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, March 10, 2014

Traffic pollution may alter structure of the heart; promote heart failure


By Tabitha Laffernis, March 10, 2014

 Traffic air pollution

 Researchers have found the increase exposure to nitrogen oxide - commonly found in traffic air pollution - change the structure of the human heart, leading to a higher incidence of heart failure in previously healthy patients.

Traffic air pollution has been linked to poor health in the past - with wheezing, coughing, and watery eyes just the tip of the iceberg. Later studies have also established a relationship between pollution and a host of heart problems, including left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure, among others. However, a new study, from the University of Washington's Medical Center in Seattle, has now found that air pollution emitted from traffic sources also changes the structure of the heart's right ventricle - further increasing the risk of heart failure for residents' of pollution-dense areas.

"Although the link between traffic-related air pollution and left ventricular hypertrophy, heart failure, and cardiovascular death is established, the effects of traffic-related air pollution on the right ventricle have not been well studied," said the study's lead author Peter Leary, MD, MS, of the UW Medical Center in a press release. "Using exposure to nitrogen dioxide as a surrogate for exposure to traffic-related air pollution, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that higher levels of exposure were associated with greater right ventricular mass and larger right ventricular end-diastolic volume. Greater right ventricular mass is also associated with increased risk for heart failure and cardiovascular death."

The study observed the health patterns of 3,896 individuals who participated in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, each of whom had no prior history of cardiac disruption or disease. All of the test subjects had previously undertaken magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, with authors observing their levels of exposure to pollutant nitrogen oxide in the year leading up to the scan.

On average, the study found that a higher incidence of exposure to nitrogen oxide coincided with a five percent increase (around one gram) in right ventricular mass and a three percent increase (4.1 mL) in  right ventricular end-diastolic volume. The researchers combed through a range of differentiating factors that could have skewed the data before confirming their findings, including variations in lung disease, socioeconomic standing, inflammation, and left ventricular mass and volume.

"The morphologic changes in the right ventricle of the heart that we found with increased exposure to nitrogen dioxide add to the body of evidence supporting a connection between traffic-related air pollution and cardiovascular disease," said Leary. "The many adverse effects of air pollution on human health support continued efforts to reduce this burden."

It should be noted, however, that while increased exposure to nitrogen oxide led to a notable change in the heart's structure, the findings have not definitively been linked to traffic air pollution. However, the researchers are confident that these recent findings are aligned with previous studies on the matter, and serve to strengthen beliefs that traffic air pollution is detrimental to cardiovascular health.
The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

New research shows air pollution might make you bad at your job


By Christopher Ingraham, March 10, 2014

In 2011 researchers at UC San Diego and Columbia University were the first to demonstrate a link between air pollution and reduced productivity among outdoor agricultural workers. Now those researchers are back with a new study, entitled “Particulate Pollution and the Productivity of Pear Packers.” The study shows, for the first time, a significant link between air pollution and the productivity of indoor workers.

The pollutant in question is fine particulate matter, or PM2.5. It’s notable for its tiny size (less than 1/30th the width of a human hair), which allows it to infiltrate deep into your lungs and potentially even your bloodstream, where it can cause all sorts of health problems. The authors note that PM2.5 can easily enter buildings: “Unlike other pollutants, which either remain outside or rapidly break down once indoors, going inside may do little to reduce one’s exposure to PM2.5.”

To figure out how this affected indoor workers, the authors drew on data from an indoor pear-packing factory in northern California. “We focused on pear packing for this study since it was located near an air pollution monitor and paid workers piece rate, which allowed us to measure individual worker productivity on a daily level,” author Joshua Graff Zivin told me.

What they found was that every 10-microgram per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 levels decreased worker productivity by 0.6%, as measured by the number pear boxes packed by each worker. Since workers were paid piecemeal, this translated to a decrease of roughly 41 cents per hour, per 10 micrograms of PM2.5.
relationship between worker productivity and air pollution

Moreover, the effect increased at higher PM2.5 levels: levels between 15 and 20 micrograms reduced earnings by $0.53 per hour, levels between 20 and 25 micrograms decrease earnings by $1.03 per hour, and when levels exceed 25 micrograms/cubic meter earnings shrink by $1.88 per hour. One key point is that these levels are all well below current U.S. air quality standards for PM2.5, which stand at 35 micrograms/m3. The U.S. didn’t even start regulating this pollutant until 1997.

Across the U.S., PM2.5 levels routinely cross this 35 microgram threshold every day. Airnow.gov, an EPA website that tracks air quality in U.S. cities, is currently showing PM2.5 levels of 69 micrograms in Atlanta, 72 in Cleveland, and a whopping 140 in Albuquerque, NM. If those figures seem high be thankful you don’t live in Beijing, where PM2.5 levels topped 250 micrograms today.

One major implication of the study is that reductions of PM2.5 can have significant economic benefits. The authors estimate that across the entire U.S. manufacturing sector, reductions in PM2.5 since 1997 has led to an aggregate labor savings of $19.5 billion – a previously-unknown benefit of fine particulate regulation.

 The larger question, of course, is whether these findings extend even to workers in retail and other regular office settings. “We are very curious about this,” Givin told me. “Whether more cognitive indoor activities are subject to similar effects is an important area for future research, but there is certainly a plausible channel through which these could occur.”

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, March 10, 2014

Plenty of chances to weigh-in at the Neighborhood Council level on major projects: the Hyperion Bridge Redesign and the MyFigueroa! project on South Figueroa. Don’t forget Streetsblog L.A. has its first fundraiser of 2014

Tonight - Made up of experts and thought-leaders (including USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity PERE professor Manuel Pastor), Parks Forward is an independent commission charged with conducting a wholesale assessment of California’s state parks system. It is designed to address the financial, operational, and cultural challenges facing State Parks to ensure the system’s long-term viability. Parks Forward is hosting a public meeting tonight at the Radisson on South Figueroa. Get the details, here.

Tuesday – The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee’s Advocacy & Education sub-committee takes a look at the city’s Safe Routes to School Program. Get the details for this evening meeting, here.

Tuesday – The Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council and the Voices of 90037 Neighborhood Council will vote on resolutions supporting the MyFigueroa! project. With opposition from some local heavyweights tilting against L.A.’s first truly complete street, local support is the key to getting the project through. If you live in the areas, make sure to come out at 6:30. DLANC: Event Info, Council Boundary. 90037: Event Info, Council Boundary

Thursday – Meanwhile the Atwater Neighborhood Council will consider a motion to support a configuration for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge which removes one sidewalk. The city is still considering and studying options, and it positively Koretzian to weigh in before the study is done. If you live in the area and want to make your voice heard, you can get all the event info on Facebook.
Saturday – This innovative new training from Women on Bikes California is geared to measurably grow your aptitude, polish your skills, hone your voice, grow your network, and learn to own your power as an active living advocate for California. Get the details, here.

Saturday – The City of Los Angeles kicks off a series of public outreach meetings for General Plan components, including the Mobility Element, Plan for Healthy Los Angeles, re:code L.A., and more. We’ve republished the LACBC’s announcement for the hearings. They seem pretty excited. Find out why at the North Valley kickoff for some extensive public outreach. Get the details, here.

Saturday – One of the biggest rides of the year is the Tour De Watts put on by the  East Side Riders and Los Ryderz.  The ride leaves at 9 a.m. and is an “easy” 8-10 miles. For more information, check out the Facebook listing, or the calendar section.

Saturday – Streetsblog L.A. parties in Brentwood at the house of Joel Epstein and Karen Sarachik to honor our 2013 “public servant of the year” Paul Backstrom. Backstrom was the transportation deputy for Bill Rosendahl and now serves the same role for Mike Bonin. The westside is happy to have him on our side, and the whole city benefits from his earnest work to make the city a more Livable place to live. Directions come with RSVP. You can do so on Facebook or pay for your ticket on Event Brite.

American Transit Ridership Hits 57-Year High


By Angie Schmitt, March 10, 2014

 Public transit ridership grew 1.1 percent in 2013, three times faster than driving. Photo: Wikipedia
 Public transit ridership grew 1.1 percent in 2013, three times faster than driving.

The last year transit ridership was this high in the United States, Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act. Not since 1956, according to the American Public Transportation Association, have Americans logged as many transit trips as they did in 2013: 10.7 billion. It was the eighth year in a row that Americans have made more than 10 billion transit trips.

Growth in transit ridership is outpacing changes in driving. While total miles driven by Americans rose 0.3 percent in 2013, public transit use was up 1.1 percent.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy in a press release. “People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services.”

Some of the big increases were in places like Los Angeles and Salt Lake City that have been pouring resources into expanding their transit networks. L.A. saw a 4.8 percent increase in heavy rail ridership and a nearly 6 percent increase in light rail ridership, following the opening of its Expo Line in 2012. Salt Lake City, meanwhile, saw a doubling in commuter rail riders, on the heels of a significant expansion of its Frontrunner system.

Growth also occurred in cities with established train networks. Rail ridership in the New York region, for instance, grew 4.2 percent.

The positive trend, while not uniform, was widely spread. Places as diverse as Fort Myers, Florida; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Yuma, Arizona, saw sizable bumps in ridership either systemwide or on specific lines.

Heavy rail ridership recorded the strongest growth of any transit mode in 2013, with an increase of 2.8 percent, while commuter rail rose 2.1 percent. Light rail trips, including streetcars, increased by 1.6 percent. Meanwhile, bus travel was up 3.8 percent in cities with populations less than 100,000, but was down 0.1 percent overall, APTA reports.

Signage project to improve way-finding at Union Station is set to begin March 11

By Steve Hymon, March 10, 2014


When Metro started the Union Station Master Planning process, the agency kicked off with a series of focus groups including many kinds of stakeholders – transit users, transit operators, neighbors and business improvement groups.

One of the themes heard overwhelmingly is that while our stakeholders were excited about the master plan and a future vision for the station, they wanted Metro to make immediate improvements. Which, in fact, Metro plans to do with a signage improvement program as detailed in the document posted above.

Among our stakeholders, it was noted that many people get lost in Union Station. Some of the common complaints: it’s a big place and it’s often hard to know where you are — and where you’re supposed to go to reach buses and trains and places such as Olvera Street, which is only a block away from Union Station’s frontage on Alameda Street.

It’s not surprising that visitors often cannot find their way around. When the station opened in 1939, clarity of circulation was inherent in the design. Street cars, taxis and private cars were funneled to the front side of the station. Once inside, passengers went from the ticket hall in front to the waiting room to the gates that led to platforms. Carefully laid tile in the floors guided arriving and departing passengers to the appropriate locations and it was easy to get around without much thought and without much signage.

After a major decline in rail service that lasted through the 1980s, Union Station is a far different place today. The station is now served by the Red/Purple Line subway and the two segments of the Gold Line — which will one day be linked to the Blue and Expo Lines via the Regional Connector project. There are more than a dozen Metro Bus routes that stop near the station, not to mention stops for other muni buses. Union Station also serves inter-city rail (Amtrak) and commuter rail (Metrolink), the FlyAway bus to Los Angeles International Airport , inter-city buses and various shuttles.

In 1995 Metro opened its headquarters building in the “Gateway Center” area of the station, followed by the opening of Patsaouras Bus Plaza and the East Portal.  This represented a fundamental change in the design of the station – we now had an east entrance to the station and the passageway (aka the tunnel) now had two sides to it.  Efforts were made to direct transit users and visitors across the station as it grew and changed, but signs were added on a piecemeal basis and there was never a consistent design.

For example, in our study of the existing signage conditions, we identified signs directing customers to “Metro Headquarters,” “Gateway Center,” “MTA Headquarters,” or “Gateway Plaza.” Four different names for the same building!

With Metro’s purchase of the station in April 2011 and commitment to planning for the long term, the new Environmental Graphics and Signage plan (the “Plan”) is a first step in that direction.  The Plan brings a deep knowledge of the movement of passengers across the station and provides a plan and design that offers both beauty and consistency.  The plan also takes advantage of new technology Metro is testing to make Union Station a pilot site for better incorporating technology into our transit system.

Some highlights of the signage plan are below. Thanks to Selbert Perkins Design for their work on the project and the following renderings:

•Preservation of the four existing historic mounted signs. 

With close supervision of our consulting historic architect, ARG, Metro is removing, documenting and storing the last of the concourse gates and the Information cabinet. Other historic signage will remain, as shown in the above slide.

•Opening up the concourse. The Plan aims to create clear sightlines from the passageway to the western (Alameda) entrance to the station and to the South Patio, key travel paths for transit users and visitors.  This will be achieved by the removal and storage of the historic signs, coupled with the recent removal of the seating from the concourse area. 

Moving the “queuing” of Amtrak passengers waiting for seat assignments and boarding in the concourse.  Many users had their travel path blocked by stanchions and rows of baggage-carrying passengers lined up from the concourse down into the waiting room.  These passengers now get their information at the Amtrak service desk and wait in the historic seating in the beautiful waiting room.

•New electronic signage in the waiting room. To reiterate the use of the waiting room as a place to sit and wait, and in close cooperation with Metrolink, two new electronic LED signs will be placed in the waiting room, offering arrival and departure information for both Amtrak and Metrolink services. This data will mirror the data that is currently provided in the information cabinet: 

And how the new waiting room signs will look:
Waiting Room_C04 Wall Mounted_whiteback

•Standard nomenclature.  The Plan offers both a new naming convention for general orientation around the station as well as a standardization across the names of various “places” on the station property.  The overall site remains Union Station, but we have designated “Union Station East” and “Union Station West” to help general orientation for first time visitors, and we continue this convention on maps and directional signage.

•Perimeter improvements.  The Plan includes a series of perimeter wayfinding signs at scales appropriate for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. We are also introducing identity pylons at 3 main corners: Alameda/El Monte Busway, Cesar Chavez/Vignes and the entrance to the Patsaouras Bus Plaza. 

The corner of Cesar Chavez/Vignes now:
And how it will look:
Site Perimeter_Chavez Vignes_whitebackground

•East Portal Pylon and Interactive Help Desk.  We will place a new pylon in the East Portal, carefully located outside the path of travel for transit connections, to provide a clear marking point as well as pilot a new interactive “help desk” function. The pylon will include four, 55-inch interactive touch-screens that provide Metro’s trip planner system, web page as well as internet access focused on tourist and destination information. 

As it looks now:
As it will look:
East Portal Totem north
•New bus bay markers at Patsaouras Bus Plaza.  We will replace the bus bay markers with new markers, equipped with Metro’s real time NextBus system at every marker. 

As it looks now:
As it will look:
Patsaouras Plaza_A05

The removal of some existing signs is set to begin March 11, with the with the complete signage package in place by May 3, when Metro will host a slate of activities honoring the 75th anniversary of Union Station.  The first stage of this Plan does not include the Gateway Parking Garage, but this will be re-signed in a subsequent phase and is scheduled to be completed by fall 2014.