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

Monday, November 4, 2013

Are L.A.’s Transit Plans Too Big for Eric Garcetti?

A New Mayor Inherits the Ambitious Task of Kicking a City’s Car Habit


By Nate Berg,  November 4, 2013

Until Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles was a city dominated by cars, freeways and the worst traffic jams in the country. But L.A.’s most recent mayor began a shift away from that transportation monoculture by ramping up bus and rail service to a degree unseen in city history. He pulled this off thanks in no small part to Measure R, a half-cent sales tax that L.A. County voters approved in 2008, and which will generate a projected $40 billion for transit investment over 30 years. But Villaraigosa is out of office now, and it will fall to his successor, Eric Garcetti, to try to keep up the momentum. In his June inauguration address, the new mayor kept the focus on smaller transportation improvements — like filling potholes — and though he’s promised to follow through on five major transit projects already on the table, he hasn’t introduced any additional ideas for the future. Garcetti will have a spot on the Metro board of directors, but he and his allies will have to contend with commissioners representing parts of the county far from L.A. proper. Writer Nate Berg sets out to see if Garcetti will keep Los Angeles on track in one of the most dramatic turnarounds any American city has seen on its transportation front.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, November 4, 2013

It’s something of a light week from a “there’s a really important meeting we have to go to change the world” point of view, but there are some fun things to do this weekend…after you write and submit your comments on the Hyperion Bridge redesign.
  • Tuesday – CD13 (O’Farrell) host s a community meeting on the upcoming streetscape meeting for Fletcher Bouelvard between San Fernando Road and Ave. 36. If you want to see Fletcher Boulevard become a Great Street, this is your chance to be heard. Get the details, via O’Farrell’s flyer, here.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - The Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles is a new health and wellness chapter that will be included in the Framework Element of the General Plan. The Framework Element outlines guiding policy principles for the General Plan, which is known as the City’s planning constitution. As part of the City’s guiding planning document, the Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles will elevate health as a priority in the City’s future growth and development. This week’s meetings are in the Harbor Area, Westside and North Valley, respectively. Get the full schedule, here.
  • Thursday – Submit your comments to Caltrans on the Hyperion-Glendale Series of Bridges redesign. All the details on how to submit comments are here. What to say can be found here.
  • Thursday – Sunday - A festival of films showcasing how people around the world are working to make their city a better place. The festival starts on Thursday and runs through the weekend and is produced by Josh Paget and Joel Karahadian. Get the full schedule, here.
  • Saturday – ARTCRANK! The bike poster sale/beer bash is one of our last fundraisers of the year. Thanks to Widemer Beer, ARTCRANK and Space 15 Twenty. We’ll be partying from 4 pm to 10 pm. Come check it out. Did we mention the $5 bottomless glasses of Widmer Beer? We did? Cool.

Report: Idling buses, cars outside schools dangerous

Researcher, organizations aim to reduce exposure by urging vehicles to turn off engines.


By Mark Wert, November 4, 2013


When children walk into their school building, they may pass through some of the dirtiest air on their travel from home to class.

A recently published study by a researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and three other community organizations not only proves this is the case, it also points the way to reduce the exposure – simply turn off the engines of idling buses and cars.

"The concentration of air pollutants near schools often significantly exceeds background levels in the community, particularly when idling school buses are present," said Patrick Ryan, the Children's researcher who was the lead author of the study. "Anti-idling campaigns are frequently attempted to improve air quality, but until now, no one has evaluated how effective they are."

Previous studies have shown that children who live near expressways and other sources of travel-related air pollution such as particles and soot are more likely to develop asthma or have the condition aggravated by such pollution.

Even short-term exposure to high levels of airborne particles – simply by walking in a street for a few minutes – can seriously diminish lung function in people with asthma, other studies have shown. More than 4,000 CPS students, or about 1 in 8 of the district's pupils, have asthma.

The most problematic pollutants – specifically, fine particles 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller – can be particularly concentrated when running buses and cars are standing, as they do when loading and unloading passengers. In addition, such particles linger in the air around the schools and their playgrounds for hours after buses leave, said Ryan, who also is an assistant professor of pediatrics and environmental health at the University of Cincinnati.

The small particles pose a health risk because they can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and cause serious health problems.

Children are particularly susceptible to damage from such pollution for three reasons, experts say. First, they spend more time outside than adults. Next, they take in 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults, notes Dr. Marilyn Crumpton, a pediatrician and medical director for the city Health Department's division of school and adolescent health. Finally, children are shorter than adults – nearer to the tailpipes of vehicles and the area where soot is most concentrated, Ryan noted.

For the study, Ryan and others studied outdoor air quality at four Cincinnati Public elementary schools in the fall and winter of 2010-2011 before and after introducing an anti-idling campaign. Each of the four grade schools had student populations (as reported by parents) with asthma rates above 10 percent.

Following the Cincinnati Anti-Idling Campaign, Ryan and his team resampled the air. Soot levels dropped at two schools, while the concentration of particles dropped at three.

The study, paid for by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, was printed in September in the journal Environmental Science Processes and Impacts, published by the London-based Royal Society of Chemistry.

Two years after the first samples were taken, anti-idling signs are still up at the schools. Teachers and administrators continue to ask parents to turn off their cars when dropping off or picking up students. CPS continues to work with First Student, which provides bus service to the district, to have drivers turn off engines after three minutes of idling, said district spokeswoman Janet Walsh.

"We have to keep reinforcing the habits," Ryan said.

Going forward, Ryan and others will look in depth at health data on students at the four schools. "We expect the asthma symptoms" will be improved, he said.

Ryan has another study under review that looks at indoor air quality at the four schools. Generally, that air quality is good but he said the study shows that a reduction in outdoor air pollution "also made a difference inside."

Finally, the Children's researcher hopes the anti-idling message doesn't stop at the four schools or the Cincinnati border.

"Where (anti-idling) could really make an impact is at suburban schools with campuses" that draw in dozens of buses and have few students who walk, Ryan said. "Most districts are aware (of this research) and are trying to do something."

As daylight hours shorten, rules and tips for a safe commute


By Lily Allen, November 4, 2013

It’s that time of year again: Days are getting shorter, nights longer, the weather colder, and this past weekend, California officially “fell back” to Pacific Standard Time.

While safety is always a priority for Metro, as it gets darker earlier it’s important to exercise a little extra caution when commuting. Please keep the following rules and safety tips in mind when traveling by Metro Rail or Bus:
  • For Metro Rail customers: do not cross the tracks when gates are down, bells are ringing, and/or lights are flashing. This is not a recommendation, it’s the law. You put yourself in grave danger any time you ignore rail crossing signals, and you may be ticketed by transit deputies.
  • When signals indicate it is ok to cross the tracks, remain alert and proceed with care. Don’t assume a train isn’t nearby just because gates are up, lights are off, and you don’t initially hear or see it. Look both ways when crossing the tracks and listen.
  • Exercise caution when using headphones around buses and trains. Music on the go can be fun, but it can also distract you from your immediate surroundings as well as render you more vulnerable to theft. Consider forgoing headphones at night— when vision is reduced, hearing becomes even more important.
  • Horseplay is not permitted at bus stops and rail stations. Always an important rule, but even more vital in hours of low visibility.
  • Skateboarding and biking are not allowed on train platforms. Another prohibited activity made increasingly risky with decreased daylight. Always pick up your skateboard/walk your bike on platforms.
  • Consider wearing visible clothing. Bright colors are easier for drivers, train, and bus operators to spot in the dark. If you just hate bright colored clothing, consider getting a reflective wristband to wear during the evening hours you’re out and about.
Commuting by bike instead? The Street Smarts Guide available on the Metro Bike page contains tips about riding in rain and darkness.

For many Angelenos, driving after dark is so routine that it’s hard to believe fatalities on the road triple from day to night – yet it does, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fine tune your car for optimum nighttime performance and learn strategies for safe night driving at the DMV or Popular Mechanics.

However you commute this Fall and Winter, Metro thanks you for your caution and wishes you a safe journey!

SR-710 EIR/EIS SOAC Meeting

From Sylvia Plummer, November 4, 2013

Stakeholder Outreach Advisory Committee (SOAC) Meeting #9

Thursday, November 14, 2013  at 7:30am

Los Angeles County METRO Headquarters
One Gateway Plaza
Heritage Conference Room,  13th Floor

The preliminary meeting agenda is below.

Meetings are open to the public.  To gain access to the meeting you must sign in at the information desk on the third floor as "public".  

Parking available under Metro Headquarters:  $6

You can take the Gold Line to the end of the line at Union Station.
Metro Headquarters is next to Union Station.

SR-710 EIR/EIS TAC Meeting

From Sylvia Plummer, November 4, 2013

Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting #13

Wednesday,  November 13, 2013 at 1:00pm
Los Angeles County METRO Headquarters
One Gateway Plaza
Metro Plaza View Conference Room (4th Floor)

 The preliminary meeting agenda is below.

Meetings are open to the public.  To gain access to the meeting you must sign in at the information desk on the third floor as "public".  

Parking available under Metro Headquarters:  $6

You can take the Gold Line to the end of the line at Union Station.
Metro Headquarters is next to Union Station.


Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA  90012

Metro Plaza View Conference Room (4th Floor)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
1:00 pm

Agenda Items

1.    Public Outreach and Community Involvement Update.……………..…….…………………Metro
2.    Contract Parts 2 & 3 (Project Report & Environmental Studies Documentation)……,,CH2M Hill
a.    Recap of July TAC and SOAC Meetings
b.    Discussion on Value Analysis Study
c.    Status Update
d.    Next Steps
3.    Open Discussion/New Business…………………………………………….……….All Participants
4.    Meeting Adjournment …………………………………………………………….. …………….Metro

*Next SR 710 North EIR/EIS TAC Meeting #14 to be held on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ at Metro (location and time TBD).

Smog blamed as girl, 8, becomes youngest lung cancer patient



China's breakneck urbanisation and industrialisation has created some of the world's worst urban pol

 An eight-year-old girl has become the mainland's youngest lung cancer patient, with her illness blamed directly on environment factors.

The girl from Jiangsu lived by a busy road where she inhaled all kinds of dust and particles, China News Service cited Dr Feng Dongjie of Jiangsu Cancer Hospital as saying. These included superfine PM2.5 particles, less than 2.5 microns wide, that are considered the most dangerous component of smog, Feng said.

The country's breakneck urbanisation and industrialisation has created some of the world's worst urban pollution, which is blamed for soaring rates of cancer and respiratory diseases.

In Beijing, which has suffered frequent, severe smog in recent years,
deaths from lung cancer rose by 56 per cent from 2001 to 2010. A fifth of all cancer patients suffer lung cancer, figures from the Beijing Health Bureau show. It became the leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the capital and the second-biggest among women, after breast cancer, in 2010.

The World Health Organisation's "2010 Global Burden of Disease" study found that air pollution accounted for 1.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2010, including 140,000 deaths from lung cancer.

Last month the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer said that air pollution from traffic and industrial fumes caused lung cancer and was also linked to bladder cancer.

Air pollution, mostly caused by transport, power generation, industrial or agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking, was found to pose similar health risks to breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke.

The WHO said that in 2010, 223,000 people died from lung cancer worldwide resulting from air pollution.

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in Asia, Dr Hao Xishan, a noted oncologist, told the 22nd Asia Pacific Cancer Conference in Tianjin at the weekend, people.com.cn reported.

He said China had about 20 per cent of the world's recently diagnosed cancer patients, and that cancers of the lung, liver, stomach, oesophagus, colon, cervix, breast and nasopharynx were responsible for 80 per cent of cancer deaths in the country.

Cancers of the lung, stomach and liver were the most prevalent in the Asia-Pacific region, Hao said.

Sig Alert Issued for 210 Freeway for Overturned Big Rig


By Melanie C. Johnson, November 4, 2013

(This happened this morning. Another big rig crash.)

Commuters headed west on the 210 freeway may want to take surface streets.

A sig alert has been issued for the westbound 210 at Fair Oaks in Altadena following a crash involving an overturned big rig and will remain in place until noon, according to the California Highway Patrol. 

Patch will provide more information as it becomes available.

Winnetka residents say lack of toilets on Orange line a problem


By Kelly Goff, October 31, 2013

 In this Oct. 22, 2013 file photo, a Metro bus leaves the Canoga Park Orange Line Station.

A lack of restrooms along the Metro Orange Line has homeowners who live on the bustling bus route seeing red.

Residents say the shortage of toilets has led some riders to create their own bathrooms in the alleys and narrow walkways that separate their backyards from the concrete thoroughfare. In Winnetka, homeowners near the Pierce College stop say they frequently find human excrement and can smell the stench of urine. Even dirty diapers are not uncommon.

“It’s a huge problem. And it isn’t getting cleaned up,” said Eric Lewis, president of the Winnetka Neighborhood Council. “And these aren’t just homeless people. There are well-dressed younger people that we think are (Pierce) students.”

As it sought a solution, the council found that while the offenders often come from the bus line, because the makeshift bathroom is an alleyway one house length north of the stop, just which entities are responsible for cleanup or enforcement is unclear.

In June, the council fired off a letter to Pierce, asking the school to install portable bathrooms at the nearby 394-spot Park & Ride.

School officials said that letter was forwarded to offices of the Los Angeles Community College District but were quick to point to Metro as the agency the neighbors should be addressing.

“That land is leased to Metro, and their lease includes sewage and utilities,” said Pierce College President Kathleen Burke-Kelly. The land is leased to the agency under a 40-year agreement.

She dismissed the idea that Pierce students were part of the problem. “There are bathrooms throughout the campus. There are some in the village and some in both of the gyms,” she said. “I have a hard time believing that students wouldn’t make the walk to a bathroom.”

That sentiment was echoed by district officials. “To the best of my understanding, the alleyway where most of this is happening is the city’s land,” said Leila Menzies, vice president of administration for risk management and health for the L.A. Community College District. “And in their response, they point out that they only have three public restrooms in the whole system. Basically, they don’t do bathrooms.”

Rick Jager, a Metro spokesman, confirmed that. “We have received the neighborhood council’s letter, as well as requests from residents through our customer service number,” he said. “The land at the Park & Ride is owned by Pierce College. We have no jurisdiction to install a bathroom, and we made a decision long ago not to install restrooms except at three major transportation hubs. The obvious reason is the maintenance costs involved, and they are also magnets for crime.”

Jager said the 3- to 6-foot area separating homes from a noise-abatement wall along the line does belong to Metro, and maintenance would be asked to clean up the area, but that the alleyway on the other side belongs to the city.

The Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services, in an Oct. 30, 2012, report on the issue, said its workers wouldn’t clean up most of the messes on that stretch because the problem is considered hazardous waste — and that the area behind the noise-abatement wall belongs to Metro, not city.

Though the act of doing your business in public is a crime, the responsibility for penal-code enforcement along the Orange Line is also tricky, with the Sheriff’s Department contracted to patrol the line itself and the Los Angeles Police Department responsible for nearby alleys.

Still, residents and riders say the underlying issue isn’t enforcement or cleanup — it’s that there are only two usable restrooms along the Orange Line’s 14-mile stretch. One green-domed self-cleaning facility is at the North Hollywood stop, the other is in Van Nuys, both far from the Chatsworth terminus.

“I go to the bathroom before I leave, because I know there isn’t anywhere to go,” said Pierce College student Maria Salvador.

Metro isn’t alone in limiting restrooms on its line. The Chicago Transit System closed its facilities to the public in the 1970s, while the Washington, D.C., Metro has one self-cleaning toilet in the whole system. Bay Area Rapid Transit has 44 bathrooms open to the public, though it closed its downtown facilities after 9/11, citing terrorism risks.

Jason Levin, spokesman for City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, whose district includes the Winnetka stop, said the office is seeking a solution. “We are working with Metro to address the concerns of the residents and would like to work with Metro to ensure they are good neighbors,” he said.

In the meantime, the situation continues to affect neighbors’ standard of living. “It’s a huge problem, and we’re not going to give up on fixing it,” said Neighborhood Council President Lewis. “This is our issue. We will go in halves with Pierce or Metro or the city or whoever it is to get Porta-Potties in there. We’ll pitch in money. We just want people to stop going to the bathroom where they shouldn’t.”

Rail to Redlands project update shows increased costs


By Greg Cappis, November 3, 2013

As the Rail to Redlands project rumbles along, officials reported delays, rising costs and a bus system integrated with the commuter train line to expand public transportation opportunities in the East Valley.

Originally, the project extending the Metrolink from San Bernardino to three stops in Redlands was expected to cost around $156 million. At a meeting of stakeholders Wednesday, officials said the extension project is now expected to cost between $200 and $300 million.

San Bernardino Associated Governments is leading the project that combines public and private funds.

Bids for the first mile of trackwork and a transit center in downtown San Bernardino have been sent out.

“We want to award (those two) contracts at our December board meeting,” said Mitch Alderman, SANBAG transit director.

Final design plans will get underway next spring, before environmental reports are expected to be cleared — in mid-2014, according to Alderman.

He said the recent, partial government shutdown delayed part of the environmental review process, but “we’re still anticipating environmental clearance sometime in the middle of next year.”

Another mix up in required environmental documents cost $1 million and a year’s time, Alderman said.

Alderman presented the project update inside the San Bernardino County government building to other members of a steering committee formed by Third District Supervisor James Ramos to keep the project on track.

The group also heard a presentation from Omnitrans about new and altered bus lines, planned to coincide with the new train stops.

The easternmost stop is planned for the University of Redlands. Another stop will be located near downtown. The third stop will be near Esri’s campus at New York Street and Redlands Boulevard before continuing to San Bernardino.

From there, the Metrolink can transport passengers to Los Angeles’ Union Station where riders can hop on other lines or buses.

Omnitrans expects a rapid transit bus to run from Northern San Bernardino to the transit center in downtown San Bernardino before continuing southwest to Loma Linda. They’re hoping thousands of employees and students take advantage of the two-prong transportation system.

Officials are working to adjust bus routes so people can take public transportation from their homes to work.

“Making sure to integrate the two systems is really important,” said Larry Sharp of Inland Action, a nonprofit driven to improve the economic landscape of the Inland Empire.

For example, in downtown Redlands the current Omnitrans bus stop is a block or two from the proposed site of the train station, according to Alderman, who spoke of moving it closer to the train stop.

“If you’re really going to have a viable system it would be best if you left your car at home,” Sharp said.

The ad hoc committee is scheduled to reconvene Feb. 27.

BART unions approve 4-year contract

BART board to sign agreement at Nov. 21 meeting


November 4, 2013

A second BART union whose members walked off the job during two strikes this year has approved a tentative contract agreement with the transit agency's management. 

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 members voted Friday to approve the four-year contract, which includes a 15 percent raise and pledges better safety conditions for workers. 

The vote came as Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the largest union involved in contract negotiations with BART, also voted overwhelmingly to approve the contract. 

ATU Local 1555 represents 945 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, while SEIU 1021 represents 1,430 mechanics, clerical workers and custodians.

In a statement, BART Board President Tom Radulovich said that while the unions gained "a reasonable wage increase in the labor agreements, BART gained priceless changes to outdated work rules which will help pay for the wage increases while allowing BART to modernize and operate more efficiently." 

Under the contracts, management and workers agreed to use technology to streamline operations and ensure the financial sustainability needed to reinvest in the 41-year-old transit system, BART management officials said. 

"The Bay Area and our riders will benefit from these contracts because BART will be able to move forward with the replacement of our aging fleet of train cars and the needed upgrades to meet demand," BART General Manager Grace Crunican said. 

Now that both unions have approved the contract, BART's board of directors is expected to vote on the agreement later this month, according to agency spokesman Jim Allison. 

The vote will likely come before the board's upcoming Nov. 21 meeting, he said. 

Negotiations over the contract between BART management, ATU 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 began earlier this year but fell apart twice over the past six months. The breakdown in negotiations resulted in two four-day strikes in July and October that shut down BART service and gridlocked traffic throughout the Bay Area.
During the second strike, two BART workers were struck and killed while working on the tracks in Walnut Creek. An employee undergoing training was operating the train at the time of the deadly collision.

AIR POLLUTION: Freeway emissions to be tracked


By David Danelski, November 1, 2013


 Under new federal news, regional air quality official will measure pollution near freeways. Here, big rigs travel on Van Buren Boulevard and Highway 60 in Jurupa Valley.

For the first time, permanent air quality monitoring stations will be placed near Southern California freeways to measure pollution from traffic.

The information will be a factor in determining whether an area meets federal air quality standards.
No later than Jan. 1, the South Coast Air Quality Management District will install the air-monitoring stations just off Interstate 10 near Etiwanda Avenue in a Fontana warehousing district. Another will be located near Interstate 5 and Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim. The air district will operate the stations and report the data to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In Southern California, nearly 3 million people live within 550 yards of a freeway. Years of studies have found increased health risks — for cancer, heart attacks, asthma, lung impairment, birth defects and autism, among other ailments.

Despite years of documentation about the risks of living close to freeways, the federal government until now has deliberately excluded that pollution zone from monitoring. Regulators were more interested in the regional situation. But the mounting evidence of the harm from freeway emissions triggered a change.

Under a new EPA rule, freeway air pollution monitors will be installed throughout nation, and the data gathered will count toward determining whether region meets health standards.

“This is a much-needed step to give us critical information to know how dirty the air is where people are breathing it,” said Frank O’Donnell, president the Washington, D.C.-based Clean Air Watch, which advocates for clean-air legislation and rules.

Phil Fine, one of the South Coast district’s chief scientists, said the Fontana and Anaheim locations have among the highest freeway emissions in Southern California. The pollution readings at those two sites will be comparable to other areas affected by heavy traffic, he said

The air district analyzed traffic data to identify roadway stretches with the highest emissions. District officials then looked for the most practical places to securely locate two trailers full of monitoring equipment within 55 yards of the roadway, Fine said.

Under the EPA rule, the district will start by measuring nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that reacts with volatile organic compounds — fumes from gasoline, nail polish, oil-base varnishes and other sources — to form ozone gas that is associated with headaches, nausea, cough, itchy eyes, asthma attacks and other health effects.

Fine, however, does not expect nitrogen dioxides levels near the freeway to exceed a separate health standard for the brownish-colored gas. In fact, Southern California hasn’t had a nitrogen dioxide violation since 1991.

Fine-particle pollution is another matter.

The new federal rule also requires the district to measure diesel soot and other microscopic particles along freeways by 2017. The Jurupa Valley, Fontana and Ontario areas, as well as parts of Los Angeles County, still fail to meet federal health federal standards for that pollutant.

Fine said he expects higher levels of the tiny particles along freeways, so the new monitors may mean Southern California will have a harder time meeting the federal particle-pollution health standard.

He added, though, that pollution from big-rig trucks, the largest source, is declining, a result of state rules requiring cleaner engines on new trucks and new pollution-control devices on older vehicles.
“On-road trucks are getting a lot cleaner pretty quickly,” Fine said.

Michael D. Shaw, vice president of external affairs for the California Trucking Association, said he doesn’t expect the freeway monitoring to affect the industry, which his now investing about a $1 billion year to reduce tailpipe emissions.

“The modern truck now has almost nothing coming out the tailpipe,” he said.

Report suggests slowdown in CO2 emissions rise


By Matt McGrath, October 31, 2013

 coal fired plant

Carbon emissions from coal fired plants like this one continue to increase but at a lower rate than previous years

Global emissions of carbon dioxide may be showing the first signs of a "permanent slowdown" in the rate of increase. 

According to a new report, emissions in 2012 increased at less than half the average over the past decade.

Key factors included the shift to shale gas for energy in the US while China increased its use of hydropower by 23%.

However the use of cheap coal continues to be an issue, with UK consumption up by almost a quarter.

The report on trends in global emissions has been produced annually by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre.

It finds that emissions of carbon dioxide reached a new record in 2012 of 34.5bn tonnes.

But the rate of increase in CO2 was 1.4%, despite the global economy growing by 3.5%.

Breaking the link
This decoupling of emissions from economic growth is said to be down to the use of less fossil fuels, more renewable energy and increased energy savings.

The main emitters, accounting for 55% of the global total, were China, the US and the European Union. All three saw changes that were described as "remarkable" by the report's authors.

Emissions from China increased by 3% but this was a significant slowdown compared to annual increases of around 10% over the past decade.

There were two important factors in reducing China's CO2. The first was the ending of a large economic stimulus package. As a result electricity and energy prices increased at half the rate of GDP.

"It is like a tiger that you have to keep under control, and you can also see in the CO2 trends, the growth is not so big."

China also achieved exceptional growth in the use of hydropower for the generation of electricity, increasing capacity and output by 23% in 2012. This alone had the effect of curbing the country's emissions by 1.5%.

In the US, the shale revolution continues to make waves. Overall emissions were down by 4% in the year mainly because of a continuing shift from coal to gas in the generation of electricity. Shale is now responsible for one third of US gas production and almost one quarter of total oil production.

"It is amazing, shale gas has been growing since 2007/8, I think it will continue but that is speculation," said Dr Maenhout.

"I think there is an economic benefit to further expansion, I am not expecting it to go down."

Off the road
The other major decline came in the European Union where economic recession in the 27 nation bloc saw emissions decline by 1.3%. This was down to a decrease in energy consumption of oil and gas, with a 4% decline in road transport.

 In China, a slowing economy has meant slower price increases for energy sources such as these coal briquettes

Renewable energy also continued its upward trend, at accelerating speed. It took 15 years for the renewable global share to increase 0.5% to 1.1% - but it took only six years for it to double again, to 2.4% in 2012.

Looking ahead, the report suggests that if the push for shale continues in the US, if China sticks to its published plans and if renewables continue to grow - particularly in Europe - global emissions might slow down permanently.

"It is good news but still not sufficient," said Dr Maenhout.

"We are still having increases every year which are cumulative. Since CO2 lives for 100 years in the atmosphere, we will still not be able to cope with a 2C target for 2050."

The report was welcomed by green activist Bill McKibben, who is campaigning for a divestment from fossil fuel stocks and shares.

"It is good news but nowhere near good enough," he told BBC News.

"The solution we need here is dictated by physics, and at the moment the physics is busy melting the Arctic and acidifying the ocean.

"We can't just plateau or go up less, we have to very quickly try and get the planet off fossil fuels."

"They want to grow economically less fast," one of the authors, Dr Greet Maenhout, told BBC News.

Los Angeles Receives $100M for Affordable Transit Oriented Development


By Elizabeth Fazzare, October 31, 2013

 Los Angeles Light Rail (Courtesy Margaret Napier / Flickr)
 Los Angeles Light Rail

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national philanthropic organization that provides monetary support for the shoring up of distressed communities, has pledged $100 million in capital to lead an effort to develop 15 low-income neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles. Under the city’s Measure R, plans for expansion of light rail and rapid bus lines within these communities are currently underway. The monetary initiative by LISC will continue development beyond transit, expanding affordable housing, schools, businesses, and community facilities, and will complete market assessments of each neighborhood to strategize locale-specific investment.

Light Rail Expansion under Measure R in Los Angeles, California. (Courtesy Metro)
Light Rail Expansion under Measure R in Los Angeles, California. (Courtesy Metro)

In 2012, LISC completed initial market profiles of two Los Angeles neighborhoods, Boyle Heights and Leimert Park. The research results provide analysis of the current economic state of each community, block-by-block. This information can be used in plans for future investments, redevelopment initiatives, and to attract businesses.

With their pledged effort, the private organization plans to evaluate 13 other low-income neighborhoods over the next 18 months: Central Vermont, Crenshaw North, El Sereno, Highland Park, Koreatown, Main & Vermont, East Hollywood, North Vermont, Pico Union, Pacoima, Van Nuys, Watts, and Westlake. Each of these areas is scheduled for construction of a local public transportation hub by the City of Los Angeles and in combination with new improvement projects by LISC, can increase their overall value.

“Low-income communities can be good places to live, work, raise families and do business,” said LISC Los Angeles executive director Claudia Lima in a statement. “Our goal is to speak to the rich potential of the people, markets and physical assets in these targeted areas.”

How Republicans Killed America's High-Speed Rail Plan


By Eric Jaffe, November 4, 2013

 How Republicans Killed America's High-Speed Rail Plan

The Obama administration had grand plans for a national high-speed rail network, but they didn't stay grand very long. After the 2010 midterm elections, new Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida spoiled hopes of such a system by rejecting federal money for routes through their states. At the time, the three governors cited fiscal responsibility as their official reasoning, but the situation always had the feel of political collusion.

A new report in the Tampa Tribune adds some spice to that notion. The paper details an interesting exchange between one of these governors, Rick Scott of Florida, and Paula Dockery, a (now former) political ally who favored the proposed high-speed route from Tampa to Orlando. Dockery tells the paper that Scott promised her in February 2011 that he'd accept $2.4 billion in federal money pledged for the project — in no uncertain terms:
Dockery said she warned Scott he would get intense pressure from fellow Republicans to reject it "because it looks like Obama wins" if the project succeeds.

"There were other Republican governors who were turning down rail money," she said in the interview. "That was kind of the national plan of the Republican governors."

"He said, 'Don't worry about it.' ... His mind already was made up," she added. "There was no misinterpretation."
Apparently his mind wasn't made up, because two weeks later Scott announced that he was declining the money. So what do we learn from this insider's revelation? Well, for one thing, it strongly suggests that the series of high-speed rail refusals had as much (if not more) to do with petty politics as with fiscal prudence. Beyond that, we're left to wonder if Scott himself received direct political pressure to change his position.

Florida's high-speed route was supposed to be the first piece of Obama's national network and the model for other cities and states around the country to follow. The line was far from ideal: it was far too short, at just 84 miles, which meant that it would compete with car travel instead of air travel. At the same time, the project was fully funded, could have been finished by 2015, and always kept the option of one day extending to Miami.

But these weren't the problems that Scott emphasized in his February 16, 2011, letter to then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood turning down the funding [PDF]. Instead, Scott focused on concerns that cost overruns would put Florida taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars. In fact, several companies had already agreed to cover any excess costs, and studies determined that ticket revenue would have covered the train's operating expenses — as is the case for most high-speed rail lines around the world.

Dockery's comments raise a lot of questions about the timeline of Scott's decision. The governor's concerns over a possible cost overrun were reportedly based on a Reason Foundation analysis opposing the project that was released in January 2011. If Scott still believed he would accept the money in early February, as Dockery claims, then one of several things must have occurred before his February 16 announcement:
  1. Scott read the analysis in January and found it unconvincing, then had a massive change of heart toward it shortly after his promise to Dockery.
  2. The report came to Scott's attention after his discussion with Dockery, which means his earlier favorable opinion toward high-speed rail had been formed by other reports or information he later discarded.
  3. Scott actually based his decision on factors unrelated to the report and simply cited it out of convenience.
Florida taxpayers (and the rest of us) have a right to know the true chain of events.

What's most upsetting about the Tribune report — though in a way also a little encouraging — is that it shows the death of Obama's high-speed rail plan was not inevitable. Many Republicans involved in the story clearly favored the idea: from LaHood to Dockery to former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who initially accepted the federal money for his state. This wasn't a widespread Republican refusal; it was a localized extreme Republican refusal. The distinction is important to recognize.

The coda to all this, as rail blogger Robert Cruickshank points out, is that Scott's decision to halt high-speed rail may soon bring his own time in office to an end. Crist, now a Democrat, has decided to run against Scott in the next election and currently leads polling by 12 points. He will no doubt be portrayed as a flip-flopper, going from one party to another, but now he can portray his opponent as the same.

Could NYC's 'wacko nutso' Janette Sadik-Khan be right for L.A.?


By Robert Greene, October 31, 2013Commute

 A man carries his bicycle as he approaches the Brooklyn Bridge on his commute home. New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is credited with doubling the number of cyclists in six years.

There were two applause lines in New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s TED talk last month: First, that in six years she "turned cycling into a real transportation option in New York"; and second, that she brought the city its first parking-protected bike lane, with parked cars and a strip of concrete separating cyclists from automobile traffic.

That was a reminder that cyclists continue to lead the conversation about urban street makeovers around the nation.

And it was a reminder as well that Sadik-Khan’s tenure may well be coming to an end as her boss, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, concludes his term. The election to replace Bloomberg is Tuesday.
If only there were a vacancy for her to fill in some other large U.S. city that badly needs her bold vision and drive to recover wasted street space and to enhance wider use and greater safety for cyclists and pedestrians and well as cars and buses.

Some city like, say, Los Angeles – which just happens to have an opening for the position of general manager of the Department of Transportation. L.A.’s current transportation chief, Jaime De La Vega, is leaving the post.

Would Sadik-Khan, or someone like her, be good for Los Angeles?

Many New Yorkers love her for reinventing their streets quickly and at fairly low cost, with few major construction projects. All it took was some paint, she said in her TED talk. Rolling Stone named her as one of 12 leaders who "gets things done" (the magazine said the same of Antonio Villaraigosa).

Of course, many New Yorkers hate her for the same reason. And many hate her for an aggressive and confrontational style. Critics follow the lead of New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams in calling her the "wacko nutso bike commissioner."

A 2011 New York Times profile of Sadik-Khan suggested that even Bloomberg, a mayor who also has been criticized for a dictatorial bent, couldn’t rein her in.

That kind of hard-driving and high-handed approach to streets is part of New York culture and history.

During much of the 20th century, Robert Moses remade and rebuilt New York according to his urban vision, which included bulldozing whole sections of town for, among other things, expressways to speed automobile traffic into and out of the city.

Much of modern New York planning has been centered around reversing some of Moses’ moves. He might have appreciated Sadik-Khan’s style, but may have been less pleased with her approach to traffic and street life.

How would that style play in Los Angeles, under Mayor Eric Garcetti and among L.A.’s planners and transportation engineers? It’s worth remembering that, not long before announcing plans to step down, De La Vega was taken to task by hundreds of his department’s workers for his management decisions, his transportation policies and, to some extent, his personal style.

New Yorker though she is, Sadik-Khan is a native Californian and an alumna of Occidental College, where Garcetti was once on the faculty. And although the widely expected winner of Tuesday’s New York election, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, could opt to keep her, he has suggested that he is not a Sadik-Khan fan.