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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More Than 1,000 Southern California Leaders Gather In Support of Transportation Investment at Mobility 21 Summit

 Today’s event brings leaders together to keep Southern California moving amidst mounting infrastructure deficit.


October 29, 2013

LOS ANGELES--()--More than 1,000 business, transportation and elected leaders converged on the JW Marriott at L.A. Live for the 12th annual Mobility 21 Southern California Transportation Summit. The annual conference, which is the largest one-day transportation event in the state, focused on bringing leaders from a broad spectrum of backgrounds together to address the challenges and opportunities facing Southern California’s infrastructure.

Southern California continues to face significant traffic congestion and mobility challenges. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) projects a regional infrastructure deficit of $200 billion through 2035. According to SCAG, nearly 74 percent of the funding for Southern California’s transportation projects is raised locally, predominantly through sales tax measures.

"Safer streets and neighborhoods are better for businesses and for our local economy," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "Thanks to Measure R, we'll create hundreds of thousands of jobs while building a transportation system that will make Los Angeles not just a big city but a great city."
During the Summit, Hon. Diane DuBois, Chair of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, emphasized the role of leveraging local funds.

"Metro and other Southern California transit agencies are stepping up to the plate to support our mobility infrastructure — as are our taxpayers, who have voted time and again to tax themselves for mobility," said DuBois." But we simply don't have the money we need to deal with all the issues. We must convince Congress to update the gas tax and perhaps create an infrastructure bank that we can use to leverage the transportation taxes our voters have been generous and farsighted in supporting."
During a lunchtime keynote address, Brian P. Kelly, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, shared the administration’s plans for transportation in California and the significance of Mobility 21’s advocacy.

“California's transportation system must not only deliver safety and mobility, but also sustainability to meet our air quality and greenhouse gas reduction objectives,” said Secretary Kelly. "Our transportation system is a special part of California's heritage and our responsibility is to preserve this great infrastructure of the past while putting thousands of Californians to work building something new, for an even brighter future.”

Mobility 21 launched a transportation advocacy mobile web application at the conference, urging the public to hold elected leaders accountable for improving transportation in Southern California. The app can be accessed from smart phone web browsers at http://www.mobility21.com.

“Mobility 21’s strength is connecting the dots and bringing together both the public and private sectors, with their diverse interests and priorities, to speak with a unified voice to fight for smart investments in Southern California’s transportation system,” said Anne Mayer, Executive Director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission and Mobility 21 Chair. “To assist in that effort, we have launched a mobile web app to make it easier for the public to add their voices in support of transportation improvements and look forward to hearing their input.”

As a nonprofit coalition of public and private sector members, Mobility 21 strongly supports investing in all modes of transportation to keep Southern California’s 21 million residents moving. Mobility 21’s private sector members bring the business community’s voice to transportation advocacy.

“The private sector has an important role in Southern California’s transportation system,” said Paul Granillo, President and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership and Mobility 21 Vice Chair. “As our transportation network ages and population grows, we have to work together to reduce gridlock traffic, maintain our quality of life and assure global competitiveness for businesses in Southern California. Investment in goods movement is especially important since more than 43 percent of the nation’s containerized imports flow through our ports and on to the rest of the nation.”

Conference attendees learned about a variety of transportation topics, including: harnessing the power of new technology; investment strategies to improve the flow of commerce in Southern California; the importance of investing in the maintenance of existing infrastructure; the development of multi-function infrastructure corridors; and coordinated land-use, housing and transportation planning.

During a luncheon ceremony, Governor Jerry Brown was presented with a Transportation Visionary Award in absentia. Mobility 21 also presented awards to several transportation leaders for their efforts to keep the region moving:
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Hon. Ray LaHood, Former Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation (in absentia)
  • Public Sector Leader of the Year: Hon. Karen Spiegel, Vice Mayor, City of Corona and Chair, Riverside County Transportation Commission
  • Private Sector Leader of the Year: Bill Bennett, Former Southern California Area Manager, HDR
  • Tribute Award: Bimla Rhinehart, Former Executive Director, California Transportation Commission
The closing session included a keynote address from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on his economic development plan and how infrastructure plays a role.
For more information about the conference agenda and speakers, visit http://mobility21.com/summit/agenda. To view a list of elected officials in attendance, visit http://mobility21.com/2013summit/vips.

Founded in 2002 by Metro and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California, Mobility 21 has grown during the past twelve years to advocate for the transportation priorities of all seven counties, including Los Angeles, Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.

Ninety Percent of Americans Drive to Work


By Fred Dews, October 28, 2013

In his recent article, "On the Performance of the U.S. Transportation System: Caution Ahead," Senior Fellow Cliff Winston asks, "What transportation policy changes could reduce travel delays, save taxpayer dollars, and increase the nation’s productivity and growth?" In 2007, he notes, total spending on transportation in America amounted to 17 percent of GDP, as much spent on health care. And, Americans spend 175 billion hours in transit, which averages out to about 100 minutes per day for each and every American.

The figure below, which represents data in the paper, shows the vast increase in use of privately owned vehicles as a means of transportation to work. In 1960, 72.5 percent of individuals drove to work;  almost fifty years later that percentage has increased to over 90 percent while the percentages of people using the bus and subway/rail have declined. This volume demonstrates the enormous and increasing toll that is being placed on infrastructure in America.

Table: Means of Transportation to Work (1960-2009)
Winston suggests several specific policy changes that could generate cost savings, such as:

• Base user prices on actual costs;
• Improve federal investments in infrastructure;
• Streamline regulations so that highway projects do not distort wages and raise project prices;
• Open the skies and seas by liberalizing international airline routes and shipping lanes;
• Privatize a city bus service to see if it can be better operated than the public bus company and be more responsive to travelers’ preferences; and
• Privatize highways so that the federal government and states could explore whether it leads to lower costs of highway services and better service to motorists.

Watch the video below to get an introduction to the research and the paper's main points:

Foothill Transit to unveil new fleet branding


October 25, 2013

Foothill Transit will unveil its new fleet design — the first complete redesign in the agency’s 25-year history — on Oct. 30.

The launch of the new exterior design coincides with several agency milestones: the purchase of 64 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses from NABI Inc., which facilitates the retirement of Foothill Transit’s last diesel bus, making the fleet 100% alternative fueled (CNG or electric); the celebration of Foothill Transit’s 25th anniversary; the delivery of 12 new electric buses that will make the transit system’s Line 291 the first all-electric bus line in Southern California; and the opening of the agency’s first ever park & ride structure in the City of Industry.

Foothill Transit’s buses have sported an all-white exterior with simple blue striping and the Foothill Transit logo.

The agency reviewed more than 150 concepts in early 2013. The final design that was selected pays homage to the original blue striping and bright white exterior while adding more shape and color. The inclusion of green is intended to mimic the hills of the foothill communities while conveying the message that Foothill Transit is a green transportation option, highlighting the agency’s commitment to the local environment.

“Foothill Transit’s buses are our how our communities identify us,” said Doran Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit. “We wanted them to say more about who we are, how far we’ve come and where we want to go.”

Foothill Transit will also continue its commitment to prohibiting exterior advertising on its buses. This commitment is part of the agency’s bylaws and helps maintain a clean, uncluttered exterior that customers and local communities can be proud of.

Foothill Transit launched a teaser campaign with the message, “Let’s paint the town green,” in early October 2013. The unveiling bus, number 2100, will be the only redesigned bus in the fleet until other new vehicles arrive later this year.

Following the unveiling, Foothill Transit customers will get a chance to win a free Foothill Transit 31-Day bus pass if they spot bus 2100 while it is out in service. 

Coalition urges Congress to retain transit commuter benefit


October 29, 2013

Getting America to Work (GATW), a nationwide coalition advocating for federal investment in the nation’s bus and rail transit systems, is urging members of Congress to keep public transportation affordable for 2.7 million American families by stopping scheduled cuts to the tax-free benefit for commuters using public transportation to get to work.

Current law allows workers and employers to pay up to $245 in monthly transit costs with tax-exempt dollars. This is the same maximum tax-free amount allowed for a similar benefit for those who drive to work and pay for parking. However, on Jan. 1, the transit benefit maximum is scheduled to be cut almost in half, to $125 per month, while the parking benefit will remain at a maximum of $245.

“Keeping parity between commuter benefits for transit and parking is nonpartisan, common sense policy,” said Joe Costello, executive director of the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Authority and Chairman of Getting America to Work. “Transit benefits encourage more workers to use public transportation, reducing traffic congestion, the demand for gasoline and air pollution. I urge Congress to preserve transit-parking benefit parity.”

Now that the government shutdown has ended, Congress is turning its attention to a long-term budget deal. Two bills, H.R. 2288 and S. 1116, have been introduced to preserve transit parity. If these bills are not passed or included as part of a budget deal, workers who rely on public transit will have their maximum pre-tax benefits for commuting cut in half on Jan., 1, 2014.

“We must take positive action to preserve pre-tax benefits for those who rely on public transportation to get to work,” said Stephen F. Lalli, executive director of the Oklahoma Transit Association in Oklahoma City. “The scheduled $120-per-month disparity between benefits for drivers and those who use public transit is unacceptable and unfair. Congress must stop the scheduled transit benefit cut.”

Free theatrical magic show, The Magic of Smoke and Mirrors, at Union Station on Weds, Oct 30


By Heidi Zeller, October 29, 2013

 Photo courtesy of Road Theatre

Metro Presents: The Magic of Smoke and Mirrors at historic Union Station on Wednesday, October 30. The theatrical magic show will take place inside the former Fred Harvey Restaurant, a dramatic space that is usually closed to the public.

The performance presents highlights from Smoke and Mirrors, the critically acclaimed show extended due to popular demand at the Road Theatre in North Hollywood. ‘What are you afraid of,’ is the question posed by the production, all in the spirit of Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Doors open at 7 p.m. – seating is first come, first served
Pre-show at 7:30 p.m., Show begins at 8 p.m.
Union Station Fred Harvey Room
No food or beverages allowed inside (bottled water ok)

Former Fred Harvey Restaurant at Union Station. Courtesy of Hollywood Locations Company
Former Fred Harvey Restaurant at Union Station.

Show your valid Metro TAP card at check-in for access to preferential seating. Feel like dinner and a show? Show your valid Metro TAP card at Traxx Restaurant at Union Station and receive a 10 percent discount on your dinner bill. Guests are encouraged to make reservations at 213.625.1999 or www.urbanspoon.com. For more Destination Discounts click here.

The performance continues Metro Presents, Metro’s newly launched program of arts and cultural programs at Union Station. All events are free and open to the public. For more information on upcoming Metro Presents events, check Union Station’s events page.

Union Station is accessible via Metro Rail, Metro Bus and several municipal bus lines. Use the Trip Planner at metro.net for routes and connections. Car and bicycle parking are also available on site.

One tidbit from Mobility 21 conference: Mayor Garcetti says another transpo ballot measure is possible


By Steve Hymon, October 29, 2013

 For a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZZVZqT5PdY

The annual conference on transportation issues in our area is taking place today in downtown Los Angeles.

The most interesting tidbit to burp out thus far: Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Member Eric Garcetti — in an introductory video (he is in D.C., lobbying for transportation funding — said that connecting Metro Rail to LAX is among his highest priorities and that another transportation ballot measure is possible.
So that’s intriguing to hear. I don’t have any more details and the Metro Board certainly hasn’t decided anything. Nor is there anything even on the table for their discussion.

But the juxtaposition of a ballot measure along with the airport project — a project with both public appeal and the need for a lot more funding — is worth noting. As is the Mayor’s statement that cities have been asked to submit desired projects, which suggests he envisions a ballot measure that could fund new projects.

Measure J, which narrowly failed last year, would have accelerated some Measure R projects but not funded any new ones.

As of now any countywide ballot measure would need two-thirds approval to pass. There were bills in the Legislature this year to lower that threshold to 55 percent but they were tabled and that discussion and vote won’t happen until 2014 at the earliest. The next two big elections in L.A. County will be in Nov. 2014 (governor) and Nov. 2016 (presidential); that’s key because passing transportation ballot measures with high thresholds often requires high voter turnout.

Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois also gave a speech at the conference about the need to upgrade Los Angeles County’s infrastructure and the challenges that go along with that. Here’s the text of that speech:
Good morning.

I’m here to tell you that we are aging.

Are you surprised?

But we’re not the only ones. Our world is aging. Our country is aging. Our cities are aging. And our infrastructure?

Our infrastructure is ready for AARP!

That’s why it’s particularly fitting that this year’s Mobility 21 Summit is focused on infrastructure, education and healthcare.

A healthy infrastructure is at the core of what we all do. And without it, we can’t expect to connect to the things that make a region a good and fair and comfortable place to live … with top-notch schools, excellent healthcare and access to jobs.

And yet, what have we done for our infrastructure lately? And what do we mean when we say “infrastructure”? Do we mean trains and buses? Do we mean bridges and streets? Is it okay to talk about freeways?

For many of us — supporters of mobility in this region — building out our public transit system is key to keeping gridlock at bay.

But we can’t forget the elephant in the room. We can’t forget our freeways. The simple truth is that despite our confidence in the importance of train, bus, bike and ride-share options — we know that in L.A. County, more than 70 percent of our commuters drive solo to work.

Even though I’m chair of the Metro Board, I actually understand this. In my district — the Gateway Cities District, just south of here — we’re pretty highway dependent. We’re crisscrossed by the I-5 and the I-710. So in my neighborhood, if we want to get somewhere fast, we generally hop in the car.

I love our freeways and I use them regularly. That does not mean I’m anti transit. On the contrary, I am a staunch supporter of our strong and developing public transit system. Because the way I see it, highways and streets and buses and trains are all part of the same solution. They are a mobility team. They are connected … which means we are connected to what’s essential: education, healthcare, plentiful jobs … and one another.

In a compact Eastern city, I would argue, it’s easier to build a comprehensive bus and rail network. But in a 1,400-square mile service area like L.A. County — and those of you from Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties know exactly what I mean — it’s nearly impossible to navigate life without a car … or occasional access to one.

In L.A. County many of our aging freeways were built in the 1950s and 60s. They were built for Lassie- and Ponderosa- and Lone Ranger-style traffic  … and I don’t mean the  Johnny Depp kind of Lone Ranger. I mean cars with fins cruising at 65 miles an hour. During rush hour.

We have a HUGE investment in those aging freeways and we must not forget them. They are a major part of our mobility infrastructure. Metro is doing everything it can to modernize and maintain our freeways. We have major highway widening going on in the I-405 Sepulveda Pass and, in my district, the I-5 leaving Orange County. But with a regional infrastructure deficit of $200 billion projected through 2035, it’s not easy to tackle all the corridors that need help.

As usual, it’s all about the money.

The gas tax is the single most important source of transportation funding for the federal government. But as everyone in this room knows, the gas tax is not keeping pace. In fact, the purchasing power of the gas tax has dropped 28 percent since 1997, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Vehicle fuel efficiency is up and that’s a good thing. But connected to that efficiency is the consumption of less gas … which means less tax money to support public transit and highway projects. At the same time, construction costs have taken off, meaning that the funding we do collect buys less infrastructure than ever before.

As the gas tax loses value, government is turning to other taxes — like voter-approved sales taxes. That leaves the burden for freeway improvements to local agencies like Metro and OCTA and SANBAG.

Does this sound familiar?

In 1992 Metro estimated that it would shoulder 27 percent of the costs for 24 years of L.A. County freeway improvements … with the rest of the money coming from federal and state funding.

But in the newest estimates, starting this year and lasting for the next 24, Metro expects to shoulder 55 percent of the burden! In 24 years the funding source has done nearly a 180 shift — from state and federal support to local sources. 

Metro and other transit agencies are stepping up to the plate — as are our taxpayers, who have voted time and again to tax themselves for mobility. But we simply don’t have the money we need to deal with all these issues. We need federal and state help to continue to build out our transit system infrastructures and take care of our existing streets and freeways.

Just a few weeks ago, a national transportation analysis said the roads in greater Los Angeles are the most deteriorated in the United States — costing Southern California drivers more than 800 dollars a year. This estimate referred to the cost of repairs, tune-ups and tires, as well as faster depreciation from the damage. 

That’s one example of where we’re falling short. Here’s another:

In the Gateway Cities District, we have two of the largest ports in the world. We love the Ports of L.A They bring us — and our country — a lucrative connection to the world: Goods from Asia. Goods that then are carted all over our country. Tax dollars. And thousands of jobs. We love the concept of thousands of jobs — direct and indirect — that spill out across our country! I like to think of us as helping the entire nation.

But those assets have a downside for us locally: Crumbling roads, broken by the constant pounding of loaded 50-ton trucks. Safety issues created by trucks and cars sharing the same lanes … at the same time. Unhealthful emissions as the trucks travel back and forth, 24/7.

A 2005 USC study concluded that children who lived within a quarter mile of a freeway were 89 percent more likely to have asthma than those living a mile away. The closer they lived to freeways, the higher the asthma rates. I’m sorry to say that that is just one study in many to conclude that air pollution from freeways is connected to worse health for nearby residents.

In L.A. County, we’re working to improve this danger along the I-710 Freeway, leaving the Ports of L.A. — our most heavily traveled goods movement corridor. We’re planning the addition of truck lanes to keep cars and trucks separate but equal. At the same time we’re studying creation of a zero-emission corridor — one in which hybrid-electric trucks could receive power in much the same way light-rail trains do currently. At least one study released last year says a demonstration test of this plan could be possible in the next few years.

But our mobility infrastructure plans also need to consider the future economic health of our ports.

This afternoon some of you will discuss the amount of investment it will take to keep the Southern California goods movement infrastructure competitive. The Panama Canal is being modernized. The Suez Cana could be next. And the estimated magic number needed to keep So Cal goods movement infrastructure competitive is 60 billion dollars. 60 billion! That’s so much money. But are we going to sit back and wait to see if we lose business when the other canal options are available? We will lose business if we sit back and wait.

But where will the money come from? 

We must convince Congress to update the gas tax and perhaps create an infrastructure bank that those of us in Southern California — self-help people that we are! — could use to leverage the transportation taxes our voters have been generous and far-sighted in supporting.

We must educate the public about the importance of infrastructure and explain how it impacts them all day, every day in personal ways. As you have heard, it can mean tumbling bridges and crumbling roads. But it also can mean air pollution caused by trucks and cars stopping and starting just feet from our windows. It can mean bad roads that cost us an average of 800 dollars a year for additional car maintenance. It can mean the difference between driving to work and taking a train or a bus … because there is a train or a bus there to take us. And it most certainly means jobs now, when we need them most.

We must remind the public that they are aging — or should we say maturing? — and that some day soon we may all depend on public transit as the path to the doctor, the hospital, to yoga class … this is, after all, Southern California.

We’re aging. Our infrastructure is aging. But in Southern California, we will continue to work toward shoring up and creating an infrastructure that we can hand off to our kids, our grandkids and the generations to come so that they can create a 22nd century mobility we can only dream of.   

Thank you.

Freight panel report: More CDL training, fuel tax increase, highway user fees needed


By Dorothy Cox, October 29, 2013

The panel's full report said that federal fuel taxes should be raised by between 25 cents and 40 cents per gallon to address the funding gap and that the rate increase should be indexed to the construction cost index and phased in over a period of several years.

WASHINGTON — Besides more money, among the things mentioned as necessary to creating a competitive, healthy and continuing freight transportation system today during a freight panel hearing were more training for commercial drivers, greater use of public-private partnerships, and establishing a national freight policy. 

Rep. John J. Duncan, R-Tenn., chairman of the Panel of 21st Century Freight Transportation, during the panel’s recommendations for creating and sustaining more efficient movement of freight to bolster the economy, said more training for commercial drivers would “provide a lot of good jobs for our country.” 

As for more public-private partnerships, Duncan said such projects as the I-81 corridor would take up to 2,000 trucks off the road daily. 

“Because bottlenecks at any point in the transportation system can seriously impede freight mobility and drive up the cost of the goods, improving the efficient and safe flow of freight across all modes of transportation directly impacts the health of the economy,” he added. 

However, the main issue, or “sticking point,” was how to fund not only existing infrastructure fixes but how to fund infrastructure and freight transport solutions that will last well into the future — for the long haul as it were — so the same problems don’t crop up after the next 10 years, panel members agreed. 

The panel's full report noted a “significant surface transportation investment gap” and called for “an annual investment level of between $225 billion and $340 billion –– by all levels of government and the private sector –– over the next 50 years to upgrade all modes of surface transportation (highways, bridges, public transit, freight rail and intercity passenger rail) to a state of good repair.” The current annual capital investment from all government sources in road and bridge infrastructure is $182 billion, according to the panel. 

Although not mentioned today but in the panel’s full report was a proposal that federal fuel taxes be raised by between 25 cents and 40 cents per gallon to address the funding gap and that the rate increase should be indexed to the construction cost index and phased in over a period of several years. 

An increased fuel tax would continue to be a viable revenue source for surface transportation at least through 2025, stated the full report. “Thereafter,” however, “the most promising alternative user fee revenue measure appears to be a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) fee, provided that substantial privacy and collection cost issues can be addressed.” 

The full report also called for other user-based fees to be utilized to help address the shortfall, such as container fees for freight projects; ticket taxes for passenger rail improvements; tax policy changes to incentivize expansion of intermodal networks; an expanded use of “congestion pricing” on federal-aid highways in major metropolitan areas “to be utilized under conditions that protect the public interest;” and “restrictions on the use of revenues generated through congestion pricing to transportation purposes in the travel corridors where the fees are imposed.”

Further, the gas tax should be increased by10 cents per gallon, and indexed to inflation; the diesel tax should be increased 15 cents per gallon, and indexed to inflation.

And the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT), which has not been increased since 1983, should be doubled and indexed, the report said, and the truck tires excise tax should be indexed to inflation.
Public-private partnerships should be encouraged to attract additional private investment to the surface transportation system, “provided that conditions are included to protect the public interest and the movement of interstate commerce,” the report stated.

The special panel of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was established by full Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and ranking member Nick J. Rahall, II, D-WVa., in April.
The panel mentioned recommendations at today’s hearing that were also included in the full report.
They said that Congress should: 

• Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army and the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, to establish a comprehensive national freight transportation policy and designate a national, multimodal freight network; 

• Ensure robust public investment in all modes of transportation on which freight movement relies, and incentivize additional private investment in freight transportation facilities, to maintain and improve the condition and performance of the freight transportation network; 

 • Promote and expedite the development and delivery of projects and activities that improve and facilitate the efficient movement of goods; 

• Authorize dedicated, sustainable funding for multimodal freight Projects of National and Regional Significance through a grant process and establish clear benchmarks for project selection.  Projects eligible for such funding would have a regional or national impact on the overall performance of the multimodal freight network identified by the Secretary of Transportation; 

 • Direct the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Army, to identify and recommend sustainable sources of revenue across all modes of transportation that would provide the necessary investment in the nation’s multimodal freight network and align contributions with use of, and expected benefit of increased investment in, such a network; and 

 • Review, working through the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Ways and Means, the secretary’s freight-funding and revenue recommendations and develop specific funding and revenue options for freight transportation projects prior to Congress’ consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill in 2014. 

In addition to Duncan and Nadler, the Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation included Republican members Gary Miller (CA), Rick Crawford (AR), Richard Hanna (NY), Daniel Webster (FL), and Markwayne Mullin (OK); and Democratic members Corrine Brown (FL), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Albio Sires (NJ), and Janice Hahn (CA). 

The full report is available here.

Increasing pedestrian safety will take more than tougher laws

After her son died, Jeri Dye Lynch wanted to show people killed in hit-and-runs aren't just tragic victims — they're proof of a major problem.


By Sandy Banks, October 28, 2013
 Memorial for son

 Jeri Dye Lynch lights a candle at a bus stop bench at Woodman and Addison avenues. Three years ago, her son Conor Lynch was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident near the intersection.

They consider running a family thing. Jeri Dye Lynch and her three sons ran every chance they got — right up until the day her oldest boy, Conor, was struck and killed by a car as he crossed the street outside his high school on his way to cross country practice.

It's only fitting that since he died in 2010, Lynch has used running as a way to memorialize her child. On Sunday, the Conor Lynch Foundation held its third annual 5K race to raise money for efforts to promote safety for pedestrians, runners, cyclists and young drivers.

Almost 2,000 people turned out; most of them teenagers from San Fernando Valley schools. There were wristbands, T-shirts and a giant bus sponsored by Text Kills, with a simulator that puts kids behind the wheel while they try to read a cellphone text. They quickly inevitably wreck.

Conor Lynch was 16 when he died, a junior at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks. The car that hit him was driven by an 18-year-old who didn't have a license. She didn't stop, but drove on for several blocks, until she spotted a police officer, pulled over and said, "I think I hit somebody."

Some witnesses said it looked like driver Moran Biton sped up to make it through an intersection just before she hit Conor, who was dashing across busy Woodman Avenue, trying to catch up with his cross country teammates.

Biton pleaded guilty to driving without a license and hit-and-run, both misdemeanors. She was placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.

Jeri Dye Lynch was sentenced to grief, then anger, then resolve. She wanted practical measures: Digital signs that broadcast how fast a driver is traveling. The return of drivers' education classes for every high school student.

But she knows that isn't enough. She wants to change the conversation, so that dead pedestrians aren't just tragic victims, but proof of something gone wrong.

The banners on display at the memorial run Sunday brought that home: "Accidents don't just happen. They are caused."
A pedestrian is struck and killed, on average, almost every few days in Los Angeles.

More than one-third of motor vehicle deaths in this city involve pedestrians. That's one of the highest rates in the country, and it just keeps growing.

Many of those are hit-and-run cases — difficult for police to solve and impossible for grief-stricken families to comprehend.

"You wonder what kind of person could run somebody down and not even pull over to render aid," said Eve Bonanomi, whose son Michael was killed in August by a hit-and-run driver.

Michael Bonanomi, 35, lived in Santa Monica but was house-sitting for his parents in Studio City. He was crossing Ventura Boulevard, coming back from dinner, when a late-model white Mercedes flew by, knocking him onto its hood, then flinging him onto the street.

Police have been trying to find the car, but it didn't have a license plate. Michael's friends have been papering the neighborhood with fliers in case someone knows something. The city is offering a $50,000 reward for information on the driver.
His parents still know nothing.

They came to Conor's memorial on Sunday because the families share a bond. They didn't run, just walked around the crowded park — with pictures pinned to their chests of their smiling, handsome son.
Last month, the City Council moved to tighten tracking of hit-and-run deaths and enact tougher penalties for drivers who flee the scene of collisions.

That came four days after a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed outside his church in South L.A., as he left a youth group meeting. The white Nissan Maxima sped away.

Just this past weekend, two pedestrians died: A young man was killed while he tried to cross the Glendale Freeway on Sunday. Two cars hit him; only one of them stopped. On Friday night, a mother of three was run down in La Habra in a Whittier Boulevard crosswalk. Police chased and captured the driver; she's 20 years old.

You don't even have to be walking to become a statistic.

Two years ago, an infant in a stroller on the sidewalk was killed during L.A.'s downtown Art Walk by a car that jumped the curb. Two months ago, a man was killed waiting for his car at the valet stand outside a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard.

And just last week a woman was struck and killed in Inglewood. She had just buckled a baby into a safety seat and was standing next to her car. A pickup truck slammed into her, throwing her 30 feet into the air, before driving off.

The next day, the driver called police and turned himself in. He was booked for felony hit-and-run and jailed on $50,000 bail. Police credited news coverage of the case with persuading him to surrender.

It will take more than tougher laws to save pedestrians' lives. Lynch sees her job as reminding drivers, new and old, about the responsibility that being behind the wheel requires.

"She's really done a remarkable job of turning a tragedy into something very positive for young people," said Notre Dame High School Principal Stephanie Connelly. Lynch visits often to share Conor's story with students. Conor's two brothers attend the school; the youngest is about to begin driving.

On a sidewalk near where Conor died is a bus bench that bears witness to the teen's passing. "Three years later and there are still always flowers there," Connelly said. "I don't know who does it."
There on Monday afternoon, lighting candles, reading cards and freshening the flowers, was Conor's resolute mother.

How National Income Predicts Traffic Safety


By Emily Badger, October 29, 2013

 How National Income Predicts Traffic Safety

It's easy to forget, when we talk about road safety improvements in countries like the United States, that the picture looks dramatically different in many other parts of the world. Generally speaking, the more developed a country's economy, the safer its roads, although this relationship is a product of more than mere engineering.

The higher the typical income level of a country, the more likely it is to have mandates for seat belts and air bags, penalties for unsafe drivers, safety assessments for new cars, laws against cell phone use while driving, and legal maximums for blood-alcohol concentration. Higher-income countries are also more likely to have national road-safety strategies, and policies promoting walking and cycling, or encouraging investment in public transit. And that's to say nothing of the quality of medical care after a collision.

Recent national-level road safety statistics from the World Health Organization support these trends. But it's easiest to appreciate them with a look at a couple of the implications drawn from an analysis [PDF] of that WHO data by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Michael Sivak.

The below charts, built with Sivak's data, break down 170 countries by the three income categories defined by the WHO. In low-income countries, the gross national income per person is less than $1,006; in middle-income countries, it's between $1,006 and $12,275; in high-income countries, it's more than that.

The first chart illustrates that the number of vehicles inevitably increases with income...

...while the fatality rate per million vehicles decreases:

The same relationship is true of the share of pedestrian fatalities out of all road fatalities. This trend line offers a reminder that the problem of pedestrian deaths that's receiving growing attention in the U.S. is unfortunately even worse elsewhere:

Interestingly, the overall fatality rate per person (not per car) looks different from all of the previous charts. It's more an inverted U-shape function of income level:

That's not a quirk in the data. That U-shaped relationship is consistent with other studies. Sivak explains it this way:
At low-income levels, the increase in motorization is steeper than the improvements in road safety per vehicle. Conversely, at high-income levels, the increase in motorization is shallower (approaching saturation) than the improvements in road safety per vehicle.
In the Dominican Republic, new cars (and drivers) are entering the roads at a faster pace than the country's efforts to regulate safety. In the U.S., we're actually seeing trends in driving decline, as the government continues to roll out new safety initiatives.

Garcetti to Mobility 21: We’re Planning for the Next Measure R Campaign


By Damien Newton, October 29, 2013

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

This morning, Eric Garcetti delivered a video message to the 1,000 attendees of Mobility 21′s 12 Annual Transportation Conference. The Mayor, in Washington D.C. to try and raise more funds for local and regional transit projects, stressed some familiar themes: America Fast Forward, Great Streets, Measure R…

But what grabbed my attention was about 20 seconds of text that may serve as the unofficial public kickoff for the next transit expansion ballot initiative campaign. Until there’s a more formal name, let’s call it Measure R++
This is why my first action as mayor was to call together a meeting of regional mayors from across the county to discuss the issues of future development. One common theme that emerged from that gathering back in August was that we desperately need more transportation investments. Currently, all the cities across L.A. County are submitting their ideas for investments as part of another transportation investment ballot initiative. These efforts will ultimately expand our transit system while at the same time increasing planning efforts to deliver vibrant neighborhoods across our transit network.
After the near miss last year, Garcetti is seeking to harness the ideas and power of L.A. County’s mayors to drive the next push. 2008′s Measure R changed how Los Angeles thinks about transportation and is largely responsible for the construction boom throughout the region. 2012′s Measure J wasn’t quite as inspiring and just missed. Will a new project list, combined with some project acceleration, make Measure R++ the next game changer? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Reminder: Forum on Global Warming Tonight

Posted on Facebook by Pasadena City Councilperson Steve Madison:

DISTRICT 6 MEETING TONIGHT - The public is invited to attend a panel discussion on global warming from 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 at the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St. The event is sponsored by my office. Scheduled panelists include Dr. Eric Walsh, Director of the Pasadena Public Health Department; Fred Dock, Director of the City’s Department of Transportation; Vince Bertoni, Director of the Planning and Community Development Department and USC Professor Ed Avol, with the college’s Department of Preventive Medicine. The meeting begins with a special presentation by Michael Gunson, Ph.D., Project Scientist for the NASA/JPL Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 and Global Change and Energy Program Manager. Panelists will talk about factors contributing to global warming; how it impacts the quality of life in Pasadena and local steps being taken to mitigate global warming. For more information contact Takako Suzuki at (626) 744-4739.

Getting Rid of the Dirt … Without Killing Anyone!


By Rosemary Jenkins, October 29, 2013


THE VIEW FROM HERE-To many, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (LACDPW) may seem like an obscure entity.  The reality is that its decisions impact all of us, usually in very constructive but sometimes in destructive ways.

Case in point is the ongoing issue of removing sediment, built up over many years, at the Pacoima Reservoir behind the dam.

First, let me offer you a pertinent backdrop:  The County is responsible for managing 14 dams with 3 more under the control of the Army Corps of Engineers.  We have 162 debris basins, 500 miles of open channels, 36 sediment placement sites, and 27 groundwater re-charge facilities.

The Pacoima Reservoir itself provides drinking water for 45,000 residents—important but a mere drop in the bucket for what is needed in Los Angeles.   With heavy rains each year and the Santa Ana winds blowing between 50 and 60 miles per hour, the dam serves a dual purpose:  it provides drinkable water and serves to hold back seasonal flood waters.

Our groundwater and debris basins together provide about one-third of our potable water.  By the way, if you want to know why your water bill has skyrocketed of late, it is mostly due to our two recent dry years.  The LADWP brings water via the Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens River in the eastern portion of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains to Los Angeles.   It provides a goodly portion of our drinkable water.  However, since there has been no appreciable snowpack, we have had to supplement our water supply through a contract with the Metropolitan Water District at 3 to 4 times the cost! 

Hopefully, we shall get sufficient rain and snow this year to help make up for the deficit.  When that happens, our water bills will decrease.  In the meantime, remember we can always save by being more mindful of how we use our water.

Now, back to the sediment issue.  Though what I am discussing pertains to the Pacoima Reservoir in particular, the information applies to many of our other sites as well.  Numerous people have already registered concerns over how the Arcadia site was managed.  They don’t want what happened there to be repeated in the Northeast Valley.  Arcadia’s wetlands were decimated, hundreds of trees were lost, and the park the residents wanted was never created.

Many people moved to the Sylmar/Pacoima area because of its verdant scenery—beautiful mountain views, pristine wilderness inviting family nature walks--equestrian trails, and the healthy air—just some examples among the multitude of other reasons.

There has been persistent anxiety over how the Sylmar area and its environs have for too long  been used as a dumping ground (May Canyon, for example) by the County.  Fine dust is travelling through the air, imperceptible by the human eye but able to penetrate door and window screens.  Residents are experiencing bronchial and eye issues, let alone exacerbation of other health complications.  People have to keep doors and windows closed in an effort to keep excessive silt out.  One resident claims the level of his land has literally risen by 3 ½ inches over the last 3-4 years due to this drift.

I have been to the May Sediment Placement Site (SPS), the landfill located near Olive View Hospital—can you imagine the SPS being situated there?!  Approval had been given to take its lower boundaries all the way down to the street adjacent to residences that were already there!  My first question (and this was years ago) was Why did the various government departments authorize this sediment placement so close to residential neighborhoods in the first place?  There had been promises to water down the soil several times daily, then to contour and re-landscape the site in order to return it to its earlier aesthetic appearance, and perhaps more importantly, to mitigate health and relarted issues.   It seems to me that what has transpired regarding this site is unconscionable. 

Determinations should not be primarily based upon cost-savings.  What ought to be taken into consideration first is what is best (with all its ramifications) for the affected population.  For instance, a broad spectrum of health consequences, which can result from how the project is administered, would likely create a burden on residents who find they must seek medical assistance (and those who do not currently have health insurance will assuredly become a burden on the taxpayer who has to foot the bill). 

As for the Pacoima Reservoir, the law demands that the sediment (that is now bringing the dam to its critical levels) must be removed within certain parameters.  This is indeed a prodigious task and the rulings affecting it place great responsibility on the decision-makers!  This particular dam, built in 1929, (and copied in design by the much larger Hoover Dam) has accumulated millions of cubic yards of sediment.  The recent fires of 2008 and 2009 have quickly added to the accumulation of debris.

The amount that needs to be removed now equals seven times the volume of the Rose Bowl, but by the time the project is completed in about 10 years, even more sediment will have accrued.  The cost will range from 85 to 180 million dollars, depending on which option is selected.

Because the County has offered several options, there have been and will continue to be community meetings to give residents an opportunity for their input.  There is concern, for instance, that the land around the reservoir in question contains carcinogens.   Further testing must be demanded and rightfully so.

The option most despised by residents is for trucks to carry out the debris by using one or both of the community’s main thoroughfares—Hubbard and Maclay streets.  This method would be less expensive up front but would be costly in the long run in other ways:  damage to those two streets (whose use was not designed for such purposes in the first place).  In addition, increased air and water pollution are not just some minor side effects. 

The proposal that makes the most sense to the community is the costliest up front.  It would require building and using permanent back roads to remove the sediment.  This plan would boost the economy through job-creation that cannot be outsourced.  This method would dramatically reduce air and noise pollution, congested traffic conditions (which are already bad), and reduce health concerns--altogether this concept is a lesser burden on the taxpayer.

The next question is where to deposit the sediment.  Could it be cleaned and recycled for use along streets and highways to build up a barrier to future flooding?  Could it be placed in areas for future open space recreational activities?   Some possibilities currently on the table include placement in gravel pits, landfills, and new sediment placement sites in nearby canyons.

The Big Tujunga resolution to its problem was to dump its sediment on national forest land.  The citizens of the Sylmar/Pacoima area suggest two possibilities:  (1)  to use the Vulcan Pits and/or (2) to utilize Los Angeles forest lands near the Kagel Mountains.  The Maple and Cougar Canyons, already near the reservoir, would provide a satisfactory location on the condition that the County not use those areas for dumping debris from other areas within the County (the May property is already being utilized for that purpose with the concomitant burden of up to 300 trucks a day running up and down the roads).

For more information on this program and its options, please contact the website at  LASedimentManagement.com where you will tap on the Pacoima Reservoir button, or you can  e-mail reservoircleanouts@lacounty.org. Please plan on attending future meetings.  The resolutions reached will affect all of Los Angeles County because it will create a model—for good or bad. 
However, if precedents are set without sufficient community input, we have no one to blame but ourselves!

Another important organization very much involved in this process (almost from the beginning) is CASM under the strong leadership of Dan Feinberg.  CASM was originally Citizens Against Strip Mining but has now broadened its mission. Dan and/or his organization can be contacted in the following ways:  casm-sfv.org  (this website offers a number of links that might be of interest to you); e-mail at info@casm-sfv.org; or phone directly at 818-415-1261.   CASM has an abundance of information to share on this issue.

CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) meetings will be held in January 2014 (specific dates to be determined).  This is a Scoping meeting (to determine the breadth of the project).  What will follow is a DEIR (Draft Environmental Impact Report).  Additionally, I think it is significant that many of our Los Angeles City Councilmembers have been instrumental in assisting the residents in answering questions and concerns and offering their own input. 

Learning the CEQA process is enlightening, but being part of the decision-making is priceless.  I would like to think that the LACDPW will do the right thing, but it is up to us to help guide its decisions.  Let me reiterate (and I cannot say this enough), the upshot of all of this can be determined by your input.  Every voice echoes a long way!

Transportation, Planning, and the Need To Take Our Medicine


By Ken Alpern, October 29, 2013


ALPERN AT LARGE-In my last CityWatch article, which compared three proposed trains--the Downtown Trolley, the California High-Speed Rail and the LAX/Metro Rail People Mover/ITF option, I promoted the notion (to which I still adhere) that honesty is the best policy when it comes to taxing individuals for transportation initiatives. 

Ditto for anything else--people prefer to be told upfront the ugly costs and reality of a given situation, and if one has to lie to make people buy into it, perhaps it's not a good idea to pursue it.  Give people the benefit of the doubt, and trust them to do the right thing if it's really a great idea.

My background as a physician has clearly influenced my approach towards doing the right thing with respect to honesty, and the courage to be honest, in order to achieve and maintain credibility with my patients.  Usually my bad news to patients is that my diagnosis is a chronic one--in other words, the word "cure" is not as realistic as the word "control", but that I can try to minimize the impacts on that diagnosis on my patient's daily lives. 

And if I have to tell someone something really scary (like when I recently had to inform a patient she had metastatic breast cancer after it had been treated 20 years earlier), I always start with, "I'm going to say something that will ruin your day, and I'm really, really sorry."

Any other approach makes me look like a liar, and a callous one at that.

Ditto for the transportation and associated planning initiatives to be necessarily performed so that they can truly succeed. 

My recent and ongoing anger (shared by so many others) towards the proposed Casden and Millennium projects is that they are NOT transit-oriented, are NOT with sufficient mitigation and size for the neighborhoods they're going to be built in, and that up front rightsizing and obeying the rules and laws are conveniently being ignored...for the convenience of the developer, of course, and at the suffering of the neighboring region.

Had the Downtown Trolley folks done the math and considered that light rail (which is not the same, but is similar to a trolley in that they both require...wait for it...UTILITY RELOCATION!) is $40-80 million a mile, it would not have been hard to conclude that a four-mile train line in the middle of Downtown L.A. would not, could not and should not be expected to be $125 million.

The Downtown Trolley promoters could have said up front, "Look this is a lot cheaper than a subway, which is up to $300 million a mile, so it'll be up to $320 million or so and perhaps can be done in segments.  It'll be a lot cheaper than another Downtown Light Rail Connector, which is about $1 billion."

And the trolley might have--and hopefully would have--succeeded with a determined effort to have the private sector chip in and make deals to pay for it...and the public might have still been willing to tax themselves, perhaps for a segmented, pay-as-you-go trolley authority.

Now the Downtown Trolley promoters look like consummate liars, and a potentially great way to expand and connect the future Downtown Light Rail Connector indirectly with a large portion of Downtown could very well go down in flames. 

Ditto for the California High Speed Rail Authority and Governor Brown, who might have a great idea but look like consummate liars on this issue.  We can and should honestly conclude that Governor Brown has twisted and warped the voter-approved initiatives into something legally tenuous but is the smartest way to expand Caltrain in the north, Metrolink in the south, with a connecting high speed rail in-between.

That said, it's costing twice the $33 billion the voters were promised, and the routing has all sorts of questions.  These questions range from "should a cheaper upgrade of the Amtrak, Metrolink and Caltrain tracks be done to keep the total cost within $33 billion?" to "should we drop this altogether, and should we spend $33 billion on better local and regional rail projects?".

Hence, as a grassroots promoter of a first-rate, high-quality LAX/Metro Rail connection, I will tell you that the proposed westward deviation of the Crenshaw/Green Lines towards LAX, combined with a connecting LAX People Mover train to connect the central airline terminals with Century/Aviation and perhaps even Inglewood will be $1-1.5 billion.

It's not an unrealistic or inappropriate cost to build such a necessary piece of infrastructure, and when amortized over the next 50-100 or so years it's a good investment.  We should work together to be transparent and cost-effective and efficient, but we should approve it, pay for it, and build it forthwith.

The more that LA World Airports and the private sector put into it, the better, but sooner or later the taxpayers will need to shoulder some of the financial burden of the Metro Rail/Intermodal Transportation Facility and LAX People Mover project that is being promoted by all sorts of L.A. City and County leaders.

It's arguably tough medicine, but it's certainly worth it if done right and with citizen input and oversight.

Ditto for planning and sacrifices that some communities have to make for proper land use and transportation initiatives.  As described by Dan Weikel of the L.A. Times, the residential neighborhood of Manchester Square is being bought out by LA World Airports to create a commercially-zoned region that absolutely WILL not allow for residential zoning.

This is, to my way of thinking, proper and courageous and HONEST planning.  Unlike the Casden/Sepulveda project, which will throw hundreds of families next to the unhealthy air of the 405 freeway, the residents of Manchester Square (who must now deal with the noise and fumes of LAX-bound jets) are being bought out and asked to leave.

This site will have a Consolidated Rental Car Facility, a commercial/industrial center, a connecting LAX People Mover, or a combination of the above.  It is NOT for people to live in, and it is a neighborhood which is taking some very difficult medicine...but medicine necessary for their physical health and medicine necessary for the region's economic health.

My only concern is that families whose homes are being bought out aggressively by L.A. World Airports are given fair compensation and the ability to move on with their lives.  Clearly, those still living there are emotionally tied to their neighborhood...but they do have to go.

And I'm very, very sorry.  We should ALL be very, very sorry and show that in any economic or compassionate approach to their relocation.

I wish them well, but want to have this LAX/Metro Rail connection and an economic powerhouse to benefit us all.

Courage and honesty and credibility all go together here, as does compassion.  We're all adults, and we can and should do the right thing when it's outlined and explained to us.

There are times we must all take our medicine, and this is one of them.

West Coast leaders team up on a new climate plan


By John Upton, October 29, 2013

San Francisco

The left coast just got more lefty. Leaders from California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia gathered in San Francisco on Monday to sign a climate action plan [PDF].

But this is no Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; that’s the legally binding carbon-trading program among nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. Rather, the West Coast leaders agreed that their states and province would work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but only in non-binding and somewhat vague terms that commit no actual funds. So specific outcomes from the agreement are about as clear as a summer morning in California’s polluted Central Valley.

The deal grew out of the Pacific Coast Collaborative, a group formed in 2008 that counts the three states and one province as well as Alaska as its members. The collaborative describes the agreement in a press release [PDF]:
Through the Action Plan, the leaders agreed that all four jurisdictions will account for the costs of carbon pollution and that, where appropriate and feasible, link programs to create consistency and predictability across the region of 53 million people. The leaders also committed to adopting and maintaining low carbon fuel standards in each jurisdiction. …

California and British Columbia will maintain their existing carbon pricing programs along with their respective clean fuel standards, while Oregon and Washington have committed to moving forward on a suite of similar policies.
That last item will be an uphill climb, as the legislatures of Oregon and Washington have in the past rejected cap-and-trade plans, but the states’ current governors say they’re optimistic about prospects going forward.

Here’s more about the deal from the San Jose Mercury News:
Each state and the Canadian province promised to take roughly a dozen actions, including streamlining permits for solar and wind projects, better integrating the electric power grid, supporting more research on ocean acidification and expanding government purchases of electric vehicles. …

In a wider sense …, the agreement was a strong political statement. The three Western states and British Columbia have 53 million people and an annual GDP of $2.8 trillion — representing the fifth largest economy in the world.
Green groups praised the pact. “This agreement will show the world that the Pacific Coast states aren’t waiting for Congress or governments worldwide to tackle climate change,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


5 highly polluted urban areas you don’t want to live if you can help it


By Brentin Mock, October 29, 2013

 Life is grand in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston -- so long as you don't need to breathe.

You may have heard that Americans are pumping less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we were a few years ago, which is great for mitigating climate change. But as Ben Adler pointed out in a post for Grist on Sunday, we still have a long way to go. CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas, and its often-overlooked “co-pollutants” have more immediate, localized effects on human health, particularly for poor communities and people of color.

During an address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation last month, EPA chief Gina McCarthy pointed out that emissions of co-pollutants such as nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, sulfur oxide, and soot contribute to as many as one in 10 deaths in urban areas. “That is not acceptable,” she said.

“And we know that minorities are more likely to live near hazardous waste sites,” McCarthy added. “We know that respiratory and cardiac illnesses there are at a higher rate. For example, an African-American child is five times more likely than a white child to die from an asthma attack.”

It’s not news that large polluting factories are often concentrated in communities where people of color and of low-income are the primary, if not the exclusive inhabitants. But an EPA report released last week drives this point home. The report, which documents greenhouse gas emissions from large facilities in 2012, is accompanied by interactive maps showing where those facilities are located (at least the ones that actually report to the EPA).

Looking at those maps, I located five of the nation’s worst areas where waste processing plants, refineries, and power plants are bundled — much to the detriment of families living close by. (A factory icon represents a single large facility, while circled numbers indicate clusters of these facilities.)

5. New York City

New York City

That factory icon in Brooklyn marks the Brooklyn Navy Yard Cogeneration Project, a power plant that was responsible for almost 870,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2012. That’s down from over 1.1 million emitted in 2011, but it still pumped out over 500 metric tons of nitrous oxide, a pollutant can cause reproductive problems for women exposed to it over an extended term. Nationally, nitrous oxide emissions increased 4 percent between 1990 and 2011.

4. Baton Rouge-New Orleans, La.


That stretch from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, with chemical processing plants marking the route, is known infamously as “Cancer Alley” by environmental justice advocates and fenceline communities that have suffered under the fog of pollution for decades. In one industrial area of Iberville Parish alone (right below South Baton Rouge on the map) there are 23 facilities.
3. Long Beach-Bakersfield, Calif.


The Chevron Refinery in El Segundo (near the circled 8 along the coast) spewed almost 3.5 million metric tons of C02 in 2012, almost the same amount it emitted in 2010. It also flares and spits sulfur oxides, or SOx — over 57,000 pounds this year alone — which are linked to asthma when one is exposed to it for as short as five minutes.

2. Ft. Worth-Dallas, Texas


Just west of Dallas, near Oak Cliff, is the Mountain Creek Generating Station, which burns natural gas, the fuel credited for helping drop overall greenhouse gas emissions this year. Its CO2 emissions rose from about 415,000 metric tons in 2011 to close to 525,000 metric tons last year.

1. Houston-Galveston, Texas


This picture says it all. From Houston to Galveston (in the lower right corner) to Port Arthur (just off the top right corner of the map), this is perhaps the most polluted, definitely the most clustered area in the nation. The Port Arthur area is where the Keystone XL pipeline would end, bringing tons of dirty tar sands and refinery waste to an already beleaguered community.

The Most Complicated Tunnel in the World Finally Opens


By Feargus O'Sullivan, October 29, 2013

 The Most Complicated Tunnel in the World Finally Opens

 An engineer performs a last check on a train of Marmaray.

There’s been much talk of huge future development projects in Istanbul recently. Today, one of them actually arrived.

After nine years work and $4 billion spent, Turkey's largest city opened its first tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait, a body of water that separates its European and Asian sections. The 8.75-mile rail tunnel is destined to be part of a new commuter network called Marmaray, capable of transporting 75,000 passengers per hour when at full capacity. The link will not just ease commutes and get people off congested roads and bridges, says Turkey’s government, but also ultimately form a key link between continents, an "iron Silk Road" that President Erdogan has grandly promised will "link London with Beijing."

A view of the Bosphorus bridge that links Istanbul's Asian and European side. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

Outsiders might well be wondering why the tunnel has taken this long to arrive. An alternative to road bridges and ferries has been desperately needed for some time. The existing two bridges over the Bosphorus are routinely gridlocked, and Istanbul has some of the worst traffic congestion problems in the world. At its narrowest, the Strait is less than 800 yards across. Plans to tunnel beneath it have been around since the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz, 150 years ago.

In a setting like Istanbul, however, nothing is ever simple. The city is built on layer upon buried layer of historical cities. When crews started excavating the tunnel, they smashed straight into the Byzantine Harbor of Theodosius, a long-buried medieval wharf stacked with the shipwrecks of 37 artifact-filled watercraft. Removing and preserving the over 40,000 objects discovered took years, with work carried out in the face of official exasperation and reluctance.

But while this held the project up, it's deep beneath the harbor that the tunnel's true problems began.
Istanbul is famously in an earthquake zone. The tunnel itself passes just 11 miles from a major fault line. Because of this, the city dropped the tunnel more than 60 meters beneath the sea; it's thought to be deepest submerged underwater railway tunnel in the world. Yet even this far down, Istanbul's geology poses problems. The earth through which the tunnel passes is loose and soggy, and can become even looser and soggier during an earthquake, turning to liquid. To anchor the tunnel for this eventuality, engineers have had to take extreme measures. They encased the tunnel in steel and injected the earth around it with a thick layer of concrete. The undersea sections of the tunnel have also been book-ended with two flexible steel and rubber joints, so that the tube can jiggle rather than snap if the earth shakes. If all this fails, floodgates at either end of the tunnel will at least protect Istanbul's streets and subway network from a storm surge.

But while the tunnel’s safety measures sound stringent, some still feel it is opening too soon. Its launch is a publicity coup for President Erdogan, timed to coincide with today’s 90th anniversary of the Turkish Republic. Only three of the planned 37 stations will actually open this month. Completion of the rest of the Marmaray network remains a few years off. Crucially, Turkey's Chamber of Architects and Engineers have cast doubt on the water tightness of the tunnel's flexible joints and pointed to the lack of a security center.

The chamber's criticism is part of an ongoing struggle with the current government. Earlier this year, Turkey's Parliament banned the Chamber from participating in city planning decisions, retribution for their opposition to government plans for Gezi Park. In light of this year's public upheavals, it's not surprising that the project is viewed with suspicion. Many grand plans currently intended for Istanbul have been bitterly attacked for threatening to displace poor residents and destroy the environment. The government's raw, authoritarian response to protest brought the country close to breaking point. While the tunnel may well help to ease some of Istanbul’s problems in the long run, its drawn-out, complex creation is tainted by association.

Commuting’s Hidden Cost


By Jane E. Brody, October 28, 2013


My twin grandsons, now 13, walk nearly a mile to and from school and play basketball in the schoolyard for an hour or more most afternoons, when weather and music lessons permit.

The boys, like their father, are lean, strong and healthy. Their parents chose to live in New York, where their legs and public transit enable them to go from place to place efficiently, at low cost and with little stress (usually). They own a car but use it almost exclusively for vacations.

“Green” commuting is a priority in my family. I use a bicycle for most shopping and errands in the neighborhood, and I just bought my grandsons new bicycles for their trips to and from soccer games, accompanied by their cycling father.

My son used to work in New Jersey, which entailed a hated commute by car that took 50 to 90 minutes each way. He quit that job when his sons were born and, working part-time from home, cared for the boys. He now commutes to work in the city by foot and by subway, giving him time to read for pleasure.

As you’ll soon see, the change has probably been good for his health, too.

According to the Census Bureau, more than three-fourths of all commuters drove to work in single-occupancy vehicles in 2009. Only 5 percent used public transportation, and 2.9 percent walked to work. A mere 0.6 percent rode bicycles, although cycling has finally begun to rise in popularity as cities like New York create bike lanes and bike share programs.

But workers are not the only ones driving for hours a day. The mid-20th century suburban idyll of children going out to play with friends in backyards and on safe streets has yielded to a new reality: play dates, lessons and organized activities to which they must be driven and watched over by adults.
In “My Car Knows the Way to Gymnastics,” an aptly titled chapter in Leigh Gallagher’s prophetic new book, “The End of the Suburbs,” she describes a stay-at-home mom in Massachusetts who drives more than her commuting husband — 40 to 50 miles each weekday, “just to get herself and her children around each day.”

Millions of Americans like her pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simply getting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental health are hardly trivial.

Suburban sprawl “has taken a huge toll on our health,” wrote Ms. Gallagher, an editor at Fortune magazine. “Research has been piling up that establishes a link between the spread of sprawl and the rise of obesity in our country. Researchers have also found that people get less exercise as the distances among where we live, work, shop and socialize increase.

“In places where people walk more, obesity rates are much lower,” she noted. “New Yorkers, perhaps the ultimate walkers, weigh six or seven pounds less on average than suburban Americans.”

A recent study of 4,297 Texans compared their health with the distances they commuted to and from work.It showed that as these distances increased, physical activity and cardiovascular fitness dropped, and blood pressure, body weight, waist circumference and metabolic risks rose.

The report, published last year in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Christine M. Hoehner and colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas, provided causal evidence for earlier findings that linked the time spent driving to an increased risk of cardiovascular death. The study examined the effects of a lengthy commute on health over the course of seven years. It revealed that driving more than 10 miles one way, to and from work, five days a week was associated with an increased risk of developing high blood sugar and high cholesterol. The researchers also linked long driving commutes to a greater risk of depression, anxiety and social isolation, all of which can impair the quality and length of life.

A Swedish study has confirmed the international reach of these effects. Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University, found that people who commuted more than 30 miles a day were more likely to have high blood pressure, stress and heart disease. In a second study, Dr. Sandow found that women who lived more than 31 miles from work tended to die sooner than those who lived closer to their jobs. Regardless of how one gets to work, having a job far from home can undermine health. Another Swedish study, directed by Erik Hansson of Lund University, surveyed more than 21,000 people ages 18 to 65 and found that the longer they commuted by car, subway or bus, the more health complaints they had. Lengthy commutes were associated with greater degrees of exhaustion, stress, lack of sleep and days missed from work.

Back in the United States, a study of those who commute to work via the Long Island Rail Road linked long commutes with fewer hours of sleep and greater daytime sleepiness.

In her book, Ms. Gallagher happily recounts some important countervailing trends: more young families are electing to live in cities; fewer 17-year-olds are getting driver’s licenses; people are driving fewer miles; and bike sharing is on the rise. More homes and communities are being planned or reconfigured to shorten commutes, reduce car dependence and facilitate positive interactions with other people.

Dr. Richard Jackson, the chair of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, says demographic shifts are fueling an interest in livable cities. Members of Generation Y tend to prefer mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods and short commutes, he said, and childless couples and baby boomers who no longer drive often favor urban settings.

While there is still a long way to go before the majority of Americans live in communities that foster good health, more urban planners are now doing health-impact assessments and working closely with architects, with the aim of designing healthier communities less dependent on motorized vehicles for transportation.