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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Diesel pollution causes 6% of lung cancers in US and UK, according to new study


By Michael Graham Richard, December 10, 2013

Diesel truck photo

Air pollution doesn't get the attention it deserves. Worldwide,
it kills more people than malaria and AIDS combined, and the World Health Organization (WHO) now puts it in the same category as tobacco smoke, UV radiation and plutonium. One significant source of air pollution is burning diesel fuel, especially in older rigs that don't benefit from the most recent pollution control technology.

It's a big problem because another study by the WHO showed that diesel pollution can cause lung cancer. Dr Christopher Portier, Chairman of the IARC working Group, said: “The scientific evidence was compelling and the Working Group’s conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans. Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.“

On top of all this, you can add a new study that concludes that "an estimated 6% of lung cancer deaths in the United States and the United Kingdom – 11,000 deaths per year – may be due to diesel exhaust."
Most at risk are truckers and miners who have high levels of exposure:
Emission standards for diesel engines have become more stringent in recent years, but their exhaust still plays a significant role in lung cancer deaths among truckers, miners and railroad workers, the authors wrote. In addition, diesel exhaust still poses a major cancer threat for people living in dense cities or near highways, they said.
Truckers and miners exposed over their careers to diesel exhaust face a risk of deadly lung cancer that is almost 70 times higher than the risk considered acceptable under U.S. occupational standards. The scientists calculated the lifetime risk for these workers at up to 689 extra lung cancer deaths per 10,000 workers exposed. In comparison, one cancer death per 1,000 workers is used to set federal workplace standards. (source)
While a lot more lung cancer cases are associated with these occupational exposures, those who live in urban areas, especially near highways, are also more at risk than average because of the environmental exposure:
In addition, people in urban areas face a lifetime risk of lung cancer that is 10 times higher than the acceptable risk used in U.S. health standards, according to the study. An estimated 21 per 10,000 people exposed to the amount of diesel exhaust commonly found near U.S. highways would be at risk of dying of lung cancer over their lifetime. That compares to the risk of one death per 100,000 people that is used to set air-quality standards.

A small risk becoming much higher can still stay pretty small, but over large populations, it still represents a lot of people getting sick. We definitely need to clean up diesel and move to clean energy sources for transportation, and design cities better so that the air is healthier. Something as simple as planting lots of trees near where people live has been shown to help reduce particulate matter pollution.

Advisory: seating area at Union Station now open only to Amtrak and Metrolink passengers


By Steve Hymon, December 10, 2013


Los Angeles Union Station patrons may have noticed a change that went into effect Monday: the seating area at the front of the facility is now available only for passengers with tickets to board Amtrak or Metrolink trains within two hours of their departure times.

Union Station is owned by Metro and agency officials say the change was prompted by an increased number of homeless individuals who have been using Union Station as shelter — an average of 135 per night in recent weeks (numbers were higher over the summer). That, in turn, has at times created extremely unpleasant sanitary issues in the seating area that in some cases posed a health threat to passengers using the station.

Metro had been receiving complaints about the number of homeless in the station for quite some time and over the past summer began trying to find some remedies to the issue, said Ken Pratt, the director of Los Angeles Union Station Property Management for Metro. That has included bringing in workers from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority who have been meeting with homeless individuals to try to connect them to shelters, potential housing opportunities as well as psychological and medical care.

The new rules for the seating area are part of a pilot program. Security guards will be checking tickets in the seating area. The seats are not open to Metro riders because Metro bus and rail service at the station is frequent compared to long-distance and commuter rail offered by Amtrak and Metrolink.
The pilot program comes as Metro is beginning more work to restore Union Station, which opened in 1939. In coming weeks, some of the seats in the waiting area will be removed so that wood and metal materials can be reconditioned.

“All this really comes down to this question: who does Union Station really serve?,” Pratt said. “Our customers were being accosted and couldn’t even use the restroom at times because people have been camping in there. We really are trying to do this on two fronts — not just enforcement, but with outreach to homeless in the area surrounding Union Station to bring people to services they need and services to individuals. We are trying very hard to figure things out and working to solve this problem in the right way.”

Report: 21st Century Transportation


December 4, 2013


Americans’ transportation habits have changed. The average American drives 7.6 percent fewer miles today than when per-capita driving peaked in 2004. A review of data from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Census Bureau for America’s 100 most populous urbanized areas – which are home to over half of the nation’s population – shows that the decline in per-capita driving has taken place in a wide variety of regions. From 2006 to 2011, the average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date and accurate data are available. Most urbanized areas have also seen increases in public transit use and bicycle commuting and decreases in the share of households owning a car.
NOTE: The first five data bars (“Increase in the proportion of workers working at home” to “Increase in the percent of car-less households”) measure the 100 most populous urbanized areas from 2000 to 2010. The “Decrease in vehicle-miles traveled per capita” measures the 74 (out of the 100) most populous urbanized areas for which comparable data exist from 2006 to 2011. The “Increase in transit passenger-miles traveled per capita” measures the 98 (out of 100) most populous urbanized areas for which comparable data exist from 2005 to 2010.

Regional, state and federal officials need to account for changing trends in driving as they consider how to adapt their transportation policies and infrastructure plans to a new future of slower growth in vehicle travel.

Transportation trends are changing in America’s biggest urbanized areas.
  • The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle – either alone or in a carpool – declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.[i]
  • The proportion of residents working from home has increased in 100 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas since 2000.
  • The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.
  • The proportion of households with two cars or more decreased in 86 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.
There is additional evidence of declining driving in those urbanized areas with standardized data on vehicle-miles traveled.
  • The average number of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita declined in 54 out of the 74 large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2006 and 2011.[ii]
  • New Orleans has seen the largest drop in per-capita VMT – 22 percent – since 2006, possibly a result of Hurricane Katrina. The urbanized areas containing two Wisconsin cities, Milwaukee and Madison, saw the second and third biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 21 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Two Pennsylvania urbanized areas, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, saw the fourth and fifth biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
 The use of non-driving modes of transportation has increased in a majority of the nation’s most populous urbanized areas.
  • The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.
  • The number of passenger-miles traveled (PMT) per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2005 and 2010.[iii]
 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.
  • Between 2006 and 2011, the average increase in the unemployment rate in the 15 urbanized areas with the highest per-capita declines in VMT was 3.9 percent, while the average increase in all other urbanized areas was 4.6 percent.
  • Between 2006 and 2011, the average increase in the poverty rate of the 15 urbanized areas with the highest per-capita declines in VMT was 2.7 percent, while the average increase in all other urbanized areas was 3.6 percent.
 The time has come for cities and states to shift their transportation priorities away from investments in expensive, unnecessary new highways, and toward the maintenance and repair of our existing infrastructure and the development of new transportation choices for Americans.
To that end, p
ublic officials should:
  • Revisit transportation plans. Many existing transportation plans continue to reflect outdated assumptions that the number of miles driven will continue to rise steadily over time. Officials at all levels should revisit transportation plans to ensure that they reflect recent declines in driving and new understandings of the future demand for travel.
  • Reallocate resources. With driving stagnating in many areas and demand for transit, bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure increasing, officials should reallocate resources away from wasteful highway expansion projects and toward system repair and programs that expand the range of transportation options available to Americans.
  • Remove barriers to non-driving transportation options. In many areas, planning and zoning laws and transportation funding rules limit public officials’ ability to expand access to transportation choices. Officials at all levels should remove these barriers and ensure access to funding for non-driving forms of transportation.
  • Use innovative travel tools and services. New technologies and techniques provide transportation officials with new tools to address transportation challenges. Transportation agencies should encourage the use of carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing and provide real-time travel information for public transit via smartphone.
  • Get better data. Transportation agencies should compile and make available to the public more comprehensive, comparable and timely data to allow for better informed analysis of the causes and magnitude of changes in driving trends. Officials at all levels should eliminate inconsistencies in the reporting of transportation data, increase the frequency of surveys that shed light on changes in transportation preferences and behaviors, and use emerging new sources of information made possible by new technologies in order to gain a better grasp of how driving trends are changing and why.
[i] For a list of data sources, see the Methodology. Throughout this report, “2007-2011” refers to data collected by the 2011 American Community Survey 5-year survey which covers years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The American Community Survey reports one number for all five years.

[ii] While this report focuses on the transportation trends in America’s 100 most populous urbanized areas, 26 urbanized areas are excluded from the VMT analysis. VMT per capita and changes in VMT over time in these 26 urbanized areas could not be accurately determined due to states’ failure to use standardized and up-to-date data collection methods.

[iii] While this report focuses on the transportation trends in America’s 100 most populous urbanized areas, two urbanized areas were excluded from the public transit analysis. The passenger-miles traveled on public transit in Mission Viejo (CA) and Ogden-Layton (UT) were excluded because no transit agency lists these two urbanized areas as their primary urbanized area, and the passenger miles and trips traveled within urbanized areas in 2005 were derived from transit agency travel information.

Why we should raise the gas tax, and why we won’t


By Ben Adler, December 10, 2013

patriotic gas pump

There is perhaps no more vicious, self-reinforcing cycle in American life today than our dependence on automobiles. We subsidize suburban sprawl through favorable tax treatment, we mandate it through zoning codes, and we socialize the costs of the pollution it causes. We then end up with communities segregated into shopping, offices, and homes, so spread out and car-oriented as to make walking impractical.

And so we drive more than any other society on Earth. Currently, Americans drive approximately 3 trillion miles per year. There has been much celebration in urbanist and environmentalist circles over the fact that annual vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. peaked in 2006 and have started to slide downward. But that only came after decades of near-constant increase. We still drive about as much as we did in 2004, and vastly more than we did in 1990, never mind 1980 or 1970.

With so much driving necessary to get anywhere, and far too many SUVs on the road, it’s no surprise that Americans are averse to raising taxes on gasoline.

Gas taxes are how we fund federal transportation spending. Currently, the gas tax is just 18.4 cents per gallon, the same as it was in 1993 — and one-third less once adjusted for inflation. Because we haven’t raised it for two decades, we have developed a shortfall for currently authorized spending — and that doesn’t even begin to address the considerably larger amount we should appropriate to fix our crumbling transportation infrastructure.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the leading smart-growth advocate in Congress, has proposed raising the gas tax to 33.4 cents per gallon and pegging it to inflation. This idea is terribly unpopular, as few people who drive everywhere want to spend more on such an essential commodity.

It’s quite a conundrum, because raising the gas tax is what would ultimately enable us to raise it more again in the future. The gas tax is so unpopular precisely because it is so low and driving is so subsidized. The less we subsidize driving and instead require drivers to pay their own social cost, the more we will develop alternative modes of transportation. And the more people have viable alternatives to driving, such as mass transit, the more amenable they will be to raising gas taxes to support those alternatives.

There is a counterintuitive relationship between gas prices and the burden they place on the average citizen’s finances: the more gas costs, the less gas people buy, and so the less they are weighed down by gas costs. Just look at this chart, courtesy of Bloomberg, which shows that the U.S. has the world’s 50th highest gasoline prices, $3.66 per gallon in September, but the fifth highest proportion of annual income spent on gas purchases. Those rankings are almost exactly reversed in European countries with high gas taxes. The Netherlands has the world’s third highest gas price, $8.89 per gallon, but the 34th highest proportion of income spent on gasoline. Italy ranks fourth highest in gas prices, $8.61 per gallon, and 38th in proportional spending on gas. Gas taxes in Italy and the Netherlands, like most of Europe, are about 10 times higher than those in the U.S. Furthermore, in a country such as Norway, where gas currently costs $10.08 per gallon, that revenue comes back to the public in the form of government programs, such as free college tuition. Lower gas consumption also means better local air quality and reduced greenhouse emissions, and more exercise and less obesity among the populace.

In contrast, here in the U.S. the gasoline industry actually gets more in tax breaks — various subsidies in the corporate income tax code, totaling tens of billions of dollars per year — than the government reaps from the gasoline tax. The International Business Times reports, “The average U.S. resident actually pays anywhere between $2 and $0.90 less than the actual market value of gasoline because of government subsidies.”

And so the first increase in the gas tax will be the hardest, with each successive bump easier than the last. But the first one will be hard indeed. In fact, it is currently impossible. Matthew Yglesias, writing in Slate, correctly calls Blumenauer’s proposal “a great idea” that is “a total nonstarter in Congress and politically toxic to boot.”

Even the one glimmer of hope that Yglesias cites is perhaps unduly optimistic. “[T]here’s no reason to think people would like a vehicle miles traveled tax or hybrid car tax any better” than a gas tax, notes Yglesias, referring to the two alternative — and much less environmentally friendly — approaches to increasing transportation funds. That’s true, but there is no reason to think House Republicans are comparing the gas tax to any alternative sources of revenue. Rather, they are content to simply let transportation go underfunded.

Perhaps no issue better illustrates the paralyzing effect of the Republican Party’s capture by its most extreme elements. Historically, transportation was an area of relative bipartisan comity: It was paid for by the gas tax, a user fee rather than a redistributive progressive income tax, so Republicans could live with it. The funds went about 80 percent to highways and 20 percent to mass transit. All members of Congress wanted money for transportation back home, and so deals were cut.

Since a more right-wing band of Republicans first won control of Congress in 1994, though, any increase in the gasoline tax has been deemed unacceptable. And since a still-more-right-wing band of Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, they have insisted on larding any potential transportation authorization bill with petty anti-urban and anti-environment measures. House Republicans have even struggled to bring a bill to the floor that can pass their own chamber. The leadership’s desire to cut transportation spending by 15 percent repels all Democrats and even some suburban moderate Republicans.

This is the Congress we have, and this the box we are stuck in.

NHTSA Announces New 5-Year Traffic Safety Plan and Guidelines for Older Drivers and Passengers


December 5, 2013

WASHINGTON – In support of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (December 2-6), the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced a new strategic plan that will serve as a roadmap to ensure the safety of our nation's growing population of older drivers and passengers.

"Safety is our highest priority and that includes ensuring the safety of our older drivers, who represent a growing population on our roads," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This plan will help enhance safety for everyone by helping states address the mobility needs of their older drivers."

Since 2003, the population of older adults, defined as age 65 and older, has increased by 20 percent and the number of licensed older drivers increased by 21 percent, to 35 million licensed older drivers in 2012.

In 2012, according to NHTSA's latest issue of Safety in Numbers, 5,560 people over the age of 65 died, and 214,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Those figures represent a 3 percent increase in the number of fatalities and a 16 percent increase in the number of injuries from the previous year. The data also show that older adults are at greater risk of dying or sustaining serious injuries, even in low-severity crashes. To address these concerns, NHTSA is focusing on the following:
  • Vehicle Safety: NHTSA is researching a number of advanced vehicle technologies including vehicle-to-vehicle communications, collision avoidance and crashworthiness, that could help reduce the risk of death or injury to older occupants in the event of a crash. Crash avoidance technologies will benefit all drivers, but may be of special assistance to older drivers, while certain crashworthiness improvements could help address the special vulnerabilities of older occupants. The agency is also considering upgrades to its New Car Assessment Program, including a new "Silver" rating system for older occupants.
  • Improved Data Collection: NHTSA is refining its data collection systems and will continue to evaluate crash rates, real-world injuries, as well as physical, cognitive and perceptual changes associated with driver behaviors. In addition, NHTSA plans to conduct clinical and naturalistic driving studies to better understand the effects of age-related medical conditions, including dementia.
  • Driver Behavior: Recognizing that age alone is not a determining factor for safe driving, NHTSA continues to focus its efforts on public education and identifying functional changes including vision, strength, flexibility and cognition to help at-risk drivers. This effort includes first-of-its-kind Older Driver Highway Safety Program Guidelines, released today, that states can implement to keep older people safely mobile.
"Although older drivers are some of the safest drivers on our roads, our plan builds upon the NHTSA's current work to help older people drive as safely and as long as possible," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

NHTSA's Older Driver Highway Safety Program Guidelines are based on best practices around the country and include countermeasures that can be implemented to ensure the safety of older drivers, including at-risk drivers. The guidelines encourage state highway safety offices to work closely with driver license officials, state departments of transportation, medical providers and aging services providers, among others. View NHTSA's Highway Safety Program Guidelines.

Read about Older Driver Safety in NHTSA's latest issue of Safety in Numbers, a new online monthly newsletter on hot topics in auto safety – including problem identification, people at risk, and recommended practices and solutions to mitigate injury and death on our nation's roadways. It includes tips for older drivers, problem identification and information on people at risk.

>> View NHTSA's 5-Year Traffic Safety Plan for Older People

River: A Vision


December 5, 2013

 See website for a video.

An eight-mile stretch of unsightly, unkempt and unused railway in South Los Angeles is poised for a wonderful transformation into a greenbelt with walkways and bike lanes. The 8.3-mile right-of-way, which generally parallels Slauson Avenue, is being studied for key upgrades by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Dubbed Rail-to-River, the trail would begin at the future site of a Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail station in Inglewood, moving east along Slauson Boulevard, and will end just north of Washington Boulevard near the Los Angeles River.

The project, proposed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Gloria Molina, who both sit on the Metro board of directors, is in the planning stages, and a series of community town hall meetings will begin in this month.  Join Metro for the first meeting on December 11, 2013.

Other communities both here in Los Angeles County and around the country have undertaken similar efforts to repurpose unused and blighted railways, and the short video below gives an idea of the possibilities for recreational development along the South L.A. path.

Highlighted in the video is New York City’s famous High Line project, a public park built along a freight rail line running above Manhattan; another example comes from the Whittier Greenway Trail, a lovely 4.5-mile commuter bikeway and pedestrian path that once was an abandoned railroad right of way.

Once it is completed, the Rail-to-River project will put South Los Angeles firmly in the company of communities that have turned old and outdated train tracks into green space to be used by all.

Police Crackdown on Jaywalking Means Tickets of Up to $250


By Donna Evans, December 9, 2013

Police Crackdown on Jaywalking Means Tickets of Up to $250

 Those who start crossing the street when the countdown clock is flashing are at  risk of getting a jaywalking citation. Police say it is an effort to enhance public safety.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - It’s that time of year again: Downtowners have dug out their holiday decorations and are taking to the streets in search of the perfect gift for friends and relatives. 

It turns out, it’s also that time of year for the Los Angeles Police Department: In an effort to enhance public safety, officers have begun an intense crackdown on jaywalking in the Historic Core and the Financial District.

The veritable lumps of Christmas coal run usually from $190 to $250, authorities say. LAPD Traffic Division officers are warning Central City residents and workers that you don’t need to be crossing against a red light to receive a citation — simply stepping off the curb while the countdown clock ticks could result in a ticket, said Lt. Lydia Leos.

“We’re heavily enforcing pedestrian violations because they’re impeding traffic and causing too many accidents and deaths,” Leos said, noting the department tickets jaywalkers year-round, but during the holiday season more people come into Downtown and aren’t paying attention to the rules of the road, which increases the number of citations.

Since Jan. 1, 2013, the LAPD has recorded four pedestrian deaths and 129 vehicle-pedestrian accidents in Downtown, Leos said. LAPD statisticians do not break down citations by individual division, but this year officers from Central Bureau, which includes Central, Hollenbeck, Newton, Rampart and Northeast divisions, dispensed 31,326 citations.

Leos acknowledged that California’s vehicle code is stricter than many other states with its pedestrian rules. Although the tickets are ruffling feathers throughout Downtown, Leos said police categorize the citations as a way to educate the citizenry. She added that Central Division has posted pedestrian rules on its Facebook page, and spread the word through other social media formats.

That doesn’t cut it for some Downtowners, including Anthony Bejarano. The Financial District resident, a lawyer, has seen people become incensed after being ticketed at Seventh and Figueroa streets. The citations seem to be happening on a weekly basis, he said.

“This is a bigger issue than just getting a ticket, though $200 is painful for a lot of students and artists who live Downtown,” he said. “This is a highly mobile, highly educated community that should be a resource to police, but the relationship has become antagonistic because of all these jaywalking tickets. That’s absurd.”

According to California Vehicle Code 21456, pedestrians can’t walk if there’s a “Don’t Walk” sign or an upraised hand symbol. Anyone who has started crossing after one of those flashes should proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone.

Others riled by the crackdown include longtime Downtown resident Edgar Varela. In 2010, Varela recalled walking east at Seventh and Hope streets with 16 seconds showing on the traffic signal. He said the “Walk” signal had expired, but the countdown continued. He saw officers in the intersection, locked eyes with one, and proceeded to cross.

The officer gave him a $197 ticket, Varela said. Varela took down the officer’s information and photographed all the poles and crosswalks at the intersection. Varela believes this evidence helped him to have the ticket dismissed.

“I was appalled that instead of educating the public on this obscure technicality on crossing the street, the LAPD found this to be a way to generate funds and polarize local residents while discouraging pedestrian traffic,” he said.

Alarmed at the number of residents’ complaints, Blair Besten, executive director of the Historic Core Business Improvement District, brought up the topic recently at a previously scheduled meeting with Capt. Ann Young, who oversees the LAPD Traffic Division. Besten sees a need for enforcement, but questions how many people know that stepping off the curb could mean stepping into a hefty fine.

Besten is pushing for a community meeting where LAPD traffic representatives will answer questions. The session is still being planned, but authorities are looking to host it in the Historic Core in the near future, Besten said.

“Hopefully we can see more of an educational, outreach program,” Besten said. “We have a lot of people visiting Downtown and we don’t want their experience to include a $250 jaywalking ticket. That’s hardly a light smack on the wrist.”

For now, the only way to be certain to avoid a ticket is to cross on green, and to stay on the sidewalk when the countdown clock is ticking.

The LAPD's $250 Jaywalking Tickets Are Total Bullshit


By Adrian Glick Kudler, December 9, 2013



Jaywalking tickets are one of those dumb, embarrassing things about Los Angeles that non-Angelenos love to laugh at us about, and oh man they are so right on this one. Why does the LAPD put so much effort into catching supposed jaywalkers? And we do mean supposed: "you don't need to be crossing against a red light to receive a citation — simply stepping off the curb while the countdown clock ticks could result in a ticket," according to the Downtown News, which reports that the LAPD is specifically cracking down in the Historic Core and the Financial District for the holiday season. And so just stepping off the curb during the countdown--while it is still technically legal to be in the crosswalk--can earn you a ticket ranging from $190 to $250. Obviously walkers should always cross as safely as possible, but an LAPD lieutenant says "We're heavily enforcing pedestrian violations because they're impeding traffic and causing too many accidents and deaths." Meaning the LAPD blames pedestrians for creating both car traffic and car accidents, and will charge people $200 a pop to try to make them stop creating those things. Somehow the 31,326 jaywalking citations issued in the Central Bureau this year didn't prevent four pedestrian deaths and 129 vehicle-pedestrian accidents in Downtown.

More Transit Service or Lower Fares?


By Angie Schmitt, December 9, 2013

As the economy gradually improves, some transit budgets are looking a little rosier. In a few rare cases, transit agencies even have a surplus and need to decide how to handle it.

Is lowering fares or increasing service a better plan for Tri-Met? Image: ##http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/04/portland_public_schools_city_o.html## Oregon Live##
Is lowering fares or increasing service the better choice for Portland’s Tri-Met?

One city wrestling with this question is Portland, where Tri-Met will either restore service that was recently cut or lower fares by extending the window of time for riders to get a free transfer. Local advocacy group OPAL has been pushing hard for the fare cut option, claiming it’s more socially just. But Jarrett Walker at Human Transit writes that the choice is more complicated than that:
OPAL’s demand for a fare cut costing $2.6 million (about 2% of the agency’s revenue) is, mathematically, also a demand that Tri-Met should not restore frequent service. This money (about 80 vehicle-hours of service per day) is more than enough to restore frequent all-day service on several major lines.

OPAL’s position is that because service has been cut, Tri-Met must mitigate the impact on low-income people instead of just fixing the problem. In particular, OPAL wants a solution that benefits only people who are money-poor but time-rich, a category that tends to include the low-income retired, disabled, and underemployed. You must be both money-poor and time-rich to benefit from a system that reduces fares but wastes more and more of your time due to low frequencies and bad connections.

If, on the other hand, you are money-poor and time-poor – working two jobs and taking a class and rushing to daycare — you will benefit from a good network that saves you time as much as from one that saves you money.  But that means you don’t have time to go to meetings or be heard. We transit professionals see these busy low-income people on our systems and care about their needs, but we also know that we’re not going to hear their voice as much from advocacy organizations, because they just don’t have time to get involved.

The same is true, by the way, of the vast working middle class.  In the transit business, we get lots of comments the money-poor-but-time-rich, who have time to get involved, and from the wealthy, who can hire others to represent them.  We don’t hear as much from the middle class or from the money-poor-and-time-poor, even though those groups dominate ridership.  But hey, we understand!  They’re just too busy.
Elsewhere on the Network today: The Urbanophile explains some of the reasons suburban office parks are increasingly becoming “suburban corporate wastelands.” Parksify explores the new park Dallas built over a recessed downtown freeway. And Bike Walk KC reports that the first streetcar tracks have been laid in Kansas City.