Purpose

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

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Death Dust

The valley-fever menace. 
By Dana Goodyear, January 20, 2014

 

Dust storms in the West stir up microscopic spores of the toxic soil-dwelling fungus Coccidioides immitis. The Centers for Disease Control reports a tenfold increase in infections, some of them fatal.
 Dust storms in the West stir up microscopic spores of the toxic soil-dwelling fungus Coccidioides immitis. The Centers for Disease Control reports a tenfold increase in infections, some of them fatal.
In 1977, the San Joaquin Valley—the swath of agricultural land that runs through central California—was designated a disaster area. Record-low runoff and scant rainfall had created drought conditions. At the beginning of Christmas week, the weather was normal in Bakersfield, the city at the Valley’s southern end, but in the early hours of December 20th a strong wind began to blow from the Great Basin through the Tehachapi Mountains. Hitting the ground on the downslope, it lofted a cloud of loose topsoil and mustard-colored dust into the sky. 
The plume rose to five thousand feet; dust blotted out the sun four counties away. Traffic on Highway 5, the state’s main artery, stopped. At a certain point, the anemometers failed; the U.S. Geological Survey estimated wind speeds as high as a hundred and ninety-two miles an hour. Windows on houses were sandblasted to paper thinness.

The Tempest from Tehachapi, as one researcher called it, spread dirt over an area the size of Maine. Twenty hours afterward, the dust reached Sacramento, four hundred miles north of Bakersfield, in the form of a murky haze that hung in the air for another day, stinging the eyes and noses of the residents. On the twenty-first, it started raining in Sacramento, which turned the dust to mud, coating the cars and sidewalks, and marked the end of the drought.

Over the next several weeks, Sacramento County recorded more than a hundred cases of coccidioidomycosis, otherwise known as valley fever, or cocci, a disease caused by inhaling the microscopic spores of Coccidioides immitis, a soil-dwelling fungus found in Bakersfield. (In the previous twenty years, there had never been more than half a dozen cases a year.) Six of the victims died.

In soil, C. immitis exists in chains of barrel-shaped units called arthroconidia; airborne, these fragment easily into lightweight spores. C. immitis is adapted to lodge deep: its spores are small enough to reach the end of the bronchioles at the bottom of the lungs. We can breathe them in, but we can’t breathe them out. Once in the lung, the spore circles up into a spherule, defined by a chitinous cell wall and filled with a hundred or so baby endospores. When the spherule is sufficiently full, it ruptures, releasing the endospores and stimulating an acute inflammatory response that disrupts blood flow to the tissue and can lead to necrosis. The endospores, each of which will become a new spherule, travel through the blood and lymph systems, allowing the cocci to spread, as one specialist told me, “anywhere it wants.” In people with weakened immune systems, cocci can take over.

Every year, there are some hundred and fifty thousand cases. Only forty per cent of people infected are symptomatic, and the signs—fever, cough, exhaustion—can be hard to distinguish from the flu. A small subset of patients will suffer long-term health problems; in fewer still, cocci will disseminate from the lungs into other tissue—skin, bones, and, often fatally, the meninges of the brain. For those with cocci meningitis, the treatment can be brutal. Three times a week, in the hospital, patients are administered an anti-fungal called amphotericin B—“amphoterrible” is how doctors refer to it—with a needle to the base of the skull. To prevent headaches, patients sometimes rest for several hours with their feet elevated above their heads. One patient, a twenty-six-year-old white woman who caught valley fever four years ago, told me that the medicine made her vomit non-stop on a negative incline. She was temporarily paralyzed, underwent three brain surgeries, and has had twenty-two spinal taps. Not long after her diagnosis, the doctors told her mother to make funeral arrangements. Now they tell her she will be on anti-fungals, funnelled through a shunt in her brain, for the rest of her life.

Cocci is endemic to the desert Southwest—California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas—and to the semi-arid parts of Central and South America. Digging—building, drilling, tilling, clearing—stirs it up, and dry, hot, windy conditions, a regional feature intensified by climate change, disperse it. In recent years, infections have risen dramatically. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1998 to 2011 there was a tenfold increase in reported cases; officials there call it a “silent epidemic,” far more destructive than had been previously recognized. Its circumscribed range has made it easy for policymakers to ignore. Though it sickens many times more people than West Nile virus, which affects much of the country, including the Northeast, it has received only a small fraction of the funding for research. “The impact of valley fever on its endemic populations is equal to the impact of polio or chicken pox before the vaccines,” John Galgiani, an infectious-disease physician who directs the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, at the University of Arizona in Tucson, says. “But chicken pox and polio were worldwide.”

In 2012, valley fever was the second-most-reported disease in Arizona; two-thirds of the country’s cases occur in the state. There is no vaccine to protect against it and, in the most severe cases, no cure. The population of Phoenix has grown by ten per cent in the past decade, and newcomers have no acquired immunity. The elderly and the immune-compromised—including pregnant women—are most susceptible; for unknown reasons, otherwise healthy African-Americans and Filipinos are disproportionately vulnerable to severe and life-threatening forms of the disease. (In one early study, Filipino men were estimated to be a hundred and seventy-five times as likely as white men to get sick from cocci, and a hundred and ninety-two times as likely to die from it.) But, as one specialist told me, “if you breathe and you’re warm-blooded, you can get this.”

 

 

A Conversation with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti



https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-conversation-with-los-angeles-mayor-eric-garcetti-tickets-10519501111



 Please join new
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcettiin conversation with
Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne

 Keck Theater
Occidental College
Thursday February 13th
7:30PM
They will discuss the shape of the built environmen
t and civic realm in Los Angeles, from architecture and urban design to planning and mobility. What is the mayor's vision for the design of the public realm, sustainable development and the future of transportation in Los Angeles? How does Los Angeles stack up against cities across the country and the world when it comes to innovation in these areas? Can we apply new models for urban design without sacrificing the qualities that have long given Los Angeles and its architecture such singular appeal? Come find out in what promises to be a wide-ranging discussion on the Los Angeles of the near future.

This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required.
 
Have questions about A Conversation with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti? Contact Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Occidental College

Far Beyond Rush Hour: The Incredible Rise of Off-Peak Public Transportation

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/02/far-beyond-rush-hour-incredible-rise-peak-public-transportation/8311/

By Eric Jafffe, February 6, 2014




 Far Beyond Rush Hour: The Incredible Rise of Off-Peak Public Transportation

Take a look at the above photo of a New York City subway platform and guess what day and time it was taken. If your snap glance absorbed only the crowd, you probably guessed a weekday rush hour. But look more closely. You don't see grey-haired men in flannel suits with solemn faces, you see All The Young Dudes in jeans just kind of slouching there, dude-like. You don't see businesswomen striding for the stairs, you see ponytails and a lime green T-shirt that wouldn't fly even on the most casual of Fridays.

This is not the picture of a platform at morning or evening rush on a weekday in Manhattan. It's the picture of a platform at half past one. In the morning. On a weekend. In Brooklyn. It's also a sign of things to come.

The growth of midday, evening, and weekend transit use is not unique to this particular stop on the New York City subway. More critically, the rise of off-peak ridership is not unique to New York City or to subway systems, either. Metropolitan areas across the United States — whether their primary mass transit system is a metro rail or a commuter train or a bus network — are recognizing that city residents can't get by on great rush-hour service alone. They need frequent, reliable transit all hours of the day and long into the night.

"The growth in transit ridership is happening in the off-peak hours," says transportation planner David King of Columbia University. "It's strange. You get on a train at five o'clock in morning and it's jammed."

Take the New York City subway in a broader sense. Since 2007, ridership on the weekends has grown at a much greater rate than ridership on the weekdays. During the period from 2007 to 2012, weekday ridership grew at just under 7 percent. During that same stretch, weekend ridership grew at just over 10 percent. A planning director at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority told the New York Times in 2011 that to find a similar explosion in weekend subway use you'd have to go back to a time when people worked six days a week.

"The New York City subway has seen tremendous growth on the weekends over the years," says MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan. "Weekend growth has outpaced regular growth."

Now head to the Midwest and take the bus system in Minneapolis-St. Paul. There, too, off-peak service demand has outpaced rush-hour growth along some bus corridors. In response, the Metro Transit agency in the Twin Cities expanded evening and weekend service last summer. Some off-peak frequencies have tripled — down to a bus every 20 minutes instead of one every hour. That puts service ahead of where it was even before the Great Recession. In other words, this isn't just the economy recovering, it's ridership surging.

"There's many routes where the off-peak ridership is growing faster than the peak ridership," says John Levin, director of service development at Metro Transit. "We're always going and finding where we can free up resources and where we need to add resources, and it tended to be that we've seen the most need during the off-peak, in terms of the overall scale."

And go to Los Angeles, where even commuter rail — the transport mode created specifically for rush-hour riders — has seen an off-peak and weekend bump in some metro areas. Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten says weekend ridership in May 2013 hit 21,315, a jump of nearly 30 percent on the year before. He says that while weekday ridership is steady, weekend growth has been in the double digits. In response to this off-peak demand, Metrolink began promoting weekend rides and recently doubled some Sunday service.

"Certainly commuter-based travel is always going to be a core component of overall ridership, but people who have recreational trips … they're taking advantage of the system on the weekends," says Lustgarten. "Generally speaking, people are looking for alternative means of getting around town."

Looking for it on a weekend. In spring and summer. In Los Angeles.
•       •       •       •       •
Transit experts have been making the case for off-peak service expansion for years. It's often cost-efficient. (Many drivers needed for rush hour get paid to sit around during the midday hours.) It's always great for society. (Lower-income people use off-peak transit at much higher rates than wealthy people; a 2003 study found that 60 percent of off-peak riders made under $40,000 a year.) And there's enormous growth potential. (Two-thirds of transit trips are not work commutes, as the Commuting in America, 2013 chart below shows, making them strong candidates to occur outside rush hour.)
"There's long been a recognition here that frequency improvements — especially off-peak frequency improvement — more than pay for themselves in terms of ridership," says Metro Transit's Levin. "When we doubled the frequency on one of our core routes a few years ago, we more than doubled the ridership."


Commuting in America, 2013.
Best of all, the benefits of full-day service create a cycle that perpetuates more transit use across the board. That's the main takeaway of a recent off-peak service analysis made on the Pascack Valley line of New Jersey Transit commuter rail. The agency introduced non-rush hour trains on that line in October 2007 — seven inbound and six outbound where there'd been no off-peak service before. In June 2010, Devajyoti Deka of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center began conducting surveys and on-board focus groups with off-peak and peak riders alike, to see how the service change had influenced their behavior.
Without question, the addition of off-peak service on the Pascack Valley line took cars off the road. In a recent issue of Transportation, Deka and coauthor Thomas Marchwinski of NJT report savings of at least 12 million vehicle miles a year. More fascinating was the way off-peak trains affected rush-hour ridership. Roughly 5 percent of surveyed riders started using more peak trains once the off-peak service was introduced. And of all the passengers who said they'd go back to driving if off-peak service were cancelled, three in five were peak riders.
Deka believes that there's a psychological element to off-peak service that transit agencies fail to appreciate. If people know a train can take you back anytime you need, they're more willing to take the train in during rush hour in the morning. "They have this thing in the back of their mind that if they have to come back early they can come back early, or if they have to stay late they can stay late," says Deka. "So there is this indirect benefit which you will not notice in ridership data."

A crowded New York City subway platform.

(As for that ridership data, Pascack Valley weekend ridership was up more than 20 percent in the first quarter of 2013 over the year before, while weekday was up 8 percent [PDF]. That trend held true across the whole NJT system: weekends up 12 percent, weekdays 3 percent.)

Considering the rationale for off-peak service has been around for years, the big question is why transit agencies are only now seeing enough fresh demand to do something about it. Some agencies point to changing travel habits among Millennials. Some experts see a broader but related shift in American auto dependency, with an increasing number of urban households living car-free. That's true even in places without great transit systems — Detroit experienced a 5 percent increase in car-free households from 2007 to 2012 — suggesting economic roots.

Immigration might play a role in off-peak demand, too. Last year, Governing reported that immigration had surpassed domestic population growth in 135 U.S. metro areas, according to Census data. Such demographic shifts could have a big influence on the nation's transport network, because low-income immigrants are much more likely to commute off-peak than their American-born counterparts (see evening rates below), says planning professor Michael Smart of Rutgers, who studies immigrant transportation patterns. They're also more likely to use transit for the types of non-work trips that often occur off-peak; for instance, says Smart, they're five times more likely to take transit to get groceries.

"It's definitely true that immigrants are more likely to be using transit to get to work in odd hours," he says. "But even more than that, they're much more likely than the U.S. born — particularly low-income or low-skilled foreign-born people — to use transit for things that are not about a job."


Courtesy Michael Smart.
Then there are changing work patterns themselves. The rise of telecommuting means people traveling at non-traditional times for both labor and leisure. Such shifts, in turn, mean service workers must travel at off times to get to their jobs. The result, says David King, the Columbia planner, is a bifurcation of the labor market in which neither high-skill nor low-skill workers are tethered to a 9-to-5 workday — or a 9-to-5 transit system — as strongly as they used to be.
"That will dramatically change how we travel," says King. "What that means for future investment priorities is also important."
•       •       •       •       •
Bay Area Rapid Transit is already weighing what off-peak demand might mean for tomorrow's transit investments. BART has long been considered a hybrid commuter rail and metro core system: serving downtown San Francisco but also the suburban Bay area. The plans for 2025 and beyond, dubbed "Metro Vision," call for tipping this balance toward the core end [PDF]. That means trains running every 15 minutes or better middays, late nights, and weekends — true "show up and go" service.

"That gets us less out of the commuter rail mindset and more to the metro mindset of frequent service for 18 hours a day, rather than just frequent service during the peak," says Tom Radulovich, head of the BART board of directors. "Metro Vision, just the name of the project implies that at least the BART planners think we're more of a metro than commuter rail. And this is what metros do — run frequent off-peak service."

The ridership trends certainly point in that direction. Off-peak ridership on BART has grown steadily since mid-2011, often outpacing rush-hour rates. In October 2012, for instance, peak ridership grew 10 percent on the year before while weekday off-peak grew 14 percent, Saturday grew 21 percent, and Sunday grew 13 percent. The agency made off-peak expansions several years ago only to cut them during the recession, but it's started making them again on what Radulovich calls the "shoulders of the peak." Those first few trains after rush-hour service ended were just too crowded.

Radulovich sees a number of reasons for the rise in off-peak demand. Tech companies keeping unusual hours. Service workers returning to the job market on swing shifts. A declining rate of car-ownership among riders. Perhaps above all, a rise in residential and business development in and around BART stations — and not just those located downtown. Altogether it amounts to a culture of residents less reliant on the automobile for whatever trip purpose, at whatever trip time.

"I think those folks are going to want BART to run more frequently and be more convenient at more hours of the day," he says. "They're going to be interested in off-peak trips, they're going to be interested in Saturday and Sunday frequency, they're going to be interested in evening frequency, they're going to be interested in late-night service, in a way that our traditional park and ride suburban constituency is not."

Of course, if it were easy to build a full-scale all-day transit system, more cities would have done it. The challenges generally break down into money and politics (what doesn't?). On the economic side, there's a reluctance to shift resources away from rush-hour because that's where ridership, and thus revenue, is more certain. Off-peak service means new operating costs, in the form of drivers and maintenance, and perhaps even new capital expenses. Since most fleet maintenance is done on weekends and nights — in a word, off-peak — some systems will need more vehicles to expand service into those periods.

At the cultural end, the low-income riders who stand to benefit most from increased off-peak service often have the weakest political voice. Some politicians carry a vehicle bias: they will see empty midday buses and trains and blast off-peak expansion as wasteful, even as they endorse highway lanes full of single-occupancy cars. Others have a rush-hour mindset: they come to work at that time, so everyone else must, too. These counterarguments aren't always off-base. Most people do drive most places, and the biggest commute shares do occur at the peaks [PDF].

"The peak tendency has been amazingly consistent," says Steven Polzin of the University of South Florida, co-author of the Commuting in America, 2013 series on commute trends. "One of the intriguing things is there's been a decline of the 'peak of the peak' commuting, but not a lot."

What that means is that the early adopters of tomorrow's all-day transit systems are likely to be big agencies in major cities. That's not to say smaller areas lack the popular demand or the institutional desire to go off-peak. Just recently Jacksonville, North Carolina, population 70,000, expanded bus service to the shoulders of the peak so more commuters could get to and from work. It's more to say that "somebody has to change the tradition," as Deka puts it, "and the big agencies are in a better position, I think, to change the tradition."


The Real Barriers to Abundant, All-Day Transit Service

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/02/real-barriers-abundant-all-day-transit-service/8298/

By Jarrett Walker, February 6, 2014



The Real Barriers to Abundant, All-Day Transit Service



How important is it that mass transit run all the time — midday, evenings, and weekends? In places like San Francisco or Manhattan, all-day service is obviously essential. In low-density suburbs 40 miles away, it's equally obvious that transit's main role is the rush-hour commute.

But as wealth moves into urban cores and lower-income people are pushed out to suburbs, the needs for transit are changing faster than our transit politics. All-day, all-week mass transit is becoming an urgent need not just in the core, where it supports diverse and sustainable low-car lifestyles, but also across a suburbia where travel needs are no longer strictly nine-to-five.

 In most cities, the case for abundant all-day, all-week transit goes like this:

1. Opportunity. Financially stressed people — especially students and service-sector workers — are rushing around all day, trying to get to jobs, training, and daycare. Their days are full of deadlines, and not just at rush hour. An all-day, all-week transit system gives these people opportunities, including access to a greater range of jobs, without burdening them with the cost of owning a car for every adult in the household.

2. The "guaranteed ride home." Peak-only services are risky. You can get trapped if you have to work late or leave early, so peak commuters value service at other times, too, even if they never use it. What's more, you won't use transit to get there unless you're sure you can get back, so the ridership at various times of day is interrelated. An empty evening bus is just a piece of an all-day offering whose availability throughout the day may be the real cause of its success.

3. Bang for buck. Peak-only service is expensive: it governs the size of an agency's fleet and maintenance facilities, and it creates awkwardly short driver shifts with high overhead costs. One-way express runs also require a driver to be paid to travel in the reverse-peak direction for every peak-direction trip, because work shifts must start where they began. That's why, for most regional agencies, the service with the lowest subsidy per passenger is frequent all-day service in busy areas, not peak-only service. Half-empty buses and trains at noon can be much more cost-effective than crowded buses at 5 p.m., especially if the latter are running long distances with passengers in only one direction.

4. Sustainability. Finally, of course, if a city wants to evolve into a more sustainable place with less reliance on cars, then quality transit must be running all the time. The high cost of life in places with excellent all-day transit is the clearest signal that such transit is a good investment that builds value.

With all those arguments behind all-day service, why does it often seem to be hanging by a thread? Why, when an agency must cut service, does it feel pressure to devastate midday and late-night service instead of cutting more evenly across the day? Why is the peak service often protected from cuts despite what is often a high subsidy per rider?
Nobody proposes abandoning peak commuters, but as cities grow, and grow more dense, all-day transit demand almost always rises faster than peak demand, so peak-only service declines as a share of the whole. At some point, this requires a conscious paradigm shift for a transit agency — from "we're a commute agency that runs some midday service" to "we're an all-day agency that runs extra service on the peak."
Commuter rail lines, whose business model is predicated on peak-first thinking, can be especially resistant. An interesting trend of the next decade will be the effort to reinvent the inner-urban portions of commuter rail lines as two-way, all-day frequent rapid-transit services. This will require new thinking from managements, unions, railway regulators, and policymakers who are all used to focusing only on the peak commuter. But as the London Overground and Crossrail are proving, it makes no sense for such valuable rails to be left underused where the all-day demand is so high.
But the most interesting barriers to all-day service arise through our transit decision-making process, especially transit agencies' eagerness to respond to public comments. It takes time to understand and comment on a transit issue, or to plug into an advocacy group, so it's almost a tautology that transit agencies hear disproportionately from time-rich people, such as seniors and the non-working disabled, rather than from busy people. All-day frequent transit can be very successful, but the people who benefit most rarely speak up to demand it. They're too busy.
The more challenging problem is false polarization. Frequent all-day service helps a diverse range of people who aren't necessarily used to agreeing with each other. Much of America's polarizing rhetoric around income, for example, is designed to make both wealthy and poor people believe that if the other side is gaining, their side must be losing. So it's hard to sell them things that benefit them both, as a robust all-day transit system does.

A commuter stands on a train platform waiting for a subway train. 

For example, busy low-income people can benefit either from lower fares or from increased service that saves time in their lives. A lower fare, though, is a targeted benefit for low-income people, while improved service benefits both them and others. So when a low-income advocacy group pushes for lower fares instead of more useful service, the group is insisting on something that benefits only them, rather than something that benefits them and others.

At the other end of the wealth spectrum, every transit agency hears from developers and their advocates who want special transit service for their development, often because they located in a place where cost-effective transit is impossible. They value only transit expenditures that are specifically for them, not caring what this does to the city or transit network as a whole.

All of these self-interested postures are at war with the most fundamental fact about transit: it thrives on diversity. Where transit is at its strongest, as in San Francisco or Manhattan, you see the diversity of the city on the bus or subway, including the diversity of incomes. Those networks transcend individual interests because they are so broadly useful.

For transit to succeed, transit managers must look beyond everyone's self-interested demands and find the patterns — like lattices of all-day high-frequency service — that make transit the most useful to the most people. In the end, the volume and diversity of all-day ridership show this to be the best way to forge permanently successful service, the kind of service you can build a city around.
But that kind of network doesn't look like what any one interest group would design for itself. Will anyone speak up for it?