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 30, 2014

More commuters look to Metro van pools as alternative to solo driving


By Dan Weikel, December 30, 2014

Vanpool in Long Beach
Karen Morgan prepares to drive home as Selim Eren fetches a jacket after a vRide Vanpool arrives at Wardlow Park in Long Beach after a commute from Santa Monica.

Driving solo to work continues to define L.A.'s entrenched car culture. But commuters across the county are increasingly turning to alternatives such as the van pool, a venerable ride-sharing option that can reduce air pollution, travel times and transportation costs.

At Metro, which administers the largest public van pool operation in North America, participation has more than doubled in the last six years, with a total of 1,375 van groups operating today. Officials expect that figure to grow by at least 8% in 2015.

Van pool members, who ride together in groups of five to 15, can save hundreds of dollars a month in commuting costs. And because driving duties are shared, they avoid the stress of getting behind the wheel every day during rush hours.

"No way would I go back to driving alone to work," said Tawnya Betancourt of Long Beach, a financial analyst, who organized a five-person van pool with Metro's help. It runs between Long Beach and Santa Monica — a 30-mile trip one-way.

Metro, which began its program in 2007, offers eligible van pools a monthly subsidy of up to $400 to help cover the cost of vehicle leases or other expenses. Participants must travel at least 15 miles one way, have a minimum of five people and agree that the van pool will commute to workplaces in Los Angeles County.

Private companies, public institutions and local governments also can provide financial incentives to assist their employees and other commuters interested in Metro's program.
Officials say van pooling is an example of "shared mobility," an emerging transportation strategy to provide the public with alternatives to driving alone.

"It involves a multi-part relationship with the commuter at its hub," said Jami Carringon, Metro's program manager. "The shared mobility concept is the wave of the future. We are only going to grow it more."

Similar programs have been set up by the San Diego Assn. of Governments, the Orange County Transportation Authority and the Victor Valley Transit Authority in San Bernardino County. In addition, private companies and public institutions have helped organize and fund their own van pools.

Betancourt's van pool began in April 2011 and is typical of the operations Metro supports, as well as the benefits that can accrue to participants.

Her group meets about 6 a.m. on weekdays, in the pre-dawn darkness at Wardlow Park in Long Beach. They board a seven-passenger Dodge Caravan and head north in the carpool lane of the 405 Freeway, one of the busiest highways in the nation.

Some people sleep. One rider usually consults mobile traffic apps to monitor congestion and scope out alternate routes. The morning commute normally takes 45 minutes to an hour, about 30 minutes less than it would fighting traffic for a solo driver.

The trip home in the evening can take up to an hour and 20 minutes due to congestion on the southbound 405 and the need to use surface streets to get around freeway bottlenecks.

The $400 a month Metro provides helps offset the $870 monthly lease for the vehicle, which is rented from vRide, one of several car rental agencies that specialize in van pools. The lease includes insurance and maintenance.

Each member contributes $175 to $200 a month for gas and car washes — expenses that are defrayed by tax breaks and small subsidies from employers.

Betancourt says she has reduced her travel costs about $300 a month and can park the van for free at the Water Garden office complex where she works. Another rider, Denise Kinsella, an associate dean of international studies at Santa Monica College, estimated she saves at least $100 a month.

"I went from driving 60 miles a day to just seven miles," she said. "I don't understand why more people aren't doing this.

"Metro officials say van poolers using their program save an average of $152 a month in travel costs. Because 90% of participants used to drive alone to work, an estimated 7,000 cars a day have been removed from the region's highways. That translates into a reduction in carbon emissions of 4,000 metric tons a month, according to the agency.

"Van pooling is a great way to reduce trips and therefore cut congestion and air pollution," said Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. "It's like a car pool on steroids. Some vans carry up to 12 people."

Van pools are encouraged by district rules that require employers with more than 250 workers to develop emission reduction strategies to meet air quality goals for their work sites.

Of course, van pools are not for everyone, and Metro officials acknowledge that recruiting new riders can be difficult. Members must have similar work schedules and both live and work in the same general areas. The program also may not meet the needs of people who must use their cars for work assignments or to run errands during the day.

Nevertheless, Metro's van pool program has continued to expand, attracting commuters from Kern, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties. The annual budget to pay for subsidies and administration has grown steadily to about $7.5 million.

"People have just wanted to get out of the slow lane and find a better way," Carrington said. "Van pooling is one solution."

LA Transportation: A 2015 Recipe for a Taxing 2016


By Ken Alpern, December 30, 2014


A WARNING AND A PLAN-While it's quite evident that the average taxpayer is "tapped out" and cynical towards raising more taxes, there does appear to be a reasonable likelihood that in 2016 we'll see a revisitation of extending the 2008 sales tax hike horizon of Measure R for decades.  There would be no new sales taxes with this proposed "Measure R-2", but we'll have the ability to borrow from future tax revenues to fund projects quicker and at a reduced cost. 
Transportation revenues are still in too short a supply for those of us who want more mobility and economic growth, and we're caught between conservatives (usually Republicans) who hate taxes and spending even on good measures and liberals (usually Democrats) who too often spend on transportation as an afterthought and in rather cost-ineffective ways. 

But the need for mobility/transportation as a way to enhance our Economy, Environment and Quality of Life remains as strong as ever, while the ability to fund it remains as elusive as ever.  To quote County Supervisor and Metro Boardmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, any countywide tax increase "... has to be regional, it has to be rational, it has to be equitable." 

Perhaps we can utilize LA City Attorney Mike Feuer's expertise--or at least his example--of creating a transparent and equitable approach to how (as a former Assemblymember) he wrote Measure R, but it can be done.  

1) In particular, a Measure R-2 has to have the priority and voter-draw of connecting LAX to Metro Rail and an Olympics in 2024. 

To date, LA Mayor Garcetti has said and done a lot of things to bring Measure R-2 towards reality. Garcetti and the Metro Board worked with staff to create a new and expensive Metro station at 96th/Aviation (which, hopefully will be named something like "LAX Transit Center") and also worked with LA World Airports and the Board of Airport Commissioners to create a connecting LAX People Mover train to the central airline terminals. 

 These projects have moved forward with precedent-shredding speed, and when even conservative spending hawk County Supervisor Don Knabe wants a LAX/Metro Rail connection by circa 2020, it's safe to say that Garcetti's OTHER big effort of getting a 2024 Summer Olympics to L.A. is en route to becoming a reality.

People want results, and they want them NOW, so the ability of Metro to get out the entire airport/rail connection by 2022 (when the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line will connect the Expo and Green Lines, and when the Downtown Light Rail Connector will connect all four Downtown light rail lines) ensures we have a coherent countywide rail network...or at least its long-sought nucleus. 

Any further priorities of rail expansion between here and 2024 involve projects already studied by the Metro staff, who studied both a northerly extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Wilshire Subway and a southerly extension of the South Bay Green Line to Torrance.  For those who've seen a map on these projects, these two projects would create a north-south rail line from the Wilshire Corridor to Torrance ... and connect to LAX. (Photo) 

It should be noted that such an emphasis on a LAX connection would differ from the original emphasis of Measure R to create a Wilshire Subway (which, of course, would also receive enhanced funding from a Measure R-2), but even Beverly Hills and other residents who are fighting over a Wilshire Subway route to Century City wouldn't argue over enhanced rail access to LAX.  Ditto for the South Bay, which also wants better LAX access. 

2) Keep the immediate and longer-range projects prioritized, no matter who's doing the teeth-gnashing. 

While everyone wants THEIR road, freeway or rail project prioritized first, there are certain projects that have been studied more than others, and which are either geographically and/or politically geared to receive higher priority. 

I've already mentioned the South Bay Green Line to Torrance, but for those who imagine it should link up with the Blue Line in Long Beach (a pretty good idea) it really can't reach beyond Torrance at this time, no matter which delightful visioning map displays it--such as that made by Neal Broverman of Curbed LA.  

Broverman and others have the right idea, to be sure, but there's only so much money (particularly for unplanned projects) to go around.  Like it or not, things have to be studied--and it's a lot easier to draw a line on a map than to make it a reality. 

Ditto for creating that long-sought "Holy Grail" of LA Metro Rail projects--the 405/Sepulveda Pass Subway. That popular project will at least be a big $5 billion project, and is not likely to see the light of day until a similar amount is spent to get the Wilshire Subway to the I-405 freeway.   

A more realistic and immediate Endeavour for the San Fernando Valley would be rebuild the Orange Line Busway to a light rail line now that the Busway has reached maximum capacity, and/or a previously-considered rail link between the San Fernando Valley to the Pasadena/Foothill Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley.  A "Valley to Valley" light rail line would draw far more voters than a Westside-focused Sepulveda Pass line. 

(And this is from someone who's advocated for such a Sepulveda Pass Subway for years). 

Finishing the eastern extension of the Foothill Gold Line to Claremont would, if the promise of a San Fernando Valley connection to the west were also prioritized in a Measure R-2, please voters from the western SFV to the eastern SGV... do the math, and this becomes pretty obvious a priority. 

And we do have the ability to take advantage of the recent I-405 widening over the Sepulveda Pass to use a host of larger and more modern electric buses to link the Orange Line and the soon-to-be completed Expo Line via the new carpool lanes...and well before a 2024 Olympics.  We've already got $1 billion from Measure R for that...even though most of us probably would prefer a rail line. 

3) Whenever possible, connect Metrolink and MetroRail. 

Reality check!  How many Westsiders, Downtowners and South Bay residents even know what Metrolink or "commuter rail" really is?  

There is no Metrolink in the Westside (although the Expo Line comes darned close), and that must end. Arguably, the dream of using the Harbor Subdivision Rail Right Of Way between Union station and LAX connection must see the light of day. Such a project to directly connect LAX and Union Station would also allow a southern/eastern second Downtown Rail Connector to benefit the Eastside as well as the Westside. 

But that's nowhere on the planning horizon, while a Metro Eastside Light Rail Extension project is being planned that has no shared stations between that project and Metrolink (or at least not on the maps I've seen so far). 

There are two popular Eastside Gold Line Extensions--to the I-605 freeway along the SR-60 freeway, and via a series of streets to Whittier--but without a coherent Metrolink connection, it's less likely that an Eastside citizenry will be too bullish about more funding any more than a Westside/South Bay/Downtown will be too thrilled once they realize that the aforementioned Metro Rail/LAX link does NOT have a planned DIRECT link to Downtown. 

Metrolink and Metro need to be operating in synchronicity, not in separate universes.  Similarly, the eastern Metro Green Line Gap in Norwalk must be explored with Metrolink to connect LAX and the growing Metrolink/Metro Rail networks with Orange and Riverside Counties (maybe all three counties can share the cost of building it).

We can't fix all this by 2016, but at least we can talk about Major Investment Studies in 2015 to show the voters and taxpayers that our elected leaders understand that simple thing called COMMON SENSE. 

4) Whenever possible, link roads and freeways to rail and bus rapid transit. 

Speaking of COMMON SENSE, is it too hard to suggest that LA County is big, and has an urban core that requires freeway and road linkages to mass transit that includes ... PARKING? 

Perhaps instead of giving the cold shoulder (or perhaps a more harsh gesture) to taxpaying motorists, we can remember that the Expo Line is as close to a Metrolink as the Westside will have in years.  And if the Expo Line is an alternative to the I-10 freeway, isn't parking critical to allow motorists the ability to ditch their cars and access the urban core...or are they not allowed access to the rail line they paid for? 

Furthermore, is it too much to ask for freeway-close proposed Eastside Gold Line stations near the I-5 and SR-60 freeways to have parking and easy access to and from our freeway system? 

In addition to the aforementioned Metrolink connections to Union Station and LAX and the proposed Metro Eastside Gold Line Extensions, there are growing Bus Rapid Transit lines from the South Bay and eastern portions of LA County (the Silver and Bronze Lines) that-- as with the aforementioned Sepulveda Pass Busway--are very good short-term (if not only) options to using our carpool lanes to benefit more commuters. 

5) First-rate buses, perhaps with special paint and PR, are vital to immediate mobility when rail can't be planned and afforded at this time (or if rail just won't work). 

Bigger, cleaner and more attractive buses are increasingly being considered for widespread use and for purchase by Metro.  Creating "Expo Connector" bus routes on Lincoln, Venice and other major roads that intersect the Expo Line is just common sense.   

Ditto for revisiting cheaper Downtown Trolley alternatives.  Rail is nice, and rail is cool...but one size does not fit all roads and thoroughfares.  When capacity is too high for buses (as with the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley), rail is necessary to be considered, but it can't always be done--nor should we always try to do it. 

6) Freeways and roads matter, as do bicycle, bus and pedestrian amenities. 

Measure R-2, as with Measure R in 2008, can and will fund a host of freeway improvements.  The I-5 needs widening between the I-605 and I-710 freeways, and the 101 freeway needs widening and restriping from Downtown to the Ventura county line.  Tens of thousands of taxpaying commuters would benefit each and every day from these and other endeavors, and they don't deserve to be ignored. 

A realistic bicycle network that enhances mobility for both motorists and bicyclists, and which doesn't put bicyclists' lives in danger, is overdue.
Building modern bus shelters (and not just benches) with LED announcements of oncoming buses and which provide dignity to bus commuters, is overdue.  

Devoting industrial county land to permanently create quarries to make the materials for roads and sidewalks affordable is overdue. 

Maintaining operations and maintenance of our transportation systems is overdue for dedicated funding, as is raising developer funding for more transportation if they want variances (especially parking!) 

7) Every federal and state dollar towards freeways and rail projects in LA County gets enables us to take on new issues. 

Whenever Washington gives us money for a major rail or other transportation project, we can move our priority list on to the next project on our long-range "wish list". 

Money denied from anti-transportation Republicans is as much a threat as is money diverted by misguided Democrats to a California High-Speed Rail that excludes precious transportation dollars to the exclusion of all other vital freeway and other rail projects. 

We can't have it all, and we do have to prioritize.  But by remembering COMMON SENSE and POLITICAL/VOTER WILL we can get more, and figure out the priorities that allow the voters to say "YES" when it comes to new or extended funding. 

The time is right, and the time is NOW, in 2015 to do what's smart and what's right in order to ensure a popular and voter-approved "Measure R-2" in 2016.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What do traffic reporters think?


By Kim Upton, December 29, 2014

In the newest edition of the Emmy-award winning show, Metro Motion joins Los Angeles traffic reporters to witness what they see in dark and daylight. What’s the best day to drive? What’s the worst? What should we do to improve mobility? In another segment we get a lesson on the federal Highway Trust Fund and find out why it’s so important to all of us and just what might replace it, should it run out of gas. We also take the train to historic Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. to try out some of the new vendors that have joined the dining line-up. From the famous Santa Barbara ice cream shop McConnells to boutique cheese at DTLA to wood-fired pizza to eggs at a place with a name we shouldn’t say (but the eggs are delish!), Grand Central Market is better than ever. For these stories and more go to metro.net/metromotion. Metro Motion is co-produced with Santa Monica City TV.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Does Metro Want Men To Cross Their Legs While Riding The Gold Line?


December 28, 2014

This one would have to be considered quite unbelievable under normal circumstances, except that you should never see it like that. There is very little in this world that is not believable if you think about it, and what some people feel are normal circumstances are more often than not just coincidence. You really do need to keep an open mind to stupidity in this life, and the vacuous output of large government bureaucracies in particular. They are all around us these days, and you got to keep an eye out. Oh, and your wallet safely in your front pocket as well.

Metro, the vast transportation bureaucracy that likes to claim it keeps the trains and buses running on time, is also amongst those unhinged protean forces pushing for the 710 Tunnel. And like so many of that ilk they are beholden to nobody but the big moneyed interests whose favor they work so very hard to win. Both from here and abroad. They're really not all that different from many politicians in that regard. They will happily sell you out in a heartbeat if it furthers their financial agenda.

Average citizens, whose tax money sustains these folks in their well-salaried and comfortably pensioned careers, are considered to be little more than a marketing problem. Which is why Metro maintains its own information and news compendium called The Source. Here you can find daily evidence of just how Metro views the world, along with its very important place in it. It's all very self-celebratory stuff.

Which is where I found the following story. Titled "A scourge is spreading! MTA’s cure: Dude, close your legs," it deals with something that has become known as "man-spreading." Here is how Metro gets their crazy going (link and scroll down):

In the wake of Johnny T’s viral video on proper etiquette on the New York City Subway (warning: some mildly offensive language, etc.), the NYT runs on a story on man-spreading and has a simply awesome video interview with Johnny T, who happens to be a puppet. 

The article looks at those who are pushing back against men who feel the need to treat the subway as if it’s their couch and/or lounge chair and/or ManCave. That list includes the New York MTA, which has debuted a new poster.

The video that Metro is gushing about, mildly raunchy language and all, can be linked to by clicking here. But a more interesting version is found here.

This is a portion of the New York Times article Metro cites so reverentially (link):

It is the bane of many female subway riders. It is a scourge tracked on blogs and on Twitter. And it has a name almost as distasteful as the practice itself. It is man-spreading, the lay-it-all-out sitting style that more than a few men see as their inalienable underground right.

Now passengers who consider such inelegant male posture as infringing on their sensibilities — not to mention their share of subway space — have a new ally: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Taking on manspreading for the first time, the authority is set to unveil public service ads that encourage men to share a little less of themselves in the city’s ever-crowded subways cars.

Riding the F train from Brooklyn to Manhattan on a recent afternoon, Fabio Panceiro, 20, was unapologetic about sitting with his legs spread apart. “I’m not going to cross my legs like ladies do,” he said. “I’m going to sit how I want to sit.”

And what if Mr. Panceiro, an administrative assistant from Los Angeles, saw posters on the train asking him to close his legs? “I’d just laugh at the ad and hope that someone graffitis over it,” he said.

For Kelley Rae O’Donnell, an actress who confronts man-spreaders and tweets photos of them, her solitary shaming campaign now has the high-powered help of the transportation authority, whose ads will be plastered inside subway cars.

“It drives me crazy,” she said of men who spread their legs. “I find myself glaring at them because it just seems so inconsiderate in this really crowded city.”

When Ms. O’Donnell, who lives in Brooklyn and is in her 30s, asks men to move, she said, they rarely seem chastened: “I usually get grumbling or a complete refusal.”

Here is the thing. Having lived and worked in New York City for more than a few years I know how crowded and unpleasant subway commuting can be. They're generally awful places, and much of my distaste for public transportation comes from years of having to put up with such misery. When I moved out here I gladly bought a car and never once looked back.

I know that in Los Angeles things like the Gold Line are often talked about like they are the second coming, especially by Metro. But it isn't the case. They're just small uncomfortable trains with extremely limited and largely inconvenient routes.

So here's the good news. Since the Gold Line (or 210 Trolly as I often call it) doesn't go anywhere very useful except perhaps downtown Los Angeles, not that many people ride it. Sometimes you can get a trolly car almost to yourself. You can freely stretch out on those small and quite hard plastic seats and at least attempt to get comfortable.

Which is why I cannot understand what Metro is getting all excited about. Train crowding is generally not that much of a problem here. Besides, riding public transportation is degrading enough already without some angry emasculating jerk with a digital camera and a Twitter account telling you to cross your legs. Or else.

Like I said, you have to keep an open mind to the madness. There is just so much of it around.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Metro takes extra-long electric bus for test drive on the Orange Line


By Samantha Masunaga, December 26, 2014

 L.A.'s extra-long buses
The Lancaster, named after the city where it was built by BYD Motors Inc., is entirely electric and features the accordion-like articulation of L.A.'s extra-long buses.

With a faint hum about as loud as a Toyota Prius, 60 feet of transportation history rounds a corner in a Lancaster parking lot.

Fresh from a test run on Los Angeles' Metro Orange Line last week, it is the country's first electric articulated bus.

"It's an opportunity for there to be a renaissance in public transportation," said James Holtz, fleet sales manager for manufacturer BYD Motors Inc.

The bus runs on eight lithium iron phosphate battery modules, four to a side, that provide enough charge for more than 170 miles, Holtz said. In lab tests, the batteries have a life cycle of about 27 years, about twice the life span of an average bus, he said. The bus can hold up to 120 passengers.

The zero-emission bus, named the Lancaster after its birthplace at the BYD manufacturing facility, was unveiled in October at the American Public Transportation Assn. Expo in Houston. Its next big appearance was on the Orange Line, whereHoltz said the bus was praised for its quietness. Electric buses themselves are not so uncommon. Cities around the country already run these types of buses, including San Antonio, Pomona and the Tri-Cities area in Washington state. Stanford University also operates a 40-foot bus, which was BYD's first U.S. electric bus order. But none of those electric buses bear the accordion-like articulation of L.A.'s extra-long bus.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has submitted an order for 25 of BYD's 40-foot electric buses, said Brendan Riley, vice president of sales for BYD Motors Inc. But it has not ordered the articulated electric one, which is still being shown around several cities.

Gary Spivack, division transportation manager for Metro, said the testing of the articulated electric bus was positive; operators enjoyed driving the bus based on the smooth ride and quiet inside, and passengers enjoyed being in the bus, he said.

He said Metro hasn't made up its mind about ordering the 60-foot bus, saying range is a paramount issue when it comes to any electric bus.
"We need something that goes 250 miles a day," Spivack said.

The cost for the electric articulated bus is about $1.2 million, Riley said. In contrast, a comparable natural-gas articulated bus sells for $800,000.

BYD plans to take the Lancaster up and down the state, from the Bay Area to San Diego, and up the coast, to Portland and areas of Washington, to showcase it, Holtz said. Ultimately, the bus will go to Altoona, Pa., for testing.

BYD might be new to the bus manufacturing game in the U.S., but in China, where BYD is headquartered, it has been manufacturing cars for 11 years and buses for at least 5, Holtz said.

The company got its start in battery manufacturing, and produces about 30-40% of the world's cellphone batteries, Holtz said.

Back in Lancaster, bus operator Peter Balian starts the vehicle with the push of a button and drives around the parking lot of the manufacturing facility. He's only been driving buses for eight months, but he said his previous work driving a tow truck, as well as working at Metrolink, made the transition relatively easy.

Balian said he enjoyed driving the large bus.

"It has a lot of power," he said, "and it grabs a lot of attention."

Readers React: Why high-speed rail might be a target for terrorists

December 26, 2014

High-speed rail

 An artist's conception of a high-speed rail train in California.

To the editor: George Skelton's and Jeff Morales' fanciful musings about the security advantages of high-speed trains trivialize a substantial risk. Trains cannot be flown into buildings, but they are attractive targets for terrorists. ("An upside of high-speed rail? It's more traveler friendly than flying," Dec. 21)

During rush hour on March 11, 2004, four commuter trains in Madrid were hit by 10 nearly simultaneous explosions in a coordinated attack that killed 191 and wounded more than 2,000. On Jan. 26, 2005, a car parked by a suicidal man on train tracks in Glendale derailed three trains, including two Metrolink commuter trains, killing 11.

The Alvia high-speed train from Madrid to Ferrol derailed due to driver recklessness on July 24, 2013, killing 79.

Securing aircraft requires securing only airports. Securing trains requires securing the entire right of way. High-speed trains are particularly vulnerable to attack.
James E. Moore II, Los Angeles

To the editor: Skelton writes, "But like many, I chortle at the route — Madera to Bakersfield for the initial leg." As a retired engineer, I take exception to Skelton's statement. This is the perfect place to start.

I have worked on large projects. You start where engineering problems will be fewest in order to work out the techniques, procedures and testing. The construction environment should be as uncomplicated as possible.

Even construction on the Interstate Highway System was begun in the 1950s on rural sections.

Lee Mellinger, Valley Glen

To the editor: It may be a nice idea to have a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but it is far more important to safeguard Los Angeles' water supply.

 The Northwest and Northeast have abundant fresh water. The Southwest has very little, and that's not going to change any time soon.

Instead of valuable dollars and engineering brilliance being expended on a high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, surely it makes more sense to figure out a way for a pipeline to be constructed to ensure that L.A.'s water needs are met for the next century.

Build the pipeline, then build the train line.

David B. Hill, Pacific Palisades


Proponents, Opponents Prepare for Release of 710 Extension DEIR


By Jason Kurosu,  December 25, 2014

The proposed 710 Freeway extension is currently undergoing a review of the five proposed alternatives: a freeway tunnel, bus rapid transit, light rail transit, transportation system management/transportation demand management and a no build option.

With just over a month until the release of the draft environmental impact report/draft environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS), groups opposed to the possibility of a freeway tunnel continue to seek alternatives to what some view as a foregone conclusion.

 Susan Bolan of the No 710 Action Committee said that the 5-Cities Alliance, which is composed of Glendale, La CaƱada, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena, is prepared to react to the draft EIR with alternate proposals outside of the five included in the EIR and request an extension on the 90-day public comment period. Metro increased the comment period from an initial 45-day period.

“The DEIR is expected to be over 50 comprehensive studies and upward of 10,000 pages in length,” said Bolan. “We have no doubt that there will be many studies to pore through.”

The No 710 Action committee has circulated a petition on its website, no710.com, supporting “a multi-modal approach that may include implementation of Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM), Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail individually or in combination, but does not include a surface freeway or tunnel connecting the 710 and 210 Freeways.”

This multi-modal solution would be “a comprehensive plan that has a combination of local street repairs, signal synchronization, grade separations between street and rail, walkability, bike paths, busways and light rail,” said Bolan, who emphasized that the approach should be environmentally sound. “All of it green. Not a tunnel which moves back to 20th century, build-it-at-any cost mentality, which will increase traffic and, hence, pollution.”

When the petition is signed online, various members of the political and transportation communities in the state are messaged including the governor, members of Metro, Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission.

Bolan compared concerns over the tunnel to the issues associated with the two-mile long Alaskan Way Viaduct Tunnel in Seattle, the construction of which has been delayed since 2013 due to mechanical failures.

“We are watching the lack of progress with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Tunnel as Metro/Caltrans have used this tunnel for cost and logistics comparisons. The diameter is comparable to the 710 tunnel, which makes it the largest roadway tunnel ever attempted in the U.S.,” she said.

Expectations for the stacked tunnels are a length of 4.9 miles.

A number of bodies within the 5-Cities Alliance have publicly opposed the tunnel plans, including the Glendale City Council and the Crescenta Valley Town Council.

“The City of Glendale is committed to providing useful, factual and relevant information regarding any proposal related to the 710 extension, as evidenced by our participation in the 5-Cities Alliance,” said Glendale City Council member Paula Devine, who requested that the council discuss utilizing city resources for advocacy in the opposition effort.

“We have given our support to the 5-Cities Alliance and have asked that Metro look to alternative transportation ideas and stop the 710 tunnel,” said Crescenta Valley Town Council President Robbyn Battles, who said CVTC will address the issue when the draft EIR is released.

Bolan said that the No 710 Action Committee is prepared to respond to the draft EIR upon release, a response that will address various environmental and traffic related issues.

The draft environmental document will be released in February 2015.

Congestion at ports of L.A., Long Beach is putting a damper on economy


By Andrew Khouri, December 25, 2014

Port congestion is a drag on U.S. economy

The number of ships at anchor off the coast has declined, but the docks at the Long Beach and L.A. ports still overflow with cargo.

 Brutal congestion at the nation's busiest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach is throwing a kink into an economy that's
finally kicking into high gear.

The months-long bottleneck is hurting retailers and other businesses that aren't getting their shipments on time as massive ships from Asia anchor off the Los Angeles coastline waiting for the docks to clear.

"It's been the bane of my existence," said Lisa Foster, whose Venice business sells reusable shopping bags imported from China. "And it's only getting worse and worse and worse."

 That's in stark contrast to a national economy that's on pace to add the most new jobs since 1999. On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 18,000 threshold for the first time, after a government report showed the economy last quarter grew at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

Growth, however, would have been stronger if the ports — which handle roughly 40% of U.S. imports — were operating smoothly, said international trade economist Jock O'Connell. The negative drag probably will worsen in the fourth quarter, when the most brutal congestion surfaced, he said.

"This does act as a drag on the economy," O'Connell said. "You want the ports, the entire supply chain to operate at maximum efficiency. And it's not."

L.A. and Long Beach are trying to speed up the flow of cargo. The ports are taking a variety of steps to ease the logistical nightmare they blame on the increased use of massive container ships, a surge in cargo as the economy improves and a shortage of the trailers that truckers use to haul goods from the ports. In February, a shared trailer system will roll out, designed to make the equipment more available for truckers.

And this week, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted to ask the federal government for permission to work with its competitor in L.A. in a bid to clear the docks.

"These are systemic problems that can only be solved by bringing all the parties together," Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said in a statement.
According to terminal operators and shipping lines, dockworkers are also slowing down on the job to gain leverage during contract negotiations, further hindering the nation's busiest port complex.

The congestion is wreaking havoc on supply chains across the country. Many retailers airlifted their goods or diverted them to the East and Gulf coasts to ensure presents arrived for the holidays.

Businesses are likely to eat the added costs, which will affect bottom lines in the fourth quarter, said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.

Yoga clothing firm Lululemon Athletica Inc. lowered its 2014 revenue guidance earlier this month, in part because of West Coast port congestion. FedEx Corp. Chief Executive Frederick Smith told analysts that some consumers are finding goods out of stock when they order online.

"The slowdown in the West Coast ports has been a much bigger deal than people think," he said. "I suspect that you'll see a lot of purchases of gift cards in lieu of merchandise."

The logjam has been a nightmare for small firms as well.

Foster, owner of 1 Bag at a Time in Venice, said she can't promise potential customers speedy delivery of her company's reusable shopping bags from China. In response, would-be clients went elsewhere and sales were lost, she said.

"Uncertainty kills a lot of my business," she said.

The situation has improved slightly since Thanksgiving, said Port of Long Beach spokesman Art Wong. The number of ships at anchor off the coast has declined, but the docks still overflow with cargo. And a likely cargo surge before the February Chinese New Year — when factories traditionally close — threatens to reverse any improvement.

According to the Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents employers operating shipping lines and terminal operators, the union is directly thwarting traffic flows by refusing to dispatch skilled workers for nearly two months at L.A. and Long Beach. Slowdown tactics have also been deployed in Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., according to the employers.

Nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports have been working without a contract since July, when their six-year agreement expired.

The union says the congestion stems from other factors, including the shortage of trailers. Before the slowdown accusations surfaced, L.A. and Long Beach were already experiencing the worst congestion in a decade.

On Monday, employers called for federal mediation to help reach a new agreement, saying the two sides remain far apart on many issues. The union has not yet responded.

In the meantime, businesses such as electric bike shop Pedego Irvine say they don't know what to do.
Owner Bob Bibee said the Chinese parts needed to assemble the bikes are repeatedly delayed at sea and on the docks.

"It is costing me thousands," Bibee said. "It's really frustrating; there's nothing we can do about it."

Sinking soil halts work at Seattle tunnel repair project


December 8, 2014


 SEATTLE (AP) - There are more problems for the Highway 99 tunnel project beneath downtown Seattle, as engineers study whether settling soil means work should be altered on a pit being dug to reach a stalled digging machine known as Bertha.

Tests over the weekend showed the settling around the pit is uneven, the Department of Transportation said.

No differential settling, which is potentially risky for structures, was detected on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which remains safe for travel, the department said Monday.

The settling near the pit is apparently the result of groundwater pumped out by Seattle Tunnel Partners as it digs a 120-foot access pit to reach and replace the damaged head of the boring machine.

Bertha overheated and stopped a year ago. It has drilled about 10 percent of the way into a planned 2-mile tunnel to replace the viaduct.

State engineers are analyzing the settling data to make sure the pit, viaduct and nearby buildings are secure. On Sunday, the state said pumping necessary to reduce water pressure on the pit would be stopped. However on Monday, Laura Newborn, spokeswoman for the viaduct replacement project, said the dewatering was continuing.

Seattle Tunnel Partners had told the state it planned to resume tunneling in April on the $2 billion project. It's already about a year behind schedule. The opening was previously scheduled for December 2015.

Bertha is stuck about 60 feet under a street not far from the Seattle waterfront. To remove the 57-foot diameter cutting head, the 80-foot-diameter access pit needs to be about 120 feet deep. It's currently about 70 feet deep.

Engineers last week said the viaduct had sunk about an inch in the past month. That's in addition to earlier sinking after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

The risk of the 61-year-old viaduct collapsing in an earthquake is one reason the state pushed for the tunnel replacement project to carry Highway 99 traffic through the city. The viaduct carries about 100,000 vehicles a day.

Work on the access pit was stopped for several weeks this fall after clam shells were uncovered. Experts determined they were not archaeologically significant.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Metro is Arresting People For Charging Their Phones at Stations



UPDATED 1:25 pm: Electrical outlets in Metro stations get a lot of action in this smartphone era, but although they're constantly being used to charge riders' devices, that's not actually what they're intended for. The outlets are supposed to be there so maintenance crews—and only maintenance crews—can power their tools at stops and in stations so they can do repairs, wash platforms, and buff floors, a Metro rep tells KPCC. "It's not free electricity," he adds, which is why Metro considers taking that power stealing and has seriously arrested people for doing it. Update: Mayor/Metro board chair Eric Garcetti has ordered Metro to stop arresting people for using the outlets; according to a statement, "Moving forward, Metro customers will be permitted to charge their phones unless it causes interference with Metro operations."

While no one got a ticket in 2014 for plugging in, there have been three arrests/charges for stealing electricity. Weirdly, the people arrested were also charged with possession of drugs and counterfeit money. So Metro is either throwing in the illegal charging charge on top of more serious crimes, or using illegal charging as a way to snoop for other things. Most people seem to just get warnings; three people is a small fraction of the people charging their phones up at stations every day. But one rider brings up an important safety concern: "What if you're out here late at night and you need your phone charged, you need a ride?"

Cleaner than what?

Why an electric car may be much dirtier than a petrol one


December 20, 2014




DRIVING an electric car confers a badge of greenery, or so the marketing departments of their makers would have you believe. Yet a report which analyses the life cycle of car emissions (ie, all the way from those created by the mining of materials for batteries, via the ones from the production of fuel and the generation of electricity, to the muck that actually comes out of the exhaust) presents a rather different picture. A battery-powered car recharged with electricity generated by coal-fired power stations, it found, is likely to cause more than three times as many deaths from pollution as a conventional petrol-driven vehicle. Even a battery car running on the average mix of electrical power generated in America is much more hazardous than the conventional alternative.

Christopher Tessum, Jason Hill and Julian Marshall of the University of Minnesota have just published this study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They estimate how levels of fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone—two important constituents of air pollution, which kills more than 100,000 people a year in America—would change if each of 11 ways of powering a car were to be responsible for 10% of the vehicle-miles expected to be driven in America in 2020.
It was no surprise that electric cars whose batteries were topped up from wind, solar or hydroelectric sources came out cleanest, causing 231 putative deaths over the course of a year, compared with 878 for petrol cars. Electric cars recharged with power from natural-gas-fired stations were also a lot less lethal than petrol-driven ones, with 439 deaths. But if those same electric cars were recharged ultimately by coal, they would be responsible, according to the model, for just over 3,000 deaths.

Biofuels also caused more health problems than petrol. But diesel, which is generating concern about pollution in parts of Europe, where it is a more popular fuel than in America, was marginally cleaner than petrol. This is because the Minnesota model assumes for all cars that present and future emission-control technologies will be more widely used in 2020, especially particulate filters which have a marked effect on cleaning diesel exhausts. Diesel cars also have better fuel economy than petrol-driven ones.

Overall, the research shows that electric cars are cleaner than those that rely on internal-combustion engines only if the power used to charge them is also clean. That is hardly a surprise, but the magnitude of the difference is. How green electric cars really are, then, will depend mainly on where they are driven. In France, which obtains more than half its power from nuclear stations, they look like a good bet. In China—which is keen on electric cars, but produces some 80% of its electricity from coal—rather less so.

The Biggest Transportation Breakthroughs of 2014

From driverless cars to safety initiatives, it was quite a year for advancements in mobility.


By Eric Jaffe, December 22, 2014


When considering how to summarize the Year in Transportation that was 2014, it's tempting just to compile a list of Uber-related incidents or scandals or lawsuits or absurdities and call it a day. But as much as the human and hive minds are drawn toward negative news, there were some truly uplifting mobility breakthroughs this year far more deserving of a digital curtain call. Though you probably haven't heard the last of them: much of what happened in transportation in 2014 will change the way we'll travel around cities for many years to come.

The Self-Driving Car Conquers Cities. As CityLab first reported, back in April, Google's self-driving car has graduated from the relative simplicity of freeways (speed up, slow down, shift lanes) to the dynamic hazards of urban roadways. The company upped the ante a month later by releasing early (and adorable) design prototypes for an autonomous car that it hopes to produce and test on California streets. It's only a matter of time before these transformative cars—or ones inspired by them—will reach streets near you.

High-Speed Rail Comes to America. History may well look back at 2014 as the year that American high-speed rail passed a tipping point. California's Los Angeles–San Francisco line finally found some stable funding, announced a winning bid, and set a groundbreaking date. But with that project tough for others to copy, what with the many billions in public money, perhaps more intriguing were the non-trivial advances made by private high-speed rail projects: the Dallas–Houston service shopped around for terminals, and the Miami–Orlando line began actual construction.

As Does the Electric Bicycle. The Cambridge-based mobility company Superpedestrian began to mass produce and accept pre-orders for its innovative Copenhagen Wheel this year. The wheel transforms an existing bicycle into an electric-powered bicycle—and could transform American cycling practices in the process. In his CityLab piece about the wheel, Nate Berg reported that experts believe the United States will be one of the world's top e-bike markets within the next 20 years.

And Driverless Transit, Too. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation took some key steps toward completing the first fully automated, wide-scale urban transit system in the United States this year—soliciting bids for nine stations, and unveiling designs for one at the airport. A number of cities around the world use driverless transit systems, with London announcing this year that it planned to join this group. In addition to safety advantages the service benefits are just as great, with more trains capable of running closer together.

Europe Strikes Back Against Traffic. Several major European cities issued dramatic restrictions to drivers this year. Madrid will ban cars in the city center for non-residents; Paris will do the same and reserve some roads exclusively for cleaner hybrid and electric cars; London will enhance its low-emission zone into an ultra-low-emission zone. These policies help address two of the huge invisible social costs of driving—congestion and pollution—and will hopefully inspire other major global cities to follow suit.

With California Joining the Fight. In July, CityLab broke news that California planned to replace a car-friendly engineering metric known as "level of service" with a transit-friendly alternative that focuses on vehicle miles traveled. That's a lot of jargon, but the upshot is simple: road projects should get tougher to complete in California cities, moving forward, and bus and bike and train projects should get noticeably easier. A case in point is San Francisco's Van Ness BRT project, which likely would have saved years of work and millions of dollars under the new system.

California High-Speed Rail Authority
New York Declares Its "Vision Zero." Borrowing a page from Sweden's phenomenal road safety record, New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio announced its own Vision Zero—a bold plan to eliminate traffic-related deaths and injuries. Several Vision Zero elements have been implemented to date, the most notable being a speed limit reduction to 25 miles an hour. Street safety in New York still has a long way to go, but the conversation is moving in the right direction, and other metros have taken notice; San Francisco has a similar initiative in the works.

The Rise of On-Demand Transit. This summer, reports emerged that the City of Helsinki, Finland, is entertaining the idea of establishing a point-to-point, on-demand transport system that would render car-ownership unnecessary. Just how serious the city is remains to be seen, but general interest in on-demand transit is clearly on the rise, with related bus services such as Bridj entering beta tests in the United States. On-demand transit may never replace high-capacity fixed-route buses and trains, but it can expand mobility options, encourage multi-modal behavior, and reduce single-occupancy driving in cities.

Honorable Mentions. The push for pay-per-mile driving fees has moved from Oregon to California. Bike-share has shown itself a true part of the transit network (though it's still struggling to reach poor people). Singapore's free early bird transit initiative was such a great success it got an extension. Smartphones are doubling as fare cards in more and more cities. Real-time transit information is coming to a mobile app in your pocket and a digital screen in your lobby. And last as well as least—get ready for the dashboard selfie.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

San Fernando Valley Prioritizes Freeways, Then Bemoans Lack of Transit


By Joe Linton, December 23, 2014

 The Daily News cites a dearth of "major Measure R projects" in the San Fernando Valley. Does Measure R's portion of the $1.3 billion-dollar 5 Freeway widening projects count as a major project? Image via Caltrans

 The Daily News says there are no “major Measure R projects” in the San Fernando Valley, other than the Orange Line Extension. Does Measure R’s portion of the $1.3 billion-dollar 5 Freeway widening projects count as a major project? Nearly $1 billion goes to improvements in the SFV. Image via Caltrans brochure [PDF]

This seems to be the week that the news is that nothing happened in the San Fernando Valley. Last Thursday, SBLA reported that Metro Orange Line speed improvements aren’t happening yet. On Sunday, the Daily News ran a piece by Dakota Smith entitled, Lack of new San Fernando Valley rail lines draws complaints. Here’s an excerpt:
“The Valley clearly has been shortchanged by Measure R,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents parts of the Valley and serves on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board.

Narrowly approved by voters, Measure R launched a flurry of construction projects and helped raise federal dollars to pay for new rail lines. The sales tax is expected to raise about $38 billion over 30 years.

With the exception of a new Orange Line busway extension, which opened in 2012, no major Measure R projects have broken ground in the Valley. Instead, studies are being conducted on a rail or bus line along Van Nuys Boulevard. A new Sepulveda Pass transit line is in the early planning stages.

Metro's $B capital program, including Valley freeway improvements. Image via Metro
Metro’s $14 billion capital program, including Valley freeway improvements. Image via Metro

Clearly the article is about transit investment, but I’d like to debunk this “[Except for the Orange Line,] no major Measure R projects have broken ground in the Valley” a bit. Perhaps the editors removed the word “transit,” making the sentence inaccurate?

Measure R has a reputation for being money for rail construction but, as many SBLA readers know, Metro rail capital is only 35 percent of the overall estimated $40 billion. Wholly 20 percent of Measure R goes to freeways. Metro is providing $1.5 billion to pay for 5 Freeway widening in L.A. County. Specifically, in the San Fernando Valley, according to Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero, Measure R contributes $271.5 million for the 5 Freeway improvements from the 134 to the 170, which total over $700 million.

According to Sotero, in addition to that $271.5 million, Measure R provides $90.8 million for the $161 million project improving the to the interchange between the 5 and 14 freeways.
Measure R is building transportation infrastructure in the Valley, just not so much transit infrastructure. 

While there are not so many major Valley transit groundbreakings, there are quite a few significant ways that Measure R funding serves the San Fernando Valley (see Metro Measure R Fact Sheet [PDF]):
  • Orange Line extension: The Orange Line, which the Daily News does mention, busway and bikeway were extended from Canoga Park to Chatsworth. This project was approved to get $182 million from Measure R, but Metro instead secured state funding. That $182 million remains available to be allocated by the Metro Board, which, theoretically, should keep the money programmed in the Valley.
  • Van Nuys transit corridor project: Metro is currently evaluating various options for the “East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor,” which has $68.5 million in Measure R funding.
  • Sepulveda Pass transit corridor project: Metro has $1 billion from Measure R to put toward a likely mega-tunnel connecting the Valley and the Westside, anticipated to cost “$6 billion to $8 billion… or maybe $20 billion.”
  • Bus service improvements on Van Nuys, Sepulveda, Reseda, and Lankershim, expected 2016-2018. 
  • Various other miscellaneous Measure R funding going to Valley transportation: Metrolink rail capital improvements, bus capital and operations, and Red Line subway train capital and operations. The Valley also receives a portion of other countywide expenditures, including freeway soundwall funding, and “local return” spent by the cities of Los Angeles, Burbank, San Fernando, and others.
Additional sales tax and other Metro funding have gone to various Valley transit projects including more parking and a new tunnel at North Hollywood, and a new bridge at Universal City. These projects are not Measure R funded, so in many ways, Measure R isn’t the whole story. As with the Orange Line extension, Metro, Metro’s board, and other electeds seek and obtain outside funding through various federal and state programs. Sometimes Measure R funding is offset by other monies; sometimes Measure R funding acts a local match seed for securing additional state and federal dollars.

In the bigger picture, I find it a bit disingenuous for Valley interests to now say they were shortchanged. The way I see it, the Valley has received modest transit investments, because the Valley really prioritized its transportation investment toward car infrastructure.

When Measure R was negotiated, Valley politicians held firm on money for Valley highways. Not so much on funding for San Fernando Valley transit infrastructure. The same was true when local politicians sought and obtained $1.1 billion in Federal transportation funding to widen the 405 Freeway. Valley electeds have made highway spending a priority. Freeway money, lots of it, is what they got. 

In some cases, Valley leaders actively worked against Valley transit infrastructure, including state legislators banning subway tunneling and banning rail on the Orange Line right-of-way. The Orange Line rail ban was overturned in July 2014, long after Measure R was passed.

It is good to see Councilmember Krekorian now making Valley transit investment a priority. Valley transit riders need champions who will fight to bring the Valley’s transit system into the 21st Century.

I’ll close with a point from Yonah Freemark’s study on why U.S. light rail investments failed to shift higher percentages of people to riding transit. One of the things Freemark cites as being behind transit shortfalls is that cities building light rail also invested heavily in highways. The question I have for Valley leadership, including Councilmember Paul Krekorian and newly elected County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whom I anticipate will serve for a long time on the Metro board: Are you willing to prioritize Valley transit investment even when if it means less funding for Valley freeways and roads?

The case for tearing down urban freeways


By Timothy B. Lee, December 22, 2014

Seattle and Washington state are pouring millions of dollars into this pit.

Back in the 1950s, the nation's transportation planners had a bad idea. They tore down buildings along urban waterfronts — which in many cities were right downtown — to make room for freeways that would help mostly-suburban drivers get around more quickly.

Now, a half-century later, many of these freeways are falling apart. Transportation planners have to decide whether to rebuild them. But in many cities, replacing them with ordinary surface streets is a better bet.

Cities work best when people can easily walk from one place to another. But freeways aren't pedestrian-friendly, so they can cut different parts of the city off from one another. The noise and pollution tends to depress property values near the freeway, leading to under-development. And freeways that run along the waterfront represent a huge missed opportunity, because it's not nearly as nice to spend time on the waterfront if you're in the shadow of a freeway.

Seattle's tunnel boondoggle

Workers construct part of the SR-99 tunnel in November. (WSDOT)

Right now, Seattle is trying to replace one of its elevated freeways with a tunnel, and it's not going well. The Alaskan Way Viaduct is an elevated freeway that cuts downtown Seattle off from the city's waterfront. It's in a bad state of disrepair and needs to be replaced. A few years ago, city officials had to decide whether to rebuild it, replace it with an expensive tunnel, or convert it into an ordinary boulevard.

As David Roberts explains, city and state officials went with the tunnel option — despite warnings from experts that the project could turn into a boondoggle. The results haven't been pretty. The tunnel-boring machine got stuck last year, and engineers are now digging a giant hole to try to reach the machine and perform repairs. As they pump water out of the hole, they seem to be damaging the foundations of surrounding buildings.

Politicians in Seattle and Washington State are spending billions of dollars on this project because they believe the city's streets will be clogged with traffic if they simply scrapped the freeway. But that's not necessarily true. When a city tears down an urban freeway, some cars will be diverted to other roads. But many other drivers will respond to the lower capacity in other ways.

Some will shift to taking transit to work. Others will shift their commutes earlier or later in the day to avoid periods of peak congestion. Still others will move closer to downtown, or take jobs that are closer to where they work.

So taking out an urban freeway won't generate as much traffic on other roads as naive projections might suggest. Moreover, for the last couple of decades, transportation planners have consistently overestimated the amount people would be driving.

The benefits of freeway removal

The destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway aided the revitalization of the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, demolishing freeways and replacing them with surface streets have large benefits for people who live nearby. In Seattle, it would make the city's waterfront more attractive to people downtown, raising property values and increasing economic activity there.

Philadelphia has a similarly damaging freeway cutting Old City Philadelphia off from the Delaware River. Planners are currently discussing building a park over the freeway, but removing the freeway altogether might be a better option. A tangle of freeways cuts downtown St. Louis off from not only its waterfront on the Mississippi but also its famous arch.

Removing freeways has worked in the past. San Francisco's Embarcadero neighborhood blossomed after an elevated freeway there was torn down in the wake of the 1989 earthquake. Portland removed a waterfront freeway in the 1970s. Milwaukee did the same a decade ago.

If Seattle had followed this advice, it wouldn't be literally sinking millions of dollars into a big hole in the ground.

Call to Action: Seattle Tunnel Article

From Sylvia Plummer, December 23, 2014

Here's another opportunity to write an email to the Los Angeles Times

Seattle Tunnel Woes make front page news in the Los Angeles Times. 12/23/14

The article discusses the sinking building in Seattle caused by Bertha (the tunneling Machine).
Bertha is the same size tunneling machine that will be used to build the SR-710 tunnels.
They forgot to mention a few things.

1.  Seattle is digging a big pit above Bertha in order to reach Bertha and make repairs.
2.  Los Angeles Metro has a plan to dig a 4.9 mile, 5 story tunnel between the 10 and 210 Freeways (SR-710). 
     The tunnel would go under El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena.  Should we be concerned for their homes?

Send your email to:   letters@latimes.com

2014 Streetsies: Elected Official of the Year

Charles E. Miller on Facebook, December 23, 2014: Quick Vote Opportunity: As the New Year approaches, click to recognize a local leader who supports 710 alternatives with actions not just words. 

Please click and vote for Jose Huizar.



It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s Streetsie voting time!

This year, we’re going to spread out the Streetsie voting over a couple of weeks, with some of the voting going live today and tomorrow and some of it going live next week. Voting will close on Friday, January 2, 2015 at noon. Reader voting accounts for one-half of the scoring this year, with one-quarter going to staff voting and another one-quarter going to a board vote.

For each category, we came up with around ten first nominees with the list being paired down to the last five “finalists” with input from the staff and board.

Without further delay, here are our nominees for elected official of the year:

Jose Huizar on a cargo bike two weekends ago in Northeast L.A. Image: ##https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xap1/t31.0-8/1540561_10205604011369547_7137894882523750458_o.jpg##Felicia Garcia/Facebook##
Jose Huizar on a cargo bike two weekends ago in Northeast L.A. 

Jose Huizar – Parkletsgreen buffered bike lanes, plazas, Bringing Broadway Backbike corrals, and a landmark Sixth Street Bridge coming someday… while Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar certainly has not been perfect, many of the best pilot projects in Los Angeles are somewhere in the 14th District with a concentrations in Downtown Los Angeles and NELA. Some are even looking at his electoral showdown with Gloria Molina as something of a referendum on progressive transportation issues. Oh, and there’s COMPLETE STREETS DAY!

Buscaino and Englander between meetings in D.C. last month. Photo via CD 15/Office of Joe Buscaino
Buscaino and Englander between meetings in D.C. last month. Photo via CD 15/Office of Joe Buscaino

Joe Buscaino – If there is a rival to Huizar for getting progressive infrastructure implemented in an L.A. Council District, it is Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino. New bike lanes crisscross the district and road and sidewalk repair seem to be a higher priority than in some other districts. On the policy side, Buscaino has become a tireless crusader for street and sidewalk repair, even if nobody else on the Council besides Mitch Englander and maybe Mike Bonin share his enthusiasm. Buscaino might deserve a Streetsie solely for his YouTube channel. Our favorite is this video of what a car-free commute looks like from the councilmember’s South Bay home to his City Hall office (if for no other reason than the terrified expression on Gil Cedillo’s face in the last scene.) Other worthwhile vids defend San Pedro bike lanes against NIMBYs, honor Watts Cyclery, and show Buscaino leading a Wilmington bike tour. I mean, he even introduced a motion to clarify the city’s position on Ghost Bikes.

Bonin bus stop
Bonin gets on the bus to talk to Damien in 2013.

Mike Bonin – Bonin, as Westside L.A. City Councilmember, Metro Board Member, Council Transportation Committee Chair, and Expo Construction Authority Vice-Chair, is pretty much at the center of nearly every major transportation-related decision the city makes. Sure, he got more headlines for fighting fracking and raising the minimum wage for certain employees, but for Streetsies’ sake, nudging Metro on parking and active transportation funding, having an appropriately outraged response to car crashes, taking some of the sting out of Metro’s fare hike, and being the most consistent voice on bicycle policy and programs are even more important. We don’t have a fun video for Mike, but we did find these goofy gifs of him doing some cleanup in the district.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto looks on as Damian Kevitt testifies to the Senate Public Safety Committee
Gatto looks on as Damian Kevitt testifies to the Senate Public Safety Committee.

Mike Gatto – Assemblymember Mike Gatto has become a one-legislator army, crusading for a more just system for prosecuting hit-and-run drivers. This year Gatto introduced two new pieces of legislation, following a previously successful effort to extend the statute of limitations for hit-and-run prosecutions. One would require license suspension for hit-and-run drivers, regardless of whether someone was injured. The other would have created an AMBER-Alert-type system after a hit-and-run crash. Both pieces of legislation sailed through the legislature. Both were callously vetoed by Jerry Brown, who seems unaware that California has one of the worst records in America on hit-and-run crashes. A Streetsie win could send a message that Gatto’s legislation is vitally important to Livable Streets advocates as he readies for the next session.

Ridley-Thomas shows off the transponders for the ExpressLanes. Image: Metro
Ridley-Thomas shows off the transponders for the ExpressLanes. Image: Metro

Mark Ridley-Thomas – Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has emerged as one of the more pro-bike and pro-walk votes on the Metro Board of Directors and the County Board of Supervisors. He has championed the Rail-to-River bikeway project, one of the most exciting projects being discussed for South L.A. While many businesses along the Crenshaw Corridor are suffering during light rail construction, Ridley-Thomas led Metro’s efforts to promote the area through “Eat, Shop, Play Crenshaw” and find ways to offer assistance to those affected by the construction. But where Ridley-Thomas really shined brightest this year was his efforts to ensure that Metro’s fare structure remains as affordable as possible. While unable to stop this year’s hikes, Ridley-Thomas joined forces with Mayor Garcetti and then-Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to put off future fare hikes until Metro produced an exhaustive report on other unexplored or under-utilized fare sources.

Honorable Mentions: retiring County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (for Metro leadership), Assemblymembers Steven Bradford and Matt Dababneh (for Give Me 3 legislation), Assemblymember Ed Chau (for 3-bike racks on buses legislation), and Long Beach and Los Angeles Mayors Robert Garcia and Eric Garcetti (so far we like what we see, but it is too early to award.)

Past Winners: Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor, Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl