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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Proposal for rail corridor through Angeles National Forest draws fire


By Dan Weikel, August 29, 2014

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich
 L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich recommended that a swath on the west side of the Angeles National Forest be studied for a potential high-speed rail route, but he did not include specific alignments.

A recent proposal to study cutting a high-speed rail corridor through the Angeles National Forest is drawing fire from San Fernando Valley communities near the preserve's southwest boundary.
Calling Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich's idea vague and ill-conceived, groups that represent thousands of residents want the California High-Speed Rail Authority to disregard the suggestion.

The opposition is primarily coming from Sunland, Sun Valley, Lake View Terrace, Shadow Hills, La Tuna Canyon and Tujunga — areas that might be disrupted by a forest alignment depending on where it would go. Some residents contend the proposal is already threatening property values and pending real estate sales.

"Antonovich has not communicated with us or returned our calls," said attorney Bill Eick, who sits on the board of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Assn. "Basically, he has thrown us under the train."

Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich, called the criticism a positive development that will foster further discussion about the route's feasibility.

"We want to make sure there aren't additional impacts in any one of our communities," Bell said, adding that the supervisor wants to hear from all interested parties.

Antonovich recommended that a swath on the west side of the forest be studied for potential routes, but he did not include specific alignments.

The rail authority has agreed to consider — at least preliminarily — the supervisor's proposal for the Palmdale-Burbank leg as well as two separate alignments along the Antelope Valley Freeway that planners have studied for years.

The California 14 routes would pass through Acton, Agua Dulce, the Sand Canyon area and Santa Clarita, all of which are in Antonovich's district. Residents of those communities also fear that high-speed trains would degrade the surroundings and devalue their property.

In addition, there have been concerns in nearby Sylmar, Pacoima and the city of San Fernando that the routes, which head south from Santa Clarita to Burbank, could dissect their neighborhoods.

Antonovich contends that the forest route might be cheaper to build and would avoid the risk of harming his constituents from Acton to Santa Clarita.

Critics in the east San Fernando Valley say that although some of their communities are also in the supervisor's district, they have not received the same consideration from him.

"Antonovich is only trying to relieve pressure from his constituents in Acton, Agua Dulce and Santa Clarita without concern for us and without adequate study," said David DePinto, who is also on the board of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Assn.

Another group, the Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council, which represents the Los Angeles communities of Shadow Hills, Lake View Terrace and La Tuna Canyon, voted earlier this month to oppose any forest alignment.

Caught in the middle is Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes, who represents areas with opposing views on the potential bullet train routes between Palmdale and Burbank.

Fuentes, who says he does not prefer any particular corridor, will urge high-speed rail officials to keep the trains in tunnels as much as possible and to reduce the potential effects on homes, businesses, recreation facilities and other kinds of transportation.

The councilman, community organizations and others are now submitting comments and opinions about the Palmdale-Burbank routes to the high-speed rail authority. If there is enough support for Antonovich's proposal, the authority could select it for more in-depth study.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Long Beach, Los Angeles port truckers allege employers violated L.A. mayor’s truce


By Karen Robes Meeks, August 29, 2014

Father William Connor delivers a prayer and blessing on the truck drivers involved in a labor battle against the companies. LA/LB port truck drivers say  massive violations have occurred during a cooling off period made in a deal with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who struck a truce with truckers and employers after four days of strikes at port terminals. Truckers argue that companies Total Transportations Services Inc. (TTSI), Pacific 9 Transportation, and Green Fleet Systems have continued and in some cases, escalated retaliatory activity. Compton August 29, 2014. (Photo by Brittany Murray / Daily Breeze)

 The Rev. William Connor delivers a prayer and blessing on the truck drivers involved in a labor battle against the companies. LA/LB port truck drivers say massive violations have occurred during a cooling off period made in a deal with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who struck a truce with truckers and employers after four days of strikes at port terminals. Truckers argue that companies Total Transportations Services Inc. (TTSI), Pacific 9 Transportation, and Green Fleet Systems have continued and in some cases, escalated retaliatory activity. Compton August 29, 2014.

COMPTON >> Truck drivers who carry goods in and out of the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports said Friday that three harbor area trucking companies violated a truce brokered by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

State and federal labor regulators also ruled Friday against two of the companies in separate cases.

At a press conference across the street from Total Transportations Services Inc., truck drivers and their supporters contended that Total Transportation, Pacific 9 Transportation and Green Fleet Systems have continued, and in some cases escalated, retaliation despite a July 12 deal with Garcetti, who asked truckers and employers to cool it after five days of strikes at port terminals.

“We put down our picket lines because we trusted Mayor Garcetti when he said that he would investigate the violations that have been going on at our companies,” said Santiago Aguilar, a Pacific 9 driver. “Since I went back to work, Pac 9 has continued to break the law by firing several of my coworkers. The mayor has to do something to stop this because if this continues we’re going back on strike.”

Representatives for the trucking firms declined to comment Friday.

Under the deal, the firms agreed to accept all drivers back to work without retaliation and without being forced to sign away all future rights in new truck leases
In turn, drivers would stop picketing and return to work on their regular shifts so that the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners can have time to look into what drivers say are worker safety issues and unfair labor practices. The commission is expected to report back to Garcetti with its findings.

But truckers said employers reneged on their promise to the mayor, demanding that drivers must sign new leases on the condition that they will drop their wage claims against the company.

“Otherwise, at the end of the month, we are out,” said Hugo Mendez, a driver for Total Transportation.

Carson Councilman Mike Gipson called the companies’ treatment of drivers reprehensible.

“It’s modern-day slavery. ... It should stop now,” he said. “We’re asking this company to stand by what you agreed on with the mayor. No retaliation. Let the workers go back to work.”

After the press conference, a group of drivers and their supporters marched to Total Transportation’s front doors to hand over a petition signed by drivers asking that the company recognize Teamsters Local 848 in bargaining.

Garcetti said in a statement Friday that he called for a cooling-off period so that both sides can “resume normal operations and engage in productive dialogue, not engage in actions against each other.”

“These allegations are very serious and I want to be clear — putting our port operations at risk is unacceptable,” Garcetti said. “Cool off and focus on an agreement.”

Friday’s actions came on the same day the Long Beach office of the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ordered Total Transportation to give back pay to 14 truck drivers. The state labor department determined that the drivers were employees and not independent contractors and that the drivers were entitled to get back money for fuel and other business costs deducted by the company.

Also, Region 21 of the National Labor Relations Board announced Friday that it is also revoking a March settlement agreement with Pacific 9 and is filing a complaint after the company told drivers that the agreement was not applicable to them. The settlement had been made with the Carson-based company after allegations surfaced that drivers were threatened and interrogated over union organization.

For five days in July, truck drivers and their supporters picketed the three harbor area trucking companies and port terminals in Long Beach and Los Angeles to protest what they say is the trucking firms’ misclassification of drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. They argue that the misclassification allows companies to skirt labor laws and deduct fuel, maintenance and other fees from their paychecks.

The trucking companies have denied any mistreatment or unfairness and countered that the actions were the Teamsters’ attempt to unionize drivers.

What Every Tourist Needs to Know Before Driving in Europe


By Richard Guy Martin, August 19, 2014


 You’ve rented a car in Europe, you’re headed out on the open road—life looks good. But before you rev up that massively sexy convertible and blast down to the Cote d’Azur, might I have a word? Conservatively speaking, I do about 30,000 miles across Europe by car per year and there are a few things you should know before taking the wheel.

They’re Tracking Your Every Move. Italy is probably the most fun country to drive through, period. With its winding roads through rolling hills, it’s no wonder Italians make famously good Formula 1 drivers. Tiring of this racing style on the public roads, however, the Italian government has installed the ominously named “Tutor System” of speed monitoring, even on two-lane country roads. First, you’ll see velocit√† controllata warning signs; then come the eye-level radar “kiosks” that also read and record your license plate. If your plate’s registered as arriving “too soon” by successive radar stations, the software marks you as too fast. The longer you keep this up, the heftier the fine gets. The hurt can run into the thousands.

The workaround: Pull over for a tasty espresso between radar kiosks. Or, you know, just obey the speed limit.
Tailgating Is 
A Sport. Tailgating at high velocity is a beloved sport across Europe, but nowhere does it attain such razor sharp aggressiveness than in Germany where stretches of the Autobahn still have no speed limits. My best guess about the gleaming black Mercedes E-class that squealed its tires, braking to within six feet of my rear bumper outside Munich last week, was that it was going 150 mph. I was doing a perfectly legit 105 mph myself, passing a group of lumbering 16-wheelers. He could have killed us all.

The workaround:. Your rear view mirror is your best friend. When one of these madmen runs up blinking his brights at 120 mph, calmly roll your window down, stick your arm out, palm down, and pat the air softly until you can safely move right. It’s the international "slow down, you bastard" hand signal.

Sundays Are Your Best Days. Depending on the type of truck, European truckers are forced to travel under, or at, the equivalent of 60 mph. This means heavy clogging of the right lane, where the trucks run, and thus of the left lane, where you run. On the weekends, however, especially on Sundays, the trucker population tends to park and live at the gas stations. Let's call it The 90/10 Rule—90 percent of the truckers are off the road in Central and Western Europe, 10 percent are on the road (though the percentages may be slightly different in Eastern Europe). In general, though, on the "day of rest" you will have fewer trucks—and kamikaze tailgaters in the left lane—to tangle with.
The workaround: If you have the time to do it, save your long hops for Sundays.

Read The Fine Print When Parking In Town. You are beloved by your host country in many ways, but as a foreigner you are a third-class citizen, automotive-ly speaking. Tourists could have their car towed for the slightest parking infraction because arcane rules apply (and are usually only displayed in the local language). Traffic authorities in Berlin, for example, have only recently begun to presume English as a "parking language" worthy of printing on their almost universal ticket machines. If you ignore the paid hours in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg, you risk a fine of $10–$40, depending on the length of the offense. It gets worse if you park in a “fire access entrance,” which translates as Feuerwehrzufahrt, meaning an entrance to a playground or an industrial area (and they’re not always clearly marked). Let these fines add up and you may just get booted off the road entirely in that country.

The workaround: Learn some French, German, and/or Italian parking-sign legalese.

Skip That Glass of Wine. In Berlin, a driver is allowed the blood-alcohol-content equivalent of a glass of wine with dinner—which is interesting because in the far heavier drinking Prague, just four hours south, you're allowed zero alcohol in the blood and Breathalyzer ambushes are common. Remember that you’re a third-class citizen so as a “drunk” foreigner in a car, let’s just say this can involve handcuffs and long hours in rooms with very bright lights.

The workaround: Hard as this is to follow under convivial circumstances, leave the car behind if you plan to drink.

EZ Pass = Vignette. In France and Italy, highway tolls are collected based on distance traveled, much like in Pennsylvania or New York. Germany has no tolls for cars. Austria and the Czech Republic, however, work on flat-rate, time-based vignettes, or stickers that you must actually pull over and buy at the border. You can get a sticker for one week, 10 days, one month, or one year. There are some digital vignette-reader gateways over the autobahns, but you might be forgiven for thinking that they really don’t care. A small example, however: If you are caught on an Austrian autobahn without a vignette, it will run you €400–€4,000, or, roughly speaking, $530–$5,300. If you’re a foreigner, of course, they’ll just take your car until you figure out where that five grand is coming from.

The workaround: Pull over and get the vignettes (about $10), available at most roadside gas stations.

How to Navigate Los Angeles Without a Car


By Sara Lieberman, August 28, 2014

New York has the apple. Wisconsin has its cheese. So what best represents Los Angeles? Hint: It's got four wheels and it's forever in traffic on the 405. Yep, you guessed it—it's an automobile. No matter where you are, the talk in California always turns to driving:

"Hey, good to see you!"

"You too. But man, the 101 was insane."

"You took the 101? Why didn ' t you take surface streets?"

"Because I knew that Wilshire is all dug up because of the Metro construction, so I figured I ' d try the 101 to the 10. Bad move."

This can go on for ages.

To be fair, Los Angeles is a large, sprawling city, and to some, navigating it without your own car seems preposterous. But on a recent West Coast sojourn, during which I stayed in Santa Monica, I was determined to prove them wrong. "What's the big deal?" I said. "I'll take the bus. Or ride a bike. Or get a ride." My sister, who now owns a Volkswagen Tiguan after a lifetime in New York, looked at me as if I'd suggested lining up for a Cronut at 10 a.m.

While it wasn't an easy challenge, I did it—and, as an added bonus, it did allow me to have that extra cocktail after dinner at The Tasting Kitchen. Here are a handful of ways that you can get around Los Angeles sans vehicle, along with some tips from L.A. locals

The city of Santa Monica is the most two-wheel friendly area in Los Angeles—those who live elsewhere typically don't ride around the city. But if you're in this part of town, you can rent a two-wheeler for about $40 per day from spots like Helen's Cycles, which has six locations throughout L.A. You can zip from a casual lunch at The Courtyard Kitchen on Montana Street to a coffee meeting at Dogtown on Main, followed by a yoga session over on Abbott Kinney in no time.

What the locals say: "Everyone on the west side has a bike; it's the preferred method of transportation on the weekend," says Dave Kuba, a VP of Development for a production company who lives in Marina Del Rey. "But you can only go so far—I could bike 15 miles, but then I'd be sweaty, so that's exercise and not a mode of transport."


Asking your friend who lives in West Hollywood to pick you up in Santa Monica for dinner in Silver Lake is like asking a your friend who just gave birth to respond to a text—it's not gonna happen. But ask a stranger—for a fee—and you've got yourself a deal. That's the idea behind Lyft, the ride-sharing program that began in San Francisco and has since expanded into cities all across the United States. Download the app, type in your destination, and a number of locals driving in that direction will offer you a ride. You can't miss your ride; cars that participate in the service are outfitted with large, pink, furry mustaches on the hood.

What the locals say: "Lyft is totally cool," says Mike Elling, a television editor who lives in Brookside. "It's just normal, everyday people like you and me giving rides for cheaper prices than Uber and cab companies."


If you're staying in the Santa Monica vicinity, the Big Blue Bus is a cheap and fairly reliable option. For $1, you can take it from Santa Monica to Venice, or as far as Brentwood or Beverly Hills on the west side. If you want to leave the beach and head east, though, you'll have to brave the local bus system, of which there are 200 lines going via local, rapid or express routes. It will likely take you a good hour, even without traffic, but it costs a mere $1.50.

What the locals say: "I've taken the Big Blue Bus a few times from the westside to Hollywood and once to K-town. That's quite a scene," says Regan Riskas, an associate producer who lives in Venice.


It does exist! But Los Angeles' rail line, which began operation in 1990, is probably the least-used mode of public transport. (Expansion plans are currently in the works and expected to be completed in early 2016.) What's more, the 80 stations are few and far between, leaving you with the problem of getting to the station. While the fare is only $1.50, the six lines that stretch from Downtown L.A. to Hollywood, Pasadena and Culver City, slow their roll at midnight.

What the locals say: "I live in Los Feliz and I can take it all the way to Culver City," says Amy Feitelberg, photo director at Los Angeles Magazine. "Its reach is limited, but I also love to take it if I have tickets to something downtown. No fuss, no muss and no money for parking!"


It's no Venice or Rome, but Los Angeles has seen an increasing number of motorcyclists in recent years. At Route 66 Modern Classics on Lincoln Boulevard, scooter rentals start at $49 a day (including insurance), while Harley rates start at $225. They offer a sliding-scale, though, so the longer you rent, the lower the price.

What the locals say: "I primarily scoot everywhere," says Becca Major, who lives in Santa Monica and owns a Genuine Stella 125 automatic. "I zip to Hollywood, Los Feliz, Downtown. There are almost no restrictions."

Uber Has an Enormous Wait Time Advantage Over Regular Taxis

In San Francisco, unlike with taxis, people rarely wait more than 10 minutes for a ride service.

By Eric Jaffe,  August 29, 2014


It's become a given that ride services like Uber et al are disrupting city mobility, but for all the digital ink spilled over that trend, we don't have much data on what exactly the disruption looks like. (That is, other than the occasionally questionable data the services supply themselves.) So it's important for outside observers to pull the veil back a bit, and a research team at UC-Berkeley led by Lisa Rayle has done just that with a new working paper on "ridesourcing" services, as they're calling Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and friends.

The study focused on ride-service users in San Francisco. Some were intercepted immediately after a ride, some discussed a ride they'd taken in the past couple weeks. The researchers compared their findings with two 2013 data sets on taxi ridership—one a survey conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and the other a trip log from a local taxi company.

The report is wide-ranging and worth a full read, but here are some of the highlights. Ridesource users tended to be 25 to 34 years old (with very few over 45) and a bit wealthier than the general population. The services replaced transit trips at times (24 percent of users said their alternative would have been to take the bus) and added traffic to the network (8 percent said they wouldn't have made the trip at all). At the same time, 40 percent of users said they drove less than before, and many trips began near a rail (28 percent) or bus (85 percent) stop, suggesting a possible transit complement.
That's largely in line with what taxis provide for a city. But there was a glaring distinction between the ridesourcing and taxi experiences with regard to wait time. Here, Uber etc. hold an enormous advantage, according to the new study. We've charted some of the data on wait times below.

(It's worth noting that the comparison isn't precisely apples to apples; the ridesource data represents all trips, and the taxi data represents dispatches to a rider's home as well as street hails near home.)
The first chart looks at wait times during a weekday. A whopping 93 percent of ride service users waited less than 10 minutes during this period. Compare that to 35 percent of taxi users who called a cab to their homes, and 39 percent who hailed one on the street. Not a single ride service user waited more than 20 minutes on a weekday; a considerable share of taxi riders did.


The next chart, showing evening ridership, reveals more of the same. Once again, more than 90 percent of ride service users waited less than 10 minutes. At this time of day the cabs performed even worse. About half of all taxi riders waited 10 to 20 minutes for a cab called to their homes, and street hails were split pretty evenly among the three wait times.


The weekend data confirms the weekday figures. Ridesource users wait a little longer on Saturdays and Sundays, with only 88 percent waiting less than 10 minutes, but they still get their ride long before those calling or hailing a taxi.

The wait trend held true even when comparing specific zones of the city. In Zone 1, for instance, which includes downtown San Francisco, the share of ridesource users waiting less than 10 minutes ranged from 85 percent (on weekends) to 89 percent (on weekday evenings). The lowest Zone 1 wait times for taxis, meanwhile, occurred for street hails on weekdays, when only 53 percent waited less than 10 minutes. In Zone 1 on weekday evenings, only 17 percent of people calling a cab to their home waited less than 10 minutes. And the data show that Zone 1 was by no means unique.

So the lesson—as true with car services as it is for public transit—is that people hate waiting for transportation. (About 30 percent of respondents in the present study chose "short wait time" as their main reason for using the ride service, second to "ease of payment," at 35 percent.) And the source of ridesourcing's advantage in this area is quite clear: the mobile system that connects drivers with the nearest passenger.

In other words, one might conclude based on this data that it's the smartphone, more than any particular transportation service, that's greatly disrupting city mobility. (That goes for transit riders using real-time apps, too.) The question then becomes: Why haven't official taxi companies (if not cities themselves) invested more time and energy into developing smartphone-based services? We'll have more on this next week in the Future of Transportation series. For now, it's worth wondering whether all the effort being poured into the regulatory fight against Uber would be better spent creating technology that mimics its key advantage.

Protected Bike Lane Bill Approved By Legislature, Awaiting Governor


By Melanie Curry, August 29, 2014

 Protected bike lanes like these ones on Market Street in San Francisco will be easier for cities to build. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

 Under A.B. 1193, protected bike lanes, like these ones on Market Street in San Francisco, will be easier for cities to build.

A bill that would make it easier for California cities to build protected bike lanes passed both houses of the legislature this week and has been sent on for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

The bill, A.B. 1193, was authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition.

The bill serves several purposes. First and foremost, it requires Caltrans to create or adopt standards for a new category of bike lanes: protected, separated bike lanes or “cycletracks.” These standards can be used by communities that want to build protected lanes and want to refer to a set of engineer-approved guidelines to help design them safely.

At the same time, it removes a provision in the law that requires that any bike lane built in California adhere to Caltrans specifications, even if it is built on a local street that is not under Caltrans’ jurisdiction. This frees up local jurisdictions to choose other guidelines, such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, if the Caltrans standards do not adequately address local conditions.

Caltrans endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide earlier this year but has not adopted it, meaning that currently communities that want to build separated bike lanes still must go through an official process to get an exception.

Last-minute negotiations on the bill addressed concerns about liability by adding several conditions that have to be met before non-Caltrans criteria can be used. A “qualified engineer” must review and sign off on a protected bike lane project, the public must be duly notified, and alternative criteria must “adhere to guidelines established by a national association of public agency transportation official,” which means the NACTO guidelines would could be used whether Caltrans has officially adopted them or not.

And unfortunately for lay people, Caltrans balked at removing its bike lane naming convention, saying it is just too embedded in its documents. So the new protected bike lanes category would be officially named “Class IV Bikeways” under the law. Other categories remain Class I Bikeways (bike paths or shared use paths), Class II bikeways (bike lanes), and Class III bikeways (bike routes). Memorize that.

Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition, said, “We’re very excited to have gotten to this point after months of harder-than-expected negotiations and stalwart support from Phil Ting. He really wants to see protected bikeways get more popular.”

Five Things I Learned at This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee


By Joe Linton, August 29, 2014

Here are the top five things I learned listening in to this week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting. The public meeting took place Wednesday, August 27, at Los Angeles City Hall. If you’re nimble and/or having trouble sleeping, catch the full audio here.

1. Seleta Reynolds Hearts Car Share

In discussion of the city’s anemic car share program, new Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds described herself as a “long-time fan of car share and a frequent user of it.” Reynolds bemoaned the lack of a viable car share option in her new Silver Lake neighborhood.

Hertz car share didn't work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie
Hertz car share didn’t work out so well for Los Angeles. 

The GM announced an “immediate expansion” of the city’s provisions to enable basic car sharing planned for this September, with a more robust expansion, likely including point-to-point options, coming at some unspecified later date. Reynolds stated that she favors a system that would include multiple providers. This should prevent issues like those associated with the failures like the city’s selected vendor Hertz becoming unresponsive.

To be continued. I too dig car share, and am happy Reynolds is on it.

2. Protected Bike Lanes This Year – Or Probably Not

In public testimony (audio at 01:05 here) about Los Angeles some day maybe perhaps one day you know possibly getting around to implementing those newfangled protected bike lanes that are all the rage in other cities, LADOT Bikeways’ Michelle Mowery stated:
MyFig is certainly one of these [protected bike lanes]. We’re also looking at Los Angeles Street right now. We believe we will have that on the ground within this next fiscal year.
When SBLA tweeted the good news, LADOT Bike Program took to the Twittersphere to let folks know that no protected bike lanes are coming this year, but that My Figueroa construction will happen soon. SBLA will dig more into this story. Did Mowery mean “a Los Angeles street” or “Los Angeles Street?” Could it be part of longer-term plans for Union Station? In any case, I am looking forward to protected bike lanes arriving on these shores. Ones not inside tunnels, that is.

3. Streetsblog Hearts Great New Traffic Metrics

Spoiler alert: wonky acronyms ahead. I knew that changes in California’s traffic modeling was big news, with the state ditching its car-centric car-only car-always Level of Service (LOS) measures for evaluating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental impacts, and instead using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).

It was great to hear it from LADOT Assistant General Manager Jay Kim.

Kim stated that cities like L.A. “can only chase LOS so long” and that the new VMT standard “screams Transportation Demand Management,” also called TDM. AKA a little less driving, a little more everything else. Kim stated that VMT will encourage “changing behavior” and more active transportation, bike share, car share, transit passes, telecommuting, and bike amenities facilities.
OMG! LJS that LOS CEQA is RATVC, and VMT CEQA and accompanying TDM features will be AGNDFLA! Wooot! Wooooot!

4. Councilmember Koretz Seems Unaware That Cars Emit Lots of Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Paul Koretz is showing leadership on how L.A.’s Department of Water and Power controls its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). He’s the one who said “I want Los Angeles to lead the way toward a safer, more resilient, low carbon future.”

So it is very unfortunate to hear City Councilmember Paul Koretz not making connections between GHGs and transportation. Not to mention resilience. Or safety.

After LADOT AGM Kim explained how VMT was adopted as a proxy for GHG, Koretz responded:
I’m still a little confused about this legislation. What’s the goal of the change? The purpose for doing this? What are we looking to accomplish in this change?
Well, Honorable Councilmember Koretz, I know you’re under a lot of pressure from Westside homeowners who seem to just want more cars and more parking, but could you at least say stuff that makes us think you know that cars actually do cause climate pollution?

Luckily, Department of City Planning’s Claire Bowin jumped in and defended the new standard that Kim had already explained and explained. Bowin emphasized that, instead of following LOS, which Bowen correctly characterized as a “suburban model,” L.A. will be able to set more appropriate standards for its urban communities.

5. LADOT Bikeways Has New Staff

When questioned by Committee Chair Mike Bonin about what LADOT Bikeways successes have been, Mowery responded that, among other things, LADOT bikeways doesn’t have enough staff. I don’t doubt that LADOT’s bike group is understaffed, and woefully, but we’re not sure it is appropriate to bring it up when asked about successes.

Mowery did announce that one new staff member, Rubina Ghazarian, started this week as LADOT’s bike coordinator. Welcome Ms. Ghazarian! You’ve got a lot of work to do. Let us know how SBLA can be helpful.

Editorial: 'Go Metro' -- except to downtown's Labor Day weekend music festival?


August 28, 2014

It's going to be one of the biggest concerts of the summer, drawing performers such as Kanye West and John Mayer and as many as 50,000 fans to Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.
For weeks, organizers have been urging ticketholders to "Go Metro" and take the subway to the Made in America Festival over Labor Day weekend. But the subway station closest to the concert will be closed for three days, starting Friday at 7 p.m. Instead, revelers are being told to get off at nearby stations and make the roughly half-mile walk to the show. So much for convenient public transit.

Law enforcement and concert organizers asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to close the Civic Center/Grand Park Station for a number of reasons. The exits are inside the perimeter of a ticket-only concert, and officials determined that it would be impractical to check tickets inside the station. There were also concerns about crowd control and public safety if hundreds or thousands of people were crammed onto the train platform.

Those concerns have some merit. Made in America, after all, is expected to be the biggest gathering ever held at the new park — those estimated 50,000 attendees would be double the number who turned out for the park's New Year's Eve bash. And it's the first time the site has hosted a ticketed event of this magnitude. There is a learning curve to managing giant festivals in a new venue, and the detours caused by closing one subway station are hardly insurmountable. Fine.

In the future, however, the city of Los Angeles and Grand Park managers should make sure that events don't cut off transportation options. If concertgoers "Go Metro" downtown, it will reduce freeway traffic, eliminate parking headaches and make roads safer when bleary patrons head home. It's in everyone's interest to make public transit as appealing as possible. Moreover, it's important to note that the station closure affects more than the Made in America attendees; anyone who might use the Civic Center stop to get home or to work or to visit the area will be detoured for three days.

 Grand Park is a jewel, and it's sure to be in demand for more ticketed concerts and festivals, which bring a welcome infusion of money and vitality to a part of Los Angeles that was long dark after the close of business. In order to make the most of it, it should be reachable by public transit.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Uber’s War on Lyft Could Prompt Federal Investigation

The ride-share service’s apparent attempts to sabotage its competitors might become red meat for the Federal Trade Commission or state attorneys general.


By Dustin Volz,  August 27, 2014

Uber is the darling of Democrats and Republicans alike, but the company's cutthroat campaign against its ride-share rivals could land it in hot water with state and federal regulators.

The company has reportedly equipped an army of independent contractors with burner phones and credit cards as part of a "sophisticated effort to undermine Lyft and other competitors" and poach drivers, according to an article published by The Verge this week.

The San Francisco start-up's aggressive recruitment methods are already well documented, but the size and sophistication of its exploits revealed by The Verge could warrant an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission or state attorneys general, according to several antitrust experts and former government officials interviewed by National Journal.

A former FTC official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that reports of Uber's misrepresentation aligns strongly with similar antitrust investigations the agency has conducted in the past.

"The heart of what's offensive here, the indispensable ingredient, is the canceled orders," the official said. "That kind of behavior would be seen as having no redeeming benefits at all, poses competitive burdens, and falls within the conception of unfair competition."

Uber stands accused of employing street teams of contractors to disrupt Lyft's launch plans in New York City who were handed "two Uber-branded iPhones and a series of valid credit-card numbers to be used for creating dummy Lyft accounts." Uber has also allegedly made a habit of ordering Lyft rides and canceling them to avoid detection, a method that would prompt rival drivers to waste time driving to the pickup spot. Lyft contends Uber has caused thousands of canceled rides, something Uber denies was done intentionally.

Solely ordering a Lyft ride and trying to convince the driver to switch sides is likely not enough to merit an inquiry by the FTC, which polices against "unfair" and "deceptive" business practices, said David Balto, a former policy director at FTC and an antitrust lawyer.

But the apparent sophistication and duplicity of Uber's so-called "Operation SLOG" in New York City raises antitrust concerns. "The calling and canceling would make it very difficult for [Lyft] to effectively operate," Balto added. "That's the kind of thing that could very well be investigated by the FTC."

"Uber may be a 21st-century innovator, but it looks like it's pulling out the tactics of a 19th-century robber baron," Balto said. "Some of these tactics are things that John D. Rockefeller would be proud of."

In a blog post published shortly before The Verge's story, Uber denied it ever intentionally cancels rides, but acknowledged that "we can't successfully recruit drivers without talking to them—and that means taking a ride."

"We're all about more and better economic opportunity for drivers," the company wrote. "We never use marketing tactics that prevent a driver from making their living—and that includes never intentionally canceling rides."

Uber, which now boasts a presence in more than 160 cities around the world, is confronting a new wave of scrutiny just a week after hiring former Obama campaign wizard David Plouffe to lead its policy team. In announcing his new gig, Plouffe wrote that he was eager take on Uber's main opponent, the "Big Taxi cartel," which he maintains "has used decades of political contributions and influence to restrict competition, reduce choice for consumers, and put a stranglehold on economic opportunity for its drivers."

The tech company has also recently earned the adoration of a number of Republicans looking to curry favor with its young, largely urban base.

Earlier this month, the Republican National Committee launched a petition soliciting support for "innovative companies like Uber," in response to backlash from the traditional taxi lobby and ride-sharing regulations proposed in some cities and states. And Sen. Marco Rubio has touted the company as an example of free-market ingenuity that should not be subject to strict regulatory red tape.

The company's success, size, and influence is likely to increase the chances of triggering either a regulatory investigation or private litigation, said Richard Feinstein, former director of the FTC's antitrust enforcement.

The FTC has historically been an ally to the booming app-driven ride-sharing industry. In April, the agency wrote a letter articulating its belief that regulations should be limited to safety and consumer protection and not for the purposes of levying higher license fees than those placed on traditional taxi fleets.

An Uber spokesman accused The Verge story of being thinly sourced and revealing nothing new, telling National Journal that it lacks "any verification" of the claims or documents published.

Uber has never publicly taken responsibility for reports of employees ordering phony rides from Lyft. In January, the company issued an apology on its website acknowledging that some employees in New York were "too aggressive" in its tactics of ordering rides from competitors and canceling them moments later. But the apology indicated the tactics were orchestrated by local staffers and not approved or initiated by corporate higher ups.

"We have messaged city teams to curtail activities that seek lead generation in this manner," the company wrote.

Lyft did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The Future of Urban Transportation


By Shaina Kandel, June 2, 2014

Car Traffic

It is increasingly clear that for growing urban populations, personal vehicle ownership is not a viable method of transportation. The laundry list of externalized costs from driving includes: air pollution, accidents, traffic congestion, noise pollution, roadway land value, etc. As populations grow, these costs grow as well.

CommuteSolutions.org quantifies indirect driving costs at about $13/day for a 16 mile commute. What does this mean for a city? Take Silicon Valley, which has a total of 98,000 car commuters daily, according to the Peninsula Press. The societal tab for car commuters comes to an annual sum of $309M. As the population density of urban areas increases, the rationale for personal vehicle ownership diminishes.

Understanding the true costs of cars on the road, private companies, public entities, and non-profits have been noodling on sustainable transportation solutions for some time. Interestingly, innovative trends in urban transportation, such as Google’s Driverless Cars, car-sharing platforms, and private commuter shuttles, are connected by a common thread: not owning vehicles.

Google’s Driverless Cars

On May 27th, Google announced its newest iteration of the self-driving car, sans steering wheel or brakes. Google’s previous version, which had all of the normal controls of a standard car, allowed the driver to take over in case of emergency. With testing, Google engineers found that it was more of a safety hazard for humans who were napping or reading to take over the wheel, stated the New York Times. Instead, the newly revealed self-driving car version solely operates with a start and stop button.

Photo Credit: CNN.com

Google co-founder Serge Brin discussed the long-term vision of their self-driving cars in an interview with the New York Times, “Regardless of Google, I think the right model for most of the world will be not through vehicle ownership,” he said. “These should be provided as services for the most part.”  Instead of car ownership, self-driving vehicles could be hailed by smart phone as a means of on-demand, shared, personal transportation within cities. This vision has the potential to change the transportation industry as we know it.

Ridesharing, Carsharing, and Resource Efficiency

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) connect non-commercial drivers to passengers via an online platform, enabling drivers to provide rides with their personal vehicles. TNCs are the Lyfts, Ubers, and SideCars who are creating a new market structure for the transportation industry in urban environments.

Photo Credit: SiliconSlopes.com

This distributed model of ridesharing fundamentally changes the concept of car ownership. What was once privately owned property is now a means to revenue in the burgeoning sharing economy. TNCs leverage the resource of unused passenger space in cars to efficiently transport urban dwellers.

TNCs emerged in the wake of carsharing services such as Zip Car and City Car Share. Through a membership model, urbanites can have access to cars on demand, without incurring the costs of owning a car. This resource efficiency eliminates the opportunity cost of parked vehicles. It fills the user need of transportation by car through a service.

The rise of ridesharing and carsharing has disrupted the assumption that in order to get around by car, you must own or lease one. By shifting this belief, there is the ability for resource efficient, distributed models of transportation to emerge.

Private Commuter Shuttles

While public transportation, carsharing, and ridesharing are means for transportation within urban areas, there is still the question of the commute to work. Private Commuter Shuttles have emerged as a solution to this last-mile transportation need.  Large companies, such as Google, Apple, Yahoo, etc. are investing in fleets of large buses that connect urban dwelling employees to the office. This alternative removes cars from the road, allows employees to be productive on the commute with wi-fi enabled busses, and reduces the stress of sitting in traffic.

In Apple’s 2000 census, they reported that about 11% of employees were using private shuttles to commute to work. By 2012, The Verge reported 1/3 of Google employees using private shuttles and New York Magazine quotes Facebook stating that 40%-47% of employees using alternative means of transportation to work, including their six shuttles.

Photo credit: SFGate

Private shuttles show that employers are investing in alternatives to car commuting. While this 
solution may not be feasible smaller organizations that don’t have the capital on hand (Google quoted each private shuttle costing over $500,000), there may be creative commuter solutions developed for clusters of organizations or business parks. Innovative companies are capitalizing on the benefits of employees not commuting by car, further divesting urban transportation from personal vehicle ownership.

LA's Very Dangerous Roads Are Getting Even More Dangerous


By Bianca Barragan, August 27, 2014


188 out of 200.jpg



In Los Angeles, we know the traffic's bad, but if not for a new report out from insurance company Allstate, we might have forgotten that, despite being completely congested, our freeways and roads are also pretty dangerous. Allstate has released its tenth annual overview (and companion interactive map) of driver safety in the US's 200 biggest cities, ranking them from best to worst in terms of car collision frequency and factoring in rain and snow, city density, and population. Los Angeles dropped seven slots in the ranking in 2014, all the way down to 188. Out of 200.

This is Los Angeles's lowest ranking in the 10 years Allstate's been keeping track. (The city did rank 185 in 2007.) While the average national driver will have 10 years between collisions, LA drivers have just 6.5 years. In number-one-ranked Fort Collins, CO, drivers average 14.2 years between car crashes. This probably has something to do with why Angelenos pay such high rates for car insurance ...
· Allstate Best Drivers Interactive Map [Allstate]

· California's 10 Most Expensive Cities For Car Insurance All in LA [Curbed LA]

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

China Touts Itself as Winner in High-Speed Rail Stakes


By Bree Feng, August 25, 2014

 A high-speed train being inspected at a railway maintenance station in Xian, Shaanxi Province.Credit

High-speed rail has brought many benefits to China, and now one more can be added to that list: a handy point to lord over the United States.

Last week, People’s Daily, the newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, ran a lengthy analysis of high-speed rail development under the headline, “America’s High-Speed Rail Dream Has Become a Global Joke.”

Seeing the “revolutionary impact” high-speed rail has had on the economies and on people’s daily lives in China and Europe, it said, “Americans’ high-speed rail dream has become increasingly intense.” But, it adds, “though America leads in freight rail, its passenger rail conditions are terrible.” The article cites, by way of example, a train ride from Washington to Boston that was scheduled to take between six and seven hours but took 13 hours because of heavy rain.

The People’s Daily article was also distributed by the prominent Chinese news portals Xinhua and Huanqiu.

The Obama administration has set ambitious goals for rail in the United States. “There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains,” President Obama said during his State of the Union address in 2010. The following year he pledged to provide high-speed rail access to “80 percent of Americans” within 25 years. But despite having earmarked nearly $11 billion for the American rail system since then, little progress has been made toward meeting that goal.

The People’s Daily article also lists the various obstacles that high-speed rail faces in the United States, including political opposition and environmental concerns.

From the perspective of Chinese leaders, who brook no opposition to major infrastructure projects, the Obama administration’s efforts to upgrade tracks in the United States must indeed appear lackluster.

High-speed rail — usually referring to trains that run at more than 155 miles, or 250 kilometers, per hour — has become one of the Chinese government’s most successful large-scale infrastructure initiatives. Over the past six years, under former President Hu Jintao and the current president, Xi Jinping, the government has pumped hundreds of billions of renminbi into ensuring that China’s high-speed rail system matches any in the developed world. The system now transports nearly twice as many passengers each month as China’s airlines.

As the World Bank reported in July, construction costs per meter of rail are significantly lower in China than in Europe and the United States as a result of high volume, the low cost of land acquisition and a cheaper labor force, among other factors.

Those advantages might make a fair comparison with the United States difficult. Still, the People’s Daily article said that one American lawyer on a business trip in China was so dazzled by the country’s high-speed rail system that he became a “China fan” and began studying Chinese after his return to the United States.

Such global influence is exactly what Chinese leaders are after, targeting high-speed rail as a pillar of Chinese soft power abroad in addition to fueling regional economic growth.

Much as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been advocating rail development in the United States, China’s second-ranking official, Premier Li Keqiang, has made Chinese high-speed rail technology central to diplomatic efforts. Over the past year, Mr. Li, dubbed “China’s super salesman” by the state new media, has successfully promoted railway cooperation between his country and Thailand; led 16 Central and Eastern European leaders to a Chinese rail exhibition featuring a 21-meter, 0r 70-foot, model train; and told African leaders that China is ready to help build a network of high-speed rail on their continent.

Still, the rapid development of high-speed rail in China, often with lax oversight, has not been without problems, including corruption, cost overruns and deadly accidents. The former railway minister, Liu Zhijun, who made high-speed rail his pet project, was dismissed in 2011 for corruption and in 2013 was given a suspended death sentence.

After Mr. Liu’s downfall, the Ministry of Railways was dismantled and its regulatory and business components separated.

In a visit last Friday to the headquarters of its successor, the China Railway Corporation, Mr. Li called for more private financing of the rail system. The corporation’s investment target for the coming year is 800 billion renminbi, or $130 billion, and it aims to put more than 4,100 miles of new lines into operation.

California drivers brace for costly new gas tax


By William La Jeunesse and Laura Prabucki, August 27, 2014

 (See website for a video.)

Californians already pay the nation's second highest gas tax at 68 cents a gallon -- and now it will go up again in January to pay for a first-in-the-nation climate change law.

"I didn't know that," said Los Angeles motorist Tyler Rich. "It's ridiculous."
"I think it’s terrible," added Lupe Sanchez, pumping $4.09-a-gallon gas at a Chevron near Santa Monica. "The economy, the way it is right now with jobs and everything, it's just crazy."

When gas prices go up, motorists typically blame oil companies, Arab sheiks and Wall Street speculators. This time they can blame Sacramento and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for passing a bill requiring California to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

The tax on carbon already raised about $1 billion in revenue by requiring manufacturers and utilities to buy credits for each ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. At the beginning of next year, the law will also apply to oil and gas. Refiners and distributors say they will pass another $2 billion in costs on - largely to consumers.

"Ultimately it hurts the consumer," said California Independent Oil and Marketing Association spokesman Mike Rohrer. "It is going to affect anyone who has a vehicle. Be it a motorist that is commuting back and forth to work or a trucker just moving goods throughout the state of California, the cost is immediately going to increase because whatever we have to pay for in carbon credits ultimately we have to pass through to the consumer."

Estimates of the cost of the tax vary. The California Air Resources Board, the Golden State's premier anti-pollution agency, predicts the new tax will raise gasoline prices from 20 cents to $1.30 per gallon. A prominent state senator who helped author the bill estimated the cost at 40 cents a gallon. Environmental activists downplay the cost, but hail the impact.

"We're going to now tackle probably 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the state that are emitted mostly through transportation - oil and gas use," said Climate Resolve Executive Director Jonathan Parfrey.

The cost of the climate change law never was spelled out in the original bill in 2010, which did not even include transportation fuels.But any meaningful climate change law would have to address driving, the state's largest single source of pollution. By raising the price, officials hope to reduce the number of miles driven as consumers are forced to consider options.

"We have to effect a transition away from the polluting of fuels that we currently have," said Parfrey. "We have to pay a little extra so that we're making sure that our energy in the future is not going to be spoiled."

Not everyone is sold on the idea. Europe tried a cap and trade program in the last decade and pollution levels still increased dramatically.

California is the only state to extend the idea to gasoline. By the end of the decade, the state is expected to collect $5 billion in revenue by charging businesses and consumers for the right to pollute. So far the state collected $833 billion by selling 'carbon credits' to polluters.

"They have generated close to a billion dollars in revenue just from the carbon tax credit auctions that have been going on for over a year. Where has that money gone?" asked Rohrer.

"And why do we have to tax the consumer to make this happen for clean air? Everyone is for clean air but let’s not hurt the consumer in the process and not giving them a full explanation of how this exactly works and why."

Last week California sold all of the nearly 22.5 million carbon credits it offered this year. Revenue from the auction is deposited into California's greenhouse gas reduction account. There it is used not just to reduce emissions or the cost of pollution controls for business, but also to build low-income housing near mass-transit hubs and support construction of the state's high-speed rail project.

Critics claim the money could be better spent to directly reduce emissions from industrial sources. Instead, some say the fund acts more like a pot of money for state politicians to build projects in their district for residents who may or my not use the transportation alternatives.

LADOT Seeking Input on Plan to Offer Discount to TAP Users


By Dana Gabbard, August 27, 2014

Are reduced fares on the way for users of LADOT’s TAP and Commuter Express bus service?

The city of LADOT recently held public hearings seeking comments on proposed new Electronic Payment Incentive Fares along with sharing new Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden Fare Policies that it says “are supportive of the incentive fares, and also establish criteria for how fares would be raised in the future”.

New TAP Cards
New TAP Cards

Here is a summary of the main proposals per the announcement on the LADOT website:
The implementation of the Los Angeles Region’s TAP smart card system has enabled LADOT to offer new pricing options to riders that were not available with LADOT’s existing passes and tickets. LADOT’s demonstration of mobile ticketing, through the use of smart phones, will also support these proposed fare options. That mobile ticketing demonstration, called LA Mobile, will take place in Fall 2014.

LADOT is proposing to reduce its DASH single-ride fare from 50 cents to 35 cents if a rider uses a TAP card to pay the fare. The 30% discount is intended to lure riders to using the TAP card that provides multiple benefits including the ability to protect the card balance from loss or theft. Additionally, when multiple passengers pay their fares using a TAP card, it makes boarding the bus quicker. Through the introduction of the Electronic Payment Incentive Fares, LADOT is seeking to reduce rider use of cash to pay fares. LADOT pays a high price to collect, handle and reconcile cash payments.
Policy wonks who want in-depth information can examine the fare equity analysis LADOT has posted.

I am working to have stakeholder groups like Southern California Transit Advocates and the Transportation Committee of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter endorse this. It occurs to me to help make it happen that there would also be value in having DASH users who read this blog send LADOT an e-mail expressing support for the discount proposal. They can be sent to hearingofficer@ladottransit.com.

BTW, buried on the LADOT website is a fascinating piece by former Assistant General Manager John Fisher titled Transportation Topics and Tales: Milestones in Transportation History in Southern California that some with an interest in the history of transportation in our region may find of interest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

California Proposes Overhaul of Standards for Transportation-related Environmental Impact Analysis


By Kristina Daniel Lawson, August 25, 2014

Earlier this month Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released for public review and debate a draft of proposed amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act’s implementing guidelines (CEQA Guidelines). If ultimately approved, the guidelines will fundamentally change the way transportation-related environmental impacts are analyzed and mitigated throughout California.

While the proposed amendments are currently in draft form and therefore remain subject to change or even withdrawal, if the proposal advances, automobile delay will generally no longer be considered a significant impact on the environment for CEQA purposes. Once approved, the provisions will take effect immediately in California’s transit priority areas, and then statewide in 2016, unless adopted earlier by a local community.

Today CEQA’s transportation analyses focus on the delay experienced by an individual automobile driver at a study intersection or on a roadway segment. Traffic engineers quantify this delay through a metric known as “level of service” or LOS.

Targeting the LOS standard, last year Senate Bill 743 was approved and signed into law requiring OPR to prepare revisions to the CEQA Guidelines that establishes criteria for determining the significance of transportation impacts within transit priority areas. SB 743 followed on the heels of the implementation of SB 375 and AB 32, which together placed a heightened focus on the link between land use and transportation planning decisions and greenhouse gas emissions in California. In addition to the increased need for local governments to focus on greenhouse gas emissions reductions through land use and transportation planning, the California Complete Streets Act of 2008 had required local governments to plan for a balanced, multimodal transportation network that meets the needs of all users of streets, roads, and highways for safe and convenient travel.

Taken together, these mandates present a sometimes conflicting challenge: under the traditional methods of analyzing transportation-related environmental impacts, automobile delay (expressed in LOS standards) was the key metric. Typical mitigation for automobile delay involves adding roadway capacity by increasing the size or width of intersections – a wholly automobile-focused solution which tended to disincentive increased adoption of alternate modes of transportation. SB 743, and as a result of OPR’s new proposal, seeks to eliminate this disincentive, with the legislative intent of “more appropriately balanc[ing] the needs of congestion management with statewide goals related to infill development, promotion of public health through active transportation, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

OPR’s proposal is not a light-read and I predict CEQA practitioners will universally agree it will not be without controversy. At 45 pages, the proposal reads more like a whitepaper than an administrative rulemaking. For the specifics, the OPR proposal includes one new CEQA Guideline and a variety of other amendments to CEQA’s appendices. The new guideline is where the rubber meets the road. In general, the proposal includes the following:
  • The amount and distance of automobile travel associated with a project will become the key metrics for CEQA transportation analyses;
  • Additional considerations in CEQA transportation analyses will include the effects of a project on transit and non-motorized travel, and the safety of all travelers;
  • Indirect transportation-related environmental effects (such as noise and air quality) must still be considered;
  • Automobile delay will no longer be considered a potentially significant environmental effect requiring mitigation.
As is always the case with any regulation, the devil is in the details, and like most of the recent CEQA proposals, this proposal includes a lot of language. To start, “…A development project that is not exempt and that results in vehicle miles traveled greater than regional average for the land use type (e.g., residential, employment, commercial) may indicate a significant impact.” This section immediately raises a variety of questions including whether “employment” is properly classified as a land use type, and how analysis or evaluation of an employment land use would differ from analysis or evaluation of a commercial land use. This lack of clarity is a red flag for future CEQA problems and litigation.

A variety of options are given for measuring the benchmark “regional average” including per capita, per employee, per trip, per person-trip, or other appropriate measures. The draft guideline is unclear as to what might occur if you choose one standard over another.

If your project results in a net decrease in vehicle miles traveled compared to existing conditions the proposed guideline tells us it may be considered to have a less than significant transportation impact. If your project is a “land use plan” that is either consistent with a sustainable communities strategy or that achieves at least an equivalent reduction in vehicle miles traveled as projected to result from the implementation of a sustainable communities strategy, then your transportation impacts may also generally be considered less than significant. Development projects that locate within one-half mile of an existing major transit stop or a stop along an existing “high-quality” transit corridor “generally may be considered to have a less than significant transportation impact.”

The use of the word “generally” throughout the draft guideline, and the lack of defined terms is also likely to raise a lot of questions and comment.

For purposes of the proposed guideline, “region” apparently means a metropolitan planning organization or the regional transportation planning agency in which a project is located. A valid question here is how a region can be a public agency. Did OPR mean within the boundaries of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) or Regional Transportation Planning Agency (RTPA)? The proposal makes clear that a lead agency generally should not confine its transportation impact evaluation to its own political boundary.

One of the most interesting parts of the proposal is the section that requires any transportation project that increases roadway capacity for automobiles in a congested area, or adds a new roadway to the network, to analyze whether the project will induce additional automobile travel compared to existing conditions. Under this new “traffic-inducing” analysis, if you are increasing roadway capacity by the addition of a general purpose highway or arterial land then you may have a significant impact (or you may not), unless you are a rural roadway where the primary purpose is to improve safety and where speeds are not significantly altered (in that case, the guideline doesn’t indicate what happens).

If your transportation project does not add physical roadway capacity but instead is for the purpose of improving safety or operations, that would not generally result in a significant transportation impact. The draft guideline proposes the same result for new managed lanes, short auxiliary lanes, and other projects consistent with a Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy “for which induced travel was already adequately analyzed.”

Transportation projects (including lane priority for transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects) that lead to net decreases in vehicle miles traveled, compared to existing conditions, may also be considered to have a less than significant transportation impact.

To say that OPR’s proposal is an overhaul is an understatement – if adopted, the draft guideline will fundamentally change how California thinks about transportation and traffic. Because of the sweeping nature of the proposed changes to California’s standards for transportation-related environmental impact analysis, we can expect significant comments to be received by OPR. If you wish to weigh in, do so by October 10, 2014 to CEQA.Guidelines@ceres.ca.gov.

BART’s Earthquake Early Warning System Could Have Broader Applications


By Scott Morris, August 25, 2014

BART’s Earthquake Early Warning System Could Have Broader Applications
A new earthquake early warning system in testing since 2012 has helped BART keep trains running in the event of an earthquake and could have broader applications for the public, officials said today.

The new system can give BART up to 10 seconds of notice before an earthquake, enough time to stop a train going 30 mph and significantly slow a train going 70 mph, preventing derailments, injuries and deaths, BART Director John McPartland said at a news conference at the agency’s Embarcadero station in San Francisco this afternoon.

McPartland said the system operated as intended before a 6.0-magnitude quake hit at 3:20 a.m. Sunday and caused significant destruction in Napa and Vallejo. BART trains were not running at the time of the quake, however, necessitating no action by the transit agency.

The system has applications beyond warning BART of impending earthquakes and Richard Allen of the University of California at Berkeley Seismological Laboratory called today for state or federal funding that would create a public early warning system.

Allen said that such a system could have many applications. While it could not give more than seconds of warning, it could be enough to stop motorists from driving onto a bridge, slow down traffic or even inform an eye surgeon that it’s time to stop.

He urged California residents to contact legislators to help secure funding for the system, which could alert the public through cellphones, computers or even smoke detector-like devices.
“This is a critical need here in earthquake country,” Allen said.

The state Legislature passed a bill that was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last September calling for California’s Office of Emergency Services to develop an early warning system, but said funding for the system could not come from the state’s general fund and would have to come from other sources.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said in a statement today that two bills moving through Congress could send resources for an early warning system.

“An earthquake early-warning system would provide crucial time to carry out lifesaving actions,” Feinstein said. “A warning of even a handful of seconds would allow for emergency notifications to be sent; trains and traffic to be slowed or stopped; supplies of oil, gas and chemicals to be turned off; nuclear plants to be safeguarded; even elevators to be safely emptied.”

Allen said that the system can detect small amounts of energy radiating from epicenters prior from the quake. Sensors all over California stream data into the system, which can detect the energy and send an early alert.

Officials from the U.S. Geological Survey said today that the test system provided a five-second warning before Sunday’s quake hit, and within three seconds had estimated the magnitude of the quake to be 5.7.

BART’s use of the system is the first of its kind for a transit agency as it remains in testing, but BART officials said today that it is only a part of a massive seismic retrofit project that has improved earthquake safety systemwide over the last decade.

Bay Area voters approved a $980 million bond in 2004 to fund the safety improvements and today BART has completed work on 24 of the agency’s 34 stations and 70 of its 74 miles of tracks.

BART officials said today that the work has paid off—no earthquake-related disruptions were reported on BART Sunday, while Amtrak tracks through the Capitol Corridor were closed for the morning and early afternoon for track inspections and Caltrain reported delays throughout the morning.

BART Director James Fang called it a “magnificent indication” of what the nearly $1 billion bond was used for.

BART also recently completed retrofit work on the Transbay Tube including flexible seismic joints, transition structures and structural upgrades.

McPartland said today that the tube under the Bay is one of the safest places in the BART system in the event of an earthquake.

“That thing is just as solid as you can get,” he said.

7 Charts That Show How Good Mass Transit Can Make a City More Affordable

The rent can be a little damn high, so long as the ride isn't.


By Eric Jaffe, August 25, 2014


Housing costs are often the first to come to mind when we think about whether or not a city is affordable. If the rent is too damn high, the city is too damn expensive. That's largely true, but transportation costs also have a lot to do with it. HUD actually combines the two numbers into a single "location affordability" index: if those two expenses make up more than 45 percent of your income, the city isn't affordable to you.

The importance of transportation costs in this equation—and, more specifically, the role of transit in reducing these costs—comes into clear focus in a series of new reports on city affordability from the Citizens Budget Commission. Take a look at this CBC chart on average annual rent paid by residents of 22 large U.S. metro areas (New York is highlighted because it was the CBC's primary focus):

By these housing figures alone, you'd expect the cities at the top to be the least affordable, and those at the bottom to be the most. But now here's the chart of the same 22 cities ranked by location affordability:

Now we see that many of the cities with high housing costs also have the best location affordability—particularly Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Boston, and San Jose. Each of these cities is in the top ten for affordability despite also being in the top ten for highest rent. In the case of San Jose, high Silicon Valley incomes offset high local expenses. But the key for the five other cities is being among the least expensive in terms of transportation costs:

These five metros—Washington, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Boston—share an obvious trait: good public transportation systems. Strong transit makes it possible to reduce car ownership and all the expenses that go along with it, from purchase cost to maintenance to gas to insurance. And so we find that these same cities also rank near the top in terms of both commuter transit share and households without vehicles:

Things get more interesting when we separate location affordability by household types. For a moderate-income household (making 80 percent of the regional median), the five most affordable cities in terms of combined transportation and housing costs are Washington (34 percent of income), San Francisco (37), New York (37), Philadelphia (37), and Los Angeles (38). All five are in the top ten in terms of transportation costs, and three are in the top five:


Now let's take a look at location affordability for low-income families (defined as making half of the HUD area median). Now the top five includes San Francisco (42 percent), Washington (43), Philadelphia (46), Seattle (47), and New York (47). The pattern is clear; major cities with low transportation costs can remain relatively more affordable than others, even if they have higher housing costs:


Flipping the list, we see a reverse effect. The five worst cities in terms of location affordability for low-income families are San Antonio (71 percent), Riverside (71), Jacksonville (64), San Diego (62), and Phoenix (61)—all car-reliant places that rank poorly on annual transportation costs, transit share, and zero-vehicle households. In the case of San Antonio, the high cost of transportation is enough to make the metro area unaffordable to low-income families even though it's the cheapest in terms of annual rent.


None of this is to say that cities don't have lots of work to do when it comes to affordable housing. For low-income families, only two of the 22 cities fall below the HUD location affordability threshold of 45 percent—San Francisco and Washington—and those are right near the line. But if affordability is the ultimate goal, then reducing transportation costs is a key part of the conversation. Strong transit may not be sufficient to make a city affordable, but it's definitely necessary.