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, January 4, 2014

London Told to Cut Air Pollution by 2020 or Face Fines


By John Vidal, January 4, 2014

London and other European cities which are defying European law by illegally polluting the air will have to dramatically reduce their vehicle emissions by 2020, the European commission has said.

 EC has warned cities including London to cut car emissions to clean the air or face heavy penalties.

In a signal that Europe is running out of patience with countries that consistently fail to meet air pollution targets, environment commissioner Janez Potočnik served notice that the EC would start fining countries from 2020.

"Poor air quality is the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU with a toll that outstrips road traffic accidents. It is an 'invisible killer' and it prevents many people from living a fully active life," he said.
Potočnik said air pollution already costs Europe $242 – 1,285 billion (£277-789 billion) a year in extra health costs and prematurely killed over 100,000 people a year.

Large cities like London have claimed to be unable to meet NO2 targets set in 1999 until 2025 at the earliest. They have argued for extensions but the new initiative is expected to force them to take traffic off the road using charges, and stricter low emission zones.

Potočnik proposed a package of measures aimed to avoid 58,000 premature deaths a year by 2030. The benefits, he claimed, would be about $55 billion a year, or more than 12 times the costs of pollution abatement needed, estimated to reach $4.65 billion a year in 2030.

The proposals, which will have to be studied by countries, included setting stricter emission ceilings by 2030 for six major pollutants, including particulate matter (PM) or the fine dust emitted by vehicles and shipping, sulphur dioxide which contributes to acid rain and soil acidification, and nitrogen oxides emitted by road vehicles.

He also plans to reduce pollution from large buildings, tighten up existing targets and fund cities to reduce pollution.

Poor air quality is the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU with a toll that outstrips road traffic accidents.

But environment groups said they were disappointed that Europe was not insisting on earlier targets. "We're encouraged that they recognize the scale of the problem, but disappointed they've bowed to pressure from industry and countries like the UK to put off taking action until 2030," said Alan Andrews, a lawyer with ClientEarth.

"The government, London mayor and local councils must take bold action to tackle air pollution – building new roads and expanding airports will simply add to the problem. The UK has been allowed to drag its heels on delivering clean air for far too long," said Jenny Bates, air pollution campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

Leadership Shakeup at U.S. DOT: What Will It Mean for Transit and Biking?


By Angie Schmitt, January 3, 2014

Two of the Obama administration’s top transportation officials are heading elsewhere, creating a leadership shake-up at U.S. DOT.

As you may have heard, U.S. DOT Under Secretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg was tapped by incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to head the city’s transportation department this week. Also on the way out is Deputy Secretary John Porcari, number two under Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Porcari is leaving for the private sector.

U.S. DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari is leaving for the private sector, one of a handful of high-ranking officials leaving the agency. Image: U.S. DOT
U.S. DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari is departing for the private sector, and he’s not the only high-ranking official leaving the agency. Image: U.S. DOT

Trottenberg’s most important contribution may have been shaping TIGER, the popular competitive grant program that helped fund items from the Atlanta streetcar to Rochester’s Inner-Loop highway teardown. She was also instrumental in FHWA’s endorsement of the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Bikeway Design Guide, giving the federal government’s seal of approval to protected bike lanes.

League of American Bicyclists Director Andy Clarke wrote on the league’s blog that Porcari had made major contributions to U.S. DOT’s sustainability efforts advanced under Ray LaHood:
The departure of Deputy Secretary Porcari is a real shame for our issues. He, like his former boss Ray LaHood, just seemed to get the whole livability thing and the role bikes (and walking, and transit) play in creating communities with real transportation choices and a higher quality of life.
Martha Roskowski, director of the Green Lane Project, said she has worked with both Trottenberg and Porcari and she is “sad to see them leave,” but optimistic that the agency’s progress won’t be slowed.

“I think they have been incredibly effective and instrumental in changing the course of that agency — sort of achieving Ray LaHood’s vision in making sure that U.S. DOT is responsive and relevant and really up to speed with what’s happening in terms of transportation across the country.”

Porcari will be replaced by Victor Mendez, who formerly ran the Federal Highway Administration, which Clarke called a “traditionally conservative” agency. Prior to his role at FHWA, Mendez worked for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“Mendez doesn’t come as naturally to the bike issue as Porcari – although he is a keen runner — and FHWA hasn’t really embraced the emerging national bike culture under his tenure,” he wrote.
But Roskowski said Mendez has been supportive of her group’s efforts to advance high-quality bike infrastructure. He even attended the Green Lane Project’s kickoff last spring.

“In my experience, Victor Mendez has not been as deeply involved in the bikes and livability as John Porcari, but I think he gets it,” she said. “I think he deserves a lot of credit too for the evolving of FHWA, realizing that it is more than just rural highways.”

Also on the way out is David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Advocates had been working hard to convince Strickland of the importance of walking and biking in national transportation policy. Clarke wrote that he “came a long way on bike issues this year.” Strickland attended both U.S. DOT bike safety summits last year. He is being replaced by his deputy, David Friedman, who will be an interim appointment.

All of the new appointments will require Senate approval.

Despite the turnover at high-level positions, Roskowski said she expects to see support for walking, biking, and transit continue to grow at the federal level.

“There’s a lot of good people within those agencies that really get it,” she said. “They’re working really hard to figure this stuff out” — protected bike lanes and other new street treatments — “and institutionalize and provide the recommendations we need from a federal agency.”

And the Winners Are


By Damien Newton, January 3, 2014

Usually we do Streetsies a little differently than we did this year. The rigors of the two job searches and restructuring Santa Monica Next ate up more time than I thought so we narrowed down to just awarding Streetsies to the four people who made the biggest impacts in 2013.

The reader’s vote, a vote of our Board of Directors and my vote each held equal weight in determining the overall winners. Without further adieu, here are the winners.

Politician of the Year: Pam O’Connor (Your vote, 2nd, Board Vote 1st, My Vote 3rd)

DSC_5264 092309
Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor seems to be everywhere, advocating for transportation sustainability, livable cities, and complete streets policies.

She has served on the Santa Monica City Council for 20 years, the Metro Board of Directors for 13 years, and the Chair of the Expo Line Construction Authority. She served as President of the Southern California Association of Governments, leading the unanimous adoption of the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a regional framework for transportation and land use sustainability.  She’s also on the board of ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), a non-profit group looking to provide technical expertise and services to local governments looking to lead the transition to more sustainable places.

What’s truly remarkable about Pam is that none of these elected or appointed positions are full-time, as is the case with L.A. City Councilmembers.  Pam serves in her free time from her primary job as a historical preservation consultant.
Pam describes herself as “car-light” as we have proof that she’s an active Streetsblog L.A. reader and follows our social media. – Juan Matute
Civil Servant of the Year: Paul Backstrom (Your vote: 2nd, Board vote: 1st, My vote: 1st)

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 3.43.29 PM
Paul Backstrom is front and center on transportation issues in Los Angeles.

A couple of years ago, I was talking to Tony Arranaga, then the communications director for Bill Rosendahl, about Streetsies. Without prompting, he enthusiastically endorsed Paul Backstrom, the transportation deputy for the Transportation Committee Chair, as symbolic of everything we look for in a Streetsie winner. Backstrom didn’t win that year, but after twice finishing second in our balloting it was past time to give Backstrom his due.

While Mike Bonin, who is now Backstrom’s boss in City Hall, is an avowed transportation wonk, he is aided by a top notch staff helping with transportation and planning issues with Backstrom at forefront. When advocates need help advancing issues, fighting back bad legislation, or just need advice on how to proceed; Paul Backstrom is one of our first calls.

Even as I’m working on this paragraph, I have an email waiting in my box from him. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts its a tip about a cool project that’s coming to the Transportation Committee.
(Update: It was.)

Advocate of the Year: Jessica Meaney (Your vote: 2nd, Board vote: 1st, My vote: 1st)

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 4.03.20 PM

There are a lot of people that work tirelessly in Los Angeles to make the city a safer and more attractive place to live. A handful of us are lucky enough to have jobs that pay us to fight the good fight. Others spend countless hours of their free time going to public meetings, volunteering their free time, knocking on doors and doing everything that needs to be done to change the culture and infrastructure of the city.

And then there are those rare few that are so totally devoted that they are both professional and volunteer advocates. One of the most prominent in that group is Jessica Meaney.

As the local director for the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, Meaney has assembled a powerful coalition to advance pedestrian and bicycle issues in Los Angeles and beyond. Realizing that it’s not enough just to be right, and not just enough to be mobilized; Meaney has done both storming public meetings with an army of local advocates and a mountain of statistics and information.

And more often than not, she wins. And not just because you would have to be crazy to vote against making it easier and safer for kids to walk to school.

Then at night (or in the middle of the day as in the picture above), Meaney works as one of the Steering Committee for Los Angeles Walks, the all-volunteer organization that focuses as a laser beam on pedestrian issues. On a shoestring budget, L.A. Walks programs Walktober, WalkLAvia and an awesome event where people dress as super heroes and help people across the street.

Journalist of the Year: Alissa Walker (Your Vote: 1st, Board Vote: 1st, My Vote: 2nd)

From Alissa's homepage, ##http://www.awalkerinla.com/2008/01/28/welcome-to-a-walker-in-la/##A Walker in L.A.##
From Alissa’s homepage, A Walker in L.A.

Alissa Walker is a fine journalist. She’s written at Los Angeles Magazine, the LA Weekly, Dwell, Fast Company, GOOD, T Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times, and appeared on KCRW public radio showDnA: Design and Architecture. Currently, She is the urbanism editor at Gizmodo.
She writes about design, architecture, cities, transportation and walking. She’s a great writer. We all enjoy her work.

But what separates Walker from many journalists is that in addition to her professional work, in her free time she’s become a sort of defender of the new Los Angeles and not the car-culture obsessed city of yesteryear. It’s hard work, but somebody has to do it.

From Gelato Baby to Walker in L.A., Alissa loves Los Angeles, loves the city it’s becoming, and has helped move the city in the right direction through her writing and publishing. We’re big fans of her work, no matter where it appears, and always look forward to where her work is going to pop up next.

Pedestrian killed by Metro Gold Line train in South Pasadena


By Laura J. Nelson, January 4, 2014

A man was killed Saturday by a Metro Gold Line train in South Pasadena after he did not move from the path of the oncoming train, officials said.

About 4:10 p.m., a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority train operator saw a pedestrian inside a crosswalk that overlaps the Gold Line tracks, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Sergio Flores told The Times.

The train driver sounded his horn, but the pedestrian did not move away in time.

The victim was standing at the intersection of Monterey Road and Pasadena Avenue, inside the mechanical arms that lower as a train approaches, Flores said. The mechanism seemed to be working properly, he said.

The victim was described by witnesses as a man in his late 30s or early 40s. No other information about him was immediately available.

Since the Gold Line opened in 2003, three people died on the tracks. Two were ruled suicides and one murder.

Saturday's death was the second in two days between a pedestrian and a train.On Friday night, a Union Pacific freight train killed a pedestrian on train tracks in South L.A. that run parallel to the Metro Blue Line.

Metro suspended service between the Highland Park and South Pasadena stations until the investigation by the South Pasadena Police Department is complete, Metro spokesman Jose Ubaldo said. Buses will transport passengers between the two stations until the tracks reopen.