Purpose

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 17, 2013

There Is Now An App To Decode LA's Insane Parking Signage

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2013/12/there_is_now_an_app_to_decode_las_insane_parking_signage.php

By Adrian Glick Kudler, December 17, 2013

2013.12_parksafe.jpg

 

 

 Los Angeles is known for its byzantine parking rules and signage (here's a particularly absurd example), and actor/writer/IT consultant (because duh! LA!) Michael Brouillet had a particularly tough time with it all when he moved here from Texas. (Particularly: "I quickly tallied up $1,500 in parking tickets … I'd been towed three times and received too many parking tickets to count." But he's not alone--the city pulls in about $150 million a year in parking tickets, which Brouillet notes on Zocalo is "a regressive but reliable system of cash flow.") So he taught himself how to make a smartphone app and created Park Safe LA, which has one section for basic information, like what the hell various curb colors mean, and a "Help Me Park" section which helps you decode the exact parking signs you're looking at. It probably shouldn't be necessary, but seriously, those signs can get really crazy.
  Park Safe LA [Official Site]
  See the Most Ridiculous Parking Restriction Sign Ever [Curbed LA]

Study: LA Needs To Design To Mitigate Our Terrible Air Quality

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2013/12/study_la_needs_to_design_to_mitigate_our_terrible_air_quality.php

By Bianca Barragan, December 17, 2013

 la_cars_planning_curbed.JPG

 

 A 10-years-in-the-making study from MIT's Center for Advanced Urbanism and the American Association of Architects challenges pretty much all the popular theories about what cities can do to keep their residents healthy, says The Atlantic Cities. Obviously there are many complex factors that go into making us healthy or unhealthy, and they tend to get oversimplified. Take, for example, the idea that city-dwellers should walk more and drive less--this is good, right? Maybe. In an interview about the MIT report, its principal author Alan Berger points out that Los Angeles is gigantic and, therefore, not likely to go without a ton of cars soon. Because we know cars make a huge difference in air quality ( we learned that the first time the 405 shut down), Berger suggests the best thing to do would be to focus more on design changes that lessen the effects of pollution, like making more green spaces and using landscaping that acts as a filter for the air. And we do need to keep our eyes on that pollution: The report points out that the city's moves to make new developments more transit-oriented might "actually wind up moving more people into the city's most highly polluted transportation corridors," and might worsen the health problems it's (in part) trying to solve. Berger doesn't recommend against building transit-oriented development or building densely, but for designing development to better resist the effects of pollution.


· We Don't Know Nearly As Much About the Link Between Public Health and Urban Planning As We Think We Do [The Atlantic Cities]


· 3 Questions: Alan Berger on cities and health [MIT News]

 

Uber Charged $357 For A Trip From West LA To Hollywood

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2013/12/uber_charged_357_for_a_trip_from_west_la_to_hollywood.php

By Bianca Barragan, December 17, 2013

 

2013.12_uberride.jpg

 

This past weekend, loosely-regulated taxi-company-of-the-future Uber was called out for charging people in the snowy Northeast seven or eight times the normal rate for trips made on a day with pretty foul weather (even if the app showed there were plenty of cars available). The company defended itself by saying that the snow and cold made Uber cars more desirable, you see, so of course the price went up--their pricing is based on supply and demand. It's going to be interesting to see how they rationalize charging a woman $357 to go from West LA to Hollywood this past weekend, when it was warm and dry. That's right: for the price of a flight across the country, this woman traveled 14 miles. She says there were at least 10 other Ubers in her vicinity, it wasn't a peak time, and it obviously wasn't snowing, so all the company's usual stock excuses are gone. She's still waiting for a reply from the company. 


· The $357 Uber Ride [ValleyWag]

Our View: California roads are rough, but money to fix them getting scarce

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2013/12/08/3379976/roads-are-rough-but-money-to-fix.html

December 8, 2013

Californians of a certain age love their Mustangs, as Ford Motor Co. surely understood when it unveiled the 50th-anniversary edition of the iconic muscle car last week.

The sleek design speaks of power and speed, and it will be marketed as an alternative to European imports. The new Mustang could become a classic, just as its predecessors were. There is, however, a notable difference between 1965, when the original was introduced, and today. California’s roads are in far worse shape than they were 50 years ago.

In the middle 1960s, Californians drove 100 billion vehicle miles per year. After dipping during the recession, the numbers are up again, from 326.9 billion in 2011 to 331 billion in 2012 to an estimated 331.9 billion this year. Each of those driven miles puts a tiny bit of wear and tear on the pavement.
Gasoline consumption, however, is declining – a testament to fuel-efficiency requirements. After a high of 15.9 billion gallons in 2004, consumption will fall to 14.5 billion gallons this year. By 2020, consumption will be at levels from the late 1990s.

That’s good for the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks, but not so good for road maintenance. The excise tax on gasoline funds all of the state Department of Transportation’s road maintenance and rehabilitation. As the miles-per-gallon number goes up, the use of gas goes down and Caltrans has less to fix the roads.

When you consider that the state’s excise tax rate on gas is 39.5 cents per gallon, that begins to add up. If California drivers had bought 15.9 billion gallons of gas, the state would have collected roughly $6.28 billion. When drivers buy only 14.5 billion gallons, the state will collect only $5.7 billion. That’s serious money.

Caltrans will spend about $3.3 billion on maintenance and rehabilitation this year. The department estimates it should be spending $7.9 billion just to keep up with needs of the current system.
A proposed initiative would raise the vehicle license fee to help pay for roads. Another solution might to be charge drivers based on the number of miles they drive. Other states are already talking about that.

Another solution would be to get people out of their cars so the wear and tear is diminished. Gov. Jerry Brown’s concept of building a high-speed rail would help, as would reliable mass transit, though the labor dispute at the Bay Area Rapid Transit system undermines public confidence in transit systems.

Californians’ love of and reliance on cars won’t end any time soon. There will always be a new Mustang or some other beautiful car to admire if not own. But California lawmakers and motorists need to confront one of two future realities: There will be a new tax coming, soon and on something, or, those roads are going to be too rough to drive those beautiful cars over.

Read more here: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2013/12/08/3379976/roads-are-rough-but-money-to-fix.html#storylink=cpy

Feds Now Investigating GWB Lane Closures by Christie Appointees

http://www.wnyc.org/story/feds-now-investigating-lane-closures-christie-appointees/

By Anrea Bernstein, December 15, 2013


 

The federal government is now investigating the closures of two lanes leading on to the nation's busiest bridge by former appointees of Governor Chris Christie, a prominent national Republican who is eyeing a 2016 presidential bid.

Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Science, Commerce, and Transportation Committee is asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explain the unannounced closure in September 2013 of several lanes of the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and New York City. In a press release, Rockefeller said he was "alarmed by the agency's sudden action and its subsequent consequences on interstate commerce and safety."

The lanes were abruptly closed in September without telling the executive director of the Port Authority, Pat Foye, who is an appointee of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat. Foye called the closures "illegal," and said they could have caused fatalities by blocking emergency vehicles. In testimony in Trenton December 9, Port Authority officials in charge of the bridge were told the closures were made "at variance" with usual procedures and were deliberately hidden from both Foye and the Mayor of Fort Lee, where traffic backed up for a work week.

Democrats have charged the closures were made as political retribution against the Fort Lee mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election.

As a bi-state agency, the Port Authority is subject to congressional oversight, and Rockefeller said oversight has traditionally fallen to his committee.

In a letter to Port Authority Board Chairman David Sampson, Rockefeller wrote:  "Unwarranted lane closures with no public notice can have serious ramifications on interstate commerce and safety in the region, and as the Committee with oversight responsibility of the Port Authority, I continue to have serious concerns about the actions of this agency. The gravity of this situation demands a comprehensive investigation. It also exacerbates my concerns with the governance and previous oversight of the Port Authority."

Rockefeller also wrote to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx Monday urging that the federal agency open its own inquiry into the Port Authority. (The letters appear at the end of this post.)
In a press conference on Friday announcing the resignation of Bill Baroni, the second of his appointees at the Port Authority to resign, Christie accused Democrats of politicizing the issue and said he fully expects national Democrats to make political hay of the closures. “National Democrats will make an issue of everything about me," he told reporters. "Get ready for the new world. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.”

The chair of the NJ Assembly Transportation Committee, John Wisniewski, has seven subpoenas already out to the Port Authority.


Transpo Agencies Are Terrible at Predicting Traffic Levels

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/12/17/study-transpo-agencies-are-terrible-at-predicting-traffic-levels/

By Angie Schmitt, December 17, 2013

 This chart contrasts state DOTs' projected traffic volumes with those actually recorded by the Federal Highway Administration. Image: ##http://www.ssti.us/2013/12/new-travel-demand-projections-are-due-from-u-s-dot-will-they-be-accurate-this-time/?utm_source=SSTI+Community+of+Practice+Master+List&utm_campaign=cbd2d0b53a-December_6_2013_newsletter12_16_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f54dd1d9a6-cbd2d0b53a-45447449## SSTI##
 Combined traffic projections from state and regional transportation agencies (the colored lines) have been wildly off the mark (the black line shows real traffic levels) for more than a decade.


Americans’ travel behavior is changing dramatically. It seems like not a week passes without a new report about the decline in driving. But are state and local transportation agencies — which are responsible for much of the nation’s highway and transportation planning — keeping up with the facts on the ground? A review of the evidence by the State Smart Transportation Initiative finds the answer is a definitive “No.”

Forecasts and assumptions about ever-increasing traffic are often used to justify agency decisions to expand roads. But these assumptions are increasingly divorced from reality. In fact, state and regional agencies aren’t just wrong some of the time. State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations are getting it wrong every year, over and over again, by significant margins, according to SSTI’s analysis.

In their most recent reporting to the Federal Highway Administration, state and regional transportation agencies used data from 2008 to predict that traffic volumes would reach a combined 3.3 trillion miles nationally in 2012. Last year, a few months after that forecast was publicly released, real-world data already showed that the forecast wasn’t even close. Transportation agencies had collectively overestimated how many miles Americans would drive in 2012 by 11 percent. That is the equivalent of adding five “average-sized” states to the total, SSTI reports.

What’s worse, these wildly incorrect traffic assumptions are routinely used to justify costly road expansions.

SSTI reviewed every 20-year traffic forecast submitted by state and regional agencies to FHWA since 1999 (these predictions are in a document called the Conditions and Performance Report to Congress). It turns out that the 20-year projections overestimated future traffic volumes in every single year the reports could be compared against data on actual miles driven by Americans. The 1999 report, for example, overestimated actual driving in 2012 by a whopping 22 percent.

SSTI’s Eric Sundquist concluded that states and MPOs “generally have not updated their models and assumptions to account for current conditions, as if they expect the year to be 1980 forever.”

LA’s $300,000,000 Parking Tax: Another Sneaky City Hall Rip Off

http://citywatchla.com/lead-stories-hidden/6172-la-s-300-000-000-parking-tax-another-sneaky-city-hall-rip-off

By Jack Humphreville, December 17, 2013






LA WATCHDOG-Over the last six years, the average parking fine has increased almost 75% to a whopping $61, generating annual revenues for the City of over $150 million.  At the same time, receipts from parking meters have soared by 125% to almost $50 million as a result of increased rates and the expanded hours of parking enforcement, including Saturday nights and Sundays in selected retail areas. 

Overall, when taking into consideration the 10% Parking User’s Tax, the City is generating over $300 million a year in parking revenues. This does not include an estimated $100 million of parking revenues at Los Angeles International Airport, Staples, the Convention Center, and other City owned locations. 

Of course, this massive $100 million increase in parking fines and revenues was concocted behind closed doors by the geniuses that occupy City Hall without any consultation with the Neighborhood Councils, home owner associations, local Chambers of Commerce, and other impacted stakeholders. Rather, City Hall was scrambling for ways to fund the huge increases in salaries, benefits, and pension contributions that were extracted by the campaign funding union leadership from the Garcetti led City Council and Mayor Villaraigosa. 

So it is no wonder that the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, a newly formed grassroots movement led by neighborhood activists, Steven Vincent and Jay Beeber, has gained considerable support throughout the City.  

The LA Parking Freedom Initiative recognizes that parking is a core service provided by the City that is vital to the success of our local communities and their retail districts.  Its goals are to develop a rational parking strategy and related polices in an open and transparent environment in conjunction with local stakeholders.  It also believes that the City must reinvest parking revenues in the local community and are not just a source of cash for City Hall and its cronies.  

This LA Parking Freedom Initiative also wants to restructure the administration of the parking enforcement regime into a citizen friendly organization as opposed to the current punitive system that results in an adversarial environment that negatively impacts the image of City Hall, the City Council, and the Mayor. 

LA Parking Freedom Initiative has developed a number of polices related to local input and the level of fines.  But rather than focus on specific polices in a vacuum, Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City Council’s Transportation Committee (headed by Mike Bonin), the Department of Transportation, and the City Administrative Officer should reach out to the organizers of the LA Parking Freedom Initiative, Neighborhood Councils, and other local stakeholders to develop the facts and figures regarding the City’s parking policies, its sources of revenues, and any related debt. 

This analysis would include identifying the multiple sources of parking revenue throughout the City; the use of these funds; the impact on the City’s budget; the outsourcing of the management of the City’s parking facilities; the proposed 50%, $45 million increase in the Parking User’s Tax to 15% that was discussed last year; the colossal failure of Chicago’s public private partnerships for its parking meters and garages; the impact of the City’s parking policies on local communities; and any other relevant matters and policies.  

By developing a common set of facts and figures and creating an open and transparent environment for constructive dialogue, the City and the citizens of Los Angeles should be able to develop a parking strategy and related policies that meet the needs of its citizens and their local communities. 
The alternative is not very pretty. 

Note: You can LIKE the LA Parking Initiative on Facebook (Parking Los Angeles) so that you can follow its progress. Just click here.)

Papa wheelie: Is there one dad bike to rule them all?

http://grist.org/cities/papa-wheelie-is-there-one-dad-bike-to-rule-them-all/

By Nathanael Johnson, December 17, 2013





The New Wheel
As I wrote earlier, I love living without a car. Also, I just bought a car. It sits in our driveway, blocking the access to the shed where we keep our bikes. I should say, my wife Beth keeps her bike in the shed. A thief took mine.

And what a bike it was. It was a Bianchi Brava, lightweight, fast, and sexy. I loved the way it looked, the way it lifted easily to my shoulder to leave the subway, the way it leapt forward when I put some muscle behind the pedals. Here, behold:
the dearly departed
The dearly departed.
Well, that’s what it looked like when I bought it. Then I added a rack. Next I put on a child’s seat. By the time it was stolen, I was window-shopping for baskets and fenders.

Perhaps its disappearance was a blessing in disguise: I don’t need a speedy road bike anymore. I need a dad bike, something that will allow me to schlep babies and groceries — and get me out of that infernal car. So that’s my quest: Find the dad bike that will make our car obsolete.

Here are my criteria:

1. Functionality: It’s got to convey me, two kids, groceries, etc. around town more conveniently than a car. It’s got to keep me clean and should deliver me looking presentable.

2. Reliability: It shouldn’t need much maintenance to last for at least a decade.

3. Size: It should be fairly small, as I don’t have much space for storage.

4. Joy: It should feel good to ride, and, if possible, it should be a thing of beauty.

5. Price: I’m willing to shell out some ducats. This is going to be my main form of transportation and I expect the investment to pay off (as I save on gas, parking tickets, and repairs) in the long run.
I started out by looking at cargo bikes and bakfiets — a Dutch breed of bicycle with a big box in front. You can pile all manner of kids, dogs, toys, kayaks, and furniture (seriously!) into these things. Here’s one:
bakfiet
twotoneatl
Bakfiet.
But cargo bikes also have problems. They are big and we don’t have much space. And it doesn’t look like much fun to ride one when loaded: “Super tippy and intense,” is how a friend described the experience. It was a bit too tippy just balancing a single kid in a rear child seat on my Bianchi — I had some close calls while parking.

So cargo bikes were out, but there was another solution sitting right in our shed: We already have a trailer for Beth’s bike. It’s pretty roomy — you can throw a couple bags of produce in there with a kid — but it folds up and stows nicely. I was nervous about trailers at first: I worried that the low profile would put them in constant danger of being run over. But it turns out that bike-mounted seats are at least as dangerous as trailers. And unlike with a child seat, a trailer doesn’t fall over, even if you do.
I went ahead and bought an extra hitch so I could pull Beth’s trailer. Now I just needed a bike with which to pull it.

A dad bicycle, I decided, should have a geometry of safety, rather than speed. When I’m on a fast bike, I’m tempted to race the other riders at every green light. Instead of an aggressively high seat and a racer’s drop handlebars, I should be shopping for a bicycle that put me in an upright position — poised for appreciation, rather than competition. I’d be looking for an easy, unpretentious step-through frame so I wouldn’t have to throw my leg over the crossbar while balancing a heavy load in back. Sure, this is what you probably think of as a “lady’s” bike, but aren’t we past that by now? And by the way, as someone who fell on that high “men’s” crossbar more than once when I was a kid, isn’t it a cruel irony to force the testicle-busting version of the bicycle on boys?

I imagined myself pedaling around town on a sleek European bike, my daughter behind in the trailer, a loaf of bread in the front basket, bags of produce in the panniers … The imaginary Nate on the bicycle was starting to sweat. If I was going to give up the efficiency of a road bike, and add weight, I might need some help.

I spent that evening looking at pedal-assist motors for bikes. The ones I found were pretty clunky: The batteries fit awkwardly in the geometry of the frames. It was hard for me to tell where the line was between cheapness and luxury. The next morning, I called an electrical bike shop in San Francisco called The New Wheel, and asked for help. The woman who picked up the phone explained that the bikes were even more expensive than I thought.

“I wouldn’t recommend buying one that’s under $2,000,” she said.

That’s because the cheap ones are made in China, and it’s extremely hard to buy replacement parts if something breaks. Despite the sticker shock, she persuaded me to come into the shop and take a test ride. Maybe the bikes wouldn’t look so clunky in person.
Brett and Karen, proprietors of The New Wheel
Brett and Karen, proprietors of The New Wheel.
The person I’d talked to turned out to be Karen Wiener, who opened the shop with her husband Brett Thurber. They steered me toward a bike made by the German company Kalkhoff, and I took it for a spin. It felt remarkably awkward at first. The bike had internal gears which means you’re supposed to shift when you aren’t pedaling, which is just the opposite of a conventional bike. The motor added power to my pedaling, but when I tried to push harder and speed things up it almost felt as if I was working against the motor.

It turned out the motor had nothing to do with it, I just wasn’t used to the upright posture, or to riding such a heavy bike. The trick, Brett told me, was to pedal casually and let the motor push you. Before I knew it I’d reached the top of Bernal Hill. It was effortless, so effortless that it didn’t feel like what I thought of as cycling.
Hills? No problem!
Hill? What hill?
When I’d entered the shop I’d met a couple, Tera and Bob Wattles, who had brought their bikes in for a tune up. Tera said she’s always cycled, but “as you get older, toward 70, it’s harder to keep up.” The motor assist is the solution, she told me.

“I just love passing the young guys with all the fancy gear,” she said with a chuckle. “They can’t stand it.”
Bob and Tera Wattles
Tera and Bob Wattles.
This, ultimately, is the point. I’d like bicycling to be a mode of transportation for regular folks, rather than just a plaything for the middle-aged men in lycra, or MAMILs. If my dad bike is truly going to outcompete the car, it can’t be a struggle. It just won’t work if there are some daily errands that require extraordinary exertion. That makes me think I should spring for an electric bike.

On the other hand my test ride taught me that I might miss feeling of my bicycle efficiently converting muscular effort into speed. I don’t want to buy a scooter. Then there’s the issue of aesthetics. I’d imagined buying a graceful European-style bike, not a big beast. But battery packs ruin the elegant lines of those bikes in my eyes. I could buy a Faraday Porteur, the first beautifully designed electric bike I’ve seen, but it’s too large an investment for me to risk first-generation glitches: For something just south of $4,000 I’d need to be sure it was going to last.

As I close here, I’m still looking around, and I could use a little help. I could get a heavy, homely, uber-reliable electric Kalkhoff for around $3,000. Brett assures me that I’d love the way it feels once I got the hang of it.

Or I could opt for something less expensive and more beautiful, without the pedal assist. But I’m not sure what that something would be: I’ve had a hard time finding an upright, step-through frame that’s big enough for me (I’m 6’5″). If anyone out there has suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’d be willing to spend $1,700, ideally with an internally geared hub, or at least a chain guard, to keep my pants clean. A mixte frame would work too.

I’ll have to make a decision soon: The car is running low on gas, which means that, for the first time in four years, I’m going to have to buy fossil fuel for my daily transportation. My last car just about squeezed me dry before I broke its thrall; not this time. Live car-free or die! OK maybe that sets the stakes too high. So, ahem: Give me car-freedom or give me public humiliation!

Infographic: Millions of Americans Could Use an Electric Vehicle

Based on a 2013 survey by Consumers Union and UCS, 42 percent of U.S. households could use an electric vehicle.

 http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/smart-transportation-solutions/advanced-vehicle-technologies/electric-cars/bev-phev-range-electric-car.html#learn

December 9, 2013







Survey findings: millions of Americans could use today’s EVs.

In September 2013, Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted a nationally-representative survey on the driving habits and vehicle needs of U.S. households.

Our findings? 42% of U.S. households could use today's EVs.

That shows serious room for growth from the less than 1% of U.S. households who currently own an EV—and it’s great news for the climate, saving consumers money on fueling costs, and halving projected U.S. oil use.

Key findings include:
  • 42% of U.S. households meet the basic requirements for using a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). PHEVs, like the Chevy Volt, run on both gasoline and electricity.
  •  
  • 25% of U.S. households meet the basic requirements for using a batteryelectric vehicle (BEV). BEVs, like the Nissan LEAF, run entirely on electricity, with no tailpipe emissions.
  •  
  • 69% of U.S. households have weekday driving habits within the range of nearly all BEVs on the market today.
  •  
  • 65% of Americans think electric vehicles are an “essential part of our nation's transportation future for reducing oil use and global warming pollution.”

PHEV vs BEV: who’s eligible?

To utilize a PHEV, respondents had to meet all three of the following requirements:
  • Access to parking and an outlet, as PHEVs require charging access. 56% of U.S. households have access to charging.
  •  
  • 5 or fewer occupants (including driver), as most of today's PHEV models are 4 or 5 person passenger cars. 95% of U.S. households report 5 or fewer occupants in their cars.
  •  
  • No hauling or towing needs, as today's PHEVs aren’t suitable for towing. 79% of U.S. drivers don’t need to tow.
To utilize a BEV, respondents had to meet three additional requirements:
  • Access to parking and an outlet specifically at home.
  •  
  • Drive a maximum of 60 or fewer miles on weekdays. Most of today's BEVs have driving ranges between 60 and 90 miles. 69% of U.S. drivers have weekday range requirements safely within this range.
  •  
  • Own more than one vehicle or infrequently take long trips. A second vehicle enables longer driving ranges during vacations and trips. 65% of U.S. households have more than one vehicle.

Methodology

The survey was conducted in conjunction with Consumers Union on September 26th, 2013.
1000 randomly selected American individuals, aged eighteen or over, were asked by phone a range of questions relating to their driving requirements.

Based on the eligibility outlined above, the survey results were analyzed to see what percentage of U.S. households meet the requirements of PHEV and BEV ownership.

U.S driver and household statistics are based on survey respondents who reported owning at least one vehicle.

For more about our survey and analytical methodology, click here (PDF).

Damage Control: BYD Brings Crisis Manager to Address Issues

http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/12/17/damage-control-byd-brings-crisis-manager-to-address-issues/#more-89718

By Brian Addison, December 17, 2013




 Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 9.38.12 AM


Like sand through the hourglass…

In an attempt to create some form of damage control, BYD Motors brought on a crisis management lawyer by the name of Lanny Davis to help alleviate some of the problems the bus manufacturer currently faces. Specifically, Davis attempted to iron out concerns regarding alleged labor violations, Altoona testing problems, and possible delivery delays for Long Beach Transit (LBT)’s electric bus fleet.

Additionally, Davis even sent out a letter to LBT President and CEO Kenneth McDonald—not even six months into his position—as well as Mayor Bob Foster, the entire City Council, and the entire LBT Board. In it, he sought to “set the record straight” on subjects that BYD & Company “understands why you might be confused” over.

They brought out Supervisor Michael Antonovich, the conservative overseer of the County’s district where Lancaster, the site of an apparent BYD manufacturing facility, is. They brought out the mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Perris (ah, good ol’ Rex, kinda reminds me of the Mayor of Windsor, Canada, who also sang the praises of BYD bringin’ a manufacturing plant to town only to have a whole choir perform for an empty church).

The irony is not just the fact that they brought out players we’ve heard of before—Rex had a lovely full-page national spread in the Los Angeles Times if you didn’t catch wind of it—but the fact that their message hasn’t really much altered.

In a nutshell, I present to you the press conference: We didn’t violate labor laws; we’ve just been cited for the possibility of having committed them. We have no idea why LBT is expecting delays; we are testing the right bus despite LBT Boardmembers stating otherwise. We find no reason to panic over our Altoona testing; despite cracks in the rear and faulty bracket installation and failed subassemblies, everything is perfectly safe.
Davis failed to mention that BYD has been handed 112 citations, to be exact, by the DIR and the investigation is currently ongoing with the possible determination—to use Davis’s own word—of a $100K fine occurring should the allegations prove true.
Davis was adamant to the point of being redundant about supposed “misinformation on the Internet” and “negative rumors or innuendo, certainly those reported in the newspapers anonymously.”

“I just want to address issues that we believe to be beyond factual dispute and that are capable of being substantiated,” Davis said. “The [State of California Department of Industrial Relations, or DIR] has given citations which are allegations of violations; they are not determinations. And a citation is different than a fine, which some news reporting confused those two words.”

Davis failed to mention that BYD has been handed 112 citations, to be exact, by the DIR and the investigation is currently ongoing with the possible determination—to use Davis’s own word—of a $100K fine occurring should the allegations prove true.


According to BYD officials and Davis, both admitted that the company did indeed hire five Chinese nationals over the course of some four or so months; two have left while the other three should be gone by the end of this month. However, according to DIR accusations, BYD failed to properly pay these workers the legal wage; according to Davis, this is “totally baseless and made up or misunderstood by somebody.”

Davis claimed these workers received somewhere between $12 to $16/hour, well above the $8/hour state minimum. What Davis did not address is what these workers were precisely doing—engineering? assembly line? janitors?—which makes the number seemingly dubious. And though Davis said he would happily provide direct substantiation of these numbers, when Longbeachize made such a request, I received the following email from Mr. Davis:

“In light of your factually inaccurate Internet post yesterday [December 14] and failure to report on the facts as I stated in the press conference, it appears that you are not interested in the facts.

Therefore until I speak to your publisher or your editor, or hear from you directly as to why you are not interested in reporting the facts, I will advise BYD not to respond to your inquiries.”

Though I did reach out directly, Davis did not respond for further comment via phone and the documents I requested have not been provided.

Additionally, BYD says it has 35 full-time employees: 15 at its Lancaster manufacturing plant and 20 at its administrative offices in Downtown Los Angeles (which was provided to them via the City of Los Angeles, which spent $1.2M to hand BYD the space). Of these 35, 21 are U.S. citizens, seven hold Green Cards, and the remaining seven have legal documents which support them working here.

Davis has not provided specific titles or wages of the workers at either Lancaster, presumed to be engineers or assembly line workers, or Downtown, presumed to be executives and administrators.

According to an unknown estimate, BYD is expected to have created some 200 jobs in the States by the end of 2015.

In regard to Altoona testing—cracks that were discovered near the rear of the BYD bus undergoing Altoona testing—BYD seemed confused over LBT’s request that a bus manufactured in Lancaster, i.e. the actual bus LBT will be procuring, undergo Altoona testing as well. According to LBT, the current BYD bus which has undergone some 6,000 miles of testing is one which was manufactured in China and the Board’s request that a U.S.-built version be tested could result in delays.

“Long Beach Transit’s Board of Directors requested that a U.S.-built BYD bus, that meets our model specs, be tested in Altoona,” said LBT spokesperson Kevin Lee. “That would be the upcoming BYD engineering bus, which would be built in Lancaster. We are awaiting a decision from the FTA as to whether they will fulfill that request or continue with the current bus that is at Altoona. This is how the process of request goes: LBT Board requested it of LBT staff. LBT staff requested it of BYD. BYD requested it of the FTA. It is ultimately in the hands of BYD, because it is their bus.”
Davis, however, seemed unsure of precisely what Lee was referring to.

“The bus currently being tested in Altoona is indeed the production unit that will be delivered to LBT,” Davis said. “We do have a disagreement with the Federal Transit Authority on that subject… While I agree there is a misunderstanding, I am not sure if it was BYD’s own miscommunication. Sometimes, there are honest misunderstandings and that is the best explanation I can offer… There is only one set of facts and that is that there is one bus—not two—being tested at Altoona with no safety issues.”

So there we have it, folks: five temporary Chinese workers are being rushed out of the States while BYD undergoes investigation (totally not sketchy); there are just labor violation accusations (y’know, by the State of California, no biggie, happens all the time) and no fines have been officially issued (because they’re being investigated); there is no need to worry about a crack in the rear of their bus (one of the most vulnerable parts of a bus); and the FTA and LBT are “confused” or “misinformed” and BYD is the poor, misunderstood corporate conglomerate that is doing nothing but amazing things for both the world and the United States.

BYD is required to deliver the buses by June of 2014. Until then, these are the days of our lives…

See also:  http://www.710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts.com/2013/12/ca-la-area-transit-officials-tout.html

Read more:

Bullet Train Shortens Distance Between France and Spain by Half

http://www.travelerstoday.com/articles/7968/20131216/bullet-train-shortens-distance-between-france-spain-half.htm

December 16, 2013



Bullet Train


Tourists receive good news as a high-speed railway service recently opened to serve travels from Spain to France and vice versa for only 6 hours.

Before France Spain High Speed came about, it took travelers a long train ride of 12 hours to get to either France or Spain. 82 million trips are made between the two famed cities each year and are now expected to increase because of the added convenience.

Since the railway's inauguration last Sunday, the train operator RENFE says they hope to lure in plane passengers soon.

 Among the bullet train's top routes are from Marseille to Madrid, Toulouse to Barcelona, Lyon to Barcelona, Paris to Barcelona and Paris to Figueres. Prices depend on the type of accommodations travelers would want to book. Price range goes from $114 to over $260.

The bullet train could be experienced either through Standard or First Class. The former offers buffet car for food purchases, comfortable and spacious seats with headrest and footrest, restrooms at the end of the carriage as well as baby changing facilities.

First Class receives all the amenities from Standard Class plus a choice between single or spacious seats for 2-4 persons, sockets in each seat, more legroom as well as exclusive entry to VIP lounges in Madrid Atocha, Girona and Barcelona Sans stations.

As for other services, the railway company could also accommodate travelers with pets provided they also have tickets. When it comes to luggage, 2 plus the traveler's carry on are allowed in the bullet train. They are also friendly and fully equipped for the needs of PWD. Tourists with bikes don't have to worry as they could bring their gear with them. As for the hungry traveler, France Spain High Speed offers the best of buffet services.

As part of their opening, the railway company are offering exclusive holiday deals and other promotions found in their website.

Big-rig crash, fire shuts 210 West in La Crescenta

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=9363317

December 17, 2013


 A big-rig crash and resulting fire closed down all westbound lanes of the 210 Freeway on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013.


A big-rig crash and resulting fire closed down all westbound lanes of the 210 Freeway early Tuesday morning. 

The crash occurred shortly after midnight just east of the Lowell Boulevard off-ramp in the Glendale/La-Crescenta area, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officials say a big rig rear-ended another big rig that slowed down unexpectedly. The crash ignited a fire, burning one big rig to the ground. Authorities say both drivers were able to escape unharmed, though one driver suffered a minor injury. A massive cleanup was underway.

Westbound lanes of the 210 were closed between Lowell and the Pennsylvania Avenue off-ramps. Traffic was diverted off at Pennsylvania Avenue. Commuters were advised to get back on the 210 via Foothill Boulevard, then Lowell Avenue. Eastbound traffic did not appear to be affected.