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 13, 2013

Overheight trucks close M5 citybound and Harbour tunnels


By Jacob Saulwick, November 14, 2013

The driver of a truck that brought Sydney traffic to a standstill after it got stuck in the M5 East tunnel has told police the incident occurred when he dropped his glasses.

 In reaching for them, he said, he hit a button or lever that lifted the back of the truck into the tunnel ceiling.

The accident, which closed the tunnel, was one of two overheight truck incidents to disrupt traffic on Thursday morning.

Just before 10am, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel was closed southbound to allow a truck that had approached the tunnel to reverse into a breakdown lane. The tunnel was subsequently reopened with no damage to the tunnel.

Meanwhile, the motorway approach to the city from the south-west - the M5 East tunnel - remains closed after the damage done to the tunnel ceiling shortly after 8am.

A spokeswoman for the Transport Management Centre said the truck was not overheight when it entered the tunnel, but its trailer had lifted up.

"Somehow the trailer has hydraulically lifted up. Something has happened that has caused the trailer to rise up," the spokeswoman said.

"Technically the truck itself wasn't actually overheight but when it raised up it became overheight."
NSW Police are investigating the incident.

There is no forecast on when the M5 East tunnel would be repaired, according to the Transport Management Centre, and buses through the area are also delayed as traffic spills out onto alternative routes.

The spokeswoman said there appeared to be a lot of glass on the ground in the tunnel, with substantial damage to the ceiling infrastructure. The truck remains in the tunnel.

All westbound lanes of the M5 tunnel were open but the citybound tunnel was closed.

Buses are delayed across Sydney.

Traffic on the M5 motorway is returning to normal. But on alternative routes through the south-west of the city, there remains substantial congestion.

The Transport Management Centre says buses are delayed through Kingsgrove and nearby suburbs by up to 100 minutes.

Because buses that move through Kingsgrove then run on other routes, there are knock-on delays for services as far as Drummoyne, Parramatta, Bondi Junction, Blakehurst, East Hills and Liverpool.
The incidents are just the latest in a steady string of overheight trucks that have been stuck in tunnels, worsening Sydney's already crippling peak hour traffic.

This is despite Roads Minister Duncan Gay introducing new fines and suspensions for trucks damaging tunnels.

Penalties of $2200 and the loss of six demerit points apply for driving overheight trucks into tunnels. But from June it became easier for the government to pursue the companies that own the trucks for the cost of repairing the damage.

In addition, trucks that get stuck will have their registration suspended for three months.

Mr Gay will hold a press conference at 1pm to talk about the incident in the M5 East tunnel.

Divine intervention? Pope opposes fracking


By John Upton, November 13, 2013

Pope Francis

The worldwide leader of the Catholic Church, none other than the ... pope himself, has come out in opposition to the worldwide scourge of hydraulic fracturing.

 OK, so Pope Francis didn’t exactly make a policy statement or a speech denouncing fracking. But hints have emerged that he might do so soon. And Twitter is afire with pictures of His Holiness holding up anti-fracking T-shirts. The pictures were taken Monday following meetings with Argentinians dealing with environmental issues:

 Environmental filmmaker Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas told elEconomista that the pope had indicated during a Monday meeting that he was working on a papal memo, known as an encyclical, that will address environmental issues.

Public Pasadena Meeting on Transit-Oriented Development Code

Posted by Councilperson Steve Madison on Facebook, Nov. 13, 2013

The public is invited to participate in a community meeting regarding the proposed changes to the City's Zoning Code and the transit oriented development. The meeting is taking place tomorrow, November 14 starting at 6:30PM at Pasadena Presbyterian Church's Gamble Lounge, located at 585 E. Colorado Blvd.


E-mail received from Councilperson Steve Madison, November 13, 2013

Note by Peggy Drouet: I attended the Global Warming Forum. It is well worthwhile it to view it.

If you miss a broadcast, you can view it on youtube channel at http://youtu.be/5AV-V1YtNSo or check the District 6 website at www.cityofpasadena.net/district6.

Sundays - 11:00 PM
Mondays - 9:30 AM
Tuesdays - 12:30 PM
Wednesdays - 2:30 PM
Thursdays - 1:00 PM
Fridays - 10:00 PM
Saturdays - 12:00 PM

If you miss a broadcast, you can view it on youtube channel at http://youtu.be/5AV-V1YtNSo


Sundays - 10:00 PM
Mondays - 5:30 PM
Tuesdays - 10:00 AM
Wednesdays - 7:30 PM
Thursdays - 5:00 PM
Fridays - 11:30 AM
Saturdays - 2:30 PM

If you have questions, please call my office:  744-4739.

Is Florida About to Enter a 'Golden Age' of Rail?


By Eric Jaffe, November 13, 2013

Is Florida About to Enter a 'Golden Age' of Rail?

When it comes to surface transportation, Florida is a road-first state. Rail is such a distant second that it's hardly fair to call it second at all. The trip between Orlando and Miami takes almost 6 hours on Amtrak's Silver Meteor and 7.5 hours on its Silver Star, both of which cut across the state and back again to reach Tampa mid-route (below, in red). The car trip, by contrast, is 3 hours on a single interstate.

But lately Florida's road-rail gap has started to close. A passenger rail service called All Aboard Florida, is trying to become America's first private carrier in decades. It recently finished the last deal needed to secure the route between Orlando and Miami. The service is scheduled to begin carrying travelers in 2015 — connecting the two cities in a car-competitive 3 hours.

The development has Scott Gunnerson of Florida Today wondering if the state is about to enter a "golden age of rail travel." Ananth Prasad, the state's transportation secretary, told Gunnerson that All Aboard Florida "will be the genesis for continued expansion of passenger rail." The sea change is attributed in large part to a belief that there's no other way around the state's awful highway congestion:
"We know the roadway network is not going to increase at the rate population will, so areas that are constrained today will be highly constrained in the future," said Kim DeLaney, strategic development coordinator for Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.
Gunnerson's piece focuses on the rail service next-in-line after All Aboard Florida: an improved Amtrak route along the state's east coast. A preliminary study from 2011 found that reviving a dormant line between Jacksonville and Miami was the "most promising initiative for expansion" among Amtrak's long-distance services. Such a line could attract 100,000 riders and generate $7.9 million a year [PDF].

Amtrak's latest ridership figures suggest those estimates aren't far off. Last year about 94,000 people boarded the train in Jacksonville and another 84,000 boarded in Miami [PDF]. Considering the marathon that is current rail service through the state — Jacksonville to Miami is 9 hours on the Silver Meteor and longer on the Silver Star — one can reasonably assume those figures would rise with a quicker train.

There are lots of barriers. Among them, Amtrak's 2011 report noted the need for infrastructure upgrades, local investments, and changes to Florida's liability laws. Before any of that occurs, All Aboard Florida would have to make a promising start. That service still faces some challenges, too, including public noise complaints. Last but not least, a cultural shift would have to occur among Floridians.
Gunnerson writes:
The FDOT secretary believes the real challenge is getting society to accept trains as a primary mode of transportation again, but a transformation to a European-style dependence on rail travel is too lofty a goal.
That process of acceptance does seem to be underway. In announcing his campaign for governor earlier this month, former-Governor Charlie Crist twice made reference to current-Governor Rick Scott's* decision to cancel a proposed high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. He also mentioned how unbearable the traffic has become on one of the state's major interstates:
"It's hard to have empathy if you haven't suffered like that and been on I-4. I'm on it once a week, man."
You said it, man.

Brown Issues Draft Environmental Goals and Policies Report


By William Fulton, October 30, 2013

After a 30-odd-year delay, the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research has released a working draft of the Environmental Goals & Policies Report – a document that OPR is supposed to produce every four years.

Titled, “California’s Climate Future,” the draft is a high-level document laying out overall policy goals, focusing especially on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. It’s the first time an EGPR draft has been released in 35 years – since the last time Jerry Brown was governor, when OPR released the “Urban Strategy for California”. The new document focuses on the prospect of California with a population of 50 million as well as the stresses of climate change.

But the draft shows how difficult it is to set hard metrics in the world of land use and transportation compared to the world of energy conservation.

The EGPR also sets an ambitious goal for greenhouse gas emissions reduction: 80% by 2050, the same figure that was included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Executive Order. There is no state statute containing that goal – the only statutory goal is a reduction to 1990 levels by 2020, contained in AB 32 – although litigation against the sustainable communities strategy in San Diego has successfully used the Executive Order’s target as a de-facto state goal.

The EGPR contains specific sub-goals for energy conservation, but only general descriptions of desirable goals and metrics regarding land use.

The proposed EGPR is organized around six high-level goals:

A strong economy
Thriving urban areas 
Prosperous rural regions 
A clean environment 
Clean and efficient energy system 
Efficient and sound infrastructure 

This is fine rhetoric – and not surprising – but the EGPR also seeks to set up a series of metrics that would measure the state’s progress toward the goal. The metrics call into five categories:

1. Decarbonize the State’s Energy and Transportation Systems 
2. Preserve and Steward the State’s Lands and Natural Resources 
3. Build Sustainable Regions that Support Healthy, Livable Communities 
4. Build Climate Resilience into All Policies 
5. Improve Coordination Between Agencies and Improve Data Availability

Each of these five areas of measurement contain a set of more specific targets. For example, the “decarbonize” goal calls for a 33% renewable energy generation by 2020 (already a state law) and 1.5 zero-emission vehicles by 2025.

Targets #2 and #3 above – natural land and sustainable communities – have a direct impact on the planning and development world in California. But the metrics in these areas contained in the EGPR are not as quantitative as those for the energy sector.

In the case of natural and agricultural lands, the proposed metrics are:

1. Land conversion 
2. Land protection status 
3. Water consumption 
4. Use of recycled and reclaimed water 
5. Bioenergy development and use 

Though the draft EGPR includes some information about the state’s measurement of conversation of agricultural and natural land for development, it does not include or propose specific metrics.
Similarly, Target #3 -- Build Sustainable Regions that Support Healthy and Livable Communities – includes some broad discussion of possible metrics but not a whole lot of specifics in the way of metrics. This target contains four specific goals, including environmentally sensitive infrastructure investment; a transportation investment strategy that focuses on walking, biking, and safe routes to school; and better education and workforce training.

Perhaps the most interesting specific goal under Target 3 is “Build a redevelopment program that allocates funds in alignment with environmental goals as evidenced through some of the following activities”. At first glance, one might think that this is pretty earth-shattering: The Brown Administration is endorsing a new “redevelopment program”. But because it’s a high-level document, it’s short on specifics. As possible strategies it lays out the following

 1. Alignment of local General Plan with regional sustainable communities strategy (where ?applicable).
2. Coordination with school districts on long-term planning issues.
3. Natural resource protection plans that reflect long-term environmental goals.
4. Adoption of climate change or sustainability plans that address emission reduction as well as steps to build climate resilience.
5. Develop plans to help communities manage planned retreat from rising sea levels.

And it contains no specific proposals for metrics that would suggest how to measure progress toward these goals or targets.

The EGPR was required as a result of a law carried by then-Assemblyman Pete Wilson in the early 1970s. Since Brown’s 1978 “Urban Strategy,” no governor has released an EGPR, though both the administrations of Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger worked on drafts that floated around Sacramento.

The 1978 Urban Strategy was similarly lofty to the current draft in its goals and aspirations, but – unlike the current draft – it did contain a detailed “action plan” of specific steps the state should take. Among the proposed actions: A CEQA exemption for housing in infill locations.

L.A. port introduces incentive program to boost container business

November 12, 2013

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners last week approved a new incentive program aimed at rewarding ocean shippers that bring new container business to the Port of Los Angeles in 2014.

Under the program, an ocean carrier will earn $5 per 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) for each incremental container it ships through the port in calendar year 2014. The rate increases to $15 per TEU if their container volume grows by 100,000 or more units next year.

The baseline for measuring increased volume will be the total number of containers moved through the port in calendar year 2013. Carriers will receive their incentive as a lump-sum payment in early 2015. Staff will evaluate the program's effectiveness monthly and determine whether to recommend an extension beyond 2014, port officials said in a press release.

The incentive program helps address how shipping fundamentals are changing and international carriers are rethinking traditional business practices, especially with a trend toward larger vessels and increased global shipping capacity, they said.

"Carriers are rethinking their routes and relationships to be as competitive as possible, [and] this incentive gives them another reason to strengthen their ties with the Port of Los Angeles," said Geraldine Knatz, the port's executive director.

Metro Presents: Pop-Up Dessert Cafe at Union Station Tuesday, Nov. 26


By Anna Chen, November 12, 2013


Metro will host pop-up dessert café Thanksgivvukah Café on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 during lunch at Union Station as part of Metro Presents, Metro’s new program of arts and cultural events. The temporary cafe celebrates the rare, once in a lifetime overlap of Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah and will serve free desserts to those who stop by.

Artist and baker Sarah Williams will serve three desserts at the former Fred Harvey Restaurant. Offerings include a choice of Pumpkin Jam Sufganiyot, Rugelach Pecan Pie, or Cranberry Gelt Bavarian Cream. Those who attend also will receive a recipe card for the dessert they enjoyed to take home with them.

The event is open to the public. Desserts are limited to one per person.

Event Details:
Thanksgivvukah Café
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
1:00 – 3:00 p.m. (or until supplies run out)
Union Station Fred Harvey Room
800 North Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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

The Times Blows a Chance to Tackle America’s Broken Traffic Justice System


By Angie Schmitt, November 12, 2013

In the United States, it’s pretty much legal to drive into and kill a cyclist, as long as you’re sober and stay at the scene. Writer Daniel Duane made that point last weekend in a New York Times op-ed titled, “Is it O.K. to Kill Cyclists?

The New York Times weighs in on the issue of traffic justice, with a largely laudable but imperfect story that has inspired some thoughtful responses. Image: ##http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sunday/is-it-ok-to-kill-cyclists.html?_r=0## New York Times##
The image of a devil-red fixie rider with knuckle tattoos was one sign that something was off-kilter in a recent piece about traffic justice in the New York Times.

The question mark in the headline was the first sign that the piece wasn’t going to take a firm stand, even though Duane sets up the essay with some good insight:
When two cars crash, everybody agrees that one of the two drivers may well be to blame; cops consider it their job to gather evidence toward that determination. But when a car hits a bike, it’s like there’s a collective cultural impulse to say, “Oh, well, accidents happen.”
If that was the high point of the article, the low points come when Duane equivocates, suggesting that “everybody’s a little right” despite the fact that people are capable of far more harm when they’re behind the wheel than when they’re in the saddle.

Bike Snob (a.k.a. Eben Weiss) called Duane out for concluding that the response to reckless drivers who bear no consequences should be for cyclists to “obey the letter of the law”:
We deserve respect for being human, and it ends there. Yet we’re supposed to be good little boy scouts and girl scouts–even when it’s more dangerous for us to do so–to prove we’re deserving of not being killed? That’s just stupid and insulting.
Where Duane and the Times failed, the Economist nailed it, pointing to the differences between an American justice system that imposes little or no consequences on deadly driving, and the Dutch system of strict liability. In the Netherlands, writes the Economist, “if a motor vehicle hits a cyclist, the accident is always assumed to have been the driver’s fault.” Even in cases where a cyclist is breaking a rule, the onus is on the motorist to explain why the collision could not have been avoided.

As a consequence, American bike fatality rates per mile are five to nine times higher than in this famously bike-friendly country.

And, far from being victimized, motorists in the Netherlands also reap the safety benefits from this legal system:
Does this result in rampant injustice to drivers when accidents occur? No. It results in far fewer accidents.
In the end, writes the Economist, people’s willingness to accept a strict liability system “depends on how much one values human life, as against the inconvenience of having to look in the rearview mirror more often.” Will such a clear case for reforming America’s broken traffic justice system ever appear in the Times?

Rolling With The V.I.B.s (Very Important Buses) of L.A.

A guide to getting around by getting on


By Kyle Fitzpatick, November 8, 2013


New York City may have a prolific train system, but we have a prolific bus system. Our buses cast a wide net over Los Angeles that allows you to get from east to west or from Culver City to Pasadena in around an hour and a half. Yes, you really can do that. People do it every day!

How? For newbies to the system, figuring out which bus to take where and when might seem daunting. This guide to L.A.’s V.I.B.s (very important buses) is here to help. Read it, use it, and find an easy way to ditch your car.

The 2, A.K.A The Great Connector

Why it’s important: This bus will take you to the core parts of the city. You can get from downtown to Echo Park to Silver Lake to Los Feliz to Hollywood to Beverly Hills to Westwood to Brentwood to Pacific Palisades. One of the many through lines of Los Angeles, it can take you from the eastside to the westside in an hour and some change.

Hop on:
 You can grab it at any bus stop along Sunset Blvd.

But FYI:
 You usually have to catch a connecting bus in Westwood in order to get all the way to the PCH. The waiting game you play between buses can be killer.

The alternatives:
 The 302 is the 2's Rapid brother. While quicker, the Rapid does have a more limited route and can leave you with quite a walk if your destination is between stops. The 4 is also related (more on that below). There are Red Line connections, too.

The 4, A.K.A The Other Great Connector

Why it’s important: Whereas the 2 takes you on a tour of Sunset Blvd., the 4 takes you on a tour of Santa Monica Blvd. This is important because the 4 will take you into the thick of WeHo and through Century City, into South Westwood and North Little Osaka, and onward into good ole' Santa Monica.

Hop on:
 If you are on Santa Monica Blvd., you can catch this bus.

But FYI:
 The route gets confusing where Santa Monica Blvd. crosses Sunset Blvd. At the juncture, the 4 assumes the 2's route. If you are headed downtown, that’s great! Double the chances for bus taking! But if you are headed to Santa Monica, be sure to catch the right bus.

The alternatives:
 If you want to take the Rapid, take the 704. For obvious reasons, the 2 would work, too.

The 33, A.K.A The DTLA-to-Venice Hopper

Why it’s important: This local bus takes you down Venice Blvd. at a pretty speedy clip. It also covers a wide range of Los Angeles, giving you views of everything from Palms to Culver City to Mid-City.

Hop on:
 As long as you are on Venice Blvd., you can catch the 33.

But FYI: 
It is very easy to miss this bus. There are a lot of buses on Venice Blvd.: don't just catch any of them, be on the lookout for this one. This bus' schedule is also very traffic sensitive.
The alternatives:
 The 733 is this bus' Rapid brother. Note that you will hit both the Expo and Red/Purple lines on the 33 and 733.

The 94, A.K.A The Burbank Buddy

Why it’s important: Unlike other North/South buses, this connector whisks through 'hoods like Glassell Park, downtown, Chinatown, and Atwater Village. It can also take you to the Burbank Airport and into the depths of Sun Valley.

Hop on:
 The majority of this bus’ route is along San Fernando Rd. when in the Valley proper. It wanders down Hill St. between 15th and College while downtown.

But FYI: 
Catching the bus can get confusing downtown where there are so many options. Keep your eyes peeled when catching it! Also, airport buses are notoriously frustrating: pad in extra travel time if you are taking this guy.

The alternatives:
 The 222 is the 94's Hollywood cousin and can take you from Hollywood & Highland to the Burbank Airport. The downside is, it comes very infrequently and could cause you to have to hop into an Uber so you don't miss a flight. The 94 also hits the Red, Purple, and Gold Lines.

The 212, A.K.A The Azealia Banks of La Brea

Why it’s important: Few North/South lines are as invaluable as the 212. This one will dip you all the way to Hawthorn and pull you back up to Hollywood in an hour and a half. You know how you use La Brea Ave. to speed up and down the city? This bus does that, too.

Hop on:
 You can catch the 212 anywhere along La Brea Ave., as far north as Sunset Blvd. and as far south as Manchester Blvd. 

But FYI: 
These buses tend to show their age and, like most Hollywood buses, their schedules are easily affected by movie premieres.

The alternatives:
 The 312 is the Rapid version of the 212. You can easily access the Red Line (in Hollywood), the Expo Line (in Baldwin Hills), and the Green Line (in Hawthorne). That means there are train connections at the beginning, middle, and end of this bus’ route. That's a nice plus!

The 217, A.K.A The Glamour Bus

Why it’s important: This bus hits all the cool, pretty, Mid-City parts of town and is consistently calm, cool, and collected. The bulk of this bus' journey is along Fairfax Blvd., which means that you’ll have easy access to hot spots like Culver City art galleries, LACMA and other Wilshire museums, West 3rd St. stores, the Sneaker Corridor between Melrose and Beverly, The Grove, not one but two Whole Foods, the Melrose shopping district, a Bristol Farms, and all of Hollywood. This is the bus celebrities should take to and from movie premieres.

Hop on:
 One of the very few buses that go up and down Fairfax, it's an easy target to hit.

But FYI: 
This bus is very influenced by the goings on at Hollywood & Highland, ergo it is almost always on a detour.

The alternatives: 
Like the 2 and the 4, the 217 and the 212 follow a similar path once they hit Hollywood. The 780 is this bus' equally-as-important Rapid sibling; it can take you from Venice Blvd. and South Fairfax to Pasadena. The 218 runs along Fairfax and can take you over Laurel Canyon into Studio City. It hits both the Red and Expo Lines, too.

The 720, A.K.A Wilshire's Finest

Why it’s important: You would think Wilshire Blvd. would be filled with buses, but it isn’t. This Rapid is the only bus to take you the full haul of Wilshire, from Santa Monica to Commerce—and it is a reliable one, too. Moreover, there are many important neighborhoods you can drop off in, from Boyle Heights to Beverly Hills and Koretown to Downtown.

Hop on:
Just wait for it at a Wilshire Blvd. stop.

But FYI: 
Like other Rapids, this bus doesn't come as frequently as you wish it would.

The alternatives: 
The 20 is this bus' younger, less useful sibling. You think he'd run all of Wilshire Blvd., too, but instead travels a much more abbreviated route, which is maddening. It hits the Red/Purple Line.

The Bonus V.I.B: The LAX Flyaway Bus

Why it’s important: If you have a little extra time and don't mind having a bus drop you off at the airport (which is far less stressful than many other options, actually), you should take this bus.

Hop on:
 These buses are connected to transit hubs, so they are very easy to use. The trick is, you have to get special tickets to ride them. Those are available online.

But FYI: 
The Flyaway is friendlier to take to the airport than from. But picking you up at the airport is what friends are for.

For reference, here's the L.A. Metro's System Map:

Click map to enlarge

BoltBus now at Union Station and ready to start service to San Diego


By Anna Chen, November 13, 2013

 Brand new buses operating in California! Photo: BoltBus Official Facebook Page
 Brand new buses operating in California!

BoltBus recently began operating non-stop premium bus service from Los Angeles Union Station to San Jose and Oakland, and now it’s ready to hit San Diego. Beginning on November 14, the bus line will operate four daily round trips from L.A. to S.D. The curbside service in San Diego will be located at 415 W. Harbor Dr., next to Seaport Village.

To celebrate service to the new city, BoltBus will be offering $1 fares on every seat for travel between Nov. 14 and Nov. 17 on every California route. If you’re looking to take a quick trip on the cheap, you might look into cashing in on this deal. Buses stop at the following locations in Northern California:
  • San Jose: Diridon Station at 75 Cahill St.
  • Oakland: West Oakland BART Station at 1451 7th St.
Make sure not to confuse BoltBus with Megabus.com. Megabus.com picks up from Patsaouras Plaza, and BoltBus picks up at the west end of Union Station near Alameda Street, right in front of The Mozaic apartment complex.

Once nearly extinct, streetcars see U.S. resurgence


By Jason Keyser, November 12, 2013

 Kenosha Streetcar via Wikimedia Commons - Kenokewl
 Kenosha Streetcar

When the auto plant here closed, this prosperous Wisconsin port city on Lake Michigan lost more than just its largest employer. Its sense of vitality seemed to drain away, and city leaders set out to find something that would inject life into the brick-storefront downtown while the economy went through a transition.

What they came up with was obsolete: an electric streetcar. Kenosha decided to bring back a relic that once clattered around metropolitan areas in pre-war America but was abandoned on the march to modernity.

More than a decade later, the experiment is now popping up all over. More than 30 cities around the country are planning to build streetcar systems or have done so recently. Dallas, Portland and Seattle all have new streetcar lines. Most projects involve spending millions of dollars to put back something that used to be there — often in the same stretches of pavement.

"It goes along with the revival of inner cities all over America," said Steve Novick, transportation commissioner in Portland, which has spent more than $250 million to replace the lines the city shut down in 1950. "It's too bad that they weren't kept here all along."

Many city planners are convinced that old-timey cars tethered to overhead electric cables or their updated descendants — futuristic and low-slung — ignite economic development in a way that buses cannot — and with a whiff of romance. Embedding rails in roads is part of resurrecting entertainment districts and capitalizing on the return to urban living by young professionals and empty-nesters bored with suburban life. And since streetcars run with traffic rather than on separated lines, the systems can cost as little as $50 million, a fraction of the expense of light rail.

"It really is about creating a certain kind of neighborhood feel and fabric," said Patrick Quinton, executive director of the Portland Development Commission.

Since Portland's line opened, $3.5 billion in development has sprouted within blocks of the tracks. A section of old rail yards and warehouses is now the trendy Pearl District, home to galleries, restaurants, shops and housing. The system has been expanded to nearly eight miles and each weekday carries 13,000 people, who can track arriving cars on their smartphones.

Salt Lake City, where the last streetcars vanished in 1946, is set to open a two-mile line next month. It's part of a planned "greenway" of parks, bike paths and trails designed to attract 4,000 new households and 7,700 jobs by 2030.

For technology firms and "talent-driven companies, it's definitely a selling point" for business locations, said Quinton.

American companies are making streetcars again for the first time since the 1950s. Most new systems use sleek cabins with doors that slide open at street level.

Voters in Los Angeles and Kansas City have approved new taxes for streetcar projects. A handful of cities, including New Orleans and Philadelphia, are delighted they don't have to. Their streetcars survived the mid-century purge and continue making their rounds.

Kenosha built its system in 2000 for about $6 million, mostly funded by a federal grant, using 1950s-era cars cast off by the city of Toronto. It revived a line that had carried passengers from 1903 to 1932.

The middle-class town of about 100,000 was once a vibrant port, and grand civic buildings from the early 1900s line the grid of broad boulevards and narrow lanes.

Today, the city is something of a bedroom community for nearby Milwaukee and Chicago. A more diverse economy is bringing jobs back and the lakefront has blossomed with condominiums, two museums, parks, a heated boat storage facility and a harbor bristling with sailboats.

Before the two-mile streetcar loop was laid, the downtown "was very dark," said Joe Catuara, standing outside his bustling hot dog shop — aptly named Trolley Dogs. "Now it's lit up more, there are businesses." A row of shops, bookstores and cafes borders one side of the line.

The annual ridership of about 50,000 isn't large, but that may not matter, said Mayor Keith Bosman because the aim is to create atmosphere, much like public art, more than just transportation. He said the line helped hook the developer who put hundreds of new condos on the site of the old demolished Chrysler plant.

The city plans to double the system beginning as early as next year with a new leg that would help take in 85 percent of the downtown businesses, as well as residential areas and a hospital, with the goal of luring more offices and housing downtown.

For now, the antique cars — drifting past almost empty and with a ghostlike whine — seem mostly an aesthetic touch, offering a burst of color against the dazzling blue backdrop of Lake Michigan.
Some are unimpressed. It's a "trolley to nowhere," said Pat Lawler, 83, sitting on a downtown bench. "In Kenosha, people drive their cars."

Still, the streetcars have soaked into the town's fabric. The old cars with their rounded edges and original bulbous light fixtures appear in street murals and in black and white photos on the walls of downtown shops, and each year the town holds a streetcar festival.

"It makes a bigger town seem smaller," said Jenna Hass, 29, who pays $1 to ride the streetcars with her 3-year-old son, Tyler, between museums or just for fun.

On a recent outing, streetcar mechanic Brad Preston let his red- and cream-colored car linger so a woman leaning from a minivan could take a photo.

"We get that a lot," Preston said with a grin.

Iran - Every week 52 die of air pollution in Tehran


November 12, 2013


NCRI - Every week 52 persons die of air pollution in Tehran. The air pollution in Tehran has become a danger for the lives of millions of residents in this city, especially children, elders and sick people.
Based on figures published by official sources, every year 2700 persons die of pollution in Tehran meaning 52 a week.

The most polluted parts of Tehran are districts 3 and 8 and Shahre Ray, which have double the amount of pollution than other places. 

Reports have also emerged that air in Isfahan Province has become unhealthy.

The weather forecast in Isfahan indicate that a stable atmosphere is going to remain over the city for 2 days causing the density of the air pollution in Isfahan to increase.
This contaminated and polluted air has caused lung and heart problems and cases of cancer among people.

Webcast: On Behalf Of James Corless, Transportation for America A kickoff event

For the past five years, Transportation for America has worked with advocates, allies and supporters like you to urge Congress to make smarter investments in America's transportation system.

Next week, we're starting something new.

T4America is building a powerful new alliance of business, elected, and civic leaders from cities, towns and suburbs across the nation. These community leaders know how critical it is to invest in a robust transportation network that can support local economies. And we know stronger local economies build a stronger America.

At a kick-off event on November 19, these leaders will explain why Congress must not only save the sinking transportation trust fund but also raise enough revenue so communities can fix bottlenecks and broken bridges while building new connections to future prosperity.

We want you to join us for the kick-off event. No matter where you live, watch the live webcast of the event and join the conversation on Twitter at @T4America.
Local Economies, National Prosperity
Community leaders make the economic case for federal investment in transportation
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
8:30 AM—1:00 PM EST

We have traveled the country over the past year talking to mayors and county executives, major employers, key institutions, civic groups and many others. And we found that they get the need for an updated national program—so much so that many are eager to be part of the new membership network T4America is building. Our ad hoc coalition did much to defend and win improvements in the last transportation bill, but we can be even stronger with a more formal membership with staying power.

As part of the launch next week, we'll also unveil a new and improved Transportation for America website, complete with new features and ways to get involved.

The coming year will be a critical one for transportation in the United States as Congress must act to address the deep deficit in the transportation fund and the expiration of the two-year MAP-21 law.

Next week's event is just the beginning. You stood with us the last go-round, and we hope you’ll be with us in our new configuration!


James Corless,
Transportation for America

Webcast: SCAQMD Near roadway Mitigation Technology Forum

A Cheap Conversion Kit to Turn Your Car into a Ferrari


By John Metcalfe, November 13, 2013

A Cheap Conversion Kit to Turn Your Car into a Ferrari

Want to roll like a baller but with the means of a scrub? Benedetto Bufalino has got you covered, then, with this not-at-all-absurd shell that transforms your Volvo into an asphalt-scorching Ferrari.

I'm not sure why Bufalino has given the world this classy auto accessory, handcrafted from the finest cardboard. But to judge from the French artist's other public projects, it exists simply to get people to whip their heads around and say, Whaaa? Among other things, he's made a picnic table so big you can't see over it, and right now is plotting to enliven the U.K. with a phone booth full of water and goldfish.

The sports-vehicle conversion kit, titled "LA FERRARI SUR VOITURE SANS PERMIS," was recently seen zipping around the streets of Lyon, France, for an arts exhibition. It might not have all the bells and whistles of the real thing, like an alarm system or maybe more importantly engine or tires, but think of the hidden benefits: Low insurance! Protection from the elements, at least until it dissolves in the rain! A chick magnet, for very, very nearsighted women!

It could also double as a mattress to sleep on, should your spouse kick you out for riding in this embarrassing thing:

 For a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_Y_X9wNHZo

Why the Government Now Cares a Lot More About How Much You Spend on Gas


By Emily Badger, November 13, 2013

 Why the Government Now Cares a Lot More About How Much You Spend on Gas

The housing crisis was, of course, primarily about housing: housing that people couldn't afford, housing that banks helped them finance anyway, housing that too many treated as a sure-fire investment.

But in a less noticed way, the housing crisis was also very much about transportation. The money we spend getting around is largely dictated by the choices we make in where to live. Buy a house 20 miles down the highway from your job, and your costs of getting around on $4-a-gallon gas are much steeper than they would be if you lived a short walk from the office (or the bus stop).

Those costs – half a tank of gas here, a bus ticket there – are much harder to track than a single monthly housing payment. They're practically invisible. That $2,000 a month mortgage on a spacious suburban colonial? It may also cost you $100 a week in gas money. Which is just the kind of unanticipated financial burden that can break a family budget.

So how do you make the intertwined costs and tradeoffs of housing and transportation more obvious? The Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago has been trying to do this for several years with its Housing + Transportation Affordability Index. And, as we've previously mentioned, the federal government has been paying attention.

Now the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation have come out with their own modified version of the tool, with CNT's help.

Federal Location Affordability Index screen shot from Milwaukee

The government's Location Affordability Index is based on data from the American Community Survey and Consumer Expenditure Surveys. Most people in the U.S. (some small parts of the country aren't yet covered by the data) can now look up and compare the typical combined costs of housing and transportation for a range of different household types, down to the block group level. Local policymakers might also use the site to decide whether to rezone a parcel of land or where to construct a new subway stop.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and his new DOT counterpart Anthony Foxx were careful to stress Tuesday that the tool is meant as an informational aid for these families and communities, not as a federal policy lever. But the site itself opens the door to that possibility in the future. Picture, for instance, the federal government using this more sophisticated calculation of what's truly "affordable" to decide how to direct grant money, or where to build public housing, or whether to back mortgages that appear too costly (or not costly enough) when you don't consider transportation.

For decades, the federal government has used the Interstate Highway System and the home mortgage interest deduction to encourage Americans to move out of inner cities and into their own suburban homes. A federal government that values "location efficiency" might begin to do the opposite, throwing its weight behind development that connects people to transit and jobs instead of back yards and highways.

That is, again, in the future (if it ever happens). But look carefully at what Donovan said about our recent past:
I would argue that had we had a tool like this going into the housing crisis and the bubble that we experienced – I certainly wouldn’t have argued it would have solved that problem – but I think it could have helped ameliorate some of the worst effects that we saw. Because, frankly, too often we saw individual families buying homes they thought they could afford without factoring in transportation costs.
That's a pretty bold statement for the head of HUD, pinning at least some of the blame for the country's housing meltdown on what is, in effect, one cost of sprawl.

Donovan said 75 to 85 percent of a family's living costs can be explained by location. Behavior accounts for the rest. If that's true, it would be a powerful insight for federal policy to leverage in trying to expand access to affordable communities.

"But we want to make sure that that's in fact true now that the model is out there," Donovan said. The government doesn't want to end up, he says, "misunderstanding the power of this information."

League tells teams not to cut their own L.A. deals


By Mike Florio, November 11, 2013

 Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If the NFL returns to Los Angeles, it’ll be the NFL returning to Los Angeles.  Even though it will be an NFL team that returns to Los Angeles.

According to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal, the league reiterated to all 32 teams in an October memo that the league owns the market, and that the league will decide if/when a team can move there.

The NFL also explained, per Kaplan, that a team buying real estate in L.A., ostensibly for a new stadium, wouldn’t keep the league from doing its own stadium deal.  Kaplan writes that there are some concerns that a team may try to squat on the L.A. market by purchasing the land.

Kaplan mentions that teams like the Raiders and Rams will soon see their stadium leases expire.  It’s possible, if not likely, that the league fears that Raiders owner Mark Davis would try to swing a deal to return to L.A. without league involvement or approval — especially since the Raiders once believed (and possibly still believe) that they have special rights to the market they vacated after the 1994 season.

In 1996, the Seahawks tried to move to Los Angeles, in defiance of the league.  And the Seahawks failed.

Apart from the league’s desire to apply a coordinated negotiated approach that maximizes the revenue and other benefits of an L.A. deal, the NFL also will want to impose a significant relocation fee on the team that moves.  The value of the franchise that enters the Los Angeles market will skyrocket — and the owners of the other franchises will want to siphon off a slice of it.

There’s also a chance that the memo wasn’t really aimed at preventing a team from going rogue, but at signaling to the powers-that-be in L.A. that a deal can happen if/when someone is willing to do the kind of deal the NFL likes.

In other words, the NFL makes a ton of money and the “partner” either loses money or doesn’t make much of it in order to be in business with the NFL.

Your State: Ready for Climate Change?


By Tim McDonnell, November 12, 2013

Whether it's wildfires in the West, drought in the Midwest, or sea level rise on the Eastern seaboard, chances are good your state is in for its own breed of climate-related disaster.

Every state is required to file a State Hazard Mitigation Plan with FEMA, which lays out risks for that state and its protocols for handling catastrophe. But as a new analysis from Columbia University's Center for Climate Change Law reveals, many states' plans do not take climate change into account.

Michael Gerrard, the Center's director, said his team combed through all 50 reports to see how accurately and comprehensively climate change was taken into consideration, if at all, and grouped them into four ranked categories:
  • No discussion of climate change or inaccurate discussion of climate change.
  • Minimal mention of climate change related issues.
  • Accurate but limited discussion of climate change and/or brief discussion with acknowledgement of need for future inclusion.
  • Thorough discussion of climate change impacts on hazards and climate adaptation actions.
While FEMA itself acknowledged this summer that climate change could increase areas at risk from flooding by 45 percent over the next century, states are not required to discuss climate change in their mitigation plans. The Columbia analysis didn't take into account climate planning outside the scope of the mitigation plans, like state-level greenhouse gas limits or renewable energy incentives.

And as Kate Sheppard reported, some government officials have avoided using climate science terminology even in plans that implicitly address climate risks; states that didn't use terms like "climate change" and "global warming" in their mitigation plans were docked points in Columbia's ranking algorithm.

Gerrard said he wasn't surprised to find more attention paid to climate change in coastal states like Alaska and New York that are closest to the front lines. But he was surprised to find that a plurality of states landed in the least-prepared category, suggesting a need, he said, for better communication of non-coastal risks like drought and heat waves.

"We had hoped that more of the states would have dealt with [climate change] in a more forthright way," he says.