Purpose

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

Friday, February 28, 2014

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2014-02/26/content_17307798.htm

February 26, 2014

Almost a seventh of China's land has been engulfed by heavy smog with the air pollution in 20 cities reaching "danger level". China is not alone however. Many countries, during industrial and economic development, have been confronted by the same problem. The crisis of air pollution is an issue from which we cannot hide.

United States
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Heavy smoke lingers over the Los Angeles skyline Nov 16, 2008
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, America has had trouble with environmental issues, air pollution in particular. Roughly 60 percent of Americans live in areas where air pollution has reached unhealthy levels that can make people sick, suggests the 2009 State of the Air report released by the American Lung Association.

Los Angeles has some of the most contaminated air in the country with diesel engines, ports, motor vehicles and industries the main sources. Frequent sunny days and low rainfall contribute to ozone formation, as well as high levels of fine particles and dust.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Efforts
The US created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and passed the Clean Air Act. The act originally empowered the EPA to determine safe limits and regulate six major air pollutants, now expanded to 189 potential threats.

Smoking was increasingly restricted on planes until it was finally banned in 2000, when exceptions for flights to and from the US were abolished. Indoor smoking bans are now de rigueur across the nation
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The EPA replaced the Pollution Standards Index with the Air Quality Index in 1999 to incorporate new PM2.5 and ozone standards.

The US Congress authorized funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a grant program, administrated by the EPA, in 2005 to selectively retrofit or replace older diesel engines most likely to impact human health.

The "Clean up Green up" campaign was launched in 2011 to designate three low-income LA communities - Pacoima, Boyle Heights and Wilmington. The campaign aims to push green industries through incentives, including help obtaining permits and tax and utility rebates.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Improvement
Thanks to the Clean Air Act, many people in the US are breathing a little easier. The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2013" report, which analyzed ozone and airborne particle levels from 2009 to 2011, showed that overall the nation's air quality is much cleaner, especially compared to a decade ago.

From 1980 to 2000, according to a 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, average life expectancy increased five months because of the nationwide decrease in air pollution.

Concentrations of carbon monoxide – once spewed by every car and truck but now removed by catalytic converters – have dropped by about 90 percent in large American cities.

Concentrations of particulate matter, a classification covering a wide range of pollutants in the microscopic to near-microscopic range, have dropped by about 80 percent from their peak, and ozone has plummeted as well.

Lead emissions fell by more than 98 percent.

According to a 2012 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the levels of certain vehicle-related pollutants in Los Angeles have dropped by 98 percent since the 1960s


London
 
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution

Yellow-grey smog was a frequent visitor to London in the 1950s and earned the name "London fog".
The heaviest, which shocked the world, was in 1952. Because of cold weather combined with an anticyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants blanketed the city, visibility was reduced to a few yards and an estimated 4,000 people died.

The main pollutant, sulphur dioxide, was linked to coal burning by many inner city factories and households and had reached exceptional levels.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Efforts
The legacy of the Great Smog was the Clean Air Act of 1956 which introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution.

Furnaces could no longer emit "dark smoke" and households were offered grants towards the cost of converting their coal-burning grates to smokeless fuel.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Improvement
By 1975, foggy days in London had been reduced from around 50 to 15 and to only five in 1980. But new pollution threats are causing concern as air pollution mortality figures remain almost identical. Instead, today’s pollution is caused by nitrogen dioxide due to traffic fumes. The Mayor's Air Quality Strategy aims to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter by: reducing transport emissions; cutting pollution from construction and energy generation; taking pollutants from road surface treatment and reducing exposure by warning people of high pollution days.

New Delhi
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Schoolgirls ride on a scooter on a foggy winter morning in New Delhi December 17, 2013. 

Air quality in New Delhi, a city undergoing breakneck economic development, is even worse than that of Chinese cities, such as Beijing, where the smog has reached danger level.

India is placed 155th among 178 countries on the global environment performance index 2014 and 174th in terms of air pollution. New Delhi is now overtaking Beijing as the most polluted city in the world,

From 2000-2011, PM10 levels in Delhi's air jumped by as much as 47 percent.

Moves by the city government including allowing new cars, subsidizing diesel and increasing compressed natural gas prices, have made the problem more serious. Most doctors in New Delhi say more people in the city are becoming ill from the toxic air.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Effort
New Delhi has done little to curb worsening air quality in recent years. However ,the city government introduced a set of reforms more than 10 years ago, which included moving industry beyond city limits, building a subway and switching public transport to cleaner-burning fuel.



Mexico City
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Image of the pollution that 150 brick kilns generate in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Dec 4, 2009.

As a result of accelerated urbanization since the 1980s, Mexico City became one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world for a time as pollutants are further prevented from dispersing due to mountains on its three sides. The city has high concentrations of nearly every major harmful airborne pollutant, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. By far the worst problem gripping the city is the massive cloud of smog that hangs over it almost every day. Mexico City has the highest level of ground-level ozone in the world, according to WHO.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Effort
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection Laws and Anti-Pollution Overall Plan were introduced

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Protection of environmental resources at the strategic level of national security
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Automatic air pollution monitoring system

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Two-Stage Air Emergency Response Program

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Scientific researches concerning environmental protection and new energy development

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution Green transportation like "No drive today" since 1989 and vehicles exhaust emission examination every half-year.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Improvement
Statistics show that since the year 1990, lead levels in the air of Mexico City has fallen 90%, while suspended particles that cause asthma, emphysema, or even cancer have been reduced by 70%, and the emission of carbon monoxide and other pollutants has also plunged. The level of ozone has decreased 75% as well since 1992.


Santiago
The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution

Chile has experienced a period of strong economic growth but the speed of that growth has come at a cost to health, productivity and environmental degradation. Air pollution in Santiago, caused by industrial and vehicle emissions as well as street dust blown from unpaved roads and eroded hillsides, is blamed for significant health damage, including premature death and serious respiratory diseases.

The desolation of smog: World battles against air pollution
Effort
Environmental authorities have plans aiming to reduce concentrations of PM2.5 by 30 percent in 10 years through control of industrial emissions, wood-burning heaters, and transport vehicles.
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Private Investors Can Save Public Infrastructure

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-02-28/private-investors-can-save-public-infrastructure

By Rosabeth Moss Kanter, February 28, 2014

(The is the last in a three-part series.)



 The bill for aging infrastructure is coming due. Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

 The bill for aging infrastructure is coming due.

Think about this the next time you drive over a bridge: In 2012, a quarter of all U.S. bridges were deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. (On second thought, don’t.)

For decades we have paid for our neglected infrastructure in lost productivity and jobs, but the full bill is now coming due. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. will require almost $2 trillion by 2020, more than twice the amount that appears to be available, to maintain and upgrade decades-old highways, inland waterways, ports, airports, rail and transit systems. And that doesn’t include vehicles operating in these systems and the communications infrastructure connecting them.

There is little political will to achieve that goal, and the two main traditional funding sources are increasingly at risk: the gas tax and municipal bonds. The gas tax is stagnating because of increased vehicle efficiency, alternative energy sources and fewer per capita miles driven since a 2004 peak. As for muni bonds, in a low-interest-rate environment with cities increasingly declaring or flirting with bankruptcy, there are questions about whether these once-safe investments can attract enough capital.
What other avenues exist for raising capital?

Selling or leasing public assets to private companies is no panacea. A U.K. company took a 99-year lease on the small Newburgh, New York, airport in 1999, then gave it back to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey because expansion costs were too large. Chicago has attempted to privatize Midway Airport twice, unsuccessfully; recently the city couldn't get more than one bidder. Chicago’s experience with highway privatization has been even worse.

That’s not to say the model is hopeless. Private-equity company KKR & Co. closed a $4 billion infrastructure and energy fund to take infrastructure private and earn returns through operational efficiencies. In February 2013, Highstar Capital LP took San Juan, Puerto Rico's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport private in a 40-year, $615 million concession, in collaboration with the Mexican group ASUR. The agreement caps fees charged to airlines, ensuring that profis must instead come from operational efficiencies; incentives for community support are included. It's too soon to know whether funds such as this will make money.

After privatization failed to win widespread support, infrastructure banks came to be seen as a magic bullet. Proponents argue that such banks, used extensively in Europe and China, can finance U.S. projects and ensure disciplined planning and accountability. States are testing the waters; 23 infrastructure banks have been set up, but only a few, such as South Carolina and Florida, are currently active. In June 2012 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that his city would create the world's first metropolitan infrastructure bank, the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, whose board includes business, labor, and public officials. The trust tentatively approved its first project in November 2013, a $25 million energy efficiency retrofit of 75 public buildings, to be repaid over 20-25 years from utility savings at an interest rate between 3.8 percent and 4.7 percent.

Public-private partnerships, familiarly known as PPPs or P3s, are a more promising model, even if highly complex. The Port of Miami Tunnel is a major public-works project financed by private investors, and it's coming to fruition on-time and under budget. Meridiam Infrastructure leads the financing consortium, bringing low-cost senior bank loans from mostly European banks along with a federal loan and equity investments. A French company handles the construction, using an innovative German drill to avoid tearing up the ocean floor and thus minimize environmental damage.

The $1 billion tunnel will divert as many as 16,000 vehicles a day, including 5,000 18-wheeler trucks, away from the heart of downtown Miami directly to the interstate highway, alleviating congestion, pollution, safety concerns for pedestrians and delays for shippers. At the end of the 30-year concession period, the tunnel must be transferred back to public hands in excellent condition.

Big projects like this require strong public-sector leadership; the Miami tunnel would never have happened without the persistent support of then-Governor Jeb Bush’s transportation secretary, Jose Abreu; Miami-Dade County officials; and then-Mayor of Miami Manny Diaz. Often, such projects also require collaboration across traditional boundaries, and it is encouraging that such initiatives seem to be on the rise. Eight states, for instance, are working together to establish charging stations for electric vehicles. The presidents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO have also joined forces to argue for infrastructure investments, and on Wednesday President Barack Obama announced he's seeking a $302 billion transportation bill.

Widespread public support makes long-term projects less risky. That, in turn, could attract more private investors. With more U.S. investors active in the sector, there would be more knowledgeable voices at the table to argue for repairing, renewing and reinventing the infrastructure that supports commerce and quality of life. As difficult as the journey will be, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

(Rosabeth Moss Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School. This is the last of three articles. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

Roundup of Thursday’s Metro Board of Directors meeting

http://thesource.metro.net/2014/02/28/roundup-of-thursdays-metro-board-of-directors-meeting/

By Steve Hymon, February 28, 2014

A few items of interest tackled by the Metro Board at today’s monthly meeting:

•The Board approved Item 16 to provide $1.3 million for improvements to the Branford Street railroad crossing of Metrolink tracks in Los Angeles in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Improvements include pedestrian gates, roadway widening and additional warning signals.

•The Board approved Item 55 to rename the Blue Line’s Grand Station to Grand/L.A. Trade Tech and the Expo Line’s 23rd Street Station to 23rd St/L.A. Trade Tech. The Board also approved Item 56 to rename the Exposition/La Brea station to the Exposition/La Brea Ethel Bradley Station.

•The Board approved Item 58, a motion that asks Metro to implement an online database of previous Board of Director actions. At present, searching for motions and past actions is a crapshoot. The motion also asks for linking audio from Board meetings to reports — something that would, I suspect, be very useful to anyone who cares or is interested in actions taken by the Board of an agency with a multi-billion dollar annual budget.

•The Board approved Item 67, asking the Board to oppose AB 1941, which would add two members to the Metro Board to be appointed by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Rules Committee, respectively. I included some background and thoughts on this legislation in a recent headlines — see the last item in this post.
 
•The Board approved Item 18.1, a motion asking Caltrans to report on difficulties that have emerged in the transfer of park-n-ride lots at Metro Rail stations from Caltrans to Metro. The motion begins: “Item No. 18 and Director Najarian’s accompanying Motion underscore the importance of Metro’s increasingly complex relationship with Caltrans.” If I am reading the remainder of the motion correctly, I think “complex” is a perhaps one way of saying “difficult,” at least on this issue.
 
•The Board approved Item 70, a motion asking Metro to seek ways to improve lighting and pedestrian access to/from the Universal City over-flow parking lot for the Red Line station.

Item 9, a motion to eliminate the monthly maintenance fee for ExpressLanes accounts that infrequently use the lanes and substitute a flat $1 fee on all accounts, was held and will be considered by the Board in April.

Big rig overturns on 5 North in Glendale

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=9448564

By Hanna Chu and Darsha Philips, February 28, 2014

A big rig overturned on the northbound 5 Freeway at Western Avenue in Glendale, blocking lanes for hours. 

The accident was reported at 3:32 a.m. Friday just past the connector road to State Route 134. Only one lane was open due to the crash, causing traffic to back-up quickly.

The big rig driver was not hurt, and no other vehicles were involved. The California Highway Patrol said rain was likely a factor in the crash.

 The rain-slick roads caused trouble for drivers across the Southland. On the eastbound 210 Freeway in Pasadena, a big rig jackknifed in a tunnel, and then another car coming around a blind turn into the tunnel slammed into the semi-truck.

No injuries were reported in the accident, and rain was blamed as the cause of the crash.

Beijing lung cancer cases increase as air quality remains low - See more at: http://www.envirotech-online.com/news/air-monitoring/6/breaking_news/beijing_lung_cancer_cases_increase_as_air_quality_remains_low/28994/#sthash.5m3I9b1v.dpuf

http://www.envirotech-online.com/news/air-monitoring/6/breaking_news/beijing_lung_cancer_cases_increase_as_air_quality_remains_low/28994/

February 27, 2014






Beijing has seen an increase in a specific type of lung cancer in recent years, which has now been linked to the growing air quality crisis in the city and the rest of China, reports China Daily. An expert has suggested that the increase in lung cancer cases in Beijing could lead to a health impact that is greater than 2003's SARS outbreak.

Deputy director of the Beijing Office for Cancer Prevention and Control, Wang Ning told the news provider that the number of cases of lung adenocarcinoma being diagnosed in Beijing has increased. He also stated that the number of cases of squamous cell lung cancer in the city have dropped.

Squamous cell lung cancer is a type of non-small-cell cancer, whereas adenocarcinoma is a form of the disease that contains distinct tissue that is malignant. The former type of cancer is more commonly associated with smoking, according to experts, but adenocarcinoma has been found to be linked to exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke.

If the air pollution crisis continues throughout China, the number of lung cancer cases could further increase. The continued high levels of damaging emissions could also lead to further health complications, as well as having a heavy impact upon the environment of the country and the wider world.

Some experts in the public health sector have suggested that there will a substantial increase in the number of people suffering from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer within five to seven years if air pollution throughout China is negated, Zhong Nanshan, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director if the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, told the news provider.

The continued high levels of air pollution throughout industrial and city areas of China has caused a number of concerns in recent years, with people worried about both the health and environmental impact of the country's continued use of coal. While the central government has pledged to lower emissions and improve overall conditions within cities, there appears to have been little impact on the heavy smog and overall poor air quality that Chinese citizens are regularly exposed to.
Beijing has seen an increase in a specific type of lung cancer in recent years, which has now been linked to the growing air quality crisis in the city and the rest of China, reports China Daily. An expert has suggested that the increase in lung cancer cases in Beijing could lead to a health impact that is greater than 2003's SARS outbreak.
Deputy director of the Beijing Office for Cancer Prevention and Control, Wang Ning told the news provider that the number of cases of lung adenocarcinoma being diagnosed in Beijing has increased. He also stated that the number of cases of squamous cell lung cancer in the city have dropped.
Squamous cell lung cancer is a type of non-small-cell cancer, whereas adenocarcinoma is a form of the disease that contains distinct tissue that is malignant. The former type of cancer is more commonly associated with smoking, according to experts, but adenocarcinoma has been found to be linked to exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke.
If the air pollution crisis continues throughout China, the number of lung cancer cases could further increase. The continued high levels of damaging emissions could also lead to further health complications, as well as having a heavy impact upon the environment of the country and the wider world.
Some experts in the public health sector have suggested that there will a substantial increase in the number of people suffering from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer within five to seven years if air pollution throughout China is negated, Zhong Nanshan, from the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director if the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, told the news provider.
The continued high levels of air pollution throughout industrial and city areas of China has caused a number of concerns in recent years, with people worried about both the health and environmental impact of the country's continued use of coal. While the central government has pledged to lower emissions and improve overall conditions within cities, there appears to have been little impact on the heavy smog and overall poor air quality that Chinese citizens are regularly exposed to.
- See more at: http://www.envirotech-online.com/news/air-monitoring/6/breaking_news/beijing_lung_cancer_cases_increase_as_air_quality_remains_low/28994/#sthash.5m3I9b1v.dpuf

How city dwellers can stay healthy using public transportation

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/business/ci_25240519/how-city-dwellers-can-stay-healthy-using-public

By Luisa Dillner, February 27, 2014



 Commuters arrive to Grand Central station from a Metro North train on Jan. 22, 2014 in New York City.
 Commuters arrive to Grand Central station from a Metro North train on Jan. 22, 2014 in New York City.



The late-night shops, the diverse population, the variety of restaurants, culture and clubs – what's not to love about living in a city? Well, how about the air pollution, germ-ridden public transport and stress?

If cities pose a health risk, how can you fight back? What can you do to avoid filling your lungs with small pollutant particlesthat increase your risk of heart disease, asthma, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer? Can you travel by bus, underground system or train without catching a nasty virus?

Colds and flu


Just getting on public transport in a city at rush hour means you are likely to be exposed to somebody else's virus. A study in Nottingham funded by the Health Protection Agency found that people were six times more likely to end up at the doctor with a cold or flu if they had recently used a bus or tram.

But anywhere with people in a confined area – offices, concert venues, lifts – poses a risk. Common places to pick up viruses are on a handrail, door handle or light switch. Of course, you can't avoid touching everything – but try not to touch your eyes or nose, because that's how viruses infect you.

Wearing gloves can reduce the risk, as can frequent and thorough handwashing with soapy water, or the use of antiseptic hand washes. But facemasks aren't the solution. A close-fitting, N2-type facemask may reduce airborne viral infections, but you'd have to wear them a lot and it's probably not worth the hassle. But there can be cultural considerations – in many Asian countries, especially Japan, wearing a mask on public transport is often considered good etiquette to prevent your own germs from spreading.

Air pollution


Nearly 30,000 deaths a year are hastened by people being exposed to air pollution, according to the government's committee on the medical effects of air pollution. Ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide can all exacerbate asthma, but the real villains are the fine particles (PM10 and PM2.5) that increase the risk of heart attacks (by getting into the blood stream), of chronic obstructive airways disease and of lung cancer.

A Buying Guide to Air-Pollution Masks

http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/02/28/a-buying-guide-to-air-pollution-masks/

By Debra Bruno, February 28, 2014

Video: 

http://live.wsj.com/video/which-masks-are-best-at-blocking-air-pollution/8947A308-3A68-4689-AA5E-B741B9FF5927.html

Blue skies were finally visible in the capital on Thursday after the region suffered from seven straight days of intense pollution, sending consumers out in droves to buy pollution masks.

Although Thursday’s weather brought a collective sigh of relief from the masses, if past records are any indication, the pollution is bound to return. So one Beijing doctor is asking: what actually makes a good face mask?

Not every mask is equally effective, says Dr. Richard Saint Cyr, a family physician with Beijing United Family Healthcare.

Air masks for sale at a 7-Eleven in Beijing.

Wearing simple cotton masks or those that don’t fully seal against the face could actually be dangerous because it leads to a false sense of security and even more time outdoors, he says.
“It disturbs me that people are walking around thinking wearing these things is safe, but they almost certainly are not,” says Dr. Saint Cyr.

Of course, there are plenty of people in Beijing who wear no mask at all. President Xi Jinping strolled through the popular Nanluoguxiang neighborhood Tuesday, breathing on a day that the air-quality index reached more than 500. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says an index of above 300 is “extremely rare” in the U.S. and typically occurs during events such as forest fires.

But Dr. Saint Cyr suspects that the lack of scientific data on the most effective types of masks has made many people wary of buying any at all. The doctor, who also keeps a blog called My Health Beijing, has started a project to test masks currently on the market, using a crowdfunding approach to pay for testing as many as 200 masks, which will be evaluated by a California company.
For those looking for protection right away, Dr. Saint Cyr offers these tips for mask shopping:
  • The most important element is how a mask fits against the face. Air gaps that allow particulate matter in render the mask basically useless, he says. Some of the popular Chinese-brand masks sold in 7-Eleven stores around Beijing are no good, he says. One, Ludun, touts its 99% efficiency, he says. But within the mask, the filter is just a tiny square inside a cotton mask. The vast majority of the mask is cotton, with lots of leakage. “It just doesn’t fit well.” What’s most worrisome, he says, is “people are walking around thinking they’re protected.” One good test is whether eyeglass-wearers find their glasses steamed up. If so, the masks aren’t air-tight.

  • The mask’s material – its ability to filter out the smallest particulate matter – also is important. Cotton masks or surgical masks aren’t effective, Dr. Saint Cyr says. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers mask certification based on the amount of particulate matter filtered out. An N95 rating, for example, means a mask filters out 95% of airborne particulates.
 
  • Good ventilation matters, especially for those who might want to exercise outside in the mask. Some masks rest away from the face, creating a comfortable breathing space, while others feel too suffocating for heavy exertion.
 
  • Style, too, is a consideration. Some masks, like Respro, make the wearers look like Darth Vadar, while others, like Totobobo, resemble some sort of alien with white gills. Some blogs suggest placing a second mask over the powerful one, topping off the look with a mask that may be ineffective but aesthetically pleasing. After all, if people feel ugly wearing their masks, they may be less likely to wear them.
The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission in 2013 tested 17 disposable pollution masks, and rated them (in Chinese) on its website. Dr. Saint Cyr translated the results and published the findings on his blog, calling it “a useful treasure of evidence-based data.” Two of the top five  disposable masks, he reported, were made by 3M.
Which mask is best?

His new study aims to widen the scope of the Shanghai test, evaluating both pricey reusable masks like Vogmask, Respro and Totobobo as well as cheaper versions by 3M.  Cost, Dr. Saint Cyr says, is one factor that doesn’t seem to matter much. In fact, he says he uses the disposable five-yuan (82-cent) 3M masks himself. “They’re probably better than anything on the market.”
Dr. Saint Cyr estimates his study will be completed by April or May.

Legislation Would Change Composition of Metro Board, Adding Two Appointees of State Legislature

http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/02/27/metro-board-slams-legislation-that-would-increase-size-of-board-add-representatives-from-legislature/

By Damien Newton, February 27, 2014

L.A. County residents have long complained that they don’t receive a fair share of funds from Metro, noting that many transit projects take place inside of the City of Los Angeles. Now, legislation by Assemblyman Chris Holden, seeks to change that reality by adding to new seats to the Metro Board of Directors.

State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass. Image: ##http://asmdc.org/members/a41/news-room/photo-album##Office of Chris Holden##
State Senator Carol Liu, Arcadia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz and Holden at the opening of the Gold Line Arcadia Overpass.

“Beginning with my tenure on the Pasadena City Council and continuing to my service in the California State Assembly, I have long heard complaints about the allocation of funding, and regional representation on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro),” writes Holden. “Too frequently I hear that although all residents of Los Angeles County pay to fund county wide ballot measures, only select residents receive their fair share of the benefits. I felt this simmering discontent reach a boiling point last summer when the Metro Board amended Measure R’s expenditure plan to deemphasize projects that voters were convinced would be a priority when voting for the sales tax in 2008.”

Assembly Bill 1941 would add  two voting members who would be appointed by the Speaker of the State Assembly and the State Senate Committee on Rules. 

Currently, the Metro Board is made up of 13 voting members. Five are county supervisors, one is the mayor of Los Angeles, three are appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles, and four represent the local “Council of Governments.” There is also a representative of Caltrans on the Board, but that position is non-voting. If AB 1941 becomes law, Metro would be the only transit agency with state appointed representatives. A report prepared by staff for today’s Metro Board meeting encouraged the Board to vote against the legislation for that reason.

“While there may be no perfect solution to the allocation of limited resources to address what seem to be limitless needs, AB 1941 represents a dialogue about who does and does not have a voice in the planning of community’s infrastructure needs,” Holden continued. “Many of us, while not a member of the Metro Board are heavily invested in the success of this agency and passage of another countywide measure to fund the county’s transportation priorities.”

When Holden speaks of “de-emphasizing” projects, he is referring to Metro’s efforts to speed up certain transit projects funded by the Measure R sales tax. When the Board voted last year on an acceleration plan, it specifically excluded the proposed I-710 Big Dig, the Gold Line Extension to Azusa and other projects.

Not surprisingly, Metro Board Members aren’t excited by Holden’s motion and they aren’t shy about letting state officials know it. After the Board quickly and unanimously passed a motion against AB 1941, Streetsblog talked with some of the Board Members.

“Increasing Sacramento influence over regional transportation decisions, while Sacramento’s investment in regional transportation needs is diminishing, makes no sense,” writes Paul Krekorian, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and Mayoral Appointee to the Board. “This bill would simply diminish the City’s role in meeting the needs of our residents and it should be rejected.”

There has long been friction between the Board Members who represent the City of Los Angeles, or part of the City of Los Angeles, and ones from the rest of the County. One Metro staffer, who was speaking off the record, jokes that the only thing the County Supervisors and COG representatives can agree on is who their enemy is: whoever is the Mayor of Los Angeles. However, that doesn’t mean that those not representing the city see AB 1941 as a good bill.


“The last thing we need on this already political board, is to inject two new players with no stakeholders and no constituents to answer to, only the politicos in Sacramento,” writes Ara Najarian, Glendale City Councilmember and the representative to the Metro Board from the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments. “A huge mistake and not a well thought out piece of legislation. Now, if we wanted to add directors who actually had constituents to answer to…then fine.”

“Ara’s right. The Metro Board was blindsided by this motion, he (Holden) didn’t work with us. He didn’t even call us.” responded Mike Bonin, a Los Angeles City Councilmember and another mayoral appointee in a further show of Board unity. “The Metro Board has traditionally fought efforts to change its composition, unless the change is being pushed by a broad coalition of citizens.”

Bonin and Krekorian have introduced a Los Angeles City Council motion urging the legislature to reject Holden’s proposal. The motion is seconded by City Council President Herb Wesson.
A fact sheet provided by Holden’s office offers two different explanations for the need for AB 1941. It states that with the state mandating greenhouse gas reduction goals for municipalities throughout the state, that state representation on the Board would help Metro meet state goals. The fact sheet states:
California’s continuing efforts to develop regional solutions to greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on vehicle miles traveled requires the development of a comprehensive transportation solution. By adding a statewide perspective to the Board of LA Metro, California’s largest county will continue to develop sustainable solutions for the state’s transportation future.
A second potential explanation explains that many Metro projects have regional impacts outside of L.A. County, thus broader representation would be helpful for the agency to understand the impacts of its decisions. The fact sheet states:
These members, appointed by state leadership, will enhance the regional perspective required for a modern transportation board. Currently, projects including the SR 605 and SR 405 interchange project, the SR 14 carpool extension and the Metro Gold Line Foothill extension all require LA Metro to coordinate projects that extend to the county border and beyond.
Because legislators can only introduce a limited number of bills each session, it seems a little odd that Holden would use one of his to insure better representation on the Metro Board for people he doesn’t represent. Holden’s father was a major player at Metro for years. Nate Holden served as a Board Member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, Metro’s successor agency, and the Metro Board itself, when Metro still referred to itself as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In an ironic twist, Nate Holden is credited with leading the charge to increase the representation on the Metro Board by the City of Los Angeles from 2 members to 4 members in the late 1990′s.
AB 1941 was referred to the “Local Program” committee and could be heard as soon as March 22.

We're Driving Less, So Should We Stop Building New Roads?

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/02/were-driving-less-so-should-we-stop-building-new-roads/8507/

By Eric Jaffe, February 28, 2014

 We're Driving Less, So Should We Stop Building New Roads?



 There's evidence to suggest that America's already reached peak driving. The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation suggest that vehicle-miles increased by 18.1 billion miles in 2013, just half a percent on the previous year. That's a rise, of course, but not enough to skew statistics showing that mileage has plateaued since its high mark in the mid-2000s:



Meanwhile, the U.S. population grew by about .7 percent in 2013, so per capita vehicle miles actually declined — for the ninth year in a row. Analyst Tony Dutzik writes that the latest per capita VMT rate is about 7 percent below its 2004 peak. In fact, when you adjust for the driving population, as financial advisor Doug Short has done, the 2013 VMT rate "is about where we were as a nation in January of 1995":




So if we really are driving less than we used to — or, at the very least, no more than we used to — when will we stop increasing road capacity? Traffic growth or decline is a notoriously difficult trend to forecast accurately. But given vehicle-mile trends, it stands to reason that sooner or later states and cities will warm to the possibility that maintaining existing roads is a wiser public investment than building new ones.

Chris McCahill at the State Smart Transportation Initiative points out that some places are already accepting this sea change. Back in 2009, for instance, the Maryland DOT projected 2 percent VMT growth through 2030 (below), citing "no clear evidence that Marylanders will continue to drive less in the future." Last month, however, it reversed course and not only acknowledged per capita VMT declines but omitted traffic projections.



Local officials can't help but notice the trend, too. At Sightline, Clark Williams-Derry tracks the
enormous drop in traffic — 48,000 daily trips — that's occurred of late along Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, an urban interstate that's being removed and replaced by a tunnel. Construction obviously has a lot to do with the decline, but peak driving might too, since the dip predates all the road work:



Sightline commenters make clear that the viaduct is very congested at times, so maybe more road capacity here will help. But the point made by Williams-Derry is that Seattle has adapted to the loss of 48,000 trips without much effort (a modest transit increase captured most of them). If officials had known that only 62,000 daily trips would remain in the viaduct corridor, would they have pushed for a multi-billion-dollar replacement tunnel or closed the gap with cheaper alternatives?

What all these data and charts point to are the merits of a fix-it-first road funding policy that puts road maintenance before road construction. For sure, we need a new source of funding, with the busted gas tax nearing its demise. It's also high time to challenge the idea that the amount of road funding we'll need in the future is the same as what we've needed in the past.