the habitat behind the dam that is home to birds, bats and amphibians.

Pasadena environmental groups and residents have opposed the sediment-removal plan, saying the mule fat and willow ecosystem that has sprung up as a result of debris flows since the last dredging project in 1994 serves as a natural part of the Hahamongna Watershed Park enjoyed by joggers, walkers, hikers and birders.

 Although county engineers say they are proposing an alternative that would leave an island of natural area but clear out additional edges for more effective flows, the early reviews of the complicated report reflect deep concerns.

“This is not a good plan for the environment nor for the birds,” said Laura Garrett, conservation chairwoman for Pasadena Audubon. Garrett had attended numerous scoping meetings in 2011 with the county and asked that some of the area be left with water for birds and wildlife to thrive.

“Instead, there will be between 50 and 60 acres that they want to keep permanently clear cut. You would only have rodents and lizards there. This is a much more severe plan than we saw during the public scoping time.”

After the 2009 Station Fire burned 160,000 acres of Arroyo Seco watershed, more than 1 million cubic yards of debris came to rest at Devil’s Gate Dam.

To some, the debris launched a verdant plant ecosystem and attracted a nesting pair of least bell’s vireo, a bird listed as a national endangered species, as well as state listed species including the western pond turtle and the coast range newt, according to the report.

But county engineers say the project is a matter of public safety. They say the debris flow may clog the valves and gates of the dam, rendering it unable to protect the downstream communities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Highland Park, Hermon, Montecito Heights, Mount Washington and Cypress Park, as well as the 110 Parkway and the Rose Bowl during a 50-year storm.

“If we had a big storm event we would have some flooding down in the Arroyo Seco,” said Keith Lilley, principal engineer on the project with the county DPW.

County workers have removed small amounts of sediment each year since 2010 to keep the dam operating, he said.

The amount of debris to be removed will be at least 2.9 million cubic yards, or more, depending on debris amounts from future storms, Lilley said. The amount of debris will equal millions of tons, he said.

“In order to remove the sediment from the reservoir, trees and vegetation growing within the excavation areas will need to be removed,” according to the EIR.

Most of the time, the area behind the dam will be scraped by bulldozers and debris will be loaded onto double-dump trucks that will travel to three sites: the Waste Management facility in Azusa, the Vulcan Materials Reliance facility in Irwindale or the Manning Pit near Vincent Avenue and Arrow Highway in Irwindale, the report stated.

The trucks will also remove sediment temporarily stored behind Hahamongna Park at a defunct spreading ground.

The county is hosting three meetings on the project: 6-8 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Rose Bowl Stadium Visitors’ Locker Room, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena (enter at Gate A, Park in Lot F); 6:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Jackson Elementary School Auditorium, 593 West Woodbury Road, Altadena; and 2-4 p.m. Nov. 16 at Community Center of La CaƱada Flintridge, 4469 Chevy Chase Drive.

The comment period has been extended until Jan. 6. Send email comments to reservoircleanouts@dpw.lacounty.gov.

To view the EIR online, go to www.LASedimentManagement.com/DevilsGate.

Vaughn Palmer: Seattle, planning for new tunnel, takes critical look at idea that tolls should be a cash cow


By Vaughn Palmer, October 23, 2013

 Vaughn Palmer: Seattle, planning for new tunnel, takes critical look at idea that tolls should be a cash cow

The Pattullo Bridge (above) experienced a significant bump in traffic when the tolled Port Mann Bridge opened. In Seattle, an advisory committee investigating toll options for the new tunnel under the city has come up with a novel way to both raise money and prevent the diversion of too many motorists to untolled roads — lower the tolls.

VICTORIA — After two years of studying the options for tolling the new tunnel under Seattle, an advisory committee has reached a conclusion of more than passing interest to folks paying $3 tolls in Metro Vancouver.

The $3 rate is self-defeating, the committee concluded, because it prompts too many drivers to choose other routes, increasing congestion and reducing the number of paying customers.

Instead, the committee has pretty much settled on a discount price range of $1 (most times within a 24-hour period) to $1.25 (peak travel times only) as “the best balance between revenue generation and minimizing diversion.”

“Optimizing toll rates resulted in minimizing diversion or keeping more cars in the tunnel,” the committee stated in a presentation delivered late last month. “Tolling more time periods resulted in additional revenue.”

Though not the final recommendation — that will be determined next month — the low-budget scenario was the most promising of seven tolling regimes explored by the committee since it was appointed to study tolling on the Alaskan Way Replacement Project in the fall of 2011.

The process took two years because in appointing the committee, the city of Seattle and the state Department of Transportation assigned the 15 members to strike a genuine balancing act.

They were required to set the tolls at a level that would help pay a designated share of the project costs, plus for interest, maintenance, operations and the cost of collecting the tolls.

But they were also required to tackle the problem of traffic diversion. The city did not went toll-dodgers moving onto already congested streets, further snarling traffic and delaying transit services.

Not long into the process, committee members began to discover that the initial tolling scenarios were far too optimistic. The state at one point thought it could raise as much $400 million through tolls, which would have necessitated a levy in the $5 to $6 range, triggering massive diversions onto city streets.

Soon the revenue target was scaled down and the committee began to experiment with less ambitious scenarios, looking at staggered rates throughout the day, premiums at rush hour and a sliding scale for weekends.

The run-throughs by committee staff indicated that some drivers would divert even if the tolls were cut to 50 cents. But eventually the committee came up with the aforementioned scenario, with a flat $1 rate round the clock and a 25-per-cent premium (25 cents) during the morning and evening rush hours.

Some drivers would still escape to city streets. But the diversions were nothing like the 40 per cent of traffic that emerged from the $3 tolling scenario. And the impact could be mitigated with traffic control measures, improved passage for transit and the like.

The financing worked better too, as Mike Lindblom, transportation reporter for the Seattle Times, reported recently. After paying off the overhead, maintenance and operating costs, there would still be enough left over from the tolls to cover a $200-million contribution to the $3.3-billion project.
The scenario may be tweaked further in a final go-round next month, still well before the scheduled completion date for the project.

Bertha, the giant machine that is boring the tunnel, has only just begun chewing its way under the city. The project, aimed at replacing the antiquated Alaskan Way Viaduct on the city waterfront, won’t be completed until 2016.

By comparison, the B.C. Liberals set the $3 toll on the Port Mann crossing years before the project’s completion, via a public consultation that was dubious at best.

Moreover, neither the province nor TransLink, which imposed the $3 toll on the Golden Ears Bridge, would appear to have given much thought to the problem that the Washington state committee wrestled with for two years — namely, those self-defeating traffic diversions onto side streets and alternative crossings.

Washington state has also initiated another tolling experiment worth examining. Departing from the practice (here and elsewhere) that tolls are only placed on new roads and bridges, the state placed a toll on the existing Evergreen Point floating bridge across Lake Washington, to help finance $4.1 billion worth of improvements on other roads and bridges.

The tolls kicked in two years ago, provoking heavy diversions of traffic to the other floating bridge carrying Interstate 90. Traffic has since returned to 70 per cent of pre-tolling volumes, which is still a lot of diversions.

But the experiment is being watched elsewhere as a possible refutation of the theory that drivers will only tolerate tolls on new as opposed to existing infrastructure.

Not to say that the circumstances between the two jurisdictions are identical. But with the Massey Tunnel replacement likely to become a tolled crossing, and with TransLink pressured to replace the Pattullo Bridge with a tolled crossing, the time is ripe for the province and the region to revisit their tolling policies.

Metro Vancouver, emulating Seattle, needs its own independent advisory committee on tolling and traffic management to examine a few alternatives to the current arbitrary tolling regime.

O.C. traffic jam: Big rig crosses 5 Freeway median, hits several cars


By Joseph Serna, October 24, 2013

A big rig crossed the median and hit oncoming cars on the 5 Freeway in Orange County on Thursday afternoon, backing up southbound traffic for miles.

The big rig was traveling north when it crossed over the center divider at Camino de Estrella in Dana Point and smashed into five or six oncoming vehicles. As many as eight people have been taken to the hospital, said California Highway Patrol officer Denise Quesada.

Southbound traffic was completely stopped for about 30 minutes before authorities opened up one lane at about 1:30 p.m. Traffic was backed up for miles to the El Toro Y.

“It’s huge. If you’re stuck, get off at [Pacific Coast Highway]. That’s going to be busy too, but at least it’s moving,” Quesada said.

Quesada predicted delays around the crash site could be up to two hours.

“Hopefully, we’ll have it clear by rush hour,” she said.

The 5 Freeway is the only major route between south Orange County and the rest of the region without a significant detour.

Seattle tunneling machine digs out of launch pit


October 23, 2013

 In this photo made with a fish-eye wide-angle lens, "Bertha," the massive tunnel-boring machine that is expected to spend the next 14 months drilling a two-mile tunnel to replace the 60-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct, is shown ready to begin drilling later this month, Saturday, July 20, 2013 in Seattle. The tunnel will replace the viaduct, a double deck highway along the downtown Seattle waterfront. Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP / AP
 In this photo made with a fish-eye wide-angle lens, "Bertha," the massive tunnel-boring machine that is expected to spend the next 14 months drilling a two-mile tunnel to replace the 60-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct, is shown ready to begin drilling later this month, Saturday, July 20, 2013 in Seattle. 
The tunnel will replace the viaduct, a double deck highway along the downtown Seattle waterfront.

The machine boring a new Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle has finally dug itself out of its own launch pit.

The Transportation Department said Wednesday the 326-foot long machine it calls Bertha has drilled 359 feet.

Spokeswoman KaDeena Yerkan says the trailing gear has disappeared into the tunnel.

Yerkan says Bertha is operating well but is still in the initial phase with about 9,000 feet to go.
The world's largest tunnel boring machine is creating a tunnel nearly 58 feet in diameter as part of the $3.1 billion project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the double deck highway along the downtown Seattle waterfront.

Digging began July 30 but soon shut down for about a month in a labor dispute before it resumed on Sept. 23.

Roundup of today’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors; here’s what the agency’s deciders decided


By Steve Hymon, October 24, 2013

A long meeting today clocking in at four hours and five minutes — about 1 1/4 Hobbit movies by my estimation or enough time to watch the new Captain America trailer 180 times or so.

In the order the items were tackled, here are some of the votes and discussion by the Board (full agenda here)

•The Board approved a motion by five Board Members that would have Metro be the lead agency in developing a countywide bike share plan. Here’s a recent Source post about the motion.

•Votes on items 16, 68 and 69 were postponed so the Board could receive more information. The items concern Metro’s ability to issue a series of small contracts for technical work.

•The Board approved a contract modification for the Airport Metro Connector for more work on one project alternative: a rail connection with the airport’s planned Intermodal Transportation Facility (ITF).

As part of that item, the Board also approved a motion by Board Chair Diane DuBois for Metro to perform a feasability study of locating the ITF near the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s maintenance yard at 96th Street and Aviation.

The Board also approved a second motion by Supervisor Don Knabe, L.A. Councilman Mike Bonin and Santa Monica Councilwoman Pam O’Connor asking for monthly updates at Metro Board Committee meetings on Los Angeles World Airport’s and Metro’s ongoing work to connect the LAX terminals to Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line.

Speaking in favor of that motion, both Ridley-Thomas and Bonin said the Airport Metro Connector should be one of the Board’s highest priorities and that more attention needs to paid to it.

Here’s a recent Source post explaining the many issues involved with the Airport Connector.

•With no discussion, the Board approved the concept of an east-west concourse and north-south bus terminal as part of the ongoing Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan. Here’s a recent Source post explaining the concept.

•The Board also voted to approve a $7.8-million price increase for a pedestrian bridge over Lankershim Boulevard which would connect the Metro Red Line Universal station to Universal City. NBC Universal is paying half the cost of the increase. STAFF REPORT

Public testimony ran strongly in favor of the bridge, with several residents of the area saying that the crosswalk on Lankershim is dangerous because it’s very busy and many users cross against the ‘walk’ signal, thereby almost getting hit by cars.

Board Member and L.A. Councilman Paul Krekorian raised the possibility of removing crosswalks so that people had to use the bridge. The Board discussed the bridge and how it would comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act; it will have elevators.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich raised the question: what if the elevators were broken? How would a disabled person get across the street? Metro officials said that there would be every effort to keep the elevators working and to quickly repair them; the agency also plans to consult with consultants on making the bridge as disabled-friendly as possible.

•The Board voted to approve including the SR-710 North project in the acceleration framework the Board approved in June on a 10 to 3 vote with the no votes from Board Members Eric Garcetti, Ara Najarian and Zev Yaroslavsky. Here’s the motion by five Metro Board members.

Najarian told the Board that he would not have voted for the strategy in June — which excluded the 710 North project — if he had known the Board would later add it.

Please keep in mind these three things: 1) the Board in June only changed Measure R to make funds available sooner for five projects; it was not an officially binding acceleration plan; 2) the SR-710 project is in the midst of its draft environmental study and is yet to be defined, and; 3) Metro would need to find additional funding to build some of the options under study.

The five alternatives under study: a freeway tunnel, light rail between East L.A. and Pasadena, bus rapid transit between East L.A. and Pasadena, intersection and road improvements and the required no-build option.

Bottom line: there are quite a few balls that have to line up before any project gets accelerated.

•In a long and winding discussion, the Board voted to extend the waiver of the account maintenance fee for ExpressLane customers through February. The $3 fee was initially waived for six months by the Board in April; the fee only applied to those who used the ExpressLanes three times or less each month. STAFF REPORT

The Board also decided to discuss permanently getting rid of the fee after the ExpressLane pilot program ends near the end of February. Of course, the Board will also have to first discuss and decide whether it wants to continue with the ExpressLanes.

In the meantime, it appears the fee waiver has helped attract new customers. About 225,000 transponders have been issued for the ExpressLanes, greatly exceeding the expectation that 100,000 would be issued during the pilot program. In addition, about $18 million to $20 million of revenue from the ExpressLanes was expected to be generated during the pilot program; Metro staff now estimates that number will exceed $20 million, creating funds that can be invested back in the 10 and 110 freeway corridors. STAFF REPORT

•The Board agreed to postpone implementing new public testimony rules for Metro Board meetings to do more research on the issues involved. STAFF REPORT

•The Board voted to place a monument for Sen. Alfred Hoyun Song on the plaza for the Purple Line’s Wilshire/Western plaza. STAFF REPORT

Air pollution can wreck your mental health too


By Ben Adler, October 24, 2013

 motorcycle driver with mask

It’s not just the traffic that’s bumming him out.

When planning a recent trip to Beijing, I was delighted to see that the forecast predicted perfect weather: sunny, clear, highs in the 70s with no chance of rain. So imagine my surprise when on my first morning in the city, I looked out the window and saw a dense, immobile ceiling of dark gray clouds.

It wasn’t that Weather.com got it wrong. It was that pollution was unusually high that day — the U.S. Embassy Air Quality Index (AQI) readings were over 400 parts per million of PM2.5, well into the “hazardous” range, and at least eight times what the embassy would deem completely non-dangerous. The embassy advises that under such conditions, “everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors.” The particulate matter comes from the burning of fossil fuels in factories, coal-fired power plants, and cars — the same culprits that cause climate change.

I had always imagined air pollution as a largely invisible phenomenon: It’s out there and it’s bad for you, but other than when it makes the sunset over New Jersey especially colorful, I had never actually seen it. During my trip to China, I had to get used to the idea that I didn’t need to bring my rain jacket just because it looked as if the sky was filled with ominous rain clouds. The friends I was visiting would schedule their jogging routines around low-pollution days, and keep the windows tightly shut when the AQI spiked. Some people walk around in face masks, as if they are extras in a horror film set in the post-nuclear apocalypse.

Over the last few days, the news media has been filled with stories of northeast China’s epically bad pollution. (Due to wind patterns, the pollution comes and goes and can vary dramatically.) As The Washington Post reported Tuesday:
In the industrial city of Harbin, home to more than 10 million people, vehicles crawled through the smog with fog lights on or emergency lights flashing. Bus service was canceled, a major highway was closed and hospital admissions soared by 30 percent, local media reported.

The smog descended on Harbin on Sunday evening. On Monday, the measurement of fine particulate matter in the air known as PM2.5 reached 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in parts of the city, 40 times what the World Health Organization considers safe.
Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, American jazz singer Patti Austen canceled a concert in Beijing “because of an asthma attack likely linked to pollution.”
Some of the stories about China’s pollution problem note the physical effects, which are easily quantified: reduced lung function, eye irritation, and an estimated average of 5.5 years of reduced life expectancy.

But when I was in the country, I wondered about the psychological impact of living under oppressive pollution. It must exact a heavy toll to go days on end without seeing the sun — and these are days that pile on in addition to the normal cycles of clouds, rain, and short winter days. Not being able to breathe fresh air or go for a run has to make you more stressed out.

And, sure enough, the academic literature backs that up. Last summer, the American Psychological Association reported, “evidence is mounting that dirty air is bad for your brain … Over the past decade, researchers have found that high levels of air pollution may damage children’s cognitive abilities, increase adults’ risk of cognitive decline, and possibly even contribute to depression.”
Among the various psychological and neurological effects found by studies described in the APA report:
  • “Older women who had been exposed to high levels of [particulate matter] experienced greater cognitive decline compared with other women their age.”
  • “Kids exposed to greater levels of black carbon [soot] scored worse on tests of memory and verbal and nonverbal.”
  • “Children who had been exposed to higher levels of urban air pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons while in utero were more likely to experience attention problems and symptoms of anxiety and depression.”
  • “Pollutant-exposed mice showed signs of the rodent equivalent of depression. [They demonstrated] depressive-like symptoms [such as] giv[ing] up swimming more quickly in a forced swim test and stop[ping] sipping sugar water that they normally find attractive. Both behaviors can be reversed with antidepressants.”
One wrinkle in the research is that particulates often come in a package of various pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and it is hard to untangle which specific pollutant is to blame. Many researchers try to study the relationship between psychological problems and one specific pollutant, and their findings of correlation vary.

“All pollutants come at us in complex combinations, and sorting out the influence of the combinations is problematic,” says Colleen Moore, chair of the psychology department at Montana State University and author of Silent Scourge: Children, Pollution, and Why Scientists Disagree. “I always thought that the air pollution research should have just used the numerical values of the EPA Air Quality Index and not tried to go into details on the particular pollutants. If you look at it that way, there are effects on mental health that are pretty clear.” (Further complicating matters, Moore has found that noise pollution can also cause psychological distress, and Beijing certainly has plenty of that, thanks to its manic traffic and constant construction.)

Ironically, Americans living in Beijing may find that awareness of pollution causes more psychological distress than the pollution itself. That’s because residents are so anxious about it. “As better data about current air conditions became available, people started checking websites and smartphones when deciding whether to exercise outside or wear a mask during the commute,” says Graham Webster, an academic researcher for Yale University living in Beijing. “Increased consciousness is good for policy reasons, but it can also be a kind of burden in addition to the actual smog, especially if consciousness comes with complaining instead of anything more constructive.”

NO-710 Action Committee Warns Metro Against “Accelerating” 710 Big Dig

October 24, 2013

(As we speak, the Metro Board of Directors is deciding whether or not to seek the funds and support to “accelerate” the I-710 Big Dig. Earlier this year, the Board voted to seek acceleration for every highway project accept the Dig thanks to a motion by Glendale City Council Member and Metro Board Member Ara Najarian. The following is written testimony by Jan Soo-Hoo of the No-710 Action Committee. A copy of the testimony, with supporting letters from leaders in surrounding communities, can be found, here. – DN)

To see the full packet given to the Metro Board, click here.

At the September 18th meeting of Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee, Sergio Gonzalez, City Manager of the City of South Pasadena asked why Metro is actively promoting and shopping the SR-710 North Project tunnel as a Public- Private Partnership (PPP) despite the fact that the EIR/EIS has not been completed and no locally-preferred alternative has been chosen. The Chair of Metro’s Board of Directors, Diane DuBois, asked Metro’s CEO, Arthur Leahy, “Are we shopping it as a tunnel alternative?” CEO Leahy’s obfuscated response to the Chair’s question (see attached transcript) only served to reinforce the conclusion repeatedly expressed by the public and multiple elected officials, that Metro has already reached a decision about the locally-preferred alternative and route and that Metro is spending $40 million going through the motions of the EIR/EIS process because it is obligated to do so by CEQA and NEPA regulations. Documentation of these concerns, which began long before the EIR/EIS was begun, is abundant and verifiable.

As early as October of 2007, in the context of comments on the Scope of Work for the State Route 710 Tunnel Support Studies, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino wrote to Caltrans District 7 Director, Doug Failing “…Anything short of that and any attempt to use the prior report as a foundation for this study will continue to bolster claims that this project is a runaway train in a quest to be Los Angeles’ version of Boston’s ‘Big Dig’ fiasco.”

Again, in 2008, Mr. Portantino urged the Metro Board not to include the 710 extension project in the baseline or recommended plan of its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and states “…it certainly tampers with the credibility of the study in which Caltrans is currently engaged, by pre-supposing an outcome to the question of whether a tunnel option is, in fact, feasible and the right solution for this region.”

In April of 2010, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff addressed the Metro Board of Directors in a letter and stated, “Just as the tunnel (feasibility) study was conducted in a route neutral manner, so should this next-step analysis consider transportation alternatives in a project-neutral manner—neither presuming nor precluding any viable cost-effective solution.” He also stated, “I am concerned that arbitrarily choosing to do an environmental study primarily focusing on Zone 3 – for so long the preferred route of Metro and Caltrans – would color the outcome of the study and would lack credibility with the public.” The same month, Anthony Portantino addressed a letter to Members of the Board: “As I have been saying since the beginning of this process, given the historical context of the 710 North, particular attention must be paid to winning back the public’s trust for any potential solution. Any move toward narrowing the route for a potential project is certainly premature and only serves to confirm the fears of impacted communities: that the 710 Technical Study was structured merely to fulfill the terms of the restrictions placed on the study team by federal legislation and that Zone 3 was the only route that was being considered.”

Bill Bogaard, Ara Najarian, Richard Schneider and Donald Voss (Mayors of Pasadena, Glendale, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge respectively) expressed their concerns in a letter published in the South Pasadena Review on June 30, 2010: “Metro missed its opportunity by not committing to a process of evaluation and cost-benefit analysis of all viable transportation options for relieving traffic congestion. Instead, Metro offered only a vague plan to launch a new round of studies on how traffic could be improved in the area. Our concern is that this may simply be a thinly masked effort to continue focus on only one option, the northward tunnel extension of the 710 freeway.”

Congressman Adam Schiff wrote the Board on September 20, 2012 and stated “The environmental review process Metro is engaged in has been excessively focused on the tunnel option. I have expressed my concern over Metro’s apparent rush to judgment on a tunnel option many times, but without success. This has only confirmed what many in the community suspected, that Metro was once again starting with the conclusion it wished to reach and working backwards.”

La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Stephen Del Guercio, in a letter to Congressman Schiff dated September 19, 2012, stated “Our City has participated in the various committees created by Metro to purportedly seek input from the affected communities. From my personal experiences, I can tell you categorically that this process has been a sham and is nothing more than a post hoc attempt to justify the ill-conceived tunnel project (the so-called F-7 alternative). My view, however, is not unique. As we have seen in recent days, the opposition to the current study and its pre-ordained tunnel conclusion has reached epic proportions.” Mayor Del Guercio expressed the same opinion in a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, the City Councils of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale, Los Angeles, La Cañada Flintridge, State Senator Carol Liu and Assemblymembers Anthony Portantino and Mike Gatto.

On November 29, 2012, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino attempted to raise the attention of Acting Secretary of California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, Brian P. Kelly. Portantino stated “Although there have been assurances made about the process, there continues to be serious legal, ethical and planning concerns about the current process shepherded by the MTA and the apparent predetermined outcome that most of us anticipate.”

The “assurances about the process” referred to by Mr. Portantino have taken the form of steadfast assertions by Metro staff that no decision has been made about the preferred alternative, and that all alternatives are being studied equally. This has become their mantra. They repeat it at every public meeting.

On August 17, 2012, Steve Hymon, editor of Metro’s newsletter, The Source, wrote “First, I want to be very clear about something and I’m going to put it in large, bold letters to emphasize my point: DESPITE WHAT YOU MAY HAVE HEARD FROM A FRIEND, NEIGHBOR, POLITICIAN, PERSON IN LINE AT THE COFFEE SHOP, ETC., NO DECISIONS HAVE BEEN MADE BY METRO OR ANY OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCY TO BUILD ANYTHING. INCLUDING A TUNNEL.

On November 19, 2012, Metro’s Director of Highway Programs, Doug Failing, responded to a citizen who had expressed concern that the tunnel was a foregone conclusion. In his letter Mr. Failing listed the alternatives and stated “…At this time, we are just beginning the environmental process and no decision has been made on a preferred alternative.” SR-710 Project Manager Michelle Smith was quoted in the Pasadena Sun on May 26, 2012 as saying “No decision has been made. We can’t re-emphasize it enough.” In May of 2013, the Pasadena Star-News quotes Metro Spokeswoman Helen Ortiz- Gilstrap, attending an Alhambra press conference, as maintaining “…that all the options are being studied equally…”

The plethora of evidence demonstrating a bias toward building the tunnel and contradicting the above assertions by Metro substantiates the worst fears of elected officials and the public – that the tunnel is being promoted as a certainty. Metro’s own 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) includes a map (p. 37, Figure R) that shows a tunnel extending the 710 Freeway to the 210 Freeway, and lists the project as a tunnel with a cost of $5.6 billion in Figure S on page 38. As early as May of 2008, Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), Hasan Ikhrata, made a presentation at the Second Annual Leonard Transportation Center Forum in which he stated that financial markets and global developers had expressed interest in the project which was defined as two tunnels. He also stated at a November, 2012 meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), “I will say that if Metro or Caltrans or together they decide on a different alternative with the same benefits, we’ll talk, the plan can be updated, but I’m not expecting that to happen,” Mr. Ikhrata has repeated this statement at multiple public meetings and at a November, 2012 Alhambra City Council meeting. In a Pasadena Star-News article dated December 4, 2012, Ikhrata went even further: “…Southern California Association of Governments Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata has said the tunnel is the only viable approach and SCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan includes the freeway completion as a tunnel.” And then we have Metro CEO Arthur Leahy’s remarks at the Railvolution conference on October 15, 2012 (at 06:50): “We are just now beginning to evaluate two major highway projects which we think could be toll roads, to be, could be, great PPP (Public Private Partnerships) projects. One would be a tunnel under Pasadena to connect two of our freeways.” Note that none of these sources or remarks address any alternative included in the EIR/EIS, which is still underway, other than the tunnel.

Mr. Leahy’s remarks at Railvolution substantiate Metro’s plan to use a Public-Private Partnership to build the tunnel. In fact, Frank Quon, Executive Officer of Highway Programs, stated at the July, 2012 meeting of the Stakeholder Outreach Advisory Committee (SOAC) that the only way the tunnel could be built is via a PPP. When asked by a member of the committee what would happen in the event that no private partner is found, Mr. Quon responded that the project would be shelved until funds could be found from another source. This acknowledgement of the project’s dependence on the procurement of a PPP agreement explains its inclusion in Metro’s campaign to promote PPPs.
Metro representatives have made multiple presentations promoting their PPPs in the past eighteen months. Each has included the SR-710 Tunnel – and only a tunnel – without any mention of the LRT alternative or any other alternative.

Doug Failing, Executive Director of the Highway Program made a presentation to the CTF Transportation Forum in January of 2012 (see slides 2, 5, 6). He also gave a talk to the International Chinese Transportation Professional Association in October, 2012 and the tunnel is included on slides 6, 9 and 10 of the presentation to ICTPA.

Michael Schneider, Managing Director of Metro subcontractor, InfraConsult, addressed the 15th Annual Transportation and Infrastructure Summit in Irving, Texas in August of 2012. The SR-710 tunnel can be found on slides 19, 24, and 25 of his presentation. One month later, Mr. Schneider made a similar presentation to the Construction Management Association of America and the tunnel is addressed on slides 22 and 25 of his materials.

 An online presentation titled “Los Angeles Metro and Public-Private Partnerships” has been posted since June of this year and is available for prospective private partners to review. Slides 35 and 38 specifically address the SR-710 tunnel.

Observe that not a single presentation discusses any of the other alternatives included in the EIR/EIS, even though at the September 25, 2013 meeting of the Transit Coalition, Metro’s Director of Highway Programs Doug Failing told the audience that the Light Rail Transit (LRT) alternative, with a cost estimate of $2.4 Billion, cannot be built without a PPP either. None of the presentations discussed above include the SR-710 LRT alternative as a candidate for a PPP. Mr. Leahy stated at the September 18, 2013 Planning and Programming Committee meeting, “All we are doing is exploring options to array the facts as best we can.” If Metro is truly interested in exploring PPP options for potential projects, why do none of these presentations include the LRT alternative? It is also significant that none of the presentations even make mention of the possibility that the tunnel may not emerge as the preferred alternative. Each and every one of these presentations treats the SR-710 tunnel as a certainty, demonstrating that Metro already regards the SR-710 tunnel the preferred alternative.

Finally, under contract PS4370-2316, InfraConsult LLC, in its report “Public-Private Partnership Delivery Options: Initial Six Measure R Projects” (Task 3C Interim Report July 8, 2010;) outlines detailed cost analysis and business plan development for the SR-710 project exclusively as a tunnel. In addition, evidence that the tunnel is the favored alternative is further substantiated by the discussion of bringing the concessionaire (Private Partner) into the project early on through a Pre-Development Agreement (PDA) while the environmental analysis is underway – prior to the selection of a locally-preferred alternative – so that the design period between the Record of Decision and the start of construction can be abbreviated.

Metro’s actions have betrayed the trust of the public and many elected officials. The long history of flawed feasibility studies, poor public participation component, and lack of transparency has destroyed the taxpayers’ confidence in the outcome of the environmental study even before that study is completed. The controversy associated with this project will continue, and Metro can expect that a final decision to build a tunnel would trigger lawsuits causing significant delays, just as the original project did during the last century.

Azusa-to-Montclair Gold Line seeking new tax dollars


By Steve Scauzillo, October 23, 2013

 Local, state and federal officials attend a meeting for the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project from Azusa to Montclair, hosted by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority at the Doubletree Hotel in Claremont on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2013. The project was environmentally cleared in March 2013 and will now be starting the process to advance engineering and design for the 12.3-mile light rail segment.

At a glance

The Gold Line Foothill Extension from Azusa to Montclair will include:
• Six stations (Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont, Montclair)
• Two grade-separated flyovers, at Lone Hill Avenue in Glendora and Towne Avenue in Pomona
• 11 power supply substations
• 26 at-grade crossings with quad gates, flashing LED signals and raised medians
• Cost: $950 million
• Completion date: Unknown


CLAREMONT >> If they start building it, the taxpayers will fund.
In a nutshell, that’s the strategy being used by the agency building a 12.3-mile extension of the Gold Line light-rail train from Azusa to Montclair.

The project will cost $950  million and only $36  million has been raised. The rest of the money will have to come from Los Angeles County taxpayers through another transit tax measure being considered for the ballot in 2014 or 2016.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority has given up on asking for federal or state dollars and is putting its funding eggs in the taxpayers’ basket, said Habib Balian, the light-rail authority’s chief executive officer.

It is a similar strategy being considered by its parent, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, known as Metro, he said. While Metro is pursuing federal dollars for two bigger rail projects it will also need local matching funds, Balian said.

That puts Metro and the Gold Line in the same boat. At least, that is the hope of the San Gabriel Valley light-rail agency.

“We expect there will be a ballot initiative that Metro is preparing. Metro plans on asking county voters for a tax increase,” Balian told an audience of 70 city and regional transit officials at the Gold Line Foothill Phase  2B extension kickoff here Wednesday.

“Our project must be included in Metro’s (tax measure),” he added. “That is essential, or this project will not go forward.”

Metro board member and Duarte City Councilman John Fasana agreed with the Gold Line Foothill strategy. Apparently, so does Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a powerful member of Metro board.
“My sense is, Mr. Garcetti seems to be interested in the regional approach, but it is early,” Fasana said.

Balian was pleased to hear Garcetti say he supported building out the transit infrastructure. On Monday, the new L.A. mayor told KPCC at an event at the radio station’s auditorium in Pasadena his priority included “building out the lines that will take us from Claremont to the ocean and take us into LAX and up Crenshaw Boulevard.”

Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, has spoken to Garcetti about the Gold Line Foothill extension project, and Representatives Judy Chu and Grace Napolitano are planning a meeting with him on the topic, sources close to the project said.

Gold Line Authority leaders said Garcetti has been asking local cities, including the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, to come up with a list of transportation projects. Metro members Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Diane DeBois have also been getting SGV and Gateway cities COGs on board.

So far, the San Gabriel Valley COG listed the Gold Line’s Azusa to Montclair project and three others as top transit priorities. The other three are: 710 Freeway tunnel, Gold Line Eastside extension along the 60  Freeway, and funding for railroad bridges by the Alameda Corridor East (ACE) group.

The SGV COG is also supportive of Metro’s projects, such as the $1.4  billion Regional Connector, which extends the Gold Line from Little Tokyo to the 7th Street/Metro Center in downtown L.A. allowing passengers to connect to the Blue Line to Long Beach as well as other subway lines. Support for the $6.3  billion Westside subway (Purple Line) extension to Westwood may be a little shakier, he said.

Still, Fasana and Balian agreed that those two Metro projects are in line for federal dollars, edging out other projects.

“Both are in the queue ahead of us for federal support,” Balian said. “Though we would do well in the competition, we are behind those projects. That is the reality.”

Instead, the Gold Line Authority is going ahead with collecting bids in early 2014 for consultants, design and other specific planning work, he said, using $36 million left over from Phase  2A, the east Pasadena to Azusa/Citrus Avenue Gold Line extension under construction and set for completion in about two years.

In 2014, the Authority will meet with the cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair to discuss station alignments and planning for high-density residential and commercial projects near the new train line.

“We want the cities to understand what they can expect during this next phase of work for the project,” Balian said.

Balian hopes to have the Azusa-to-Montclair project designed and ready for construction by 2017. Having a “shovel ready” project will put it in line for funding, whatever the source, he said.

“The only way to get those dollars is to be ready,” he told the audience.

City Council won't appeal state rules for ride-sharing services

A motion that would have laid the groundwork for a lawsuit fails by one vote. The council instead agrees to ask the PUC for changes and additions to the ride-sharing regulations. 


By Laura J. Nelson, October 23, 2013

A motion to appeal California's new rules for ride-sharing services failed by one vote Wednesday at a Los Angeles City Council meeting, capping months of debate about the city's role in regulating the new taxi competitors.

The appeal motion, which needed eight votes for approval, failed on a 7-6 vote. It would have laid the groundwork for a lawsuit against the California Public Utilities Commission, which last month created the nation's and the state's first regulations for ride-sharing firms such as Lyft, Uber X and Sidecar.

Instead, the council voted unanimously to ask the PUC for certain changes and additions to the regulations, which will be discussed in further detail by a council committee. The proposals could include limits on greenhouse gas emissions and fingerprinting requirements for drivers, said Councilman Mike Bonin, who sponsored the motion. The city has until next September to request changes.

 "A new economy is emerging," Bonin said during a brief interview Wednesday. "The right way to address this is to create a new structure, rather than trying to make this industry meet existing definitions."

Ride-sharing services use smartphone apps to connect drivers to people who need a ride. Drivers who use their own cars often charge less than cabs.

The Los Angeles taxicab industry, long a political force at City Hall, has maintained that the ride-sharing firms have an unfair business advantage because they are not regulated or inspected by the city.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has voiced his support for the ride-share companies and has said he would work with the city's nine franchised taxi companies to "adopt similar innovations."

Several council members, however, said the new PUC regulations put Los Angeles drivers and passengers at risk.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who sponsored the appeal motion, said the PUC did not have enough staff to enforce the regulations. Drivers will be required to undergo criminal background checks, receive training and carry insurance policies with a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage.

"We will do this until we have the first couple disasters, and then we will have to rethink it anyway," Koretz said. "Why not do it now?"

Cab companies and their owners have provided at least $5,200 in donations to Koretz's campaign and office-holder account since 2009, the year he was elected to the council. Councilman Curren Price won his seat this year after a political action committee set up by the taxicab companies spent nearly $27,000 on his behalf.

That same committee spent more than $49,000 to promote the candidacy of Councilman Gil Cedillo, who took office July 1.

"This, quote, new emerging industry wants to be exempt from a criteria and a standard that is well-established," Cedillo said.

How Seattle Transformed Parking Without Spending a Fortune


By Eric Jaffe, October 24, 2013

 How Seattle Transformed Parking Without Spending a Fortune

The most sophisticated street-parking system in the United States, and perhaps the world, is in San Francisco. SFpark uses demand-responsive pricing to adjust the rates of city street meters and garages in eight major neighborhoods, ensuring that spots are always available. The program uses a matrix of street sensors to inform drivers using the SFpark app of space vacancy and prices in real time.

Of course, not every city can get a $20 million federal grant to implement such a system, as San Francisco did. Those places seeking a more affordable model might want to look a bit north to Seattle, where the city has established SeaPark. While less technologically advanced than SFpark, the SeaPark program still responds to parking demand across the city with notable efficiency — and for a fraction of the cost.

"Seattle is really showing how cities, often with existing equipment and a little hard work, can do demand-responsive pricing," says Jay Primus, manager of SFpark. "It's not as sophisticated, but it's such a big step in the right direction."

Before SeaPark went into effect, Seattle charged a flat, one-size-fits-all rate for parking in its various downtown business districts, just as many cities do across the country. But a thorough study of the parking landscape conducted a few years back showed that not every area behaved like the others. Different neighborhoods had different demands.

With SeaPark, the city prices parking in different districts based on need, in an effort to ensure at least one or two spaces remain open throughout the day. Officials collect parking data every year and change parking rates — which range from $1 to $4 an hour — on a per-neighborhood basis when basic availability goals aren't being met. Not only does this provide visitors and shoppers better access to city businesses, it also reduces street congestion in crowded commercial areas.

The system lacks the block-by-block precision and real-time responsiveness of SFpark. Even defenders of the program believe the city should aim for more frequent and diverse rate changes. Then again, the city has never spent more than $1.2 million a year for basic operations, says parking strategist Mary Catherine Snyder of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

"It's not as fine-grained as what might happen in San Francisco or Los Angeles, but it's better than what we used to do," Snyder says.

Despite its limited funding, SeaPark remains an impressive system. Take street parking in the commercial core. As of April 2013, SeaPark just about hit its target occupancy of 70 to 85 percent during normal business hours:

And here's how things look block-by-block:

The target color is orange, while red indicates blocks with too much occupancy. The prevalence of red reflects the system's lack of geographical refinement. Still, as Alan Durning of the Sightline Institute recently pointed out, you can see how effective the system is overall by comparing the weekday occupancy situation to Sundays, when curb parking is free:

Seattle has also found low-cost ways to direct drivers to various blocks. Large green "VALUE" signs placed at the edge of popular districts show people where they can park for longer and cheaper — creating options for travelers who don't mind walking a little farther to pay a little less. While the city lacks an official parking app, it makes parking data available to third-party app vendors like Parkopedia.

SeaPark is also more evidence that, contrary to popular belief, the point of priced parking is not to squeeze city drivers for every penny. In many neighborhoods, rates have gone down since the program began, says Snyder. (San Francisco has found the same thing: one recent study of SFpark determined that the city "adjusted prices without increasing them overall"; Primus says meters were down 18 cents an hour last he checked.)

The lesson, says Synder, is that cities don't need to have a big parking program to create a more efficient parking situation. Rather, metros just need a little money, a lot of focus — and an admission that things may never be perfect. "I don't know that there's any silver bullets out there," she says. "It is on-street parking."

Chart [PDF] and maps [PDF] courtesy of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Gold Line Foothill Extension kicks off further planning for Phase 2B


By Steve Hymon, October 24, 2013

Attendees at yesterday's event for the Gold Line Foothill Extension.

 Attendees at yesterday’s event for the Gold Line Foothill Extension.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority held held an event Wednesday in Claremont to announce the start of further planning and conceptual for the Azusa-to-Montclair phase of the project.

An 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line between eastern Pasadena and Azusa is currently under construction with Metro forecasting an opening in early 2016. An extension beyond Azusa is in Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan but is not funded at this time. The Metro Board earlier this year, however, did approve a concept that allows for up to $36 million of Measure R funding (Measure R is funding the Pasadena-to-Azusa segment plus a new rail yard in Monrovia) to be used for planning, engineering and environmental work for the segment beyond Azusa.
Here is the news release from the Construction Authority, the independent agency building and planning the Foothill Extension:
Local, State and Federal Officials Attend Meeting to Learn What to Expect Over Next Two Years of Design/Engineering

CLAREMONT, CA – Today, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority (Construction Authority) hosted a kick-off meeting for the much-anticipated Azusa to Montclair segment of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail line. The 12.3-mile project will extend light rail service from the current terminus under construction in the city of Azusa, to the cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair.

“This is an important time for the project,” stated Construction Authority CEO, Habib F. Balian. “Over the next two years, we will take this project from a less than 10% design understanding to a point where we will be ready for a design-build procurement. This will be a period of hard work for the Construction Authority and our partner cities, but it will definitely pay off as we ready the project for construction.”

Presenting to a capacity-filled room of federal, state and local officials, station artists, and key stakeholders, a panel of four speakers provided details on the next steps in the process to advance engineering and station art for the project. The panel – consisting of Construction Authority CEO Habib Balian, Chief Project Officer Chris Burner, Station Environment Coordinator Tanya Patsaouras, and Public Art Program Manager Lesley Elwood – provided the attendees updates on the latest station design criteria, choices cities will have regarding station colors and materials, the schedule for advanced conceptual engineering and station art development, and much more.

A Locally Preferred Alternative was selected earlier this year by the Construction Authority board of directors, following environmental review and clearance of the project under the California Environmental Policy Act (CEQA). Since that time, the Construction Authority has developed the scope of work to advance the necessary design, engineering and station art planning. The agency is set to begin the advanced conceptual engineering early next year.

“We want the cities to understand what they can expect during this next phase of work for the project,” explained Balian. “We want them to start envisioning what their station could look like, as well as what they can be doing now to plant the seeds for future land development and connectivity to local points of interest from their future stations. It all starts now.”
About the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension - The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension is a $1.7 billion, 24-mile extension of the Metro Gold Line light rail system, being overseen by the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, an independent transportation planning and construction agency created in 1998 by the California State Legislature. The project is planned in two segments – Pasadena to Azusa and Azusa to Montclair. The Pasadena to Azusa segment is fully funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R and is on schedule to be completed in September 2015, when it will be turned over to Metro for testing and pre-revenue service. Measure R is funding the majority of cost for advanced conceptual engineering and environmental work necessary for the Azusa to Montclair segment (San Bernardino County will fund their portion of the work). Construction funding has not been identified for the Azusa to Montclair project. The Construction Authority is working with Metro to seek the nearly $1 billion needed complete the Foothill Extension to Montclair.

A Democrat who's pushing to outlaw transit strikes

Assembly candidate Steve Glazer is going against powerful organized labor, an unconventional move for a California Democrat.


 By George Skelton, October 23, 2013

 Steve Glazer
Steve Glazer walks Gov. Jerry Brown's Corgi, Sutter, through the halls of the Capitol in 2011, when Glazer was working as a strategist for Brown. 

Steve Glazer may represent the California Legislature's wave of the future. Then again, he may just crash on the rocks.

Glazer is a moderate Democrat running for the Assembly while bucking powerful organized labor.

That just is not done in California for the most part, at least successfully.

 A "Jerry Brown Democrat," he calls himself with some credibility. Not only was Glazer the governor's chief strategist during his lopsided election victory in 2010, he also espouses fiscal restraint like Brown.

Lately, Glazer, 56, a veteran political consultant and Orinda City Council member, has been calling out unions by advocating that the Legislature ban transit strikes.

That's a salient issue in his suburban East San Francisco Bay district, where rail commuters have just been tormented for the second time since July with a four-day strike by Bay Area Rapid Transit workers. Roughly 400,000 people ride BART daily.

The strike ended Monday night, but another is being threatened by bus drivers for Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District.

"Another strike in the Bay Area is the last thing we need," Brown said as he sought a 60-day cooling-off period Wednesday.

Brown, gearing up to run for reelection next year and counting on heavy labor support, isn't going as far as Glazer in calling directly for a ban on transit strikes. But when the Legislature was in session, he did take a stab behind the scenes at pursuing binding arbitration in the BART dispute, and thus avoiding a strike.

Democratic legislative leaders flatly rejected the idea.

But Glazer has been outspoken, visiting BART stations — five are in his district alone — and asking commuters to sign his online petition urging the Legislature to ban transit strikes.

"Transit is an essential public service, just like police and fire," he says, noting that cops and firefighters are forbidden to strike in California.

"Business requires a workforce. Regional economies are dependent on allowing people to get to where they need…. When BART stops, it drives everyone onto the highways, putting more smog into the air. It takes people hours to go from the East Bay into the city" of San Francisco.

Los Angeles commuters also have been harassed by transit strikes lasting more than a month in 2000 and 2003.

Glazer notes that New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., have banned transit strikes. In fact, so has San Francisco. "These are public services owned by the public," he says.

But Steve Smith, communications director for the California Labor Federation, calls Glazer a political opportunist.

"He saw the BART strike as an opportunity to further his political aspirations," Smith says. "He's a shrewd political tactician. It's indicative of the kind of politician he would be in the state Legislature."
Leaving out the opportunist bit, Glazer agrees that his position indeed is indicative of the kind of legislator he'd be. He wouldn't be a labor lackey.

He's the only Bay Area Democrat, Glazer says, who's advocating a ban on transit strikes.
But another one indicated Wednesday that he's getting close.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) — a candidate to replace the termed-out Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) as Senate leader — asserted in a prepared statement that the BART strike "was devastating for commuters throughout the Bay Area. The current system failed…. This must not happen again."

The senator announced that the transportation committee he chairs will study "how other metropolitan areas around the nation avoid this kind of situation" and "will pursue every possible remedy to ensure this never happens again."

Best of luck.

"It's hard to find Democrats [in Sacramento] who will go against labor," Glazer told me. "Democrats are in labor's pocket."

It's a huge barrier to major regulatory, public pension and education reforms.

A look at campaign contributions shows labor's clout.

According to MapLight, a nonpartisan outfit that tracks political money, state and local public employee unions donated $2.7 million to legislative candidates during the 2012 elections. Police and fire unions also contributed about $2.7 million. Teachers unions alone donated roughly $16 million to Brown's tax increase initiative.

Glazer first earned labor's wrath when he worked for the state Chamber of Commerce last year helping to elect pro-business legislators. He advised two victorious Democratic moderates — Assemblymen Richard Bloom of Santa Monica and Marc Levine of San Rafael — on how to knock off two labor- and party-backed incumbents. The losers essentially were depicted as union stooges.

The labor federation retaliated in July by blackballing Glazer, slapping him on its "do not hire" list.
"He certainly doesn't help his position any" by preaching a ban on transit strikes, Smith says.

Glazer's chief opponent for the Assembly seems to be Democrat Tim Sbranti, a Dublin city councilman and political leader of the California Teachers Assn. He's endorsed by local Democratic politicians. The Republican candidate so far is attorney Catharine Baker, a social moderate who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage. The district leans Democratic.

This will be an important test of two new election reforms: the open primary, which advances the top two vote getters to the general election, regardless of party, and neutrally drawn districts. Reform backers contended the new system would lead to the election of more moderate, pragmatic lawmakers willing to compromise.

"The question is whether a legislative center can grow and take hold — diminishing the power of the tea party on the right and labor on the left," Glazer says.

Meanwhile, he's on the right track trying to ban transit strikes, even if labor is trying to derail him.

Transcontinental AutoGO.ca ELLE CANADA Fresh Juice More sites Find a business Facebook Twitter Subscribe Login October 24, 2013 Sydney 5°C Complete weather forecast Conditions actuelles Cape Breton Post Home Elections News Sports Business Living Opinion Community Real estate Obituaries Classifieds Jobs Autos Deals Skye Glen couple welcomes identical triplets Skye Glen couple welcomes identical triplets CBU women's volleyball team open season on the road CBU women's volleyball team open season on the road North Sydney church expanding community garden North Sydney church expanding community garden Screaming Eagles beat Moncton 5-2 Screaming Eagles beat Moncton 5-2 Today's community calendar events Today's community calendar events Cape Breton Post> Living Ongoing exposure to vehicle exhaust a health risk: researchers


TORONTO (CP) — Traffic-related air pollution poses major health risks for a large segment of the Canadian population who live or work close to high-traffic roads or highways, say researchers, suggesting there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the hazard.

Pollutants from vehicles’ tailpipes have been linked to the development of asthma in children and adults, says a commentary in Monday’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Exhaust is also known to increase the risk of heart disease and lead to hospitalizations for pneumonia in the elderly, as well as being linked to premature birth and low-birth weight infants.

Emissions from cars and trucks also contribute to overall air pollution, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer last week declared a major carcinogen that can lead to lung cancer in some people.

“Those are all pretty big deals, so things like lung cancer and heart disease are important killers in Canada,” said lead author Michael Brauer, an environmental health specialist at the University of British Columbia.

“And we know that if children are born prematurely or at low birth weight, that could have implications throughout their lives, so it puts them at risk for a lot of other potential health outcomes,” he said from Vancouver. “And asthma is for children, especially, a very important chronic disease.”

About 10 million Canadians — or 32 per cent of the population — live within 500 metres of highways or 100 metres from major urban roads, exposing them to elevated levels of traffic-related air pollution, Brauer said. Air pollution is blamed for about 21,000 premature deaths in Canada each year.

Although pollution from exhaust is not the prime risk for such diseases — smoking plays a much greater role in the development of lung cancer, for instance — “if you add up the fact that a third of the population is exposed, then on a population basis it becomes very important,” he said.
“It’s much more effective to remove this risk than it is to treat 10 million people.”

Brauer and his co-authors highlight four strategies with short- and long-term options to help reduce the effects of traffic-related air pollution:

— Reducing vehicle emissions: introducing programs to remove or retrofit high-emission vehicles; reducing traffic congestion; expanding infrastructure for electric cars.

— Modifying current infrastructure: limiting heavy truck traffic to specific routes; separating active commuting zones — for instance walking and cycling routes — from busy roads.

— Better land-use planning and traffic management: locating buildings such as schools, daycares and retirement homes at least 150 metres from busy streets.

— Encouraging behavioural change: creating policies to reduce traffic congestion in specific areas and encouraging alternative commuting behaviours.

Brauer said about 200 cities in Europe have implemented fees for drivers who enter a “congestion-charge zone” in busy inner-city cores. The best known of these may be London, which has reduced traffic volume and congestion that resulted in “an estimated gain of 183 years of life per 100,000 residents within the zone over a 10-year period.”

Other urban centres have designated zones that allow only low-emission vehicles, among them gas-electric hybrids.

“Ultimately, I think it’s something that should be thought of when we’re (urban) planning,” said Brauer.

For instance, new residential developments should be set back from high-traffic roads, he said, noting that exhaust expelled from vehicles is diluted in the air after it reaches a certain distance.

Building urban neighbourhoods that encourage walking, cycling and public transit instead of cars could also lead to lower air pollution levels, he said.

“It’s really a matter of changing our mindset,” said Brauer. “We’re very focused still on designing transportation all around cars and we probably should be designing transportation around people.”

Oakland truckers strike to protest pollution rules


By Stephanie M. Lee, October 22, 2013

 Trucks pull into the Port of Oakland last month. Some drivers are striking this week. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle
Trucks pull into the Port of Oakland last month. Some drivers are striking this week.

The truckers' strike at the Port of Oakland stems from complaints over work conditions, but it also underscores a long-simmering tension between the trucking industry and environmental regulators.
Dozens of nonunion truckers walked off the job this week in part to protest what they said were the high costs of retrofitting or replacing trucks to meet air quality standards in California, home to cities with some of the worst air pollution in the country.

The laws were approved five years ago to cut down on diesel emissions from trucks carrying goods into and out of ports and rail yards. Without the controls, diesel trucks and buses coughed out enough smog to form one-third of the state's nitric-oxide emissions and 40 percent of the state's diesel particulate-matter emissions, which have been linked to more than 9,000 premature deaths annually.

Cost of compliance

Owners and operators of diesel trucks and buses have had to add soot filters, upgrade to newer engines or replace especially old vehicles. By Jan. 1, California will require all trucks serving its ports to have engines whose model year is 2007 or newer.

Since the regulations were announced, many truckers have been worried about the cost and complications of compliance. Now, a group of nonunion protesters calling itself the Port of Oakland Truckers Association is asking for a yearlong extension of the 2014 deadline. It also wants a monthly $50 "green emissions" fee to help offset the cost of upgrading the trucks.

"If they're going to come out with some rules, they should help us," said Cesar Parra, a group representative. By the port's estimate, about 150 pickets showed up Monday, the first day of the strike, and 100 on Tuesday.

The truckers are also demanding compensation for the currently unpaid hours they spend waiting to pick up cargo and a pay increase per cargo load.

State and local agencies offer grants and loans to help truckers meet the standards, but Parra said the help is insufficient. A state voucher to replace a truck ranges from $10,000 to $45,000, but that net value can be a lot less considering an old truck can receive up to $15,000 on the market, Parra said. Insurance, he said, also costs considerably more for a newer truck.

"They give money, but they put regulations on the money," he said.

The California Trucking Association said the industry invests almost $1 billion annually into complying with the state's air-quality laws. "In an industry where small and family-owned businesses are very common, that burden can be enormous," said Eric Sauer, the group's vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, in a statement.

But port and state officials say truckers have access to lots of financial aid to help them meet the standards.

The Port of Oakland said it, along with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have given $38 million to help truckers comply with deadlines.

As a result, the port says, diesel particulate matter from port trucks has plummeted 88 percent since 2005.

Most of the 5,000 trucks registered at the port are ready for the 2014 deadline, said Marilyn Sandifur, a port spokeswoman. More than 70 percent of the roughly 5,900 trucks registered in Northern California are also already compliant.

Beyond the Bay Area, the state says it has provided more than $500 million in grants, loans, bond money and other funding to truckers to help retrofit or replace old trucks.

More incentives

The strike is taking place weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB8, which authorizes an additional $2 billion over the next decade in incentives to reduce diesel emissions and support clean alternative fuels and technologies. The state Air Resources Board has estimated that the diesel-emission reduction laws would prevent about 3,500 premature deaths statewide.

Health groups that backed AB8 included the American Lung Association. Bonnie Holmes-Gen, the association's senior director for policy and advocacy in California, said that while it's important to help truck owners comply with the deadline, their health, too, is at stake.

"The bottom line is we need to transition to cleaner fuels and equipment in order to reduce these tremendous health burdens on the area and in order to reach our air quality and greenhouse gas goals," she said. "We have to move forward and make the transition work."