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 8, 2013

Port of Oakland goes electric to reduce diesel pollution


By Matthew Artz, November 8, 2013

OAKLAND -- The Port of Oakland celebrated a clean air milestone Friday with the completion of a power system that will allow vessels docked at berths to power up on electricity instead of diesel fuel.

The $70 million project is expected to eliminate 11 tons of diesel particulate and further improve air quality in West Oakland where prior studies have shown higher-than-average levels of asthma and cancer.

"This is not only a big step against greenhouse emissions and global warming ... this is a big step for a lot of little people," Mayor Jean Quan said. "The children in West Oakland are going to be able to breathe cleaner and fresher air."

The massive container vessels that call on California ports burn diesel to maintain power while docked. The switch to electrical power was ordered several years ago by state air quality regulators.

Beginning in January, at least 50 percent of ships calling at California ports must shut down their engines and plug into the electrical grid while docked. The requirement jumps to 80 percent of port calls by 2020.

Oakland's port has been under extra scrutiny to reduce emissions both from ships and trucks that have spewed pollution into nearby neighborhoods.

Five years ago, the port committed to reducing diesel particulate emissions by 85 percent from 2005 levels. A recently concluded study found that emissions in 2012 had already been reduced 70 percent.
West Oakland residents who have fought for cleaner emissions said they supported the electricity project but were still concerned about pollution generated by the port.

"It could be a lot cleaner," said former Port Commissioner Margaret Gordon, who co-founded the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. "What we're trying to get to is zero emissions."

 Oakland is the state's first port to complete its electricity project, thanks in part to grants from numerous agencies including the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

What does it take to map an earthquake fault?


By Sanden Totten, November 7, 2013



John Parrish

 State Geologist John Parrish shows off a map of California with 15,000 faults on it. He says there are likely many more faults that have not yet been discovered.


How do you map something you can't see?

That's the question geologists face as they try to pin-point the exact location of a major earthquake fault in Hollywood.

The so-called Hollywood Fault runs under the neighborhood, and while traces of it can be seen in the landscape, the rift itself is hidden deep beneath the ground.

It's at the center of a fight between a developer, Millennium Partners, and local residents who claim a pair of planned skyscrapers would sit directly atop the fault.

The California Geological Survey is working to map this hazard for the state and set up a buffer known as an Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone around it.

Buildings torn in two

Alquist-Priolo refers to a law passed in 1972 in response to the deadly 6.6 Sylmar Earthquake the year before.

That temblor killed 65 people, injured hundreds more and caused $500 million in damages.
Some of the destruction stemmed from what's known as surface faulting. It's when a fault splits the ground above it creating an open seam in the land.

Buildings and roads sitting on a fault can be torn in two when this happens, and some were during the '71 Sylmar quake.

The Alquist-Priolo Act was drawn up by legislators Alfred E. Alquist and Paul V. Priolo to help make new construction safer by barring developers from building on top of any active faults.

Full of faults

Before the state can declare where developers can and cannot build, they need to know where the most dangerous faults are.

The problem is that California is full of faults.

John Parrish is head of the California Geological Survey. He says his office knows of at least 15,000 faults snaking across the state.

"We consider all the faults dangerous," Parrish said. "But if we said you can't build near or on any fault that simply would stop California's economy."

For that reason, the Alquist-Priolo Act focuses on "active" faults, ones that shook sometime in the last 11,000 years. Geologists believe they are most at risk for producing another quake.

Setting up a buffer zone

Once CGS identifies one of these faults, they need to map it and create a 500 foot buffer zone around it. This is the Alquist-Priolo, or AP Zone.

Any developer looking to build in that zone must first dig a trench or bore holes in the ground to pin-point the exact location of the fracture and to make sure they aren't about to build right on top of it.

Parrish says they're supposed to set back at least 50 feet from the fault if they find one.
Since the law passed, CGS has created 554 of these AP Zone fault maps.

They have around 300 left to complete. But due to budget cuts, the agency is currently only mapping one — the one in Hollywood.

Searching for scarps

USC earth science Professor James Dolan knows that fault well. He created academic maps of the fault in the 1990s. And he knows the process isn't easy.

"The first step is to just look in great detail at the contours of the landscape," Dolan said.

Faults that rupture to the surface often thrust one side of land over the other creating hills known as scarps. One is still visible from the last time the Hollywood Fault ruptured  7,000 years ago. Look for it north of Hollywood Boulevard at Vine Street.

Down to 50 feet

For the official state map, CGS is looking at academic maps like the one James Dolan created, but since the agency’s findings will carry legal weight, it is doing additional research as well.

This includes looking at old arial photographs showing the landscape, examining construction records and studying borehole samples to search for the fault, says CGS geologist Tim McCrink.
With this kind of data, his team can usually trace a fault to about 50 feet of its exact location, close enough to set up an AP zone.

Then, any developers interested in the area have to do a detailed geological dig to make sure they aren't about to build right on top the fault, a process that can cost them up to $100,000.

"We don't take that lightly," McCrink said. "We don't want to impose those kinds of costs on somebody unnecessarily."

Skyscrapers on hold

CGS' Tim McCrink says a preliminary map of the new Hollywood fault zone should be ready by January next year. The final map likely won’t come out until the summer.
It might be much longer before the Millennium Partners dig on their property to see if the fault runs underfoot.

In a statement, spokesman Brian Lewis said the developers won’t start a geologic investigation until two lawsuits filed by opponents of the project are settled, which could take more than a year.
Until then, he said, the skyscrapers are on hold.

Will Self: How to let yourself become part of LA’s autopia

 In all civilised cultures there are patterns of social conformity that act to align the wayward individual with her conformist fellows as invisibly but irresistibly as magnetic waves arrange iron filings around a lodestone. In Los Angeles, not to drive is an aberration on a par with being . . . well, homeless.


By Will Self, November 7, 2013

New Statesman

Traffic in downtown Los Angeles.

People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles,” or so the opening line of Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero would have it. For myself, I’ve never seen the least evidence for this, any more than I have that happy families are all alike. Everywhere I’ve ever driven in LA, its inhabitants have cheerfully braided me into their steely weave until I too have merged with their allconsuming automotive abandon.

This time, arriving from Dallas, I was offered for $40 extra per day a retro-styled Dodge Challenger in DayGlo orange with a black stripe running from hood to trunk. This is a reincarnation of the humpbacked shark of a car synonymous with those Seventies belted-cardie-wearers (and sometime crime-fighters), Starsky and Hutch. Without any ado I heaved my plastic, roared off the lot on to Airport Boulevard and passed the Airport Endoscopy Centre – a timely reminder of what a pain in the ass 21st-century air travel can be.

In all civilised cultures there are patterns of social conformity that act to align the wayward individual with her conformist fellows as invisibly but irresistibly as magnetic waves arrange iron filings around a lodestone. In Los Angeles, not to drive is an aberration on a par with being . . . well, homeless. Heading north on La Cienega I passed CAR CASH: Borrow Against Your Car, and pondered the ghastly predicament of those who had sub-prime car loans; at best, driving a car in a big city is a ceaseless calibration of time, speed, distance and money, by which the human psyche is transmogrified into a hideous chimera, part satnav, part spreadsheet. But to have the added anxiety that the rubber matting might be pulled from beneath your feet . . . well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Coming down off Baldwin Hills, with their dipping-prehistoric-bird oil pumps, I passed under the Metro Expo Line and fell to considering the bizarre history of LA transportation. Even now, in 2013, the light railway line from downtown to Santa Monica, some 20 miles distant, is only just about to reach the coast, joining together by public transport two urban centres that became incorporated into greater LA decades ago. True, there was once an extensive streetcar network that covered the entire LA basin, but by the early Twenties – around the same time car ownership reached one per head of the population – the steel tracks began to be pulled up to make way for more tyre ones.

This Eleatic paradox lies at the very core of LA’s polymorphously perverse being: the light railway line halving the distance to Santa Monica and then halving it again and so never arriving, while the Streamline Moderne skyscrapers, chelonian under their copper shells, win the race in a few short years. Looking at photographs of LA in the Twenties, I’m always struck by this technological discontinuity: the buildings so sleekly speedy, while the cars retain the flimsily foursquare aspect of horseless buggies. Narrowly avoided by the snout of my Challenger, a cyclist huffing along beside the six lanes of spluttering traffic is just such an anachronism. Reyner Banham, in The Architecture of Four Ecologies, his Starsky & Hutch-era survey of Los Angeles, coined the term “autopia” to describe the city’s vast concrete graticule of freeways and boulevards.

In European cities, despite the botched bits of Le Corbusier that have been bunged down on them, car transport remains quite at variance with the built environment: the Arc de Triomphe is inexorably eroded by the circulation of Citroëns, but in LA the car is the built environment; traffic reports have the epochal character of earthquake warnings and by night the city’s very fabric ripples in the convection of its own exhaust fumes, so that merging with the freeway one is flipped end over end, a satellite orbiting the daemonic earth.

I concede, when it came to it I probably wouldn’t last five minutes but I still have a childlike passion for Los Angeles, and in particular for its car culture. To be in a place where people say porte cochère with no hint of affectation (indeed, “porte cochère” is about the only thing they say unaffectedly) is some kind of strange liberation for me. Everywhere else I drive the traffic jam presents itself as a vicious instantiation of the human predicament under late capitalism, but in LA it’s just the stuff of a very ordinary workaday madness.

Cyber Security 101 for Transit Agencies

Aggressive cyber attacks mean transit agencies need to protect themselves from harm and employee error.

By John Moore, November 8, 2013

 An industrial security device (like the one shown above with power supply and Ethernet switch) is better suited for industrial installations, such as trackside locations.



The National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies recommend a defense-in-depth strategy for cyber security. This layered approach makes it more likely that an attack will be detected and blocked. 

With all the news of aggressive attacks on business and critical infrastructure networks in the U.S., it’s clear we’re involved in an active cy
ber war against enemies that attack from anywhere at any time. These attacks occur for many reasons – theft of intellectual property, to gain competitive advantage, for political motives and hacktivism – just to name a few.

Until recently, there was no standard recommended practice or guideline available for the transit agency ready for “Cyber Security 101” and addressed their particular needs. A guideline is available now along with security professionals and security tools from suppliers who understand the needs of the transit industry.

The APTA Controls and Communication Cyber Security Working Group developed recommended practices to help you walk up the learning curve. An APTA standard titled “Securing Control and Communications Systems in Transit Environments Part 1 and Part 2” offers simple, effective guidance to those who need it. These guidelines explain the processes, practices and methods, and suggest appliances recommended for cyber security at an easy-to-comprehend level. Drawing on many existing industry standards for cyber security, the APTA Recommended Practice for Cyber Security gives current, pertinent and thorough guidance with references to other documents.


IT Enterprise versus Control and Communications

Ask a transit agency executive what security measures their system has in place and a typical response might be, “Oh yes, our IT department handles that and we all use passwords.” The need for education starts here because this is not an effective answer, nor is it a wise way to protect an agency.
There are many differences between IT and operations control and communications. According to the guideline, the business system is most concerned about keeping information confidential while knowing when it obtains the data and that it’s correct and complete. Confidentiality and integrity are both of high importance from the business IT priority, while availability is of lower importance. The control system needs information available, so integrity and availability are important, but confidentiality may be least important.

Without going into extreme detail describing control and communication systems, including the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, there are major differences between IT enterprise systems and control and communications systems. It’s necessary to approach cyber security with these differences in mind. In addition, bear in mind that transit systems differ from a manufacturing site because they’re spread out over distance, numerous communications are required and high voltage power is needed while many people have access to the property.


So What Is Cyber Security?

The APTA Recommended Practice states “Cyber security…is defined as the means to reduce the likelihood of success and severity of impact of a cyber-attack against transportation sector control systems through risk-mitigation activities.” Transit agencies must foster a cyber-security culture similar to the developed safety culture, which changed the ways things are done. Geopolitical events are a major concern, but many times accidental breaches occur when the wrong person is given access to a system; people are careless about what they are doing; or outsiders gain access via a virus, malware or a phishing-type attack. The bottom line is that agencies must take the necessary proactive steps to protect their systems.

An agency must protect all its assets, particularly whatever it defines as the most valuable and important assets. The National Security Agency (NSA) applied the strategy of layering defenses – known as defense-in-depth – to information security and assurance. The strategy has become an adopted recommended practice of the Department of Homeland Security’s Control System Security Program (DHS-CSSP). Defense-in-depth increases the time and number of exploits it would take for would-be attackers or errant employees to successfully compromise a transit system. Defense-in-depth also increases the likelihood of detecting and blocking attacks; allows security policies and procedures to better align with agency organizational structure; and directly supports the identification and implementation of cyber-security risk zones.

Its recommended agencies combine defense-in-depth with detection-in-depth, a compliance program and audit program to ensure all parts of the layered defense are in place, configured properly and working. Transit agencies must also put certain security controls found in the recommended practice in place. Security controls are the management, operational and technical safeguards or countermeasures prescribed for an industrial control system to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the system and its information.

Processes include the human element. Consider enlisting the help of certified information systems security professionals (CISSP). CISSPs are trained and certified by the independent, Department of Defense-approved International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium or (ISC2). CISSPs are also ANSI-accredited, and one who is knowledgeable in controls can they are specially trained to help you set up an effective system. Perhaps it is time to consider either hiring one of these trained professionals for your staff or, at a minimum, to support in-depth training for someone on your staff to better understand security.



Technology is an ever-changing part of the security picture. Proper tools are industrial grade and not your average devices from the local office supply store. Today’s industrial devices can provide effective defenses around critical areas and incorporate features that separate the more robust devices from lesser appliances.

Look for a stateful firewall that keeps track of the state of network connections, such as transmission control protocol (TCP) streams and user datagram protocol (UDP) communication traveling across it. The firewall is programmed to distinguish legitimate packets for different types of connections. The stateful firewall will only allow packets matching a known active connection; others will be rejected. Compare this to a stateless firewall, which can’t distinguish known and legitimate traffic from the “spoof” or imposter attacks.

Virtual private network (VPN) will allow a secure connection to and from the outside world by authenticating users and encrypting data. This is especially valuable for accessing remote support from outside vendors. We all know the consequences of not being able to get support for technical issues.

Virtual local area networks (VLANS) are traffic management tools which are over-relied on for security, but easily faked out or overridden.

System log (Syslog) is an important security auditing standard that logs computer messages. It permits separation of the software generating messages from the system storing them and the software reporting and analyzing. It takes a cyber-security culture willing to look at logs and analyze the findings. An emerging area of managed security services is growing, and these new companies — called managed security service providers — attempt to apply analytics techniques to detect patterns and to alert customers of problems.

Routers are a network handling message transfers between devices. Many robust industrial routers are available and recommended for trackside or other industrial deployment. An agency shouldn’t feel pressured to only use the typical enterprise IT or corporate router when other, more appropriate devices exist.

Other important industrial-grade features include wide temperature specs, DC power, resistance to electrical noise, RF, EMI, shock and vibration resistance, etc. All of these attributes will ensure the device will last a long time and can be deployed in areas outside the computer room. Redundant power should be considered for important security appliances. Copper and fiber variants should be available for devices.

Thorough cyber security will not happen at transit agencies unless top management understands requirements and then creates the right culture to ensure proper deployment. Recommended practices with guidelines exist to walk agencies through the learning curve. Trained professionals, tools and know-how are available to those who seek it. Transit agencies would do well to protect themselves from cyber-attacks and the industry has what it takes to make that happen.

U.N. climate talks will be all about the Benjamins


By John Upton, November 8, 2013

 dollars and euros

To slow climate change and protect the world’s vulnerable poor from the effects of global warming, the West is going to have to give developing nations a hand. And that hand will need to come in the form of cold, hard cash.

Unfortunately, not a lot of that is on offer right now. That fact will take center stage during international climate talks in Poland over the next two weeks.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change’s next Conference of the Parties, commonly known as a COP, begins Monday in WarsawOfficials representing nearly 200 countries will bicker and beg as they try to move forward in the quest for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. That deal was struck way back in 1997. The U.S. never ratified it, Canada ultimately walked away from it, and the agreement expired last year. It’s been sticky-taped together through amendments to extend its life until a new agreement can be reached.

During COP talks in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, delegates struck a deal to strike a deal: They agreed to finalize an agreement by 2015 to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The new agreement would cap warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 Fahrenheit) and begin to take force in 2020 — and that’s under a best-case scenario. Which is also a horrible-case scenario, given that the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise every year.

The issue of equity is always one of the biggest sticking points in U.N. climate talks. How much should rich countries sacrifice and how much should developing countries sacrifice as they try to curb emissions together? It was during the talks in Durban that a solution to this conundrum was concocted: Rich countries would provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to the warming world.

Guess how that’s going.

So far, the Green Climate Fund is nearly as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard: It has received $7.5 million to spread around to the entire developing world. Not only that, but some developed countries are starting to hem and haw about whether they should even contribute to the fund. At a conference held ahead of the Warsaw talks, a British representative suggested that businesses could be more involved and that the agreement could be more of a private-public-partnership type thing, as Responding to Climate Change reports
“I believe we need a new business partnership to tackle climate change, that does so with its eyes wide open, mindful of the costs and careful to catch the opportunities,” [said Greg Barker, minister of state for energy and climate change in the U.K.].
“We can only decarbonise the economy if business comes with us, as an active participant, and at least cost for consumers.”

But others expressed doubt that this system was an adequate response to the urgency of climate change, and urged the UN to push for a more top-down approach in order to mobilise the level of action needed.
The Green Climate Fund is a really big deal for the developing world. If it slumps, so too could hopes of worldwide cooperation on climate change.

($100 billion a year sounds like a lot of money, but compare that with the $500 billion a year that the world’s richest countries are spending on fossil fuel subsidies every year.)

India is a developing country that recently overtook Russia to become the world’s fourth-largest climate polluter — after China, the U.S., and the European Union. Just ask that country how cooperative it will be in curbing emissions from its fast-growing economy if the climate fund remains unfunded. Of course, you can’t ask an entire nation a question — let alone one that is home to 1.2 billion people speaking a cacophony of languages. But The Hindu newspaper found the right Indian to ask. Here’s what the country’s environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, hopes to see at the Warsaw meetings:
The most important milestone would be climate finance and capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which has not happened at all. Developed countries that made a commitment earlier have now started talking of alternative sources of funding. Whereas in our view these are commitments of the parties to the COP. While others and alternate sources need not be excluded, I think the fundamental commitment is the provision of finance.
In other words, “show us the money.” It’s a call that many developing countries are making as we head into next week’s talks.

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports on another financial issue that will be front and center at the conference:
Developing countries and climate experts are calling for U.N. climate talks, which begin in Warsaw on Monday, to set up an international mechanism to deal with losses and damage linked to climate change, which a new report says are already harming vulnerable people.

The question of whether to establish a new global body was controversial at last year’s negotiations in Doha, with richer nations fearing it could be used to make them pay compensation for the consequences of their planet-warming emissions to poorer countries suffering the worst impacts of more extreme weather and rising seas.

After fierce last-minute wrangling, it was agreed the upcoming 2013 climate conference in Poland would “establish … institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism … to address loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”.

Quamrul Chowdhury, a lead negotiator for the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), told Thomson Reuters Foundation creating a mechanism is of “paramount importance” at the Nov. 11-22 Warsaw talks.
The world’s poor countries couldn’t be more clear: Rich countries started this problem, they say, and rich countries can best afford to fix it. It’s time to cough up the money. The next two weeks should provide a hint as to whether that is ever likely to happen.

Chris Christie is no moderate on the environment


By Ben Adler, November 7, 2013

 Chris Christie

You’ve read about Chris Christie, subject of two cover profiles in Time magazine this year — and there will be lots more media fawning now that he’s been reelected as governor of New Jersey and positioned himself as a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination. He’s a bold truth-teller confronting the flat-earthers among his fellow Republicans, goes the narrative, a moderate pragmatist who puts getting things done above partisanship or ideology, especially when dealing with Hurricane Sandy.

Well, none of that is true when it comes to the environment.

Meet the other Chris Christie, right-wing reactionary. This Chris Christie has eviscerated protections for clean water, taken rule-making authority away from nonpartisan civil servants and handed it to his political appointees, and refused to link Sandy to climate change.

“Christie on a lot of environment issues will step right in line with the Tea Party and the Koch brothers,” says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Like all movement fiscal conservatives, Christie has a zeal for deregulation of polluting industries. Upon entering office, he used executive orders to freeze and then reject environmental regulations that the state bureaucracy was in the process of making, such as a limit on the amount of chlorine in drinking water. Christie has gone on to further deregulate the chemical industry. And he vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would have banned dumping of fracking waste fluids in the state.
In August, he vetoed a bill to allow logging on New Jersey’s public lands — but only because he said it did not go far enough in giving the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) authority to permit logging.

In 2012, Christie gave the DEP commissioner the authority to waive almost any rule if it conflicts with granting a permit needed by another agency or private interest. In other words, if an environmental rule will cost a developer too much money, or prevent the Department of Transportation from building a highway through a sensitive wetland, DEP Commissioner Robert Martin can overrule it.

This kind of waiver authority is a national conservative fixation. “It comes out of ALEC [the American Legislative Exchange Council] but would never pass in New Jersey, so he’s doing it through regulation,” says Tittel.

Martin was appointed by Christie in 2010 after a career serving as a business consultant to energy companies and utilities, and some activism in local Republican politics. New Jersey environmental advocates say Martin was unqualified and has been hostile to the environment while in office. Martin’s deputies are also heavily drawn from the industries they regulate. In one particularly egregious example, DEP Assistant Commissioner Michele Siekerka is still serving as chairwoman of Roma Bank, which invests heavily in real estate development.
The most significant challenge facing New Jersey, just like neighboring New York City, is climate change. New Jersey has a long coastline that was battered hard by Hurricane Sandy. Christie arguably owes his reelection to the storm. His image of assertive leadership in Sandy’s aftermath, his criticism of Republicans in Congress who were slow to pay for emergency relief, and his praise of President Obama’s handling of the disaster boosted his approval ratings in his Democratic-leaning state. In his victory speech Tuesday night, Christie said, “When you didn’t have a warm place for your family because of what happened in the storm, you didn’t care if it was someone who thought government should be big or small. At that moment, the ‘spirit of Sandy’ infected all of us.”

Leaving aside the fact that effective disaster relief is made possible only by big government, you would expect someone so moved by the devastating effects of extreme weather to appreciate the need for action on climate change, right? Wrong. Christie is opposed both to policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to preparing for the future effects of climate change on the Jersey Shore. Although Christie acknowledges the reality of climate change, he says he has “no idea”
whether it increases the severity of storms such as Sandy. His policies reflect that willful ignorance.

“The biggest damage Christie has done has been on climate change, sea-level rise, and clean water,” says Tittel. “The irony is that he’s gotten this great publicity over Sandy, on which he’s considered a leader.”

In 2011, Christie withdrew New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program for Northeastern energy utilities. Christie explained that RGGI was “nothing more than a tax on electricity,” which is a bit like complaining that Bruce Springsteen is nothing more than a rock musician.

Prior to Christie, New Jersey had an energy master plan calling for a 30 percent renewable portfolio by 2021, but Christie rolled it back to 22.5 percent.

As for whether climate change may contribute to worse or more frequent superstorms such as Sandy, Christie is equivocal, saying he has no time to ponder such “esoteric theories” and “distractions” when he is busy rebuilding.

But if you understand the growing impact of climate change on sea levels and storms, that will guide your rebuilding process. It does not guide Christie’s. Whereas neighboring states such as New York have updated zoning codes to require buildings in future flood zones to be two feet higher than the minimum required by the federal government, New Jersey has made no such adjustments. An editorial writer at New Jersey’s leading newspaper, The Star Ledger, reports, “as far as we know, the state isn’t using any of the available science on sea level rise for planning purposes.”

On urban and regional planning issues, Christie has been averse to public investment. He stopped plans to build a much-needed rail tunnel between North Jersey and Manhattan, and he is privatizing New Jersey’s parks.

Thanks to his unearned reputation for moderation and pragmatism, Christie is assumed to be more concerned about the environment than his fellow Republicans. Historically, that has often been the case among Northeastern Republican governors such as New Jersey’s Christine Todd Whitman. But Christie is much more conservative than Whitman on a whole range of issues, from abortion rights to cap-and-trade.

Christie takes a different rhetorical tack than Ted Cruz, one that is more carefully designed to appeal to moderate Northern suburbanites. But he is no moderate, especially on the environment. And his refusal to engage with the latest climate science means that New Jersey will lose several years of essential preparation for rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Funding begins to flow again from feds after dispute over California’s pension reform


By Steve Hymon, November 7, 2013

A trio of legislative updates are below from Metro CEO Art Leahy. The first one is perhaps the most interesting as it involves an issue we wrote about over the summer: a delay in receiving federal dollars because of the U.S. Labor Department’s concerns of California’s pension reform.

The updates:
U.S. Department of Labor Moves to Certify Over $260 Million in Metro Grants

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) moved to certify eight federal grants, valued at over $260 million, that were designated for our agency earlier this year. The grants were not certified by the DOL earlier this year because of the PEPRA/13C issue, which effectively froze our agency’s receipt of federal grants until the California State Legislature and Governor Brown moved to enact AB1222 into law. Among the federal grants certified by the DOL are funds for bus and rail preventive maintenance, bus acquisition and funds for an underground pedestrian passage between the Metro Orange Line and Red Line. With DOL’s certification of these grants, the Federal Transit Administration may now move to formally award these funds to our agency. I would like to extend my appreciation to the Metro Board, Governor Brown, members of the Los Angeles County Congressional and State Legislative Delegations, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and senior officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation and Labor, for working cooperatively with our agency to favorably resolve the PEPRA/13C issue.

U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on Transportation Challenges Facing Seniors

Today, the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to explore the transportation challenges faced by seniors across the United States. The Special Committee on Aging noted that “the last White House Conference on Aging identified transportation as the third most important issue for seniors out of hundreds of options for priorities, and it is a particularly critical issue for seniors living in rural communities.”

Among those testifying at the hearing today was Therese McMillan, the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Deputy Administrator. In a blog posting earlier today, the FTA’s Deputy Administrator wrote that, “the sequester, and continuing resolutions have left [the Federal Transit Administration] unable to fund even modest technical assistance for grantees, reducing our ability to improve transportation coordination at a time when it is needed most.”

Governor Brown Announces Appointment of New Labor Secretary

Today, Governor Brown announced the appointment of David Lanier as Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Mr. Lanier previously served as chief deputy legislative secretary for the Governor, and has extensive experience in the legislature. Mr. Lanier was instrumental in resolving the PEPRA/13C issue earlier this year, and I look forward to working with Mr. Lanier in his new capacity.

The Inherent Trickiness of Predicting the Future of Travel Behavior


By Angie Schmitt, November 8, 2013

Gone are the days when traffic engineers could confidently predict traffic volumes would rise in an upward trajectory into infinity. In America, miles driven per capita has dropped to the levels of the mid-1990s.

Could car travel go the way of the postage stamp?

It should be pretty obvious by now that predicting the future is a lot more complicated than transportation departments pretend it is. As we reported last week, some transportation agencies are spending billions of dollars like the days of cheap gas and easy motoring never ended. What will we think of these decisions in 10, 20, or 50 years?

David Levinson at the Transportationist conjures up a scenario for the year 2030 in which the way we work and travel has been radically disrupted by new technology and social changes. His predictions are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but some of them are grounded in real trends:
Workers no longer “go” to work 6 days a week. Workers got Saturday off in the mid-20th Century. Getting every-other Friday off (the 5/4 schedule) became standard by 2015, establishing the 3-day weekend every other week as the norm. By 2020, this was every weekend, as people moved to a 9 hour day, 4 days per week at the office, and the other 4 hours were “at home” work – checking email on the long weekend, erasing once strict separation of home and work. By 2025 taking every-other Monday off (the 4/3 schedule) was established in most large employers.

Shorter careers are also the norm now, almost half the population doesn’t enter the regular workforce until 30, and most leave by 60. The workforce has continued its drop as technology-enabled worker productivity reduces the value of older workers. Firms also are not interested in paying for training, so most people now go through a 10-year unpaid internship while simultaneously attending school online and engaging other pursuits on a more or less random schedule.

Shoppers no longer “go” to shop, but order online, or let ‘bots and virtual agents order for them, especially for regular stocks like paper towels, napkins, and Spam. And then they let most goods get delivered. With less window shopping and a decline in advertising, the culture became less materialistic, going shopping as activity continues its long 30 year drop, and consumption of material goods has declined with it. Internet Ad-blockers, Netflix, and other time-shifting technologies made ads decline (though not disappear, many companies now want to coat road surfaces with new digital ad-delivery technology – a proposal that is splitting the Coalition Government in a few states), and desperate DOTs are looking favorably on sponsored roads).
Which of Levinson’s forecasts might come close to the truth? It’s hard to say. But maybe that’s the point.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Political Environment explains why a suburban water deal in metro Milwaukee is being watched by environmentalists throughout the Midwest and in Canada. The Wash Cycle outlines a new, ambitious bike plan for the nation’s capital, put forward by a consultant working for the D.C. government. And Cascade Bicycle Club explains the benefits of walking “school buses” and “bike trains” for transporting children to school in a safe and healthy matter.

The Simplest Way to Get People Biking


By Emily Badger, November 8, 2013

 The Simplest Way to Get People Biking

Because humans are weird and complicated and not always rational, it's not enough to scatter bikes around town if you want people to use them. Changing behavior – especially behavior as deeply embedded as our commuting patterns, or our preference for cars above all – may also require a little nudge.

There's a ridiculously simple way to do this with bikes: Show people how long the exact same trip would take in a car, or on foot, or even by transit. One of Google Maps's smartest innovations has been to make these side-by-side comparisons possible in its trip planner, with alternate routes laid out on the same screen:

Google Maps. Alternate walking and driving directions, by time and distance, from the Atlantic Cities office to Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.

Zach Rausnitz recently imported some of this Google Maps data into an even more powerful tool for local bike-share users in Washington, D.C. (hat tip to DCist). Rausnitz has used historic data from actual Capital Bikeshare member trips to calculate the average time a ride takes between any two stations in the system (he threw out the crazy outliers in his calculations).

Even more usefully, Rausnitz's Bikeshare Trip Timer now compares those results to Google Maps data on how long it would take to travel the same route between bike-share stations by other modes:

The Bikeshare Trip Planner

Google's data doesn't factor in traffic or parking time. So what would you rather chose: a free bike ride of about nine minutes, with no parking hassle, or a six-minute car ride with more unknowns (and parking costs), or an 18 minute metro trip?

This comparison is so powerful – and this is the kind of data any bike-share system needs – for one big reason. It's not enough to make it possible for people to bike. What advocates really need to do is make clear the costs of not biking, in minutes saved or dollars not spent.

4 Hard Truths About Transit


By Eric Jaffe, November 8, 2013

4 Hard Truths About Transit

Who says only disastrous news emerges from Toronto these days? A regional advisory panel has released a series of sharp discussion papers meant to enlighten the public about transit in greater Toronto (via Human Transit). The first paper — called "Hard Truths about Transit" [PDF] — offers six key points to inform a "mature" debate on the topic. Now there's a word not heard around those parts in a while.

While two of the points are very local in scope, four represent universal lessons that bear repeating to residents in many large cities around the world. The whole paper is worth a read, but here's a peek at those four in particular.

1. "Subways are not the only good form of transit." There's a tendency to see subways as the optimal form of urban transportation. For sure, an efficient subway system, with the power of moving thousands of people quickly through crowded corridors, can make a great city even greater. At the same time, heavy rail is extremely expensive and only appropriate when levels of existing density demand it.

The Ontario panel reminds metro area residents that an effective transit network depends less on one high-tech mode and more on "matching the technology to the circumstances." For considerably less money, commuter corridors can implement light rail lines almost capable of matching subway ridership (and also capable of making residents happier). Perhaps even more cost-efficient is bus rapid-transit, which can rival light rail when done right and has proven equally (if not more) attractive in terms of economic development.

2. "Transit does not automatically drive development." Hard truth number two picks up where hard truth number one left off. It's become increasingly fashionable to suggest that transit alone can boost the local economy by attracting businesses and retail development. Again, to be sure, public transportation that increases access to a dense area can produce so-called "agglomeration economies" — in other words, they can be worth way more than their cost to a city.

But as the Ontario panel points out, "you cannot just build transit anywhere and hope commercial development will follow." Land use planning, local job growth potential, and other business plans must also be part of the discussion. "Understanding the relationship between transit planning, land use and employment region-wide will cast the debate over transit priorities in a new and constructive light," the report states.

3. The cost of transit is more than construction. Canadian governments, like those in the United States, separate capital costs of constructing public transportation from the operational costs of running it. The Ontario panel argues that this practice can obscure the total investment needed to pay for a new line or system throughout its functional life. As this chart shows, capital costs are in many cases just a fraction (though a sizeable one) of 50-year costs for a mode:

4. Transit users aren't the only ones who benefit from transit. This point is perhaps the panel's most important. The discussion about public transportation often dissolves into an emotional debate about whether or not all city residents should pay for a system used by only some. It's an odd contention, really, since few people also argue that paying for police, hospitals, schools are worthwhile — although not everyone uses these public services, either.

The Ontario panel explains that transit can be the cornerstone of a productive local economy that benefits everyone. Among other thing, transit brings workers closer to jobs, reduces the costly (in many senses of the word) need to own a car, and attracts retail and business revenue that can be reinvested into the city. "These are indirect benefits that will be felt by all of us," says the report.
Stay mature, Toronto.