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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reached New Highs In 2012, World Meterological Organization Says


By Tom Miles, November 6, 2013

 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

GENEVA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change hit a new record in 2012, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Wednesday.

"For all these major greenhouse gases the concentrations are reaching once again record levels," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told a news conference in Geneva at which he presented the U.N. climate agency's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin .

Jarraud said the accelerating trend was driving climate change, making it harder to keep global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius, a target agreed at a Copenhagen summit in 2009.

"This year is worse than last year, 2011. 2011 was worse than 2010," he said. "Every passing year makes the situation somewhat more difficult to handle, it makes it more challenging to stay under this symbolic 2 degree global average."

Greenhouse gas emissions are set to be 8-12 billion tonnes higher in 2020 than the level needed to keep global warming below 2 degrees, the U.N. Environment Programme said on Tuesday.

If the world pursues its "business as usual" trajectory, it will probably hit the 2 degree mark in the middle of the century, Jarraud said, noting that this would also affect the water cycle, sea levels and extreme weather events.

"The more we wait for action, the more difficult it will be to stay under this limit and the more the impact will be for many countries, and therefore the more difficult it will be to adapt."

He said the climate system was dominated by the ocean rather than the atmosphere, and the time needed to warm the seas meant the full impact of current emissions would only be felt later.

"Even if we were able to stop today - we know it's not possible - the ocean would continue to warm and to expand and the sea level would continue to rise for hundreds of years."

Delegates from over 190 nations meet in Warsaw next week for a U.N. conference to work on emission cuts under a new climate pact to be signed by 2015, but to come into force only in 2020.

The WMO bulletin said the volume of carbon dioxide, or CO2, the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities, grew faster in 2012 than in the previous decade, reaching 393.1 parts per million (ppm), 41 percent above the pre-industrial level.

The amount of the gas in the atmosphere grew by 2.2 ppm, higher the average of 2.02 ppm over the past 10 years.

Carbon dioxide is very stable and is likely to remain in the atmosphere for a long time, Jarraud said. The concentrations were the highest for more than 800,000 years, he said.

"The increase in CO2 is mostly due to human activities," Jarraud said. "The actions we take now or don't take now will have consequences for a very, very long period."

The second most important greenhouse gas, methane, continued to grow at a similar rate to the last four years, reaching a global average of 1819 parts per billion (ppb) in 2012, while the other main contributor, nitrous oxide, reached 325.1 ppb.

Thailand's tuk tuk cars go "green"


By Dusita Chumsri, November 6, 2013

See the website for a video.

Bangkok suffers from serious air pollution, prompting efforts to develop cleaner and more efficient ways to get around the city. An inventor there has developed a greener version of the city’s trademark mode of transport - the tuk tuk.

The tuk tuk, a symbol of traditional life and tourist fun, is also a hot, smelly, noisy way to travel. With almost 4 million registered cars, along with 2.5 million motorcycles choking Bangkok streets, tuk tuks have contributed to the city’s major traffic conundrum.

Tuk Tuk in Bangkok

Already one of the world’s most polluted cities, Bangkok is facing serious air pollution problems.

At a home workshop in Bangkok’s outer suburbs, Former Air Marshall turned inventor Morakot Charnsomruad and his team are geared up to take on the modern world. And it’s this revolutionary tuk tuk that is leading the way.

"These tuk tuks are zero emission. That means, no pollution since there is no exhaust or smoke. It is quiet to drive and very easy to charge." said Morakot Charnsomruad, Chairman, Clean Fuel Energy Enterprise.
Thailand's tuk tuk cars go "green"  

Instead of the usual puff of oily black smoke and the growl that gives these three-wheeled vehicles its name, there is only silence. It can run the whole day on a battery boosted by a solar roof panel, supplemented by the sun’s rays. Faster than its gasoline-powered rival, its top speed is 60km/hour.

The 3-wheeler definitely has a novelty value, but it could also help blaze a greener trail for Thailand.
"It is a great idea. It is energy efficient and will help the environment. Tourists will love it. I support it." Said Sawai Arjsalee, Tuk Tuk Driver.

They are a symbol of Thailand. With currently over 70000 tuk tuks zipping through Thai roads, it is hoped that one day, this clear aid, solar powered tuk tuk will replace the noisy, polluted icons of Thailand.

But that may take some time. At around $10000, they are almost double that of the conventional tuk tuks. The designer hopes that eventually government subsidies would make them more affordable.

And as more emphasis is being placed on the importance of clean and efficient energy, these modified tuk tuks are hoping to pave the way to new transportation options.

Thailand's tuk tuk cars go "green"

Amtrak targets multicultural travelers with new sites


November 6, 2013

Amtrak launched three microsites targeting multicultural travelers — DescubreNorteAmerica.com, a bilingual site for Hispanic consumers; MyBlackJourney.com for African American consumers; and AmtrakRideWithPride.com for the LGBT community.

While Amtrak’s main website is a travel-planning resource for all travelers, the microsites are culturally focused travel sites that host the unique, original multicultural voices of a rotating set of featured bloggers.

“The goal of Amtrak’s My Black Journey is to help you re-imagine what train travel can be,” said Amtrak editor, Saunya Connelly in her editor’s message on the site. “Our contributors focus on the personal experience of travel. This site will include cultural destinations and reflect the historical journey of African Americans living here.”

RideWithPride.com speaks to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) traveler. The site is loaded with photos, testimonials and blog posts from Amtrak’s LGBT editor Mark Mastro.

“My job is to travel across the country, see new sites and connect with everyday people,” said Mastro. “More importantly, I share my experiences with those who are seeking a travel experience that makes them feel comfortable.”

“Diversity begins with respect. Respect for the community, for culture and, of course, for you,” added Liliana Lopez, Amtrak editor of DescubreNorteAmerica.com, which was developed in Spanish and provides culturally relevant information about train travel.

Amtrak will also highlight the microsites on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Crowdfunded science suggests that coal-hauling trains cause air pollution


By John Upton, November 6, 2013

 A coal train

Coal dust is blowing off rail cars and over neighborhoods located near train tracks that are used to haul coal in the Pacific Northwest.

Air monitors placed near the tracks in a Seattle residential area detected spikes in large particles of pollution when coal-hauling cars chugged by. They also picked up an increase in diesel particulate matter. These preliminary research findings suggest that plans to increase the amount of coal hauled from mines in Montana and Wyoming to proposed new shipping terminals in Washington and Oregon will worsen air pollution.

How do we know this? Because 271 people donated $20,529 through the research-focused crowdfunding site Microryza to help buy air monitors and pay for the labor of researchers and a technician.

The work was led by University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor Dan Jaffe. He released the preliminary findings on Monday. A paper with the research results is still under peer review, but Jaffe said he felt he owed it to his donors to release his findings as soon as they were available.

From KUOW:
“We did find an increase in large particles in the air when coal trains pass by and it does suggest that it’s coal dust and it’s consistent with coal dust from those trains,” said the UW scientist, Dan Jaffe. …

Jaffe gathered air quality samples at two sites next to train tracks in the Northwest. He tested 450 trains as they passed — roughly 10 percent of which were carrying coal.
A spokesperson for BNSF Railway raised questions about the crowdfunded research: “How is it being done? How is it being funded? What standards are in place? Who is involved in that? So [crowdfunding] is a really new concept when it comes to scientific research.”

This highlights a challenge that scientists will face when they pursue crowdsourced funding: Donors will desire quick results, but the peer-review system takes time.

Jaffe, though, isn’t worried about it. “I’ve published over 120 papers in the scientific peer reviewed literature,” he said. “I know the drill. If I didn’t feel our results would hold up to peer review scrutiny there’s no way I’d be releasing them now.”

AQMD to sue EPA over Morongo air pollution rules


By Barrett Newkirk, November 6, 2013

 Concerns over relaxed air pollution rules for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians Reservation appear to be heading to court.

Concerns over relaxed air pollution rules for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians Reservation appear to be heading to court.

CABAZON — Concerns over relaxed air pollution rules for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians Reservation appear to be heading to court.

The move from the South Coast Air Quality Management District comes in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision in September allowing heavier-polluting development on the reservation before ozone-offsetting requirements take effect.

The 35,000-acre reservation lies along Interstate 10 northwest and upwind from Palm Springs and other Coachella Valley communities, raising concerns that the relaxed requirements would lead to poorer air quality in the valley.

The governing board of the AQMD voted 11-0 on Friday to file a lawsuit against the EPA over its decision concerning the reservation. Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit was one of two board members absent for the vote.

The decision to take legal action arose “out of a concern that Indian tribes will establish what are essentially their own independent air districts and that higher polluting sources will locate on those Indian lands,” AQMD attorney Kurt Wiese said. “These sources concentrated on tribal lands could constitute pollution hot spots.”

He said higher emitters on the Morongo Reservation are “obviously going to affect air quality” in the district and specifically in the Coachella Valley.

Although the lawsuit had not been filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as of Tuesday, it is the only formal action available to AQMD, Wiese said. AQMD has until the end of the month to file its lawsuit.

Nahal Mogharabi, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said the agency was unable to comment on any ongoing litigation. The EPA has explained its decision regarding the Morongo Reservation as correcting a mistake made a decade ago that moved the tribal land into a more polluted planning area.

Michael Fisher, a spokesman for the Morongo Indians, said in October that the tribe’s status as a sovereign nation compelled it to seek a reversal of the EPA’s 2003 decision. Fisher said at the time there were no specific plans for developments on the reservation.

The reservation is home to the 27-story Morongo Casino, Resort and Spa, more than 400 homes, the Morongo’s cogeneration power facility, the Morongo Travel Center, Canyon Lanes Bowling Alley, restaurants and the Arrowhead Mountain Springs Water Bottling Plant.

Great video of Purple Line Extension….in Moscow


By Steve Hymon, November 6, 2013

Grab your Troika Card and check out this great video of construction work on the Purple Line Extension in Moscow — only thing missing is “Eye of the Tiger” from the soundtrack. Of course, Metro is gearing up for construction of the 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension between the existing Wilshire/Western station and Wilshire/La Cienega in Beverly Hills.

With car traffic in Moscow having taken a turn for the much, much worse since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Moscow subway is undergoing a tremendous expansion this decade with additional mileage and stations being added to several lines.  Wikipedia (to be taken with an appropriate grain of salt) says there are 15 tunnel boring machines currently at work, which sounds plausible.

Traffic and Speeding Near San Rafael Elementary School Update

Email Update from Quincy Hocutt, November 6, 2013

  As you know, I solicited e-mail opinions regarding traffic from many residents of the streets surrounding the San Rafael Elementary School and you all responded, especially with regard to the City's announcement of raising the height of the speed humps.  I talked to many of the teachers and staff of the school, to some of the parents of students, and I even parked myself on several of the streets and made observations/counts and took pictures of what was going on.  I combined that with some of my own ideas to help resolve issues and presented it all to the City's Department of Transportation this morning, in conjunction with a representative of our City Councilman.   The department was very receptive and interested and it was obvious to me that they wish to help mitigate the problems that the school and the neighborhood are experiencing.

     It will obviously be a while before any decision or changes can be made, but they did indicate that they are having second thoughts about raising the height of the speed bumps, as they are reconsidering the effectiveness of such a height change.  But don't worry, they are as concerned as we are about speed on the streets, and the first step they will be taking is beginning to hand out speeding tickets to any offenders. Since the school traffic consists of the same people day after day, just that alone should have a dramatic impact.   I think they agreed with me that the real problems are with congestion, parking, and the flow of cars, and those issues are being worked.

      They asked me if I would help coordinate with the School Board on some of these problems, and I have actually begun that process with preliminary promising results.  

         I also got invited to their working meetings on their "Complete Streets" program, so if you have any other ideas on traffic or bikes or bumps or lights or lanes or busses, or .....,  let me know, if you wish,  and I'll make sure it all gets included. 

      By the way, I did make the neighbor's comments an important part of my presentation, but I made sure that there were no identifying names or circumstances or wording that would actually identify who said what.  But they were impressed with the quality of the input that I received from all the neighbors. 

Quincy Hocutt

Cook with a gas stove? You could be breathing polluted air, study says


By Tony Barboza, November 6, 2013

 Gas stoves
 About two-thirds of Southern California households that use natural gas burners without good ventilation are exposed to excessive levels of air pollution, a new study found. 

A big polluter could be blazing inside your kitchen, its blue flames glowing under your tea kettle or frying pan.

A new study says cooking with a gas stove can expose you to unhealthy levels of air pollution.

About two-thirds of Southern California households that use natural gas burners without proper ventilation breathe levels of air pollution so high that they would exceed federal health standards outdoors, scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found.

After testing gas ranges to determine their pollution output, researchers used data on more than 6,000 Southern California households and their cooking habits to estimate people's exposure to air pollutants in the kitchen during a typical week in the winter.

They discovered that 62% of households using gas burners without venting range hoods are routinely exposed to excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, 9% to carbon monoxide and 52% to formaldehyde, gases that can cause respiratory problems and worsen asthma and cardiovascular disease.

“Even in Los Angeles, those pollutants don’t exceed air quality standards outdoors,” said Brett Singer, a staff scientist who studies indoor air quality at Berkeley Lab. “But inside homes they do.”
The findings have wide implications because half of California homes have gas burners and most of them do not use range hoods that capture fumes and vent them to the outside. About one-third of households nationwide use gas burners for cooking, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In all, the scientists estimate that as many as 12 million Californians are exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide above health standards as a result of cooking with gas burners. Nationally, there could be tens of millions more.
The concern over
stovetops may seem surprising because air pollution has typically been viewed as an outdoor problem -- something spewed out by smokestacks and exhaust pipes, said Jennifer Logue, a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and lead author of the study.

But cooking on a gas burner inside your home means burning fuel in a much more confined space, where the resulting pollutants can’t easily escape or dilute, particularly if there is no ventilation to the outside, she said.

Luckily, there are simple ways to limit your exposure. First, use a range hood. Even a moderately effective one will substantially cut concentrations of pollutants in your home, researchers said. Cooking on the back burners can help too, because they sit directly under the ventilation system.

“This is not meant to scare people away from cooking,” Logue said. “People are very used to cooking so they don't think about it. They don't use their range hood because they don't consider it a hazard. Our study really looked at that problem and how significant it is.”

Upcoming bike ride with CICLE: delicious Northridge Diners & Delis Ride


By Anna Chen, November 6, 2013
 Photo via CICLE Official Facebook
 Never too early to teach kids about proper biking etiquette!

Get ready to bike to some good eats with the upcoming Northridge Diners & Delis Ride! The free ride is set to take place Saturday, Nov. 16 and is sponsored by Metro, led by CICLE, and supported by Valley BikeryPedal through Northridge and Granada Hills to visit some of the area’s tastiest spots. Stops include The Original Weiler’s Northridge Delicatessen, Gayle’s Perks, Delicious Bakery, and A Sweet Design.

When: Saturday, November 16, 2013
Time: Meet at 10:30 a.m., the ride will leave promptly at 11 a.m.
Where: 17141 Nordhoff Street, Dearborn Park, Northridge, Los Angeles
Accessible via Metro Bus 166/364, 167 and 236/237

The Northridge Diners & Delis Ride is family-friendly, leisurely paced and will return to the starting point after the event. The ride is under 10 miles and will be led by trained Ride Leaders and volunteers. Prior to the ride, CICLE will address safe street riding and group ride etiquette to ensure smooth sailing.

What to bring: water, a snack, and a bicycle in good working order. This ride is FREE and open to everyone, but all participants should be able to ride a bike safely with the ability to brake, change gears, and balance while stopping and starting. All participants under 18 MUST wear a helmet and be escorted by a parent or guardian. Children under age 8 should be on a tag-a-long, bike trailer, tandem, or other safe child-carrying device to participate in the ride.

Decision Makers Question the Destiny of I-405 Toll Money


By Nick Gerda, November 5, 2013

A hotly debated effort to put toll lanes on the Interstate 405 freeway in North Orange County could be put on hold for the time being after a countywide highways committee raised questions Monday about whether the state government will end up diverting much of the toll cash to itself.

“We are being rushed into making a decision about [toll lanes] on the I-405 when we have absolutely no assurances from CalTrans about the governance of the I-405 or any other toll facility in the region,” wrote Orange County Transportation Authority Director Todd Spitzer in a letter to colleagues, referring to the state Department of Transportation.

“Some local elected officials believe that CalTrans and the State are designing a plan to take-over any [publicly] controlled toll agencies in the future,” he added.

OCTA staff are recommending toll lanes as part of the freeway’s $1 billion-plus widening project.
But at Monday’s meeting of the Regional Planning and Highways Committee, Spitzer successfully urged his colleagues to recommend that the full board hold off on endorsing toll lanes until the concerns are addressed.

“If this isn’t putting the cart before the horse, I don’t know what is,” Spitzer said, referring to unanswered questions about where the toll money would go and who would control the lanes’ policies.

“I want all those commitments, and I want them in writing.”

“This freeway belongs to Caltrans,” pointed out Director Gary Miller. “We still don’t know what Caltrans wants; we don’t know what they’re going to take.”

The committee voted 5-2 Monday to recommend that the full board hold back on supporting toll lanes and instead conduct more public outreach, clarify with state and federal officials who will control the toll lane revenues and put together a list of city projects that could be funded.

Directors Matthew Harper and Gary Miller, who criticized the toll lanes idea altogether, dissented. Director Shawn Nelson wasn’t present for the vote.

Under the panel's recommendation, OCTA would continue to officially endorse adding a single general lane with no tolls, known as Alternative 1.

Meanwhile, OCTA staff assured the committee that existing law already requires that the extra toll lane revenues — beyond paying off their construction and operational costs — be invested in the local communities around the freeway.

“It’s already in statute,” said OCTA General Counsel Ken Smart, pointing to Government Code 64112(f) and Streets and Highways Code 143.

Meanwhile, other officials are concerned that state lawmakers could later change those laws and redirect much of the money to help close the state’s budget hole.

As for the I-405 project, OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson pointed out that Caltrans will make the final decision on whether to pursue toll lanes.

“They are not bound to make the decision this board selects,” said Johnson.

But Caltrans isn’t likely to deviate from OCTA’s recommendation, he added, since OCTA has the “power of the purse” by being the agency that actually pays for the project.

At the same time, staff urged quick action on this issue, since changing paths later could push the start of construction past 2015 and cost an extra $40 million for each year of delays.

“As time goes by, time is money,” said Smart.

But committee members said they’d much rather get the support of local communities, even if it delays the project somewhat.

“Do we keep the trust of the people who voted for [Measure] M2 and knew what they wanted and knew what they were going to get?” asked Director Pat Bates, referring to the 0.5-percent sales tax for transportation upgrades. “We have not done a good job of bringing them along.”

Other directors said the cities have already started preparing to sue, which could push back construction even further.

Without a partnership of Caltrans, OCTA and the freeway-adjacent cities, Bates said, “we don’t have anything. We have years of litigation.”

OCTA needs to “build trust back into the process,” she added.

Other OCTA board members continue to question the very idea of toll lanes, which are sparking an outcry from residents near the freeway and their elected representatives.

They've taken aim at a major argument for the toll lanes: a federal law that requires California’s carpool lanes to operate at 45 miles per hour 90 percent of the time.

Miller pointed out that the law, MAP-21, expires next year.

“Why are we redoing our whole system for a legislative program that’s going away?” he asked.

Caltrans officials, meanwhile, say they expect the law to be renewed without any major changes.
And OCTA officials say their agency could lose about $140 million per year in federal funding if they don't comply.

Meanwhile, Caltrans says a meeting of the minds isn’t too far away.

“We aren’t very far apart” on agreeing, Caltrans District 12 Director Ryan Chamberlain said of his agency and OCTA.

As for the amount of toll revenues, staff warned that allowing carpools of two or more people into the toll lanes, as some directors are seeking, would actually leave no leftover money for transportation improvements in neighboring cities.

“You can’t have a ‘two-plus’ toll policy and excess revenues,” said Johnson.

In the backdrop of the debate, officials said Caltrans is short on money for maintaining freeways.
Caltrans is “way in the hole on maintenance,” said Spitzer.

The state agency says it doesn’t even have money to maintain the toll roads it owns in South Orange County, according to Bates.

Others said they’re disappointed at “misinformation” being spread against the toll effort.

“I am concerned about the demagoguing of this issue,” said Director Jeff Lalloway, pointing to what he said were inaccurate claims that toll booths would be set up on the county line near Seal Beach.
“I do believe that Alternative 3 is the right policy for OCTA,” he added, referring to the toll lanes proposal.

At the same time, Lalloway said he doesn’t want to “cram [the project] down the throats” of nearby communities, which include parts of Seal Beach, Rossmoor, Los Alamitos, Garden Grove, Westminster, Huntington Beach, Midway City, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.

The government operates “with the consent of the governed, and I think we need to get the consent of the corridor cities,” said Lalloway. “This is a regional issue, but at the same time that part of our region disagrees with this fairly strongly.”

“It’s necessary to have them buy into this,” he said.

The highways committee includes eight of the 17 OCTA board members. The full board is set to vote later this week on whether to take up the committee's recommendation to hold off endorsing the toll lanes.

That board meeting starts Friday at 9 a.m. at OCTA headquarters in Orange.

Amtrak to provide service for travelers affected by upcoming rail shut down


November 5, 2013

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Amtrak announced Tuesday it will provide bus service to passengers between San Diego and Irvine over the weekend of Nov. 16-17, when the track will be shut down in Camp Pendleton.

North County Transit District officials said Monday that the rail disruption is scheduled to accommodate construction work at the Santa Margarita Bridge.

The shutdown will impact the NCTD's Coaster, Amtrak, Metrolink and freight trains that Saturday and Sunday.

People who normally ride the Coaster on weekends are urged to ride the Breeze Route 101 bus and access Metropolitan Transit System connections, according to the NCTD.

Amtrak will offer bus service in San Diego instead of its Pacific Surfliner trains, agency officials said.

The rail line is scheduled to reopen in time for the morning commute the following Monday.

Metro Art Moves: Fall Art Tour Nov. 7


By Heidi Zeller, November 5, 2013


On Thursday Metro continues its free art tours, Metro Art Moves. The tours pair local artists with docent guides, who share stories about the artworks and lead activities to heighten tour-goer engagement, demystifying the Metro system along the way.

Meet promptly at 5:30 p.m. at the Union Station information kiosk, just inside the Alameda Street entrance.

The guided, artist-led tour will lead to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which offers free admission on Thursday evenings.

Want to grab a snack before Metro Art Moves, or feeling a little hungry afterward? Show your TAP card and take advantage of special Metro Destination Discounts at locations near the tour route:

Union Station
Traxx Restaurant at Union Station

7thStreet/Metro Center Station
• Casey’s Irish Pub
• Boba 7
• Qdoba
• Tossed 

Pershing Square Station
NoĆ© Restaurant & Bar at the Omni Hotel

Check out MOCA’s new permanent collection on view starting Oct. 5 and receive a 2-for-1 discount when you show your valid TAP card at the box office.

General Information

Fall tours take place on the first Thursday of October and November from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Tours begin at Union Station and end just north of Pershing Square Station at MOCA.
Tours have limited capacity.

The tours are approximately 90% walking; there are elevators and escalators in all of the stations.
Restrooms are available at Union Station and at MOCA.

Metro Art Moves Tours

Metro Art Moves tours are designed to attract new riders through arts-based transit experiences. The tours highlight Metro’s diverse collection of artworks, heighten the passenger experience in fun and engaging ways to boost public perceptions about transit, promote rider etiquette and offer opportunities for discovery.

Metro Art Program

Metro Art implements the agency’s percent for art program, manages the care and maintenance of the system’s existing artworks and directs a volunteer docent council. From rail and bus stations to construction fences and poetry cards, art creates a sense of place and engages transit riders.
Since 1989, Metro has commissioned artists to incorporate artworks into a wide array of transportation projects throughout Los Angeles County. The agency has received numerous design and artistic excellence awards, and is renowned for its approaches to integrating art into the transit experience, and for engaging artists at all levels of their careers.

Docent-guided tours are offered the first Saturday and Sunday of every month. Tours for groups of fifteen or more are also available by special arrangement. For more information visit metro.net/art and click on Art Tours or call (213) 922-4ART.

Air pollution death rate up in half of boroughs


By Pippa Crerar, November 6, 2013

 More deaths: London is worst in the UK for air pollution

The death rate as a result of air pollution has got worse in almost half of London boroughs, Department of Health figures have shown.

The West London borough of Hillingdon topped the national ‘league of shame’ for the biggest increase in deaths, up to 6.86 per cent.

The City of London remained the worst local authority area in the country with 8.94 per cent of total deaths attributable to dangerous airborne gases, although it actually registered a small improvement.
It was followed by the central London boroughs of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

According to the figures, which are for 2011, death rates worsened in 15 of 33 boroughs across the capital, making air quality in London the worst in the UK and among the worst in Europe.

More than 4,000 Londoners are thought to die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to airborne pollution.

Those living in inner-city areas breathe in the most polluted air, with high levels of fine particulate matter of a concentration level known as PM2.5.

Overall the UK showed a very slight improvement, meaning that pressure will grow on Mayor Boris Johnson to do more to tackle air pollution in London.

Green peer Baroness Jenny Jones said: “It is extremely disappointing that so many Londoners are being exposed to even higher levels of pollution from vehicles.

“The Mayor tells us he is acting to reduce pollution, but whatever he is doing, it’s clearly not enough. He must act now to bring effective measures to protect Londoners from excessive, dangerous and illegal levels of vehicular pollution”.

But a spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “Since the Mayor took office emissions of oxides of nitrogen are down by an estimated 20 per cent.

“That is because of an ambitious package of measures including building Europe’s largest fleet of low emission hybrid buses, retiring the oldest taxis and introducing tighter emission standards for lorries and vans. Clearly there is still more to do.”

Airborne pollution in the form of fine particulate matter emanates mostly from combustion sources, including transport, domestic and industrial sources, and aggravates respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

Research shows these particles are likely to be inhaled deep into the respiratory tract and have a disproportionate impact on children due to their smaller lung capacity.

Exit interview with Port of L.A.'s executive director


By Mark Lacter, November 5, 2013

This is the last week on the job for Geraldine Knatz, who was brought on in 2006 by former Mayor Villaraigosa as the first woman executive director of the Port of Los Angeles - and who was not asked back by Mayor Garcetti. (She'll be staying on in a transitional capacity through next January, working with interim executive director Gary Lee Moore.) The mayor's office has been vague about its decision, though folks who follow the port were not surprised. Container traffic has been down so far this year, but more than that Knatz had a sometimes rocky relationship with port tenants, as I posted in early October. That's not ideal considering how Panama, Mexico, Canada, and Long Beach all want a piece of L.A.'s business. "We don't have the leverage we used to," she acknowledges. Even so, Knatz made huge strides in reducing truck emissions, thanks to implementation of the clean air program, and has overseen major investments in capital improvements involving cargo terminals and related infrastructure. Prior to coming to Los Angeles, Knatz, who is 62, was managing director at the Port of Long Beach. She's held positions at the two facilities for most of her career. This week, I sat down with Knatz at her office in San Pedro to discuss her tenure (interview is edited for clarity).

So this is your last week...

My last board meeting is on Thursday. But I don't officially retire until Jan. 31.

It's been announced as a retirement. Are you really retiring or are you going to do something else?

Yes, I am actually retiring. But I had already made plans to resume teaching at USC in the civil engineering school. I have a file folder over there from everybody who's emailed me and wants me to be on this board, do that thing, other academic appointments. I've also had people coming at me with full-time jobs right now, but I don't want to work full time.

Are you going to take it easy for a while?

(Laughs) No, I'm going to jump right into other things. For eight years I've gotten up at 4:45 and I get here by 6. I like getting in here early because you can get through a lot of work. So I'm looking forward to sleeping late - until about 6.

What are the things you're most proud of?

I think the fact that we were able to clean up the port and turn our capital program back on. When I came over here from Long Beach - and I don't remember the specifics of my interview with the board members - but basically it was "We have to get rid of the dirty old trucks" and the board president told me years later that as soon as I said those words he was sold. To me the most significant thing is that the Wilmington air station now doesn't show any [particulates exceeding] the national ambient air quality standards. That's monumental.

Everybody's heard about how the expansion of the Panama Canal represents a threat to the L.A.-Long Beach port complex. As you leave, how do things look?

I look at the competition on three fronts: Panama, Mexico - our largest customer here is building a $1-billion terminal in Mexico - and then Canada. We haven't lost services to Canada, but Long Beach has.

Tell me about the competition between L.A. and Long Beach.

I've been here for a long time and it's never been this cutthroat. There's no organic growth now. So the carriers are trying to achieve economies of scale by pooling their assets, getting rid of some ships, and filling up the remaining ships. The terminals that those ships call can make or break a port.

More consolidation, so more pressure to be included in their plans.

Exactly. If they're using five terminals in L.A. and Long Beach, they're going to say, "Okay, which terminal is the most efficient, provides the best turn time?" So there could be some winners and losers in the future. In some sense, I've been playing defense to make sure none of [our tenants leave]. It's a battle. You constantly have to be on your toes. You have to be watching everything. Historically, we would do business with smaller companies. They may have been family-owned businesses, maybe just operating on the West Coast. Now, we're doing business with multi-national companies, and decisions are being made globally about where the ships are going. So we don't have the leverage we used to before.

This is still very much a guy industry. Have you found yourself needing to show them who was in charge?

I'm pretty much a nose-to-the-grindstone person. In all my years at Long Beach, I was known for getting things done. And so when you deliver for people, I think they're pleased about that. I noticed in your blog that you had made a comment about how everybody hates me. Where did that come from? It's true that I've probably made some enemies down here. We're a landlord. We have 300 tenants. Let's put it this way: I wasn't going to let anybody take advantage of the city. So if people don't pay, we're going to take action. If people don't do the right thing, we're going to take action. And I wasn't shy about bringing those things to our board. But all in all, I think I've been pretty fair.

So you and the mayor: Have you gotten along with him in the past?

Oh yeah. He was always very supportive of the port.

Why was the decision made to call it a day?

I felt a duty to stay on at least another year because of the upcoming labor negotiations. It's a very critical year. But as soon as I got an indication that they wanted to make a change, I was cool about retiring.
Are you pretty comfortable about leaving?

I worked [at the Port of L.A.] longer than I thought I was going to. I thought I would be here five years. The average tenure of a port director is six and a half years, and on the West Coast I'm the old timer at eight years. The last Long Beach guy was there eight months.

You've spent pretty much your entire career at the two ports. Did it just work out that way or did you have a real preference to be here?

This is the most exciting place in L.A. I swear. You never get bored. It's constantly changing. It's just something that gets in your blood.

Cacciotti retains South Pasadena council seat; Putnam locked in tight race but Mahmud overtakes him


By Zen Vuong, November 5, 2013

SOUTH PASADENA - Incumbent City Councilman Michael Cacciotti and newcomer Diana Mahmud will serve on the city council for the next four years.

While the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder counted the votes, Mayor Philip Putnam was locked in a tight race with Mahmud all night. Challenger Alan Reynolds trailed the field of four candidates seeking two seats.

“I wish to thank the residents of South Pasadena,” said Mahmud, 60. “To those that voted for me, of course I’m very grateful. For those that didn’t, thank you for participating in the election process.”
Cacciotti had almost 38 percent of the votes, Mahmud had nearly 28 percent, Putnam had 25 and Reynolds had 9.

Mahmud said she looks forward to serving all the residents of South Pasadena and celebrated the win with Champagne and some friends in a home. She was especially happy that this will be the second time in South Pasadena’s 125 years of history that the small town will have two women serving on the City Council.

Cacciotti, 54, said he was “cautiously optimistic” but not “overly confident” during the race even though numbers showed he had a strong lead throughout the race.

Providing basic municipal services is on the top of Cacciotti’s priority list, he said. He will also focus on basic infrastructure projects such as water, sewer and streets. Additionally, he would like to work on strategic planning for the future to address environmental concerns.

Cacciotti said he would push for cleaner vehicles, solar projects and bicycle projects along the Arroyo Seco.

Putnam, who declined to reveal his age, said he was proud of his “strong, clean campaign” but he wasn’t sure what his main focus should’ve been. Voter registration records indicate Putnam is 59.

“There are so many issues in local politics especially,” he said. “People have issues that are important to them and you never know what that is. In this town, it could be the 710 to water rates to downtown to something else. You just never know.”

If re-elected, Putnam said he would have continued to battle some of the same issues: fiscal responsibility, aging infrastructure and the proposed extension of the 710 Freeway. But he would have added another item to his agenda: the city permitting process.

“If someone wants to build a home or make minor home improvements, it seems that they have a lot of red tape,” Putnam said. “You have to go through too many different areas to comprehend for the average homeowners. In many cases, they have to hire expensive experts just to comply with some of our regulatory approvals.”

Mahmud said voters seemed to cling to the idea that she would have more time for the big demands of the City Council because she is a retired public works lawyer. She would carefully study council packets and contracts, she said.

Additionally, Mahmud said infrastructure is a huge issue in South Pasadena.

“I knew it was an issue when I started campaigning, but as I was walking on the sidewalks and seeing the street, I became more fully aware of just how distressed our infrastructure is in many if not all of the areas of town.”

Mahmud promised to figure out how to accelerate the rate of capital improvements because it doesn’t make sense to have reserves equal to about 55 percent of the general fund. The reserves earn 0.5 percent annual interest, and the cost of street repairs increase at a greater rate year after year.

Tuesday was Reynolds’ 29th birthday, and prior to election day, he told this newspaper it would have been a great birthday present to be so young and win a City Council seat.

In the race for city treasurer, Gary Pia ran unopposed, as did Evelyn Zneimer in seeking election as city clerk.

Mahmud said she was frustrated with the County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder because it was slow to report South Pasadena results, especially when compared to other cities.

No Charges for Driver Who Was “Too Short” to See the Pedestrian He Killed


By Angie Schmitt, November 6, 2013

They say if you want to kill someone in America, do it in a car. You’ll never get charged.

And it’s mostly true. Lenient laws and a culture of tolerance for traffic violence means that unless you were intoxicated when the crash occurred, the official word is most likely “accidents happen.” Even an investigation into a collision that caused life-threatening injuries might be too much to ask in a lot of jurisdictions. Streetsblog recently found that fewer than 1 percent of drivers who kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists in New York City are ticketed for careless driving, much less charged with a crime.

"Too short" to see in front of your vehicle is a valid excuse for killing someone in Fresno, California.

Today we have a great example of what passes for an acceptable excuse for killing someone with your car in America. James Sinclair at Network blog Stop and Move reports a Fresno commercial driver was spared charges after killing a pedestrian in part because he was “too short” to see what was in front of him:
Once upon a time, “I didn’t see him” was not an excuse. The rule was, if you hit something or someone, you were “driving too fast for the conditions,” or “not exercising due caution.” Most cops, it seems, have forgotten the rule, and take “I didn’t see him!” as a perfectly valid excuse. Fresno PD seems to have recently expanded that leniency in the death of a pedestrian this week in Fresno.
According to the Fresno Bee: “Officers also determined it would have been impossible for the driver to see the pedestrian because of the driver’s short stature and seating position. The driver faces no charges.” Says Sinclair:
Does the driver not deserve blame for failing to adjust their seat properly? Perhaps an inquiry as to why someone who can’t see the road is driving in the first place? Of course not. It’s not their fault they were dealt a short deck, and driving is a right after all.
Did I mention the driver was maneuvering a FedEx big rig? I guess being a commercial driver of an enormous truck does not obligate one to be able to see the road … or feel a collision.

If you can run someone over in downtown Fresno, and not even notice, something is wrong. The driver failed in adapting to an urban environment. FedEx failed in assigning this person to a large truck, and the state licensing system failed in giving them a commercial license without restrictions.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports the Maryland State Highway Association isn’t too interested in the concerns of the state’s pedestrians. Austin Contrarian says the city’s overly complex zoning code is a reflection of the lack of consensus about what type of development is best. And the Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog explains why DART has decided to stop charging for parking at its park-and-ride stations.