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

Monday, February 3, 2014

Viewpoints: Modernize California’s freight transportation system to cut pollution


By Don Anair and Emiliano Mataka, January 19, 2014

Our economy depends on trucks, trains and ships powered primarily by diesel fuel to move our food, household goods and other commodities in a constant flow throughout California. Unfortunately, freight commerce takes a toll on our health and environment when heavy-duty engines leave noxious fumes in their wake.

Low-income communities disproportionately experience the health impacts of industrial freight activity by being forced to breathe diesel exhaust on a daily basis in their own neighborhoods. For instance, the San Joaquin Valley is being inundated with distribution centers that promise jobs but also add pollution to an area known nationwide for having some of the poorest air quality in the United States.

Continuing to rely almost exclusively on oil-fueled freight transportation means a future with elevated risks of respiratory diseases like asthma, developmental impacts for children, premature deaths and the dangerous consequences of climate change.
We don’t have to sacrifice economic success to achieve air quality, health and climate benefits. Technologies that dramatically reduce pollution and improve efficiency present an opportunity to transform today’s conventional freight vehicles into a low-carbon transportation system that cleans our air and reduces our oil consumption.

California has a proven track record for taking innovative actions to curtail air pollution, improve public health and fight climate change. That same vision is necessary now to begin a transition to a more efficient freight system, one that relies on cleaner alternatives to our current diesel-powered transportation and more effectively moves the goods we use every day. The freight sector is California’s largest single source of ozone-causing nitrogen oxide emissions and diesel particulate pollution. Movement of freight is also a major contributor to climate change, including emissions of carbon dioxide and black carbon.

While California has adopted policies that have dramatically reduced pollution from cars, trucks and other sources over the last several decades, the science assessing the impacts of air pollution on public health has also advanced. The air across California is cleaner than it once was, but there are still too many communities where it is unhealthy. As a result, existing state policies – particularly for freight transportation – are insufficient to meet upcoming federal air-quality deadlines. At the same time, global-warming emissions from freight vehicles are expected to grow in the coming decades unless we take stronger action.

Current standards that require upgrading engines and installing exhaust filters on older diesel-powered trucks are providing significant reductions in particulate matter and smog-forming nitrogen oxides, and are a necessary step. But these actions are only beginning to address the problem. An analysis by state and regional air-quality officials shows that we need a nearly 90 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions in some parts of the state to reach air-quality standards over the next two decades.

A report to be released Tuesday and commissioned by the California Cleaner Freight Coalition, “Moving California Forward: Zero and Low-Emissions Freight Pathways,” identifies cleaner freight alternatives that can reduce emissions well beyond today’s cleanest diesel and natural gas trucks. The study finds that strategies such as powering short-haul trucks with clean electricity could simultaneously benefit regional air quality and dramatically reduce climate-change emissions, while eliminating tailpipe emissions in communities most affected by truck traffic. For regional trips, moving goods by train and ship using the cleanest engine technologies can reduce emissions compared to today’s cleanest diesel trucks, though any move toward greater rail or ship use must ensure the health of communities surrounding railyards and ports.

The California Air Resources Board has been considering undertaking a Sustainable Freight Transport Initiative for the past year. Now is the time for action. California needs a long-term plan to transform how we move essential goods around the Golden State. Because infrastructure built in the near future on highways, railyards and port terminals will last for decades, it is critical to plan now for deploying cleaner conventional and advanced technologies in the freight sector. A robust plan that identifies key freight strategies for meeting state public health and climate goals will help guide technology and infrastructure investments over the coming decades.

Modernizing California’s pollution-intensive freight-transportation system will not happen overnight. But it is a challenge worth facing to provide clean air to breathe, protect the health of all communities, meet California’s climate goals, and keep the state’s economy strong. Let’s get moving.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/19/6079929/viewpoints-modernize-californias.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/19/6079929/viewpoints-modernize-californias.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/19/6079929/viewpoints-modernize-californias.html#storylink=cpy

China smog so bad the daily sunrise is broadcast on giant TVs for residents who can't see it


By Chloe Glover, January 19, 2014

LED screens around the city are now broadcasting the natural sight we take for granted as the first wave of health-threatening smog hits.

Dense: Screens break up the air pollution in Beijing, China
Dense: Screens break up the air pollution in Beijing, China

Do not adjust your set - this screen is now the only chance Beijing residents have of seeing the daily sunrise in their city.

Broadcast on giant panels usually reserved for tourist advertisements, the footage highlights the extent of the problem of dangerous air pollution.

A lack of sky vision has become such an issue that people now flock to the screens which are located at several points.

Air pollution monitors issued a severe air warning to inhabitants on Thursday and urged the elderly and school children to stay inside until the air quality reached a safer level.

  Air pollution in Beijing, China
Sunrise? Dim glow smothered by smog
 Those that had to brave the acrid odour to travel to work donned face masks to try limit the effects of the smog on their health.

Smog is the visible evidence of a mixture of emissions, such carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

Although the city is renowned for having poor air quality yesterday's PM readings, which are used to measure the density of pollution,  reached 671 micrograms.

This is 26 times higher than the 25 micrograms the World Health Organisation considers safe and the highest since January 2013.

According to newspaper reports the government has pledged to cut coal use by 2.6million tonnes and channel $290bn into promoting cleaner air.

TV Sunrise is a Fraud, But Extreme Air Pollution in China Isn’t


By Beth Buczynski, January 23, 2014

pollution in china

Air pollution in China is so bad, we all believed it when the Internet claimed Beijing residents had to watch the sunrise on television. That story turned out to be a fraud, but the pollution that inspired it is real, and headed for America.

Over the weekend, I was appalled by a post in my Facebook feed. It was an article published by the UK’s Daily Mail featuring what has become a familiar scene over the past few years: Beijing smothered in smog. What made this image different was the massive LED television screen. The article claimed that pollution was now so severe in Beijing that residents now watch radiant sunrises broadcast on a huge screen in Tiananmen Square. Like this:

tiananmen-sunrise pollution in china

The Internet went crazy, and the article was reposted and shared by some of the biggest media outlets. Within 24 hours (as is often the case) those willing to dig a bit deeper exposed it as a fraud. While Tiananmen Square does indeed have a massive television screen, it’s purpose isn’t to provide pixelated vitamin D–the image that had everyone in an uproar was just a moment in a longer commercial meant to promote tourism. Just because this story was blown way out of proportion doesn’t mean air pollution in China really isn’t as bad as we thought, however. It is. Maybe even worse.

Just days after the fake sunrise story went viral and then fizzled, the Guardian (a much more reputable UK news outlet), reported on a new study that found air pollution in China isn’t staying in China. In fact, it’s traveling in large quantities across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S. West Coast, increasing the number of smog days for Americans.
“We’ve outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us,” study co-author Steve Davis, a scientist at University of California Irvine, said in the Guardian article.

“Between 17 and 36% of various air pollutants in China in 2006 were related to the production of goods for export, according to the report, and a fifth of that specifically tied to US-China trade.”
Though we criticize China for its lack of environmental regulation, we’re actually a big part of the problem. The United States imports a massive amount of Chinese goods, from electronics to food. We’re the customer who demands cheaper goods faster, and like a good supplier, China has done whatever it must to please us. Even if it means polluting its own air and soil.

So though air pollution in China has not yet made fake sunrises a necessity, it very well could in the future. And if China loses its ability to see the sun, our own line of sight won’t be very far behind.

Proposal offers to give residents free masks


By Chen Xiaoru, January 20, 2014

A member of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) proposed Monday that the local government hand out free breathing masks that are capable of protecting residents from the most dangerous air pollutants.

Shanghai CPPCC member Zhu Junbo said the government should give out the masks because the city's air pollution problem isn't going away anytime soon. Furthermore, it would allow the government to ensure that residents wore masks capable of filtering PM 2.5, a type of air pollutant considered especially dangerous.

"Many people don't buy qualified gauze masks that are designed to screen out PM 2.5," Zhu told the Global Times.

Zhu added that a doctor once told him that a mask he had bought was incapable of filtering out PM 2.5. "The government could purchase the right kind of masks, or select companies to produce qualified masks for distribution," he said.

The government would have to give each resident a supply of masks based on the number of days the city suffers from serious air pollution.

Outdoor workers, young children and traffic police officers should be among the privileged group to first receive the free masks, Zhu said.

Zhu also suggested that the government identify the major sources of PM 2.5, and then tax the companies and individuals most responsible for the pollution. The money could then be used to fund clean air measures and pay for the free masks.

No Air Pollution in Masdar City


By Dada Ra, January 23, 2014

Masdar City

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City is an example of a future that can make air pollution a thing of the past. A region that when mentioned, brings oil, sand and heat to mind, is making history by being the home to the first renewable energy city in the world. In a time when technology reigns and people follow, a merging is occurring that allows both to flourish healthily. It is envisioned for Masdar City to exist as a hub for an open technology platform where companies are encouraged to create environmentally viable technology.

Destined to be a trailblazing eco-friendly experience, Masdar City is expected to be fully functional by 2025. The United Arab Emirates, which has the seventh largest oil and gas reserves in the world, built the world’s largest thermal solar plant. Their energy loads are 50% lower than the norm, allowing the extra energy to go into the grid. As a result, Masdar City is sustained by energy which does not increase levels of air pollution.

Weather Channel meteorologist Nick Wiltgen said the region’s temperatures are similar to Phoenix, Arizona. This being the case, a lot of energy is used to produce comfortable living conditions for those who will live there and for those who visit. To address this necessity, energy efficient buildings are the norm in Masdar City. All buildings are made with eco-friendly building materials, innovative design and ancient Islamic architectural features.

For instance, Siemens’ headquarters building in the city uses shading to optimize natural light transfer to its interior, which limits the amount of direct sunlight entering in. This means the indoors are cooler and less air conditioning is used to sustain temperatures, according to Christopher Sorensen who is in charge of Corporate Development and Strategic Global Partnerships at Masdar.
Being the first to take on a vision this huge, means there is a large amount of trial and error expected.

The first phase of the project was to be completed by 2015. World economics altered that plan and completion is now forecast to occur by 2025. Masdar is an Arabic word which means “the source.”  The source is what the city will be, with self-driven electric cars, research laboratories, commercial space and room for plenty of residents; 40,000 of them, plus 50,000 daily commuters, are part of the vision. Commuters will leave their cars in a designated area and use free public transportation to get around.

Masdar Clean Energy, Masdar City and Masdar Capital are part of Masdar, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi Government. In addition, there is also the Masdar Institute, the government’s not for profit private graduate university that focuses on advanced energy and sustainable technologies. The institute collaborates with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on a regular basis. Recently, Masdar Institute and the University of Tokyo agreed to collaborate on academics and research, during the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in 2014.
Masdar City welcomes the general public to visit any day of the week from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm.

Being a city where carbon emissions are not welcome, visitors must park their cars at the North Car Park location that is near the Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) station. The PRT is available free of charge, for exploring. The city plans to create a high quality living and work experience while creating a minimal environmental footprint. This future, that is greatly needed, is very near. There are many who are waiting to enjoy Masdar City; a city without air pollution.

Pollution makes a comeback with warm, dry winter

Southern California is in the midst of an unusual smog event – an elevation of soot and other harmful tiny particles at a time of year when our air should be at its cleanest. Experts say the lack of rain and the warm days are to blame.


By David Danelski, January 24, 2014

So much for a winter reprieve from air pollution.

The unusually dry and warm weather that has made us the envy of the frigid East has a toxic downside.

Southern California is in the midst of an unusual smog event – an elevation of soot and other harmful tiny particles at a time of year when our air should be at its cleanest. Experts say the lack of rain and the warm days are to blame.

It's a serious issue, because even short-term exposure can trigger breathing problems and heart attacks, studies have found.

Dr. Mark Ellis, chief of allergy and immunology at Children's Hospital of Orange County, said the increased particles, along with more respiratory illnesses during winter months, have led to more asthma attacks.

“It's been a significant factor in many of the sick patients we've seen in the past few months,” Ellis said. “This is a very high-risk time, this year, for people with respiratory problems.”

Ellis said he advises patients to take medication, reduce outdoor activities and use HEPA air filters.
Moreno Valley mom Amanda Markel said she can tell the difference when she rides her bicycle.
“The air just seems dirty,” said the mother of four. “It is not the clean air we are used to getting in January.”

An analysis of four years of pollution data shows January rarely sees high levels of fine particles. This month, however, some monitoring stations – in Long Beach and Anaheim – have recorded more bad days than in all of last year.

Stations in Anaheim, Long Beach and Jurupa Valley measured unhealthful levels on six days this month. Los Angeles had four days and Riverside, five. The pollution is considered unhealthful when the 24-hour average exceeds the federal clean air standard, which is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

One result of the trend has been a spate of warnings from air quality officials against lighting up the fireplace at home, since wood smoke contributes to fine-particle pollution. Seven burn bans have been imposed since Nov. 1, including one Thursday in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Most of them have been this month.

The same weather pattern that last week compelled Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency also is responsible for the downturn in air quality.

A ridge of high pressure locked over the West Coast is diverting storms that originate in the Pacific Ocean and normally would bring rain to Southern California, said Joe Cassmassi, a South Coast Air Quality Management District meteorologist.

“The storms have an effective method of cleaning the atmosphere, but now you have day after day of potential stagnation,” Cassmassi said.

Raindrops form around pieces of soot and tiny particles, carrying them to the ground. Each storm brings in fresh air from the sea, which dilutes and replaces foul air, Cassmassi said.

Studies have linked fine particles to health problems, including lower birth weights and stunted lung development in children and heart attacks in adults. More recent studies also have suggested such pollution may increase the risk for autism and other brain ailments.

One-third in state still live where air does not meet U.S. standards

Overall, California has seen a big improvement in air quality in the last decade, according to a state evaluation of smog and soot levels.


By Tony Barboza, January 23, 2014

Air pollution in California has dropped significantly over the last decade, yet about one-third of the population lives in communities where the air does not meet federal health standards, state officials reported Thursday.

The evaluation of smog and soot levels was presented at a meeting in Sacramento of the California Air Resources Board, which oversees the state's progress in cleaning air that remains among the dirtiest in the nation.

Despite falling 15% to 20% in urban areas since 2003, smog remains above federal health standards in parts of Greater Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento and San Diego, the board's report said.

Of the state's five biggest urban areas, only the San Francisco Bay Area meets all federal standards for ozone — the worst component of smog — and fine particulate matter, or soot, according to the board, which took no action after hearing the staff report.

The assessment came as exceptionally dry and stagnant weather this winter has worsened air pollution across California and the Southwest, with some of highest levels in the Central Valley. Air board officials said continuing spells of bad air could set the state back.

"I don't think we should be too congratulatory because this year has been a bad year," said board member John Balmes, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco.

In the South Coast region, which includes Los Angeles and Orange counties, the number of high-ozone days has dropped 21% since 2003 and state officials now estimate about 60% of people — including all coastal residents — live where smog meets federal health standards. But 6 million people in inland areas still live with unacceptably smoggy air.

In the San Joaquin Valley, only one-quarter of the population enjoys air quality that meets federal health standards for ozone. Though the number of high-ozone days in the valley has fallen 35% since 2003, some 3 million people live in areas where smog levels are too high, according to the air board's estimates.

Fine-particle pollution, a bigger problem in winter, also has declined in California since 2003, though less steadily, air board officials reported. Levels in the San Joaquin Valley, for instance, rose to a peak in 2009 before dropping again. In the South Coast district, annual readings have dropped nearly in half since 2002 but remain above federal standards.

The report did little to assuage residents of the San Joaquin Valley, which has been cloaked in a thick haze of fine-particle pollution for many weeks since December. Air quality activists there responded with calls for new emissions reduction measures to bring immediate relief.

"It's visible and it's affecting our daily lives," said Dolores Weller, interim director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition. "Children are being kept indoors for days on end, and sporting activities are being canceled. If there's been an improvement in the last 10 years, we're not seeing it here."
Health studies link ozone and fine-particle pollution to respiratory illness and other health problems, including asthma, heart disease and cancer.

Curbing smog over the next decade will require big cuts in nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, according to the board's report. Those gases — emitted by vehicles, factories and power plants — react in the air to form ozone and fine particles.

Strategic placement of trees near roadways may enhance air quality, positively impact public health


January 25, 2014

Strategic placement of trees and plants near busy roadways may enhance air quality and positively impact public health.

In recent years, the health of people living, working, or going to school near roads with high traffic volume has been a rising national concern. Studies conducted in the United States and throughout the world have shown that air pollution levels are especially elevated near high-volume roadways. A multidisciplinary group of researchers, planners and policymakers recently gathered in Sacramento, Calif. to discuss roadside vegetation as a viable option for mitigating these adverse health impacts from air pollution. The group combined their key concerns and findings for an article in TR News magazine.

The article, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and other organizations, addresses planning practices for locations along major transportation corridors, and considers options to address short- and long-term impacts of human exposure to pollutants emitted by transportation sources.

The group agreed that vegetation barriers are a form of green infrastructure that can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits to their surrounding areas. They provide aesthetic value while having the potential to reduce air pollution, because plants naturally capture some of the pollutants emitted by traffic.

"Properly designed and managed roadside vegetation can help us breathe a little easier," said Dr. Greg McPherson, research forester at the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Research Station. "Besides reducing pollutants in the air, these buffers can protect water quality, store carbon, cool urban heat islands and soften views along our streetscapes. They are essential components of green infrastructure in cities and towns."

Scientists in the group have conducted research using field studies, air quality modeling of pollutant transport and deposition in roadside vegetative barriers, and tree performance studies. Their research indicates that vegetative barriers will reduce pollutant concentrations in carefully designed sites, however, under certain circumstances, concentrations can be increased. The article provides guidance on optimal design considerations (length, width, height, density) for achieving maximum barrier performance based on research to date. Ongoing studies are providing valuable new knowledge about barrier design and management, however, further research is needed to explore effects of wind conditions and other variables.

Transportation’s contribution to air pollution could be much, much less if …


By Alan Kandel, January 26, 2014

 DSCN4298 340x255 300x225 Transportation’s contribution to air pollution could be much, much less if …
Soybeanbus1 300x193 Transportation’s contribution to air pollution could be much, much less if …
Bike diamond lane1 Transportation’s contribution to air pollution could be much, much less if …

If I were to tell you that an automobile manufacturing mogul and a leading auto-membership-association executive both touted personal mobility and public transportation use, what would you think? Would not such a notion seem incredulous? I don’t know about you but, in my view, it would.
Here’s what I’m getting at.

At DC.Streetsblog.org, Angie Schmitt provides the lowdown on Alan Mulally, Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company, the business’ top executive.

In “Ford CEO: More Cars in Cities ‘Not Going to Work,’” Schmitt wrote: “It’s the last thing you would expect to hear at the Detroit Auto Show from the CEO of Ford Motor Company. But last week, Ford’s Alan Mulally showed some ambivalence about the role of cars in major cities.”

“… According to the Financial Times, Mulally said that adding more cars in urban environments ‘is not going to work’ and that he was interested in developments in ‘personal mobility’ and ‘quality of life.’ Then he seemed to indicate Ford is interested in getting into transit, car-sharing, or other models that don’t align with private car ownership.”

Meanwhile, the car-membership-association head in question is Paul Gaffney, President and CEO of the Automobile Association of America (AAA) Northern California, Nevada & Utah.

On the “president’s page” in the May+June 2013 via magazine, the topic dealing with “fuel economy,” Gaffney promoted walking, carpooling, bicycling and public transportation use and at times when doing or using such, respectively, make sense.1

 He also pointed out that over-the-speed-limit driving wastes gas unnecessarily, explaining that in going faster than 60 miles per hour, for each 5 miles per hour driven over that rate, as I understand it, this effectively amounts to shelling out an extra 24 cents on a gallon of gasoline. Information such as this coming from an auto-membership-association exec, if nothing else, is more along the lines of what I would expect to hear – or read.

Interestingly and also very relevant, at Shrink That Footprint in “Which nations drive, fly, cycle and take the train most?,” by Lindsay Wilson, provided are four different infographics: one each for driving, flying, cycling and taking the train.

Gleaned from those infographics is the below info:
  1. U.S. motorists lead the pack in driving. Motoring Americans log an average 22,081 kilometers annually. This compares to motorists in Canada and the United Kingdom who yearly, on average, drive 15,389 km and 11,245 km, respectively.
  2. Ruling the rails are the Japanese. On a per-capita basis, average annual passenger kilometers ridden total 3,084. This contrasts with train ridership in the U.S. which is a mere 50 km. In the middle are Germany and India at 910 and 777 km, respectively.
  3. As with rail riding, the U.S. also bicycles the least. Average daily per-capita kilometers peddled equals 0.1. In the Netherlands, the per-person-per-day kilometers biked is 2.5.
  4. And last but not least: flying. Ireland in this department wins hands down. Passengers carried per capita totals 18.9. In the U.S., per-capita passengers carried is 2.3. Residents of India fly the least registering 0.1.
(Source: “Which nations drive, fly, cycle and take the train most?,” Lindsay Wilson, in TRAVEL, Shrink That Footprint, http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/travels-most).

 In looking at the above, I can’t help but wonder what the mode distribution and usage will look like over time in both developed and developing nations. Really, what I’m asking is if transportation’s contribution to air pollution as time marches on will be less and less.

In closing, I would be completely remiss if I failed to mention that in the same via issue, in bold, green print no less and gracing page 9 in the bottom right corner is the number 2.9. This represents how many billions of gallons of fuel American motorists wasted in 2011 on account of motor vehicle idling.2

  1. Paul Gaffney, President and CEO, Automobile Association of America (AAA) Northern California, Nevada & Utah, “presidents page: fuel economy,” via, May+June 2013, p. 6.
  2. “on the road: member mews+tips+trips,” via, May+June 2013, p. 9.

Mayor Bogaard Delivers Artful State of the City Address

The State of the City theme was “Arts + Innovation = Pasadena”


January 23, 2014

[Developing story] Before hundreds of local civic, business, cultural and community leaders Pasadena’s Mayor Bill Bogaard delivered his 2014 State of the City address Thursday night in Pasadena City College’s new Center for the Arts and declared that “arts and innovation are the connective tissue that binds the fabric of Pasadena.”

Read the Text of the Full Speech Here

The address touched upon over one dozen topics Mayor Bogaard ranks as vital to the city’s well-being. Among those, the current local economic climate, the Rose Bowl investment, the Pasadena Unified School District / City Work Plan, and the SR 710 freeway extension.

However, the arts and innovation theme was predominant throughout the speech and a video shown before Mayor Bogaard took to the podium.

“I am confident that Pasadena’s historic roots as an innovative community, together with our ongoing celebration of arts and culture, will keep our City as one of the most special and exciting places on the planet,” Bogaard said.

“It is no small coincidence that Albert Einstein, once a professor at our beloved Caltech, revealed that he discovered his theory of relativity through intuition, with music being a driving force supporting efforts.”

In reviewing the local economy, Bogaard said he anticipates Pasadena’s third balanced budget in a row when City Manager Michael Beck proposes the 2015 budget to the City Council in the next few weeks.

Bogaard referred to signs of “increasing economic activity” locally and said that the unemployment rate in Pasadena remains one of the lowest rates in the region.

The Mayor reported that significant fiscal challenges remain for City Hall, pointing to the depletion of excess funds built up before the recession and the 63% jump in pension costs to $11.9 million this year.

Bogaard referred to the Rose Bowl renovation as “one of our most important investments in the City’s future.” He said the Stadium has never shined more brightly than it did earlier this month during the 100th Rose Bowl Game and the BCS National Championship.

Calling the Pasadena Unified / City Work Plan “bold and innovative,” Bogaard reviewed some of the Plan’s highlights and declared it is “not about business as usual.” Several Board of Education members including Board President Renatta Cooper and PUSD Superintendent Jon Gundry were in the audience.
Noting the addr
ess would not be complete “without mentioning the now 60-year controversy about a possible extension of the 710 freeway,” Bogaard said that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to release a draft report containing various options in about 90 days and that this “will be the subject of intense evaluation at City Hall.”

KPAS, the City’s cable TV station, recorded the event for future broadcast and webstreaming. A broadcast schedule will be announced.

Air Quality In California So Bad, Even the Healthy Encouraged To Stay Inside


By Sheree Geo, January 25, 2014


According to the AP, even healthy people are being encouraged to stay inside, due to air quality reports in the Central Valley.

Usually, these warnings only come about during the summer, and are only aimed at the elderly, children, and people with asthma and other breathing problems. However, a “haze of fine particles” has covered the skies from Stockton to Bakersfield this winter because an alleged “high-pressure ridge parked off the West Coast” is preventing storms from cleaning the air.

Our question takes it a step further, asking the question of whether or not geoengineering efforts or “weather warfare” could be to blame. This winter has been the most polluted on record, and even the AP reports “microscopic, chemical-laden particles” keeping children inside for recess and creating health risks for virtually everyone who ventures outdoors.

Another indication that something geoengineered is happening in Cali is that normally-healthy people, such as Kellie Townsend, have noticed a very different feeling in their lungs than normal:
 ”I’m scared. I can feel that something isn’t right. I can feel the tightness in my chest,” she told the Los Angeles Times in Saturday’s editions (http://lat.ms/1jvOebR ). “But I get tense when I’m inside too long.”
Cardiologist Dr. Pat Golden has told his patients to stay inside for almost two months. But after taking a walk outside recently, said:
“I prefer not to see what I’m breathing, and you can see this air,” he told the newspaper. “But I don’t know how to quantify the risk. I balance it against my peace of mind from being outside and moving my leg muscles. It’s a terrible choice to have to make.”
Yet another indication that weather warfare is occurring in Central Cali is the ongoing drought that the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board says is causing the air to be so polluted.
Earlier this month, the board’s executive director, Seyed Sadredin, noted that other regions in the state have seen dirty air that exceeded federal health standards. The group has long maintained that the Central Valley should not be penalized for failing to meet federal clean air standards, in part because some of the pollution is wafted from elsewhere, including China.
Air quality “advocates” are even placing the blame for the pollution solely on the people who live, work, and breathe there:
“It’s building up and not blowing away because we need rain. But we’ve created every bit of what we’re breathing right now. We can’t blame San Francisco or China,” clean air activist Tom Frantz said. “What we’re seeing, is what’s ours to change.”
A more reasonable explanation is that drought-producing weather modification has made the air in the Central Valley unsafe to breathe, and that this will be used to further the neoliberal cause of creating an environmental police/nanny state.

US must help Beijing fight trans-Pacific air pollution


By Michael Barris, January 28, 2014

A study showing dirty emissions from China's export industry blow across the Pacific Ocean to Western US cities such as Los Angeles underscores the need for the US to help China combat pollution, an official with a California clean-air organization said.

"It is important for California's air quality that we try to help China reduce its pollution," Bill Magavern, policy director of the Coalition for Clean Air, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit advocacy group that aims to improve the state's air quality, told China Daily on Monday. On the other hand, most air pollution in California is of the state's own making, "so Californians should not be blaming China for their air pollution problems", he said.

California officials have been working with China to help the country benefit from lessons the state has learned in its decades-long fight against smog, Magavern said. The key for both countries is to "drastically" reduce their coal consumption, he said.

A team of Chinese, US and UK researchers found Los Angeles received at least one extra day of smog that exceeded federal health standards for ozone in 2006 as a result of nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emissions from factories in China making goods for export to the US and other countries. The report published last week by the US National Academy of Sciences, a non-profit society of scholars, said it was the first to quantify how much pollution reaching the US West Coast stems from Chinese production of cell phones, televisions, and other US-bound consumer items.

"Rising emissions produced in China are a key reason global emissions of air pollutants have remained at a high level during 2000-2009 even as emissions produced in the United States, Europe, and Japan have decreased," the researchers wrote.

The researchers used 2006 data from 42 sectors that directly or indirectly contribute to emissions to analyze the degree to which China's production of goods for export to the US and other countries added pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and black carbon to the US atmosphere.
Between 17 and 36 percent of air pollutants in China were related to export-goods production, and a fifth of that specifically tied to US-China trade, the scientists found.

The pollutants - including black carbon, which contributes to climate change and is linked to cancer, emphysema and heart and lung disease - rode global winds known as "westerlies" across the Pacific Ocean to the US West Coast, according to the report. They gathered in valleys and basins in California and other western states, according to the report.

China's ramping up of manufacturing in recent decades has contributed to severe smog problems in cities such as Beijing. Even though exports accounted for 24.1 percent of China's economic output last year, down from a peak of 35 percent in 2007, the impact of China's manufacturing industry on US air quality shows trade issues must play a role in global talks to cut pollution, the report said.

Co-author Steve Davis, a scientist at University of California Irvine, said discussions aimed at reducing cross-border air pollution "must confront the question of who is responsible for emissions in one country during production of goods to support consumption in another."

When you buy a product at Wal-Mart, "it has to be manufactured somewhere," Davis said. "The product doesn't contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution".

Trans-boundary pollution has for several years been an issue in international climate change negotiations, where China has argued that developed nations should take responsibility for a share of China's greenhouse gas emissions, because they originate from production of goods demanded by the West.

Ned Helme, president of the Washington-based Center for Clean Air Policy, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving climate and air quality, told China Daily the new study reaffirms the need to build environmental impact costs into future US-China trade-pact discussions. "The point is, you want to equal internalization of the cost of these environmental impacts" in trade agreement talks, Helme said.

Jintai Lin, a professor in the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Peking University's School of Physics who led the study, said "trade changes the location of production and thus affects emissions."

Los Angeles City Council committee asks LAX to study ultrafine air pollution


By Brian Sumers, July 28, 2014

Los Angeles officials moved Tuesday to consider steps to reduce tiny pollutants produced by jets and vehicles at LAX even though the particulates — called ultrafine particles — are not yet regulated by the state or federal governments.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Los Angeles International Airport, led the charge at a meeting of the council’s Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee. He called the meeting to grill airport executives on results of an environmental study released in June that found most pollutants near LAX fall within California and national standards. But that report also showed there were higher-than-expected levels of ultrafine particulates, or the smallest pollutants produced by automobile and jet engines.

Scientists have only recently been able to accurately measure ultrafine particles and airport officials say there are no conclusive studies on whether and how they cause harm to people. But Bonin said he wants the city to err on the side of caution. He noted that some studies suggest the ultrafine particles might cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

“If I were a parent in Lennox right now, I’d be concerned about this study,” Bonin said. “I know there is not conclusive evidence about the health impacts of UFPs — so we can easily say, ‘Well OK, we don’t have anything to worry about, there are no federal regulations.’ There are going to be findings eventually and there is going to be stuff we are going to need to do about this, I want us to start thinking now.”

Specifically Bonin wants the city to lobby state and federal politicians to support legislation that would establish safe levels for the particulates. He also wants the airport to consider a long-term study of employees who work on the airfield to determine if they face any unusual health problems. As a third matter, Bonin wants LAX to learn what other airports are doing with respect to monitoring the smallest particulates.

“Let’s find out what everyone else is doing and let’s be the best,” Bonin said. “Let’s be ahead of the game.”

Mike Feldman, deputy executive director for facilities management at Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX, said the problem of ultrafine particulates at airports might be a relatively recent phenomenon.

“What’s very interesting about ultrafine particles is that they seem to be a by-product of efficiency,” Feldman said. “The more efficient engines have become, it seems as though the more ultrafine particles are produced because there is a greater burn of the actual fuel.”

The study, which used 17 collection stations, found acceptable levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter, airport officials said. Collections were taken at the airport as well as at locations in Hawthorne, El Segundo, Lennox and Westchester. The study was required as part of a legal settlement the airport reached with neighboring communities in 2006.

Rachel Kesting, who lives near the airport, told the committee she is particularly concerned about ultrafine particles. She said she believes living near the airport has negatively affected her health.

“I cannot exercise outside in my neighborhood and suffer respiratory issues, including asthma and increased risk for respiratory infections,” she said.

Study: Valley air pollution altering DNA


January 29, 2014

See website for a video.

BAKERSFIELD, CA - New research suggests the valley's air pollution could be altering our DNA.

The groundbreaking study from Stanford and UC Berkeley said asthmatic children in Fresno also have low T-cell counts, the cells crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system.

"If I see a patient with severe bronchial asthma taking a bunch of medication and still the quality of life is poor, I would tell them to leave this place," said Bakersfield pulmonary specialist Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed.

Ahmed said he believes there's a direct connection between the respiratory problems of his patients and the air they breathe.

"People who had never been asthmatic become asthmatic here," said Ahmed. "So, there's always cause-relation. Air pollution is the biggest issue we have."

Recently, researchers from Stanford and UC Berkeley showed exposure to valley air pollution seemed to suppress a gene, suggesting the bad air is changing and altering our DNA.

The study says emissions of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and wood-burning create polysilic aeromatic hydrocarbons [PAH] that when inhaled, will weaken healthy immune fighting T-cells in children.

"This is a mechanism at the molecular level, all the way down to the way your immune system works and the genes that control, that shows we have some change in immune function, and the genes that control that immune function are altered," said Kern Medical Center respiratory specialist, Dr. Royce Johnson.

The study only looked at children, but Kern County doctors said they suspect air pollution has damaging effects on a larger population.

"The compounds can be transmitted from mother to unborn baby," said Johnson. "So, we may be seeing some of these genetic defects occurring even before you're born."

Bakersfield doctors said they'd like to see epidemiologic studies done across the valley to prove if pollution is changing our bodies.

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Decision to Move Forward with Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Technology for Light Vehicles


By Nathan Naylor, February 3, 2014

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today that it will begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles. This technology would improve safety by allowing vehicles to "talk" to each other and ultimately avoid many crashes altogether by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second.

"Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we've already seen with safety belts and air bags," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry."

DOT research indicates that safety applications using V2V technology can address a large majority of crashes involving two or more motor vehicles. With safety data such as speed and location flowing from nearby vehicles, vehicles can identify risks and provide drivers with warnings to avoid other vehicles in common crash types such as rear-end, lane change, and intersection crashes. These safety applications have been demonstrated with everyday drivers under both real-world and controlled test conditions.

The safety applications currently being developed provide warnings to drivers so that they can prevent imminent collisions, but do not automatically operate any vehicle systems, such as braking or steering. NHTSA is also considering future actions on active safety technologies that rely on on-board sensors. Those technologies are eventually expected to blend with the V2V technology. NHTSA issued an Interim Statement of Policy in 2013 explaining its approach to these various streams of innovation. In addition to enhancing safety, these future applications and technologies could help drivers to conserve fuel and save time.

V2V technology does not involve exchanging or recording personal information or tracking vehicle movements. The information sent between vehicles does not identify those vehicles, but merely contains basic safety data. In fact, the system as contemplated contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure that vehicles can rely on messages sent from other vehicles and that a vehicle or group of vehicles would be identifiable through defined procedures only if there is a need to fix a safety problem.

In August 2012, DOT launched the Safety Pilot "model deployment" in Ann Arbor, Mich., where nearly 3,000 vehicles were deployed in the largest-ever road test of V2V technology. DOT testing is indicating interoperability of V2V technology among products from different vehicle manufacturers and suppliers and has demonstrated that they work in real-world environments.

In driver clinics conducted by the Department prior to the model deployment, the technology showed high favorability ratings and levels of customer acceptance. Participants indicated they would like to have V2V safety features on their personal vehicle.

"V2V crash avoidance technology has game-changing potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on our nation's roads," said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. "Decades from now, it's likely we'll look back at this time period as one in which the historical arc of transportation safety considerably changed for the better, similar to the introduction of standards for seat belts, airbags, and electronic stability control technology."

NHTSA is currently finalizing its analysis of the data gathered as part of its year-long pilot program and will publish a research report on V2V communication technology for public comment in the coming weeks. The report will include analysis of the Department's research findings in several key areas including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. NHTSA will then begin working on a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices in new vehicles in a future year, consistent with applicable legal requirements, Executive Orders, and guidance. DOT believes that the signal this announcement sends to the market will significantly enhance development of this technology and pave the way for market penetration of V2V safety applications.

"We are pleased with the direction NHTSA is taking in terms of V2V technology," said Greg Winfree, Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology. "The decision to move forward comes after years of dedicated research into the overwhelming safety benefits provided by a connected vehicle environment."

V2V communications can provide the vehicle and driver with 360-degree situational awareness to address additional crash situations – including those, for example, in which a driver needs to decide if it is safe to pass on a two-lane road (potential head-on collision), make a left turn across the path of oncoming traffic, or in which a vehicle approaching at an intersection appears to be on a collision course. In those situations, V2V communications can detect threats hundreds of yards from other vehicles that cannot be seen, often in situations in which on-board sensors alone cannot detect the threat.

NHTSA has worked in close partnership in this research both with other DOT agencies, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and the Federal Highway Administration, and with several leading auto manufacturers and academic research institutions, who have invested significant resources into developing and testing V2V technology. The collaboration of government, industry and academia is critical to ensure V2V technology's interoperability across vehicles.

Find more more information on the Department's vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology research.

Jamzilla 405 operation more complex than Carmageddon


By Dave Sotero, January 29, 2014

The Presidents' Day northbound 405 paving operation will realign a portion of the freeway centerline to the west in the San Fernando Valley.
The Presidents’ Day northbound 405 paving operation will realign a portion of the freeway centerline to the west in the San Fernando Valley. Photo taken from project area on the southbound side of the 405.

The planned 80-hour “Jamzilla” paving operation now scheduled for Presidents’ Day Weekend, February 14-18 is more complex, requires new construction and is more time-consuming than the epic “Carmageddon” bridge demolitions of 2011 and 2012.

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements project contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West, will not benefit from gravity in the frenzied destruction of an iconic freeway bridge. Instead, the contractor will take its time to pour a single layer of pavement at a time.  Each concrete layer takes its own time to cure.  The operation is similar to baking layers of a wedding cake.

“Operationally speaking, demolishing a bridge is a much simpler operation than paving and striping freeway lanes that must return to public use as quickly as possible,” said K.N. Murthy, Executive Director of Transit Project Delivery at Metro. “It’s the essential difference between destroying a structure and building a structure. Building something is much more difficult, and the paving methods we are using vary between each material type and have specific requirements that must be adhered to.”

A car drives on the No. 1 lane that will receive a final pave during Jamzilla lane closures.
A car drives on the unfinished No. 1 northbound lane that will receive a final pave during Jamzilla lane closures.

The operation officially begins Friday night, February 14.  After a full northbound freeway closure at 1 a.m., Kiewit will begin excavating and paving multiple areas within the 5.6-mile area of the northbound I-405 in the Sepulveda Pass simultaneously. In order to complete as much paving work as possible, the contractor will use new polyester pavement that cures and reaches specified strength within hours instead of days, and provides an extremely durable roadway surface for the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that drive on the northbound 405 every day.

But the operation depends on the weather.  The polyester paving requires favorable temperatures in order to cure properly and give strength. If temperatures are less than favorable or if it rains, it could complicate the operation, or at worse, cause it to be rescheduled over several consecutive 55-hour weekend operations.

Polyester concrete has quick-dry, high-strength properties and is very compact.
Polyester concrete has quick-dry, high-strength properties and is very compact.

The contractor will perform up to four separate paving operations during the 80-hour period on various portions of the northbound 405.  The contractor must grind, tack, pave and stripe the freeway in a carefully choreographed sequence. Because the paving areas abut one other, the contractor will operate in a very confined work zone.  Maneuvering construction vehicles within this area for all needed work will be a logistical challenge.

Adding to the complexity of the operation, the contractor must shift the freeway centerline 20 feet to the west for approximately 1,000 feet as the northbound I-405 winds its way down into the San Fernando Valley.  There was no room for the freeway to be widened to the east due to the existence of a multi-residential building adjacent to the northbound 405 in Sherman Oaks.

A 1,000 portion of the freeway centerline in Sherman Oaks must be shifted 20 feet to the west.
A 1,000 portion of the freeway centerline in Sherman Oaks must be shifted 20 feet to the west.

Also in this area, approximately 1,700 feet of freeway and shoulder lanes must be completely excavated to full depths and rebuilt in order to realign the freeway to the west.

The most complex work will occur where the northbound 405 meets the Sepulveda Boulevard undercrossing bridge just before the U.S. 101 connector ramps.  The contractor must demolish and then rebuild the approach slabs on both sides of the freeway bridge to upgrade the slabs for seismic safety and roadway durability.  This includes first building a seat to accommodate the new approach slab. The contractor must also reinforce the concrete with rebar for seismic safety and ensure the new approach slabs comply with state highway standards.

Three concrete pours will be required to rebuild the approach slabs.  Each of those pours requires its own 8-hour cure time.  The extensive work required to rebuild these slabs drives the critical path for the entire 80-hour operation.

The Sepulveda undercrossing approach slab has to be rebuilt. The new roadway surface will be much improved for motorists.

Finally, when all paving and approach slab work is completed, the contractor will restripe the freeway prior to reopening lanes by 6 a.m. Tuesday morning, February 18.

Compared to the flurry of activity of the Carmageddon bridge demolitions, this new paving operation will have little visual excitement.  There will be periods during the 80-hour operation when concrete is curing where nothing appears to be happening. However, the contractor will still be working from a meticulous schedule to complete all tasks within the 80-hour period.

A Caltrans engineer shows the different layers of paving needed for the 80-hour operation.
A Caltrans engineer shows a cross-section of freeway to indicate the multiple layers of needed paving during the 80-hour operation.

Motorists are reminded to fully cooperate with agency calls to stay off the freeway just as they did during the previous Carmageddon closures.  Motorists should eliminate unnecessary auto trips, avoid the area and/or divert to other freeways to avoid major traffic delays.

2 thoughts on “Jamzilla 405 operation more complex than Carmageddon

  1. Let’s not forget the end result of all this expensive and delayed construction – we will have an additional lane on the freeway that will be completely congested during peak periods – just like we had before the project ever started and we wasted $1 billion that could have gone to a more efficient mode of transportation – perhaps a rail line or even a bus lane connecting the Valley with the Westside. It’s sad that Metro spends time trying to sugarcoat this wasteful spending with cute names like “carmageddon” and “jamzilla”. In the end, we are simply allowing more cars to sit in traffic, and failing to provide hundreds of thousands of people with an ALTERNATIVE to this congestion. Metro needs to start focusing on completing an efficient transit network, not fruitless endeavors to supposedly reduce congestion by adding even more asphalt.
  2. I really dislike Jamzilla as a name. We all know the 405 closures should have names from the Apocalypse (Rampture, Carmaggedon, etc). japanese monsters should be reserved for issues on the 5.

Made in China: Chinese air pollution now causes smog in Los Angeles


By Steven Kennett, January 24, 2014

Chinese air pollution blowing across the Pacific Ocean is caused by the manufacturing of goods that are exported to the US and Europe, according to new research.
A study by UC Irvine is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the West coast of the US is from the production in China of consumer goods.
A study by UC Irvine is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the West coast of the US is from the production in China of consumer goods.
A study by UC Irvine is the first to quantify how much of the pollution reaching the West coast of the US is from the production in China of consumer goods that end up being imported there.

Los Angeles experiences at least one extra day a year of smog that exceeds federal ozone limits because of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emitted by Chinese factories making goods for export, according to the analysis found. On other days, as much as a quarter of the sulfate pollution on the US West Coast is tied to Chinese exports.

“We’ve outsourced our manufacturing and much of our pollution, but some of it is blowing back across the Pacific to haunt us,” said UC Irvine Earth system scientist Steve Davis. “Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries’ air, this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around.”

However, China is not responsible for the majority of pollution in the US. But powerful global winds, known as ‘westerlies’, are pushing airborne chemicals across the ocean, causing dangerous spikes in contaminants, with dust, ozone and carbon accumulating in valleys and basins in California and other Western states.

“When you buy a product at Wal-Mart, it has to be manufactured somewhere,” added Davis. “The product doesn’t contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution.”

He and his fellow researchers conclude: “International cooperation to reduce transboundary transport of air pollution must confront the question of who is responsible for emissions in one country during production of goods to support consumption in another.”
Also of interest
China’s carbon emissions: A global dilemma

And the world's most polluted city is ...


By Simon Busch, January 31, 2014

New Delhi smog can hit 60 times safe levels, India's Center for Science and Environment (CSE) says.
New Delhi smog can hit 60 times safe levels, India's Center for Science and Environment (CSE) says.

According to a study published by India's Center for Science and Environment, the city with the poorest air quality is actually Delhi, where air pollution this winter was as much 60-times higher than the level considered safe. 

The most harmful airborne pollutants, categorized innocuously enough as PM2.5, averaged 575 micrograms per cubic meter in the Indian capital from November to January.

That compared with a — still dangerous — concentration of 400 micrograms at peak levels in Beijing over the same period.

PM2.5 refers to the diameter in microns of nasties such as ammonia, carbon, nitrates and sulfate — particulates small enough to pass into the bloodstream and cause diseases such as emphysema and cancer.

A city such as London has an average PM2.5 level of 20 micrograms, which is considered safe.
The CSE report goes on to say that Beijing stands a chance to permanently relieve itself of the title of world's smoggiest city, if it continues to make "consistent and aggressive efforts" to improve its air quality. The report says Beijing's measures stand in stark contrast to Delhi's weak stringency and enforcement of pollution controls.

It may seem an academic argument when you're wiping sulphate-saturated tears from your eyes or coughing up a lung while sightseeing at the Forbidden City or the Red Fort, but a new study says New Delhi has outstripped Beijing and gained the inglorious title of the world's most polluted major city.

At its worst, air pollution in New Delhi this winter was 60 times higher than the level considered safe, the research from India's Center for Science and Environment (CSE) reveals.

The most harmful airborne pollutants, categorized innocuously enough as PM2.5, averaged 575 micrograms per cubic meter in the Indian capital from November to January.

That compared with a -- still dangerous -- concentration of 400 micrograms at peak levels in Beijing over the same period.

Airborne danger

PM2.5 refers to the diameter in microns of nasties such as ammonia, carbon, nitrates and sulfate -- particulates small enough to pass into the bloodstream and cause diseases such as emphysema and cancer.

A city such as London has an average PM2.5 level of 20 micrograms, which is considered safe.
Beijing looks as though it could permanently lose lose its mantle as the world's smoggiest big city if it keeps up the good work the CSE report describes.

The Chinese capital has made "consistent and aggressive efforts" to improve air quality, the CSE says, including limiting annual car sales, banning odd or even number-plated vehicles during "red alert" pollution periods and fining local governments for failing to curb smog.

New Delhi, by contrast, is marked by "weak ... stringency ... and enforcement" of pollution controls.

Smoke but no cigar: Beijing has lost its \
Smoke but no cigar: Beijing has lost its "most dirty" crown.
Killer cities

"Originally designed as compact entities to reduce the length of travel ... [Indian cities] are becoming victims of killer pollution, congestion ... and a crippling car-dependent infrastructure," the CSE says.
It's a quote New Delhi worthies must hope doesn't make it into the next Lonely Planet.

It is, however, a decent snapshot of the aghast impression your average neophyte India traveler receives after stepping out of Indira Gandhi International Airport when she thought she'd come to the land of peace, love and really full-on yoga.

The number of cars on New Delhi streets grows by 1,400 a day, with Indian manufacturers obliged to fit only basic emission-cutting apparatus to their vehicles.

Smoke from the burning of rubbish, industrial emissions and pollutants from the country's predominantly coal-fired power stations add to the dangerous and noisome atmosphere, the Times reports.

Delhi's report card

New Delhi buses and some taxis might be running on natural gas, and 15-year-old commercial vehicles have been taken off the road (although that must in some cases include India's ubiquitous, hallucinogenically decorated trucks -- a bitter-sweet result) but such measures aren't enough to stop many of the city's inhabitants -- and the odd tourist -- from becoming seriously ill, the CSE report says.

Medical studies point to the toxic risk of smog in the wide prevalence of acute lung diseases, eye disorders and Vitamin D deficiency leading to rickets among new Delhi inhabitants.

Of particular concern to tourists, a University of California, Berkeley, study cited in the CSE report showed that pollution levels inside vehicles traveling in the Indian capital could be eight times worse than outside.

As if riding in a New Delhi rickshaw wasn't stressful enough.

And, just to divine the origin of that metallic taste you can't rid from your mouth when sightseeing in Delhi, the CSE study notes that "exposure to vehicular fume in [the Indian capital] is among the highest in the world."

New Delhi\'s \
New Delhi's "killer pollution": deterrent to travelers?
Would you still go?

Forewarned is forearmed.

It's up to the individual traveler whether Delhi's world-beating air pollution is enough reason not to see world-beating sights such as the Red Fort or chaotically creative -- and quintessentially Indian -- Chandni Chowk street market.

On the other hand, it seems, you now have more reasons not to be afraid of trying Beijing roast duck on location or venturing into the Forbidden City.

The 'dirty 10'

And the dirtiest cities of all in the world, not just the big metropolises?

New Delhi -- and Beijing -- were missing from such a list published in 2013 by the online business publication Quartz.

With almost one-third more toxic airborne particulates than the next most polluted city, Ahwaz, pop. 3 million -- capital of Iran's main oil producing province -- was the dirtiest city on the planet.
Other smog-bound centers in the ranking of 10 were Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Ludhiana, India; Peshawar, Pakistan and Gaborone, Botswana.
Intrepid travelers: watch out.

Nicer Transit Stations Attract More Riders


By Eric Jaffe, January 31, 2014

The PATH station being built at Nicer Transit Stations Attract More Ridersthe World Trade Center for about $4 billion won't be finished until 2015, but its main hallway opened up last fall — at a reported cost of $225 million. It is, at least, a nice hallway. Port Authority chief Pat Foye has called the station an "unparalleled destination." For an unparalleled price, it better be.

But are transit stations really "destinations" in the absolute sense? More to the point: Do riders really care how nice they are?

The question is pretty apt considering a renewed trend toward gorgeous train and transit stations. These include the Arts et Metiers station in Paris, the Stadion station in Stockholm, the Expo station in Singapore, among others. The new focus on aesthetics has been dubbed a "station renaissance," with many being designed by big name architects (Santiago Calatrava is behind the new PATH).

Recently a pair of civil engineers at the University of Naples, in Italy, tried to estimate what exactly this renaissance is worth to the average rider. They compared ridership of two lines of the Campania regional metro system: one traditional line, and the new "Rainbow" line that opened in 2009 at considerable cost. By service standards, the routes are remarkably alike — both serve a similar corridor with similar trains running similar travel times. But the Rainbow stations (left, below) are what you might call unparalleled. The traditional ones (right)? Very paralleled.

Using a series of rider surveys and statistical models, the Naples engineers concluded that station aesthetics did, in fact, influence rider decisions about which line to take. They found that commuters were willing to pay about 50 cents (Euro) more per one-way fare at the nicer stations, to wait up to 7 minutes more for a train, and to walk an extra 10 minutes to get there. The latter metric is the equivalent of extending the station "catchment area" (basically its service zone) by about a quarter mile.

The researchers conclude that a station's architectural quality should be an explicit design consideration and should even be compared against other service metrics, including frequency and accessibility, when determining transit improvements.

To some extent they do have a point. The perceptions people have toward transit matter, sometimes over and above objective service metrics, and striking the right balance is important. Scale aside, there's no reason the interior of a transit station shouldn't be as pleasant as the interior of a car.
But there are major problems with putting station aesthetics above all other factors, and they all come back to limited funding for public transportation. Devoting such an enormous amount of taxpayer money to a single station suggests that certain parts of a transit system are more important than others. Beyond that, when the size of the station investment grows into the many billions, it's reasonable to wonder whether that money could not only be used to improve service across an existing system but perhaps even be used to build a whole new one.

In a world with infinite resources, no doubt all riders would want all transit stations to be unparalleled destinations. In this actual world, at this particular time, let's not forget that even the nicest hallway is just another way to get from here to there.