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, March 13, 2014

President offers a four-year vision for American rail

http://www.transportation.gov/fastlane/president-offers-four-year-vision-american-rail

By Joseph Szabo, March 12, 2014

Yesterday I had a chance to talk with members of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) about how President Obama’s four-year transportation plan will enhance rail safety and service, including commuter rail.

The President’s plan includes a blueprint for a $19 billion rail reauthorization that builds upon current rail policy and the $23 billion portfolio of investments we've made since 2009. For the first time, rail will have its own source of dedicated funding as part of a Rail Account within the Highway Trust Fund, finally placing rail on par with other forms of transportation.

Photo of Amtrak Cities Sprinter

Earlier this week we heard APTA announce the latest statistics proving that it's time for Congress to support the President’s proposal. That is, in 2013, Americans took 10.7 billion trips by public transportation, the most since 1956.

That’s more people “boarding public buses, trains and subways,” AP reported, “since the suburbs began booming,” not to mention since the year President Eisenhower authorized the building of the Interstate Highway System and established the Highway Trust Fund to ensure stable Federal funding.
And that ridership includes growth across all types of transit, including light rail, commuter rail, and subways. When you combine those stats with our October announcement that Amtrak set its 10th ridership record in 11 years, we're talking about a solid body of evidence that rail ridership of all kinds is booming and that travel choices have fundamentally shifted since the Highway Trust Fund was created.

The President’s four-year plan both stabilizes the Highway Trust Fund and applies it to DOT’s goal of building a high-performance rail system as part of a more integrated, connected multimodal transportation network.

Photo of passengers at New York's Penn Station

The plan sets a course to reverse the Federal government’s historic underinvestment in Amtrak: to achieve a state of good repair; to provide adequate capital for improving track and replacing obsolete equipment; and to lead the way to full Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at stations.
It builds on the recent successes of our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program by continuing to pursue new passenger rail markets and market-based enhancements to services throughout the nation.

And, it will drive our ongoing efforts to lead the next generation of rail safety.

Over the past decade, train accidents have declined 47 percent, highway-rail grade crossing accidents are down 35 percent, and employee fatalities have been reduced by 59 percent. New safety records have been achieved in four of the past five years.

But we owe it to the public to always do better. That’s why we will continue staying focused on our three pillars for rail safety:
  • Strong data-driven oversight and enforcement;
  • More proactive safety programs that eliminate risk well in advance of an accident; and
  • Predictable and sustainable federal rail funding to improve infrastructure and develop new safety technologies through research and development.
The President’s budget provides funding, including $825 million in FY 2015, to support timely installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) on the nation’s commuter railroads and Amtrak, in addition to upgrading track, stations, and signal systems.  It also provides grants to communities for safety upgrades and to mitigate the adverse impacts of increased rail traffic through rail-line relocation projects or quiet zones.

And judging by what we have seen since 2009, we know that passing the President’s transportation plan – providing a predictable and reliable Federal funding stream for rail initiatives – will prove to be a win-win-win: for improving rail safety, for upgrading service on rail corridors, and for growing our economy.

For more information, I urge you to look at page 28 of DOT’s Budget Highlights.

Joe Szabo is the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

State DOTs Let Roads Fall Apart While Splurging on Highway Expansion

http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/03/12/state-dots-let-roads-fall-apart-while-splurging-on-highway-expansion/

By Angie Schmitt, March 12, 2014


 States spend more than half their money on new construction. Image: Smart Growth America

 States spend more than half their road money on adding lanes and new highways. Image: Smart Growth America


Even though 33 percent of its roads are in “poor” condition, West Virginia spends about 73 percent of its road budget building new roads and adding lanes. Mississippi spends 97 percent of its road money on expansion. Texas, 82 percent.

Smart Growth America reports that the 50 states and the District of Columbia, combined, devote 55 percent of their road spending — $20.4 billion a year — to expansions, according to data states provide to the Federal Highway Administration. Between 2009 and 2011, that investment added 8,822 lane miles to the nation’s highway system — meaning that more than half of states’ road dollars were dedicated to less than 1 percent of their roads.

Meanwhile, states spent $16.5 billion annually, or 45 percent of their total road budgets, maintaining and repairing the other 99 percent of the nation’s roads.

In total, 21 percent of America’s roads are in “poor” condition, based on an international index that measures ride quality and surface smoothness. And the condition of the nation’s roads is getting worse. The last time Smart Growth America checked in, in 2008, 41 percent were in “good” condition. By 2011, that figure was down to 37 percent.

“States are adding to a system they are failing to maintain,” said Steve Ellis of the nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, which co-funded the study, in a webinar hosted by SGA this morning. “Every new lane mile is a lane that will eventually have to be repaired.”


SGA reports that in order to bring all the country’s roads into a state of good repair, states would need to nearly triple the amount of money they are spending on maintenance, or spend $45.2 billion every year for the next 20 years.

Picture 7
Image: Smart Growth America

States used to be worse about how they allocate road funds. In 2008, states were spending 57 percent of this money on expansion and just 42 percent on repairs. But states aren’t shifting from new construction to maintenance at a fast enough pace to keep the country’s roads from sliding into further disrepair.

Image: Smart Growth America
Image: Smart Growth America

A handful of states do stand out from the rest, ensuring that their road spending doesn’t set them up for long-term financial problems.

Rich Tretrault, director of program development for the Vermont Department of Transportation, said his state had a bit of a come-to-God moment while reviewing budgets in 2007.
“We had a wake-up call,” said Tretrault. “We weren’t going to survive without making the change. We just couldn’t afford it.”

The state now devotes about 77 percent of its road budget to maintenance. Between 2008 and 2011, Vermont increased the share of its roads in “good” condition from 23 percent to 42 percent.

Tennessee is another state that’s setting a good example. Steve Allen, strategic investments director at Tennessee DOT, said his state is recognized for having its roads in the second-best condition of any state in the country. And, even better, Tennessee is one of just four states that has no transportation debt.

And even though Tennessee’s population is growing pretty quickly, the state keeps costs under control through careful prioritization, he said.

“We used to fund projects first and what was left over would be our maintenance budget,” he said. “Now we move the maintenance money first. We say that money is not going to be able to spent on projects.”

Michigan is another leader. The state is known for its “asset management” program, which predicts the rate roads at which will deteriorate and makes an effort to time repairs at the least expensive juncture in the life cycle. In 2004, Michigan began a program with municipalities called the Multi-Jurisdictional Asset Management Council, which helps local communities strategically balance spending as well.

“About 2004, MDOT started to feel the pinch financially and made the conscious decision to really limit its expansion projects,” said the organization’s Polly Kent. “We focused our resources on preserving the existing system.”

Rather than adding capacity, between 2009 and 2011, Michigan actually reduced the number of state-controlled lane miles by 17.

Metro and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department begin effort to reduce loitering and improve safety at North Hollywood Red Line station

http://thesource.metro.net/2014/03/13/metro-and-los-angeles-sheriffs-department-begin-effort-to-reduce-loitering-and-improve-safety-at-north-hollywood-red-line-station/

By Steve Hymon, March 13, 2014



 Photo by Gary Leonard for Metro.

 Metro Board Member Paul Krekorian, left, touring the NoHo station area with Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department officers on Thursday.

Here’s the news release from Metro:
NORTH HOLLYWOOD – Fulfilling a request from Councilmember Paul Krekorian, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s (LASD) Transit Services Bureau, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) North Hollywood Division and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have joined in efforts to enhance safety at the North Hollywood station of the Metro Red Line by installing new security cameras and “No Loitering” signs.

Temporary video surveillance cameras have been in place around the ground level plaza while preparations are made for permanent installation of dedicated security monitoring. Metro maintains security cameras and monitoring within the North Hollywood station, at the platform and inside Metro Red Line trains. In addition, “No Loitering” signs have been installed to prevent persons without valid transportation business from remaining in the area for extended periods of time.

“The people of North Hollywood have a fantastic resource in the Metro Red Line subway and we want to make sure it remains safe and easy to use,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “Metro, the LASD and LAPD have done an excellent job keeping the neighborhood and the North Hollywood station safe and we are always looking for ways to enhance the experience of riders on the subway.”

Constituent feedback to the Council District 2 office has included complaints that there have been people loitering around the plaza and unauthorized vendors setting up shop. If left unaddressed by law enforcement, Metro and the Council office, these things could lead to litter, disruptive public behavior and crime.

Temporary video monitoring is conducted through five trailer-mounted cameras on a telescoping mast that provide high level views of the plaza and parking lot. The “No Loitering” signs comply with Metro’s Code of Customer Conduct prohibiting unnecessary lingering in Metro facilities or vehicles were it interferes with use.

COMPREHENSIVE TRAVEL SURVEY SHOWS MORE CALIFORNIANS ARE WALKING, BIKING, AND RIDING TRANSIT

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/paffairs/news/pressrel/14pr021.htm

California Department of Transportation, March 10, 2014

SACRAMENTO – Results from the California Household Travel Survey – the largest and most complex review of its kind – show that the percentage of California residents walking, biking, or using public transportation on a typical day has more than doubled since 2000.

“Based on this research, we can make good decisions about transportation that will improve mobility, air quality, and travel choices for all Californians and make our state a better place to live and work,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Nearly 23 percent of household trips were taken by walking, biking, and public transportation. In 2000, that share was only 11 percent. This increase includes a dramatic increase in walking trips, which nearly doubled from 8.4 percent to 16.6 percent of trips.

“This increasing interest in many transportation choices is another reason why we are on the path to more sustainability in California,” said California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly. “Caltrans will continue improving the state’s transportation system to help ensure Californians have many viable choices for how to travel.”

The 2012 study provides a snapshot of the travel behavior of approximately 109,000 persons from more than 42,000 households in 58 California counties, this included parents driving to work or kids biking to school. 
        
Participants received diaries and recorded where and when they travelled and how they got to and from their destinations on one random day. The average number of trips for a household was 9.2, while the average number of trips per person was 3.6.

"Californians are increasingly choosing alternatives to driving a car for work and play. That's a shift with real benefits for public health that also cuts greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollution," said Chairman of the California Air Resources Board Mart D. Nichols. "California is committed to supporting this shift with better planning to support sustainable communities and healthier, low-carbon choices for travel."

Last year, legislation was approved creating California’s $129 million Active Transportation Program, which distributes funding for human-powered transportation projects and programs to increase the proportion of trips accomplished by biking and walking.

“Californians are increasingly determined to get places on their own power, and Caltrans is determined to help them do that,” said Dougherty. “Active transportation projects, such as bicycle and pedestrian paths, are an important part of achieving mobility, safety, and sustainability goals for California’s transportation system.”

Caltrans and regional transportation planning agencies will use the CHTS data to forecast future travel demands and greenhouse gas emissions and look for ways to improve transportation to meet the needs of the state’s residents.

The CHTS was a partnership among Caltrans, the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Department of Public Health, and transportation planning agencies statewide. The survey data will be used by all of the agencies for various purposes. The study was jointly funded by Caltrans, the Strategic Growth Council, CEC, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and seven transportation planning agencies. Their generous contributions are as follows:

Caltrans: $4,221,000
Strategic Growth Council: $2,028,000
Metropolitan Transportation Commission: $1,515,000
Southern California Association of Governments: $1,415,834
Council of Fresno County Governments: $49,500
Kern Council of Governments: $118,000
Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments: $183,810
San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District: $150,000
Santa Barbara County Association of Governments: $33,000
Tulare County Association of Governments: $49,500
California Energy Commission: $250,000

The CHTS has been conducted roughly every 10 years since 1991. The most recent review began in January 2012 and ended in February 2013. The survey data will assist the department in developing and updating transportation models. The entire report is available at http://dot.ca.gov/hq/tsip/otfa/tab/documents/chts_finalreport/FinalReport.pdf.

The Destructive Allure of “Free Money” for Highways

http://streetsblog.net/2014/03/13/the-destructive-allure-of-free-money-for-highways/

By Angie Schmitt, March 13, 2014

In Patrick Kennedy’s campaign to tear down Interstate 345 in Dallas – a vision he calls anewdallas – he’s running up against the “free money” argument. Since Texas DOT is willing to spend $100 million to rehab the road, the thinking goes, why not let them do it?

Dallas. Photo: anewdallas
Dallas.

Here’s why that whole line of thought just doesn’t stand up, Kennedy writes at WalkableDFW:
The cost of the proposed 345 repair is $100 million for 20 years to keep the thing standing, that nobody wants, from 2020 to 2040. Yay? Some believe if that $100 million is there we should take it. Because why not? Free money.

Well, free money is also what tore apart the functionality and desirability of our core cities by the way of an interstate system never intended to cut through existing neighborhoods. The long-term cost of doing so, while it added to meaningless statistics such as GDP, is virtually incalculable. How would you even calculate replacing an entire city with an entirely new and less sustainable and maintainable city?

Now, let’s get back to that $100 million. If we were to take the $100 million what is our return on that investment? Preventing catastrophe. That is it.

On the other hand, removing the road also prevents catastrophe.  It also prevents us from facing the exact same scenario in twenty years.

On top of that it immediately opens 65 acres of public right-of-way underneath an antiquated failing structure for private investment for public good and private gain. Remember, developers are our city builders. We just have to set up a system where they’re delivering the kind of neighborhoods and city we want, in a way they can make profit. Right now, that is not possible with the highways subsidizing the exportation of jobs and tax base further afield.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Joe Urban offers some suggestions for how sustainable transportation could become more ingrained at City Hall in Minneapolis. CincyMap looks at the relationship between transit fares and ridership in Cincinnati. And PubliCola at SeattleMet explains the tactics of NIMBYs who’ve organized to fight against additional housing in the city.

The Jayne Mansfield of Freeways: Drama on the 710

Long-standing controversy surrounds plans for extending the 710 into Pasadena


 http://www.lamag.com/citythink/ladriver/2014/03/13/the-jayne-mansfield-of-freeways-drama-on-the-710

By Neal Broverman, March 13, 2014

 

 When it comes to controversy, "think of the 405 as the Marilyn of freeways and 710 as the Jayne Mansfield."

The 405 may be the most infamous freeway in all of Los Angeles, but the 710 rivals its western neighbor when it comes to drama, intrigue, and unhappy endings (think of the 405 as the Marilyn of freeways and 710 as the Jayne Mansfield). The subject of battles and rallying cries since it was carved into its current form in the mid-60s, the 23-mile freeway originates in Long Beach but abruptly ends in Alhambra, causing cars to spill out to the neighborhood and clog residential streets. But the effort to fill the 710’s gap by extending the freeway to Pasadena and the 210, as it was originally envisioned, might finally be coming to a head.

Metro and the California Department of Transportation are in the midst of an environmental study looking at the feasibility of a 710 tunnel underneath L.A., South Pasadena, and Pasadena. The transit and freeway agencies are also looking at building a light rail or bus way instead, or simply attempting traffic mitigation measures to address the gridlock at the 710’s northern terminus. But it’s the nearly five-mile tunnel that’s long been viewed as the most realistic option even as it remains one of the most contentious.

Aside from a price tag north of $5 billion—it would be funded through taxes and possibly a public-private partnership—many communities don’t want to encourage more traffic in the area, even if it’s underground. The cities of South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Glendale, and La Canada Flintridge have come down hard against extending the freeway, though Alhambra, El Monte, and Duarte are supportive, since the tunnel will mean less cars cutting through their streets.

What everyone agrees on is that a surface extension of the 710, a proposal that would have required the demolition of hundreds of homes, should be off the table. Even Governor Jerry Brown said no to that option by signing a bill in October expediting the sale of more than 500 homes purchased by Caltrans decades ago to make way for a surface freeway extension. When sold, the homes will generate much-needed property tax revenue and any profits made during the sale will aid local transportation projects.

That proviso may send chills up South Pasadena spines, but some believe recent developments at Metro have put the nail in the coffin for any extension of the 710, even a subterranean one. A staff shake-up at the agency pushed out several champions of the tunnel, including powerful Highway Programs executive director Doug Failing.

“Essentially those proponents that were keeping it alive, a project that was on life support, are gone and hopefully with $40 million spent on an EIR we will be able to come up with an alternative that would actually solve the 65-year-old controversy, not inflame it even more, which would be the tunnel if it was chosen,” South Pasadena resident Joanne Nuckols told the Pasadena Star-News.

 Others, like Metro Board member and tunnel opponent Ara Najarian, say the project still has plenty of supporters. Tunnel-haters should at least wait until the spring, when Metro and Caltrans release a draft of the environmental impact report, to raise the victory flag.

Ethan Elkind’s Railtown – How Planning, Engineering and Mostly Politics Shape L.A. Rail

http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/03/13/ethan-elkinds-railtown-how-planning-engineering-and-mostly-politics-shape-l-a-rail/

By Melanie Curry, March 13, 2014


 Railtown:
 Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City, published by UC Press, 2014

The UC Berkeley Faculty Club meeting room was packed on Tuesday evening with people who came to hear Ethan Elkind talk about his book, Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City.

Elkind, who holds a joint appointment as Climate Policy Associate at the UCLA and UC Berkeley law schools, entertained the crowd with a wry, rapid-fire summary of some of the complex political forces that quite literally shaped the current and future Metro system.

Like many contemporary cities, L.A. originally grew along streetcar lines. Then, as cars became more ubiquitous, it spread out into interstitial areas and beyond, becoming an “endless expanse of subdivisions.” A map of the oversized extent of Los Angeles County (“the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined….Why does Delaware get to be a state?”) gave an idea of the vast areas overseen by only five county supervisors, with huge and varied constituencies. The mottled shape of the city of LA showed the relatively minor power base of its mayor.

Federal money for transit helped start the conversation. “If the city could put up 20% of the cost of building an urban rail system,” said Elkind, “then the federal government would pay 80%–this was a very enticing deal.” Terrible air quality and bad congestion added to a general frustration with the existing transportation in LA, helping set the stage for rail.

He showed a slide with an overhead photo of the city (“That photo cost me some money,” he said—which is why Streetsblog didn’t post it here). It showed an endless cityscape, and jutting up were tall buildings clearly outlining the Wilshire Boulevard corridor.

“If you’re going to build rail,” said Elkind, “This is where you should do it, along the most densely populated corridor in the western U.S.”

But other interests intervened, and the Blue Line to Long Beach became the first route, “on the bones of the old streetcar network,” taking the same route as the last remnant line of the old streetcars, which shut down in 1961.

 The second route, the Green Line, was built on a transit right of way in the center of the Century freeway, located there due to a lawsuit against the freeway. Because the right of way was already set up, the route was cheap and convenient. Also, it was argued that it could serve the aerospace industry in the western marsh below LAX.

But the Green Line didn’t go to the airport. And with the end of the cold war, the aerospace industry collapsed.

Meanwhile efforts to get a line through the most heavily populated areas were diverted by politicians who wanted—or didn’t want—rail through their districts. At one point Elkind showed a slide of an early route plan for the Red Line subway, calling it “Wounded Knee” because the line curved up from Wilshire through downtown, bending in a tight curve in an effort to hit all the important spots.

Then came the methane explosion in 1985 on Fairfax, and those who feared more methane leaks joined forces with those who feared gentrification and almost brought the whole subway to a halt.
Elkind discussed the personalities at play, including US Representative Henry Waxman, who at first seemed supportive of rail but then pulled his support after the methane explosions, Mayor Tom Bradley, who “accidentally” promised the groundbreaking of a subway within eighteen months of taking office (he was only off by about twenty years), and Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who wanted to see the old streetcar system revived in a renewed Los Angeles.

He touched on construction problems, including the sensational ones: the tunnel fire under the Hollywood Freeway and the sinkhole that almost ate Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Regarding these, Elkind gave this valuable advice: If ever you are appointed to a transportation agency or commission, step down before construction begins. “I may have just saved a few careers with that advice.”

Elkind also mentioned backlash against rail, from anti-transit Reagan Republicans to the Bus Riders Union lawsuit arguing that rail served rich commuters to the detriment of transit-dependent bus riders.

He traced the shifting landscape of fundraising, from the first failed effort to pass a sales tax measure, through several successful measures that passed with slight majorities before the 2/3 vote requirement was in place, to Mayor Villaraigosa’s successful championing of Measure R, with slightly more than 2/3 vote.

Elkind’s lessons for transit planners include: don’t try to build a line through any area with more than 50% home ownership. The Pasadena Gold Line was chosen in part because its route went through an area with a high proportion of rental units, he said.

Elkin recommended when you build rail, locate it where there is density. If the density doesn’t yet exist, it has to be allowed, or you won’t get the ridership you need. “It’s tough, with local control over land use, and when locals don’t have much incentive to see more density around rail,” he said. “But why should the region pay for a regional rail system when local jurisdictions won’t allow density to be buil
That route along the most heavily populated corridor in the Western US, Wilshire Boulevard? “The purple line is just around the corner,” he said. “By 2036 you’ll be able to get to Westwood.”
Marty Wachs, professor emeritus of city planning at UCLA and UC Berkeley, retired senior researcher in the Transportation, Space and Technology Program at RAND, and author of numerous articles and books about transportation, was invited to discuss Elkind’s book. He brought the evening to a sobering conclusion with some hard questions about the value of rail in Los Angeles.
Elkind’s book, he said, made it clear that planning and engineering have much less influence on the shape of rail than politics. “It made me worry about the irrelevance of analysis and of what we do at the university,” he said.
Then he asked, “Is rail in L.A. a success or a failure? I don’t know the answer. Certainly it’s overly expensive, it doesn’t stop in the right places, it’s poorly designed. Certainly it offers transit options that didn’t exist before.”
He broke down five criteria for measuring success, four of which were used to bolster the ballot arguments for the sales tax measures that made the system possible.
  • Ridership: “Is 370,000 riders a day a success? One bus line along Wilshire carries 2/3 as many people every day for much less money.”
  • Cost: “What is striking is the pride of elected officials in how much money they were able to obtain and spend on this system,” he said. “Other people refer to it as pork. Would people be more mobile at lower cost if we’d built bus lines instead of rail?”
  • Air pollution: Air quality has dramatically improved, but mostly due to lower carbon fuels and clean engines, not to rail.
  • Congestion: LA has more vehicle miles traveled today than it did thirty years ago. Does anyone notice less traffic?
  • Economic Development: The downtown corporate interests who pushed for rail, arguing it would improve LA’s economic development, have all been sold to other companies that are not headquartered in LA. Today, there are no Fortune 500 companies in downtown.
  • Equity: “We have a long history of transferring money from the poor to the rich via transit,” he said, pointing out that the sales taxes that fund the system are regressive since everyone pays the same percentage no matter their ability to pay. “So the low-income woman next to me on the train is paying for my free parking with her sales taxes,” he said.
Elkind later offered a response to Wachs’ comments on his blog. Twice. He largely agrees with Wachs but points out that “it behooves us to help make sure the verdict [on rail], when it ultimately comes, is a good one.”
t around stations?”

Position of SO.CA.TA on proposed LACMTA/Metro fare increase

http://socata.net/

March 2014

Southern California Transit Advocates generally supports the position that
an increase in fares is necessary to ensure operational sustainability of
the Metro system. However, we have the following comments related to the
proposals:

- SO.CA.TA recommends two hours in transfer time instead of 90 minutes.
Out of Metro’s North American peer agencies cited in their own research
(Washington, Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, San Diego, Chicago,
San Francisco), all of them except San Francisco have a two hour or
greater transfer period. San Francisco allows only 90 minutes during the
day, which may be understandable due to the compact size of the system,
and San Diego allows for two hours from ticket purchase for transfers
within the light rail system. Two hours or more from the time of system
entry is consistent with most North American transit agencies that offer
transfers.

- In addition, if transfers are offered only on TAP cards, then SO.CA.TA
suggests expanding the sale of TAP cards to single ride fares on buses, to
allow cash passengers entering the bus system to be allowed to purchase
transfers. The cost should be comparable to that for a new TAP card
purchased at a ticket vending machine, which is currently $1. Currently
bus passengers may purchase a TAP card only with a day pass, this proposal
would expand sales to include single ride fares. To save cost limited use
TAP cards could be issued, which could then be traded for regular TAP
cards at customer service centers.

- Off peak and peak fares cause confusion, lengthen boarding times, and
create customer conflict, especially near the time change periods.
SO.CA.TA strongly believes that there should be one cash fare at all hours
of the day. If a peak/off-peak structure is implemented, it should be done
using TAP stored value and considered an off-peak discount for using TAP,
rather than a peak surcharge. In other words, the off peak fare is a
discount for using TAP and riding off-peak, with the peak fare considered
the default fare.

- SO.CA.TA has seen that there has been conflict between seniors and the
disabled and drivers related to the current implementation of the
senior/disabled off peak fare. Therefore, we recommend that the off peak
fare be provided only to seniors and the disabled with a valid
senior/disabled TAP card. Cash riders will still be eligible for a 50% or
greater discount by paying the peak senior/disabled fare, as required by
State law.

- With greater utilization of TAP it is imperative that the TAP Service
Center hours be expanded and the website and ticket vending machines be
made more customer friendly prior to implementation of free transfers and
stored value. The TAP Service Center hours should expand to match those of
the Metro Customer Center. Similar to placement of ticket vending machines
at El Monte Station, ticket vending machines where TAP stored value and
passes can be added should be placed at other bus transit hubs, such as
LAX City Bus Center, Harbor Gateway Transit Center, and South Bay
Galleria.

- Also, as part of improving customer service the “day pass accumulator”
should be implemented. Since the day pass is four times the base fare,
once a Metro fare is deducted four times in a calendar day, no further
deductions should be made during that day. In addition, interagency or
Metro-to-Muni transfers should be made automatic, such that a boarding on
a non-Metro operator within the transfer time period after the first Metro
boarding is only charged the interagency transfer fee.

To foster discussion we are sharing a proposal for restructuring Metro’s fares prepared by Eugene Salinsky, who regularly uses public transit. It has not been endorsed by SO.CA.TA and he is not a member.
Eugene Salinsky’s Fare Proposal 

If my proposal is approved, I believe the Farebox Recovery will be well above 30% based on San Francisco Muni and San Diego MTS. This proposal will encourage pass use on the bus and train and will save Metro money on operating costs by speeding the boarding times on the bus.
The plan would maintain the existing fare structure such that each boarding requires separate fare payment, or use of a pass.


Current
FY 2015 FY 2018 FY 2021
Regular Fares
Regular Fare
(per boarding)
$1.50
$2.00
$2.25
$2.50
Day Pass
$5.00
$6.00
$7.00
$8.00
7 Day Pass
$20.00
$20.00
(no change)
$25.00
$30.00
30 Day Pass
$75.00
$75.00
(no change)
$80.00
$90.00
EZ transit pass
$84.00
$84.00
(no change)
$90.00
$100.00
Metro to Muni transfer
$0.35
$0.50
$0.75
$1.00
Monthly Zone upcharge (EZ/Silver/Express, in addition to   30 day pass)
$22.00
$24.00
$26.00
$29.00
Senior/Disabled Fares
Senior Disabled Peak
(peak 5-9 am and 3-7 pm non-holiday weekdays)
$0.55
$0.75
(all times)
$0.90
(all times)
$1.00
(all times)
Senior Disabled Off-Peak
$0.25
Senior Disabled Day Pass
$1.80
$2.25
$2.50
$3.00
Senior Disabled 30 Day Pass
$14.00
$17.00
$19.00
$22.00
Senior Disabled EZ transit pass
$35.00
$38.00
$45.00
$50.00
Monthly zone upcharge (Silver/Express)
Free
$5.00
$7.00
$9.00
Monthly zone upcharge Express/Silver with EZ transit pass
$9.50
$9.50
(no change)
$10.00
$12.00
Senior Disabled Metro to Muni transfer
$0.10
$0.25
$0.35
$0.50
Student Fares
Student/College Regular Fare
$1.00
$2.00
(eliminate discount)
$2.25
$2.50
Student 30 Day Pass
$24.00
$27.00
$30.00
$35.00
College 30 Day Pass
$36.00
$45.00
$55.00
$65.00
Silver/Express Fares
Silver Line
$2.45
$2.50
$2.75
$3.00
Upcharge
$0.25-$0.95
$0.50
$0.50
$0.50
Senior Disabled Silver Peak
$1.15
$1.25
(all times)
$1.30
(all times)
$1.50
(all times)
Senior Disabled Silver Off Peak
$0.85
Senior Disabled Silver Upcharge with Pass
$0.30-$0.60
$0.25
$0.30
$0.50
Express
$2.20-$2.90
$2.50
$2.75
$3.00
Express Upcharge with Pass
$0.70-$1.40
$0.50
$0.50
$0.50
Senior Disabled Express Upcharge with Pass
$0.30-$0.60
$0.25
$0.30
$0.50
Park and Ride
Daily Parking Charge
Free
$6.00
$7.00
$8.00

Park and Ride Change:

Park and ride is free with Day Pass, 7 Day Pass, 30 Day Pass, or EZ transit pass. Must have TAP card. Daily parking charge must be paid with TAP card.

Comments concerning the proposed bus service changes to possibly be implemented by Metro in June 2014 or later, submitted to the agency on behalf of our members:

We support the proposed 588 express service to Westwood via the currently being constructed HOV lanes on the 405 freeway as facilitating a true rapid service between the San Fernando Valley and Westwood along with providing connections to the westside and the Wilshire corridor whereas the current Rapid 761 bogs down as it must traverse Sunset Blvd. and make several stops at UCLA before reaching Westwood.

We are opposed to combining Van Nuys Rapid 761 with the Reseda Rapid 741. The stretch of Ventura it would run along is so heavily congested it would virtually guarantee this would not provide a fast or useful link of the two corridors, which already have frequent rapid transit service connecting them via the Orange Line.

We suggest instead of implementing this combined line that consideration be given to  undertaken an increase in the frequency of north/ south bus service that serve the Orange Line. Linkages are key to the productivity of fixed guideways and service frequencies on such lines as the 158 on Woodman, the 242 on Tampa, the 243 on Winnetka and the 167 on Coldwater Canyon (among others) should be increased to support their role as feeder/distributors of the Orange Line in its role as the high speed spine of the San Fernando Valley bus grid. A demonstration of this concept on at least one of the aforementioned lines for a year to test whether it produces increased ridership seems warranted.

We propose continuing the heavily patronized Rapid 761 to UCLA, Westwood, the Getty Center, and the Skirball Cultural Center but with a route modification that will improve its speed and efficiency. This involves it exiting Van Nuys Blvd at Magnolia (preferred) or possibly Oxnard and continuing south on Sepulveda through the Sepulveda Pass, therefore avoiding the heavy traffic congestion on Van Nuys Blvd near the 101 Ventura Freeway and Ventura Blvd gridlock between Van Nuys Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd. Requiring bus patrons on Van Nuys Blvd., heading towards Westwood, to transfer to the proposed 741 Sepulveda Rapid Bus to UCLA and Westwood would disrupt the longtime commute patterns of hundreds of  UCLA students, faculty members, employees, UCLA Medical Center staff, patients, visitors, as well as other transit users.

As this would still leave a small gap in Rapid Service along a portion of Van Nuys Blvd and considering the very high ridership along that corridor we suggest also maintaining a Van Nuys Blvd only Rapid or Limited Service.

We support continuing the 233 night service as is.

We suggest the 577 Rio Hondo stop being made permanent is premature and should instead be continued through the end of this year and reviewed for possible adoption for the Dec. service changes.

Looming train shortage at Metro

http://zev.lacounty.gov/news/looming-train-shortage-at-metro

Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor's Blog, March 12, 2014


 
 As Expo heads to Santa Monica, a train shortage may jeopardize a 2015 opening.



As two Los Angeles light rail lines race toward completion, there’s trouble ahead on the tracks. Unless train car production can be significantly accelerated, there won’t be enough vehicles to serve both new lines—Phase 2 of the Expo Line to Santa Monica and the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa—if they open as scheduled in late 2015 and early 2016 respectively.

Metro is so concerned about the problem that it’s dispatching a delegation to the manufacturer’s headquarters in Japan later this month in hopes of finding a way to speed up production—a tall order for a company that the agency acknowledges is on track with the aggressive schedule mutually agreed to under its contract.

So, with a likely initial shortfall of about 50 train cars, the issue presents some tough decisions for Metro, all of which are likely to be unpopular with the traveling public. It could delay the new lines’ openings, operate them with shorter, more crowded trains, offer less frequent service, or redeploy cars from elsewhere in the system, thus spreading the pain more broadly.

The shortage is expected to be most severe in the first months of operation for the two new extensions, with steady improvements coming as new rail cars arrive throughout 2016. But even the prospect of a relatively short-lived disruption has been enough to strain the relationship between Metro, which will operate the lines, and the two construction authorities charged with successfully completing the projects.

Artist's rendering of new train.

Samantha Bricker, chief operating officer for the Exposition Light Rail Construction Authority, expects Expo Phase 2 to be ready for testing in the summer of 2015, which would make it possible for the line—running from Culver City to Santa Monica— to serve the public as early as December, 2015. But she’s worried that the train car shortage could impede that schedule and disappoint passengers looking forward to jumping aboard the westernmost phase of a light rail line that’s already attracting large numbers of riders.

“If these projects are done on time and there are no trains there, the public is going to go nuts,” Bricker predicted.

Metro’s Gold Line Foothill Extension, running from Pasadena to Azusa, is expected to open just two months later.  Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Foothill Construction Authority, said he, too, is worried that his line’s opening will be delayed or marred by diminished service in the early months.

“It’s going to sit there and cobwebs are going to grow until Metro starts service, or they are going to put wimpy service on all the rail lines,” Balian said, referring to the possibility of importing rail cars from elsewhere in the system.

The roots of the problem go back to 2010, when a previous manufacturer, AnsaldoBreda Inc., failed to meet the specifications for an earlier order of Gold Line cars, according to Richard Hunt, who manages Metro’s rail car procurements.

Given the time crunch, Metro’s chief executive officer, Art Leahy, urged Board members to act quickly and, in April, 2012, after a competitive bidding process, the Board awarded a new contract to another company, Kinkisharyo International, LLC. After Kinkisharyo landed the contract, it relocated its U.S. headquarters from Boston to El Segundo and is currently building a facility in Palmdale where the final assembly of the Metro rail cars will take place.


Metro officials say they are confident that Kinkisharyo can deliver, but due to the time lost after parting ways with AnsaldoBreda,  the process is now a year behind schedule.

No easy solutions are apparent, but Metro is brainstorming fixes and contingency plans, said Brian Boudreau, an executive officer who oversees major capital projects. All options remain on the table.
On March 27, Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois and Pam O’Connor, chair of the Expo Authority and a member of Metro’s Board of Directors, will join Hunt on a delegation to Kinkisharyo’s headquarters in Osaka, Japan to check on the progress and see if anything else can be done.

Hunt said the agency already has submitted a formal request to Kinkisharyo to speed delivery, but acknowledged that the prospects of that are slim.

Kinkisharyo’s president, Teiji Tani, agreed.

“The schedule that Kinkisharyo International and Metro agreed to was and is very aggressive,” Tani said in an email. “Given the challenges we have been facing, it’s unlikely that the schedule can be accelerated on the initial 78-car order.”

The current contract calls for delivery of 78 light rail vehicles at a price of $299 million, with options for additional cars for Metro’s expanding light rail network that could bring the total value of the contract to $890 million. The agreement includes what Hunt called an “unprecedented” delivery schedule—about twice as fast as normal. Kinkisharyo agreed to deliver the first 78 cars at a rate of 4 per month, beginning in September, 2015. The final four cars wouldn’t arrive until January 20, 2017, about a year after the rail lines are expected to open.

Metro’s chief of operations, Debra Johnson, demurred on the question of how big the impact on transit riders could be, but said that “all options have to be assessed.”

“Here we are, stewards of the taxpayers, and we are going to do our due diligence to make sure they are least-impacted,” Johnson said.­

Metro’s Board of Directors is scheduled to get a status update on the situation in April, including feedback from the delegation to Japan as well as contingency plans for running the lines without all the cars.

In the meantime, Kinkisharyo officials say they are keeping things moving as fast as possible.

“We are finalizing design, setting up our assembly plant in Palmdale and starting to produce the initial two cars, also known as test cars,” Tani said. “We’ll soon start hiring 100 additional employees for that plant.”

Expo workers install tracks in Cheviot Hills.

Joe Cano Video: More 'Close The Gap' Disinformation

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How your daily rush-hour commute could increase your chances of heart disease

  • University study links traffic pollutants to an increase in the heart's mass
  • The year-long University of Washington study involved 3896 participants
  • Were exposed to nitrogen dioxide levels similar to those found in traffic
  • Participants underwent an MRI scan before and after the study
  • Results revealed an average five per cent increase in mass and three per cent increase in volume of the heart's right ventrical
  • The changes are directly linked to heart failure and cardiac arrest

March 13, 2014
 
Traffic-related air pollution - the kind millions of drivers are exposed to during their twice-daily rush-hour commute - could trigger a potentially deadly change in the size of the heart, according to new major university study.

The University of Washington Medical Center study found prolonged exposure to car pollutants causes the heart's right ventricle to increase in both mass and volume, which is directly linked to cardiovascular disease, heart failure and cardiac arrest.

Going nowhere: A study has linked rush-hour traffic jams with serious heart disease
Going nowhere: A study has linked rush-hour traffic jams with serious heart disease


The study's 3896 participants were exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide - a gas emitted from the burning of fuel - similar to those found in heavy traffic. The participants underwent an MRI scan before and after the 12-month study.

Results revealed an average five per cent increase in mass and three per cent increase in volume of the heart's right ventrical, even after accounting for variable factors like pre-existing conditions, diet or socioeconomic status.
 
The study's author, Dr. Peter Leary, said the changes were enough to drastically increase the risk of heart disease and heart failure.

'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,' he said.

'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.'

Pollutants can cause the heart's right ventricle to grow, increasing the risk of heart disease or cardiac arrest
Pollutants can cause the heart's right ventricle to grow, increasing the risk of heart disease or cardiac arrest


While researchers can't categorically confirm that exposure to car pollutants caused the heart's mass to increase, Dr Leary said his study added more evidence to the connection between traffic jams and heart disease.

'The 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,' he said.
'The many adverse effects of air pollution on human health support continued efforts to reduce this burden.'


710 Study San Rafael Neighborhood Posts.com Domain Name Attempted Takeover by the Chinese




By Peggy Drouet: I received this email this morning form Jim Wang:




Dear Manager,
(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)
This email is from China domain name registration center, which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally in China.
We received an application from Huayuan Ltd on March 10, 2014. They want to register " 710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts " as their Internet Keyword and " 710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts .cn "、" 710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts .com.cn " 、" 710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts .net.cn "、" 710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts .org.cn " domain names etc.., they are in China domain names. But after checking it, we find "710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts " conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter better, so we send you email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China or not?

Best Regards,
Jim
General Manager 
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road,
Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
Tel: +86 216191 8696
Mobile: +86 1870199 4951
Fax: +86 216191 8697
Web: www.ygregistryltd.org



My reply:


Jim,
710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts.com is registered as my domain name under my name alone. I have nothing to do with any distributor or business partner in China or anywhere else. That Huayuan Ltd requested to register under this domain name is illegal or some kind of scam. Do not register any of the domain names that they requested. Thank you.
Peggy Drouet


Update:  I am looking up Chinese domain name scams on the internet. The email follows the wording in these scams but the scams listed all ask for money for you to keep your domain name. The email I got didn't so that is curious. I have received a couple of the scam emails previously but they all asked for money so I could keep my domain name for another blog I had. Maybe they will ask for money in their next email.

Will High-Tech Mass Transit Fares Leave Too Many Riders Behind?

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/03/will-high-tech-mass-transit-fares-leave-too-many-riders-behind/8615/

By Keith Barry, March 13, 2014




 Will High-Tech Mass Transit Fares Leave Too Many Riders Behind?



GARDEN CITY, N.Y.—The first time I rode NICE, Nassau County, New York's transit system, I got on the N22 at the Roosevelt Field Mall. To get to the bus stop I walked past the $5 valet parking, past the Tesla EV charging station, and past the overflow lots filled with everything from new BMWs to old Hondas. I stopped at a convenience store to get change — a dollar bill and a dime to pay the $1.10 fare.

The easiest way to pay a NICE fare is with exact change. The buses also accept the New York City MetroCard — a relic of when the system was part of New York's MTA — but if you don't have a MetroCard before arriving at a NICE station you aren't likely to get one. There's only one full-service MetroCard vending machine in all of Nassau County, and the retailers that also sell them are few and far between.

How getting from here to there is changing forever.
See full coverage
When I boarded the N22, I found nowhere to accept my paper money. "You can't pay with a dollar bill," the conductor said. "You have to ask someone for change." A young woman — evidently a veteran NICE commuter — pulled out a roll of dollar coins and traded my crumpled bill for one, barely pausing her phone conversation to complete the task.

NICE's fare system won't be forcing people to rely on coin-carrying Samaritans or hunt down a MetroCard much longer. This summer, the agency will follow a growing number of transit systems that offer an app for riders to buy tickets on their smartphones. (The app will also show bus locations in real-time.) If the plan succeeds, it could serve as a model for suburban commuter systems across the country.

But success won't be measured in technology alone. Excitement over the upgrade is tempered, in part, by concerns about equity. Aaron Watkins-Lopez, who leads the Long Island Bus Riders' Union, a transit access advocacy group, looks forward to the NICE app but says he worries it won't improve access universally.

"I think it'll be really great for younger generations of people, and those people who have the capability to use a smartphone," he says. "But I don't see what they're doing to improve service to those people who don't have access to the Internet or to a smartphone."

 Public transit has a mandate to be accessible for every rider, and the same thing goes for public transit ticketing. Any fare system upgrade that discriminates against certain rider populations — those who don't have smartphones or aren't comfortable using the Internet, for instance — isn't an upgrade for all. So the numerous advantages of mobile ticketing notwithstanding, such a system can't replace traditional forms of fare collection overnight.

"That is a very important issue for the industry. We've got to be careful that we don't disadvantage others," says Martin Schroeder, chief technology officer for the American Public Transit Association. "A patron who wants to ride a metro system wants to have flexibility in how they pay for their ticket."

The concern over fair fare systems is especially acute given the income disparity in Nassau County. Here, in the affluent suburbs of New York City, the average county resident has an annual household income close to $100,000, drives to work, and is white. In contrast, the average NICE rider comes from a household that earns under $35,000 a year, does not own a car (or can't drive), takes the bus to work, and is a minority.



Those profiles might seem to suggest that high-income choice riders will benefit from mobile ticketing while low-income captive riders won't. But Jake Sion, a project analyst at NICE in charge of smartphone ticketing, says the new fare plan is based on detailed studies of system ridership that challenge this common belief about bus riders. "People assume that it's only going to be for rich people who use transit as a lifestyle choice," he says, "and that kind of idea has got to go."

The numbers support him. Nationwide, only 56 percent of adults own smartphones, and that number drops to 43 percent when you look at those who make under $35,000 a year. Yet a 2013 survey of nearly 8,000 NICE riders found that roughly 67 percent have access to a smartphone (below). Accounting for this gap is tough — that's likely because NICE riders skew younger than the national average — but it's clear that many bus riders will in fact benefit from the agency's new app.


Smartphone ownership is also pretty even across the system. According to the NICE survey, a majority of riders have smartphone access on all but three routes (the N14, N21, and N33). And for those without smartphone access, nothing will change. Sion says that about 10 percent of NICE riders surveyed don’t have a bank account. That’s why cash isn't going away, and neither is the MetroCard.

Once smartphone ticketing is online, NICE will have to evaluate whether riders are taking advantage of it. Some riders may not want to use their limited smartphone data plans on buying a ticket; others might not want to enter their credit card number into the app. NICE will also have to offer tech support for those who have trouble with mobile ticketing for whatever reason.

Still, a recent survey showed that most riders are looking forward to paying by phone. "We were really blown away by how positive some of the comments were we received," says Sion. Looking around at my fellow passengers on the N22, I noticed that nearly all of them were using their smartphones — some listening to music, some watching videos, some no doubt checking Twitter and Facebook. Far more seemed capable of paying their fare by phone than, say, having exact change for a stranger paying cash.
•       •       •       •       •


Driving Declines Spell Big Trouble for Turnpikes

 http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/03/12/driving-declines-spell-big-trouble-for-turnpikes/

By Angie Schmitt, March 12, 2014

 Traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike has declined 10 percent since 2005. Turnpike officials had predicted it would rise 3 to 5 percent annually. Photo: Wikipedia
 Traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike has declined 10 percent since 2005. Turnpike officials had predicted it would rise 68 percent by 2023. 

What the New Jersey Turnpike Authority did in 2005 was no different than what almost every other state and regional transportation agency was doing at the time. It predicted that traffic volumes would rise at a healthy clip every year for about 30 years into the future. Then it estimated its revenues based on those figures and issued bonds for a $2.5 billion road widening project.

Today we know that traffic hasn’t risen at all since 2005. New Jersey’s projections weren’t just a little wrong — they were wildly inaccurate. The bonds were predicated on a 68 percent increase in traffic by 2023. It’s not going to happen: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that turnpike traffic has actually dropped 10 percent since 2005.

Even so, Chris Puchalsky, associate director of systems planning at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, told the Inquirer that local leaders aren’t blinking.

This chart shows the combined 20-year traffic projections of state and local governments in recent years compared to actual traffic levels. Image: State Smart Transportation Initiative
This chart shows the combined 20-year traffic projections of state and regional transportation agencies around the U.S. in recent years — the colored lines — compared to actual traffic levels — the black line.

“We need two or three more years of data” before reconsidering the assumptions, he said.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission made a similar gamble in 2007, when it predicted traffic would rise 3 to 5 percent annually and started issuing up to $900 million in bonds annually for road and transit projects around the state based on those projections. Rather than rising, the Inquirer reports, traffic has been flat. Pennsylvania hoped to repay the bonds with the increased toll revenues and by adding tolls to I-80.

But the additional traffic never materialized, and the Federal Highway Administration rejected the proposed toll on I-80. Now the turnpike is paying much less every year for state transportation projects, but it is still saddled with a rising debt load — $8 billion, according to the Inquirer.

Here’s the kicker. Nikolaus Grieshaber, the turnpike’s chief financial officer, told the Inquirer that Pennsylvania is revising its projections downward. It will now predict a traffic increase of 1.5 percent annually.

Nationally, vehicle miles traveled increased 0.6 percent last year, so Pennsylvania is still predicting its traffic will increase two and half times faster than the nation as a whole in 2013.

Bill Suspending Hit-and-Run Drivers’ Licenses Passes Assembly Committee

http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/03/12/hit-and-run-bill-passes-assembly-committee/

By Melanie Curry, March 12, 2014




 
Last week, the Associated Press released a video of a hit-and-run crash in Orange County. The video is available to view here.


The California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee voted 7-0 Tuesday to approve A.B. 1532, which would require an automatic license suspension for drivers who flee the scene of a crash where a person is hit, even if that person is not injured.

That unanimous vote marks an exceptional win for the bill, which was introduced by Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles). Typically, bills which increase penalties for existing crimes or increase the burden on law enforcement are subject to extra scrutiny and face an uphill battle gaining committee votes.

CA’s current hit-and-run laws require drivers to stop when they are involved in crashes, and drivers who kill or seriously injure others and flee the scene can face severe penalties. A.B. 1532 would add penalties for cases where the injuries are minor, including automatic license suspension.

“The bill’s key aspect is that it increases minimum penalties so there is no less than a six-month mandatory license suspension,” explained Damian Kevitt of FinishtheRide.org. “That way prosecutors can no longer mitigate a hit-and-run down to a $500 misdemeanor fine, which is a slap on the wrist.”

“Hit-and-run drivers should be penalized, as this legislation requires,” said Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk San Francisco, who applauded the bill as “a good step towards creating a culture where people respect each other.”

“This addresses the middle ground for those hit-and-runs that aren’t severe, making a statement that it’s not okay to leave the scene of a crash.”


This is Gatto’s second legislative effort to rein in drivers involved in hit-and-run crashes. Last year, he introduced A.B. 184, to extend the statute of limitations on hit-and-runs — the “maximum time after an event that legal proceedings based on that event may be initiated,” to borrow language from Wikipedia – to give officials more time to find and prosecute perpetrators. Although the bill passed the Public Safety Committee with an essentially infinite time limit, it was later amended in the Senate to limit it to six years, effectively doubling the time period set in existing law.

Tony Dang of California Walks praised Gatto for “really taking the hit-and-run issue and running with it,” though he noted that it’s an “incremental step” towards making streets safer for pedestrians in the state. “The legislation only addresses one type of crash. Hit-and-runs are serious, but we also need to deal with bigger pedestrian and bicycle safety issues.”

The bill next goes to the Assembly’s Transportation Committee, and must also pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee before the full Assembly votes on it. After that, it needs approval from the Senate and its committees. So despite the unanimous vote from the Public Safety Committee, there are a number of chances for the bill to be watered down by opponents.

Kevitt commended Gatto and other legislators for their efforts to increase penalties for hit-and-run crashes, “but they are too few and far between,” he said. “Elected officials need to start taking notice of this issue.”

Kevitt said his organization, FinishtheRide.org, plans to launch a petition urging the state legislature to increase penalties for hit-and-run crashes to a level on par with those of a DUI. The petition will also call for a requirement that police departments track hit-and-run statistics and devote a greater share of resources to prosecuting those cases. “Right now LAPD doesn’t track statistics,” he said. “So we don’t know what are the most common causes of hit-and-run crashes. Is it unlicensed drivers? DUIs? Texting?”