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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

These motion-activated streetlights could cut L.A.’s energy use by 40 percent


By Holly Richmond, December 27, 2013


At night, brightly lit office buildings are depressing — you know that either people are working too hard, or the building is wasting energy. Dutch mechanical engineer Chintan Shah looked at streetlights and saw a similar problem. Why light a path if no one’s walking or biking there? (Sorry, turtles. Guess you don’t count.)

His interest piqued, Shah did a little research and uncovered some staggering stats:
[J]ust keeping the city lights on costs Europe, alone, over 10 billion Euros each year and is responsible for more than 40 percent of a government’s energy usage. That’s 40 million tons of CO2 emissions generated through sources such as coal plants and wide-scale burning of other fossil fuels, which gives new meaning to the concept of “light pollution.”
So Shah’s company, Tvilight (think “Twilight” with a Count Dracula accent), created a retrofit for streetlights to dim them when people aren’t around and restore full brightness once a motion sensor is tripped. For the past two years, neighborhoods in Ireland and Holland have been implementing the system, and now it could be coming to Los Angeles (as well as parts of Germany and Canada).

What about safety, you ask? Good question. The system is adjustable so that streetlights in vast abandoned parking lots could dim up to 70 percent when no one’s around, but those in busy areas like intersections might only dim by 30 percent. And if snow or other inclement weather confuses things, the default is no dimming at all. Check it out (and keep us posted, L.A.):


Feds Say Just One Car Out of 100 Will Be Electric in 2040


By Damon Lavrinc, December 27, 2013

 Photo: Jon Snyder/WIRED

Electric vehicles are gaining a small foothold in the U.S., but according to the feds, it will remain just that — small. Fossil fuels will power the vast majority of vehicles for the next two and a half decades, with electric cars accounting for a scant 1 percent of vehicles sold in the United States in 2040, according to Uncle Sam.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook report for 2014 predicts that by 2040, nearly eight in 10 cars sold will run on gasoline, down marginally the number sold last year. The number of diesels rolling out of showrooms will double to 4 percent of all vehicles sold, while hybrids will comprise 5 percent of cars. That’s up from 3 percent last year.

But the headline figure is this: The EIA predicts that only 1 percent of total vehicle sales in the U.S. will be plug-in hybrids, with another 1 percent being fully electric in 2040.

“The numbers of LDVs [light duty vehicles] powered by fuels other than gasoline, such as diesel, electricity, or E85, or equipped with hybrid drive trains, such as plug-in hybrid or gasoline hybrid electric, increase modestly from 18 percent of new sales in 2012 to 22 percent in 2040,” the report states.

Last year, around 14.5 million vehicles were sold nationwide. If the EIA’s numbers pan out (and overall vehicle sales stay about the same), fewer than 300,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids will be sold in 2040. That’s bad news for the Obama administration, which has long hoped to see 1 million EVs and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015.

While these estimates are a buzzkill for EV proponents, taking the longview puts things into perspective. The internal combustion engine has been around for over a century, it’s dirt cheap and technological advances like direct injection and old tricks like turbocharging keep increasing efficiency. And as much as we like cars with cords, the technology is hampered — at least in the eyes of many consumers — by range and cost concerns. It’s difficult to predict the future, of course, but the odds of a major battery tech breakthrough in the next decade remain slim.

The numbers laid out by the EIA jibe with those in last year’s report, suggesting the long-term adoption of electric vehicles in all their guises — battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell — will be far slower than advocates would have you believe. The good news is that although we’ll still be using lots of gasoline, the average fuel economy of all vehicles sold in the United States will rise from 21.5 mpg last year to 37.2 mpg by 2040 as gas prices will only rise to $3.90 a gallon (adjusted for inflation), compared to the previous forecast of $4.40.

Mexico City subway rate increase enrages commuters

The 2-peso bump inspires a civil disobedience movement, underscoring how close to the economic edge many Mexicans find themselves.


 By Tracy Wilkinson and Cecilia Sanchez, December 28, 2013

Mexico City subway protest

 Demonstrators protest the 2-peso Mexico City subway fare increase. The city hopes to finance improvements for the run-down system, built in the 1970s and '80s.

 MEXICO CITY — It's only a matter of a couple of pesos. On the other hand, it's a 66% fare increase — and it's got many Mexico City residents hopping mad.

A recent increase in subway fares in Mexico City has touched off a protest movement of civil disobedience — with infuriated young commuters jumping over turnstiles to make their point — and has ignited a new round of political trouble for the capital's besieged mayor.

Hoping to offset rising costs and promising to finance improvements, city officials approved an increase from 3 to 5 pesos for a ride on the heavily subsidized metro system. That's the equivalent of a leap from just under 25 cents to almost 40 cents.

Reaction has been fierce, with incensed protesters encouraging fellow travelers to join them in jumping.

"It is unfair and an insult to minimum-wage earners," said philosophy student Marcos Aguirre Cruz, 19, who was loudly demonstrating last week at the Pantitlan metro stop. He is part of the movement organized largely through social media with the hashtag, "Pos me salto," which means, roughly, "Well, I'll just jump."

Aguirre was urging others to leapfrog the ingress. Some obliged; older commuters ducked underneath when hurdling proved a bit difficult. Police stood by, laughing.

Mexico City's vast subway system transports 5 million people a day across one of the Western Hemisphere's largest and most traffic-choked megalopolises.

Mostly built in the '70s and '80s, it is an essential mode of transportation for its users. But it is notoriously run-down, plagued by pickpockets, dirt, poor service and a mini-army of annoying street vendors allowed to roam the overcrowded trains, where passengers are often packed as tight as cigarettes.

"I paid for my ticket, but these kids are right," said homemaker Rosaura Diaz Garcia, 47. "Prices for everything go up, and the salaries don't begin to cover it, and this metro doesn't even give good service. I had to wait more than 20 minutes yesterday for a train."

The pesos add up, considering that many workers must take a combination of subway and bus to get to their jobs, and pay separately for each leg of the trip.

The furor makes it clear just how close to the economic edge many Mexican families find themselves. Nearly half the workforce is employed in the precarious informal economy, and even for wage earners formally employed, the pay is low. The government announced that minimum wage will go up Jan. 1 by 21/2 pesos, to the equivalent of about $5 a day.

Protesters are also angry that the fare was increased with only minimal consultation. Many say they feel powerless against authorities who dictate measures that have a significant effect on their pocketbooks but then produce little to show for it. Many suspect that through corruption or waste, the higher ticket price will not translate into better service or other improvements.

One of the biggest casualties is Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, who was elected last year by an overwhelming majority but today is widely criticized for a series of municipal maladies, including crime and overbuilding along with the condition of the subway network.

"I want to tell Mancera," said commuter Mariana Escalona, a 22-year-old engineering student, "that when the subway stations are clean, when there are more trains, when the vendors are gone, when there is more security, more protection for women riders and when there is good service, then I will be happy to pay 5 pesos."

"The authorities announce a fare hike, that's it — they don't care about people's opinions," said Marco Antonio Torres, 42, taking a train to his office job. "I'm sure Mancera is laughing at the protests, and prices will keep going up for everything."

Mancera did in fact seem to dismiss the turnstile-jumping protest, saying it wasn't large enough to hurt the network's earnings. He promised to add police, remove vendors and make public how money from the higher fares is spent sometime next year. He has also suggested there will be discounts for needy commuters, including single mothers and the unemployed.

His government conducted a survey of 7,200 passengers over three days in November and said an average of 55.7% of people approved of the rate increase — but only if it led to real improvements in the battered underground.

DUI drivers may face instant drug tests in LA


By Amy Powell, December 27, 2013

 See website for a video.

Local law enforcement has a new tool to crack down on drunken drivers over the New Year's holiday, and drivers could face instant drug tests at DUI checkpoints. 

"If you drink or if you're using drugs, don't drive," said L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer.

The L.A. City Attorney's Office received a half-million-dollar federal grant to expand use of a device called the Drager 5000. A swab of saliva is taken from a driver, and within minutes the device analyzes the presence of cocaine, marijuana and other substances. A second saliva swab is taken for independent testing.

"We anticipate making a large number of DUI for alcohol- and drugs-related arrests on New Year's Eve," said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith. "We don't want to, but we're prepared to do so."
Officials say the crackdown includes medical marijuana.

"Even one who is legitimately permitted to have medical marijuana has to be very careful not to be driving under the influence, even of that lawful medication," said Feuer.

Statistics show that deaths and injuries caused by alcohol-related traffic crashes rise 86 percent during the holiday season. During the two-week period last year, the city attorney's office prosecuted nearly 600 DUI cases.

The federal money will also pay for two extra assistant district attorneys who will concentrate on DUI prosecution.

The LAPD says it will increase the number of DUI checkpoints leading up to the new year, and extra motorcycle and traffic officers will be patrolling the streets looking for impaired drivers.

"We want to make sure everybody gets the message loud and clear, that there will be a zero-tolerance policy for the police department for people driving under the influence of narcotics or drugs," said Smith.

Authorities say you should make a plan before you go out to celebrate the new year. Have a designated driver, or arrange other transportation, or walk.

Thinking of drinking on New Year’s Eve? Then don’t drive, warn local cops


 By Christina Villacorte, December 27, 2013

LAPD officer Kamaron Sardar checks the numbers on a printout while demonstrating the Drager 5000 drug test device during a press conference to warn the public of the dangers of impaired driving during the holidays as well as detail efforts to aggressively prosecute DUI cases through a grant funded program December 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA. LAPD officers will be using the device to test suspected drunk drivers at checkpoints.(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

 LAPD officer Kamaron Sardar checks the numbers on a printout while demonstrating the Drager 5000 drug test device during a press conference to warn the public of the dangers of impaired driving during the holidays as well as detail efforts to aggressively prosecute DUI cases through a grant fundprogram December 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA. LAPD officers will be using the device to test suspected drunk drivers at checkpoints.ed

Celebrate the New Year, but don’t drive while “buzzed,” or you will get busted — or worse.
That was the stern warning Friday from law enforcement officials, who plan to be out in force keeping streets safe as 2013 turns into 2014.

“We want to make sure everybody gets the message loud and clear,” Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. “There will be a zero-tolerance policy for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

Citing analysis by the Automobile Club of Southern California, City Attorney Mike Feuer said alcohol-related deaths and injuries are 86 percent higher during the holiday season compared with the rest of the year. During the two-week holiday season last year, his office filed almost 600 DUI cases.

Drug-related vehicular accidents also spike, with tragic consequences, he noted. “It’s impossible to quantify the effects on a family whose loved one isn’t coming home because someone has made the irresponsible decision to drink or use drugs and then drive,” Feuer said. “That decision will have irreversible consequences for many other people — and for the perpetrator.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving executive director Patricia Rillera said the advocacy group talks to those families every day, helping them cope with their grief.

“We understand that alcohol is a part of a lot of festivities, especially during this particular time of the year, but please drink responsibly,” she added.

Driving under the influence has already caused 2,087 traffic collisions and claimed 16 lives within city limits, according to the LAPD.

“Don’t be one of those statistics that ends up in the morgue or ends up in jail because we’ll have plenty of officers looking for drunk drivers,” the police spokesman said.

Anticipating many New Year’s Eve revelers will be high or drunk while behind the wheel, LAPD and the California Highway Patrol will set up sobriety checkpoints and have “maximum deployment” of traffic officers, motorcycle officers and jailers to lock up those considered a risk to themselves and others.

Thanks to a $500,000 federal grant, some of those sobriety checkpoints will be equipped with new technology capable of checking a driver’s saliva — instead of blood, which is the usual method — for alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, opiates, methodone, narcotic analgesics and benzodiazepine. It’s more convenient, less invasive and less expensive and also provides immediate results that are just as reliable.

Even legally prescribed medication such as medical marijuana, Vicodan and Xanax can cause impairment and should not be taken before driving.

Deputy City Attorney Michelle de Casas warned that even a first DUI comes with steep penalties. “We’re talking in the range of about $5,000 to $8,000 just in terms of fines and fees that you have to pay for ... and this is assuming that you’re not already paying for a lawyer,” she said.

A conviction may also result in the revocation of a driver’s license. Those who will be drinking are advised to have a designated driver, use public transportation or sleep over at their party.