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

Friday, November 1, 2013

What in the Air Causes Lung Cancer?

Because, while many have long assumed that chemicals from cars and trucks, industrial plants, and burning leaves and other sources were harmful to the human body, now it's been made official.


 By Elaine Schattner, November 1, 2013

Last month the World Health Organization’s cancer arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), declared that air pollution is a carcinogen. While physicians and others have long intuited a relationship between poor air quality and malignancy, few scientific organizations officially recognized the link. Proof was lacking.

The new designation rests on findings of a large analysis published in Lancet Oncology. The ESCAPE trial drew data from registries involving over 312,000 individuals in nine European countries followed for over 12 years, on average. The investigators used several models to evaluate possible associations between the sizes, types, and density of particles in air, or traffic patterns, and lung cancer cases. They checked for social and economic factors, like fruit consumed per person, age, sex, and education levels that might confound the data, and assessed smoking habits. A total of 2,095 lung cancer cases emerged within the study population. The researchers observed a clear, positive correlation between the amount of particulate matter in air sampled near a person’s address and the odds of developing lung cancer. They also identified a weaker but statistically significant link between the volume of road traffic near an individual’s home and the chances of a lung cancer diagnosis.

“It’s an important statement,” said Regina Santella, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University. What’s unusual about the IARC decision is that it refers to air pollution in general, rather than pointing to a specific chemical or toxin, she considered. “This is something the lay public will understand.”

“Exactly what’s in the air fluctuates from day to day. It varies within a city, and across neighborhoods,” Santella said. It’s a complex problem because air pollution includes a wide range of compounds. Potentially harmful chemicals enter air in cities from cars and trucks, industrial plants, and in rural areas from burning leaves and other sources. Pollutants vary not just by chemical composition, but by their size and capacity to penetrate deep in airways. “For example, you might want to look at particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter. Those tiny bits of airborne material have major health effects,” she said.

The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) does not currently list air pollution as a cause of lung or other cancers. “We haven’t looked at air pollution as a single entity,” said John Bucher, a scientist and NTP director. The interagency group is charged with evaluating tens of thousands of chemicals for toxicity, and reporting those findings to the public. It works under the auspices of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and collaborates with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Occupational Safety branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The NTP usually publishes a biennial report on carcinogens. The last issue appeared in 2011. Meetings to review information for the upcoming issue were delayed due to the government shutdown, Bucher said. The updated report will be released in 2014.

“The NTP is not just a cancer program. We look at all kinds of health harms,” Bucher said. It has examined particular components of air pollution, including mercury, lead, ozone, benzene, and other molecules. The problem of air pollution is vast, due to the sheer numbers of toxins emanating from diverse sources throughout the country. Coal-fired power plants may account for as much as 40 to 50 percent of U.S. air pollution, he said. In the ESCAPE trial, the researchers looked at the concentration of nitrogen oxides in air samples and did not find a relationship with lung cancer. The NTP has not specifically studied that class of compounds in air pollution, but it does plan for an analysis of sulfur dioxide—another product of coal-power plants.

Petrochemical plants generate thousands of distinct chemical compounds. Not all are harmful. The EPA offers an interactive map of reported emissions from industrial facilities. But those data don’t tell all. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) represent another major factor in air pollution. Those, typically byproducts of combustion, occur in some 1,500 distinct forms. “But all we know about this large class of agents is based on studies of only a dozen or so compounds,” Bucher said. “Studies so far are inadequate.”

To get a more precise—and rapid—handle on potential toxins, the NTP is working with the NIH Chemical Genomics Center and EPA’s Computational Toxicology Center to develop high through-put screening assays. These tools won’t necessarily prove that a compound causes cancer or another illness. “But we can measure how thousands of chemicals alter gene expression in cells,” Bucher said. The modern assays, with tiny wells and computerized readouts, enable scientists to analyze many combinations of compounds, at varying doses. “We’re hoping, in the future, to use these systems to understand how chemicals affect molecular pathways that cause disease,” he said.

One detail that might draw an oncologist’s attention is the relationship between air pollution and a particular form of lung cancer called adenocarcinoma. In the Lancet Oncology report, the link with air pollution was strongest for this cancer type. Among non-smokers with lung cancer, adenocarcinoma is the most common pathology. Taken together, these findings support the contention that environmental toxins play a role in this form of the disease. In general, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, accounting each year for nearly 160,000 deaths in the United States, and some 7.6 million deaths worldwide.

Bernard Goldstein, a physician, environmental toxicologist, and former dean of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, has authored hundreds of papers and testified before Congress on environmental concerns. “Absolutely, it’s a good thing,” he said, referring to the IARC decision to call air pollution a carcinogen. “To be able to call something known—you have to have large enough samples. Now we have those, and informatics to help us analyze the data.”

Knowing what environmental factors cause cancer, so that it might be prevented, may be an impossible task. Most clinical data on toxin exposure—based on surveys of patients and, in some studies, controls—is necessarily correlative. The exposome, a new and essentially theoretical concept, would reflect changes in genetic material, proteins, and other molecules, such as lipids, after exposure to chemicals, ionizing radiation, particles, or other substances including germs. The practical problem is that it’s hard to know what a person’s been exposed to, from early embryology, as in the first trimester in utero, or later. Your expososome is affected by the air you’re breathing and beverage you’re sipping now.

“Cancer can take 20 to 30 years to develop,” Santella said. In her laboratory, researchers study how chemicals alter and bind to DNA. “If you measure exposure to a possible toxin at the time of diagnosis, that may not matter so much,” she said. “Information from surveys, about the past, is unreliable.” If you ask people with cancer about past exposures, their responses are limited by biases in recollection, and limits of memory. “It’s hard to get prospective data,” she said. “To carry out a study of sufficient statistical power, you need to recruit lots of people and wait and wait.”

Plans for tolls on 405 in O.C., dismissed as 'Lexus lanes,' draw heat


By Bradley Zint, November 1, 2013

Residents and city leaders are pushing back against a plan under consideration to add toll lanes to a 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway in Orange County, a $1.47-billion proposal that would involve reconstructing overpasses and other improvements.

The plan to add toll routes to the freeway — dismissed as “Lexus lanes” by one city mayor — is one of three proposed alternatives for helping untangle the highway congestion from Costa Mesa to the county line in Seal Beach.

The most controversial of the alternatives would add a single general-purpose lane and a toll lane in each direction. The existing carpool lanes on each side of the highway would also be converted to toll lanes.

The other alternatives would add general purpose lanes, but no pay-to-drive lanes.

At a public meeting in Westminster this week, more than 150 people voiced their opposition to any toll roads within the 14-mile stretch.

"I think it's pretty clear to the community what's at stake here," said Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer. "What's at stake is the future of Orange County with regards to how we move in this county."

Righeimer called the toll roads "Lexus lanes" and said if they're added to the 405, they would pave the way for more toll roads in Orange County, such as on the 5 Freeway.

Orange County was an early pioneer in the toll lane experiment when carpools lanes along a 10-mile portion of the 91 Freeway were converted to pay-to-use lanes. Toll lanes were recently added to the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles, and Orange County has an extensive network of toll roads.

Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman said Orange County residents were already paying taxes for their roads via gasoline purchases and Measure M, a voter-approved, half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.

"This would be a tax on a tax on a tax," she said.

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa resident, called the alternative "a whole new definition to the term highway robbery."

Past improvements to other county freeways didn't require tolls, Moorlach noted.
"This is being done to us," he said. "It's not being done with us."

Seal Beach Mayor Gary A. Miller said residents in Garden Grove, Huntington Beach and Westminster aren't likely to pay just to cross into Los Angeles County. They would take surface streets instead, he said.

"Our local streets are going to be very congested if this option is passed," Miller said.
Tolls could peak at $9.91 for northbound trips and $6.11 for southbound trips, according to Orange County Transportation Authority projections.

The OCTA is scheduled to discuss the 405 plans on Nov. 8 at its headquarters in Orange.

Metro Doesn't Seem Pleased With the Above Article


 By Steve Hymon, November 1, 2013

Plan to add toll lanes to 405 in O.C. dismissed as ‘Lexus lanes,’ draw heat (L.A. Times)
Among several alternatives being studied to improve traffic on the 405 in Orange County: 14 miles of congestion pricing toll lanes. The Times manages to find city officials unhappy with that alternative, griping that it will dump traffic on city streets or be an unfair tax.

In other words, the Times wrote the story for the lowest common denominator. No advocates of the congestion pricing alternative are quoted nor is there an explanation of the theory of congestion pricing and what some say about whether or not it works.

Public-Private Partnerships Are Popular, But Are They Practical?

Public-private partnerships have become a trendy way to finance transportation projects. But there are big questions to ask before entering into a P3.
By Ryan Holeywell, November 2013
This spring, the Washington newspaper Politico published a column touting steps the federal government could take to solve the funding crunch that’s led to underinvestment in infrastructure. Invoking imagery of Lincoln’s railroads, Eisenhower’s highways and Kennedy’s space program, the authors concluded that governments must allow the private sector to play a greater role in building public infrastructure, lest America fall behind the competition. To illustrate the concept, the authors highlighted a deal the Puerto Rican government made with a private consortium to operate San Juan’s airport for 40 years. “It’s time,” they wrote, “for government at all levels in the United States to partner with the private sector to bring our transportation infrastructure back to world-class levels.”

A similar boost for public-private deals came this summer when a Senate subcommittee held a hearing on “innovative financing.” Four of the five featured witnesses were there to press the feds to do more to facilitate public-private deals. Several of the witnesses discussed the daunting price tag for upgrading the country’s infrastructure to a decent condition—$3.6 trillion by 2020, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The message was clear: America’s infrastructure is struggling, but the private sector can help. “No one wants another bridge to collapse, as did the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge,” testified a Morgan Stanley official. That tragedy, which killed 13 people, underscores the need for expanded new, federally subsidized financing tools, he told Congress.
Public-private partnerships (P3s) are clearly on a roll. Last year’s congressional highway authorization vastly expanded the scope of federal mechanisms that provide low-interest loans for projects that typically involve privatization. In addition, the number of states that have passed legislation to enable privatization is on the rise. Many people see P3s as a game-changer: the best, and possibly only, way to repair and replace the country’s public works. “The only way we will be able to advance our system is with public-private partnerships,” said Jeff Austin, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, at a recent event in Washington.

Little, however, is said about the downside. The Politico column, for instance, did not point out that the airport deal was opposed by the governor and deemed so one-sided that critics have called it a “giveaway.” (It also failed to mention that the authors’ employer, Highstar Capital, was a partner in that very deal.)

Read the rest of this month's magazine issue.

There’s a growing cadre of academics, activists, and state and federal auditors who question these public-private deals, but their voices aren’t always heard. At that Senate hearing, for instance, none of those dissenting views was represented on the panel. Nor did the hearing highlight what the governments’ own accountants say about P3s—namely that they are unlikely to solve the country’s infrastructure funding gap and, in some cases, may carry risks for state and local governments. “Whenever I see advocacy [for P3s], I look for real economic analysis that justifies privatization,” Cate Long, a municipal finance blogger for Reuters, recently wrote. “It’s never there.”

Increasingly, it seems the discussion of P3s isn’t about whether it’s wise for governments to enter the deals; it’s about how governments can best facilitate them. Although former Congressman Jim Oberstar, who chaired the House Transportation Committee from 2007 to 2011, argued that P3 deals would trample the public’s interest, today criticism from most lawmakers “has almost disappeared,” says Robert Puentes, a P3 expert at the Brookings Institution. “It’s not even political anymore.”

To be sure, plenty of P3 projects are seen as successes. For example, Virginia’s High Occupancy Toll lanes, which opened last year just outside Washington, D.C., were financed, designed and built by private firms, which will now operate them and collect tolls from drivers. Working with private partners allowed the state to complete the project far more quickly than it could have on its own, say advocates. Similarly, the $1 billion Port of Miami tunnel project, set to open next year, has been viewed as a largely successful public-private deal.

Still, there’s a long list of P3s that turned out to be very bad for governments, cases in which public leaders failed to ask the right questions to ensure they were getting a good deal. These instances, in which governments ended up losing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, provide a cautionary tale for anyone considering a P3. Given that history, and given the current enthusiasm for public-private partnerships, there’s a basic question that states and localities ought to be asking: Are the deals accomplishing all they claim to?

When governments want to build a road, they typically use a process called design-bid-build: Engineers, working for the government or on a contract, design a project, and then construction firms bid for the right to build different pieces of it. Governments sell municipal bonds that allow them to borrow money cheaply to pay for the work. The system—at least theoretically—is intended to ensure that governments get the lowest price for building infrastructure.

With a P3, the design, financing, construction, operations and maintenance of a project can be rolled into one transaction. The deals are therefore incredibly complex. They are most common on major highway projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Bidders are typically consortiums made up of major construction and financial firms.

Advocates for P3s say they make sense for four reasons. First, the contractors are involved in the engineering stage of a project, which means they can design features that will promote savings over a project’s lifetime. Second, investors have their own money in the game, so they have a major incentive to come in on budget since every overrun eats into their profits. Third, because the deals include long-term maintenance components, they remove the temptation of governments to defer upkeep when times get tough. Fourth—and perhaps most important—governments can transfer risks to the private sector, such as the possibility that construction costs are higher or toll revenue is lower than expected.

The deals gained traction in Europe and Australia before they became prominent here, largely because their citizens are used to higher taxes in general and toll roads specifically. Moreover, the deals are easier to pursue in other parts of the world, where governments have more central authority. And finally, the U.S. is somewhat unique in that it allows municipalities to borrow money extremely cheaply on their own.

But the big firms involved in P3s abroad have been gaining a foothold in the United States. A few projects emerged here in the early 1990s. But the deals really got attention in the mid-2000s, when Indiana and Chicago took upfront payments in exchange for long-term concessions that gave private-sector firms the ability to collect tolls for decades. Today, those types of deals are less in vogue. It’s now considered by many to be fiscally imprudent to sacrifice stable, long-term revenue for a one-time payment used to fund short-term needs. Instead P3s are typically used to build new roads or lanes, generally through arrangements where private companies pay for construction and maintenance, and in exchange collect toll revenue.

A slew of factors have made the deals all the buzz among transportation wonks and public officials. Warnings about the deplorable shape of America’s roads and bridges have convinced the public of the need to build. But in the wake of the recession, state and local governments continue to struggle financially. Raising taxes is a nonstarter in many places, as is the notion of taking on additional debt through bonds. P3s have been portrayed in some cases as a solution to this dilemma, a source of “new money.” “Politicians are at the point where people are crying out for enhancements to infrastructure, but they don’t want to hear any proposals for new public revenues,” says Phineas Baxandall, a senior budget policy analyst at the nonprofit U.S. PIRG. “So anything that makes it sound like the money’s coming out of thin air is a win-win.”

The Council for Public-Private Partnerships, which acts as a clearinghouse for P3 advocacy and counts as its members such P3 players as CH2M Hill, Deloitte and United Water, phrases it this way: “By establishing public-private partnerships, government authorities have achieved goals that would otherwise go unmet because of budget limitations.” The language taps into a state or local official’s greatest concern—that they lack the wherewithal to build infrastructure. “It’s perceived as free money,” says Puentes of the Brookings Institution. “That perception has to be dealt with,” largely because, Puentes and others say, the capital often comes at a cost that can exceed the expense of typical municipal borrowing.

The most attractive aspect of a P3 for many lawmakers is that the borrowed money may not count as debt the same way a municipal bond does. The distinction is hard to grasp since the same citizens ultimately pay for the project, either through tax dollars or tolls. A recent report from New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says that the deals can be viewed as a form of “backdoor borrowing” that helps lawmakers get around laws requiring voter approval for issuing certain types of debt. They can also act as an end-run around a jurisdiction’s debt limit, imposed by statute or simply by the political realities of their state.

“A lot of the time public officials say, ‘We don’t have any money, let’s do a P3,’” says Joshua Schank, head of the Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank. That’s a misperception, and one that is fueled by private-sector firms who want to pump up the concept, but also, Schank says, “by public officials who want to escape the reality that if they want better infrastructure, somebody’s got to pay for it, and that somebody’s got to be taxpayers.”

Yet a recent report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general said unambiguously that P3s are unlikely to reduce the infrastructure funding gap, since they don’t increase funding levels. The only way P3s could be seen as generating revenue for state and local governments, the report concluded, is through whatever savings they might achieve through lower construction costs. But even those aren’t certain.

“There are people who say P3s create money. That is largely not true, but it’s not entirely untrue,” says Geoffrey Yarema, a partner at the law firm Nossaman, who has served as an adviser on some of the country’s largest public-private partnerships. “They don’t produce funding, but they can reduce costs significantly.”

But reduced costs aren’t a certainty, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In a 2012 report, the CBO found that P3s have built highways “slightly less expensively and slightly more quickly” than the traditional approach, but the relative scarcity of data and uncertainty of existing studies on the topic “make it difficult to apply [those studies’] conclusions definitively to other such projects.”

William Reinhardt, editor of the Public Works Financing newsletter, generally believes in the promise of the deals, simply because the public sector has a poor record when it comes to on-time, on-budget construction of major projects. But even he says it’s hard to prove which method is best for a given project. “All my life I’ve been looking for the perfect example to compare one to another,” Reinhardt says, “and you can’t.”

The challenge lies in how governments analyze potential P3 deals. To do so, they estimate the cost of traditional procurement compared to a hypothetical P3 offer. But the analysis can include some factors that are subjective, and it may not consider factors that can’t be easily quantified. A recent California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) study of two P3 deals—one for the Presidio Parkway in San Francisco and one for a new courthouse in Long Beach—found that state officials were making assumptions that favored privatization. By the LAO’s own estimates, traditional procurement would have saved $300 million on the two deals.

Julie Roin, a University of Chicago law professor, also questions whether the “risk transfer” argument carries any weight. Ostensibly, for the private sector to turn a profit, a deal only makes sense if the government overestimates its risk and underestimates the project’s revenue potential. “It’s not as if any investor is going to accept risk without demanding compensation,” Roin says. “You’re just paying for the risk in a different way.”

Watchdogs note that in entering into the deals, governments actually may take on all kinds of new risk they didn’t face before—like the implications of entering into long-term deals that can constrain lawmakers’ policymaking options for decades. In a famous case, the California Department of Transportation used a P3 to build and operate express lanes that opened in the center of California State Route 91 in Orange County in 1995. When the government wanted to expand parts of the roadway to alleviate congestion, it was blocked by a “non-compete” clause in the 35-year contract. Following litigation, the government ultimately bought out the private partner. Just seven years after the express lanes opened, the county’s transportation authority paid $207.5 million for the $130 million project. That’s a worst-case scenario, of course. Those who study P3s say governments have learned their lesson about non-compete clauses. But “compensation” or “stabilization” clauses—in which governments owe the contractor money for taking actions that could reduce toll revenue—continue.

Chicago got $1.15 billion when it leased its parking meters for 75 years, but whenever it temporarily closes a street the city must compensate the private partner for the lost revenue. When Indiana faced flooding in 2008, tolls were waived to evacuate people quickly, but the state had to pay the Indiana Toll Road’s private concessionaire $447,000 for the lost revenue. Carpooling is generally viewed as a good thing—it reduces pollution and congestion—but Virginia could owe millions of dollars to a contractor if too many carpoolers use its tolled high-occupancy express lanes. “These reimbursements make governments the contractor’s insurer and guarantor,” says Ellen Dannin, a law professor at Penn State University. Moreover, provisions like those may give states a strong monetary incentive to avoid actions that would ordinarily be considered smart public policy. If governments face fines for doing what they think is best, there could be serious implications for the way they govern.

Indeed, governments are not typically known as incredibly nimble actors. But skeptics say these deals have the potential to make them even less able to adapt to changing needs. When governments are locked into long-term deals, it’s hard for them to adjust their priorities. “Sixty years from now, we may totally want to redesign cities,” says Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, an organization that questions privatization and is funded by foundations, unions and individuals who generally oppose privatization. “But we’re contractually tied with some entity ... to consider their interests first in many ways.”

The CBO notes that P3s “can end up costing the government more than it anticipates” if it has to renegotiate a deal due to disputes over control. The New York comptroller in a 2011 report said that the deals may even cause uncertainty about such basic questions as who’s responsible for snow and ice removal or accident repair. “Projects that seem worthwhile initially,” the report found, “may turn out to be less beneficial than thought.”

But Reinhardt of Public Works Financing doesn’t buy those claims. “None of these issues are hidden,” he says. “The advisers on the public side are exactly as smart as the advisers on the private side. Believe me: Nobody is getting away with nothing.” But others insist that even though governments employ consultants in the negotiations, the lawmakers themselves ultimately have to approve the deal. Legislators face a huge disadvantage since few of them have negotiated those type of deals in the course of their careers. And lawmakers focused on re-election may not be as concerned with the implications of a 50- or 75-year deal, since those implications may only be fully understood long after a lawmaker has left office.

Highway P3s are concentrated in certain regions and are relatively few in number. A 2012 Heritage Foundation paper says eight states accounted for 75 percent of the value of roadway P3s over the last 22 years. Since 2008, the P3 market has represented only about 2 percent of all highway investment. That said, P3s represent some of the biggest and most expensive projects out there. Critics and advocates alike say the trend will continue.

Where does that leave a state or local official? Schank of the Eno Center warns that the public and private sector have widely different goals that often aren’t aligned. The problem, he says, is that the private sector comes to the negotiating table with less to lose than the government, and it is also more willing to walk away. That needs to change, critics argue, and a healthy degree of skepticism is needed to ensure the best outcome for the public.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s approach to the potential privatization of Midway Airport is a case worth studying. Operating under the cloud of Chicago’s widely panned parking meter transaction, Emanuel took an approach that emphasized protections for taxpayers. He insisted on a shorter-term lease of 40 years. He helped develop a “Traveler’s Bill of Rights” designed to ensure reasonable parking and food prices at Midway. And he required the private partner to share profits with the city. After initially receiving interest from 16 firms, the city was left with one bidder and opted against privatization, citing lack of competition.

“It’s a tool that can be valuable but needs to be used very carefully and with a complete understanding,” says Bob Ward, New York’s deputy comptroller for budget and policy analysis. He notes that public-private partnerships aren’t the only way to do big projects. “We went to the moon without a P3.”

Metro Presents: 2nd Street Brass at Union Station on Friday, Nov. 8


By Anna Chen, November 1, 2013

 Photo courtesy of the Colburn School.

Swing by Union Station during lunchtime on Friday, Nov. 8 and catch a free performance by 2nd Street Brass, a 5-piece brass band made up of students from the downtown Los Angeles Colburn School of Performing Arts. The group will appear in the Main Concourse waiting area as part of Metro’s new program of arts and cultural events planned for the iconic station.

2nd Street Brass offers a unique take on chamber music in nontraditional settings in and around Los Angeles and will be performing popular tunes and classical contemporary works.
The performance is open to the public.

Event Details:
Friday, November 8, 2013
Two 45-minute sets beginning at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Union Station Main Concourse
800 North Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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.

Pasadena Fire Department Community Message

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Thursday October 31, 2013, 9:02 PM

Pasadena Fire Department - CA

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Community: Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery, Update Your Disaster Supplies!
Hi Carla Riggs,
The Pasadena Fire Department reminds you to change all of your Smoke Alarm batteries when you change your clocks back this Sunday, November 3.

Change Your Smoke Alarm Batteries! Replace old batteries with fresh, high quality batteries to keep your Smoke Alarms ready to protect you all year-long. Make sure your emergency flashlights work when you need them by using fresh high-quality batteries.

Check Your Smoke Alarms! After inserting fresh batteries in your Smoke Alarm, make sure the Alarm is working by activating the safety test button. The Fire Department recommends that you test all of your Smoke Alarms at least once each month. If you have any doubt regarding the working condition of a Smoke Alarm, replace it. Replace your Smoke Alarms with new devices every 10 years.

Count Your Smoke Alarms! A properly functioning Smoke Alarm should be placed in every sleeping room -and- in the hallway directly adjacent to those rooms. If sleeping rooms are on an upper level, a Smoke Alarm should be installed in the center of the ceiling directly above the interior stairway.

Clean Your Smoke Alarms! Gently use a vacuum cleaner once a month to remove dust and cobwebs. If your Smoke Alarms have been accidentally painted or contaminated, replacement may be necessary.

The Fire Department encourages you to practice your escape plans with your children because they are at increased risk of dying in a home fire since they often become scared and confused when a fire erupts. Make sure your children recognize the sound of your home's Smoke Alarm and teach them to respond instinctively to its signal. Create at least two different escape routes from every room and practice them with the entire family. For full details, view this message on the web.
Sent by Pasadena Fire Department - CA
199 S. Los Robles Avenue, #550, Pasadena, CA 91101

Culprits in skull masks behind Pasadena takeover robbery


By Ruby Gonzales, November 1, 2013

PASADENA -Two men wearing what police described as “skeleton masks” forced their way inside a home on Halloween night, snatched a necklace off a senior and ransacked a room.

Pasadena police said the elderly residents weren’t injured. Officers found the necklace nearby.

The home invasion robbery happened at around 8 p.m. in the 400 block of Allendale Road.

There was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a trick-or-treater, the resident opened the door, according Pasadena Police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian.

Two armed men wearing masks and gloves barged into the residence.

Gourdikian said the men demanded cash and jewelry from the couple, rummaged through a bedroom and fled. They also grabbed a necklace the woman was wearing.

The suspects were last seen running toward Los Robles Avenue.

One of the robbers was short while the other was tall. Detailed descriptions of the suspects weren’t available Thursday night.

Air pollution linked to low birthweight in Europe


By Miriam Stix, November 1, 2013

(Reuters Health) - Women exposed to even low levels of urban air pollution during pregnancy may be at heightened risk of having a low-birthweight baby, according to a review of evidence from Europe.

Based on data for more than 74,000 women in 12 European countries over a 15-year period, researchers say that if pollution levels were lowered to limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO), 22 percent of cases of low birthweight would be avoided.

"This is similar to the number of cases that would be prevented by cessation of maternal smoking during pregnancy in this European population," said lead author Dr. Marie Pedersen from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain.

Babies who weigh less than 5.5 pounds at birth are at increased risk of respiratory problems in childhood, as well as other disorders later in life.

Pedersen's team looked at 14 studies of pregnant women who had a child at full term between 1994 and 2011. She told Reuters Health the researchers specifically focused on areas "where people live" - as opposed to industrial locations - and selected cities that are much smaller, with less dense traffic than the average American city.

The researchers were able to obtain detailed birth records, including home addresses during pregnancy, infant birthweight and gestational age and sex, from maternal health centers in Scandinavia, Western Europe, England, Lithuania and Greece.

They also developed their own intensive air-monitoring network, sending teams to residential areas in the study and measuring pollution levels over three different seasons. Pedersen and her colleagues also used data from air monitoring stations and combined it with information on traffic density and land use.

When they looked at women's exposure during pregnancy to the type of fine particles in vehicle exhaust and some industrial air pollution, they found that for every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the risk of low birthweight at term rises by 18 percent.

In addition to the babies' weight at birth, the study looked at their head circumference because of its potential effect on brain development, according to Pedersen. They found reductions in the head size of babies whose mothers were exposed to average small particle concentrations of more than 15 micrograms per square meter.

The researchers took into account factors like maternal smoking, age, height and weight and education, and still concluded that all air pollutants, especially fine particulates, as well as traffic density, were tied to an increased risk of low birthweight and reduced average head circumference at birth.

Among the women studied, the average exposure levels to fine particulates during pregnancy ranged from less than 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air to nearly 30 micrograms.

The results were published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Current European Union air quality standards recommend limiting a person's average fine particulate exposure over the course of a year to no more than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets an upper limit for a 24-hour period of 35 micrograms per cubic meter, but in 2013 EPA lowered the annual exposure limit to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The WHO standard is no more than an average of 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

If the women in the study had all been exposed to only the WHO standard for particulates, Pedersen said, 145 cases of low birthweight among 50,151 babies would have been prevented.

"In setting new more stringent standards for ambient air pollution, the United States has taken a leadership role," said Tracey Woodruff, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco. But most cities in the United States are currently out of compliance.

"While Europe has better regulations on toxic chemicals, the United States has been a leader in this area, and it could be that this study will be more evidence for the Europeans to take action," added Woodruff, who has researched the effects of pollution exposure during pregnancy.

Pedersen said pregnant women worldwide are exposed to air pollution at similar or even higher concentrations than those found in her group's study, and the results "provide a clear message to policymakers to improve the quality of the air we all share."

"We need cars and we need to heat our homes, but I think it is possible to develop cleaner cities," she said. "It's a change that can happen and I really hope it will, because there are so many bad health outcomes related to air pollution."

Dr. Jonathan Grigg from Queen Mary University of London, UK, said, "‘acceptable' levels (of air pollution) may well need to be revised downward in the light of this and other studies."

Although this would involve weighing costs and benefits, "policy makers also have to take a precautionary approach when considering children's health," said Grigg, who wrote a commentary accompanying Pedersen's study and is co-chair of the Royal College of Physicians Working Party on air quality and life effects.

Grigg, a London resident, told Reuters Health in an email that he would like to place cell-phone size personal monitors onto pregnant women to see what determines how much particulate pollution they're exposed to. That could suggest generic precautions, like avoiding walking right next to heavily used roads, that do not "either impact on lifestyle or make women feel guilty," he said.

He also suggested that policymakers take steps to reduce urban air pollution by requiring reductions in emissions by cars, taxis and buses. Development of stop/start technology to prevent idling, and requiring fuel cell power for buses, would also help.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1gFSOkP and bit.ly/1iy8Yep The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, online October 15, 2013.

Long Barred from American Tracks, European Train Designs Could Get Rolling by 2015


By Stephen J. Smith, October 31, 2013

For decades, the Federal Railroad Administration had effectively banned modern European trains from American mainline rail networks. European and Asian manufacturers have been slimming down their rolling stock for years to improve performance — energy efficiency, braking and acceleration, even track and train maintenance — while U.S. transit agencies were stuck with bulked-up versions of sleek European cars, weighted down and otherwise modified to meet FRA regulations.

The Acela, on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, was perhaps the most notorious victim of the old rules. David Gunn once called it a “high-velocity bank vault” for its bulky design, and many attributed its maintenance woes to its untested design, customized to meet U.S. safety regulations. But every commuter and intercity train has to comply with the rules, and most suffer, to one degree or another, from high costs and poor performance.

But not for much longer. Beginning in 2015, regulators and manufacturers expect the FRA to allow modern European designs on tracks throughout the country, running side by side with heavy freight at all times of day. There will be no special signaling requirements for trains purchased under the new rules, although a separate requirement for more advancing anti-collision signaling, called positive train control, is set to kick in around the same time.

Crash safety reform has been slowly building at the FRA for more than a decade, and until now modern European designs were only available to agencies that could endure an onerous waiver process, and only if they could keep other trains off the tracks during service hours. Transit agencies could apply to the FRA for an exemption, but they had to submit detailed engineering analyses and could not run freight or so-called “non-compliant passenger trains” — that is, lightweight European and Asian models, more like subway and light rail cars than bulky intercity equipment — at the same time. Railroads in Europe and Asia are not subject to conditions like these.

“It’ll take a while to get the [new] regulations in place,” said Robert Lauby, associate administrator for railroad safety and chief safety officer at the FRA. The new rules have already been drafted and now await approval from various federal agencies, followed by a period of public review. Many in the industry don’t expect significant revisions to what the FRA’s safety committee has already drafted, and Lauby suggested that the new rules should clear the final hurdles sometime in 2015.

The new rules have flown somewhat under the radar, with even experts specializing in commingled freight and passenger operation doubting how complete the reform will be. “I’m not shocked [to hear of the new rules],” said one university researcher, “but I don’t totally believe that you would see it by 2015.”

Alois Starlinger, head of structural analysis, testing and certification at Swiss rail car manufacturer Stadler, was more optimistic. The new rules, he said, would allow agencies to purchase equipment that’s nearly off the shelf, with only small modifications. (Starlinger was deeply involved with the engineering task force that wrote the new rules.)

Stadler will likely have a first-mover advantage under the new rules, as the company has worked out what slight differences will remain between the new American standards and European ones. It has already sold rail cars to a number of systems under the current waiver process, including to the Denton County Transportation Authority’s A-train, outside Dallas. Additionally, Stadler hopes to sell trains under the new rules, which wouldn’t require a waiver, to another upcoming rail system in the Metroplex — the Cotton Belt Rail Line, which will provide service between Dallas’ northeastern suburbs and Southwest Fort Worth, via the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The rule change is the result of a confluence of factors. The FRA has edged toward reform since at least the early 2000s with its waiver process, and some have suggested that the Obama administration’s push for high-speed rail — true high-speed service, not the “higher-speed” Acela variant — helped move things along.

Even the researcher skeptical of the depth of the new changes noted a generational shift in attitudes at the FRA. “The administration has changed a great deal,” she said. “Some of the people who were diehards opposed to [reform] have retired, and we’re certainly seeing a new generation.”

“The will of the FRA, and especially Bob Lauby, to allow for alternative compliance has been a great development,” Starlinger said. “Before that, all foreign designs were completely blocked. But we’ve gained a lot of experience with this type of safe operation in Europe over the last 30 years.”

“The old requirements — the conservative FRA approach — go back to the 1920s,” he said. “It’s a very old code. We think it’s time to introduce something more sophisticated.”

Freight infrastructure should get federal support: Guest commentary


By Hasan Ikhrata, October 31, 2013

A key House panel in Washington has given the freight industry — in Southern California and nationwide — a high-octane, bipartisan boost, recommending creation of a national freight system and federal funding to preserve and grow this vital segment of our economy.

The Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation, which is made up of a politically and geographically diverse group of House leaders, put unanimous and enthusiastic support behind a much-needed national intermodal freight funding policy. It was refreshing to hear them say at their press conference that the headlines should be “we all agree, freight affects every household and community in the nation and we must remain globally competitive.”

Tuesday’s announcement underscores how the freight transportation system has a direct and dramatic impact on our nation’s economic vitality and quality of life. As the panel stated, freight infrastructure needs financial support at the federal level.

Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than right here in our Southern California communities. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40 percent of the nation’s containerized shipments. More than $350 billion worth of goods flow into and out of these two ports, while another $78 billion passes through Los Angeles International Airport and $35 billion through our international border crossings.

In all, cargo accounts for 60,000 direct jobs at our ports, airports and border crossings, another 1.6 million trade-related jobs throughout the region, and more than $30 billion a year in local, state and federal tax revenues.

Add to that the growing number of industries dependent on goods movement — warehousing and logistics, for example — and the domestic and international trade industry represents a third of all jobs in the six-county Southern California Association of Governments’ region and a third of our gross regional product (GRP). That’s a total of 2.9 million jobs and $249 billion in GRP.

Sustaining and growing those benefits requires us to ensure not only that our ports, airports and border crossings are meeting demands, but that our highways and rail networks are well maintained and capable of handling greater capacity.

That’s where it becomes particularly complicated, for the impact of an inadequately funded and maintained freight transportation system is felt everywhere we turn — ensuring on-time goods to market, from grade-crossing delays, to lost productivity, to higher greenhouse gas emissions caused by traffic congestion.

To remedy this, SCAG’s 2012-2035 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy identifies nearly $60 billion in capital investment needs during that period. The plan calls for investment in key corridors to support critical industry clusters, such as a dedicated, clean-technology truck-lane system and further investment in grade separations.

The economic benefit of doing this correctly is significant, not just in California but across the country. The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors — of which SCAG is a member — notes correctly that “passengers and freight in the U.S. compete for an inadequate supply of infrastructure capacity and financial resources. Both suffer.”

The Coalition has proposed creation of a federal Freight Trust Fund (FTF), with elements similar to what the House panel is supporting. These include:

• National vision and an investment strategy that shapes and guides the nation’s freight infrastructure system with active coordination among states, regions and localities.

• A dedicated funding mechanism, paid for by all users of the freight system.

• Merit-based criteria for allocating funds, with priority to those projects that contribute to national freight efficiency.

• Utilization of public-private partnerships that help move projects forward quickly and efficiently.
We at SCAG applaud the leadership of the House Freight Panel’s work in support of a national intermodal freight funding policy. Members of the Panel set partisan politics aside and took time to visit with and listen to us at the local and regional levels. Our concerns then, as they are now, are the national economic implications if America does not keep pace with other countries that are investing in freight infrastructure to compete with the United States.

Tuesday’s announcement represents a bold step forward, and we strongly encourage Congress as a whole to follow suit and make funding of our freight system a national priority.

Hasan Ikhrata is executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.

Councilmember Pushing To Overturn Orange Line Light Rail Ban


By Neal Broverman, October 31, 2013


 It's a small step, but it's something: City Councilmember Tom LaBonge passed a resolution this week urging the state senate to reverse 22-year-old legislation that bans light rail construction along the route of the Orange Line busway, which travels from Chatsworth to North Hollywood. "The Orange Line right of way was once rail and should be rail again," LaBonge said. The 1991 Robbins bill, passed to prevent that terrifying above-ground rail transit from coming to the Valley, specifically bans light rail along the old Southern Pacific Burbank branch around Chandler Avenue, from the 101 to Hazeltine Avenue in Van Nuys. Reversing the law would be the first step in possibly turning the Orange Line busway into a new light rail line--Metro has stated such a conversion is possible. Light rail would increase the capacity on the popular busway, but where the money to lay down tracks and buy new trains would come from is anyone's guess.

· Orange Line Conversion to Light Rail: It Can Happen [Curbed LA]

Video Shows Man’s Dramatic Rescue From Metro Tracks In Westlake District


October 30, 2013

Go to website for the video.

WESTLAKE (CBSLA.com) — A man was pulled off the tracks between train cars at a Metro subway station in the Westlake district of Los Angeles over the weekend.

KCAL9’s Suraya Fadel reported that an elderly man had somehow landed on the train tracks as a Metro subway car pulled into the Westlake/MacArthur Park station early Saturday morning.

While cellphone cameras rolled, some riders screamed to stop the train, while others stood in between the train doors to keep them from closing and the train leaving.

A Good Samaritan then jumped on the train tracks to rescue the victim.

As the victim was on the platform, he appeared disoriented.

“Do you know a train was going to run you over?” a man asked the victim in the cellphone footage, which was later posted on YouTube.

“They already threw me over,” the victim said.

Fadel reported that calls to detectives at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Transit Services Bureau were not returned.

An investigation into the incident is underway.

Fields Addresses Port Concerns During Luncheon


By Jonathan Van Dyke, October 31, 2013

  Thomas Fields Greets Crowd
 HOW ARE YOU? Harbor Commission President Thomas Fields greets a crowd at the Hyatt Regency.

Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission President Thomas Fields says he has seen the headlines — but don’t believe everything you read.

He specifically noted an article in the Journal of Commerce called “Turmoil in Long Beach,” which talks about differences in opinion between commissioners in how the port should move forward — mainly in regards to the vacant position of executive director. He spoke during a luncheon on Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency sponsored by the California Trucking Association and the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

The picture accompanying the article had ominous clouds above the harbor. Fields juxtaposed the photo with the a still photo of an alien ship above the White House from the movie “Independence Day.”

“Okay, so it’s not quite that bad,” Fields said with a chuckle. “We’re a headstrong, independent lot. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Democracy is messy. Sometimes it’s like letting a 2-year-old operate a blender without a lid, but in the end, democracy works. It has for the last 200-plus years.

“Yes, we have problems … but we will get it right.”

Fields said that the discussion on who should be the next executive director will be a public discussion, “not dominated by a single voice or group,” and it will include stakeholders, city officials and ordinary citizens.

J. Christopher Lytle left the position in the summer after less than 18 months on the job. He had followed Richard Steinke, who was executive director for 14 years.

“Both men were known throughout our industry as people whose word were their bond,” Fields said. “They gave it and you could take it to the bank. Each of them knew how to build and maintain relationships to bring in business. I want our next executive director to fit in that mold. If I could find a clone, that’s who I would hire.”

So far, the Harbor Commission has commissioned a survey from stakeholders regarding the open position. Staff is expected, at some point, to present the commission with some of the leading executive search firms in the country.

Fields said that during the search he was confident in the people in acting positions at the top of the port. Acting Executive Director Al Moro was the Chief Harbor Engineer and Acting Deputy Executive Director Noel Hacegaba was the Chief Operating Officer.

“There is no one better to direct our $4.5 billion infrastructure program,” Fields said of Moro. “And he’s been a truly calming force for our staff.”

Fields said the port is paying about $2.5 million a day of the $4.5 billion, while only pulling in about $1 million a day.

“We can only do this because of a carefully formulated financing plan, which is leveraged by the future revenues we will receive from customers who have made long-term commitments to our port,” he added, noting circumstances like a 40-year agreement with OOCL.

In regards to market share, Fields said the port wasn’t doing as well as it was about 10 years ago. He noted that Asia containerized import share for the San Pedro ports market have declined from 56.5% to 48% between 2003 and 2012. He also used WalMart as an example — its shipping through the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports decreased from 85% in 2003 to 15% today.

To combat those declines in marketplace share, he said, it would take the continued building of strong partnerships, and he vowed to travel to all of those potential partners in Asia and to company headquarters like WalMart or Lowe’s.

“That’s scary, but it’s not hopeless,” he said.

Shipping companies Maersk, MSC and CMA CGM recently agreed to form the P3 Alliance. Together, the world’s three largest carriers have 14.7% of the total global container fleet.

“They (MSC and CMA CGM) told us in no certain terms they would be drastically cutting down on the number of ports and terminals they sent their ships to,” Fields said, noting it was important to keep upgrading port facilities in the evolving market.

Finally, Fields said when he returns from a two-week trip in Asia, he and staff will be proposing a special committee to advise the board on what can be done to make the port more productive, efficient and more competitive.

Protesters call on local transit agencies to cut ties with Chinese bus manufacturer, BYD


By Brian Watt, October 31, 2013

 Justin Ma of Asian Americans Advancing Justice holds up a flier that explains in Mandarin a worker's right to earn minimum wage


 Madeline Janis, National Policy Director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, at a demonstration in front of BYD's LA headquarters

Demonstrators on Thursday stood across the street from the downtown Los Angeles headquarters of Build Your Dreams, a Chinese-owned company that makes electric vehicles, batteries and solar panels.  BYD has agreements with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Long Beach Transit to build electric buses, but the company is under investigation, accused of violating California labor laws.

The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)  and other advocacy groups say BYD brings workers from China, fails to pay them minimum wage and isn't delivering on past promises to create jobs in Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, the California Department of Industrial Relations fined BYD $100,000 for failing to provide workers at its Los Angeles office and Lancaster factory the mandated California minimum wage, workers' compensation insurance, proper rest breaks and sufficient pay documentation.

The New York Times reports BYD was paying Chinese workers in yuan, the Chinese currency.   Chinese workers reportedly told state labor investigators that they were working in Los Angeles for one to six months and living in dormitory-style housing in the San Gabriel Valley.  One worker, the Times reports, said they were earning $1.50 an hour plus a $50-per-day allowance.

"It's fine to bring over a few of their Chinese workers maybe who have special expertise to do training, but they need to be paid and treated based on our labor standards,"  said Madeline Janis, LAANE's national policy director.  "They brought people over here for $1.50 an hour plus the stipend to be accountants,  bookkeepers, sales representatives, to do the work of the company that they promised the city and transit agencies would be done by unemployed people from Los Angeles."

BYD Responds

In a statement, BYD called LAANE and Janis' accusations "misinformation" and "incomplete."

"Questions have been raised about the wages paid to a few technology experts who are visiting here temporarily from BYD's parent company in China to train our American workforce," the statement said. "We have reached out to the California Labor Commissioner's office to address these issues and hope to reach a conciliatory and satisfactory resolution."

BYD opened its downtown Los Angeles Headquarters in October of 2011, after a heavy courtship by local and state officials.  It's $1.6 million contract with the city of LA's Community Development Department to redevelop the BYD headquarters building on Figueroa Street called for BYD to create 58 full-time jobs by August of 2015.  In an action plan at the end of the contract, BYD forecasts the creation of more than 100 jobs by August, 2013.

LAANE says the city should cut ties with BYD, and the Los Angeles County and Long Beach transit agencies should reopen the competition for contracts BYD won in both places to build electric buses.
'Monitoring' the situation. 
In a statement, Jeff Millman, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said, "the city is monitoring the state's investigation, which is ongoing."

BYD has a contract with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA METRO) to provide up to 25 electric buses.  Marc Littman, a spokesman with LA METRO says the agency is closely monitoring the contract.

 "We are still more than a year away before BYD builds and delivers buses for us," Littman said.  "We're hoping the labor issues will be resolved."

Long Beach Transit is awaiting 10 buses from BYD.   Its statement also says it's monitoring the state's investigation.

"We don’t condone violations of state or federal law, and are doing our due diligence to assess the impact of these allegations on Long Beach Transit and our contract with BYD,"  Long Beach Transit says.

LAANE's Madeline Janis says city and state agencies were eager to sign contracts that would create jobs in a hurry, but have failed to check back on BYD to see how it was holding up its end of the bargain.  Justin Ma of Asian Americans Advancing Justice agrees.

"There's a rush and there's a lot of publicity on the signing of the contract, but once that's over, the oversight and the follow through is not as exacting as we would like," said Ma, who also participated in the demonstration.

Ma's advocacy group is trying to reach out to the Chinese nationals who are reportedly working for BYD in Los Angeles, distributing a flier written in Mandarin.  The flier explains that even as a temporary worker in the U.S., they must be paid at least eight dollars an hour.  So far, he said, he's been unable to make contact with any of BYD's workers.

Calif. High-Speed Rail seeks east route through Kings County -- again Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/10/31/3583276/high-speed-rail-seeks-east-route.html#storylink=cpy


By Lewis Griswold, October 31, 2013

The California High-Speed Rail Authority staff has come full circle and is again advising that the controversial rail alignment through Kings County be routed east of Hanford instead of west.

After recommending in April to go west of Hanford because the eastern alignment raised the hackles of property owners, the rail staff was directed by the authority board to seek further public input. The staff now plans to present a revised recommendation to the board next week in Sacramento.

The eastern route is preferred because it would cause less harm to wetlands and natural upland habitat, and be compatible with Hanford's long-term growth plans, a staff report released Thursday said.

Additionally, if a train station is ever built for residents in Kings and Tulare counties, the eastern alignment would be closer to Highway 99 and the cities of Hanford and Visalia, the report said.
Regardless of the route, Kings County still opposes high-speed rail through the county, citing irreparable harm to farms and other issues.

"It doesn't matter what they want, we don't want this in Kings County," Board of Supervisors Chairman Dough Verboon said. "Agriculture is the No. 1 source of income in Kings County. We can't lose one acre."

Kings County officials learned of the revised eastern alignment from an HSR Authority representative, who told county supervisors in a voice message that convenience to travelers was a factor in the new alignment recommendation, Kings County Counsel Colleen Carlson said.
But convenience for travelers "is not an environmental reason for choosing a route," she said. Carlson's comments came before the report was made public.

HSR spokeswoman Lisa Alley said the authority board will be asked to accept the eastern alignment, which includes bypasses around Corcoran and Allensworth, so staff can submit the documents to the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for approval.
Aaron Fukuda, who lives on a 2-acre rural parcel east of Hanford that might be in the path of an eastern alignment, said the staff's recommendation is sure to be accepted.

"It doesn't change our attitude, whether it's east or west," Fukuda said. "The alignment is flawed."
Meanwhile, Verboon said, Kings County officials are focused on the county's lawsuit against the High-Speed Rail Authority, which alleges that it is ignoring the language of Proposition 1A regarding financing for the project and other issues. Prop. 1A was approved by voters to build high speed rail in California.

A court hearing in Sacramento Superior Court is scheduled for Nov. 8, the day after the High-Speed Rail Authority Board meets to discuss the Fresno-to-Bakersfield alignment. irreparable harm to farms and other issues.

"It doesn't matter what they want, we don't want this in Kings County," Board of Supervisors Chairman Dough Verboon said. "Agriculture is the No. 1 source of income in Kings County. We can't lose one acre."

Kings County officials learned of the revised eastern alignment from an HSR Authority representative, who told county supervisors in a voice message that convenience to travelers was a factor in the new alignment recommendation, Kings County Counsel Colleen Carlson said.
But convenience for travelers "is not an environmental reason for choosing a route," she said. Carlson's comments came before the report was made public.

HSR spokeswoman Lisa Alley said the authority board will be asked to accept the eastern alignment, which includes bypasses around Corcoran and Allensworth, so staff can submit the documents to the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for approval.
Aaron Fukuda, who lives on a 2-acre rural parcel east of Hanford that might be in the path of an eastern alignment, said the staff's recommendation is sure to be accepted.

"It doesn't change our attitude, whether it's east or west," Fukuda said. "The alignment is flawed."
Meanwhile, Verboon said, Kings County officials are focused on the county's lawsuit against the High-Speed Rail Authority, which alleges that it is ignoring the language of Proposition 1A regarding financing for the project and other issues. Prop. 1A was approved by voters to build high speed rail in California.

A court hearing in Sacramento Superior Court is scheduled for Nov. 8, the day after the High-Speed Rail Authority Board meets to discuss the Fresno-to-Bakersfield alignment.


Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/10/31/3583276/high-speed-rail-seeks-east-route.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/10/31/3583276/high-speed-rail-seeks-east-route.html#storylink=cpy

Top Ten Reasons the LAX Connect Plan Is the Ultimate Crenshaw/LAX Line Betterment


By Ken Alpern, November 1, 2013


ALPERN AT LARGE-After delineating the history and opportunities behind the exciting LAX Connect proposal to link Metro Rail with LAX in my recent CityWatch articles, I figured a recap and summary was in order.  The LAX Connect option is the ultimate "betterment" for a Metro Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line that has so far fulfilled the first part of its namesake (Crenshaw) much better than the second part (LAX). The map below shows both the currently-proposed Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line (orange dotted line) and the LAX Connect proposal which veers slightly to the west (solid orange line) to allow it to link to the central airport terminals via an Automated People Mover running along 98th or 96th Street at a connecting Intermodal Transportation Facility (ITF).   
Departing passengers could check on their bags at the ITF, then proceed to their desired terminal and through the TSA checkpoint en route to boarding their flights.  A Consolidated Rental Car Facility (CONRAC) at Century/Aviation is being planned that might have direct 405 freeway on/off-ramp access, as well as a bus terminal station that would allow both bus and car commuters with adjacent/People Mover access to the ITF. Arriving passengers would retrieve their luggage at the central airline terminals, and then have the options of being picked up outside the terminals (as they do now), being picked up at the ITF or a connected/remote Metro Rail station throughout the county, or renting a car at the CONRAC. 

Here are ten reasons the LAX Connect Plan Is the Ultimate Crenshaw/LAX Line Betterment: 
1) It has LA World Airports "on board" and as a willing partner with Metro to pay for the Automated People Mover to the tune of approximately $1 billion. 

2) It has LA World Airports "on board" and as a willing partner with Metro to pay for the connecting Metro station at the ITF, which might be up to $100 million more (LA World Airports cannot legally pay for the entire westward swerve of the Crenshaw/LAX Line). 

3) Although other options are being explored to have Metro Rail directly connect to the central airport terminals (see below), it will cost Metro up to $1-3 billion that it just does not have at this time, and won't have for years or even decades to come. 

4) Operationally, Metro trains can only access the airport terminals with intervals ("headways") of 5-10 minutes at best, as compared to Automated People Mover trains that can access the airport terminals with headways of 2-5 minutes, so that the direct Metro train approach almost certainly will have a lower total number of daily passengers ("lower capacity") than the Automated People Mover approach. 

5) The direct Metro train approach may operationally be insufficient to meet passenger and commuter needs, in that the ability to ensure 24-7 Automated People Mover service operated by LA World Airports is by far more likely than from Metro Rail, which does not have 24-hour operational service for any of its lines. 

6) The choice of passenger and commuter options to be picked up or dropped off in the central parking lots, by the terminal drop-off points, at the ITF or remote Metro stations, and the CONRAC allows an enormous amount of options as well as a first-rate method to disperse airport-related traffic. 

7) LA World Airports has a new land use plan (see below) that includes three potential MetroRail/LAX connections.  The underground option west of Sepulveda may not be allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration and does not disperse airport-related traffic, the Century/Aviation option is too far to the east, but the ITF is the "Goldilocks" option that is just right (to quote CD11 Councilmember Mike Bonin).  

8) Significant unresolved concerns exist for linking the Century/Aviation station with the CONRAC and People Mover (still being planned by LAWA and the car rental companies, which are about 1-2 years behind Metro in their legal and planning efforts), so that any People Mover extension to the CONRAC at Century/Aviation is NOT finalized and ready.  Focusing on an ITF connection removes this problem. 

9a) The Metro Rail/LAX link involves both north/south and east/west rail, car and bus transportation considerations--by placing the ITF between the central airport terminals (too far west) and Century/Aviation (too far east), the north/south non-airport-bound Crenshaw/LAX passengers are minimally affected. 

9b) Furthermore, future Green Line extensions to the Westside and San Fernando Valley (such as up Lincoln and/or Sepulveda Blvds.) will avoid the scenario of a Century/Aviation station location that forces Westside and Valley commuters to swing to the east in order to double-back west on an Automated People Mover connection to the central airline terminals. 

10) The comprehensive east-west Century Blvd. corridor Automated People Mover Line with an ITF connection virtually creates its own transit corridor, with the potential for enormous upside economic opportunities for local hotels, businesses and the creation of outlet mall or other retail venues to create a new business district and spruce up the economy of the city and county of Los Angeles. 
It's not hard to come up with other reasons, but clearly the LAX Connect Plan is the "betterment" needed not only for the Crenshaw/LAX and Green Lines, but for the growing countywide Metro Rail system we are counting on to help bring Los Angeles into the 21st Century.

Ups and downs for electric buses


By Susan, November 1, 2013

 MTA is testing a BYD bus

Some good news and not-so-good news for hybrid and electric buses.  First some good news.  The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (CA) will add 50 new hybrid buses to its fleet. The 40-foot New Flyer buses will replace 2000/2001 Neoplan diesel buses that have reached or exceeded their useful service life of 12 years.  “Every day, San Franciscans experience the fallout from Muni’s aging and unreliable vehicle fleet,” said San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener in a statement. “Gradually replacing Muni’s vehicle fleet will improve reliability and help make Muni the system it needs to be.” The vehicles will cost $38.3 million and with funding from federal, state, and local sources.

In North Carolina, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge approved the sale of hybrid bus manufacturer DesignLine’s assets to a California investor who said he plans to reopen the  plant.  The company filed for bankruptcy protection in August, and Wonderland Investment Group bid $1.6 million for the plant and equpment. DesignLine listed assets of $14 million and debts of $37.5 million in its bankruptcy filing.

Wonderland president Tony Luo said he plans to invest $30 million in DesignLine. “I want to grow DesignLine and the economy here,” he said, referring to the company’s location in Charlotte. Before the plant reopens, however, he will have to negotiate contracts with bus operators in New Jersey, Denver, and Montreal, all of which had agreements with the bankrupt company. Link to full story in Charlotte Observer.

Finally, troubles continue for BYD Motors, which is under contract to build 10 all-electric buses for Long Beach Transit (CA).  At an LBT board of directors meeting this week, seven of nine subassemblies in the pilot vehicle that BYD is building were not approved for use.  This follows flaws identified in bus frames being built at the company’s plant in China earlier in October and problems uncovered at the federal Altoona testing facility.

In addition, the Long Beach Post reports that BYD Motors is under investigation for alleged labor violations at the Lancaster (CA) plant where LBT’s buses will be assembled.  According to the New York Times, California officials have fined the company nearly $100,000 for violating the minimum wage law and failing to provide sufficient documentation of pay. Although the company promised to hire dozens of California residents in the Lancaster facility and the downtown Los Angeles headquarters, fewer than 40 have been hired to date and at least five are Chinese nationals in the U.S. on temporary basis. One Chinese-national worker said that employees received $1.50 per hour (in yuan)  plus a $50 daily allowance.  “You cannot pay people in Chinese dollars with Chinese standards while they are doing work in America,” said California state labor commissioner Julie Su. “If this is the tip of the iceberg, you could see this ruining all kinds of industries.”  The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CA) has also agreed to purchase all-electric buses from BYD and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NY) is currently testing a vehicle.