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, December 13, 2013

San Rafael Neighborhoods Association News Bulletin


The mission of the San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA) is to enhance and maintain the character and quality of all San Rafael neighborhoods through advocacy and an activated community. 
S R N A 
News Bulletin


SAT. DEC 14, 2013 
@ STATION 39***
****50 Ave 64 - 11:30 am****




Please bring an unwrapped toy to support the Fire Department's "Spark of Love Toy Drive"

It has been 949 days since the closing on April 27, 2011

SRNA and neighbors are pleased to welcome the fire fighters/paramedics & Engine 39 back to 
Fire Station 39!


The San Rafael Neighborhoods Association is registered with the City of Pasadena Neighborhood Connections.

O.C.'s largest toll road network sells $2.3 billion in bonds

The Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies will use the borrowing to refinance the Foothill-Eastern system.


By Dan Weikel, December 12, 2013

 The 241 toll road in South Orange County
The Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies will use the bond sales to refinance the Foothill-Eastern system, which includes the 133 tollway in central Orange County as well as the 241 and 261 that run from Yorba Linda to Rancho Santa Margarita.

Orange County's largest toll road network on Thursday sold $2.3 billion in bonds to shore up the finances of several highways that have failed to meet revenue and ridership projections.

The Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies will use the borrowing to refinance the Foothill-Eastern system, which includes the 133 tollway in central Orange County as well as the 241 and 261 that run from Yorba Linda to Rancho Santa Margarita.

The bond issue will extend the time that motorists must pay tolls on the Foothill-Eastern's highways by 13 years —from 2040 to 2053 — and add upward of $1.75 billion to the corridor's total interest payments by the time the bonds mature in 2053.

Ridership and revenue for the toll roads have fallen substantially below forecasts at a time when the agency's debt payments have been rising.

A study released in July by the California state treasurer's office indicated that the Foothill-Eastern corridor would be at risk of defaulting on its bonds, issued in 1999, if the operation wasn't refinanced to lower the agency's annual debt service.

Tollway officials said the refinancing at lower interest will protect the agency's credit rating, reduce the pressure to increase tolls and lower the annual growth in debt payments. The interest rate offered on the bonds averaged 6.06%.

Cash flow also could improve, providing money for road projects and to retire some of the debt early to reduce interest payments as recommended in the treasurer's report. Overall, TCA officials say the total debt payments between now and 2040 will be reduced by $975 million.

"The restructuring brings the agency's debt in line with current revenue projections and strengthens our financial outlook," said Amy Potter, the chief financial officer for the TCA, which also operates the San Joaquin Hills toll road in western Orange County.

Two rating agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor's, gave the corridor bonds the lowest investment grade, except for $206 million in notes that have received a speculative or junk rating.

Standard & Poor's said the agency has good liquidity and that its willingness to raise tolls is a positive credit factor. The refinancing also will reduce annual debt payments, ratings analysts said.

Moody's gave the bonds a speculative rating, which reflects a substantial credit risk because of the agency's high debt load and long period of underperformance. The firm noted that there has been some improvement in ridership and revenue.

From July through November, corridor officials say that traffic and revenue on the Foothill-Eastern system have increased 2% and 7%, respectively, compared with the same period last year.

Environmentalists and other opponents of a corridor agency proposal to extend the 241 through south Orange County to Interstate 5 have been concerned about the refinancing. They contend it will provide money to build the controversial project, which they fear will degrade popular San Onofre State Beach Park.

LongBeachize: BYD Electric Bus Procurement Further Delayed


By Brian Addison, December 13, 2013

 Image created by Baktaash Sorkhabi

The BYD Motors drama is quickly becoming the novela of the transit community in Southern California, as the bus manufacturer—via Long Beach Transit (LBT)’s Rolando Cruz—is expected to delay the delivery of LBT’s electric bus fleet.

The troubled bus manufacturer, whose North American offices in Los Angeles are operated by China-based BYD, controversially scored the contract with LBT this past year over South Carolina-based Proterra; additionally this year, it also won an electric bus contract with Metro, making BYD home to the nation’s two largest electric bus contracts. The controversy was rightfully raised, if not a flat-out given provided the many questions that arose in the RFP process.
“This delay in Altoona [testing] could adversely affect our deployment schedule because we have contractually agreed to not accept any buses before the Altoona testing is completed,” Cruz said.
For one, Proterra’s electric buses—already approved through the fed’s testing program, Altoona—were already on the ground in Foothill and have since then hit the ground in San Antonio while BYD’s buses hadn’t even hit the line for Altoona testing. This isn’t to mention the company’s falsifying of who had contracted buses with them.

Then things really started to hit the fan: the recent admission at a LBT board meeting that seven of the nine subassemblies for the new fleet were not approved for use; the welding issues that were discovered in the frames and bracket installation; the cracks that were discovered near the rear of the BYD bus undergoing Altoona testing; accusations of failed promises in regard to job building and bus manufacturing in North America…

And the frosting on the curb? Two major national stories—one for the New York Times and the other for the Los Angeles Times—has uncovered that the State of California is investigating BYD for labor violations that amount to 112 citations and nearly $20K in back wage violations after it was discovered that BYD had employed Chinese nationals with a $1.50/hr wage. All this has ultimately resulted in the state fining BYD some $100K.

The most recent LBT meeting brought forth the fact that a Chinese-made bus had undergone 6,000 of the required 15,000 miles of testing at Altoona but now BYD wants the feds to test a new model. This new bus is referred to as the LBT pilot because it represents how the entire new electric fleet for LBT will be made: parts from China, assembled in US.

Image via the Antelope Valley Times

 This means, according to Cruz, a new bus may not be seen until February or March, adding another three months given Altoona puts buses under some 150 miles of testing per day.

“This delay in Altoona [testing] could adversely affect our deployment schedule because we have contractually agreed to not accept any buses before the Altoona testing is completed,” Cruz said.
FTA only wishes to test one bus so as to whether this will go through is entirely uncertain.

The implications of this very tricky situation are concerning, if not outright dire: between Metro and LBT, BYD is becoming the face of this country’s approach to electric transit on a larger scale than anywhere else. Should the programs not run smoothly—such as Proterra’s programs in Foothill or San Antonio, which has not seen a major, national impact due to the smallness of their fleets—the public perception of the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of electric fleets will fall by the wayside.

2 Very Different Ideas for Preventing Subway Deaths


By Jenny Xie, December 13, 2014

 2 Very Different Ideas for Preventing Subway Deaths

This year has been a particularly deadly one for the New York City subway. One hundred forty-four riders have been hit by trains so far, and 52 have died.

Now, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is considering an ambitious, high-tech strategy to protect people on the platform. According to the New York Daily News, the MTA will test four different "intrusion detection" systems, all designed to stop the train after someone has fallen onto the tracks.
Among the possible strategies: cameras and video software that detect large objects falling from the platform; a web of laser beams across the tracks that triggers an alarm when broken; thermal-image cameras to identify heat emitted from the tracks, and radio frequencies transmitted across the tracks beneath the platform edge.

When a fallen passenger has been detected, each system would transmit live video to the Rail Control Center and activate track-side signals that tell the conductor to hit the brakes. Authorities have not released many details about the pilot program, including where the technology will be implemented.
This approach is certainly a step beyond the "aggressive marketing campaign" warning passengers to stay away from the platform edge that MTA CEO Thomas Prendergast demanded in 2012.  But it doesn't do much to stop last-second jumps, trips, or shoves. At the same time, movable screen barriers - the most fool-proof solution seen in the MRT in Singapore - are expensive and probably too difficult to adapt to New York City.

A cheaper and easier option is being considered in Osaka, Japan, right now. Last week, West Japan Railway Company began testing rope-style platform barriers at the Sakurajima station on the rail company’s Yumesaki Line.


 The barrier, made up of five tiered stainless steel ropes, is 160-meters long. When a conductor on an incoming train hits a sensor, the barrier  moves up to let passengers through. The company will be testing these rope barriers until March 2014 and plans for full rollout by 2017. Currently, some Japanese subway stations - mostly in Tokyo - have screen barriers, but most don't.
Judging by this video, it appears that Gwangju, South Korea, has had a similar rope-style barrier since at least November 2012. 

Report on California Transportation Commission Meeting held on Wednesday Dec. 11, 2013 in Riverside, CA

From Sylvia Plummer, December 13, 2013:

There were 14 of us from the NO710 group.  Anthony Portantino, as well as other politicians from South Pasadena and La Canada were there to represent us as they spoke before the CTC.  Metro's Doug Failing stated before the Commission that essentially he had nothing new to report since the last time he appeared before them a year ago.  (Haven't they spent 40 million dollars?  Yet he has nothing new to report)  The most interesting part of this meeting was at the end of the public comment, when Metro's Doug Failing and Caltrans District 7 Director, Carrie Bowen, were called up and asked about having a Cost Benefit Analysis.  They stated that there would be a cost benefit analysis for this project and it would take place (parallel/separately) during the EIR.  (Isn't that a little late?  What if it doesn't cost out?)

As Portantino has previously stated:  "Here we are years into and millions of dollars spent and we have no fundamental understanding of the cost of the largest public works project in California's history.  Come on folks, just tell us how much it's going to cost and stop the  nonsense"

Be sure to view the video link provided below and hear what they had to say.  

Thanks to Joe Cano for this video:

Letter from the No710 Action Committee that was submitted to the California Transportation Commission

California Transportation Commission
1120 N Street, Room 2221
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re:  Comment on LA Metro Update on Route 710 North Study

Honorable Members of the Commission:
            The No 710 Action Committee offers the following comments as the Commission receives its report today on the Route 710 North study.

            The Committee first wishes to express its appreciation for the State Administration's support of Senator Liu's SB 416, which has been signed by the Governor and is now enacted as chapter 468 of the 2013 California Statutes.  We value the cooperation and support by the Transportation Agency and Department of Transportation to secure this legislation that removes a surface freeway alternative from further consideration under state law as a route 710 extension project.  We also value the commitment of Agency and Caltrans to early preparation of regulations that will lead to State disposition of properties acquired in anticipation of a surface freeway extension.
As the Commission receives a report on the Route 710 North Study, the Committee wishes to emphasize these points.
First, we agree with Caltrans that the Department, and only the Department, is lead agency for the EIR/EIS that may emerge from this process.  The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides, in contrast to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), that only one agency can serve as lead agency, and that because of its responsibility for state highway development, Caltrans is that single lead agency.  Moreover, in order for California to serve as an appropriate delegate of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for preparation of a NEPA environmental impact statement, the State itself must act as the NEPA lead agency, and cannot re-delegate that responsibility to a local or regional agency.
Second, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) is actually preparing the environmental assessment under contract with Caltrans as lead agency.  This arrangement creates the inherent risk, present whenever a lead agency assigns EIR preparation to a project proponent, that the emerging draft and final EIS/EIR will reflect LA Metro's judgment, but not the legally-required independent judgment of Caltrans.  As the study proceeds, therefore, the Department and ultimately this Commission will need to exercise vigilance to ensure a rigorous and disciplined analysis.

            Third, the "Measure R - $780M" secured funds listed in the staff fact sheet are not dedicated to a particular alternative, and in particular not to the "freeway tunnel" alternative.  In response to the claim of La Cañada Flintridge and South Pasadena that including a freeway tunnel 710 extension in Measure R constituted premature commitment to that project, LA Metro represented to the court of appeal that "Measure R does not, in itself, authorize implementation of specific projects," and that such funding will only apply to projects "found to be feasible and to meet other objectives, and considered and approved by the lead agency."  Thus Caltrans and not LA Metro will make the ultimate decision if Measure R funds are to be applied to a state highway.

            Fourth, the financial feasibility of the most costly alternative under study, a freeway tunnel, has never been established.  Because one of the December 2003 FHWA specifications for consideration of future federal funding in the route 710 corridor requires assured financial feasibility, LA Metro this summer wisely declined to "accelerate" consideration of a freeway tunnel alternative.  Unfortunately, LA Metro in response to tunnel proponents subsequently rescinded that action.  This history further suggests that this Commission and Caltrans will need to assert discipline over the 710 North Study.

            Finally, the Commission should take note that a freeway tunnel alternative is opposed by all cities directly in the path of that tunnel alternative, and others that would be adversely affected:  Los Angeles, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Glendale, and La Cañada Flintridge.  Such virtually universal community opposition does not lend itself to a conclusion that the freeway tunnel alternative can emerge as "feasible."

            The Committee thanks the Commission for the consideration of these views.

Respectfully submitted,                      
Odom Stamps
Former Mayor of South Pasadena
For the No 710 Action Committee