To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Friday, February 28, 2014

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution


February 26, 2014

Almost a seventh of China's land has been engulfed by heavy smog with the air pollution in 20 cities reaching "danger level". China is not alone however. Many countries, during industrial and economic development, have been confronted by the same problem. The crisis of air pollution is an issue from which we cannot hide.

United States
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Heavy smoke lingers over the Los Angeles skyline Nov 16, 2008
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, America has had trouble with environmental issues, air pollution in particular. Roughly 60 percent of Americans live in areas where air pollution has reached unhealthy levels that can make people sick, suggests the 2009 State of the Air report released by the American Lung Association.

Los Angeles has some of the most contaminated air in the country with diesel engines, ports, motor vehicles and industries the main sources. Frequent sunny days and low rainfall contribute to ozone formation, as well as high levels of fine particles and dust.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
The US created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and passed the Clean Air Act. The act originally empowered the EPA to determine safe limits and regulate six major air pollutants, now expanded to 189 potential threats.

Smoking was increasingly restricted on planes until it was finally banned in 2000, when exceptions for flights to and from the US were abolished. Indoor smoking bans are now de rigueur across the nation
The EPA replaced the Pollution Standards Index with the Air Quality Index in 1999 to incorporate new PM2.5 and ozone standards.

The US Congress authorized funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a grant program, administrated by the EPA, in 2005 to selectively retrofit or replace older diesel engines most likely to impact human health.

The "Clean up Green up" campaign was launched in 2011 to designate three low-income LA communities - Pacoima, Boyle Heights and Wilmington. The campaign aims to push green industries through incentives, including help obtaining permits and tax and utility rebates.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Thanks to the Clean Air Act, many people in the US are breathing a little easier. The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2013" report, which analyzed ozone and airborne particle levels from 2009 to 2011, showed that overall the nation's air quality is much cleaner, especially compared to a decade ago.

From 1980 to 2000, according to a 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, average life expectancy increased five months because of the nationwide decrease in air pollution.

Concentrations of carbon monoxide – once spewed by every car and truck but now removed by catalytic converters – have dropped by about 90 percent in large American cities.

Concentrations of particulate matter, a classification covering a wide range of pollutants in the microscopic to near-microscopic range, have dropped by about 80 percent from their peak, and ozone has plummeted as well.

Lead emissions fell by more than 98 percent.

According to a 2012 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the levels of certain vehicle-related pollutants in Los Angeles have dropped by 98 percent since the 1960s

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution

Yellow-grey smog was a frequent visitor to London in the 1950s and earned the name "London fog".
The heaviest, which shocked the world, was in 1952. Because of cold weather combined with an anticyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants blanketed the city, visibility was reduced to a few yards and an estimated 4,000 people died.

The main pollutant, sulphur dioxide, was linked to coal burning by many inner city factories and households and had reached exceptional levels.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
The legacy of the Great Smog was the Clean Air Act of 1956 which introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution.

Furnaces could no longer emit "dark smoke" and households were offered grants towards the cost of converting their coal-burning grates to smokeless fuel.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
By 1975, foggy days in London had been reduced from around 50 to 15 and to only five in 1980. But new pollution threats are causing concern as air pollution mortality figures remain almost identical. Instead, today’s pollution is caused by nitrogen dioxide due to traffic fumes. The Mayor's Air Quality Strategy aims to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter by: reducing transport emissions; cutting pollution from construction and energy generation; taking pollutants from road surface treatment and reducing exposure by warning people of high pollution days.

New Delhi
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Schoolgirls ride on a scooter on a foggy winter morning in New Delhi December 17, 2013. 

Air quality in New Delhi, a city undergoing breakneck economic development, is even worse than that of Chinese cities, such as Beijing, where the smog has reached danger level.

India is placed 155th among 178 countries on the global environment performance index 2014 and 174th in terms of air pollution. New Delhi is now overtaking Beijing as the most polluted city in the world,

From 2000-2011, PM10 levels in Delhi's air jumped by as much as 47 percent.

Moves by the city government including allowing new cars, subsidizing diesel and increasing compressed natural gas prices, have made the problem more serious. Most doctors in New Delhi say more people in the city are becoming ill from the toxic air.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
New Delhi has done little to curb worsening air quality in recent years. However ,the city government introduced a set of reforms more than 10 years ago, which included moving industry beyond city limits, building a subway and switching public transport to cleaner-burning fuel.

Mexico City
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Image of the pollution that 150 brick kilns generate in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Dec 4, 2009.

As a result of accelerated urbanization since the 1980s, Mexico City became one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world for a time as pollutants are further prevented from dispersing due to mountains on its three sides. The city has high concentrations of nearly every major harmful airborne pollutant, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. By far the worst problem gripping the city is the massive cloud of smog that hangs over it almost every day. Mexico City has the highest level of ground-level ozone in the world, according to WHO.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection Laws and Anti-Pollution Overall Plan were introduced

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Protection of environmental resources at the strategic level of national security
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Automatic air pollution monitoring system

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Two-Stage Air Emergency Response Program

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Scientific researches concerning environmental protection and new energy development

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Green transportation like "No drive today" since 1989 and vehicles exhaust emission examination every half-year.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Statistics show that since the year 1990, lead levels in the air of Mexico City has fallen 90%, while suspended particles that cause asthma, emphysema, or even cancer have been reduced by 70%, and the emission of carbon monoxide and other pollutants has also plunged. The level of ozone has decreased 75% as well since 1992.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution

Chile has experienced a period of strong economic growth but the speed of that growth has come at a cost to health, productivity and environmental degradation. Air pollution in Santiago, caused by industrial and vehicle emissions as well as street dust blown from unpaved roads and eroded hillsides, is blamed for significant health damage, including premature death and serious respiratory diseases.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Environmental authorities have plans aiming to reduce concentrations of PM2.5 by 30 percent in 10 years through control of industrial emissions, wood-burning heaters, and transport vehicles.

Private Investors Can Save Public Infrastructure


By Rosabeth Moss Kanter, February 28, 2014

(The is the last in a three-part series.)

 The bill for aging infrastructure is coming due. Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

 The bill for aging infrastructure is coming due.

Think about this the next time you drive over a bridge: In 2012, a quarter of all U.S. bridges were deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. (On second thought, don’t.)

For decades we have paid for our neglected infrastructure in lost productivity and jobs, but the full bill is now coming due. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. will require almost $2 trillion by 2020, more than twice the amount that appears to be available, to maintain and upgrade decades-old highways, inland waterways, ports, airports, rail and transit systems. And that doesn’t include vehicles operating in these systems and the communications infrastructure connecting them.

There is little political will to achieve that goal, and the two main traditional funding sources are increasingly at risk: the gas tax and municipal bonds. The gas tax is stagnating because of increased vehicle efficiency, alternative energy sources and fewer per capita miles driven since a 2004 peak. As for muni bonds, in a low-interest-rate environment with cities increasingly declaring or flirting with bankruptcy, there are questions about whether these once-safe investments can attract enough capital.
What other avenues exist for raising capital?

Selling or leasing public assets to private companies is no panacea. A U.K. company took a 99-year lease on the small Newburgh, New York, airport in 1999, then gave it back to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey because expansion costs were too large. Chicago has attempted to privatize Midway Airport twice, unsuccessfully; recently the city couldn't get more than one bidder. Chicago’s experience with highway privatization has been even worse.

That’s not to say the model is hopeless. Private-equity company KKR & Co. closed a $4 billion infrastructure and energy fund to take infrastructure private and earn returns through operational efficiencies. In February 2013, Highstar Capital LP took San Juan, Puerto Rico's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport private in a 40-year, $615 million concession, in collaboration with the Mexican group ASUR. The agreement caps fees charged to airlines, ensuring that profis must instead come from operational efficiencies; incentives for community support are included. It's too soon to know whether funds such as this will make money.

After privatization failed to win widespread support, infrastructure banks came to be seen as a magic bullet. Proponents argue that such banks, used extensively in Europe and China, can finance U.S. projects and ensure disciplined planning and accountability. States are testing the waters; 23 infrastructure banks have been set up, but only a few, such as South Carolina and Florida, are currently active. In June 2012 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that his city would create the world's first metropolitan infrastructure bank, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, whose board includes business, labor, and public officials. The trust tentatively approved its first project in November 2013, a $25 million energy efficiency retrofit of 75 public buildings, to be repaid over 20-25 years from utility savings at an interest rate between 3.8 percent and 4.7 percent.

Public-private partnerships, familiarly known as PPPs or P3s, are a more promising model, even if highly complex. The Port of Miami Tunnel is a major public-works project financed by private investors, and it's coming to fruition on-time and under budget. Meridiam Infrastructure leads the financing consortium, bringing low-cost senior bank loans from mostly European banks along with a federal loan and equity investments. A French company handles the construction, using an innovative German drill to avoid tearing up the ocean floor and thus minimize environmental damage.

The $1 billion tunnel will divert as many as 16,000 vehicles a day, including 5,000 18-wheeler trucks, away from the heart of downtown Miami directly to the interstate highway, alleviating congestion, pollution, safety concerns for pedestrians and delays for shippers. At the end of the 30-year concession period, the tunnel must be transferred back to public hands in excellent condition.

Big projects like this require strong public-sector leadership; the Miami tunnel would never have happened without the persistent support of then-Governor Jeb Bush’s transportation secretary, Jose Abreu; Miami-Dade County officials; and then-Mayor of Miami Manny Diaz. Often, such projects also require collaboration across traditional boundaries, and it is encouraging that such initiatives seem to be on the rise. Eight states, for instance, are working together to establish charging stations for electric vehicles. The presidents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO have also joined forces to argue for infrastructure investments, and on Wednesday President Barack Obama announced he's seeking a $302 billion transportation bill.

Widespread public support makes long-term projects less risky. That, in turn, could attract more private investors. With more U.S. investors active in the sector, there would be more knowledgeable voices at the table to argue for repairing, renewing and reinventing the infrastructure that supports commerce and quality of life. As difficult as the journey will be, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

(Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School. This is the last of three articles. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

Roundup of Thursday’s Metro Board of Directors meeting


By Steve Hymon, February 28, 2014

A few items of interest tackled by the Metro Board at today’s monthly meeting:

•The Board approved Item 16 to provide $1.3 million for improvements to the Branford Street railroad crossing of Metrolink tracks in Los Angeles in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Improvements include pedestrian gates, roadway widening and additional warning signals.

•The Board approved Item 55 to rename the Blue Line’s Grand Station to Grand/L.A. Trade Tech and the Expo Line’s 23rd Street Station to 23rd St/L.A. Trade Tech. The Board also approved Item 56 to rename the Exposition/La Brea station to the Exposition/La Brea Ethel Bradley Station.

•The Board approved Item 58, a motion that asks Metro to implement an online database of previous Board of Director actions. At present, searching for motions and past actions is a crapshoot. The motion also asks for linking audio from Board meetings to reports — something that would, I suspect, be very useful to anyone who cares or is interested in actions taken by the Board of an agency with a multi-billion dollar annual budget.

•The Board approved Item 67, asking the Board to oppose AB 1941, which would add two members to the Metro Board to be appointed by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Rules Committee, respectively. I included some background and thoughts on this legislation in a recent headlines — see the last item in this post.
•The Board approved Item 18.1, a motion asking Caltrans to report on difficulties that have emerged in the transfer of park-n-ride lots at Metro Rail stations from Caltrans to Metro. The motion begins: “Item No. 18 and Director Najarian’s accompanying Motion underscore the importance of Metro’s increasingly complex relationship with Caltrans.” If I am reading the remainder of the motion correctly, I think “complex” is a perhaps one way of saying “difficult,” at least on this issue.
•The Board approved Item 70, a motion asking Metro to seek ways to improve lighting and pedestrian access to/from the Universal City over-flow parking lot for the Red Line station.

Item 9, a motion to eliminate the monthly maintenance fee for ExpressLanes accounts that infrequently use the lanes and substitute a flat $1 fee on all accounts, was held and will be considered by the Board in April.

Big rig overturns on 5 North in Glendale


By Hanna Chu and Darsha Philips, February 28, 2014

A big rig overturned on the northbound 5 Freeway at Western Avenue in Glendale, blocking lanes for hours. 

The accident was reported at 3:32 a.m. Friday just past the connector road to State Route 134. Only one lane was open due to the crash, causing traffic to back-up quickly.

The big rig driver was not hurt, and no other vehicles were involved. The California Highway Patrol said rain was likely a factor in the crash.

 The rain-slick roads caused trouble for drivers across the Southland. On the eastbound 210 Freeway in Pasadena, a big rig jackknifed in a tunnel, and then another car coming around a blind turn into the tunnel slammed into the semi-truck.

No injuries were reported in the accident, and rain was blamed as the cause of the crash.

Beijing lung cancer cases increase as air quality remains low - See more at: http://www.envirotech-online.com/news/air-monitoring/6/breaking_news/beijing_lung_cancer_cases_increase_as_air_quality_remains_low/28994/#sthash.5m3I9b1v.dpuf


February 27, 2014

Beijing has seen an increase in a specific type of lung cancer in recent years, which has now been linked to the growing air quality crisis in the city and the rest of China, reports China Daily. An expert has suggested that the increase in lung cancer cases in Beijing could lead to a health impact that is greater than 2003's SARS outbreak.

Deputy director of the Beijing Office for Cancer Prevention and Control, Wang Ning told the news provider that the number of cases of lung adenocarcinoma being diagnosed in Beijing has increased. He also stated that the number of cases of squamous cell lung cancer in the city have dropped.

Squamous cell lung cancer is a type of non-small-cell cancer, whereas adenocarcinoma is a form of the disease that contains distinct tissue that is malignant. The former type of cancer is more commonly associated with smoking, according to experts, but adenocarcinoma has been found to be linked to exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke.

If the air pollution crisis continues throughout China, the number of lung cancer cases could further increase. The continued high levels of damaging emissions could also lead to further health complications, as well as having a heavy impact upon the environment of the country and the wider world.

Some experts in the public health sector have suggested that there will a substantial increase in the number of people suffering from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer within five to seven years if air pollution throughout China is negated, Zhong Nanshan, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director if the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, told the news provider.

The continued high levels of air pollution throughout industrial and city areas of China has caused a number of concerns in recent years, with people worried about both the health and environmental impact of the country's continued use of coal. While the central government has pledged to lower emissions and improve overall conditions within cities, there appears to have been little impact on the heavy smog and overall poor air quality that Chinese citizens are regularly exposed to.
Beijing has seen an increase in a specific type of lung cancer in recent years, which has now been linked to the growing air quality crisis in the city and the rest of China, reports China Daily. An expert has suggested that the increase in lung cancer cases in Beijing could lead to a health impact that is greater than 2003's SARS outbreak.
Deputy director of the Beijing Office for Cancer Prevention and Control, Wang Ning told the news provider that the number of cases of lung adenocarcinoma being diagnosed in Beijing has increased. He also stated that the number of cases of squamous cell lung cancer in the city have dropped.
Squamous cell lung cancer is a type of non-small-cell cancer, whereas adenocarcinoma is a form of the disease that contains distinct tissue that is malignant. The former type of cancer is more commonly associated with smoking, according to experts, but adenocarcinoma has been found to be linked to exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke.
If the air pollution crisis continues throughout China, the number of lung cancer cases could further increase. The continued high levels of damaging emissions could also lead to further health complications, as well as having a heavy impact upon the environment of the country and the wider world.
Some experts in the public health sector have suggested that there will a substantial increase in the number of people suffering from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer within five to seven years if air pollution throughout China is negated, Zhong Nanshan, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director if the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, told the news provider.
The continued high levels of air pollution throughout industrial and city areas of China has caused a number of concerns in recent years, with people worried about both the health and environmental impact of the country's continued use of coal. While the central government has pledged to lower emissions and improve overall conditions within cities, there appears to have been little impact on the heavy smog and overall poor air quality that Chinese citizens are regularly exposed to.
- See more at: http://www.envirotech-online.com/news/air-monitoring/6/breaking_news/beijing_lung_cancer_cases_increase_as_air_quality_remains_low/28994/#sthash.5m3I9b1v.dpuf

How city dwellers can stay healthy using public transportation


By Luisa Dillner, February 27, 2014

 Commuters arrive to Grand Central station from a Metro North train on Jan. 22, 2014 in New York City.
 Commuters arrive to Grand Central station from a Metro North train on Jan. 22, 2014 in New York City.

The late-night shops, the diverse population, the variety of restaurants, culture and clubs – what's not to love about living in a city? Well, how about the air pollution, germ-ridden public transport and stress?

If cities pose a health risk, how can you fight back? What can you do to avoid filling your lungs with small pollutant particlesthat increase your risk of heart disease, asthma, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer? Can you travel by bus, underground system or train without catching a nasty virus?

Colds and flu

Just getting on public transport in a city at rush hour means you are likely to be exposed to somebody else's virus. A study in Nottingham funded by the Health Protection Agency found that people were six times more likely to end up at the doctor with a cold or flu if they had recently used a bus or tram.

But anywhere with people in a confined area – offices, concert venues, lifts – poses a risk. Common places to pick up viruses are on a handrail, door handle or light switch. Of course, you can't avoid touching everything – but try not to touch your eyes or nose, because that's how viruses infect you.

Wearing gloves can reduce the risk, as can frequent and thorough handwashing with soapy water, or the use of antiseptic hand washes. But facemasks aren't the solution. A close-fitting, N2-type facemask may reduce airborne viral infections, but you'd have to wear them a lot and it's probably not worth the hassle. But there can be cultural considerations – in many Asian countries, especially Japan, wearing a mask on public transport is often considered good etiquette to prevent your own germs from spreading.

Air pollution

Nearly 30,000 deaths a year are hastened by people being exposed to air pollution, according to the government's committee on the medical effects of air pollution. Ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide can all exacerbate asthma, but the real villains are the fine particles (PM10 and PM2.5) that increase the risk of heart attacks (by getting into the blood stream), of chronic obstructive airways disease and of lung cancer.

A Buying Guide to Air-Pollution Masks


By Debra Bruno, February 28, 2014



Blue skies were finally visible in the capital on Thursday after the region suffered from seven straight days of intense pollution, sending consumers out in droves to buy pollution masks.

Although Thursday’s weather brought a collective sigh of relief from the masses, if past records are any indication, the pollution is bound to return. So one Beijing doctor is asking: what actually makes a good face mask?

Not every mask is equally effective, says Dr. Richard Saint Cyr, a family physician with Beijing United Family Healthcare.

Air masks for sale at a 7-Eleven in Beijing.

Wearing simple cotton masks or those that don’t fully seal against the face could actually be dangerous because it leads to a false sense of security and even more time outdoors, he says.
“It disturbs me that people are walking around thinking wearing these things is safe, but they almost certainly are not,” says Dr. Saint Cyr.

Of course, there are plenty of people in Beijing who wear no mask at all. President Xi Jinping strolled through the popular Nanluoguxiang neighborhood Tuesday, breathing on a day that the air-quality index reached more than 500. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says an index of above 300 is “extremely rare” in the U.S. and typically occurs during events such as forest fires.

But Dr. Saint Cyr suspects that the lack of scientific data on the most effective types of masks has made many people wary of buying any at all. The doctor, who also keeps a blog called My Health Beijing, has started a project to test masks currently on the market, using a crowdfunding approach to pay for testing as many as 200 masks, which will be evaluated by a California company.
For those looking for protection right away, Dr. Saint Cyr offers these tips for mask shopping:
  • The most important element is how a mask fits against the face. Air gaps that allow particulate matter in render the mask basically useless, he says. Some of the popular Chinese-brand masks sold in 7-Eleven stores around Beijing are no good, he says. One, Ludun, touts its 99% efficiency, he says. But within the mask, the filter is just a tiny square inside a cotton mask. The vast majority of the mask is cotton, with lots of leakage. “It just doesn’t fit well.” What’s most worrisome, he says, is “people are walking around thinking they’re protected.” One good test is whether eyeglass-wearers find their glasses steamed up. If so, the masks aren’t air-tight.

  • The mask’s material – its ability to filter out the smallest particulate matter – also is important. Cotton masks or surgical masks aren’t effective, Dr. Saint Cyr says. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers mask certification based on the amount of particulate matter filtered out. An N95 rating, for example, means a mask filters out 95% of airborne particulates.
  • Good ventilation matters, especially for those who might want to exercise outside in the mask. Some masks rest away from the face, creating a comfortable breathing space, while others feel too suffocating for heavy exertion.
  • Style, too, is a consideration. Some masks, like Respro, make the wearers look like Darth Vadar, while others, like Totobobo, resemble some sort of alien with white gills. Some blogs suggest placing a second mask over the powerful one, topping off the look with a mask that may be ineffective but aesthetically pleasing. After all, if people feel ugly wearing their masks, they may be less likely to wear them.
The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission in 2013 tested 17 disposable pollution masks, and rated them (in Chinese) on its website. Dr. Saint Cyr translated the results and published the findings on his blog, calling it “a useful treasure of evidence-based data.” Two of the top five  disposable masks, he reported, were made by 3M.
Which mask is best?

His new study aims to widen the scope of the Shanghai test, evaluating both pricey reusable masks like Vogmask, Respro and Totobobo as well as cheaper versions by 3M.  Cost, Dr. Saint Cyr says, is one factor that doesn’t seem to matter much. In fact, he says he uses the disposable five-yuan (82-cent) 3M masks himself. “They’re probably better than anything on the market.”
Dr. Saint Cyr estimates his study will be completed by April or May.

Legislation Would Change Composition of Metro Board, Adding Two Appointees of State Legislature


By Damien Newton, February 27, 2014

L.A. County residents have long complained that they don’t receive a fair share of funds from Metro, noting that many transit projects take place inside of the City of Los Angeles. Now, legislation by Assemblyman Chris Holden, seeks to change that reality by adding to new seats to the Metro Board of Directors.

State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass. Image: ##http://asmdc.org/members/a41/news-room/photo-album##Office of Chris Holden##
State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass.

“Beginning with my tenure on the Pasadena City Council and continuing to my service in the California State Assembly, I have long heard complaints about the allocation of funding, and regional representation on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro),” writes Holden. “Too frequently I hear that although all residents of Los Angeles County pay to fund county wide ballot measures, only select residents receive their fair share of the benefits. I felt this simmering discontent reach a boiling point last summer when the Metro Board amended Measure R’s expenditure plan to deemphasize projects that voters were convinced would be a priority when voting for the sales tax in 2008.”

Assembly Bill 1941 would add  two voting members who would be appointed by the Speaker of the State Assembly and the State Senate Committee on Rules. 

Currently, the Metro Board is made up of 13 voting members. Five are county supervisors, one is the mayor of Los Angeles, three are appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles, and four represent the local “Council of Governments.” There is also a representative of Caltrans on the Board, but that position is non-voting. If AB 1941 becomes law, Metro would be the only transit agency with state appointed representatives. A report prepared by staff for today’s Metro Board meeting encouraged the Board to vote against the legislation for that reason.

“While there may be no perfect solution to the allocation of limited resources to address what seem to be limitless needs, AB 1941 represents a dialogue about who does and does not have a voice in the planning of community’s infrastructure needs,” Holden continued. “Many of us, while not a member of the Metro Board are heavily invested in the success of this agency and passage of another countywide measure to fund the county’s transportation priorities.”

When Holden speaks of “de-emphasizing” projects, he is referring to Metro’s efforts to speed up certain transit projects funded by the Measure R sales tax. When the Board voted last year on an acceleration plan, it specifically excluded the proposed I-710 Big Dig, the Gold Line Extension to Azusa and other projects.

Not surprisingly, Metro Board Members aren’t excited by Holden’s motion and they aren’t shy about letting state officials know it. After the Board quickly and unanimously passed a motion against AB 1941, Streetsblog talked with some of the Board Members.

“Increasing Sacramento influence over regional transportation decisions, while Sacramento’s investment in regional transportation needs is diminishing, makes no sense,” writes Paul Krekorian, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and Mayoral Appointee to the Board. “This bill would simply diminish the City’s role in meeting the needs of our residents and it should be rejected.”

There has long been friction between the Board Members who represent the City of Los Angeles, or part of the City of Los Angeles, and ones from the rest of the County. One Metro staffer, who was speaking off the record, jokes that the only thing the County Supervisors and COG representatives can agree on is who their enemy is: whoever is the Mayor of Los Angeles. However, that doesn’t mean that those not representing the city see AB 1941 as a good bill.

“The last thing we need on this already political board, is to inject two new players with no stakeholders and no constituents to answer to, only the politicos in Sacramento,” writes Ara Najarian, Glendale City Councilmember and the representative to the Metro Board from the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments. “A huge mistake and not a well thought out piece of legislation. Now, if we wanted to add directors who actually had constituents to answer to…then fine.”

“Ara’s right. The Metro Board was blindsided by this motion, he (Holden) didn’t work with us. He didn’t even call us.” responded Mike Bonin, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and another mayoral appointee in a further show of Board unity. “The Metro Board has traditionally fought efforts to change its composition, unless the change is being pushed by a broad coalition of citizens.”

Bonin and Krekorian have introduced a Los Angeles City Council motion urging the legislature to reject Holden’s proposal. The motion is seconded by City Council President Herb Wesson.
A fact sheet provided by Holden’s office offers two different explanations for the need for AB 1941. It states that with the state mandating greenhouse gas reduction goals for municipalities throughout the state, that state representation on the Board would help Metro meet state goals. The fact sheet states:
California’s continuing efforts to develop regional solutions to greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on vehicle miles traveled requires the development of a comprehensive transportation solution. By adding a statewide perspective to the Board of LA Metro, California’s largest county will continue to develop sustainable solutions for the state’s transportation future.
A second potential explanation explains that many Metro projects have regional impacts outside of L.A. County, thus broader representation would be helpful for the agency to understand the impacts of its decisions. The fact sheet states:
These members, appointed by state leadership, will enhance the regional perspective required for a modern transportation board. Currently, projects including the SR 605 and SR 405 interchange project, the SR 14 carpool extension and the Metro Gold Line Foothill extension all require LA Metro to coordinate projects that extend to the county border and beyond.
Because legislators can only introduce a limited number of bills each session, it seems a little odd that Holden would use one of his to insure better representation on the Metro Board for people he doesn’t represent. Holden’s father was a major player at Metro for years. Nate Holden served as a Board Member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, Metro’s successor agency, and the Metro Board itself, when Metro still referred to itself as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In an ironic twist, Nate Holden is credited with leading the charge to increase the representation on the Metro Board by the City of Los Angeles from 2 members to 4 members in the late 1990′s.
AB 1941 was referred to the “Local Program” committee and could be heard as soon as March 22.

We're Driving Less, So Should We Stop Building New Roads?


By Eric Jaffe, February 28, 2014

 We're Driving Less, So Should We Stop Building New Roads?

 There's evidence to suggest that America's already reached peak driving. The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation suggest that vehicle-miles increased by 18.1 billion miles in 2013, just half a percent on the previous year. That's a rise, of course, but not enough to skew statistics showing that mileage has plateaued since its high mark in the mid-2000s:

Meanwhile, the U.S. population grew by about .7 percent in 2013, so per capita vehicle miles actually declined — for the ninth year in a row. Analyst Tony Dutzik writes that the latest per capita VMT rate is about 7 percent below its 2004 peak. In fact, when you adjust for the driving population, as financial advisor Doug Short has done, the 2013 VMT rate "is about where we were as a nation in January of 1995":

So if we really are driving less than we used to — or, at the very least, no more than we used to — when will we stop increasing road capacity? Traffic growth or decline is a notoriously difficult trend to forecast accurately. But given vehicle-mile trends, it stands to reason that sooner or later states and cities will warm to the possibility that maintaining existing roads is a wiser public investment than building new ones.

Chris McCahill at the State Smart Transportation Initiative points out that some places are already accepting this sea change. Back in 2009, for instance, the Maryland DOT projected 2 percent VMT growth through 2030 (below), citing "no clear evidence that Marylanders will continue to drive less in the future." Last month, however, it reversed course and not only acknowledged per capita VMT declines but omitted traffic projections.

Local officials can't help but notice the trend, too. At Sightline, Clark Williams-Derry tracks the
enormous drop in traffic — 48,000 daily trips — that's occurred of late along Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, an urban interstate that's being removed and replaced by a tunnel. Construction obviously has a lot to do with the decline, but peak driving might too, since the dip predates all the road work:

Sightline commenters make clear that the viaduct is very congested at times, so maybe more road capacity here will help. But the point made by Williams-Derry is that Seattle has adapted to the loss of 48,000 trips without much effort (a modest transit increase captured most of them). If officials had known that only 62,000 daily trips would remain in the viaduct corridor, would they have pushed for a multi-billion-dollar replacement tunnel or closed the gap with cheaper alternatives?

What all these data and charts point to are the merits of a fix-it-first road funding policy that puts road maintenance before road construction. For sure, we need a new source of funding, with the busted gas tax nearing its demise. It's also high time to challenge the idea that the amount of road funding we'll need in the future is the same as what we've needed in the past.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Board of Directors motion asks Metro to make renewed effort on public-private parnterships to fund transpo projects


By Steve Hymon, February 27, 2014

Interesting motion above that was approved today by the Metro Board. My read on the motion: it’s three members of the Metro Board — Eric Garcetti, Michael D. Antonovich and Diane DuBois — asking Metro to step up its game when it comes to developing public-private partnerships to help fund and build transportation projects.

As the name implies, public-private partnerships are financial agreements between public agencies and private companies. There are several variations of PPPs but generally speaking it means a private firm fronts some of the money to build a project and then is paid back later, sometimes from revenues created by the project.

Metro has a PPP program that has already identified five big projects that might make for good PPPs — the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor (which could involve building a rail line under the Pass to connect the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, a very pricey idea), the High Desert Corridor, the 710 South and 710 North projects and a project that would construct congestion pricing lanes on the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita area. But no deals have been finalized.

It’s hard to discuss PPPs without mentioning what’s happening in the Denver metro area, where voters in 2004 approved a sales tax increase to fund a big transit expansion. A PPP is being used there to build some of the commuter rail projects — including the 22-mile line that will connect downtown Denver and Denver International Airport.

Sound familiar? It should. Both Antonovich and Garcetti have made repeated public statements about the importance of connecting Metro Rail to LAX via the Airport Metro Connector project — a project that will likely need funding beyond the scope of Measure R to be fully realized.

Air pollution linked to high blood sugar in pregnant women


By EHN Staff, February 27, 2014


Pregnant women who lived in neighborhoods with more air pollution were twice as likely to have elevated blood sugar than women in less polluted areas, according to a new study of Boston area women. While previous research has linked fine particle pollution to type 2 diabetes, this is the first study to link it to high blood sugar during pregnancy. 
Pregnant women who lived in neighborhoods with more air pollution were twice as likely to have elevated blood sugar than women in less polluted areas, according to a new study of Boston area women.

While previous research has linked fine particle pollution to type 2 diabetes, this is the first study to link it to high blood sugar during pregnancy. High blood sugar can lead to serious complications in pregnancy, including preeclampsia and preterm birth, as well as obesity and insulin resistance in mother and child.

Researchers measured blood glucose levels of more than 2,000 pregnant women from the Boston area at the end of the second trimester, when doctors routinely screen pregnant women for gestational diabetes.

The researchers then measured fine particles, known as PM2.5, outside the women’s homes. Those who had the highest levels of fine particles were 2.3 times more likely to have elevated blood sugar levels than women in areas with less air pollution.

“To put our findings in perspective, the extent to which second trimester exposure increased odds of impaired glucose tolerance in the present study is the same order of magnitude as other well known risk factors for impaired glucose tolerance,” wrote the authors from Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Being overweight at the start of pregnancy and having family members with diabetes are major risk factors for gestational diabetes. On average, the study women were normal weight before pregnancy and only 8 percent had a family history of diabetes.

Air pollution was not associated with gestational diabetes, only impaired glucose tolerance, which is a less severe condition indicative of prediabetes. Sixty-five of the women, or about 3 percent, had impaired glucose tolerance, while 118 women, or about 6 percent, had higher levels and were diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

It’s possible that women who are prone to more severe degrees of elevated blood sugar may be less sensitive to short-term air pollution exposures, according to the researchers.

The PM2.5 levels outside the women’s homes were not considered inordinately high. They “were almost uniformly lower” than federal health standards, the researchers wrote. One limitation is that the researchers didn’t measure the women’s actual exposures, just the pollutant levels near their homes.

The particulate levels were associated with traffic density, suggesting that vehicles were the major source of air pollution near the women’s homes. Black, Asian and Hispanic women were more likely than white women to live at addresses with higher levels of fine particles and traffic. The results may not be generalized to all pregnant women, because the study women were older and largely white.
Two earlier studies from the Netherlands and Sweden examined air pollution and blood sugar levels of pregnant women. The Dutch study found no association between traffic density and diabetes, while the Swedish study found one between gestational diabetes and nitrogen oxides, gases that come from vehicle exhaust and other sources that burn fossil fuels.

Up to 18 percent of pregnant women worldwide develop some degree of abnormal glucose tolerance by the end of the second trimester of pregnancy, according to the researchers.

Pregnant women are at risk of high blood sugar and diabetes because insulin resistance increases during pregnancy as a result of weight gain and other normal physiological processes. Insulin takes sugars out of the bloodstream and helps them enter the body’s cells, where they can be used for energy.

27 February Air pollution linked to high blood sugar in pregnant women. Pregnant women who lived in neighborhoods with more air pollution were twice as likely to have elevated blood sugar than women in less polluted areas, according to a new study of Boston area women. Environmental Health News.

29 January Is the Central Valley's air pollution affecting our cells and genes? In California's Central Valley – in one of the most polluted air basins in the country – we know that poor air is bad for our health. We feel it in our eyes and throat, and when we struggle to breathe. But what if air pollution is affecting us at a deeper, cellular level? Fresno Valley Public Radio, California.

28 January Can car exhaust fumes cause dementia? Asthma. Heart attacks. Cancer. Even diabetes. Respiratory illnesses including asthma are just some of the health problems increasingly associated with air pollution. With some, poor air quality is a known cause. In others, it triggers new symptoms or exacerbates existing ones. London Daily Mail, United Kingdom.

22 January Air pollution causes more diseases than expected. It turns out that pollution may be deadlier than expected. Scientists have discovered that air pollution causes a list of injuries and diseases that's far longer than previously thought. Science World Report.

11 January Air pollution and diabetes. We’ve long known that air pollution is bad for our lungs and can even cause cardiovascular disease, but recent research suggests that breathing dirty air in combination with a fatty diet can promote diabetes. Living On Earth.

11 December Poor air quality keeps some Colorado students indoors. Air pollution levels have rapidly grown over the past two weeks, and have reached a point that some District 51 students are being forced to stay indoors. Grand Junction KREX TV, Colorado.

6 November Post-Diwali smog prompts health warnings in Delhi. The National Capital is staring at another spell of thick smog after Diwali fire-crackers significantly increased air pollution. On Tuesday, Delhi remained under the grip of smog which triggered a host of respiratory infections and other health problems. London Daily Mail, United Kingdom.

23 October Exposure to traffic pollution a health risk for third of Canadians: Researchers. Traffic-related air pollution poses major health risks for the one-third of Canadians who live or work close to high-traffic roads or highways, say researchers, suggesting there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the danger. Canadian Press.

9 October Noise pollution: the city dweller's environmental health risk. A recent large population study found that noise pollution increases an individual’s risk of heart disease — just like fine-particle air pollution. The Weather Channel.

29 September Dusting down clean air controls. Harm to human health from airborne dust pollution has been seriously underestimated, forcing Europe to revisit its air quality legislation this year. Times of Malta.

28 September Cleanest air in 50 years! How did New York do it? Air quality in New York and many other US cities has been getting better since the 1970s. One factor in New York's recent improvement: a phase-out of heavily polluting heating oil in older buildings. Christian Science Monitor.

25 July Study finds link between long-term exposure to air pollution and diabetes-related mortality. Researchers found that where diabetes was listed as the primary cause of death – about 5,200 deaths in total – the individuals had lived in areas with a higher level of air pollution for 10 years or more. Windsor Star, Ontario.

4 July Europe must tackle air pollution, warn UN scientists. The health effects of air pollution have been underestimated and Europe should review its laws to tackle the problem, UN scientists have concluded after a major review of new evidence. The Guardian.
18 June Heavy pollution linked to risk of a
utism, study shows. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that diesel, mercury, lead, manganese and methylene chloride in the air significantly increased the risk of having a child with autism. The results add to a growing body of research that links air pollution to autism. Portland Oregonian, Oregon.

10 May Air pollution raises risk of diabetes precursor in kids. Exposure to air pollution raises the risk of resistance to insulin, a typical warning sign of diabetes, according to a study of almost 400 German children. Bloomberg News.

10 May Diabetes: Dirty air 'may raise' insulin resistance risk. Children's exposure to air traffic pollution could increase their risk of insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes in adults, suggests a study in Diabetologia. But some experts say the results should be treated with caution. BBC.

8 May Pittsburgh health summit finds link between pollution, health problems. High levels of air pollution make the Pittsburgh region a risky area to live when it comes to asthma, cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to studies presented Tuesday by a parade of researchers at a public health summit Downtown. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania.

7 May 'AC, carpeted rooms triggering asthma attacks.' Long hours spent in air-conditioned and carpeted rooms and genetic factors are now being increasingly seen as major causes of asthma, which was earlier attributed mainly to vehicular exhaust and other forms of air pollution. Times of India, India.

30 April Michigan results mixed in new air quality study. Michigan has reduced overall air pollution since 2012, but its most populous counties still don’t earn a passing grade, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. The State of the Air report provides grades of A to F in two areas: particle pollution and ozone action days. Oakland Press, Michigan.

24 April Monmouth, Ocean counties get F's for ozone pollution. Ozone pollution in Monmouth and Ocean counties earned failing grades for the 14th year in a row, but Ocean received an A for particle pollution in an annual report on air quality. Asbury Park Press, New Jersey.

Bertha’s big troubles started in Japan

The state wants to know if the recent failure of seals is linked to earlier problems with those parts before the giant drill was shipped to Seattle.


By Dndrew Garber and Mike Lindblom, February 25, 2014

Chris Dixon, project manager for Seattle Tunnel Partners, earlier this month points out the outer seal assembly of Bertha’s main drive unit in photos taken before drilling work began. Dixon said there are indications that all seven outer seals may have been breached.<br/>

 Chris Dixon, project manager for Seattle Tunnel Partners, earlier this month points out the outer seal assembly of Bertha’s main drive unit in photos taken before drilling work began. Dixon said there are indications that all seven outer seals may have been breached.


Long before tunnel-boring machine Bertha stalled underneath Seattle because of leaky seals, it experienced a problem involving the same seals back in Japan.

When workers tested the mammoth $80 million machine before it was shipped here last April, they discovered damage to the seal system and ended up taking Bertha apart for repairs.
Now Bertha is again having problems with seals. There are indications that all seven of the machine’s outer seals may have been breached, according to the state Department of Transportation and the tunnel contractor.

Repairs will take several months in a 120-foot-deep pit that must be dug in front of the machine in wet soil along Elliott Bay.

While Bertha is having trouble with the same seals that had to be fixed in Japan, it’s unknown whether the cause of the problem is the same, said Matt Preedy, deputy administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program with the state Department of Transportation.

“We, of course, are curious if it’s any way related to the previous situation during dry-dock testing, but I don’t want to guess,” he said in an interview last week.

It would be unusual for all of a tunnel borer’s outer seals to breach so early in its journey, Preedy said.

An expert review-panel report on the Highway 99 project, written a year ago when Bertha was still in Japan, noted that the tunnel boring machine’s builder, Hitachi-Zosen, found “a significant fault” during testing that was expected to cause delays and make it “unlikely that the TBM will be completely assembled and fully tested prior to shipping.”

Preedy said that when Bertha was being built in Japan, one of the tests performed was to turn on the motors and rotate the cutter head. That’s when testers heard a noise and took Bertha apart. They found that some parts of the machine weren’t moving properly and caused “some metal-on-metal contact and basically damaged the seal assembly for the main bearing,” Preedy said.

After discovering the problem, the manufacturer, among other actions, had to “totally repair the seal system and reassemble it and rotate it again,” he said.

The seals protect the $5 million main bearing, which enables the ring-shaped drive shaft to turn the cutter, at about one rotation per minute.

Bertha has a redundant system of seven outer seals and one inner seal with the idea that if a seal gets breached, there are several left to protect the bearing.

Preedy said it’s not uncommon for a tunnel-boring machine to have one or two seal breaches as it nears the end of a tunnel “but still have enough seals left” to complete the project.

But it is unusual for all outer seals to be breached early in its journey, he said.

“Clearly where we are right now is the tunnel-boring machine is not nearly far enough along in its drive that a contractor should attempt to continue to go, because they don’t have any seals left in the outer seal ring,” Preedy said.

Bertha’s inner seal appears to be fine.

Extent of damage unclear

Chris Dixon, director of Seattle Tunnel Partners, the group hired to build the tunnel, said last week they hadn’t determined how much damage has been done to the outer seals yet.

“There are indications that somewhere around that whole circumference where the seals are installed, that all of them might have been breached, but we won’t really know until we remove that part of the machine and fully expose all of the seals,” he said.

Dixon said there have been other tunnel projects with multiple seal failures but acknowledged it’s not common. “The right characterization would be it was something that wasn’t anticipated this early on this tunnel project,” he said.

STP is moving ahead with plans to dig a shaft in front of Bertha so the cutter head can be exposed and the seals repaired.

Once the pit is dug, the 630-ton cutter head will be detached and lifted using a crane supported by wide footings so it won’t sink into the soft waterfront soils.

After the repairs are completed and the cutter head reattached, workers will backfill the hole so the machine can resume its journey. It’s not clear how long it will take to do all that work.

Time pressure in Japan

When Bertha was still in Japan, the expert review panel noted the importance of getting the tunnel boring machine shipped to Seattle on time: “It is imperative that the TBM be loaded and shipped as scheduled to maintain the tunnel project schedule.”

That meant getting the machine components on the Jumbo Fairpartner because the next ship large enough to carry Bertha was not scheduled to be in Japan for another six months.

As it turned out, the project lost approximately one month on its schedule by the time the Jumbo Fairpartner and Bertha made it to Seattle in April. The 41 sections were reassembled in Sodo and tested before drilling began July 30, as is routine for deep-bore tunnel projects.

The expert report said testing might have to be completed in Seattle. The report also pointed out that Seattle Tunnel Partners had a “very aggressive” schedule for tunnel completion. In an interview earlier this month, members of the review panel said they believed at the time that the schedule was doable.

Dixon said the machine was fully tested before it started tunneling.

Some tests that could have been done in either Japan or Seattle were done once the machine got here, he said. Those tests were unrelated to the seal system, Dixon said.

As far as the aggressive schedule pointed out by the expert panel, Dixon said, “I don’t see that as any kind of a contributing factor” to Bertha’s current problems.

The 1.7-mile dig was supposed to be finished by fall 2014, and the new Highway 99 tunnel to open for traffic at the end of 2015.

The state is now gingerly backing away from its assurances the job would be done by the end of 2015.

Todd Trepanier, Highway 99 administrator for the state Department of Transportation, reminded Seattle City Council members on Monday that the state’s original requirement was to finish the tunnel by late 2016. STP, which won the state bid to build the tunnel under a $1.44 billion contract, offered to complete the project 10 months earlier in exchange for up to $25 million in early-completion incentives.

Trepanier said he has not heard STP say it will be done significantly later than Dec. 31, 2015. The drilling is almost certain to stretch beyond the October 2014 timetable, but STP could try to accelerate its follow-up work installing the double-deck roadway and utilities.

Battle over extra cost likely

Before drilling began, state officials estimated it would progress at six feet per day to start and eventually accelerate to 35 feet per day under downtown. The machine exceeded 35 feet on some of its best days this fall but has operated for only 36 days since the July 30 launch.

Bertha has traveled 1,025 feet since drilling began July 30. After a shutdown Dec. 7, the machine advanced four feet during experimental restart efforts Jan. 28-29.

When asked by Seattle City Council members Monday about the cost of delays, Trepanier said that under the design-build contract system STP is the “engineer of record” and is therefore responsible for the design risk and related delays.

“There’s been no evidence put forth by Seattle Tunnel Partners that would show that any of the cost associated with this would be borne by our agency or by the taxpayers,” he said.

Dixon, of STP, has previously said in interviews that he considers a union work stoppage in August and a pipe the machine struck in December to be state issues for which STP could potentially file a claim.

Negotiation or litigation over costs is likely.

That’s Right, I Don’t Drive in Los Angeles

The Bus Has a Code of Behavior, a Pace, and an Intimacy All Its Own


By Nicolei Gupit, February 27, 2014

 That’s Right, I Don’t Drive in Los Angeles

There are over 6 million drivers in the county of Los Angeles, but I’m not one of them. Since 1998, when my family moved here from the Philippines, we have relied on Metro, L.A.’s major public transportation system, to get around. For 13 years, my aunt left our East Hollywood apartment at 5:30 a.m. and arrived home at 6 p.m. every day, taking two buses to and from her workplace in El Monte, 18 miles away. Growing up, I walked with my mother to and from Lockwood Elementary School less than 10 minutes from home.

Once a week, my mom and I would take the bus together down Vermont Avenue to Seafood Market and Goldilocks Bakery in Koreatown, a 30-minute trip, including wait time. My mom would only buy as much as we could comfortably lift. I would carry a brown bag full of pandesal, Filipino bread rolls, and she would hold double plastic-bagged groceries with both hands. I loved pandesal but hated the long wait at the bus stop and the bumpy journey on the road. Whenever I felt queasy on the bus, my mom would pull a plastic bag out of her pocket, widen it in front of my mouth, and pat my back. Once, on the way home after visiting the doctor, a female bus driver ordered my mom to take the lollipop out from my mouth: “Or else she’s gonna choke herself from it!” My mom told the driver she had no right to tell her what to do. We hopped off the bus before the next stop, but we still had long stretches of pavement to walk before reaching home.

In sixth grade, I became comfortable taking the bus on my own after school and on weekends. I passed the time waiting at bus stops and riding listening to Linkin Park on my CD player. The abrupt, jerky bus motions kept me from reading and sometimes still made me feel sick. But I could prevent a headache by tuning out the stops and starts and gazing at storefronts, license plates, pedestrians, and street activity through the windows. I enjoyed observing Los Angeles in its different faces, like cities within the city, from MacArthur Park to Park La Brea, Downtown L.A. to West L.A. I was able to travel as far west as Santa Monica and as far south as Long Beach on public transportation for $1.25. I could catch any one of the dozen buses heading every cardinal direction away from my busy home-base intersection of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. I learned by heart the cadence of passing streets as I rode the buses plying Vermont: Sunset, Fountain, Santa Monica, Melrose, Beverly, First, Third, Sixth, Wilshire. I created my own map of L.A. by surveying who got on and off the bus at which stops. While I heard mostly Spanish and Armenian spoken around East Hollywood, I would hear mostly Korean, Chinese, or Tagalog when passing neighboring areas heading south and west from home.

When I started high school at John Marshall High in Los Feliz, I rode the bus home every school day—a 30-minute wait at the bus stop plus 15 minutes on the bus. (In the mornings, I typically walked 40 minutes to Marshall because the buses weren’t always on time, and I didn’t want to be late for the bell. A ride by car would’ve taken five minutes.) I began purchasing monthly student passes in ninth grade. A day or two before the end of the month, I would stand in a long line at a cash-checking kiosk to sign up for the $24 pass reserved for full-time students. Student passes were in high demand, so Metro ran out of them within a couple days of the first of the month. When I missed getting a pass, the bill for riding the bus that month added up to about $50 just for the weekdays.

The bus was a cheap form of independence, but I was paying fare for an unpredictable experience. Even when plugged into my music, it was impossible not to overhear conversations. I once listened to a young lady directly behind me on her cellphone tell the story of her life growing up in foster homes, express her undying love for Jesus Christ, and invite the man on the line to an upcoming Bible study session. I also learned to be careful about verbal and physical harassment. I knew to check to see who I would be next to before I sat in any seat. I was cautious about wearing revealing or tight-fitting clothing because it made me feel vulnerable.

The bus has a code of behavior all its own. It’s rare to witness strangers engaging in conversation, even when people stand face-to-face in a crowded aisle. But from time to time, I see someone gesture, or communicate with a tap on the back, in order to offer a seat to an elderly person or someone with lots of grocery bags. While it’s acceptable to talk on cellphones, it’s somehow not acceptable to sing aloud.

It’s common to listen to music, but I rarely see anyone open up a MacBook on the bus. It seems a little like showing off when most riders don’t have such luxuries, plus there’s not a lot of privacy. And, at least when I was younger, people didn’t want to expose valuables on the bus—my brother had his iPhone stolen and pockets picked.

Most phones today come with applications that accurately map out bus routes and provide arrival and departure times. I spend less time waiting at bus stops, and I no longer have to walk long distances instead of guessing when the next bus will show up. I don’t have to visit the Metro website before leaving home to draw maps on paper. And as much as I enjoyed gazing out the bus windows, I prefer the way technology has integrated my riding experience with my work and personal life because I use the time to browse the Internet, send and receive e-mails, or read the news. The streets of L.A. seem more congested than they did 10 years ago, but the expansion of the Metro Rapid buses (which provide faster and more frequent service on major roads) and the more extensive subway system have made Metro more reliable. Rides are shorter now than when I was a kid.

My commute to work in Santa Monica from Mid-City, where I live now, is an hour long, and my commute back home can take more than two hours due to traffic. Taking the bus as an adult, I’ve learned to wear walking shoes and pack my purse with my dress shoes.

I walk to the supermarket during the work week, but on weekends I take the bus to go shopping in Koreatown, just like I did with my mom as a kid. And while most of my friends now have cars, I still base our meeting spots on bus routes to make things convenient, and so I don’t have to rely on them entirely for rides. We’ll meet at a subway stop that’s busy—say, Pershing Square—so it’s relatively safe to be waiting at, especially in the late evening. Then we’ll walk together to the Downtown L.A. Art Walk or a restaurant.

Growing up riding the bus has made me appreciate the city for its asphalt, its streetlights, its drivers, its pedestrians, and all its changing shapes and forms. I don’t think I stress any less about being on time than people who drive, and L.A. traffic affects me as much as it does L.A. drivers. But riding the bus has made me attuned to the city at a different pace. It’s also given me insight into the day-to-day struggles of people in my city. I’ve seen young men in suits leaving work in the evening sitting down next to red-eyed construction workers just heading out to their jobs. I’ve seen so many 17-year-old mothers guiding one or two children through the bus doors on their own. I once stood beside a short, tanned man who only made eye contact as we were both being squeezed by the doors that opened inward. He gestured to give me more space even though it limited his. As he told me in Spanish about his work in the fields and how he couldn’t speak English, I thought about how I probably wouldn’t have met him any other way.

These people are all a part of my Los Angeles, and, as they get off at their particular intersections, I get telling glimpses of the different paths Angelenos end up traveling. That seat on the bus is the best place in L.A. for tapping into the heartbeat of the city.