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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Actions taken by the Metro Board of Directors today


By Steve Hymon, December 5, 2013

The final Metro Board of Directors meeting of the year was a low-key affair. Perhaps of the most interest to everyday riders were motions approved concerning restrooms at stations, parking at stations and fare evasion along the Orange Line — more about those in this previous post.
Here are some of the actions taken today:

•On consent, the Board approved a $1.64-million contract with STV/Parsons Brinckerhoff for consulting services to help draw up specifications for the eventual procurement for new subway cars.
•On consent, the Board approved a new policy to govern requests from cities, third parties and other stakeholders for changes to transportation projects after they have been approved by the Board. The gist of the new policy: the modifications should not delay the project or increase its budget unless funding is identified. This one falls under the wonky but important category as a lot of these requests do come in after project construction is underway.

•On consent, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Metro and Los Angeles World Airports for changes to the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century project that could help improve connections to future airport facilities such as a consolidated rental car facility or a people mover:
Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 10.18.44 AM
•On consent, the Board approved a $6.17-million contract with ARINC, Inc. to provide a new computer software and hardware that provide “centralized control and/or monitoring of train movement, traction and auxiliary power, fire detection and suppression, gas detection, emergency tunnel and ancillary ventilation” and other communication systems.

•The Board voted to approve a motion asking Metro staff to report back on the feasibility of establishing a living wage for landscape and irrigation maintenance workers contracted by Metro. The motion was by Metro Board Members Eric Garcetti, Paul Krekorian, Gloria Molina andJacquelyn Dupont-Walker.

•The Board voted to approve a motion for Metro staff to report back on Orange Line fare evasion and actions that may be taken to increase the number of people who tap their TAP cards before boarding the bus. The motion was by Board Members Paul Krekorian and Zev Yaroslavsky.

•On consent, the Board approved a motion for Metro staff to study and report back on installing bathrooms at the Orange Line’s Pierce College station and potentially at other transit stations. The motion was by Board Members Michael Antonovich, Eric Garcetti, Paul Krekorian and Zev Yaroslavsky.

•The Board voted to approve a motion for Metro staff to study ways to potentially expand vehicle and bike parking at the Red Line’s North Hollywood and Universal City/Studio City stations, as well as improving connectivity to the stations. The motion was by Board Members Eric Garcetti, Paul Krekorian and Zev Yaroslavsky.

Los Angeles Is Changing In The Two Most Fundamental Ways


By Adrian Glick Kudler, December 4, 2013


Roughly since World War II, the car and the single-family house (with its trusty sidekick the yard) have teamed up to create the popular view of Southern California as a hot, sprawling wasteland criss-crossed by jam-packed freeways. But that's changing: data out today shows that SoCal house-buying is down, condo-buying is up, car use is down, and transit use is up. It's a new day in Los Angeles; adjust your snobberies accordingly.

As a new SoCal real estate bubble inflates, fewer people than ever can afford to buy houses, but some can still afford to buy condos--one condo-buying financial analyst tells the LA Times "A single-family house with a backyard is just a beautiful thing … But that is a luxury." (Yeah, that's a finance guy calling a backyard a luxury. This is not your parents' America.) In October, the median price for a SoCal condo was $72,500 less than the median price for a house; sales of existing houses fell 7.2 percent over last year, while condo resales rose 3.3 percent. From January to October this year, condo sales have made up 22 percent of all home sales in Southern California.

But the shift toward denser living isn't completely about housing costs--younger people actually like living in city environments, where they can walk or ride transit to their jobs or friends' or bar. And as the director of UCLA's Ziman Center for Real Estate tells the Times "The median-priced condo is significantly better located than the median single-family home ... It's probably closer in, with less of a commute, and it's closer to entertainment."

Which brings us to a new study showing that Southern Californians (and Americans in general) have started to use their cars less and the transit system more over the past decade as gas prices have risen, Baby Boomers have stopped working, and transit and car-sharing have expanded. In 2010 (the latest year for the data), Southern Californians drove 2.3 percent fewer miles than they did in 2006, for a total reduction of about 2.9 billion miles. The number of people commuting by car dropped by about 2 percent. Meanwhile, public transit mileage increased by about 14 percent, with total trips up about 1.1 percent. Since this data was collected, Metro has also opened the Expo Line light rail and an extension of the Orange Line busway.

The guys who wrote the transportation study suggest that "public officials should begin to move money away from highway expansion and toward projects that encourage transit use, bicycling and walking." California might never give up its moronic freeway projects (e.g., the 405 Freeway widening nightmare, which will not actually improve traffic), but in the past few years, SoCal has gotten very serious about expanding the Metro rail and busway system, installing new bike infrastructure, and creating more pedestrian-friendly streets and public places. Now bring us some good news on plastic surgery, please, researchers.

Inside North Korea’s Subway System


By Jeffrey Marlow, December 4, 2013


 The entrance to the Puhoong station, under the watchful eye of a guard.

 Hall 2
 The platform of Puhoong Station, one of the showpiece stations build in the 1980s.

Hundreds of feet beneath the world’s most insular capital city lies a network of cavernous rooms, adorned with stone pillars and grandiose mosaics.  This is the Pyongyang Metro, one of North Korea’s most ambitious public works projects.

For public transportation infrastructure aficionados – and you know who you are – the Pyongyang Metro is an eagerly sought grail; for the rest of us, it’s a peek into the daily commute of the North Korea’s privileged capital-dwellers. Commuting is the dominant expression of public life in North Korea, a country with few restaurants and stores, and even fewer civic gatherings. On the streets, cyclists and pedestrians far outnumber cars, as people move in stark silence between their residence and place of work.

The eerie silence and sense of purposeful movement extend underground. On a recent Thursday morning, hundreds of passengers (Lunch breakers? Unemployed? Conscripts? All jobs should begin by 10 AM) rode the #1 Chollima line through central Pyongyang.

The underground stations are ornate but dimly lit: patrons squint to read posted newspapers while patriotic music echoes faintly across the stone floor. Most of the 16 public stations (there are rumors of secret, government-use-only networks) were built in the 1970s, but the most grandiose halls – Puhoong and Yonggwang – were constructed in 1987. Mosaics and metallic reliefs extolling the virtues of North Korean workers and landscapes line the walls.

The subway cars were acquired from Germany, and despite a green and red makeover, the remnant graffiti scratched into windows and paneling belies their past lives. And as with every other public and private space throughout the country, portraits of past leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il look down from the ends of each car, smiling and ever-present.

The photo gallery above (go to website to see more photos) offers a look inside the Pyongyang Metro system during a recent Young Pioneers tour; see here for a video walk-through of the Yonggwang station, showing the ebb and flow of the mid-day commute.

Watch People Act Out Paris's Subway Line Names


By Mark Byrnes, December 5, 2013

While traveling along a subway line, our imaginations may take us to strange places. What, we might wonder, would a "Foggy Bottom" or "Cockfosters" actually look like?

Photographer Janol Apin has given us some idea. In Métropolisson, Apin set up amusing, carefully arranged scenes in nearly half of Paris Metro's 245 stations. Each is meant to be a literal depiction of the station name. In Argentine, for example, there are tango dancers. At Château d'Eau (which translates to "Water Tower"), a man desperately reaches for a water cooler. And at Alexandre Dumas, three musketeers put their swords to the air in unison.

Apin tells Fast Company that the idea for the project came during a stop at Richard-Lenoir, when he saw a stranger posing underneath the station sign, causing Apin to think that the man could be Richard himself. Not surprisingly, he eventually came come back to the station with his camera, and a man in a t-shirt that says "Richard."

Electric car owner charged with stealing 5 cents worth of juice


By Doug Richards, December 4, 2013

CHAMBLEE, Ga. -- One Saturday in November, Kaveh Kamooneh drove his Nissan Leaf to Chamblee Middle School, where his 11-year-old son was playing tennis.

Kamooneh had taken the liberty of charging the electric car with an exterior outlet at the school. Within minutes of plugging in the car, he says a Chamblee police officer appeared.

"He said that he was going to charge me with theft by taking because I was taking power, electricity from the school," Kamooneh said.

Kamooneh says he had charged his car for 20 minutes, drawing about a nickel's worth of juice. Don Francis of Clean Cities Atlanta, an electric vehicle advocacy group, says the estimate of 5 cents is accurate.

 "I'm not sure how much electricity he stole," said Chamblee police Sergeant Ernesto Ford, but he added: It doesn't matter. "He broke the law. He stole something that wasn't his."

Sgt. Ford says the officer should have arrested Kamooneh on the spot. But he didn't. Instead, the officer filed a police report. Then 11 days passed, and two deputies showed up at his house in Decatur.

"They arrested me here at about eight o'clock at night," Kamooneh said.

Ford said he sought the arrest warrant after determining that school officials hadn't given Kamooneh permission to plug in his car. Ford said Chamblee Police did so without asking school officials if they wanted to prosecute the alleged theft of electricity. A DeKalb Schools spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Records show Kamooneh spent more than 15 hours in the DeKalb County Jail for plugging his car into a school's electrical outlet.

Kamooneh acknowledges he hadn't asked permission first. "When I got there, there was nobody there. It was a Saturday morning," he said.

"A theft is a theft," Sgt. Ford said. When asked if he'd make the arrest again, he answered: "Absolutely."

Wednesday afternoon, DeKalb County School District spokesman Quinn Hudson released a statement saying the school system "has cooperated in the investigation and will continue to do so."
Wednesday evening, Chamblee City Manager and Police Chief Marc Johnson issued the following statement:

We received a 911 call advising that someone was plugged into the power outlet behind the middle school. The responding officer located the vehicle in the rear of the building at the kitchen loading dock up against the wall with a cord run to an outlet. The officer spent some time trying to determine whose vehicle it was. It was unlocked and he eventually began looking through the interior after verifying it did not belong to the school system.

The officer, his marked patrol vehicle and the electric vehicle were all in clear view of the tennis courts. Eventually, a man on the courts told the officer that the man playing tennis with him owned the vehicle. The officer went to the courts and interviewed the vehicle owner. The officer's initial incident report gives a good indication of how difficult and argumentative the individual was to deal with. He made no attempt to apologize or simply say oops and he wouldn't do it again. Instead he continued being argumentative, acknowledged he did not have permission and then accused the officer of having damaged his car door. The officer told him that was not true and that the vehicle and existing damage was already on his vehicles video camera from when he drove up.

Given the uncooperative attitude and accusations of damage to his vehicle, the officer chose to document the incident on an incident report. The report was listed as misdemeanor theft by taking. The officer had no way of knowing how much power had been consumed, how much it cost nor how long it had been charging.

The report made its way to Sgt Ford's desk for a follow up investigation. He contacted the middle school and inquired of several administrative personnel whether the individual had permission to use power. He was advised no. Sgt. Ford showed a photo to the school resource officer who recognized Mr. Kamooneh. Sgt Ford was further advised that Mr. Kamooneh had previously been advised he was not allowed on the school tennis courts without permission from the school . This was apparently due to his interfering with the use of the tennis courts previously during school hours.

Based upon the totality of these circumstances and without any expert advice on the amount of electricity that may have been used, Sgt Ford signed a theft warrant. The warrant was turned over to the DeKalb Sheriffs Dept for service because the individual lived in Decatur, not Chamblee. This is why he was arrested at a later time.

I am sure that Sgt. Ford was feeling defensive when he said a theft is a theft and he would do it again. Ultimately, Sgt. Ford did make the decision to pursue the theft charges, but the decision was based on Mr. Kamooneh having been advised that he was not allowed on the property without permission. Had he complied with that notice none of this would have occurred. Mr. Kamooneh's son is not a student at the middle school and he was not the one playing tennis. Mr. Kamooneh was taking lessons himself.


Richard Hall: Orwell's New Newspeak - Decoding Sustainability Rhetoric


December 5. 2013

 Sustainability Spin Decoder

(Mod: I was digging around for articles so that I could concoct a "Weekend News" post last Saturday when I ran across something so good I decided to go with it alone. Written by a gentleman named Richard Hall for a SF Bay Area blog called Save Marinwood (link), it skewers a lot of the sorts of language being used by the likes of our very own EENER Commission in its efforts to coerce unwanted high density urbanization into our little tree filled low density village. The phony rationale being that block after block of stacked and packed condos are "sustainable," and will somehow save the world from climate catastrophe. Laughable, of course. But isn't that how you sell bad things in California? You tell people it will save the world? Here's the article.)

Orwell's New Newspeak: Decoding Sustainability Rhetoric

In 1984 George Orwell describes a totalitarian state that asserted control by redefining language. Advocates for urbanizing Bay Area towns have leveraged these techniques. We need to educate ourselves to cleanly understand the arguments.

George Orwell wrote 1984 about a totalitarian state that asserted control by appropriating and controlling language - a language called "newspeak" (link). This aspect of 1984 was based on an essay written by Orwell in 1946 entitled "Politics and the English language." In the essay Orwell states:

"Political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness." 

A euphemism is an expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing. While we don't necessarily face a totalitarian state (although some readers may disagree with me), we face powerful political groups - developers, planners, transit advocates, social equity groups and HUD -  that have united in a way that is almost as ominous.

Language is one of the tools being used by the fast growth lobby to control the conversation, promoting high density housing and transit oriented development.

Too often we are faced with articles written to convince us that we must do something in the name of sustainability - accept high density housing, use transit instead of driving ... In these articles the true intent and meaning is concealed by tools such as euphemisms, disinformation and demonization.

Exactly How Is Our Language Being Subverted?

Here is a list of just some of the many terms being used to convince us to accept certain policies such as "transit oriented development" and "high density housing".

Affordable Housing (Euphemism) = Subsidized Housing: Lets face it, affordable housing is nothing more than subsidized housing; only instead of focusing on the cost the term focuses exclusively on the benefit. Who wouldn't want more affordable housing if it's free?

Sites like the monstrous Win Cup in Corte Madera were approved partly to meet housing quotas for affordable housing - but turn out in reality to be about making profits (Win Cup is almost entirely market rate).

European (Euphoric) = Idyllic or Nostalgic Promised Land: All too often we are sold a story that we need to be more like somewhere else where the grass is greener - like Europe (but focusing exclusively on the good aspects) or America of yesteryear where everyone would enjoy traveling on trains or trolley cars in the golden age of travel.

What is omitted is that Europe has spent vast amounts of public money to build and operate a transit network. Even now fares are very high and often out of reach to those with low incomes enabling true mobility.  Operation places substantial burdens on the state. To achieve any parallel in the US would require significant tax increases making the cost of living less affordable for all.

Smart Growth (Euphemism) = Urbanization: Remember a euphemism is an expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.

Transit Oriented Development (Glittering Generality) = Systematic Urbanization: Transit oriented development is heralded as the progressive future, but little evidence is produced to substantiate this approach. For instance the fact that transit usage has been in decline in our region despite massive increases in investment is conveniently dismissed. The fact that cars are the preferred form of transportation for many journeys, and that they are cleaner (lower emissions per passenger mile) than transit on all but the most popular transit lines is dismissed. Rather the car and it's tailpipe emissions are demonized.

Workforce Housing (Half truth) = Housing Presuming Commute Patterns: This sells the half truth that new housing will contain a high proportion of residents that will live nearer to their work, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In reality:

- Little or no control can be imposed over where the residents work (E.g. there is no criteria eliminating applicants who would extend their commutes).
- There is rarely any study to analyze if this is achieved. When the LA Times conducted such a study in 2007 (link) they thoroughly demolished the myth of workforce housing.

The reality is that such housing may cause people to extend their commutes, or simply have no such impact, yet it may impose substantial costs, congestion and parking issues.

Open Up the Waterfront (Big Lie, Misinformation) = Close Off with High Rises: The biggest lie that was well spotted by residents was the attempt to build high density housing across the San Francisco waterfront at Embarcadero.  Luckily San Francisco voters saw right through this masquerade (link).

Sustainable (Glittering Generality) = Superior Based on Rules We Made Up: While there are many that use this term correctly, there are a sizable number that use it as a method of convincing others that their approach is superior, and it is not to be questioned.

Community Outreach (Obfuscation) = Obtaining the Appearance of Community Support: ABAG and MTC like to state that Plan Bay Area had over 250 community meetings to collect community input - but what is omitted and obfuscated is that most of those meetings were attended by a sizable number of vocal opponents. Many supporters of PBA were organizations that received money (patronage) and contracts, and shaped the plan before community input truly began.

Vibrant (Oversimplification) = Success that will follow if you adhere to our doctrine: Vibrant describes a positive state but typically there is no concrete argument or analysis or definition of this end state. As such it is a gross oversimplification. For instance it is often stated that transit oriented development helps town centers become "more vibrant." What they may intend is "there will be more business as there will be more people walking around."

However it would be easy to argue that improving access to cars through improved roads and parking may be much more likely to achieve such an effect.  Just look at the success of malls. This Washington Post article (link) explains the quandary well ultimately surmising that a big box store like Target with car parking in a town center is what drives shoppers.

Our Ability To Judge Is Being Removed

Ultimately this double-speak is removing the ability for many of us to make an accurate judgment.  The judgement is being made for us and built into convincing words.

This is an intellectual travesty. We need to have conversations about the reality.

Orwell's Remedy Of Six Rules

Thankfully George Orwell left us with a 6 point approach to solving the issue:

1) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. The majority of the times that these types of phrases are being used, they are being used without the knowledge of what is truly being said. By using these techniques the phrases are rendered meaningless. I would say that the following terms fall into this category: smart, sustainable.

2) Never use a long word where a short one will do. Orwell describes"Pretentious diction" and "Meaningless Words". He cites “romantic, plastic, values, human, [and] dead” stating  “they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader”. Here I would point to: vibrant, workforce housing, social equity...

3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. E.g. Smart growth = growth. Smart train = train.

4) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Of all the rules this is where we are being bombarded the most with jargon like:

- Transit Oriented Development

- Walkable Communities (I can walk 10 minutes and get to shops and cinema right now, but apparently it's not walkable enough)

- Priority Development Areas - areas marked for intensive urbanization

- Workforce Stabilization

Orwell's condemns such "grand phrases".

6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. Orwell's last rule means that the writer should break the previous rules when necessary for a proper sentence. The writer should not use the English language to manipulate or deceive the reader.


There are many good people working to fight climate change. I for one see the need. We need to be having the right conversations following Orwell's rules, not using propaganda techniques.

We can have fact-based undistorted conversations, we can fight climate change and recognize that there are cost effective, market based transportation solutions that don't necessarily need us to make radical shifts to high density or transit. As mentioned in my prior article - car and highway technology is rapidly changing, and the car offers a degree of convenience that is hard for transit to beat. And we do need to be providing transportation ensuring that those with low incomes are provided opportunity.

Achieving these objectives should occur based on truth in conversation.

(Mod: Another article worth checking out is called "Smart Growth is Not Green. Low Density Housing Better for the Environment." Click here.) 

Interesting SCAG-centric article up on the Pasadena Star News site this morning

New report says poverty on the rise throughout Southern California (link): Speaking of the Orwellian, SCAG informs us that poverty is on the rise in Southern California. Forgive me for asking, but as our Regional Planning Organization responsible for dealing with such things as poverty and economic displacement, wouldn't SCAG have to bear some of the blame for this deplorable condition?

The U.S. cities leading the decline in driving


By Emily Badger, December 5, 2013

 Austin, Texas.

Austin, Texas.
One of the simplest ways to measure our dependence on cars is to look at the share of commuters in a given city who get to work in a private vehicle. These are the people who rely on automobiles as part of their everyday travel patterns. They’re people who live too far from work to walk there, who may prefer not to take transit, or who simply have no other options. They’re the commuters for whom communities must widen highways for rush-hour capacity and build out parking garages for downtown businesses.

Over the last decade, however, a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group finds that the share of workers who get to work by private car declined in 99 of America’s 100 largest urbanized areas (by the Census Bureau’s definition, this is a densely populated geography often larger than a single city but smaller than a metropolitan area). The lone outlier was New Orleans, which has been an outlier in many ways since Hurricane Katrina.

Benjamin Davis and Phineas Baxandall calculated this using “journey to work” data from the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, comparing it to the year 2000. The results suggest that the biggest declines in car commuters have come in the New York-Newark area; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; and Poughkeepsie-Newburgh, N.Y. In all four urban areas, the share of workers commuting by private vehicle has dropped by 4 percent or more:
"Transportation in Transition: A look at changing travel patterns in America's biggest cities." Click to embiggen.
B. Davis and P. Baxandall
Click to embiggen.
A small but significant shift in how Americans get around is apparent across the country by several other metrics the authors examined, using data from the Census Bureau, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Federal Transit Administration. In all cases, data wasn’t available for every urbanized area in the report (and in some cases the data spans 2005-2010, or 2006-2011), but a pattern of changing behavior emerges across the last decade:
transportation large urban areas
This time-span clearly encompasses the recession, an economic jolt that disrupted everything from where Americans live to how much they work (and, likely, how they got there). But Davis and Baxandall have anticipated that argument in comparing driving data against local poverty and unemployment rates:
Variations in the economy do not appear to be responsible for variations in the trends in driving among urbanized areas. In fact, the economies of urbanized areas with large declines in driving have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment and poverty indicators.
New York, Austin, and Washington all seem like obvious examples of places that weathered the recession well, and where commuters could afford to drive less with ample alternative modes of transportation. But some of the other cities highlighted in the report are more surprising.
Between 2006 and 2011, for instance, the largest declines in vehicle miles traveled per capita (excluding some large states where data wasn’t available) took place in New Orleans, Milwaukee, Madison, and Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pa.:
Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.
Below, also between 2006-2011, are the urban areas with the largest increases in households without a car. The top five places on the list includes several hit hard by the housing bust: Poughkeepsie-Newburgh, N.Y.; New Orleans; Bakersfield, Calif.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Las Vegas.
Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.
Meanwhile, here is where VMT per capita has increased the most on public transit (from 2005-2010), led by McAllen, Texas; New Orleans; Albuquerque, N.M.; Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.; and Harrisburg again:
Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.
This type of data — as with all data on the decline in driving — will likely offer a clearer picture five or 10 years from now, once we’re further removed from the recession. It’s notable, however, that the fledgling shift appears more pervasive at the city level than a trend in just a few celebrated biking and transit hotspots.

FlyAway Bus Service to LAX Will Expand to Hollywood, Santa Monica, Torrance


By Dana Gabbard, December 4, 2013

 FlyAway Board of Airport Commissioners Presentation Dec. 2, 2013

The Monday meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners included a presentation on the status of the expansion of FlyAway to develop eight new FlyAway sites by 2015 as part of a settlement I mentioned previously.

The big news is the expansion will include sites in Hollywood (on Vine south of Hollywood Blvd.), Santa Monica (adjacent to their city center), along the Orange Line at Woodley and in Torrance at its future transit center. Opening of these is anticipated between mid-2014 and mid-2015.

My thanks to Patrick Tomcheck of Los Angeles World Airport staff for making available the presentation.

Pollution-eating concrete?


By Mike Szydlowski, December 4, 2013

Some of the fastest-growing jobs in the world deal with how to make technologies that do not to pollute the environment. There is plenty of research that shows more disease and illnesses in cities that have high pollution. It has always been a delicate balance between developing new technology and protecting the environment and health.

You might not consider concrete a new technology; however, in the case of this story, it most certainly is. The city of Chicago is testing the use of a new type of cement that is capable of removing pollution from the air. The concrete slabs can potentially reduce the levels of certain common pollutants by as much as 70 percent, depending on weather conditions and the amount of the new concrete used.

 This type of concrete is not really that new — it was developed in Italy to be used in and around the Vatican in Rome. Rome has very high air pollution, so officials wanted a type of concrete that would not become dull and dingy.

The concrete uses a chemical in the mixture that essentially eats away at the dirt and grime deposited on it. Although that is amazing in itself, scientists were very excited when they learned that the concrete also was able to clean the air around the pavement. Studies have shown that smog within 2.5 meters of the new concrete is able to be cleaned.

The secret behind this concrete is a chemical called titanium dioxide, which reacts with the toxic nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere and converts it into nitrates that simply wash away in the rain. These chemicals have not only turned ordinary concrete into a self-cleaning material but into an air-cleaning machine. This revolutionary type of material is called photocatalytic concrete.

Photocatalytic concrete could be the perfect paving material: It absorbs air pollution created by vehicles, reducing the amount to be inhaled by people. Italy and other areas of Europe have already paved many of their roads with the revolutionary material, but Chicago is reportedly the first city in America to try the new material out on a small number of their bike paths and roads.

The concrete could eventually become an integral part of the urban environment in this country, especially because the United States is notorious for its car culture, scientists explain.

So, why are cities not immediately pulling up their old concrete and replacing it with the new photocatalytic variety? Like any new technology, it is expensive to develop. This pavement is quite a bit more expensive than your traditional concrete.

As with many other technologies, though, as companies find ways to mass-produce this new material, the costs will decrease. Cities also will have to consider the amount of money that will be saved by not having to clean their buildings, artwork and streets. And it might not stop there. Other companies are developing products such as roof tiles with the same pollution-eating materials.

It is incredible that much of the world's air pollution problems could one day be solved by the exciting new technology … concrete!