Purpose

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

San Rafael School Closure Public Hearing


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SCHOOL CLOSURE
PUBLIC HEARING
SAN RAFAEL SCHOOL AUDITORIUM 

S R N A 
News Bulletin:

PUSD's 7-11 Committee Asks for
Neighborhood Voices on Future Use of
the San Rafael School Site

SECOND PUBLIC HEARING AT SAN RAFAEL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AUDITORIUM
(1090 Nithsdale Road)
THURSDAY, APRIL 17th, 7:00 PM

Thanks to all who made their interest known about the future of San Rafael Elementary School (SRES) and potential alternative uses for the site.  Forty-nine surveys were completed by attendees (out of over 120 in attendance) giving the Committee some information about community preferences.  

In order to get more complete information from a larger number of community members, the second Public Hearing will be held Thursday, April 17 at 7:00 pm in the SRES auditorium.  

At this hearing there will be additional information about the earthquake studies and another opportunity for everyone to rank their preferences for alternative uses of the property.  I urge you to attend and make your opinions count.  

The results of the rankings will be presented at the following meeting of the Committee, Monday, April 28, 7:00 pm in the PUSD Board Room.  

Please plan to attend this Public Hearing, and bring your neighbors.

Don Watson, Chairperson
San Rafael Elementary School 7-11 Committee

Adaptive reuse of the site potentially will introduce new impacts to the neighborhood and affect property values, good or bad. SRNA supports a cautious approach to this transition and a full understanding of zoning allowances.

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

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

EPW Big Four Announce Plan to Maintain Status Quo for the Next Transpo Bill

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/04/10/epw-big-four-announce-plan-to-maintain-status-quo-for-the-next-bill/#more-93596

By Tanya Snyder, April 10, 2014



 Sen. Barbara Boxer, together with Sens. Carper, Vitter and Barrasso, announced their agreement to maintain the status quo with the next bill. Screenshot from press conference.

 Sen. Barbara Boxer, together with Sens. Carper, Vitter and Barrasso, announced their agreement to maintain the status quo with the next bill. 

Last year, while the House flailed in partisan misery, the Senate passed a transportation bill 74 to 22. When the bill was signed into law, it was considered one of the few real achievements of a deeply divided Congress. Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer got tremendous credit for enacting legislation three years in the making. And yet, it left a lot of good provisions on the cutting-room floor. While MAP-21 included some modest reforms, lawmakers missed an opportunity to prioritize transit, biking, and walking – modes that are gaining popularity and help achieve national goals like congestion mitigation and air quality improvement.

History appears to be repeating itself. This morning, Sen. Boxer (D-CA) joined with the rest of the “Big Four” of the EPW Committee — Ranking Republican David Vitter (R-LA), Transportation Subcommittee Chair Tom Carper (D-DE) and Subcommittee Ranking Republican John Barrasso (R-WY) — to announce that they had reached agreement on a set of principles to guide the next bill.

While it’s good news to hear the senators are working together and making progress, they’re not proposing any solutions to the nation’s dysfunctional transportation policy, which funnels billions of dollars to wasteful road expansions ever year. Below is a look at the guiding principles (verbatim, in bold) and what they mean:
  • Passing a long-term bill, as opposed to a short-term patch. You won’t find anyone who says they want a short-term bill. There is unanimous agreement that a two-year bill was inadequate and that the next bill must last five or six or even 10 years. The challenge has always been to find enough funding to pay for such a long bill. MAP-21 pulled coins out of the proverbial cushions to piece together a somewhat illusory pay-for to get MAP-21 passed. Even President Obama’s proposal for the next bill is just four years.
  • Maintaining the formulas for existing core programs. Ouch. A primary goal of transportation reformers is to tie more money to performance and merit instead of giving states no-strings-attached funding that tends to get wasted on highway expansion. Reforming the existing formulas could force states to prove that they’re spending money well, using a benefit-cost analysis in their decision making, and thinking smart about the future.

  • Promoting fiscal responsibility by keeping current levels of funding, plus inflation. This will disappoint the many people looking for an increase in spending levels, who believe that MAP-21′s $109 billion over two years wasn’t enough to really address the country’s needs. While far too big a percentage of federal funding goes toward highway expansion, the failure to grow the pie will ensure that transit and rail — especially high-speed rail — can’t grow. The Chamber of Commerce, the unions, and most of the transportation and construction sectors want to see a gas tax increase. President Obama and Republican House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp both want to increase infrastructure spending via corporate tax reform. Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to maintain fiscal discipline by eviscerating core programs is destined for the dustbin. No one wants to go back to that tired conversation.
 
  • Focusing on policies that expand opportunities for rural areas. Many federal spending programs, from TIGER to New Starts, maintain a set-aside for rural areas. And while no one says rural areas don’t deserve good transportation infrastructure, their special treatment has a lot to do with the way the Senate is set up to over-represent rural constituencies. Where’s the minimum for metro areas, which are responsible for almost all the country’s news jobs, economic growth, and population gain?
  • Continuing our efforts to leverage local resources to accelerate the construction of transportation projects, create jobs, and spur economic growth. This is probably a reference to the TIFIA program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans but relies in the end on local money to pay them back.
  • Requiring better information sharing regarding federal grants. Perhaps they could start by requiring far clearer reporting on State Transportation Improvement Program plans.
What’s missing? Any commitment to organizing the federal transportation program more deliberately around national goals like emissions reduction and safety. Any agreement to strengthen performance measures, which had a baby-step debut with MAP-21.  And while we wouldn’t necessarily expect to hear it in a statement of principles like this, reformers would always be keen to hear some reassurance that transit, biking and walking will get a fair shake and that road maintenance will be prioritized over expansion.

If this is what the Democrat-controlled Senate has come up with, what will the House say?

Meanwhile, as Sen. Vitter acknowledged, “Compared to the Finance Committee, which has to lead all of us in figuring out how to pay for this, hopefully, six-year bill, we have the easier role.” Without the political will to do the hard work of raising revenues, even maintaining current levels will be a stretch.

Garcetti shares 'back to basics' agenda in State of the City address

In his first such address, L.A.'s mayor focuses on public safety, economic prosperity, quality of life and a well-run city government. He did not always provide timetables.

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-0411-state-of-city-20140411,0,1437008.story#axzz2yavzivEu
 
By David Zahniser, Emily Alpert Reyes, and Soumya Karlamangla, April 10, 2014
 
 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti presented a long and eclectic list of initiatives in his first State of the City address Thursday, promising to reinvigorate the city's major boulevards, cut taxes for businesses, put building records online and keep a lid on rates at the Department of Water and Power.

Speaking at the California Science Center in South Los Angeles, Garcetti spelled out in detail his "back to basics" agenda, which focuses on public safety, economic prosperity, quality of life and a well-run city government. He did not always provide timetables to help the public measure his progress, opting for overarching themes.

Echoing a theme since he won election last May, Garcetti used the 32-minute speech to highlight his emphasis on problem solving, not publicity. He promised to install tracking devices in fire department vehicles to enhance 911 responses, improve service at the DWP and streamline city permitting.

 "We're about getting results, not about getting headlines," he said.

Garcetti heralded the city's accomplishments, including a drop in crime, new construction projects and television shoots in Los Angeles. He made no mention of homelessness or a tax hike proposed for street repairs. And he did not bring up proposals from the LA 2020 Commission, a citizen panel that has offered a far darker outlook on the city's economy and its government.

On the eve of Garcetti's speech, the panel offered a critique of City Hall and an array of recommendations, ranging from switching the date of the city's election to boost voter turnout to merging the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a move billed as a way to increase economic competitiveness.

Austin Beutner, the commission's co-chairman and a former mayoral candidate himself, said he did not watch the speech and had no comment. Garcetti, in what some on social media took as a jab at the panel, said in his speech the city needs "fundamental work" but not "a new diagnosis."

Garcetti staged the ceremony in a location that allowed him to recall some of the city's biggest accomplishments, such as the staging of the 1984 Summer Olympics at the adjacent Coliseum and the engineering of the space shuttles, one of which, the Endeavour, is on display in the complex. Los Angeles is still doing big things, he said, including rebuilding downtown's Wilshire Grand Hotel and upgrading terminals at Los Angeles International Airport.

On the whole, the speech focused more on improving city operations than on sweeping, costly initiatives of the type laid out by his predecessors. In 2002, former Mayor James Hahn's first State of the City speech focused heavily on two major goals: keeping the San Fernando Valley from becoming its own city and finding a way to hire 1,000 new police officers.

Hahn prevailed on the first but fell far short on the second. Four years later, Antonio Villaraigosa used his first citywide address to announce his own plan for hiring 1,000 officers and taking over the Los Angles Unified School District. Although he managed to add around 800 officers, the school takeover was thrown out by a judge.

Garcetti's push for smaller-scale improvements in service didn't trouble Sherman Oaks resident Frankie Contreras, who attended Thursday's speech. "In order for you to build a better city, you better pay attention to the little things," he said.

Carol Schatz, chief executive of the downtown-based Central City Assn., agreed. "He was very clear about making City Hall work. And when you do that, you encourage investment," she said.

To highlight his interest in greater city efficiency and innovation, Garcetti singled out Paul Jewett, an employee at the Department of Recreation and Parks who found new ways to reduce energy use at city gyms when not in use. After the speech, Jewett said cutting back on air conditioning made his job easier by reducing the need for maintenance on cooling units.

Garcetti stressed the need to upgrade technology to improve services — a point unintentionally highlighted when links to online streaming of the speech, promoted by his office, didn't work. Aides said they didn't know what went wrong.

Garcetti must erase a $242-million projected deficit in the budget he will present to the City Council next week. And the city's top budget official has warned that a new tax hike is "the only way" Los Angeles can raise the money to repair thousands of miles of badly damaged streets.

With little money for new programs, Garcetti offered fresh details on a Great Streets initiative, which directs existing funds to 15 boulevards. Among streets announced Thursday were Reseda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles and Gaffey Street in San Pedro.

Garcetti also assured ratepayers that the DWP, which has struggled with a billing system that charged customers inaccurately, would not seek higher rates for the remainder of the year. "We can't ask you to pay more for your water and power when the DWP screws up your bill," he said.

He said construction of a new carpool lane on the 405 Freeway, which has exasperated drivers on the Westside, would be finished in May, not October.

The mayor announced he would launch a major effort to rate the earthquake safety of buildings and begin the phaseout of the city's business tax, reducing the top rate over a three-year period. Garcetti did not specify how much that would cost the city's budget or how it would work. The mayor also promised to send light rail to LAX, but he did not say when.

Garcetti said he was committed to a new era of collaboration with other L.A. elected officials and the county's other 87 cities. "We've thrown out the old City Hall playbook of rivalry and back stabbing," he said.

Cynthia Porter, who works for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said she was pleased to hear Garcetti hold the line on DWP rate increases this year. She said she was optimistic that Garcetti would succeed at improving government operations.

"Let's see what he can do," she said. "The city's broken. It's not going to happen overnight."

A merger with Port of L.A.? No way, Long Beach officials say

The L.A. 2020 Commission's recommendation that the twin ports should work together gets a cool reception from Long Beach officials.


http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ports-merger-20140411,0,4795577.story#axzz2yavzivEu

By Ricardo Lopez, April 11, 2014
 
 
 Port of Long Beach balks at proposal of merging with L.A.
 
 The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have a long history of less-than-friendly rivalry. Above, a container ship is docked at the Port of L.A. on Terminal Island.

 The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are like the Coke and Pepsi of U.S. maritime transportation.

They seem similar, they dominate the competition but they have a long history of less-than-friendly rivalry. Now, an independent commission's proposal to merge the neighboring harbors is being met with skepticism.

The L.A. 2020 Commission, made up of prominent business, labor and civic leaders, on Wednesday unveiled a series of recommendations that included merging the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

But the proposal appears to have landed with a thud among Long Beach officials.

"Simply put, this is a bad idea," said Doug Drummond, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. "The Port of Long Beach is not interested in a merger with our neighbor.... I can assure you that the Port of Long Beach is better run by the citizens of Long Beach."

In its 18-page report, the 2020 Commission said that a merger makes sense because of a drop in market share at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, the busiest seaports in the U.S.

In the last 10 years, the ports' combined market share fell more than 5 percentage points, the report said. The ports operate as landlords to the shipping lines, which move millions of cargo containers full of products in and out each year.

"That drop in market share alone is the size of the fifth-biggest port in the country, Seattle-Tacoma, which accounts for more than 60,000 jobs and has in excess of $100 million in revenue," the commission said. "We should fight to bring those jobs and tax revenues back to Los Angeles."

The neighboring ports, which have operated separately for decades and have been known to poach each other's tenants, currently handle about 40% of U.S. imports. The two account directly for about 595,000 jobs in the region.

But the ports face the looming threat of a $5.2-billion expansion of the Panama Canal, which would enable larger ships to pass through the canal. That upgrade might disrupt existing routes and shift business to ports on the East and Gulf coasts, which have been expanding in anticipation of the work's completion.

To fend off that threat, the L.A. 2020 Commission said, the ports should work together as one. It pointed to examples of regional cooperation at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, as well as by New York and New Jersey officials.

"We should be competing with ports in other regions, not with each other," the report said.
Outgoing Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster bristled at the recommendation and said that no one from the 2020 Commission had sought input from his city.

Foster questioned the idea of a port merger, saying that in the past, the city of Los Angeles had approved harbor projects that disproportionately affected neighborhoods in his city.

Long Beach, for instance, sued Los Angeles last year over a $500-million rail yard planned by BNSF Railway Co. The rail yard was approved by Los Angeles city officials, but Long Beach objected, arguing that the rail yard would be directly adjacent to Long Beach neighborhoods and diminish the air quality.

Los Angeles officials have said the rail yard would be "greener" and would reduce air pollution in the area.
Long B
each was treated "very poorly by the port and the city of Los Angeles," Foster said.

Across San Pedro Bay, the Port of Los Angeles appears to be more amenable to discussing a merger. The port said it welcomes "the opportunity to discuss additional collaborative efforts that would both retain and expand the existing cargo and jobs at the San Pedro Bay port complex," said Phillip Sanfield, a port spokesman.

"The two ports have a strong track record of working together on a wide range of initiatives related to the environment, security and efficiency improvements," Sanfield said.

The commission said it relied on data and interviews with people who do business at the ports.
"Of course, the people of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles aren't going to endorse the idea of a merger," said Austin Beutner, co-chair of the commission. "They're going to fight for their turf."

The international shipping lines and major retail chains that send cargo through the ports are maintaining a diplomatic silence on the matter, declining to comment for publication.

John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Assn., which represents tenants and customers at the twin ports, said the group hasn't taken a position on the proposed merger.

But one longtime port observer, Manny Aschemeyer, a consultant on port issues who began his career at the ports in the 1970s, said clients and other users of the harbors may oppose a merger.

"There is a benefit to having two separate controlling agencies," said Aschemeyer, former director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which tracks ship movements at the ports. "It keeps them balanced in terms of charges and fees and services. And frankly, even though they're living right next door to each other, they're fiercely competitive."

A port conglomerate, he said, could mean higher rates and fees. The two ports have typically been reluctant to raise fees for fear of losing a client to the competing port.

Economist John Husing, who keeps a close eye on the Inland Empire's port-dependent warehouse industry, said the concept of one mega-port is unlikely to gain traction.

"The public benefits from competition between them," Husing said.

Jock O'Connell, an international trade economist who follows the ports, said a merger is worth considering.

Entering an agreement to work together, O'Connell said, could combine marketing efforts, potentially saving money and presenting a stronger united front. It could also make it easier for a consolidated port authority to fend off competition from other ports.

But O'Connell warned that it would be a "politically difficult task" to get the two ports to agree to a merger. That route, he said, is "fraught with political uncertainties."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Some Thoughts on Near Roadway Air Pollution and L.A.’s Future

http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/04/10/some-thoughts-on-near-roadway-air-pollution-and-l-a-s-future/#more-93537

By Joe Linton, April 10, 2014



 From Rob McConnell's presentation: air pollution spikes at freeways
From Rob McConnell’s presentation: air pollution spikes at freeways. Pollution levels drop quickly away from freeways.


I attended a forum event yesterday, entitled “The Collision of Best Intentions: Public Health, Smart Growth, and Land Use Planning.” Speakers focused focused on “NRAP” – an acronym I wasn’t familiar with. NRAP stands for Near Roadway Air Pollution. It’s the study of pollution risks near freeways and other high-volume roads.

I confess that I have been only vaguely aware of NRAP. Years ago, I had heard about studies that show health issues correlate to areas close to freeways. I vaguely recall some efforts to keep schools at a tolerable distance from freeways. I am still not all that up to speed on this issue, so apologies if I have characterized anything incorrectly in this article.

The fundamental question that this conference explored was, basically: In the light of air pollution issues, is urban densification good for overall health? There are a number of corollary issues: On congested-polluted streets, is bicycling and walking healthy? Is Transit-Oriented-Development and infill development bad for our health?

For me, a car-free bike activist, these questions go to my fundamental core. Of course bicycling and walking are good! For me, for my community, my planet. I think that there’s a body of research that backs me up. Cyclists live longer than non-cyclists. Health benefits of cycling outweigh risks by 20:1, according to a London study. Inactivity is dangerous, in the long run. There’s also research showing that car occupants are exposed to unhealthy air quality inside cars, so, even if bicycling exposes me to roadway air pollution, I don’t think I am at any greater exposure than other folks using the road. And cyclists and pedestrians are on the edge of that pollution cloud, not in the thick of it the way drivers are.

I suspect that a lot of people make poorly informed decisions based on perceived risk. The most common example is that of the person who drives to their destination because they afraid of flying. Flying is, statistically mile-for-mile, way safer than driving.

I haven’t seen a clear study on this, but I tend to think that a similar ill-informed trade-off takes place with driving and bicycling. Replacing a perceived-dangerous ~10mph bicycle trip with a perceived-safe 50+mph car trip may well put a well-intentioned person at greater risk. Not bicycling in a polluted city, while instead driving in a polluted city doesn’t make good sense to me. My hunch is that it’s a similarly false trade-off, like driving instead of flying.

From Rob McConnell's presentation: Asthma is worse closer to major roads.
From Rob McConnell’s presentation: Asthma is worse closer to major roads.

 Back to yesterday’s forum.

USC’s Rob McConnell presented on research that found clear relationship between proximity to freeways causes asthma and obesity. Apparently, historically, there was a general understanding that regional air pollution made asthma worse, but didn’t cause it. The current understanding is that roadway pollution causes asthma. Watch a similar talk by Rob McConnell here. McConnell also reviewed research linking NRAP with increased obesity.

These very real heath risks led researchers to investigate solutions. UCI’s Doug Houston spoke about a review of various structural tinkering to mitigate roadway pollution. Researchers have looked to soundwalls, sealed windows, taller building, vegetation, indoor air filtration, and more. Though those measures help, none of them quite solves the problem.

When there’s no airtight mitigation, health leaders turn to the solution that I mentioned above: keep people away from freeways. Don’t locate homes, schools, parks, work-sites, etc. within a 400 meter (~1200 foot) buffer of freeways.


I tend to think that this buffer approach results in a vicious cycle. Creating freeway buffers will spread things out even more, making for longer trips which are more difficult to walk and bike. Driving more for more trips increases traffic congestion. Congestion leads to road widening. Widening (and increased traffic volumes) means moving that initial buffer outward, compounding the problem.

As I was listening to all this, I felt like there was too much emphasis on dealing with our car-centric system as a given. Car-choked freeways are just part of the way god made our cities. We, health professionals, are just doing our best to adjust to the system we find ourselves stuck in. The discussion was all about how to keep people out of the way of pollution, but not to look at reducing or eliminating that pollution at its source. It’s as if health professionals looking at the tobacco problem just assumed that smoking happens everywhere, and then spent a lot of effort studying gas-masks for non-smokers. Taking on tobacco is a great public health success – because health professionals were able to ban tobacco from many places, and to stigmatize tobacco based on its threat to health.

(I also think that an overly narrow focus on near-roadway-air-pollution makes us miss other huge health risks associated with cars. Every year, driving kills 30,000+ people in the U.S., 1.5 million worldwide. There are greenhouse gases, water pollution, noise pollution, obesity, and plenty more issues.)

I was glad to hear Occidental College’s Mark Vallianatos, commenting from the floor microphone, suggest an important alternative. Instead of moving people away from roads, let’s change our roads to be safe for people. If we have schools, playgrounds, housing, etc. adjacent to a road, then, for the sake of health, let’s design and regulate that road to limit vehicle emissions to safe levels. Let’s traffic-calm and road diet our arterials, downgrade our freeways, hopefully get rid of, at least, some of them.

Reducing car capacity isn’t politically easy. It may not work everywhere right now, but, going back to what the forum was addressing, I think it’s important for our core urban neighborhoods. It’s important for the places where we’re trying to make smart growth and TOD work. If health professionals are questioning the health effectiveness of smart growth, of walking, and of bicycling, then we need to also question the unhealthy car-centric systems that surround and endanger these solutions.

Have U.S. Light Rail Systems Been Worth the Investment?

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/04/have-us-light-rail-systems-been-worth-investment/8838/

By Yonah Freemark, April 10, 2014



 Have U.S. Light Rail Systems Been Worth the Investment?


Five U.S. metros (Buffalo, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose) opened light rail systems in the 1980s to great fanfare. The mode offered many of the benefits of subway systems for far less public money; San Diego's system, per mile, cost about one-seventh of Washington, D.C.'s Metrorail. Light rail cities like Portland became transportation models for the country, pointing toward a transit-friendly urban future.

Thirty years later, light rail remains the most appealing mode of new public transportation for many American cities. Billions of local, state, and federal dollars have been invested in 650 miles of new light rail lines in 16 regions, and today 144 miles of additional lines are under construction at a cost of more than $25 billion. Many more lines are planned. No region has invested in a new heavy rail subway system, on the other hand, since 1993.

Based on the decisions to build these projects, which were made by hundreds of local officials and often endorsed by residents through referenda, you might think that the experience building light rail in the 1980s had been unambiguously successful. Yet it doesn't take much digging to find that over the past thirty years, these initial five systems in themselves neither rescued the center cities of their respective regions nor resulted in higher transit use — the dual goals of those first-generation lines.

According to an analysis of Census data, in four of the five cities with new light rail lines, the share of regional workers choosing to ride transit to work declined, and the center city's share of the urbanized area population declined, too. San Jose was the only exception, seeing a quarter of a percentage increase in the percentage of workers using transit and a 6 percentage point increase in its center city's share of the urbanized area.



The light rail lines have been useful in transporting a large portion of transit ridership in the regions where they have been built, carrying more than 39 percent of riders in Portland, Sacramento, and San Diego. But while light rail may appear to make the public transportation system more appealing to the average rider, the construction of such a system will not automatically result in increased transit use. The data from 30 years' experience with the mode in the United States — certainly enough time for the demographic or real estate changes that are usually expected to parallel new rail investments — make that very clear.

Two of the initial light rail metros, Buffalo and Portland, had significantly higher transit mode shares in 1980 (7.9 and 9.7 percent, respectively) than they did in 2012. As shown in the following graph, Buffalo's share of transit commuters fell at a rate very similar to the median of the 15 non-rail cities with transit mode shares of above 7 percent in 1980. Though Portland did better, its ultimate transit mode share in 2012 was lower than that of Atlantic City, Boulder, Honolulu, and Iowa City — none of which built light rail during this period.



The three other early-adopter light rail cities didn't do much better. Between 1980 and 2012, the transit shares in these light rail cities remained virtually the same (in the case of San Diego and San Jose) or declined only slightly (in Sacramento). They did, however, experience less of a fall than the 61 other metro areas with similar transit shares in 1980, whose median transit mode share declined from 3.6 to just 1.7 percent. (Of this group, only Bloomington, Gainesville, Poughkeepsie, and San Jose actually gained transit share from 1980 to 2012.)



There is one metric by which the metro areas with 1980s light rail investments "thrived" more than others: core population. The following chart documents six early-adopter light rail metros (including Pittsburgh, which updated its streetcar line with a light rail tunnel) against cities that invested in rail during other periods or regions that didn't invest in rail at all. The median 1980s light rail metro saw its center city’s share of the urbanized area population decline by just 6 percent by 2012, compared to more than 10 percent for the 45 other regions with populations of more than 500,000 in 1980.



So cities that built light rail during this decade did have some documentable success in aiding their cores. Whether that relative success resulted from light rail is unclear; there are plenty of other urban growth factors that come into play. But light rail may have provided a boost to urban advocates — or, just as likely, the implementation of light rail may have been a result of urban advocacy — that, in turn, led to both overall transit ridership and center city population stability.

How getting from here to there is changing forever.
See full coverage
Even this relatively positive outcome doesn't compensate for the fact that regions that invested in light rail in the 1980s largely failed to increase the share of workers commuting by transit, or to increase the vitality of their center cities with respect to the surrounding regions. Does this mean we should cease investment in new light rail lines? Certainly not; in many cases, rail has provided the essential boost to reinvigorate communities, and in some cases it has also resulted in higher ridership than before: just look at Rosslyn-Ballston in the D.C. region or Kendall Square in the Boston region.

But spending on new lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period (I-990 in Buffalo, I-205 in Portland, US 50 in Sacramento, CA 54 in San Diego, and CA 237 in San Jose), and each continued to sprawl (including Portland, despite its urban growth boundary). These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail's mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Los Angeles 2020 Commission calls for changes to improve the city

The panel recommends 13 steps, including higher wages and new DWP oversight, to 'put the city on a path to fiscal stability and renew job creation.'


http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-2020-report-20140410,0,1320689.story#axzz2ySWp4ryh
By David Zahniser and James Rainey, April 9, 2014
 
 
Port of Los Angeles

 Containers are unloaded from a ship at the Port of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles 2020 Commission, composed of prominent business, labor and civic leaders, recommended that the L.A. and Long Beach ports be combined into a single entity to bolster their market share.

Three months after it painted L.A. as a metropolis stumbling into decline, the Los Angeles 2020 Commission offered 13 recommendations Wednesday that it said would attract jobs and "put the city on a path to fiscal stability."

The group of prominent business, labor and civic leaders called on elected officials to enact a wide-ranging series of policy initiatives: increasing the minimum wage, combining giant twin harbors into a single port, altering oversight of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and bolstering efforts to promote regional tourism.

All the actions were necessary, commission members warned, to keep Los Angeles from becoming "a city left behind in the 21st century."

The panel released its report a day before Mayor Eric Garcetti was scheduled to give his first State of the City address.

"The City Council and the mayor ought to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to each one of these," said commission co-Chairman Austin Beutner, who was former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's "jobs czar."

Garcetti offered a brief response to the report, thanking the panel but declining to say whether he supported or opposed the various proposals. "Mayor Garcetti always welcomes new ideas as he works to reform City Hall and improve our economy," spokesman Yusef Robb said.

The commission, created last year at the prompting of City Council President Herb Wesson, called for city pension agencies to make more conservative projections about their investment returns. It proposed boosting voter turnout by moving city elections to coincide with even-year state and federal elections. And it called for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which compete fiercely for cargo shipments, to join forces to shore up their shrinking share of the U.S. market.

The panel did not delve deeper into some issues it raised three months ago in a strongly worded report on the city's economic health. In that document, the panel sounded the alarm over rising City Hall pension costs, saying leaders had been captive to "wishful thinking and avoidance of hard choices."

In its follow-up report, the commission offered no specific recommendation on the size of benefits. Instead, it suggested the city form a temporary Commission on Retirement Security to gather "an accurate understanding of the facts" concerning pension costs.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who heads the council's budget committee, voiced disappointment at the lack of specifics on pension benefits. "I would have hoped that the commission would have the facts that it needed in the time that it's been doing its work," he said.

Beutner, who once considered running for mayor of L.A., said a follow-up commission is needed because the 2020 panel received conflicting information on pensions. The 2020 group did specify, however, that it prefers preserving fixed pension benefits for city retirees because they help maintain "a stable and experienced workforce."

The panel included former Gov. Gray Davis, San Fernando Valley business leader David Fleming and Kathay Feng, who heads California Common Cause. Three union leaders also were on the commission, as was former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis — a candidate for county supervisor with close ties to unions.

Commission co-Chairman Mickey Kantor, a former U.S. Commerce Secretary, said the panel had to limit its scope. "We're 13 people without staff," he said. "So we dealt with … what we understood."

The 2020 Commission joined the national chorus favoring higher pay for low-skilled workers, saying the region can "do better than $10 an hour by 2016." In an interview, Kantor said the higher wage should be imposed at least countywide and predicted that other counties would follow suit.

"If it doesn't get to $11 for a full-time worker, you don't get out of poverty," Kantor said. The state minimum wage is set to go to $9 an hour this summer and to $10 by 2016.

A substantial portion of Wednesday's report focused on the reconfiguration of the city bureaucracy. Beutner said the commission's single most important proposal is the creation of an Independent Office of Transparency and Accountability.

That office would have an executive director and about 10 staffers and function like the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, providing an "honest score card" on how the city spends taxpayer money.

"There is no place for an average Angeleno or, for that matter, someone who works at the L.A. Times, or anything in between, to go for facts," he said in an interview.

Similarly, the 2020 panel recommended the creation of a Los Angeles Utility Rate Commission to oversee the Department of Water and Power, the nation's largest municipal utility. DWP commissioners currently volunteer their time and are appointed by the mayor. Under the 2020 Commission's recommendation, panel members would still be chosen by the mayor but would receive full-time salaries and their own staff.

The proposal would "take the politics out of the DWP," an agency "often subject to political interference," the 2020 panel said.

But former DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras said the changes would make the utility's leadership more political, not less, with members of the new utility commission currying favor from elected officials and others to keep their high-paying jobs.

Wesson promised to "properly vet" the 2020 panel's recommendations and said he is interested in some of its proposals. But he disputed the idea that city lawmakers intrude too much into DWP matters.

"We have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure the DWP functions as effectively as it can," he said. "We were elected by the people to be engaged, and we are engaged."

 Beutner ran the DWP in the months after the council blocked a plan by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for four consecutive electricity rate hikes. Another 2020 Commission member is Brian D'Arcy, who heads the powerful union that represents most DWP employees and has been at odds with Garcetti.

Other changes proposed by the commission could face political opposition. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have their own governing boards, although they have sometimes cooperated, as with the creation of the Alameda Corridor rail line to speed shipment of goods inland.

Beutner said Southern California could more effectively compete with other ports if Los Angeles and Long Beach worked together. But Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster criticized the idea of a port merger, saying Los Angeles has previously approved harbor projects that disproportionately affected neighborhoods in his city.

Foster noted that last year, L.A. approved a $500-million new rail yard. Long Beach officials argued that Los Angeles did not adequately address pollution and other environmental concerns that might affect nearby Long Beach neighborhoods. Kantor, an attorney, represented the railway company, BNSF, that proposed the project.

"There are some special interests that think it might be easier to deal with one [port], rather than two," Foster said. "I get very skeptical when I see consultants and lawyers trying to put together a deal."





California’s Most Polluted Neighborhoods Home To Ethnic Minorities

http://www.neontommy.com/news/2014/04/california-s-most-polluted-neighborhoods-home-ethnic-minorities-report-shows

By Alex Janin, April 8, 2014




 Screenshot of Southern California area, dark blue indicates most polluted (Janin/CalEnviroScreen)
 Screenshot of Southern California area, dark blue indicates most polluted (Janin/CalEnviroScreen)

Many California residents, particularly in big cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, gripe about the ever-present smog that hangs over the skyline, but some communities have it far worse than others.

According to a report from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, ethnic minorities, particularly Latinos and African Americans, make up a large proportion of residents in the most polluted neighborhoods despite making up a relatively small percentage of the statewide population.

An online tool called the CalEnviroScreen depicts California’s pollution levels by ZIP code using a color scale. According to the OEHHA’s report, it represents immediate pollution levels and “potential vulnerability” for the pollution of a community. Initially launched in 2012, the tool has recently been updated to include racial and ethnic makeup of a population.

Clumps of dark blue represent the state’s most polluted areas. Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley encompass the worst scoring ZIP codes.

The report finds that African Americans, who make up less than 13 percent of the statewide population, comprise almost a third of the worst polluted ZIP codes.

Latinos, another ethnic minority group, make up a large majority of the ten percent most polluted ZIP codes. Only 37.6 percent of California residents are Latino.

What accounts for this disproportion?

Ed Avol, an expert on air pollution and its impact on public health, believes there is a socioeconomic element to consider.

“Simply put, people tend to live where they can afford to, and people generally prefer to live among their peers,” said Avol.

Others believe the connection between ethnic minorities and polluted neighborhoods is related to career opportunist rather than social circumstances.

Roberto Cabrales, a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment in Huntington Park, attributed the link to job availability.

“It’s important to consider the historic make-up of the community,” Cabrales said. “There was a demographic change in Southeast Los Angeles in the ‘70s and ‘80s when immigrants started fleeing gang activity and started buying homes here—affordability is a key factor and these weren’t the best paying jobs, which is why Latinos tended to go after them.”

Avol pointed out that lower-rent areas are in less desirable locations, often near busy freeways or industrial facilities. People who live in these neighborhoods often get overlooked when it comes to political determinations, he said.

“Without a political ally to represent their community’s point of view, people tend to get ignored in key developmental decisions such as where a new freeway or rail yard may be built, and these facilities are rarely built in highly affluent places like Beverley Hills or Palos Verdes,” Avol said.
However, certain community groups are working hard to get the attention of their legislatures to help eliminate pollution in their neighborhoods. CBE has built its organization around the mission to “build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low income communities to achieve environmental health and justice.”

Cabrales says his primary responsibility is to engage the local community to hold elected officials and polluters responsible for cleaning up the neighborhoods.

“We’re surrounded by manufacturing hubs, stationary sources [of pollution] that produce and handle chemicals, body shops, power plants, and mobile pollution,” said Cabrales.  “We’re boxed in by all the major freeways in Southern California, which elevates our risk for cancer so we make sure every decision being made involves the community.”

Seattle tunnel critic files lawsuit to stop Bertha repairs

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Tunnel-critic-files-suit-against-Bertha-repairs-254562591.html?mobile=y&clmob=y&c=n

By Corwin Haeck, April 9, 2014




Seattle tunnel critic files lawsuit to stop Bertha repairs



SEATTLE - A longtime opponent of the Seattle waterfront tunnel project has filed a lawsuit to stop repairs on "Bertha."

Elizabeth Campbell says plans to dig a hole to repair the tunnel drill amount to a whole new project.

"We feel that this project was not covered by the prior environmental review," Campbell tells KOMO Newsradio.

Bertha has been stalled underground since last December, due to damaged seals that protect the drill's main bearing. Contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners proposes to dig a 100 foot deep, 80 foot wide shaft to reach the drill and make repairs.

Campbell, who has previously mounted initiative drives against the project, has filed a suit in federal court, calling for a new environmental review. She believes the repair dig creates a new set of environmental hazards.

"They're going to do a lot of what they call 'de-watering,'" Campbell says. "That's an extensive amount of water that has to be treated. We really don't know what they have planned for that."

She's also concerned about the new dig's impact on nearby structures. "It could destabilize some of the buildings in Pioneer Square," she says. "None of that was addressed in the prior environmental review."

The suit filed March 27 in U.S. District Court seeks a preliminary injunction to stop the repair work until a new environmental review is completed. The suit names as defendants Seattle Tunnel Partners, the city of Seattle, the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Campbell remains opposed to the tunnel, but says she no longer seeks to stop the project altogether.

"It's breathtaking the size of it, and I just don't see that the project is going to end," she says. "At the same time, you need to keep making sure that it's safe, that it's environmentally friendly, and that the public's money is being spent well."

Former Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck, a tunnel supporter, allows that Campbell raises legitimate questions about the impact of the repair project, but he tells KOMO Newsradio, “I’m not sure it warrants a full-bore new environmental review process."

Campbell believes a federal judge will address the issue of a preliminary injunction within a few weeks.

Delaney Testifies at Transportation & Infrastructure Committee P3 Panel Hearing

For more information on the P3 Panel, click here. http://transport.house.gov/news/documentsingle. aspx? Delaney's infrastructure bill, the Partnership to Build America Act is one of the largest pieces of bipartisan legislation in Congress and encourages the expansion of public-private partnerships in the United States. The American Infrastructure...

 http://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/2014/04/09/delaney-testifies-at-transportation-infrastructure-com

Rep. John Delany, D-Md., news release, April 8, 2014 


 Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6) spoke at Tuesday's House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Special Panel on Public-Private Partnerships. The hearing, titled "The International Experience with Public-Private Partnerships" included testimony by Delaney, along with experts on global trends in public-private partnerships in infrastructure. For more information on the P3 Panel, click here.http://transport.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=367010

Delaney's infrastructure bill, the Partnership to Build America Act (H.R. 2084) is one of the largest pieces of bipartisan legislation in Congress and encourages the expansion of public-private partnerships in the United States. The bill currently has 31 Republican and 30 Democratic cosponsors in the House. The American Infrastructure Fund, created by Delaney's bill, is effectively a public-private partnership with private capital providing the initial $50 billion by purchasing infrastructure bonds. Delaney's bill requires 25% of projects be public private partnerships, for which at least 20% of the financing is private debt or equity.

For more information on the Partnership to Build America Act, click here. http://delaney.house.gov/information-on-congressman-delaneys-infrastructure-bill Congressman Delaney submitted the following statement to the panel:

Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Capuano, and esteemed colleagues on the P3 Panel:

Thank you for inviting me today to speak about public-private partnerships, the international experience, and my legislation to create a large-scale infrastructure finance entity to finance infrastructure projects here in the United States.

As today's subsequent panelists will no doubt explain in great detail, other countries have taken the lead in using public-private partnerships to build their infrastructure, and we in the U.S. are just starting to catch up.

Public-private partnerships can be used to provide a much needed capital boost to fund our infrastructure projects in certain circumstances. But in looking at the international experience around P3s and private capital held overseas alongside our infrastructure needs here at home, I thought it might be productive to highlight my legislation which uses a public-private model to provide up to $750 billion of infrastructure financing for our infrastructure projects.

My bill, H.R. 2084: the Partnership to Build America Act, creates a $50 billion infrastructure financing entity that isn't capitalized in the traditional way, by the government putting in the money. Instead this entity, called the American Infrastructure Fund, is effectively created as a public private partnership, with the $50 billion of capital being put in by the private sector in exchange for a one-time tax break. Specifically, the American Infrastructure Fund would sell 50-year bonds that pay a fixed interest rate of only one percent. The bonds in and of themselves would be a bad investment, but U.S. based multinational corporations will be incentivized to buy them because for every dollar of bond they purchase, they will be able to repatriate a certain amount of their overseas earnings tax free. That multiplier of how much they repatriate compared to bonds purchased will be determined by auction, but we expect that ratio to be around 4:1. The company can then sell the bonds--which you'll remember are a bad investment on their own--at a huge loss. If they sell them for around 20 cents on the dollar, then the "effective tax rate" of their loss on the bonds over the tax free repatriation will be in the 10%-15% range. This brings about $200 billion back from overseas into the U.S. economy in addition to the capitalizing the American Infrastructure Fund.


The $50 billion of capital in the American Infrastructure Fund can be safely leveraged at a 15:1 ratio to provide $750 billion of infrastructure financing, mostly in terms of low-cost bond insurance for muni-bonds, but also for low-cost loans. Access to low cost capital is important for states and municipalities to build their infrastructure, and expanding this access will pave the way for the increased infrastructure investment we desperately need. Additionally, the Partnership leverages private capital by encouraging public private partnerships by requiring a certain percentage of the projects to be PPPs.

The legislation is very bipartisan. In the House, we have 31 Republicans and 31 Democrats on the bill. In the Senate, they have 6 Democrats and 7 Republicans. The bill is also supported by a bipartisan group of think tanks and other stakeholders. As we look for ways to move the Surface Transportation Reauthorization forward and ensure solvency for the Highway Trust Fund, we should do so from the starting point that we need to INCREASE our infrastructure investment, not merely maintain the status quo which has left our infrastructure in its current deficient state. The bipartisan Partnership to Build America Act is teed up to do just that.

I know that two cosponsors of the bill are on this panel, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and Congressman Scott Perry. I'd like to end by thanking them for their support on this legislation, and thanking the panel for allowing me to testify.
TNS 30TacordaCheng-140409-4697012 30Ta
cordaCheng



 

Bill Clinton, Yes — Sacramento, No

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2014/04/clinton-yes-sacramento/

By Gary Toebben, April 9, 2014

Last Thursday morning, former President Bill Clinton was at L.A. City Hall with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss strategies to finance economic development and to promote job growth, climate mitigation and resiliency through 21st century infrastructure. Clinton was joined by the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange and spent much of his time touting the opportunity to use public-private partnerships to advance infrastructure projects in Los Angeles and California.

The business community in Los Angeles and California is in complete agreement. However, you won’t find strong support for public-private partnerships in Sacramento. The same day that President Clinton was in L.A., the California Assembly passed a resolution urging lawmakers to oppose contracting out for public services. Proponents of the resolution said that outsourcing leads to a lack of transparency and accountability for taxpayer dollars and that the private sector isn’t as reliable or efficient as the public sector.

Labor unions in Sacramento have objected to outsourcing and public-private partnerships for years always using the same logic. As a result, California lawmakers who would like to compare prices and those who have visited other cities and nations where public-private partnerships are working, have been handcuffed to the status quo.

President Clinton knows that there is not enough money in Washington, D.C. or Sacramento to address the infrastructure needs of our nation or state. He also knows that public-private partnerships are viable. “We should be organizing our financing around the challenges of tomorrow, not the solutions of the past,” the former president said. Obviously, that message has not yet seen the light of day in Sacramento.

The resolution:

mended  IN  Assembly  April 03, 2014
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 13, 2014


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2013–2014 REGULAR SESSION

House Resolution No. 29


Introduced by Assembly Member Gomez
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Alejo, Ammiano, Atkins, Bloom, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Buchanan, Campos, Chau, Chesbro, Dababneh, Dickinson, Fong, Frazier, Gatto, Gonzalez, Hall, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Lowenthal, Nazarian, Pan, John A. Pérez, Quirk, Rendon, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Skinner, Stone, Ting, Weber, Wieckowski, Williams, and Yamada)

February 04, 2014


Relative to outsourcing public services.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


HR 29, as amended, Gomez.

WHEREAS, Public services and assets are the fabric that binds our communities together. They are also a ladder to the middle class; and
WHEREAS, Faced with severe budget problems in the wake of the Great Recession, state and local governments across America are handing over control of public services and assets to corporations that promise to operate them better, faster, and cheaper; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing these services and assets often fails to keep these promises, and too often it undermines transparency, accountability, and shared prosperity and competition - the underpinnings of democracy itself; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing means that taxpayers have less say over how future tax dollars are spent and have no ability to vote out executives who make decisions that could harm the public interest; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing means taxpayers are often contractually limited to a single for-profit corporation; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing frequently means that wages and benefits for public service workers fall and the local economy suffers while corporate profits rise. The Center for American Progress Action Fund has found that of the 5.4 million people working for federal service contractors in 2008, an estimated 80 percent earned below the living wage for their city or region. For-profit corporations are three times more likely than the public sector to employ workers at poverty-threshold wages; and two million private sector employees working for federal contractors earn less than $12 an hour - too little to support a family. That is more low wage workers than are employed by McDonald’s and WalMart combined; and
WHEREAS, Outsourcing means that taxpayers often no longer know how their tax dollars are being spent. Meetings and records that used to be open to the public can become proprietary information when corporations take over; and
WHEREAS, The Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda is one model that may help ensure transparency, accountability, shared prosperity, and competition in the operation of public services and assets; and
WHEREAS, Planks in the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda would require governments to post information about their contracts online and require contractors to open their books to the public, ensure that governments have the capacity to adequately oversee contracts, to cancel contracts that fail to deliver on their promises, prohibit law breaking companies from getting government contracts, require contractors to pay their employees living wages and benefits, require competitive bidding on contracts that guarantee company profits at the expense of taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, Recent polling shows that taxpayers oppose the outsourcing of public services and assets to for-profit companies and support these common sense controls to ensure that their interests are protected; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, That the Assembly opposes outsourcing of public services and assets, which harms transparency, accountability, shared prosperity, and competition, and supports processes that give public service workers the opportunity to develop their own plan on how to deliver cost-effective, high-quality services; and be it further
Resolved, That the Assembly urges local officials to become familiar with the provisions of the Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda; and be it further
Resolved, That the Assembly intends to introduce and advocate for responsible outsourcing legislation; and be it further
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the author for appropriate distribution.
Last Thursday morning, former President Bill Clinton was at L.A. City Hall with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss strategies to finance economic development and to promote job growth, climate mitigation and resiliency through 21st century infrastructure. Clinton was joined by the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange and spent much of his time touting the opportunity to use public-private partnerships to advance infrastructure projects in Los Angeles and California.
The business community in Los Angeles and California is in complete agreement. However, you won’t find strong support for public-private partnerships in Sacramento. The same day that President Clinton was in L.A., the California Assembly passed a resolution urging lawmakers to oppose contracting out for public services. Proponents of the resolution said that outsourcing leads to a lack of transparency and accountability for taxpayer dollars and that the private sector isn’t as reliable or efficient as the public sector.
Labor unions in Sacramento have objected to outsourcing and public-private partnerships for years always using the same logic. As a result, California lawmakers who would like to compare prices and those who have visited other cities and nations where public-private partnerships are working, have been handcuffed to the status quo.
President Clinton knows that there is not enough money in Washington, D.C. or Sacramento to address the infrastructure needs of our nation or state. He also knows that public-private partnerships are viable. “We should be organizing our financing around the challenges of tomorrow, not the solutions of the past,” the former president said. Obviously, that message has not yet seen the light of day in Sacramento.
- See more at: http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2014/04/clinton-yes-sacramento/#sthash.6MAYRhio.dpuf

The Fiscal Insanity of Highway Building

http://streetsblog.net/2014/04/09/the-fiscal-insanity-of-highway-building/

By Angie Schmitt, April 9, 2014

Dallas. Photo: David Herrara via Flicker (CC)

 Highways crisscross highways in Dallas, yet transportation officials never seem to think there are enough.



To peer inside the minds of highway builders, take a look at what’s happening in Dallas.

Patrick Kennedy at Network blog Walkable Dallas Fort Worth has been poring over a 2007 document produced by regional planners at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Interestingly, this seven-year-old document proclaimed an urgent need for the as-yet-unbuilt Trinity Toll Road, which highway builders are still trying to push through today.

Kennedy points out that without the Trinity Toll Road, Dallas has somehow avoided collapsing into chaos in the past seven years. He proceeds to attack the arguments for highway building, starting with the notion that Dallas needs a multi-billion dollar highway to reduce $66 million in congestion costs:
You’re telling me we need to spend $5 billion in order to save $66 million? And that’s just to build the roads, let alone the life cycle costs. This math and logic is why TxDOT is $35 billion in the hole right now. Congestion can’t be fought with more highway capacity. It can only be diminished by getting people out of cars and building more walkable communities. DFW is tied with Detroit for most car-dependent major city in the country…

Meanwhile, the cost of car-dependence is $2 trillion nationally. In Houston, they spend $33 billion unnecessarily on making the exact same trips that occur in Copenhagen. But in Copenhagen, they’re far more efficient and cost effective.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee shares the results of an online survey indicating support from county residents for more transit, while public officials at the state level only deliver service cuts. World Streets explains the Netherlands’ history with car sharing. And Strong Towns says Minnesota’s plan to spend $1.1 billion on road projects this summer is a complete waste.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Emissions from diesel can damage children's brains and increase the risk of autism and schizophrenia, scientists warn

  • Nitrogen dioxide, created by diesel causes damage to lungs and throat
  • American scientists have warned that fumes also linked to autism
  • Warning comes after research carried out on autistic babies in California
  • UK report now recommends switch from petrol to diesel cars
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2598212/Emissions-diesel-damage-childrens-brains-increase-risk-autism-schizophrenia-scientists-warn.html
By Emily Kent Smith, April 7, 2014
 Research has revealed that diesel fumes could cause children to develop autism and schizophrenia
 Research has revealed that diesel fumes could cause children to develop autism and schizophrenia

 An environmental report has blasted diesel cars  - despite earlier government efforts to encourage drivers to switch from petrol to diesel.

Separate research has also revealed that diesel fumes could cause children to develop autism and schizophrenia.

Nitrogen dioxide, a chemical present in diesel emissions, causes eye, nose and throat irritation and is said to cause breathing problems in young children.

But scientists have warned that as well as damaging the lungs, the fumes could cause autism and schizophrenia to develop within children living near busy roads.
Long-term exposure to the fumes changes the way that a child's brain develops, it has been revealed.

The danger of the fumes has been compared to the effect of lead in petrol. 

In 1999, lead in petrol was banned after scientists revealed that lead additives caused brain damage in children.

The concerns over the fumes have been raised in a report by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Ian Mudway, a researcher in respiratory toxicology at King's College, and a co-author of the report told The Sunday Times that there is 'strong evidence' that diesel pollutants have an effect on cognitive function in children.

Dr Mudway said the organisation planned to carry out more research on the theme in London because the original study was conducted in California where diesel vehicle use is significantly lower.

The study, from California, reported last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at 525 children, 279 of the children had autism.

London was covered in a cloud of smog last week after dust from the Sahara became became mixed with pollution from Europe and the UK
London was covered in a cloud of smog last week after dust from the Sahara became became mixed with pollution from Europe and the UK


A warning from the Air Quality Expert Group in report by commissioned by the UK Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has raised concerns that nitrogen dioxide emissions, created by diesel cars, have continued to rise over the past decade
A warning from the Air Quality Expert Group in report by commissioned by the UK Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has raised concerns that nitrogen dioxide emissions, created by diesel cars, have continued to rise over the past decade

Results found that the pollution levels experienced by mothers' during pregnancy and by the babies the first year of their life were strongly linked to the risk of developing autism.

A further two American studies found that older men and women exposed to high levels of pollution experienced higher memory loss compared to others of the same age.
 Much of the research on the topic has come from the United States - despite the fact that diesel is mainly used in buses and heavy goods vehicles there rather than normal cars.


Research in California found that the pollution levels experienced by mothers' during pregnancy and by the babies the first year of their life were strongly linked to the risk of developing autism
Research in California found that the pollution levels experienced by mothers' during pregnancy and by the babies the first year of their life were strongly linked to the risk of developing autism


On Wednesday in London, there was a surge in 999 calls after a cloud of smog caused breathing problems across the city.

Now a warning from the Air Quality Expert Group in report by commissioned by the UK Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has raised concerns that nitrogen dioxide emissions, created by diesel cars, have continued to rise over the past decade. 


In the study, scientists have urged ministers to make a u-turn back to petrol vehicles.


The air quality group, which provides independent scientific advice to the government, told ministers that it would be easier to promote petrol rather than attempt to clean up diesel.

One of the authors of the report, David Carslaw, blasted the European Union for the 'complete failure' of the way emissions are regulated.

Mr Carslaw told The Sunday Times that European guidelines on testing cars were 'too lenient'. Tests did not reflect how vehicles perform on real roads, where they produce four to five times the number of emissions, he said. 
 


Mr Carslaw said: 'Switching to petrol is the best idea for light vehicles', which includes cars, taxis and small vans.

A switch from diesel to petrol would be a lengthy process because a third of Britain's 29million private cars are diesel-powered.

A switch from diesel to petrol would be a lengthy process because a third of Britain's 29million private cars are diesel powered. And the number of diesel cars is on the up - half of the new cars registered in 2012 were diesel powered
A switch from diesel to petrol would be a lengthy process because a third of Britain's 29million private cars are diesel powered. And the number of diesel cars is on the up - half of the new cars registered in 2012 were diesel powered


And the number of diesel cars is on the up - half of the new cars registered in 2012 used diesel.

This is the third time that scientists have recommended a move from diesel to petrol. The two previous warnings were both archived by DEFRA.



A government spokesman said that there was no 'single magic bullet' to tackle air pollution and one form of transport could not be linked to pollution levels.