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 17, 2014

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways


By Nathan Masters, March 17, 2014


 They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways

  The Golden State Freeway (I-5) under construction in Burbank at Alameda Ave. in 1957. [Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

Carmageddon—it was the nightmare scenario L.A.'s transportation authorities warned of when a construction project shut down a critical stretch of freeway for an entire weekend in July 2011. Gridlock. The glow of brake lights. The overwhelming angst of a city denied its full and unimpeded access to its freeways. In the end, the public outreach built around that ominous term worked. Motorists stayed home, and life went on as normal. A few wags even staged a "dinner party" on the deserted freeway

But it's possible that all the dire warnings and clever pranks obscured a more troubling possibility: that Carmageddon had already come to pass decades ago, in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, when Los Angeles scarred its landscapes, split its communities, and displaced a quarter-million people to build its 527-mile freeway system.

Building the 405's Gorge

In the Santa Monica Mountains—a low but rugged range that divides the San Fernando Valley from the rest of Los Angeles—highway engineers essentially tore Sepulveda Canyon apart and then rebuilt it to allow the San Diego Freeway (I-405, or "the 405" to Angelenos) to pass through. Beginning in August 1960, earthmovers carved a gorge 1,800 feet wide and 260 feet deep through the mountains, accomplishing in two years what might take natural erosional forces two million. The bulldozers' total haul: 13 million cubic yards of slate, shale, and dirt. Workers then built massive retaining walls to keep the unnaturally steep slopes from slipping and reconfigured the area's natural drainage through a series of culverts. By 1962, an eight-lane concrete freeway with a maximum grade of 5½% sliced through the mountains.

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 
The San Diego Freeway makes its entry through the Santa Monica Mountains in 1957. The hill on the right is now the site of the Getty Center. [USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

Construction crews excavated some 13 million cubic yards of earth to widen Sepulveda Canyon. [USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

Near the summit of the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Diego Freeway passes through the Mulholland Cut—named after Mulholland Drive, seen here as a bridge in the distance. [UCLA Library - Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

This aerial view, looking north toward the Santa Monica Mountains, shows the San Diego Freeway (I-405) slicing through artificially widened Sepulveda Canyon in 1962. [USC Libraries - Dick Whittington Photography Collection]

Urban Scars

In mostly uninhabited Sepulveda Canyon, only the mountains could complain. But many Southland freeways bludgeoned their way through heavily urbanized areas, inflicting the same degree of trauma not to landscapes but to communities.

No area was more affected than L.A.'s Eastside, where transportation planners routed seven freeways directly through residential communities. Starting in 1948, bulldozers cleared wide urban gashes through the multiethnic but mostly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and East L.A., demolishing thousands of buildings and evicting homeowners from their property. And the freeways didn't just displace people and businesses. They balkanized the community, making strangers out of neighbors and discouraging urban cohesion. A freeway can be an intimidating thing to cross on foot.

Residents did fight back, flooding public meetings and picketing construction sites. But unlike the mostly white and politically powerful neighborhoods that killed plans for a Beverly Hills Freeway, L.A.'s Eastside couldn't stop the bulldozer. By the early 1960s, all seven of the planners' freeways crisscrossed the community.

Five of them tangled together at the East Los Angeles Interchange. Built to provide northbound motorists with a bypass around central Los Angeles, this imposing (and for drivers, often confusing) complex of 30 bridges occupies 135 acres of land—including part of once-idyllic Hollenbeck Park. At the time of its completion in 1961, it was the largest single project ever undertaken by the state's division of highways. Yet somehow, despite its grand scale and enormous cost, the interchange—like much of the freeway system—is often paralyzed today with traffic, as a procession of trucks and automobiles crawls along the old urban scars.

Santa Monica Freeway (I-10)

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

Concrete pylons replaces houses and other structures in L.A.'s University Park neighborhood in 1961. The view looks east toward downtown L.A. [USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

Construction work for the Santa Monica Freeway at La Cienega and Venice boulevards in 1964. [UCLA Library - Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

A long stretch of the Santa Monica Freeway south of downtown was built as a viaduct. [Security Pacific National Bank Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

San Diego Freeway (I-405)

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

This wide swath of bulldozed land between West Los Angeles (left) and Sawtelle (right) seen here in 1957 became the Santa Diego Freeway. The street crossing at a slight diagonal in the center of the photo is Santa Monica Blvd. [USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection]

Harbor Freeway (I-110)

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 

L.A.'s famous Four Level Interchange, where I-110 and US-101 meet, rose from the cleared land seen in this 1948 aerial photograph. [UCLA Library - Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways

Demolition work for the Harbor Freeway (I-110) in 1948. Photo by Leonard Nadel. [Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways
The Four Level Interchange takes shape near downtown Los Angeles around 1949. Photo by Delmar Watson. [Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways

The Harbor Freeway (I-110) takes form near Exposition Park (center) and USC (left-center) in 1955. Photo by Howard D. Kelley. [Photo Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s FreewaysExpand
The Harbor Freeway (I-110) enters downtown Los Angeles in 1951. [USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection]

Hollywood Freeway (US-101)

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways
Aerial view of the Hollywood Freeway (US-101) under construction in 1951, looking southeast toward downtown L.A. [Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]
They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways
Aerial view of the Hollywood Freeway (US-101) under construction in 1950, looking northwest. [Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s Freeways 
Construction of the Hollywood Freeway bisects Hollywood as it approaches the Cahuenga Pass. [USC Libraries - Los Angeles Examiner Collection]

They Moved Mountains (And People) To Build L.A.’s FreewaysExpandConstruction of the Hollywood Freeway (here, CA-170) extension through the San Fernando Valley in 1965. In this view looking south toward central Los Angeles, Victory Blvd. is labeled "2" and Laurel Canyon Blvd. is labeled "1." [Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

Top image: The Golden State Freeway (I-5) under construction in Burbank at Alameda Ave. in 1957. [Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library]

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, March 17, 2014

The City Council meeting in San Fernando tonight is perhaps the most important Livable Streets event that you’ve never heard of.
  • Today – In 2011, I spent a lot of time with Pacoima Beautiful learning about their vision for turning the Pacoima Wash into one of the grandest urban greenways in America. While the greenway has progressed in recent years, it faces a key vote at the San Fernando City Council tonight. If you’re able to join them, they would happily take all the support they can get. Get the details, here. Read my series in 2011, here.
  • Tuesday – “Voices of 90037,” a Neighborhood Council representing the Vermont Square area, will consider a motion to write a letter supporting the MyFigueroa! redesign project which would create Los Angeles’ first truly complete street connecting Downtown and South Los Angeles. While 90037 has supported the project in the past, writing a formal letter would increase the visibility of their support. If you live, work or play in the area, consider attending the meeting. Get the details, here.
  • Wednesday, Saturday – We’re going to have a lot of coverage of the public meetings surrounding the release of the most recent draft of the Mobility Element that will guide the city’s transportation decisions until…well, until the next time they update the Mobility Element. The last time it was updated, I was a senior in college in 1999. Joe has already written about the new draft and both he and Sahra will have a lot more in the coming days. If you live in Central or South Los Angeles, you should check these meetings out.
  • Saturday - In fall 2013, the City of Los Angeles legalized murals after having banned them for a decade. Join American Planning Association, Los Angeles, Council District 14 Planning Director Tanner Blackman, and Cindy Schwarzstein of Cartwheel Art for a tour highlighting the murals of the Arts District and what the new Mural Ordinance means for L.A.’s urban environment and its role as a major art city. Get the details here.
  • Sunday - Co-sponsored by the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, the “Appreciating the Past and Exploring the Future” walk will explore the past and future of Colorado Boulevard and beyond. Led by Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council member Ashley Atkinson and L.A. Walks Steering Committee member Mark Vallianatos, this four-mile walk will travel along Colorado Boulevard up to the iconic Eagle Rock itself and return to our starting point. Along the way you’ll get to learn a little about the history of the Eagle Rock neighborhood and recent efforts by the neighborhood council, Council District 14, and Take Back the Boulevard to improve the boulevard, and can help identify opportunities for additional improvements. Get more details, here.
Is there something we missed? Is there something we need to know for next week? Let me know at damien@streetsblog.org. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be announcing a series of “interactive planning” workshops funded through a Goldhirsh Foundation mini-grant. 

Also, on April 23rd Urban Land Institute is hosting “Urban Marketplace,” a conference about investing in L.A.’s communities. Streetsblog is a media partner. You can read more about the conference after the jump or register by clicking here.

Should Cities Reject Bad Transit Until Something Better Comes Along? A Lesson from Zurich


By Stephen J. Smith, March 17, 2014

In city after city, U.S. transit advocates face a similar problem: What to do with bad, or at least less-than-perfect, public transportation proposals? Big transit projects don’t come around every day, and rejecting a proposal, perhaps one with support in high places, in the hopes that something better will come along can leave you with nothing.

 In New York City, advocacy groups seem to universally bemoan the death of the ARC commuter rail tunnel at the hands of Gov. Chris Christie in 2010. We haven’t built a new Hudson River rail crossing in more than a century, and New Jersey Transit’s growing commuter rail ridership — in many ways North Jersey’s economic lifeblood — will hit its rush hour capacity limits soon. Amtrak has already come up with a replacement concept, Gateway, which is clearly better designed: Gateway’s Manhattan terminal will be much shallower and easier to access than the very deep ARC station, and the tunnel will provide more operational flexibility by also connecting to Penn Station.

But Gateway isn’t as far along in the funding process as was ARC, and at best Christie’s actions still set the tunnel back five or 10 years. Even among those who recognize Gateway as superior to ARC, there’s a sense that the possibility of a better project in the future wasn’t worth the delay.

 Austin, Texas faces a similar dilemma with its new light rail line. The city and its consultants have already ruled out the most promising route, which would connect Austin’s downtown with its densest residential tract along a busy bus route. Officials are now in the process of picking the actual route, which will likely end up looking either decent or bad. The options are building the southern segment down the garden apartment- and strip mall-strewn East Riverside Boulevard (decent), or the northern segment up to the Highland Shopping Mall (bad). While neither of these are ideal, something might be better than nothing.

On the other hand, something better actually could come along, as it did in Zurich. The citizens of Switzerland’s largest city rejected subway proposals in two major referenda, spending three decades debating and planning before finally opening the S-Bahn suburban railway network — a model of effective transit and worth the wait.

In the 1950s, Zurich was pursuing a transportation plan similar to that of San Francisco. The goal was to replace old, aboveground trams with a new light rail subway to free up space on the surface for cars, which would feed into a new highway system. “This light rail system,” Zurich city archives read).pdf, “was to be the first step in turning Zurich into an auto-oriented city.”

But the rail plan still had to be put to a referendum, as do all momentous decisions in Switzerland. Somewhat unexpectedly, voters rejected various iterations in 1962 and 1973. “Zurichers like to dream up big plans,” the archives read, “but they’re also realistic. A lot of ideas therefore end up in the trash.”

Rather than moving its surface transit underground, Zurich decided to strengthen and speed up the bus and tram networks through dedicated transit lanes and priority at stoplights (approved in 1977), and to expand trams to the city’s outer reaches and beyond (still under construction). The less controversial half of the rejected 1973 plan, an S-Bahn regional rail system, was eventually built.

An S-Bahn system, much like Paris’ RER or Philadelphia’s commuter rail network, involves merging existing suburban railways in dedicated rights-of-way into a central trunk line through the heart of the city, generally in tunnels through the city center. A suburban rail system with headways of 15-30 minutes on the branches, the various lines combine downtown to create a more frequent express network for getting around major transit hubs, which complement the existing surface rail system used for shorter-haul trips. The system has proven very popular and is under continual expansion.

Of course, Zurich is not New Jersey or Austin. Christie’s desire to redirect the money to highways, and not a genuine concern over cost or engineering, appears to have motivated the ARC cancellation. But in Zurich, the motives for rejecting the subway weren’t necessarily pure, either. Anti-growth sentiment, a sort of referendum on Zurich becoming a true metropolis, appears to have fueled some of the opposition. The word “Manhattanization” was even used, paralleling some of the contemporary opposition to the BART subway/commuter rail system in San Francisco.

Yet the decision to focus on strengthening existing rail networks, rather than building out entirely new ones underground, appears to have paid off. The S-Bahn didn’t open until 1990 — a full three decades after voters rejected the first referendum — but the trams, buses and S-Bahn now serve a huge proportion of the region’s population. In Zurich, a full 63 percent of residents get to work using mass transit, far more than in comparable Western European cities.

While the future of transit between Manhattan and New Jersey is not as certain, it looks likely to follow a similar (albeit far less effective) trajectory to that of Zurich. While the ARC tunnel will not get built, Amtrak’s superior Gateway tunnel has momentum — some space has already been reserved for the tunnel. While other ambitions for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor look like pipe dreams, the Hudson crossing is a more realistic element. The plans are not as advanced as those for Gateway, but the MTA is also interested in running trains from Long Island through Penn Station and directly into New Jersey, better utilizing existing infrastructure, as Zurich has done with its S-Bahn and surface transit network.

Those promoting certain transit plans often argue that it’s either now or never: Best not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But Zurich has shown that holding out for better, more cost-effective projects that leave money for more expansive networks can sometimes be the best decision. Or, at least, not a totally irredeemable one. The key — whether in Zurich, New Jersey, Austin or elsewhere — is making sure that something better does indeed happen.

What was the point of the Senate’s climate talkathon? Changing the terms of the political debate


By Ben Adler, March 14, 2014

 Sen. Brian Schatz
 Sen. Brian Schatz, a climate hawk who pushes climate talk.

On Monday night, 31 senators pulled an all-nighter on the chamber’s floor. This rager wasn’t for fun, though, and it wasn’t because they were rushing to meet a legislative deadline. It was a climate talkathon, lasting nearly 15 hours.

To those watching the proceedings on C-SPAN, it was a little unclear what the intended purpose was. There was no bill to address climate change on the docket, and if there were it would have no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House. The only Republican who showed up, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), mocked the event. The speakers mostly rehashed well-established science and talked about the effects of extreme weather in their states  – sometimes very small-bore effects. Even Al Franken (D-Minn.) earnestly lamenting that “turkey growers are finding it difficult to heat their barns” didn’t make it funny.

So what was the point? “One of the major objectives was to engage the American public, and we did that,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), an organizer of the event, told Grist in a phone interview Thursday. “We need more passionate enthusiasm and engagement from the public.”

With this strategy, Democrats are mimicking the activism-oriented approach of their conservative Republican colleagues. When the House Republicans vote for the thousandth time to repeal Obamacare, they aren’t accomplishing anything tangible, but they are generating press coverage and exciting their base.

Back in 1955, when William F. Buckley Jr. launched the magazine National Review with hopes of invigorating a new conservative movement, he wrote of “stand[ing] athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so.” It took decades, but eventually conservatives’ seemingly hopeless exercises in speaking, writing, marching, and, most importantly, campaigning led to more and more conservatives winning elections. It also shifted the terms of the political debate in their favor, such that the upper bound of what Democrats propose on marginal tax rates today is less than half of what the highest tax rate was when Buckley wrote that line.

Now the senators most concerned about climate change are hoping to do something similar — stand athwart history and yell Stop. To make climate change stop, they must change the bounds of what’s possible.

“It’s the beginning of this Senate taking on the issue of climate change more prominently,” said Schatz. He noted that the new Senate Climate Change Task Force, which supported the all-night talkathon, is planning a series of events for the coming months.

The senators’ approach was made clear by their speeches Monday night: homing in on the effects of climate change in their states. Their reasoning is obvious, and obviously correct: Americans, like it or not, are a selfish people. They mostly don’t care much about climate change now. They aren’t going to start caring because they learn of another species dying or another group of Pacific islanders losing their homes. They will care when they believe their jobs, their homes, their security, or maybe just their access to cheap food is in danger.

“We had 31 senators talking about how climate change is affecting their home states economically,” says Schatz. “This is a question of economic survival. It’s something the Department of Defense takes seriously. The only people not taking it seriously are the House of Representatives.”

And so the challenge is to turn climate change into an issue of economic and national security, thus elevating it to the stature of two things most American voters actually do care about.

And if most American voters can be convinced to care, congressional Republicans might have to start caring too. Republicans are obstinate about climate change because their supporters are. Back in 2008, the Republican nominee for president, John McCain, supported reducing CO2 emissions through a cap-and-trade program, as did many other Republicans with national ambitions. All reversed themselves in 2009, as their base grew ferociously opposed to anything President Obama supported, no matter how moderate or commonsensical the actual policy was. It strains credulity to think that all these educated people have actually stopped personally believing in anthropogenic climate change as evidence of its existence has only grown. They are cowards and opportunists, and they will do whatever will help them win the next election.
There’s still a long way to go before Republicans will believ
e it’s in their political interest to act against climate change. But the climate talkathon, which generated a lot of headlines, was at least an attempt to start.

The Proportion of Young Americans Who Drive Has Plummeted—And No One Knows Why


By Jeffrey Ball, March 12, 2014

For decades, U.S. youth culture revolved around cars. Iconic American hits, from the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe” to Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” sang of horsepower, speed and open highway. The seminal shift from childhood to adulthood occurred at age 16, when seemingly every red-blooded American kid (except the suspect ones who lived in Manhattan) scored a driver's license. Maturity, adventure and freedom came in the form of four wheels and a full tank of gas.

Not, perhaps, anymore. An emerging body of national statistics bears out what observers of the bike-rack gridlock in Millennial-heavy neighborhoods like Washington’s Petworth or San Francisco’s Tenderloin may have guessed at: Today’s American teenagers and twenty-somethings aren’t loving—or driving—cars nearly as much as their predecessors did. They’re getting their freedom from smartphones, which can travel distances and reach speeds that make cars seem quaint. They’re increasingly interested in commuting by bike or public transit. And growing numbers of them say they see cars more as nuisances and less as toys.

 If this change proves broad and enduring—a postmodern, post-automotive generational shift — it will have profound implications: for how the federal government spends transportation dollars, for how auto and oil companies make money, for future patterns of U.S. real-estate development. But that’s a big “if.” The signs of this change are new and spotty, so the extent of the change remains wildly unclear. This may indeed be the end of an era: American car culture running out of gas. Or it may be something less revolutionary: a shift in the interests mainly of an elite, citified segment of the young—and an economically-driven, and thus ephemeral, shift at that.

That today’s youth are driving markedly less than their predecessors seems clear. Between 2001 and 2009, a period in which the recession emerged and gasoline prices shot up, Americans of all ages reduced their driving. The U.S. population grew by about 10 percent during those years, but the total distance Americans drove fell by about 1 percent—a reversal from prior decades, when total miles traveled kept climbing, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Driving fell most sharply during the first decade of this century among those aged 16 to 30. Per-person miles traveled fell 2 percent among those 56 and older; 11 percent among those 31 to 55, and a massive 25 percent—more than twice as much as for the middle-aged group—among those 16 to 30. Another indicator: The portion of Americans aged 16 to 24 who have driver’s licenses fell to 67 percent in 2011, its lowest level in roughly a half-century, according to federal statistics cited in a report last year by the U.S. PIRG Educational Fund and the Frontier Group, two environmentally oriented organizations.

 What’s going on?

Some contend that, in effect, America’s youth are growing up. The Millennials, they say, see adult autonomy in a new sort of contraption: no longer a physical conveyance with four wheels, but now a virtual conveyance with two earbuds. “The Driving Boom—a six-decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over,” claimed last year’s report from PIRG and the Frontier Group, a study that effusively championed such an outcome and that advocated a number of policy moves intended to hasten it. Millennials—today’s older teenagers and twenty-somethings—are, said the study, which spurred widespread press coverage, “demonstrating significantly different lifestyle and transportation preferences than older generations.”

(Even if today’s young Americans are that anti-auto, environmentalists shouldn’t break out their green Champagne just yet: Whatever happens in the U.S., there are many times more young people in developing countries like China and India, and their demonstrably increased interest in driving is likely to overshadow any ecological gains from reduced driving here.)

Others observers see something more passive and less revolutionary at play in the declining propensity of American young people to drive: Baby Boomers are aging beyond their peak driving years, years that coincided with unbridled American economic growth and with cheap gasoline, and Millennials are approaching their own peak driving years at a time of recession and high pump prices. “Youth are making choices about their travel that are being influenced by the constraints of their personal income,” said a report published last year by the Federal Highway Administration. “[I]s the car still a symbol of freedom for youth as it has been for previous generations?” it asked. “[F]or most youth, the answer is `yes.’”

Several cyclical factors could help explain the current decline in driving among America’s youth—and, in the process, would suggest America is hardly falling out of love with the car. First, the surge in gasoline prices over the past several years has made car ownership more expensive—and it has done so in a way that’s highly visible, slapping drivers in the face every time they roll their cars up to the pump. Second, the recession has hit young Americans disproportionately hard: According to a 2009 Pew Center report, 37 percent of people aged 18-29 were either unemployed or underemployed, the highest percentage in three decades. Less income means less money for a car payment and for gas. Third, many states, in an attempt to minimize teenagers’ crashes, have instituted so-called graduated standards for driver’s licenses, meaning that teenagers who once got unlimited permission to drive at age 16 now can’t get it until they’re a bit older. That reduces the amount of driving younger teenagers legally could do even if they wanted to get behind the wheel and go.

As for how smartphones and other mobile technologies affect young people’s proclivity to drive, apparently it cuts both ways. To be sure, having the virtual world in the palm of your hand opens up a host of transportation options that lessen the need to own a car: It facilitates car-sharing services; it tells you the quickest way to bike between two places; it gives you real-time information about when your subway or bus will arrive; and, because it lets you get work done almost anywhere, it makes time riding public transit inherently more productive than time spent behind the wheel. Indeed, transit ridership is up markedly in many cities, particularly among Millennials. And the fortunes of Zipcar and similar car-sharing services are rising.

But technology also can encourage driving, and there’s evidence that that’s happening, according to the Federal Highway Administration. “In fact, in one survey year, web use is associated with increases in travel,” the agency said in its recent report, noting that the people who have the most access to technology also are the people who have the most money—money they can use to travel.

What, then, to make of those Millennials living in carless bliss in trendy urban neighborhoods from coast to coast? They who drink strong locally-roasted coffee, carry their Apples in understated messenger bags, arrange happy hours through Twitter, and commute by foot, bike or bus, in low-carbon style? Are these the early adopters of an anti-automotive sentiment that soon will sweep the nation?

It’s too early to tell. According to data from the Federal Highway Administration, “zero-vehicle households” encompass two Americas, one unusually rich and one unusually poor.  Roughly 4% of those households earn more than $80,000 annually, a wealthy group concentrated in and around New York. Yet 70% of U.S. zero-vehicle households earn less than $30,000 per year. It’s a spread, in other words, much like many others in certain coastal American cities: Some well-off and often-child-free folks up top, some struggling folks at the bottom, and not many in between.

Things may well be changing in the land of the Mustang and the Explorer. But for now, most carless households in the U.S. remain what they’ve long been: carless by economic necessity rather than by choice.

As Paris' Smog Worsens, France Imposes Driving Restrictions, Makes Public Transit Free


By John Irish, March 16, 2014

 Main Entry Image

 Photo taken on March 11, 2014 shows the Eiffel tower and Paris' roofs through a haze of pollution. French non-governmental organization (NGO) Ecologie Sans Frontiere (Ecology without borders) confirmed on March 11 that they had filed a criminal complaint in Paris to denounce the 'health scandal' of air pollution, as several regions of France experienced high levels of particulate pollution.

PARIS, March 16 (Reuters) - France will introduce driving restrictions in Paris on Monday to tackle dangerous pollution levels, the first such ban for twenty years as politicians try to get rid of health-threatening smog days before municiple elections.

Paris is more prone to smog than other European capitals because of France's diesel subsidies and its high number of private car drivers. A week-long spell of unseasonably warm, sunny weather has recently exacerbated the problem.

Under the scheme, drivers may only use their cars on alternate days, according to the odd or even numbers on their licence plates. Free public transport, including cycle and electric car-sharing schemes, was introduced last week as a visible haze hung over Paris streets.

"Our core objective is to ensure public safety because we want to end this pollution," Environment Minister Philippe Martin told a news conference on Sunday, warning that the air quality was likely to worsen on Monday.

Last week European Environment Agency (EEA) figures for Thursday showed there was 147 microgrammes of particulate matter (PM) per cubic metre of air in Paris - compared with 114 in Brussels, 104 in Amsterdam, 81 in Berlin and 79.7 in London.

Political opponents and car associations criticised the decision, saying it would be tough to police, and accused the Socialist government of conceding to pressure from its coalition Green partners ahead of local elections in late March.

"This is impossible to enforce, stupid and an attempt to win votes," Pierre Chasseray, president of drivers' lobby 40 Millions d'Autombolistes, told French televion and newspapers.

Opposition UMP chief Jean-Francois Cope and mayor of Meaux in the suburbs of Paris, said there was a lot of confusion about the scheme.

"The ecologists have applied a lot of pressure on the government and the decision was rushed.. It lacks coherence, explanation and - on the ground, as a mayor from one of Paris's suburbs - it's panic," he told Europe 1 radio.

The last restricted driving scheme was introduced in October 1997 in response to pollution from heavy diesel fumes. It lasted one day.

No damage to Metro in this morning’s 4.4-magnitude earthquake; all Metro Rail lines running


By Steve Hymon, March 17, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 7.14.34 AM

The 4.4-magnitude earthquake’s struck at 6:25 a.m. and had an epicenter near Westwood, according to the above preliminary data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Metro officials say that no damage has been reported to the system. All Metro Rail lines are resuming normal rush hour operations with some slight residual delays.

There are no reports of injuries or damage from law enforcement. The CHP says that area roads are clear.

Here is an earlier Source post that explains how Metro deals with earthquakes and goes about inspecting tracks for Metro Rail. Excerpt:
When a quake is thought to be strong enough to cause damage, rail control center staff will radio the train operators and tell them what to do. Orders can vary from line to line, depending upon where the quake is strongest. If a weak quake is centered in the San Fernando Valley, for example, trains in Long Beach may not be affected.

If the quake is deemed potentially damaging, operators may be told to stop where they are and begin sweeping the track, which means that they proceed at about 15 mph to the next station or to the point where the train ahead of them stopped and began its sweep. (In that way, every inch of the track can be examined.) While the operators are proceeding they carefully watch the track looking for damage. Everyone reports back to rail control, which determines if the line or lines can reopen. Decisions are based on the common sense of humans, rather than seismic machines.

Should a significant event occur, the entire rail system would be shut down and not reopen until all lines have been thoroughly checked and determined to be safe. The term “significant” does not refer to Richter scale strength but to a variety of factors including strength and location of the quake and the judgment of rail control staff.

Should operators feel an earthquake (not that obvious in a moving train), they must immediately stop where they are and then proceed slowly to the next station. Or they may be given specific instructions from the rail control center, which generally will tell them to begin sweeping.
And here is another Source post on how subways are designed to withstand quakes, including the above chart. Excerpt:
There is no specific magnitude that subways are designed to universally withstand. The strength and flexibility the subway is designed for depends on the characteristics of earthquake faults in the area and their proximity to the structure being designed. In other words, the main question engineers ask is this: how strong is the ground shaking likely to be at the tunnels and stations?

The forecasted level of ground shaking at a particular location is garnered from seismic hazard maps published by the United States Geological Survey.  Building designers and engineers use these same maps to design their projects.
Obviously, Southern California sits in the midst of well-k

nown earthquake country (here is a list of notable earthquakes in California in the past 200 years; the largest was a 7.9-magnitude quake near Fort Tejon in 1857).  Metro’s design criteria requires that its facilities are designed to ensure both life safety and the ability to be repaired after larger earthquakes – the ones that are predicted to occur every 2500 years. At the same time, Metro’s facilities are designed to ensure continuous operation in smaller earthquakes that have a probability of recurring every 150 years.