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 31, 2014

New Starts: Driverless in Budapest, Billions for Rail in the UK (and LA?)


By Stephen J. Smith, March 31, 2014

 Budapest has the second-oldest metro system in the world.

Budapest Opens Eastern Europe’s First Driverless Metro

In 1896, before New York had its subway and Paris its Métro, Budapest opened its metró line — the beginning of the second underground railway system on earth, after London’s. And on Friday, continental Europe’s first subway got its first driverless train as the Hungarian city opened Line 4 to the public. The 7.4-kilometer (4.6-mile) line includes Metro’s second Danube crossing, connecting the Buda and Pest sides of the city.

The line is quite short, taking just 13 minutes to travel from one end to the other, and illustrates the opportunity cost of expensive subway construction. At $2 billion for the new line (the EU threw in $800 million) and another $120 million for the trains, the subway was pricey by European standards, closing in on half a billion dollars per kilometer if adjusted for purchasing power parity. Had the designers brought costs down from London levels to Berlin levels, they could have easily afforded the entire line at once. For now, Line 4’s second phase — a four-station, three-kilometer (1.9-mile) extension — is unfunded, and has no realistic chance of opening within the decade.

Billions in Profits for Japan’s Flagship Shinkansen Operator

The Central Japan Railway (known as JR Central), owner of the world’s busiest high-speed rail line, saw profits climb by 32 percent since last year, to $2.3 billion for the nine months through December 31. In addition to the Tokaido Shinkansen, which connects Japan’s three major metropolitan areas, the company also runs commuter trains in and around the city of Nagoya, along with the usual bevy of retail, real estate and other railway-related interests.

JR Central will need the profits, though, because it is embarking on the most ambitious railway scheme since the creation of the original Tokaido Shinkansen half a century ago: A $90 billion magnetic levitation relief line called the Chuo Shinkansen. While Nagoya is the smallest of Japan’s three major metropolitan areas, its position between Tokyo in the east and Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto in the west meant that JR Central got the prized Tokaido Shinkansen during the national railway breakup. It’s JR Central that now has the means to carry on its legacy with the Chuo Shinkansen.
JR Central was privatized two decades ago — it is traded publicly on the stock exchange, with Japanese banks as its largest shareholders — along with the Tokyo- and Osaka-area lines of the old Japanese National Railways. The three main-island railways remain the most successful examples of railway privatization, an endeavor fraught with peril.

Billions of Pounds for U.K. Rail

The United Kingdom’s rail infrastructure owner, Network Rail, has announced its five-year, £38 billion plan, which involves spending £12 billion on capital projects. The national rail owner — a host of private companies actually run the trains, after bidding on various “franchises” — will electrify more than 1,200 kilometers (about 750 miles) of railway, including the busy Midland Main Line from London to Sheffield and the Great Western Main Line to Swansea and Bristol. The money will also go toward reopening shuttered lines and upgrading stations, as well as closing 500 at-grade crossings between railways and roads, on top of the nearly 800 closed since 2010, as a safety measure. The five-year plan should make room for an additional 170,000 seats and will be the “largest capital investment programme on the rail network since Victorian times,” according to Network Rail, and will cut overall operating costs by around 20 percent.

 L.A. Gears Up For 2016 Transit Vote

Move L.A., a transit advocacy group, unveiled a proposal on Saturday for a 2016 transit sales tax ballot measure in Los Angeles County. For between 25 and 30 cents per resident per day on average, transit projects across the county would be funded to the tune of $90 billion over 45 years. Metro seemed supportive of the measure though not yet committed to it, emphasizing the need to spread projects throughout the 10 million-strong county in order to win the two-thirds support necessary to pass any sales tax measure. While projects within the city of Los Angeles and on the Westside would likely draw the most riders, projects that aren’t as effective would need to be funded to gain the favor of voters outside the most densely populated areas. The Los Angeles Times suggested that the money could be used to “build a light-rail link to Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport, convert the San Fernando Valley Orange Line busway to rail and extend the Green Line near LAX to sweep through South Bay cities and connect with the Blue Line in Long Beach.”

L.A. could clash with L.A. County on transit tax measures

A half-cent sales tax increase being weighed for Los Angeles for the November ballot could endanger a countywide measure being studied for 2016, some transit activists say.


By David Zahniser and Laura J. Nelson, March 31, 2014
 Mark Ridley-Thomas
 Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said: "If you're trying to ask the question, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck, then the argument swings pretty forcefully toward" a higher countywide transit tax.

A plan for increasing the sales tax to fix Los Angeles' broken streets is on a collision course with a similar levy being pushed for regional transit projects.

Two weeks ago, the top budget advisor to the Los Angeles City Council said a tax increase is the only way thousands of miles of severely damaged roads and sidewalks will get repaired. A half-cent increase in the sales tax, which would generate $4.5 billion over 15 years, should appear on the November ballot, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said. The proposal will get its first public hearing Wednesday.

But public transit advocates are voicing worries that a city tax increase could jeopardize their proposal for a countywide sales tax increase for transportation projects, one that would go before voters in two years.

The back-to-back measures may undermine support for a second tax increase, said Denny Zane, whose organization Move L.A. is promoting the transit tax concept. "When you need a two-thirds vote," to pass a transportation measure, "you don't really start out with any margin for error," he said.

If voters approve the street repair measure in November, the tax rate within Los Angeles' city limits would jump to 9.5 cents on every $1 of retail sales. Passage of a countywide transit measure, which could raise $90 billion over 45 years, could send the city's rate as high as 10 cents.

Los Angeles is one of 88 cities in the county but has roughly 40% of the county's population, making it a crucial part of the electorate in deciding any regional transportation tax.

Zane's organization held a daylong conference last week on the proposed transit tax, which could not reach the ballot without a vote from the 13-member Metro board. Dozens of speakers outlined the types of projects that could be built, including rail extensions to airports in Los Angeles and Burbank; light rail stretching across the South Bay; and a transit tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass.

Bob Waggoner, a construction union leader who took part in the conference, said winning approval of a countywide transportation tax should take political precedence over a city measure.

"What's certain is that if the city of Los Angeles passes a street measure in November, then there is going to be a problem passing another measure in 2016," said Waggoner, political director of the International Union of Operating Engineers. If the proposed city tax is defeated, it still could create problems, he said. "We come back two years later and [voters say] 'Here we go again, another tax.' And there's another chance of it being voted down."

None of the city's elected officials has come out in favor of a street repair tax, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is one of the Metro board's 13 members. Councilman Mike Bonin, a Garcetti appointee on the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, has come out in favor of a transit tax in 2016. But he declined to comment on the city's street tax proposal.

Another Metro board member, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said the transportation tax measure would offer greater regional benefits in air quality, traffic reduction and economic development. A tax increase for the Metro system, Ridley-Thomas said, would also attract more federal funding than a city streets measure.

"If you're trying to ask the question, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck, then the argument swings pretty forcefully toward" a higher countywide transit tax, he said.

Garcetti has collected polling data on voters' support for the proposal, but his spokesman, Jeff Millman, declined to release the results. He also declined to say where the mayor stands on the possible tax increases. "We're reviewing the proposals," he said.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, March 31, 2014

Loaded week. CicLAvia! Nice. Let’s jump right in.
  • Monday, Thursday – Two more hearings focused on how the ExpressLanes program is doing. Metro is looking to extend its two variable toll lanes from pilot program to permanent program, and needs to do some outreach. This week’s meetings are in Union Station tonight at 8 and later in the week at Inglewood City Hall. Get the details, here.
  • Tuesday – The Beverly Hills City Council could make official an earlier decision to keep their section of Santa Monica Boulevard bike-lane free and just have a 16 foot right lane on each side. Seriously. There’s a chance the council could overturn their decision and local advocates are hoping a strong turnout from the bicycling community could change the outcome. Get meeting details, here.
  • Wednesday, Saturday - Time for two more hearings on L.A. City’s three citywide plans: mobilityhealth and zoning code. This week’s forums are in the South Valley and the Westside. Get SBLA background at the links above; get forum details here.
  • Friday, Saturday – The Bicycle Film Festival rolls into Los Angeles the Friday and Saturday before CicLAvia. Get more details, here
  • Sunday- CicLAvia! 7 hours. More details at CicLAvia.org

Opposition and Confrontation at Metro Fare Increase Hearing


By Joe Linton, March 31, 2014

 Citing "disruptive behavior" for prolonged public comment, uniformed officers removed two people from Metro's fare increase hearing.  photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

 Citing “disruptive behavior,” uniformed officers removed two people from last Saturday’s Metro fare increase hearing. photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

On Saturday, Metro held a public hearing on proposed changes to its fare policy. Metro is proposing to raise its $1.50 base transit fare to $1.75 starting September 2014. From there, it would be raised again to $2.00 in 2017, and to $2.25 in 2020. This would include a 90-minute free transfer, but only when the fare is paid using a TAP card.

Metro’s passes would go up similarly. Day passes, currently $5, would cost $7/$8/$9. , Weekly passes, currently $20, would cost $25/$30/$32. Monthly passes, currently $75, would cost $100, then, combined with EZ pass, $120/$135. The Metro proposal includes two options: a straight-up increase, or an increase that splits the increase into two categories: a more expensive peak-commuter-hour fare and a cheaper off-peak fare. More fare increase proposal details at the Metro website.
As one might expect, the hearing was a heated one.

Security was higher than usual. In addition to uniformed armed officers and police dogs, attendees had to pass through a metal detector and allow officers to search bags. The board room was full by the time the 9:30 a.m. meeting started, with late arrivals shunted to the Metro cafeteria to watch proceedings on screens. 

For the most part, public commenters, from youth to seniors, urged Metro not to raise fares, primarily for personal economic reasons. One student’s summed it up the feelings of many commenters: “I count on the buses, please don’t gouge us.”

Many groups expressed opposition, but the most prominent among them was the Bus Riders Union. BRU head Eric Mann called on Metro directors to reject the proposed increase, and to enact an immediate 10 percent reduction in fares. Mann also called for an independent audit of Metro finances to determine where past bond measure funding may have been inappropriately redirected to rail construction.

A few individuals and organizations, primarily those interested in seeing expanding Metro rail service, testified in favor of reasonable fare increases, but requested some modifications to the staff’s proposal. These modifications included increasing the transfer window to two hours, making TAP cards more useful, and increasing other Metro revenue from advertising, parking, etc to offset the fare increase.

Throughout the proceedings, Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois was very curt, admonishing the crowd not to applaud, frequently cutting off speakers in mid-sentence and speaking over them until they relented.

As the meeting wore on, a handful of speakers rebuffed the chair and finished their statements. When one speaker ignored the chair and spoke at length, DuBois threatened to have him removed for disruptive behavior. As multiple uniformed guards approached the speaker, he retreated to a seat. Other attendees surrounded the speaker to block approaching guards. The ensuing confrontation resulted in the speaker and another individual being removed from the meeting. See video of the incident here. The L.A. Times reported that the two were arrested “on suspicion of disturbing the peace.”

After public comment ended, a number of Metro board members questioned Metro staff. Supervisor Gloria Molina questioned some of the staff report statistics, and asked whether the fare increase proposal might be “discriminatory.” She concluded requesting further analysis.

Los Angeles city councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian, both appointed to the Board by Mayor Eric Garcetti, expressed the need for Metro to more fully explore other measures to cut costs and raise revenues. Two other Metro Board Members, County Supervisors Don Knabe and Mike Antonovich were not present at the hearing.

The fare increase proposal is expected to be voted on at the May 22, 2014, Metro board meeting. If approved, new fares would go into effect September 1st, 2014.

Why Isn't There a Freeway to Beverly Hills?


By Nathan Masters, March 31, 2014

 First proposed in the early 1940s, formally adopted in 1959, routed in 1965, and finally killed in 1975, the Beverly Hills Freeway would have provided a direct link between the 101 and 405 freeways. From the 'Report on Geometric Design Proposed Beverly Hills Freeway for Beverly Hills City Council' by De Leuw, Cather & Company, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
 First proposed in the early 1940s, formally adopted in 1959, routed in 1965, and finally killed in 1975, the Beverly Hills Freeway would have provided a direct link between the 101 and 405 freeways. From the 'Report on Geometric Design Proposed Beverly Hills Freeway for Beverly Hills City Council' by De Leuw, Cather & Company, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
It's the missing link of L.A.'s freeway network: the 2, a direct connection between the Westside's 405 and Hollywood's 101. Known to planners as the Beverly Hills Freeway, this 9.3-mile cross-town superhighway would have relieved pressure on the 10 and provided local freeway access to West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Century City. It also would have torn through some of L.A.'s wealthiest residential districts -- a fact that ultimately relegated plans for the freeway to the trash bin.

When traffic planners first envisioned the freeway in the early 1940s, they sketched it with a broad stroke on the city's map, labeling it the "Santa Monica Parkway" because it roughly followed the path of Santa Monica Boulevard. (Today's Santa Monica Freeway, completed in 1965, was born on the same map as the "Olympic Parkway.") By the time planners plotted the planned highway's precise course in 1965, it had earned a new name -- the Beverly Hills Freeway -- as well as the wrath of local communities.

On planners' maps, the Beverly Hills Freeway began as an extension of the Glendale (CA-2) Freeway at a massive interchange with the Hollywood (US-101) Freeway near Vermont Avenue. (The 101's wide median still anticipates that canceled interchange.) From there, the planned freeway sliced between Melrose Avenue and Clinton Street, before jogging slightly to the north and cutting between Waring and Willoughby avenues.

In West Hollywood, it turned to the southwest and followed the path of Santa Monica Boulevard, plunging below grade into a submerged trench. In Beverly Hills, the city considered capping the freeway with parking and surface street lanes. West of Beverly Hills, it emerged from its trench and passed by Century City before finally dead-ending south of Westwood at the San Diego (I-405) freeway.

Documents preserved and digitized by the Metro Transportation Library and Archive, including these two reports from 1964, recall the planned route in detail.

 The Beverly Hills Freeway appears in this 1943 map of proposed freeways as the 'Santa Monica Parkway.' Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
 The Beverly Hills Freeway appears in this 1943 map of proposed freeways as the 'Santa Monica Parkway.' Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.

It was a bold plan that drew a correspondingly strong backlash. Though some constituencies -- notably the businesses of Westwood Village, the developers of Century City, and much of Beverly Hills -- supported the freeway, many neighborhoods opposed it. West Hollywood homeowners were particularly vocal in their dissent. The grassroots opposition might have seemed futile -- Eastside neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, East L.A., and Lincoln Heights failed to stop seven freeways from bulldozing through their communities -- but wealthy residents here did not want for political influence.

They also had time on their side. By the mid-1960s, the funding for freeways that once flowed so freely was beginning to dry up. And the Beverly Hills Freeway, which as a state rather than an interstate route couldn't access federal funds, carried a projected price tag of $300 million. A lack of funds -- as well as legislative battles in Sacramento and conflicts with the county and city of Los Angeles -- forced the state highways division to delay construction year-by-year, even as it purchased property along the proposed right-of-way. A turning point came in 1971, when the Beverly Hills city council reversed its longstanding support for the freeway. Still, Governor Ronald Reagan vetoed several bills that would have canceled the project. Finally, by 1975, ten years of inaction had ossified local opposition, and the state erased the Beverly Hills Freeway from official maps.

Planners initially considered a more northern route that roughly followed the path of Sunset Boulevard. From the 'Beverly Hills Freeway Traffic Study' by Wilbur Smith and Associates, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
Planners initially considered a more northern route that roughly followed the path of Sunset Boulevard. From the 'Beverly Hills Freeway Traffic Study' by Wilbur Smith and Associates, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Beverly Hills Freeway Traffic Study' by Wilbur Smith and Associates, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Beverly Hills Freeway Traffic Study' by Wilbur Smith and Associates, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Report on Geometric Design Proposed Beverly Hills Freeway for Beverly Hills City Council' by De Leuw, Cather & Company, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Report on Geometric Design Proposed Beverly Hills Freeway for Beverly Hills City Council' by De Leuw, Cather & Company, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Beverly Hills Freeway Traffic Study' by Wilbur Smith and Associates, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Beverly Hills Freeway Traffic Study' by Wilbur Smith and Associates, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Report on Geometric Design Proposed Beverly Hills Freeway for Beverly Hills City Council' by De Leuw, Cather & Company, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
From the 'Report on Geometric Design Proposed Beverly Hills Freeway for Beverly Hills City Council' by De Leuw, Cather & Company, 1964. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
The 101 freeway's wide median at Vermont is a remnant of the Beverly Hills Freeway interchange that never materialized. Courtesy of the Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.
The 101 freeway's wide median at Vermont is a remnant of the Beverly Hills Freeway interchange that never materialized. Courtesy of the Herald-Examiner Collection - Los Angeles Public Library.

U.S. requires new cars to have backup cameras

Automakers will be required to install backup cameras in most new vehicles by May 2018, a federal agency announced Monday.


By Gregory Wallace, March 31, 2014

 rear facing car camera
Rear facing cameras give drivers a view that could prevent accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized a long-awaited rule requiring all new cars, SUVs, and minivans, as well as some new small trucks and buses to carry rear visibility technology.

 Automakers haven't been previously required to include these systems but NHTSA did recommend it, saying it can save many deaths and injuries from backover crashes. There are nearly 210 backover deaths each year, the agency said. About a third of those deaths are children, and many are caused by parents, it said.

Rear facing cameras, including those that automakers already offer, would save between 59 and 69 deaths a year, NHTSA said.

"Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable victims of backover accidents -- our children and seniors," said Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary. "As a father, I can only imagine how heart wrenching these types of accidents can be for families, but we hope that today's rule will serve as a significant step toward reducing these tragic accidents."

The agency also touted a number of benefits beyond safety. Parking, for one, would become easier, it said in the regulation.

NHTSA expected the system would cost about $140 per new vehicle -- and less for those that already have in-dash displays installed.

A 2008 law required the agency to develop rules to prevent backover accidents. Rules requiring backup cameras in all new vehicles were developed, but their implementation has been delayed until now.

Many vehicles, including luxury models, already carry rear-facing cameras, and an auto industry group applauded the move.

"Today, the government has stepped forward as a strong advocate for cameras on cars, and this action helps pave the way for using cameras in other ways on vehicles," the Auto Alliance said in a statement. It also pledged to ask "NHTSA to allow automakers to remove side-view mirrors and replace them with cameras that may expand side vision while increasing fuel efficiency."

 Several safety advocacy groups sued the government and asked a federal judge to require backup rules be adopted. Those groups said Monday's announcement was long overdue.

"While the administration delayed the rule, more children died in backover accidents," said Robert Weissman of Public Citizen, one of the groups. "The cost of regulatory delay, in human lives, could hardly be more clear than it is today." To top of page

Urgent Message From Courier Publisher About Metro in Beverly Hills

Sent from the Beverly Hills Courier via email, March 31, 2014

The City Council Tuesday night again considers Metro's carte blanche permit to tear up Wilshire Boulevard, obstruct traffic on Wilshire, take away parking, shut-off access to businesses and block residents from their homes.

Attached is a link to the City's staff report. It mainly deals with inventorying parking meters. You will note that it has no mention of cost, timeline, deadlines, or enforcement.

This is a typical bureaucrat whitewash of a tough problem - how to rip up your main street and APPEAR like you have planned for the problems.

Most of the report consists of scans of individual comment cards submitted by those who attended two meetings about the permit. A Courier reporter with extensive experience attending Metro meetings and living through Metro construction attended all these meetings. ACCORDING TO ALL WHO ATTENDED, METRO AND CITY STAFF FAILED UTTERLY TO PROVIDE ANY CONCRETE ANSWERS. The consensus, "The meetings were a joke."

If you read the report, you will not be able to find one word about what happens to residents and City businesses. There is no provision whatsoever for handling blocked access for police, fire or paramedic. As for communications, the report contradicts itself. First it says that "there is redundancy" so no one will lose contact with phones and internet. In another place, it discusses what the utility companies must complete to "splice" various lines.

There is no enforcement mechanism in the staff report.

There is no penalty attached to Metro's failures.

There is no plan submitted by Metro - AT ALL!

Metro has no contractors selected yet.

There is no draft permit from the City attached.

There is no demand that Metro deposit money to take care of damages to property or other City assets.

Beverly Hills is entitled to know what will be done, when, how, by whom, and what happens if Metro fails.


This should be a non-starter. Metro needs to take our City seriously and it does not. From reading this report, the City of Beverly Hills highly-paid bureaucrats do not either.

Beverly Hills NEVER allows a private builder to get away with such meager submissions. We don't know why our City bureaucrats deem it more important to join forces with their buddies at Metro than to protect our City.

This first permit will be the model for all to come - if our City Council accepts this phony, superficial report as the basis for future permits, they should be recalled.

City's Staff Report

CHINA EXPORTS AIR POLLUTION TO U.S. Wind Blowing China Factory Pollution...

Metro explores new green energy options: placing a wind turbine in a subway tunnel


By Anna Chen, March 31, 2014


 MACE Installation 8.15.13-3

You’re standing on a subway station platform, waiting for the train. Suddenly, the wind picks up. You know this means the train is coming. Many of you may also know why there’s wind: it’s displaced air being pushed through the tunnel by the fast moving train. And some of you — including Tom Kefalas, Metro Environmental Compliance and Services Manager — may have wondered if there was a way all that generated wind could be utilized as a renewable energy source.

Thanks to Tom Kefalas and Cris Liban, Director of Metro Environmental Compliance Services, we now know the answer is yes. From August through September 2013, Metro conducted a one-month pilot program to see if wind energy could safely and effectively be captured and used. The project involved working with engineers from WWT Tunnel, LLC, a subcontractor to Arcadis U.S., to create and install a unique 10-foot multi-blade mass airflow collection equipment (MACE) in the Red Line tunnel. To our knowledge, this is the first time a transit agency has tested the effect of having a wind turbine in a subway tunnel.

The MACE was installed between the North Hollywood and Universal City stations, a segment of the tunnel that sees trains reaching speeds of up to 70 mph. Each time a train left the station, the MACE fan blades would start spinning, thus capturing energy up to a minute before the train actually passed by. The blades would continue to spin up to 2 minutes after the train passed, and exceeded 1,070 revolutions per minute (RPM). The amount of electricity produced by these train initiated events was nearly double the amount that had originally been anticipated.

During the run of the pilot program, the MACE generated an average of 77.7 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day. It is projected that the 10-foot MACE section could generate more than 28,000 kWh per year–enough to power about 12 homes in California for one year, or turn out approximately $6,000 per year in electrical production.

In addition, a single 10-foot MACE unit could potentially help Metro avoid using electricity that would have generated more than 17 tons of CO2 emissions annually if created from natural gas, or more than 30 tons of CO2 emissions annually if created by a coal-powered plant.

This is great news for Metro as the agency strives to become ever greener. The MACE can safely and efficiently collect clean electrical power from wind that is already being produced by passing trains. Due to the regularity of the speed and schedule of Metro trains, the power generated is far more reliable than above-ground wind and solar power, and the electrical power generated can be used in various ways. It can be stored for use to avoid power spikes in usage during flex alerts or high demand periods. In AC format, the power could also be stored and used to provide power for electric vehicle charging stations, station and tunnel lights, escalators and more. And because the project is entirely underground, no CEQA environmental clearance process was required.

Since the end of the pilot program, Metro staff has been analyzing the data captured. Over the next year, Metro staff will follow up with a report evaluating the best use of MACE generated power and the feasibility of installing MACE into existing and new rail line tunnels, including the Regional Connector, the Purple Line Extension and the underground segments of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.
A report of the MACE pilot program by WWT Tunnel is available here.

Beverly Hills Homeowners Head Blasts Metro Lies On Subway, Council Takes Up Metro Permit Tuesday Night


March 31, 2014


The Metropolitan Transit Authority comes back to the Beverly Hills City Council Tuesday night again seeking a permit to tear up Beverly Hills streets, block access and take away parking.  Metro came to the council before in January with the full backing of Beverly Hills city staff, but met resistance from the council when they could not answer any serious questions about the impact on Beverly Hills residents, businesses, police, fire, paramedic access or safety.
Now, the president of the Southwest Homeowners Association, Ken Goldman, calls out Metro and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky for "lies" about the impact on Beverly Hills.

Goldman wrote the Los Angeles Times, with a copy to The Courier:

"To the Editor:
"Metro's plans to tear up Wilshire, Santa Monica Blvd. and surrounding streets will cause extraordinary disruption 24/7 to countless residents and drivers alike.  Imagine intersections at Fairfax, La Cienega and Beverly Drive closed or diverted for months on end over a period of years.  I served on the volunteer citizens' Committee to analyze the Westside extension project years ago. Metro representatives met with us numerous times to promote the project. In response to our specific questions, they outright lied to us and told us that these intersections would be slightly disrupted only for a few weekends.  Nothing about months on end. Nothing about 24/7. In the face of these complete misrepresentations and Beverly Hills' attempting to mitigate these impacts, Supervisor Yaroslavsky has the effrontery to threaten to sue us?"
The Courier proposed common-sense requirements that tell Beverly Hills what Metro will do, who will do it, when will it start, when will it be finished, and what happens to people and business.  Based on the City staff report to the council released Friday, Beverly Hills city staff still refuses to demand accountability from Metro and its contractors. 
Previously, the council voted 4-1 to reject Metro's permit, with only Willie Brien, M.D., prepared to "rubber stamp" Metro's demands.
At Tuesday's formal council meeting, the City Council is expected to vote on a permit application for the relocation of underground fiber-optic communication facilities associated with the Westside Subway Extension in addition to a permit application for groundwater and gas sampling in existing monitoring wells associated with the extension.


Look at the photos, plans, schedules themselves.  THESE COME FROM METRO -  NOT THE COURIER!

China's High-Speed Rail Is So Popular, It's Hurting the Domestic Airline Industry


By Heather Timmons, March 31, 2014

China's High-Speed Rail Is So Popular, It's Hurting the Domestic Airline Industry

China Southern Airlines is the latest Chinese airline to post miserable year-end 2013 results. Net profit dropped 24 percent to 1.99 billion yuan ($321 million), and operating profit fell 70 percent. China Southern Airlines joins Air China, where net profit dropped 32 percent in 2013, and China Eastern Airlines, where it fell by 25 percent.

High oil prices, as well as increased competition from low-cost carriers and each other, have taken a toll. But, as each airline has recently acknowledged, so has China's massive and growing high-speed rail system. 

As Quartz reported last August, the costly and sometimes under-used rail network was shaping up to be a vital part of China’s growth strategy. It doesn't have the hurdles of the airline industry: Airlines in China struggle to get clearances from the military to expand flight paths, and China’s major airports have earned the title of the most-delayed in the world, where passengers sometimes riot to protest long waits and miserable customer service. 

The high-speed rail system, on the other hand, has quickly grown to over 6,000 miles in five years, and will expand to 11,800 miles by 2015. It is already transporting some 2 million passengers a day on trains that are rarely delayed, and which go nearly 200 miles an hour, twice as many passengers as domestic airlines. 

If there were no rail network, these passengers wouldn't all necessarily have taken flights instead, of course. Some might not have traveled at all, or gone by car, bus or slow train. Still, to see how this has hit the airlines, take a look at China Southern’s domestic passenger activity, which peaked in 2011, and on most months hasn’t hit the same highs since, according to the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation

In 2013, China Southern’s revenues from domestic operations dropped 5.5 percent to 81.3 billion yuan. At Air China, revenues from domestic flights likewise fell over 5 percent in 2013, though the number of passengers increased by 7.3 percent. "The rapid development of high-speed railway and the evolution of low-cost carriers on the mainland will further intensify competition on domestic routes," the company said when it announced results March 25. 

China Eastern’s chief executive complained about the subsidies the railways get in an interview last year, saying "In China, the government has also invested heavily in high-speed rail—far more than in the airlines in fact—so it’s not a case of nationalized carriers being better off, because they also have many challenges to face."
It's a sticky situation: while all of China’s big three airlines are publicly traded, the Chinese government continues to hold controlling stakes in the companies. That means the cannibalization of domestic airline passengers by the railways is a case of the government eating its own profits.

This floating electric amphicar could save you from the next tsunami


By Amber Cortes, March 29, 2014

 Fomm Concept One

It’s a car! It’s a boat! It’s an electric-powered vehicle that bobs on the water like a jetski!

The Japanese-developed Fomm Concept One uses a water jet generator to propel through water, and has a motorcycle-style handlebar to accelerate and brake. And get this: Its wheels are lightweight, buoyant, and they can operate like fins when in the water.

Pretty neat, eh? Before you take the plunge and pack up the family for a picnic in the lake, remember that this amphicar isn’t meant just for fun. It was designed by a Japanese company to help rescue people from flooding and tsunamis and will only be sold in Thailand, followed by a larger rollout in Southeast Asia. The tiny, 1,000-pound car can only drive about 62 miles before it needs to be recharged, and can only handle one disaster at a time before it needs to be maintained again.

The concept for the car was born after Fomm President Hideo Tsurumaki saw the devastation that the 2011 tsunami caused his home province, Shizuoka Prefecture. In Southeast Asia, where 138 million people live in coastal areas prone to flooding and powerful downpours, this electric car could help drivers negotiate impassable roads and flooding. And the Fomm Concept One will have its work cut out for it, since global warming is predicted to hit Asia the hardest, bringing along plenty more floods and tsunamis.

According to the company, mass production of the Fomm Concept One will begin in 2015. Take a quick tour of the prototype before it hits the water like Alan Jackson on water skis: