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 29, 2013

Diesel exhaust stops honeybees from finding the flowers they want to forage





Exposure to common air pollutants found in diesel exhaust pollution can affect the ability of honeybees to recognise floral odours, new University of Southampton research shows.

Honeybees use floral odours to help locate, identify and recognise the flowers from which they forage.

The Southampton team, led by Dr Tracey Newman and Professor Guy Poppy, found that diesel exhaust fumes change the profile of flora odour. They say that these changes may affect honeybees’ foraging efficiency and, ultimately, could affect pollination and thus global food security.

Published in Scientific Reports the study mixed eight chemicals found in the odour of oil rapeseed flowers with clean air and with air containing diesel exhaust. Six of the eight chemicals reduced (in volume) when mixed with the diesel exhaust air and two of them disappeared completely within a minute, meaning the profile of the chemical mix had completely changed. The odour that was mixed with the clean air was unaffected.

Furthermore, when the researchers used the same process with NOx gases (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide), which is found in diesel exhaust, they saw the same outcome, suggesting that NOx was a key facilitator in how and why the odour’s profile was altered. The changed chemical mix was then shown to honeybees, which could not recognise it.

Dr Newman, a neuroscientist at the University, comments: “Honeybees have a sensitive sense of smell and an exceptional ability to learn and memorize new odours. NOx gases represent some of the most reactive gases produced from diesel combustion and other fossil fuels, but the emissions limits for nitrogen dioxide are regularly exceeded, especially in urban areas. Our results suggest that that diesel exhaust pollution alters the components of a synthetic floral odour blend, which affects the honeybee’s recognition of the odour. This could have serious detrimental effects on the number of honeybee colonies and pollination activity.”

Professor Poppy, an ecologist at the University, adds: “Honeybee pollination can significantly increase the yield of crops and they are vital to the world’s economy – £430 million a year to the UK alone. However to forage effectively they need to be able to learn and recognize the plants. The results indicate that NOx gases — particularly nitrogen dioxide — may be capable of disrupting the odour recognition process that honeybees rely on for locating floral food resources. Honeybees use the whole range of chemicals found in a floral blend to discriminate between different blends, and the results suggest that some chemicals in a blend may be more important than others.”

How pollution makes bigger THUNDERSTORMS: Poor air quality creates bigger, longer-lasting clouds

Pollution causes taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds, say experts

Lingering big clouds also warm the Earth by trapping heat

By Ted Thornhill, November 28, 2013

Pollution makes thunderstorms worse by creating bigger, longer lasting clouds and cooling temperatures with their shadows, say scientists.

Computer simulations of cloud data from the western Pacific, south eastern China and Oklahoma showed pollution increased their size, thickness and duration.

Taking a closer look at the properties of water droplets and ice crystals within, the researchers found pollution resulted in smaller droplets and ice crystals regardless of location.

Billow talk: pollution increases clouds' size, thickness and duration, say experts
Billow talk: pollution increases clouds' size, thickness and duration, say experts

In clean skies ice particles were heavier and fell faster causing the clouds to dissipate. But in polluted skies they were smaller and too light to drop leading to the larger clouds.

Dr Jiwen Fan, of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington, said: ‘This study reconciles what we see in real life to what computer models show us.

‘Observations consistently show taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds in storm systems with pollution.’

A polluted sky has many more aerosols - natural and manmade particles - making more but smaller cloud droplets.

Lingering: The study found that pollution makes afternoon thunderstorms last further into the night
Lingering: The study found that pollution makes afternoon thunderstorms last further into the night

Researchers have long believed smaller droplets start a chain reaction that leads to bigger, longer-lasting clouds.

Instead of raining down, the lighter droplets carry their water higher, where they freeze. The freezing squeezes out the heat the droplets carry with them and causes the thunder cloud to become draftier.

Dr Fan said: ‘Modelling the details of cloud microphysical properties is very computationally intensive so models don't usually include them.’

Polluted clouds have an effect on temperatures, with afternoon thunderstorms lasting long into the night rather than dissipating and trapping heat like a blanket.
In the day the clouds’ shadows diminish sunlight penetration and so keep the Earth cooler.

Accounting for pollution effects on storm clouds could affect the ultimate amount of warming predicted for the earth in the next few decades
Accurately representing clouds in climate models is key to improving the accuracy of predicted changes to the climate.

$99 for a luxury train ride?


By Mark Koebrich, November 19, 2013

 See website for a video.

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but how you get there may change soon.

X-Train is a luxury passenger train with planned services that include passenger coaches with bar area lounges and Vegas class food and beverages. The Vegas experience starts once you are on board the train. The X Train will travel through mountain passes, historic stations and high desert scenery unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. All for the low price of $99.

So how does this elite rain line affect Denver? Local business people such as Denver's "Dealin' Doug" Moreland are getting behind the idea and are trying to get it to come through the Mile High City.

"It's very high end," Moreland said. "We're taking old passenger train cars and totally refurbishing. They are luxurious. Some will have leather. They'll have fine woods. They'll be food. They'll be cocktails and drinks, and we'll have entertainment."

In other words, the X-Train is not the usual, outdated ride on a train. The X-Train cars are sleek, and the first renderings show a bar car with high ceilings and video screens, elegant dining and club cars with comfortable seating and expensive interior finishes.

Moreland says the X-Train website conveys a party atmosphere because the trains were only going to Las Vegas.

"I've enjoyed going to Vegas, and I've enjoyed gambling, and it just seemed like a great fun, sexy type of investment. So I invested in it," Moreland said.

What got this project really going was when Amtrak said it wanted the X-Train to hook up with their trains. That means, riders would be able to hop a luxury X-Train ride from New York to Miami, San Francisco to Reno and perhaps Denver to New Orleans.

Moreland says the Amtrak connection improves the investor groups revenue picture, and the concept will probably hit the rails next year with Amtrak deciding which cities will be the first served.
"Amtrak really wants us to do that LA to Oakland route, one of the first ones," Moreland said. "California - if you've ever driven from LA up to the Bay Area - you know it's a long haul, and there's a lot of people on the highway."

Find out more about the X-Train here: http://on9news.tv/1fedNMO.

Pressures Mount on California’s Ports


By Greg Lucas, November 20, 2013

On November 1, the Port of Oakland officially began a $500 million conversion of the long-shuttered Oakland Army Base into new warehouses and pier-side rail spurs to improve the capacity – and competitiveness – of Northern California’s busiest port.

Financed in part with $250 million in state bond funds, the massive undertaking is expected to create 1,523 construction jobs over the next three years and another 1,800 permanent jobs when completed.

“The community wins with cleaner air, less congestion, more good jobs and local business
  opportunities,” said Chris Lytle, the port’s new executive director, at the groundbreaking.“The supply chain wins with faster transit times, higher volume throughput, lower costs and greater reliability. And government wins with increased revenue and lower expenditures on fixing up local roads.”
Every four containers create $1,000 in state and local revenue, $8,500 in personal income and one job. Oakland says every three containers it handles generate one job, $5,100 in personal income and $540 in state and local taxes.
Also speaking at the event was Oakland’s former mayor, Gov. Jerry Brown. His attendance is a testament to the significance of the project and the important but sometimes overlooked role ports play in California’s more than $2 trillion economy.

California’s 11 ports, from Humboldt Bay in the north to San Diego in the south, generate more than $40 billion in annual economic activity. They create hundreds of thousands of jobs dockside as well as inland where cargo is loaded onto trucks or trains for delivery across North America, mainly to Mid-West hubs like Chicago and St. Louis.

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles generate most of that economic activity. The two represent the nation’s largest cargo container port and the world’s sixth busiest harbor.

Oakland, gateway to Asian markets for Central Valley growers, is a distant third.
Ports in Canada, Mexico and the Gulf states are boosting capacity as the Panama Canal nears completion of a $5.25 billion widening that allows the world’s largest cargo ships to bypass the West Coast.
About 7 million cargo containers move through the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports annually. Every four containers create $1,000 in state and local revenue, $8,500 in personal income and one job. Oakland says every three containers it handles generate one job, $5,100 in personal income and $540 in state and local taxes.

Although still a major economic engine, California ports face increasing competitive pressures.
Ports in Canada, Mexico and the Gulf states are boosting capacity as the Panama Canal nears completion of a $5.25 billion widening that allows the world’s largest cargo ships to bypass the West Coast.

At the same time, major shipping lines are adding more routes from India and Asia through the Suez Canal.

California also has tougher environmental standards than most other state and countries as well as congested highways and high land prices. Oakland’s ability to add 1 million square feet of neighboring warehouse space is the exception, not the rule.

Ten years ago, Long Beach and Los Angeles received more than 56 percent of Pacific Rim cargo containers. Now it’s 48 percent and falling.

Of the cargo that is unloaded there, 40 percent could be easily diverted elsewhere, port operators say.
Police, Fire Department boats at Port of Long Beach.

“Cargo has no loyalty. It will find the easiest, most cost-effective path to move through,” John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association told Capitol Weekly. “If California can offer that, great. If not, other gateways will be utilized.”

Gooder Ways to Move Goods

State lawmakers are taking some actions aimed at aiding state ports.

A new law creating another seemingly innocuous– advisory committee could actually affect the vitality of California’s ports by helping move goods through the state more efficiently.

Backed by the maritime shipping association, the legislation – AB 14 by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, a Long Beach Democrat – establishes an advisory committee to help the state create a “freight” plan, which has the potential to boost the competitiveness of California’s three primary ports.
California created a goods movement plan seven years ago at the direction of then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in part to build the case for a $19.9 billion transportation bond that earmarked $3.1 billion for trade-related improvements. That plan is being updated, the Caltrans website says.
“An efficient and sustainable goods movement system isn’t just smart policy, it’s a sound investment, both for the state economy and potentially in securing more federal transportation funding.” says Lowenthal.

The Democratic governor signed Lowenthal’s measure without comment — a little under two years before the Panama Canal project’s expected completion date.

A January 21 meeting is scheduled for the advisory commission

Creating a plan that details how it would move goods to destinations throughout the United States could help California receive additional federal funds for trade-related transportation projects. As much as 95 percent of costs on selected projects, according to Caltrans.

The 2012 federal “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” Act encourages states to prepare a freight plan as part of the law’s requirement a new national goods movement strategy be assembled.
Commonly, individual terminals are operated by different companies who hold long-term leases with the port. Often terminals at one port compete against each other to secure a bigger share of the cars, clothing and household goods arriving mainly from Asia.
California created a goods movement plan seven years ago at the direction of then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in part to build the case for a $19.9 billion transportation bond that earmarked $3.1 billion for trade-related improvements. That plan is being updated, the Caltrans website says.

“This is part of our responsibility to the national economy,” said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger. “Nearly 40 percent of the goods imported from Asia to the United States flow through California’s freight transportation system.”

Nearly all of those bond funds have been appropriated and most of the projects are under construction.

The state’s $250 million contribution to the Port of Oakland’s upgrade came from that bond, approved by voters in November 2006 as Proposition 1B.

Because of their unique nature, ports can be problematic for both state and local policymakers.
Ports aren’t monolithic entities. They’re more like franchisers or landlords.
Ports face the same problem around the country. They have positive economic impacts with regional benefits that affect a large constituency. But you probably don’t want to live next to them, says Jock O’Connell, a trade specialist headquartered in Sacramento.
Commonly, individual terminals are operated by different companies who hold long-term leases with the port. Often terminals at one port compete against each other to secure a bigger share of the cars, clothing and household goods arriving mainly from Asia.

Lots of Greenbacks to Get Green

Ports, California or otherwise, also aren’t environmentally benign.

Mammoth cranes move countless metal containers to dockside staging areas from 1,000-foot long vessels with diesel engines that gobble more than 150 tons of fuel each day.

Long lines of idling trucks wait to transport their payloads, often inching along crowded freeways to busy rail yards where diesel locomotives prepare to rumble their cargo to destinations across the continent.

“Ports face the same problem around the country. They have positive economic impacts with regional benefits that affect a large constituency. But you probably don’t want to live next to them,” says Jock O’Connell, a trade specialist headquartered in Sacramento.

For example, Burlington Northern Santa Fe wants to build the “International Gateway,” a 153-acre rail yard cargo depot near Interstate 710 at the edge of Long Beach.
The city of Los Angeles and a major corporation are really treating Long Beach in a deplorable manner — one city is literally ignoring another city’s residents. We’re asking them to be clean and to be a good neighbor and help mitigate this, but they’re basically thumbing their nose at us.
The project’s nearly 4,700-page environmental impact report, began in 2005 and completed in 2011, says the $500 million facility will improve Southern California’s air quality by reducing the distance trucks must haul cargo from the ports for transfer.

Currently, the chief truck-to-rail transport center is the Hobart rail yards in the City of Commerce – more than 24 miles from the docks along the already congested I-710.

But West Long Beach, the neighborhood next to the new rail yard, complains that it already chokes on diesel fumes, a condition community activists say won’t improve with the new rail yard.

“This is really taking advantage of poor people for the advantage of others,” Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said in an April interview with the New York Times.

“The city of Los Angeles and a major corporation are really treating Long Beach in a deplorable manner — one city is literally ignoring another city’s residents. We’re asking them to be clean and to be a good neighbor and help mitigate this, but they’re basically thumbing their nose at us.”

In August, Long Beach consolidated its lawsuit against the project with six others filed by the Long Beach Unified School District, several local nonprofits and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Environmental mitigation requirements imposed by the Air Resources Board and other regulators has added $5 billion to port operational costs, according to the merchant shipping association.
Air Quality Efforts

Some $1.8 billion of that $5 billion in costs stems from having to create dockside electrical power for vessels so that onboard diesel engines can be turned off to reduce emissions.

Air board rules require that half of all container and cruise ships using the state’s major ports must “plug in” starting January 1. The technology is known as “cold ironing” – shipping term from the days of coal-fired engines. When a ship was tied up at port, the iron engines didn’t need be stoked and, so, became cold.

In a May 7 speech, Foster said ships are the largest remaining source of pollution at ports and that “plugging in a typical container ship for a day … is the pollution equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road.”

The Port of Long Beach says it will spend $200 million outfitting its terminals with power hookups.
A $1 billion pot of money was contained in the 2006 bond to reduce emissions from goods movement with $550,000 of it earmarked for Southern California and the Inland Empire.
The air board estimates there are about 20,000 trucks that regularly visit the state’s ports, often idling in long lines awaiting their loads. Seven years ago, the air board said all pre-1994 truck engines had to be retired or replaced with newer engines by 2009 By January 1, all port trucks must meet 2007 emission standards.
Long Beach and Los Angeles used nearly $100 million of their bond money to offer $50,000 subsidies to truckers to purchase new trucks with less polluting engines.

In another pollution control move, Long Beach and Los Angeles changed their fee structure so that trucks that pick up their cargo in off-peak hours pay less than those who don’t. Long Beach also rewards ships that slow down to 12 knots or less within 40 miles of the harbor entrance with lower dockage fees. The slower a vessel’s speed, the lower the emissions.

While operational costs may increase because of California’s more stringent regulation, ports are adapting and shrinking their carbon footprint.

But there are global forces that might be beyond the ability of the state’s ports to adapt to.
Like McLaurin says, cargo takes the speediest path of least expense to its destination.

The New Panama Canal

For almost a century, the Panama Canal defined shipping. So much so that vessels that could pass through the canal’s 110-foot wide locks are called “Panamax.” A Panamax ship can carry 5,000 cargo containers known as “twenty-foot equivalent units” or TEUs in nautical parlance because of their 20 foot by 8 foot size.

But now a new generation of cargo ships, known as “Post Panamax,” are plying the oceans.

They can carry as much as 15,000 containers. Although less than 20 percent of the world’s container fleet, the giant vessels account for 50 percent of the fleet’s capacity – a percentage that’s growing.
These massive vessels are a key reason for Panama’s decision to widen and modernize the canal, the only port in the world with terminals in two oceans.
The new canal and its set of 180-foot wide single-lane locks can accommodate ships designed to carry up to 12,600 containers.

What’s not yet known is how much will be charged to move through the new lock system – an important factor in determining cost-effectiveness.

Similarly, manufacturing centers are now moving west from China to Vietnam to India. That makes the Suez Canal a potentially speedier route to reach East Coast markets than trucking or training goods cross country from California.
On the other hand, some international shipping lines have long-term operating leases at California terminals and are unlikely to squander that investment – at least during the life of the lease.
Business is undeniably better for California’s ports in 2013 than during the recession when the shipping industry lost $20 billion in one year alone.

There’s wariness about the future but the ports are busy trying to accentuate their positives – like Oakland and its use of the neighboring army base property.

The Panama Canal’s fast-approaching opening could add more urgency – and attention – to efforts like Lowenthal’s to boost the competitiveness of California’s ports. No one involved disputes what’s at stake:

“Ultimately, it’s about the viability of these ports, particularly Long Beach and Los Angeles,” O’Connell tells Capitol Weekly.

“If we don’t move goods through more productively and efficiently then we lose business not only to Panama but other ports. And a substantial diversion of cargo away from California creates any number of significant and probably long-term effects. “

EPA Offers Funding to Reduce Pollution from Diesel Engines


November 20, 2013

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made available $2 million in funding for rebates to help public and private construction equipment owners replace or retrofit older diesel construction engines. The rebates will reduce harmful pollution and improve air quality in local areas.

“Exhaust from diesel construction equipment affects children, senior citizens and others in neighborhoods across the country”,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. "These rebates will help equipment owners protect public health and improve air quality near construction sites while updating their fleets.”

Rebates will be offered as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act, also known as DERA. This is the second rebate program offered since Congress reauthorized DERA in 2010 to allow rebates in addition to grants and revolving loans. The rebates will support the program’s effort to replace and update existing diesel vehicles, and will target where people are exposed to unhealthy air.

Since 2008, DERA has awarded more than $500 million to grantees across the country to retrofit, replace, or repower more than 50,000 vehicles. By cutting air pollution and preventing thousands of asthma attacks, emergency room visits and premature deaths, these clean diesel projects are projected to generate health benefits worth up to $8.2 billion.

Public and private construction equipment owners in eligible counties that are facing air quality challenges are encouraged to apply for rebates for the replacement or retrofit of construction equipment engines. EPA will accept applications from November 20, 2013, to January 15, 2014 and anticipates awarding the rebates in February 2014.

Construction equipment engines are very durable and can operate for decades. EPA has implemented standards to make diesel engines cleaner, but many older pieces of construction equipment remain in operation and predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). These pollutants are linked to health problems, including asthma, lung and heart disease, and even premature death. Equipment is readily available that can reduce emissions from these engines.

To learn more about the rebate program, the list of eligible counties, applicant eligibility and selection process, please visit http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/dera-rebate-construction.htm

Proposed ballot measure would more than double ‘car tax’


By Jim Miller, November 19, 2013

California motorists’ vehicle license fee would more than double under a proposed November 2014 ballot measure to raise an estimated $3 billion a year for the state’s ailing road system.

The constitutional amendment would phase in a surcharge to the fee charging motorists an extra one percent of the vehicle’s value each year. The fee has been .65 percent of a vehicle’s market value since the late 1990s, with a temporary increase to 1.15 percent from May 2009 through June 2011.

In language filed with the attorney general’s office earlier this week, proponents Will Kempton, the executive director of Transportation California who was Caltrans director from 2004 to 2009, and Jim Earp, executive director of the labor-management California Alliance for Jobs and a member of the California Transportation Commission, said, “California is facing a transportation funding crisis.”

In an interview, Kempton said the state is running out of money to pay for road maintenance. Almost $20 billion in voter-approved borrowing for highway projects has already been spoken for. Meanwhile, a steady increase in the number of electric and high-mileage hybrid vehicles – a key part of meeting the state’s goals to limit greenhouse gases – have reduced revenue to maintain highways from the per-gallon gasoline tax.

Transportation groups, construction unions and others will decide in January whether to commit the money for the signature drive to qualify the measure for next November’s ballot, Kempton said.
Proponents would have to overcome a legacy of opposition from motorists, car dealers and others against past proposals to raise the “car tax.

Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said California residents already pay some of the highest income and sales taxes in the country. Saying he respected Kempton, Coupal blamed state leaders for squandering gas tax revenue and other money that should be spent to maintain California’s roads.

Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, said this week’s proposal would “penalize people for owning cars.” A better approach, he said, would be to increase taxes on vehicle fuel, since that would correlate to how much someone drove. The group has not taken a position on the issue, he added.

The proposal would be the first highway-funding ballot measure since Proposition 1B in 2006. That measure, backed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and placed on the ballot by the Legislature, won easy approval from voters.

Proposition 1B relied on borrowing backed by general tax revenues, with a 30-year payoff. The proposal, though, would have a more direct impact on motorists’ wallets.

Under Department of Motor Vehicles schedules, someone who bought a 2013 Honda Civic for $16,000 this year will pay a $52 license fee in 2018. If the road repairs act passed, that motorist would pay about $130 that year, when the 1 percent surcharge would take full effect.

The license fee had long been 2 percent of a vehicle’s value before lawmakers, with a flush state budget, began reducing it in 1998.

After state revenue collapsed a few years later, then-Gov. Gray Davis raised the fee to the full amount in spring 2003. Motorists reacted angrily and Schwarzenegger campaigned against the increase during the summer recall fight, restoring the lower amount within hours of taking office Nov. 17, 2003.

In 2009, lawmakers approved a temporary 0.5 percent increase in the vehicle license fee, raising about $1.6 billion annually to help close a budget shortfall. The 0.5 percent surcharge expired in July 2011.

 Monday’s filing seeks a title and summary. Once cleared for signature gathering, proponents would have up to 150 days to collect 807,615 valid voter signatures to qualify for next fall’s ballot.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/19/5928364/proposed-ballot-measure-would.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/19/5928364/proposed-ballot-measure-would.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/19/5928364/proposed-ballot-measure-would.html#storylink=cpy

DIESEL CRACKDOWN: State regulators cite offending trucks


By David Danelski, November 19, 2013

From left, California Air Resources Board inspectors Valente Armenta and Jose Andujar attempt to read the emission control label on the engine of a commercial truck belonging to Patrick Tracey of Rancho Palos Verdes during a spot inspection in Lake Elsinore on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. The inspections were conducted to see if commercial trucks complied with new, cleaner emissions standards. 

See website for a video.

Gary Broadwater, 47, didn’t appreciate the $300 citation he received Tuesday, Nov. 19, after the flatbed truck he drove was inspected by state air-pollution regulators just off Interstate 15 in Lake Elsinore.

The truck owned by his employer, the Lancaster-based Frazier Corp., didn’t have a special exhaust filter that traps and burns diesel soot to reduce harmful emissions. Nor was the truck registered as part of a small fleet, which would have given the company until Jan. 1 to install such a device or get a new cleaner engine, state regulators said.

“It’s just one thing after another,” said Broadwater, standing in the makeshift truck inspection area on Collier Avenue near the Lake Elsinore Outlet Center. “I like clean air. I Iike clean water. But this is just frivolous,” he said.

Broadwater, a Lancaster resident, climbed back into the cab of the 2006 Peterbilt, holding the thin, yellow-paper ticket as well as educational literature about the California Air Resources Board diesel regulations.

“I got to roll,” he said as he shut the door and drove off with his load of construction equipment.

State air pollution regulators inspected 54 trucks at the location Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. They wrote 13 citations.

These inspectors enforce a complex set of rules approved in 2008 that requires California’s truckers to phase-in the use of cleaner, newer engines or retrofit old engines with the special exhaust filters that cost about $15,000 each.

This owners of about 50,000 trucks in the smallest fleets of three or less face a Jan. 1 deadline to bring their trucks into compliance.

A trucking industry group supports the enforcement effort, saying it’s needed to keep cheaters from getting a competitive advantage over truckers and trucking firms that pay to meet the standards.

The rules are working to greatly reduce diesel pollution, which has been linked to cancer, asthma aggravation and various other health problems, said Mark Tavianini, a state air board official who teaches truckers how to comply with the rules.

Once inhaled, microscopic soot particles lodge deep into the lungs, enter the blood stream, and injure and inflame cells of organs, including our brains.

Diesel soot from trucks, trains and ships is responsible for about 93 percent of cancer risk from air pollution in Southern California, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The diesel rules are helping the region make progress toward meeting federal standards on fine-particle pollution, which includes soot.

Tavianini said the citations are issued to the truck owners – not the drivers. So the status of Broadwater’s driver’s license won’t be affected.

On Tuesday, flashing signs ordered all southbound trucks off I-15 at Nichols Road. A California Highway Patrol officer directed the trucks from Nichols to Collier Avenue, where they were subjected to a CHP safety inspection.

Some of the trucks, generally the older ones, were then inspected by the state air-board officials. Older trucks generally pollute more. The newer ones are made to meet tougher emission standards.

Karen Caesar, a spokeswoman for state air board, said the agency has teams of roadside inspectors working throughout California.

Contacted in Sacramento, Michael Shaw, the vice president for external affairs for the California Trucking Association, said the industry group supports the enforcement effort.

The association “is happy to see that CARB is taking enforcement seriously to be sure the rules apply equally across the board,” Shaw said. “With a level playing field, companies can compete on services and rates rather than someone cheating the system.”

He said the trucking industry is spending about $1 billion a year in California to comply with these diesel regulations.

Most trucks pass the pollutions inspections, which have gone on in some form since the early 1990s. In the early day, truckers got busted for emitted exhaust that was too dark. Inspections today are based more on engine year and pollution-control installations

Memo Rocha, of Oceanside, said he was nervous when the inspectors checked out the 2000 Freightliner truck owned by his employer, Forest Wood Fiber Products. But the truck passed an emission test. The company’s fleet had complied with the state rules, and he left without a concern.

FedEx Freight Chief Says Transportation System Is Headed for Gridlock


November 18, 2013

The nation’s network of highways, roads and bridges isn’t equipped to handle the huge growth in traffic that’s expected in coming years, said Bill Logue, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Freight.

Speaking in Houston at the annual conference of the National Industrial Transportation League, Logue said the U.S. transportation infrastructure isn’t even sufficient to handle today’s needs, let alone those of the future. “We must begin to address aging infrastructure across every mode of transportation,” he said.

 Logue cited a prediction by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration that traffic volume on roads and highways will more than double between 2010 and 2040. Most of the growth will take place in urban areas,which are already under stress. Improvements in the system are “vital to economic growth, the creation of jobs and access to goods and services,” he said.

Repairs, upgrades and new construction are needed across the board, Logue said. On the aviation side, the Air Traffic Control System is built on design elements “that have not changed since the 1950s.”

FedEx supports the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, which will rely on satellite-based technology and is being implemented in stages through 2025. It will allow pilots to choose their own flight paths, leading to an estimated fuel savings of $23 billion by 2018, according to FAA.

Changes are also needed among airfreight service providers. The top 20 airports in the U.S. will all experience severe congestion over the next decade, and most are in need of new runways to handle the additional demand, Logue said.

Paperwork continues to be a major headache. An international air shipment can generate more than 30 documents. An electronic-freight initiative spearheaded by the International Air Transport Association could save shippers and carriers $12 billion, while preventing up to 80 percent of paperwork-caused delays. “We cannot solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s approaches,” Logue said.

Seaports are in dire need of berth expansion and dredging, to accommodate the new generation of larger containerships. Even without the arrival of those mega-vessels, “many of the nation’s ports are already experiencing congestion and delay,” Logue said. Like surface-transportation interests, they don’t have the money to do the job. The U.S. Senate recently passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, which promotes harbor-development projects, but doesn’t specify how they would be funded.

Elsewhere in the world, transportation systems are in a similarly poor state, according to Logue. China’s total investment in infrastructure over the years equals 76 percent of its gross domestic product, he said, but spending has not been distributed equally among all modes. In India, meanwhile, most highways are of two lanes or less. And Brazil, one of the world’s most promising developing economies, ranks near the bottom in the quality of its roads, railroads and ports.

The coming transportation crisis is more than a question of inadequate physical assets. Logue also blamed government regulation for hampering carriers. The new Hours of Service restrictions for truckers are expected to cut driver productivity by 2% to 10%, he said. According to a new survey by the American Transportation Research Institute,  more than 80 percent of motor carriers say they’ve been negatively affected by the rules.

Logue also criticized the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. While the agency’s goal of promoting safety is commendable, the regulatory burden imposed by CSA is expected to worsen the driver shortage, raise costs and reduce service choices for shippers, he said. “Fedex is committed to safety most of all,” he said. “But we need to educate [the public] about the real-world impact of these changes.”

European regulators are erecting many barriers to trade, he said. A report by the European Commission identified 700 protectionist measures since 2008, including 150 in the last year alone. They include complex license requirements, border fees, duty increases and bans on certain imports and exports. A rise in customs inspections has increased the cost of goods and services.

“We must address these barriers to trade,” said Logue. He called for expedited customs procedures and more liberal standards for duty-free treatment of imports.

South Coast Air Quality Management District files petition over EPA rule


By Barrett Newkirk, November 18, 2013

CABAZON — The government agency responsible for controlling regional air pollution has asked a federal court to review a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency that it fears will worsen air quality in the Coachella Valley.

The EPA ruled in September that the Morongo Band of Mission Indians Reservation northwest of Palm Springs along Interstate 10 was allowed to welcome heavier-polluting developments before offset requirements take effect.

That’s prompted concerns that the strong winds moving through the San Gorgonio Pass could carry more harmful pollution to valley communities as more land on the reservation is developed.
The filing last week in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by the South Coast Air Quality Management District followed a vote by the district’s government board Nov. 1 to take legal action against the EPA.

An AQMD attorney said following the board’s vote that the decision to file a lawsuit came from a concern that Indian reservations could become independent air districts and create “pollution hot spots” as higher- polluting sources move on to the land.

An EPA spokeswoman has said the agency does not comment on ongoing legal matters.

The EPA has said the change for the reservation was meant to reverse a mistake made a decade ago that put tougher standards on the reservation. A Morongo spokesman has said the tribe has no specific projects in mind for the reservation and that tribe sought a reversal of the EPA’s earlier decision because it went against its status as a sovereign nation.

The AQMD has until Jan. 31 to file briefs to the court. The EPA then has one month to respond.

Ridership discrepancy calls Metro's estimation method into question

Data from turnstiles show drastic drop in riders since stations have been locked, but Metro estimates ridership has actually increased


 By Jon Schleuss, Laura J. Nelson, and Doug Smith, November 29, 2013

Commuters swipe TAP cards

 Commuters swipe their TAP (Transit Access Pass) cards at the 7th Street/ Metro Center station in downtown L.A. Officials began locking the subway turnstiles in June, stopping many people from riding for free.

 After officials began locking the turnstiles to the Los Angeles subway in June, stopping many passengers from riding for free, the volume of people entering the system may have fallen significantly, according to data reviewed by The Times.

From May through October, the number of people passing through turnstiles each month fell from 4.8 million to 4 million, according to the data. Over the same time frame, however, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's ridership estimates climbed by about 400,000 passengers.

In September, the first full month that all gates were locked, about 3.7 million people were counted entering the subway — a decrease of 23% from May.

Metro officials said they cannot explain the discrepancy, and aren't sure whether ridership has fallen or not. They cautioned that the data were preliminary.

"Metro needs to find out what's going on and why, because that's just a huge number," former Metro director Richard Katz said. "You expect the number to drop by a few percent when you make a change, but nothing that big."

The gap raises questions about how Metro calculates ridership, a statistic that helps determine future federal funding, and what effect locking the subway system's gates will have on those who depend on the mass transit system.

In June, officials began locking the turnstiles, creating the system's first barrier to prevent people from riding for free. To board now, commuters must purchase an electronic card that they scan to unlock the turnstiles.

Clicks of a turnstile are automatic and mechanical, said David Sutton, who runs Metro's fare system, but they don't account for every passenger.

For example, turnstiles aren't installed between train lines at the 7th Street/Metro Center station, spokesman Marc Littman said, so people transferring are only counted once. Some passengers also skirt the gates by going through wheelchair-accessible entrances or emergency exits, he said. Others could be switching to buses, a ridership statistic that Metro measures separately.

"I ride the system every day," Littman said. "It sure doesn't look like there's a ... drop in ridership." Officials said their current estimates meet federal accuracy benchmarks: a 95% confidence interval, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Two dozen Metro employees create the estimates by counting the people who board every train at every station during key times of the day, said Conan Cheung, a deputy executive officer for the transportation authority.

A complete count takes about six months, he said, so every estimate is a cumulative tally of boardings from the previous half-year. For example, October's official ridership estimate of 4.6 million comes from a rolling tally starting in May.

Cheung said the samplings are a "snapshot of a day" and typically average out seasonal variations or unusually high or low days. He added it could take a few months for the estimates to adjust for any drastic ridership changes.

The estimation method Metro uses differs from that of other U.S. subway systems, including New York City and Washington, D.C., which rely solely on turnstile counts, officials for those agencies said.

"[Metro] should start incorporating turnstile data into their ridership estimate for their lines that have near 100% latched turnstiles," said Juan Matute, the associate director at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies.

He added that he'd like to see the turnstile and fare-entry data available on Metro's website, "so that researchers and even app developers could use that data in ways we've never thought of before."
In June, the Los Angeles subway recorded 700,000 more turnstile counts than estimated riders, according to the data obtained by The Times through a public records request. By October, the data points had reversed, showing 600,000 more riders than turns of the metal barriers.

Experts said that could indicate that before the subway turnstiles were locked, more customers were riding for free than the agency realized. Metro officials said they don't know the current fare evasion rate, but that it was 5% to 6% before the turnstiles were locked. A standard subway ticket costs $1.50, and transfers are not free.

Metro officials said they don't believe the dip in turnstile counts is purely a result of fare evaders who've stopped riding. Cheung said about 80% of passengers buy a seven-day or monthly pass, which allows for unlimited trips. "To have 23% fare evasion goes against that … relationship," Cheung said.

Metro officials said they hoped to incorporate turnstile counts — and possibly electronic ticket data — into their federal ridership estimates once the numbers are validated.

Thirteen fallen cyclists in the City of Angels, and no one even seems to notice — or care


November 22, 2013


That’s the answer to the question the LA Times didn’t ask.

In an opinion piece that went online Thursday as part of the paper’s extensive coverage of bicycling issues in the City of Angels, Times writer Robert Greene notes that London is reeling over the deaths of six bike riders in the last two weeks. And 14 this year.

It’s a devastating total for a city that, like Los Angeles, has made great strides in accommodating cyclists in recent years, and has seen an accompanying jump in ridership.

Or maybe it’s the other way around, as an increasing number of riders have demanded better infrastructure.

Either way, the uproar is entirely justified, as Londoners are shocked by the carnage on their streets, and demand action. Even if some insist on blaming the victims, whether for wearing headphones or other imagined violations that had noting to do with the deaths.

Just one problem.

Los Angeles, with less than half the population of the British capital, has suffered just one less death this year.

Thirteen Angelenos have lost their lives on the city’s streets since the first of the year. All in traffic collisions.

And shockingly, nine of those 13 deaths have been hit-and-runs, as heartless drivers have fled the scene, leaving their victims to bleed out in the street.

Yet unlike London, there is no outrage on the streets of LA.

There are no protests. There are no die-ins. There are no calls in the press for urgent action to keep our two-wheeled citizens safe as they ride, whether for transportation or recreation.

In fact, as far as I can tell, no one in the press has even noticed.

It’s just accepted as the cost of sharing our streets. Maybe there’s brief outpouring of shock and grief in some cases, near total silence in others. But in the long run, as the late Phil Ochs sang, it doesn’t seem to interest anyone outside of a small circle of friends.

And no one in the media or government ever does the math to come up with the horrifying total.


Some might say it’s only 12, as one victim — Markeis Vonreece Parish — was walking his bike when he was run down by a cowardly killer in a speeding Mercedes who didn’t even slow down after blasting through another human being.

Technically, Parish was a pedestrian when he was hit. But the fact that he was holding his bike as he walked with friends implied he’d ridden it there, and would likely get back on it to return home.
And that makes him one of us.

Then again, I don’t see where 12 victims is any less tragic than 13. Especially when the city saw just five fallen cyclists in each of the last two years.

As if that isn’t five too many.

Even as the press reports on the deaths in London, the loss of lives on our own streets is unnoticed or ignored.

There’s no demand for action from our advocacy groups as the death toll mounts; no mass protests at city hall.

And no reaction at all from city hall. No calls from the mayor to halt the bloodshed, no action from the city council to help keep bike riders alive, no demands, unlike other cities, for an end to traffic deaths, let alone those of more vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.

In fact, in this bloody year of 2013, with nearly three times the bicycling deaths of recent years — and still six weeks left to go — supposedly bike-friendly councilmembers like Tom LaBonge and Paul Koretz have gone on record as opposing bike lanes on Lankershim and Westwood. And had the mayor’s support in gutting the green lanes on Spring Street.

When we need a hand up, we get a knife in the back.

But what’s a few more dead cyclists in the grand scheme of things, if that means drivers — and Hollywood — can continue to maintain their hegemony on our streets?

Greene’s piece isn’t bad.

He suggests the need for protected bike lanes, though noting that we’re unlikely to get them everywhere they’re needed. And he calls for greater enforcement against law-breaking drivers, even though he can’t resist the false equivalency of headphone-wearing bike riders.

But where is the outrage over the blood that’s being spilled on our own streets, as too many Angelenos lose their lives on the hoods and bumpers of cars? And the angels that watch over this city silently scream at the indifference we show to the deaths of our brothers and sisters.


It’s just accepted as the cost of transportation, the desperately high price we pay for getting from here to there.

And that may just be the greatest tragedy of all.

This Time, It Really Would Be a Restructuring


By Damien Newton, November 22, 2013

One of the more maddening parts of covering and discussing the mass transit system in Los Angeles is a fare structure that, quite honestly, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Fares vary wildly depending on whether one is riding Metro or a local system. Transfers are rare among agencies, and difficult for new riders to figure out on Metro. If you have to transfer between buses, it can cost you more to go a mile with a couple of transfers than it would to go from North Hollywood to Long Beach via train.

Photo: ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Metro_Picture.jpg##Wikimedia##

And let’s agree to not even talk about places such as Santa Monica Boulevard, where short line service will force a transfer, and a new fare, even if you’re traveling in a straight line.

“The current system is not equitable,” commented Transit Coalition Executive Director Bart Reed in a phone interview.

So, Metro is trying to create an equitable fare system that also raises more money for the agency.
The Metro Board of Directors has a history of avoiding fare increases. “Fare Hike” headlines make for bad press, on Streetsblog and elsewhere. It’s also never easy or fun to stare down a room with hundreds of angry and desperate yellow-clad protestors and vote to make their lives a little harder.
In addition, Metro’s operations budget is not in line with what the Board has demanded it should be. When it passed a Long Range Transportation Plan in 2010, the Board of Directors set a 33% “farebox recover ratio.” That means one-third of the cost of operating buses and trains should be paid by passengers.

The current farebox recovery ratio is 26%. This means a $37 million deficit in 2017 that would have to be addressed by either a traditional fare hike, cuts to the number of buses run, or something else. Of course, the largest transit advocacy agency in the county, the Bus Riders Union, rejects that argument and instead pushes for operating dollars to come in greater volume from Measure R and other transit taxes. The BRU did not respond to a request for comment.

And so, with a gap in the operating budget and fewer and fewer transit lines left to cut, Metro staff prepared a report on a fare restructuring proposal that appears to fix some of the structural problems with Metro’s flat fare, transition to modern fare collection, create a more equitable system, and increase revenue.

As Reed notes, “You can’t keep cutting the service until there’s nothing left. You have to figure out a different model to make things sustainable.”

Maybe a combination of distance and time based fares is the “different model.”

Here’s how it would work. Instead of the $1.50 flat fare, Metro moves to a combination of time-based and distance-based fares. A time based fare would allow limitless transfers between Metro lines during a short period of time, say 90 minutes. This will open up Metro for people who don’t use the bus lines because it can be too expensive with multiple transfers. It also makes round trips to locations such as the grocery store less expensive, assuming one can get in and out of the store in a short period of time.

Under the proposal, Metro would also add a distance based fare, which would undoubtably make commutes more expensive for the hypothetical North Hollywood resident commuting to Long Beach mentioned earlier.  While full figures haven’t been realized yet, it would also likely make my regular commute, from the Westside to Downtown, more expensive as well.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Moving to a modern system of fare collection is an important step for Metro. While riders and critics should wait to see the final proposal before voicing support or opposition, there’s nothing wrong with a real restructuring that isn’t just the word “restructure” replacing the more accurate “increase” or “hike.”

Some hope this process will lead to a more fair fare system that has less politics than previous increase debates.

“What I hope to see is the start of a process which gradually brings equity between the different fare classes while improving the farebox recovery ratio, without drastic jumps at any given restructuring point,” writes Kymberleigh Richards.

“As an example, the senior fare is horribly out of proportion with reality, especially as most agencies follow the FTA guidelines/regulations that call for a discounted fare only outside of weekday rush-hour, and then still charge 50% of the regular fare.  As it stands now, the senior pass, coupled with high usage by seniors, results in an average cash paid per boarding equivalent of about two cents.  You’re not going to be able to pay for a lot of service with that kind of revenue.”

Richards currently sits on the San Fernando Valley Service Council and webmaster for the San Fernando Valley Transit Insider.

Metro also seems to be learning a lesson about how to role out a restructuring. In the past, the agency would announce a proposal, schedule hearings, and brace themselves for months of angry testimony and aggressive headlines. This time, they’re announcing the outline of a proposal now that will be voted on early next summer. They promise hearings to elicit feedback BEFORE a final proposal, with all the fare details, is announced and more hearings are scheduled.

“They’re trying to do this so that there’s enough money and time to get it done,” continued Reed. “They want to do this on a methodical basis instead of just announcing a hearing in May or June.”
There’s nothing wrong with distance based or time based fares and Metro faces a real operating gap. Whether or not the final proposal earns support or not should depend upon the details.

The free market crashes on the public’s highways


By Tom Rutten, November 22, 2013

There’s probably no regional problem that preoccupies Southern Californians more or seems more impervious to solution than traffic congestion.

That’s because traffic is terrible and getting worse. Three of America’s busiest highways run through Southern California; the nation’s most congested urban stretch of interstate is the 405 through Los Angeles.

Congestion already distorts our social and economic decisions on a daily basis. It has imposed new standards of etiquette: Whether your appointment is with friends for dinner or your physician for a flu shot, you’re either ridiculously early or unforgivably late. And everyone understands the reason — traffic. Congestion imposes economic costs at a staggering level: The average Southern California commuter annually spends 61 hours, or more than 2.5 days out the only life they’ll ever live, stuck in traffic. Congestion’s cumulative annual cost to the greater Los Angeles region is estimated at more than $12 billion.

Based on decades of writing about this mess and endless hours spent talking to the people trying to sort it out, let me propose two general rules when it comes to dealing with traffic congestion:

1) Most Southern Californians continue to think that the best solution to traffic congestion is the one that gets the other guy out of his car so you can use the freeways unimpeded.

2) All the easy stuff already has been done.

Easy, by the way, doesn’t mean cheap. Consider that, if all the ambitious — and quite necessary — public transit projects are completed, including the subway to the sea and the planned light rail extensions along with the connector under downtown L.A., traffic won’t get any worse. Mobility won’t get any better, it simply will stop deteriorating — for a while, at least.

That’s one of the things that has brought about the region’s increasing flirtation with what the planners call “congestion pricing” and the rest of us know as toll roads. Orange County is considered a national model for these projects and greater Los Angeles is experimenting with them on the 110 and 10 freeways. The late Conor Cruise O’Brien once remarked, “partition is the last resort of exhausted statesman.” Congestion pricing is the last resort of utterly baffled transit analysts.

Orange County launched the experiment with toll highways two decades ago with a pay-to-drive highway for Inland Empire commuters traveling to and from their jobs in the booming southern county. By and large, that stretch of toll road has continued to generate substantial revenue, but many sections of the O.C.’s other 51 miles of pay-to-drive roadway have struggled to attract commuters and been forced to refinance. Even so, using them isn’t cheap; traveling the express lanes of the 91 Freeway can run $10 each way during peak traffic periods. Now, a growing number of Orange County residents and city officials along a particularly congested stretch of the 405 Freeway that runs south from Long Beach have told the local transportation agency that they oppose using public sales tax money to help finance construction of toll lanes there. Should those lanes be built, consumers will pay $9.91 for a one-way toll.

The notion that toll roads are a “free market” solution to traffic congestion was one of the popular rationales advanced for Orange County’s great experiment with the things. In fact, just last week, Ryan Chamberlain, Caltrans’ district director for Orange County, told an interviewer that using the system is “a free-market driven choice, not a tax.” If it is, it isn’t a very good one. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, privately financed toll roads built in emulation of Orange County’s are going belly up all across the nation. Foreign investors who provided the capital for the projects in expectation of constantly rising revenues have been bitterly disappointed. Systems in Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Indiana and San Diego have had to financially reorganize or even seek bankruptcy protection.

Apart from the lack of demand, the American highway system is anything but a free market. A free market is created by private enterprise and is governed by consumer demand, which makes market forces the most economically efficient allocator of a particular economic activity’s benefits. The states’ freeway and turnpike networks are the children of the federal government’s great interstate highway system, which was one of the publicly financed pillars of America’s post-war economic boom. California’s freeway infrastructure was paid for with the revenues of the gas taxes every driver pays. As such, it is a classic public amenity — something no one group could have financed on its own — and not in any sense a market. Tacking stretches of toll road onto such a system and then nattering piously about “free market solutions” is intellectual and economic nonsense.

Part of the proof of that is that the major incentive for constructing toll lanes these days comes in the form of federal transit grants that are available to transportation agencies willing to experiment with congestion pricing. Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency undertook its experiments on the 10 and 110 Freeways mostly because not doing so would have meant a loss of available federal money. So much for the free market.

If this state’s transit agencies, including Caltrans, really want to experiment with congestion pricing why not do it where it’s already been shown to have inarguable positive results — with commercial truck traffic. When Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, deliveries and pickups by truckers were restricted to nights and the industry voluntarily stayed off the freeways during peak traffic hours. By some estimates, that alone reduced daylight freeway congestion by as much as 17 percent. The results were so strikingly clear that, in the early 1990s, then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley proposed making the arrangement permanent. The pushback from the trucking industry and the commercial establishment that insisted it would impose unbearable additional costs on business quickly scuttled the proposal.

More recently, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have imposed additional fees on trucks that use their container terminals during the day. As a result, over the past three years, an estimated 40 percent of the truck traffic coming out of the port has switched to off-peak hours. The port’s night-time expenses are covered by the fees collected during daylight hours. Extending such a plan to all the businesses and manufacturers operating in Southern California actually would stimulate employment — something we badly need — since employers would have to hire for a night shift.

It won’t happen because the trucking industry and other business are organized and can afford to resist. Toll roads and other forms of congestion pricing shouldn’t be unfairly imposed on commuters just because they’re not.

Why U.S. Immigrants Drive Less Than Natives


By Eric Jaffe, November 25, 2013

 Why U.S. Immigrants Drive Less Than Natives

U.S. immigrants drive a lot less than native-born Americans. They're twice as likely to commute by transit and one-and-a-half times as likely to carpool when they arrive in the country — and they remain more likely to use those modes 15 years later. This big driving gap declines once an immigrant has lived in the United States for a couple decades. But even then some difference lingers.

The source of this so-called "immigrant effect" is important for cities to understand. In addition to being the first home for so many new immigrants, urban areas also encourage alternative transport modes however possible. But theories about low immigrant driving rates are based mostly on driving data, with little personal input from immigrants themselves.

Planning scholars Daniel Chatman of UC-Berkeley and Nicholas Klein of Rutgers recently tried to address that shortcoming. They arranged a series of focus groups with recent immigrants from India, the Philippines, and Latin America who'd settled in New Jersey. Their findings, published in Transport Policy, suggest several reasons why the driving gap not only exists for recent immigrants but persists in established ones.

We've split their results into three parts.

Why recent immigrants drive less at first.

Chatman and Klein found support for a few old and rather obvious barriers to immigrant driving. For starters, most have limited employment and travel options when they first arrive. Limited money, licensing restrictions, and fear of police (in the case of undocumented immigrants) also play a role. Lastly, many immigrants settle in cities where transit services are (relatively) plentiful.

 They also settle into neighborhoods with other immigrants — a situation that makes it much easier to find a ride with someone else. Indeed, recent immigrants have much higher rates of carpooling than native-born Americans do. As other new research points out, life in an ethnic enclave might facilitate carpool formation by reducing linguistic and cultural hurdles.

During their focus groups, Chatman and Klein heard two recurring reasons for low rates of immigrant driving that have been under-appreciated in the past. One is that many immigrants were intimidated by the driving conditions in metropolitan New York. The other is that sending payments back home made saving for a car even tougher financially than it would have been.

Why immigrants use cars more over time.

Car use does rise among immigrants the longer they've been in the United States. Increased income no doubt plays a role. Other common explanations point to the process of cultural assimilation — adopting the American ideal of a suburban residence and car ownership, for instance — but Chatman and Klein hesitate to endorse that reasoning.

Their focus groups did reveal that immigrants drive more as a result of a residential move, but reasons for the move were less cultural and more practical. Immigrants said that job changes, access to child care or schools, and the arrival of other immigrant family members were all big factors in a residential move that led to more driving. Among the focus groups, only Indian immigrants living in Jersey City reported having changed travel mode for "cultural" reasons.

Why immigrant driving stays lower in the long run.

Though the gap diminishes over time, immigrants still drive less than native-born Americans do, even controlling for household income. Chatman and Klein offer several reasons why.

One is the simple fact that immigrant transit ridership is growing. A new arrival trying to find a bus, for instance, is more likely these days to bump into an ethnic kin who can explain (in native tongue) which line to take. That situation makes riding transit more comfortable for the entire immigrant community. Private transit options — especially dollar mini-buses — have increased, too.

Immigrants also seem to have different residential priorities than native-born Americans. Many develop alternative transport habits in the cities where they initially settle. Those early transit habits, write Chatman and Klein, "may persist among many immigrants, and may condition where they seek to live in subsequent moves." Another reason for cities to promote such habits in the first place.

California High-Speed Rail Bond Sale Rejected by Judge


By Karen Gullo and Michael B. Marois, November 25, 2013

The California High-Speed Rail Authority was barred from issuing more than $8 billion in bonds to help finance a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles after a judge said the agency failed to provide sufficient justification for approving the sales.

California state Judge Michael Kenny in Sacramento ruled yesterday that the authority’s finance committee didn’t adequately disclose its reasons for authorizing the bonds. The committee said it was “necessary and desirable” to approve the bond sales, a rationale that echoed the position of public officials on the rail authority while not complying with California’s bond law, Kenny said.

Voters “intended to empower the finance committee to serve as an independent decision-maker, protecting the interests of taxpayers by acting as the ultimate ‘keeper of the checkbook,’” Kenny said.
The decision will cause delays and increase costs for the $68 billion first-in-the-nation bullet rail system, while public support wanes, state officials said. The goal has been to lay tracks for trains running as fast as 220 miles an hour (354 kilometers an hour) after the U.S. Congress cut off funds for such projects in 2012. The state is buying land and rights of way needed for the project, which is slated to begin running three-hour trips between the California cities by 2029.

“This does not jeopardize the project. It will cause delay and it will cost more money,” Rod Diridon, chairman emeritus of the rail authority, said by phone.

‘Public Opinion’

The project’s prospects are dimming and “we’re losing public opinion,” Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in an interview after the ruling.

State officials “need to make a strong case now” and decide whether high speed rail is even worth pursuing at all, Newsom said.

A date for the bond sales hadn’t been set. California and its local governments have issued $42.8 billion in bonds this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. California sold $2.6 billion of bonds in 2013 and has $74 billion now outstanding.

“We are ecstatic about this ruling” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which opposed the bond sales. “The high-speed rail project is derailed.”

Kenny declined to stop the project from moving forward, said Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority’s board.

‘Transformative Projects’

“The judge did not invalidate the bonds as approved by the voters,” he said in an e-mail. “Like all transformative projects, we understand that there will be many challenges that will be addressed as we go forward in building the nation’s first high-speed rail system.”

California voters in 2008 approved a bond measure that authorized the state to sell $9.95 billion of bonds to help build the $68 billion rail line. The state plan anticipates that federal funds and private investors will pay for the rest. The proposal saves money by upgrading existing commuter and freight lines in some areas, rather than build new track.

California Governor Jerry Brown in 2012 signed a bill authorizing the state to begin spending the first $2.6 billion of the bonds for construction to begin. The appropriation unlocked $3.3 billion in promised U.S funds, out of $8 billion for high-speed rail from President Barack Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package.

Bond Measure

The state has sold $705 million of debt from the bond measure. The bonds aren’t sold in a separate offering. Instead, they’re sold as part of the state’s generic general-obligation bond offerings that finance many different kinds of projects such as schools and roads.

The state in August signed a $1 billion contract with a joint venture of Tutor Perini Corp. (TPC), Zachary Construction Corp. and Parsons Corp. to design and built the first 30 miles. The rail authority is getting ready to seek bids for a second $2 billion contract.

In a ruling in a separate case challenging the project, Kenny said yesterday the rail authority had to rescind its funding plan and denied a request to set aside the approval of the construction contracts with Tutor-Perini-Parsons.

The case is High-Speed Rail Authority v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of the Validity of the Authorization and Issuance of General Obligation Bonds, 34-2013-00140689, Sacramento Superior Court.

Man struck, killed in Hollywood by Metro Red Line train


November 26, 2013

HOLLYWOOD (CNS) - A man was struck and killed by a Metro Red Line train in Hollywood today, authorities said.

Paramedics were sent to the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard, near Vine Street, about 5:30 a.m., said Katherine Main of the Los Angeles Fire Department. The man died at the scene, Main said. His name was not immediately available.

The station at Hollywood and Vine was fully reopened about 11:15 a.m., said Kim Upton of Metro, and normal train service was restored.

A Stroll Around the World


By Paul Salopek, November 22, 2013

ON THE GULF OF AQABA, Jordan — I AM walking across the world. In January I set out on foot from Herto Bouri, an early site of Homo sapiens fossils in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia, to retrace the pathways of the first anatomically modern humans who colonized the planet at least 60,000 years ago. My finish line is in Tierra del Fuego, at the chilly tip of South America, the last nook of the continents settled by our ancestors. This long ramble will last seven continuous years. It will span 21,000 miles. (I have logged about 1,700 miles to date.)

I’m writing dispatches along the way for National Geographic on subjects as varied as human evolution and conflict, nomadism and climate change. The “Out of Eden Walk,” as I’m calling it, uses deep history as a mirror for current events. But even as I adhere strictly to my brand of bipedal journalism, trying as it were to put myself in a Pleistocene state of mind, cars keep roaring into my awareness. They are inescapable. They are without a doubt the defining artifacts of our civilization. They have reshaped our minds in ways that we long ago ceased thinking about. 

As I inch from the poorer subtropical latitudes into the richer temperate zones of the planet, for example, there has been a dramatic shift in human consciousness. 

At the walk’s start in the Horn of Africa, one of the last habitable places on earth where automobiles remain scarce — according to the World Bank, Ethiopia musters perhaps two or three motor vehicles per 1,000 people — walking was a near-universal activity. The Rift Valley desert and people’s relationship to it are still shaped by the human foot. Trails unspool everywhere. Everyone functions as a competent walking guide — even small children. 

But once I crossed the Red Sea on a camel boat to the Middle East, where car ownership explodes to 300 or more vehicles per 1,000 citizens (the figure in the United States balloons to about 800), I’d entered a region subjugated utterly by the vulcanized rubber tire. 

In Saudi Arabia, I had trouble simply communicating with motorists who have lost the ability to imagine unconstrained movement to any point on the horizon. Asking directions is often pointless. Like drivers everywhere, their frame of reference is rectilinear and limited to narrow ribbons of space, axle-wide, that rocket blindly across the land. 

“Why did you leave the road?” one Saudi friend asked me, puzzled, when I improvised an obvious shortcut across a mountain range. “The highway is always straighter.” 

To him, the earth’s surface beyond the pavement was simply a moving tableau — a gauzy, unreal backdrop for his high-speed travel. He was spatially crippled. The writer Rebecca Solnit nails this mind-set perfectly in her book “Wanderlust: A History of Walking”: “In a sense the car has become a prosthetic, and though prosthetics are usually for injured or missing limbs, the auto-prosthetic is for a conceptually impaired body or a body impaired by the creation of a world that is no longer human in scale.” 

I just call it Car Brain. 

The incidence of Car Brain grows with rising latitudes across the surface of the world. (Then it vanishes at the poles, where Plane Brain replaces it.) In the affluent Global North, this syndrome will be familiar to any hiker who has had to share a walked landscape with motor vehicles. 

Cocooned inside a bubble of loud noise and a tonnage of steel, members of the internal combustion tribe tend to adopt ownership of all consumable space. They roar too close. They squint with curiosity out of the privacy of their cars as if they themselves were invisible. In Saudi Arabia, this sometimes meant a total loss of privacy as Bedouins in pickups, soldiers in S.U.V.’s and curiosity seekers in sedans circled my desert camps as if visiting an open-air zoo, gaping at the novelty of a man on foot with two cargo camels. Other motorists steered next to my elbow for hundreds of yards, interrogating me through a rolled-down car window. (Not to pick on Saudi Arabia, which is no worse than any other Car Brain society, but exactly one driver in 700 miles of walking in the kingdom bothered to park and stroll along for a while.) 

More striking than a Car Brain’s impaired road etiquette, though, are the slow pleasures it misses in life.

The Car Brain will never know the ceremony of authentic departures and arrivals. Towns and villages that were mere smears of speed along busy superhighways were celebratory events savored by my Saudi walking partners and me. Our step lightened with anticipation as we wandered into the outskirts. We laughed. We felt good: flushed with accomplishment. Similarly, packing our camel bags and walking out of a town was a special moment — an embarkation that signaled a tangible advance through space and time, and not the commuter’s inconvenience of simply “getting there.” 

Car Brains have lost all knowledge of human interactions on foot. People stiffen when they see a pedestrian approaching from a distance. But they relax and smile as they hear your voice, see your empty (unarmed) hands. In Africa and in the remnant pastoral communities of Arabia you must stand dozens of yards away from huts and homes, waiting politely to be noticed, before exchanging greetings. A lovely courtliness marks these bipedal encounters. 

AND then there is simply the act of traveling through the world at three miles per hour — the speed at which we were biologically designed to move. There is something mesmerizing about this pace that I still can’t adequately describe. While roaming the old pilgrim roads in Saudi Arabia, I came to understand how the journey to Mecca — the hajj — in the pre-airline days was perhaps as important as reaching Islam’s holiest city. Watching the Red Sea slide by my left shoulder as I walked north, seeing the white desert coast dance with ink-blue waters as one bay after another scalloped by, put me in a meditative trance that must be primordial. 

These are natural, limbic connections that reach back to the basement of time — ones that Car Brains rarely experience. I must continually remind motorists that what I am doing is not extreme. 

Anthropologists have strapped G.P.S. devices to the Hadza people of Tanzania, among the last hunter-gatherers left on earth, and discovered that the men walk on average seven miles a day in pursuit of game. (Women a little less.) This adds up to 2,500 miles annually, or tramping from New York to Los Angeles every year. Given that this ancient economy is one that dominated 95 percent of human history, walking that distance is our norm. Sitting down is what’s radical. 

I have nothing personal against motorized travel. Cars build middle classes. They grant us undreamed-of freedom. And I suspect that I’ll be driving away from my walk’s end point in Chile in 2020. But it’s probably inevitable that, as I plod through the Middle East, Asia and the Americas over the next six years, I’ll become increasingly alienated from the growing bulk of humanity afflicted by Car Brain. The internal combustion engine has affected more drastic changes on human culture — flattening it through the annihilation of time and space — than the web revolution. Indeed, the century-old automotive revolution prepared the way for the rise of the Internet, by eroding the capacity for attention, for patience, by fomenting a cult of speed. 

It can be lonely out here among the Car Brains. Sometimes, out walking, I feel like a ghost. Already, I have to seek out society’s marginal people to find my way across the planet. Settled nomads. The ambulatory poor. The very ancient, whose mode of transport is still a donkey or maybe a cart, elders who haven’t forgotten about earned distances. They point to referents beyond the aphasia of paved roads. I take my compass bearings off their paupers’ hands.