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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

1.5 Million Lives Lost: The Global Toll of Motor Vehicles Each Year


By Angie Schmitt, April 1, 2014


In 2010, more people were killed by motor vehicles than by AIDS, or malaria, or tuberculosis. That year, 1.3 million lives were cut short by vehicle collisions, and 185,000 more people died as a result of health problems caused by vehicle exhaust. Combined, those vehicle-related factors accounted for 2.9 percent of all deaths globally, according to a report released yesterday by the World Health Organization.

The WHO said global development lenders are growing concerned about the rising road death toll. In the past two decades, road deaths grew 46 percent worldwide, the organization reported. Pedestrians accounted for 35 percent of the victims. In some parts of Africa, as many as 50 percent of fatal crash victims were killed while walking.

International development agencies have long recommended road-building as an economic growth strategy, but the high toll of traffic deaths in many developing nations is also a drag on economic performance. Road deaths have been rising in poorer countries while declining, for the most part, in affluent nations, the WHO reported.

Between 1990 and 2010, the WHO reports that the “road injury disease burden” — a metric that encompasses both health and economic factors — declined 16 percent in the United States, compared to Japan’s 40 percent and Sweden’s 30 percent.

Meanwhile, from 1980 to 2010, road deaths increased 77 percent in China and 66 percent in India.

Image: World Health Organization
Graph: World Health Organization

“Road crashes cost an estimated 1 percent to 5 percent of GDP in developing countries, undermining efforts to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group in the report.

The WHO recommends that countries do a better job reporting traffic fatalities. Some counties in Africa, the agency found, are under-reporting traffic fatalities by a factor of five. The WHO also recommends better coordination between public health professionals and agencies responsible for transportation development, and it urges counties to encourage active commuting to improve health outcomes.

Return of the KILLER SMOG: Worst pollution in 60 YEARS to strike Britain TOMORROW

SOME of the worst air pollution since The Great Smog of 1952 will hit Britain within hours, the Government warned tonight.


By Jason Taylor, April 1, 2014

 smog, great smog, weather uk, smog uk, great smog, big smoke

 The Great Smog of 1952 was linked to the deaths of 12,000 people

A deadly pollution cloud that could prove fatal for people with serious heart and lung problems will sweep into the UK tonight and cover much of the country tomorrow.

As this terrifying map from the Met Office shows, huge swathes of the UK will suffer extraordinarily high levels of air pollution in the next 24 hours - hitting highest possible level 10 on the official warning scale.

The midlands and the south are set to be worst affected, but almost all of England and Wales will experience extremely high levels of dangerous pollution.

Clean air campaigners claimed the Government had tried to bury news of the sudden - and shocking - decline in air quality.
air pollution, smog, smog forecast, smog uk, weather ukT

The latest air pollution forecast shows much of the UK will be hit

Maria Arnold from ClientEarth said: "In Paris, people have been offered free transport, but the Government here has been very quiet as they don't want to draw attention to this."
The sudden deterioration is being partially caused by dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa.
A 'perfect storm' has developed with light winds over the UK leading to a build up in pollution. At exactly the same time, dust from the Sahara is being picked up in vast quantities by very strong winds over Africa and propelled towards us.

The forecast from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) warns: "The current elevated pollution levels over parts of the UK are caused by light winds allowing the build up of pollution, plus dust from the Sahara contributing to pollution levels.
smog, smog uk, smog daily express, great smog, smog forecast, weather ukHow the Daily Express reported The Great Smog in December 1952 [EXPRESS ARCHIVE]
"High to Very High air pollution is expected across East Anglia, parts of southeast England and around the Humber.
"Moderate air pollution is expected across remaining areas across southeast England and the East Midlands. Areas of Moderate air pollution are also expected across Scotland and the rest of England."

Friends of the Earth pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said: "Air quality in Britain is a national disgrace, with tens of thousands of people dying prematurely each year.

"Strong and urgent measures are needed to end this scandal, including action on road traffic, the cause of most pollution."
smog, smog uk, weather uk, great smog, smog forecast 
London is expected to suffer from severe pollution in the next 24 hours

A Defra spokesman defended the Government's record. He said: "We want to keep improving air quality and have introduced a new five day forecast service in addition to investing heavily in local and transport initiatives to tackle this issue head on.”

More than 29,000 people are die prematurely every year from small particles in air pollution, which can cause cancer.

Defra warned that adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people should avoid strenuous physical activity tomorrow.

People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

They advised reducing physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as cough or sore throat.
The spokesman added: "Adults and children with heart or lung problems are at greater risk of symptoms.
"Follow your doctor's usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.

"Anyone experiencing symptoms should follow the [official] guidance."

Defra claims that that overall levels of sulphur dioxide have fallen nearly 10-fold, and smoke levels 20-fold since the 1960s, as average air quality has improved.

The dangers caused by coal-burning power stations responsible for winter smog have decreased substantially, and road transport has become the biggest source of air pollution in most areas.

But rare occasions when dangerously high levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, PM2.5 and PM10 particles - which can seriously damage human health - do occur.

The Great Smog of 1952 has been linked to the deaths of 12,000 people. A further 100,000 suffered respiratory illnesses.
smog, great smog, smog masks, big smoke, london weather 
The 'Big Smoke' of 1952 left more than 100,000 people with respiratory disease
Also known as the Big Smoke, it lasted from Friday 5 to Tuesday 9 December and struck after a long period of cold weather, an anticyclone and windless conditions converged to collect coal pollutants in a thick layer of smog over London.
Huge amounts of impurities were released into the atmosphere. Every day 1,000 tonnes of smoke particles, 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 140 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 14 tonnes of fluorine compounds were released into the London air. Worst of all, 370 tonnes of sulphur dioxide were also converted into 800 tonnes of sulphuric acid every day.

It was the worst air-pollution event in the history of the UK and led to several changes in practices and regulations, including the Clean Air Act 1956.

The World Health Organisation said last month that - more than 60 years on - air pollution is now the planet's biggest environmental health risk, causing seven million deaths a year - a figure that is on the rise.

Britain is already facing record fines of up to 300m annually after the European Commission claimed ministers had failed to reduce "excessive" levels of nitrogen dioxide in traffic pollution, despite 15 years of warnings.

* Anyone concerned about their health or that of a loved one tomorrow should call the Government's Air Pollution hotline on 0800 55 66 77

Editorial: Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking?


By Joe Linton, March 30, 2014

 Metro's La Cienega Expo Line Station parking lot: 476 spaces, all free, all the time

 Metro’s Culver City Expo Line Station parking lot: 586 spaces, free for drivers who get there early enough, but not free for Metro to build, operate, and maintain. Metro is proposing to raise rider fares, while continuing to let cars park for free.

Metro is proposing to increase, or restructure, its $1.50 base transit fare to $1.75 later this year, with further increases planned in 2017 and 2020. Metro anticipates that this will increase its fare recovery – the percentage of operations costs that are paid for by fare revenues – from 25 percent to 33 percent. Metro foresees that this fare increase will “deflect” riders; a small percentage of people who currently take Metro will opt not to ride.

Officially, Streetsblog Los Angeles neither supports nor opposes Metro’s proposed fare increase. We hold that robust transit service is needed, and that fares need to be affordable, and that those two important ends can be in conflict. When inflation drives operating costs up, at some point, it can make sense for agencies to increase what they charge for what they provide. Reasonable fare increases are generally preferable to significant service cuts.

I am not going to wade into all the issues in the fare increase, but want to explore another revenue source that Metro doesn’t seem to be paying attention to: parking. 

Metro has large amounts of parking that it gives away for free. For more than 90% of the spaces it owns, Metro’s parking “fare recovery” is zero percent. Parking revenue isn’t likely to cover the entire operating deficit Metro is asserting, but it can amount to millions of dollars, enough to delay or soften fare increases.

Charging for parking will also deflect a small number of the riders who drive (driver-riders are a small percentage of Metro’s overall ridership – fewer than 10 percent), but, if revenue is used to offset fare increases, parking charges should lessen overall deflection. In some cases, charging for parking and keeping transit fares reasonable could deflect some drivers out of their cars and on to buses, carpools, bikes, and walking.

I recently attended a meeting where Metro staff presented their fare increase proposal. When I asked if Metro was also looking at parking revenue, Metro’s presenter responded that Metro didn’t have much parking, and that it fills up quickly anyway – as if that meant there wasn’t anything that could be done. On the contrary, this high demand shows that Metro’s parking is a revenue opportunity. The Transit Coalition’s Bart Reed confirms that “[Metro Red Line] parking for free is gone by 7 a.m. in the valley.” Streetsblog’s Damien Newton states that, at “Culver City [Expo Station] after morning rush hour, I generally see people cruising for parking. There’s no space.”

What’s wrong with free parking? Isn’t that good?

I can’t explain all of Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking. Suffice it to say that, generally, when an expensive, in-demand resource like parking is given away for free, it will run out and there won’t be enough to go around. Shoup generally recommends that public agencies raise (or lower) the price of parking, to manage availability – to make sure people who want to park can find open parking spaces. When free parking runs out, then people drive around “cruising” for spaces, which is generally bad for transit, bicycling, walking.

Building and maintaining parking spaces isn’t free for Metro. If driver-riders (less than 10 percent of Metro’s ridership) are not paying for parking, then non-driving-riders are subsidizing drivers. 

One way to explain this is to look at overall fairness. Metro is a public agency tasked with providing transportation services. In providing a public good (transportation), Metro can and should choose to subsidize. In Metro’s user fee structures, the agency makes policy choices regarding what it subsidizes. Right now, Metro subsidizes 99+ percent of the cost of parking, but only roughly 75 percent of the cost of riding transit. Metro is proposing to continue to subsidize parking at 99+ percent, but to only subsidize transit at 67 percent.  Metro is proposing that “fare recovery” for transit needs to go from 25 percent to 33 percent, but parking “fare recovery” can remain at zero percent indefinitely.

Metro says that fares need to go up to cover operating expenses, so it’s only fair that drivers pay expenses for resources they use.

What can we learn from other transportation agencies?

In 2013, The San Francisco Bay Area’s BART system proposed fare increases to cover inflation. The BART board approved raising both fares and parking fees (both daily and monthly), indexed to inflation. Parking increases at BART are expected to raise $7 million a year in 2014. A BART spokesperson explained the increase by stating “The bottom line is this: we don’t charge enough to cover the cost to provide the parking space right now.”

Minneapolis’ streets.mn reviewed its transit agency’s parking investments, and found that investing in Bus Rapid Transit served 7.5 times more users than investing in parking structures.

A look at the numbers

I compiled parking space quantities from Metro’s website. Looking at Metro rail lines, as well as the BRT Orange and Silver Lines, Metro has a total of 19,450 parking spaces. Nearly twenty thousand spaces! That’s just on the rail and BRT lines, I am sure there are more parking spaces in Metro’s holdings. That’s just today, I expect that there’s more parking coming on line with Metro rail expansion under construction.

Of those 19,450 Metro spaces, 18,048 are completely free. That’s 93% of the total. Metro only charges for 1402 spaces – more on that below.

How much did this parking cost Metro to build? I did some back-of-the-napkin calculations. For surface parking, which varies based on real estate costs, I’ve used a conservative national estimate of $4,200 per space. For parking structures (the ones that I know of: Willow Blue Line Station, Sierra Madre Villa  and Del Mar Gold Line Stations, and La Cienega Expo Line Station), I’ve estimated $27,000 per parking space, a Los Angeles estimate directly from Donald Shoup. Using these estimates, for Metro’s nearly 20,000 parking spaces, the total construction cost for Metro parking comes to about $150 millionThat’s a conservative estimate, and the actual amount is likely higher. That’s a lot of transit money going to park a lot of automobiles.

How much revenue could Metro earn from their 19,450 spaces? I am no economist, but I did another back-of-the-napkin estimate. I made some assumptions that I think are pretty conservative. Below are my revenue assumptions:
  • Metro can actually sell 25% of its spaces. I am assuming that three out of four spaces might be empty if Metro charges for them. Some popular lots will fill up; outlying lots that don’t fill today won’t fill in the foreseeable future. Metro should be able to keep occupancy higher by using pricing strategies, and should probably aim for Shoup’s 85% occupancy target, but, for purposes of a conservative estimate, I am assuming that Metro can fill at least one space in four system-wide.
  • Metro’s parking spaces will only be sold once per day. In the real world, some spaces will turn over, so they could be charged for a few times each day.
  • Metro can do this every weekday of the year – 260 days per year.
These are fairly low assumptions. They’re certainly not my recommendations, nor a good business plan. I am using a one-size-fits-all formula, and parking pricing should vary based on demand. Desired locations at desired times should charge more than this.

Even with these conservative assumptions, I estimate Metro’s potential parking revenue at just over $3.5 million per year. A proactive agency should be able to do significantly better than this. That number is for gross revenue, and there would be some costs to administer and enforce this program, so the net revenue is somewhat less, but it’s clearly a lot of money. Millions of dollars every year.

But Metro already charges for parking!

What about those 1402 spaces where Metro already charges for parking? 610 of them are at the Del Mar Gold Line Station, which is unique in the system, charging $2 per day.

The remaining 792 non-free spaces are available by purchasing a monthly parking permit, which costs $20-$39. The permit guarantees the user a space when arriving before 10:30 a.m. After 10:30 a.m., all Metro parking spaces are free.

When I write that these spaces are “available” by permit, that’s not quite true. Of these 792 spaces, 534 spaces (67 percent) are listed as “sold out” on the Metro Parking Pass website.

Most of the parking spaces that Metro sells by the month are "SOLD OUT" indicating that they are priced below market value. Screenshot at XXXX March 27 2014

Most of the parking spaces that Metro sells by the month are “SOLD OUT” indicating that they are priced below market value. Screenshot https://www.parkmetro.com/monthly/ March 27 2014

So many “sold out” locations mean that, for the small percentage of non-free spaces, Metro is selling them for less than their market value. To manage these spaces more efficiently (meaning Metro actually selling parking to people who want to purchase parking), Metro can either raise the price or increase the supply. In every lot listed as “sold out,” Metro can increase the supply by converting existing free spaces to permitted ones.

I calculate that Metro grosses roughly $250,000-$350,000 per year from its monthly parking permit system. Some of these moneys would go into administering and enforcing the program. Assuming that monthly parking revenue is roughly $300,000 each year, and that this is the only revenue Metro is getting from these lots, then it will take nearly 500 years for Metro to recover its $150 million in parking construction costs.

There’s also a Park-by-phone system that sells Metro spaces for $3 per day. It’s unclear to me how this fits into the Metro parking system. Is there another chunk of spaces, or re-selling permit spaces, or something else? I’ll look into this more in the future – or if someone out there knows, please tell us in the comments below.

Conclusions and a look at the big picture

Charging for parking is prudent fiscal policy and good transportation policy.

Changing Metro parking subsidies won’t happen overnight. Charges can be phased in over time, lot by lot, starting with the most popular sites, where drivers are already frustrated and cruising today.

The parking revenue processes might get underway with a board motion directing Metro staff to report on parking revenue. What does it cost to build, operate, and maintain Metro’s parking? How is Metro’s monthly permit program working: how much revenue does it bring in, and how does the program respond to parking demand? Similarly, how about Metro’s Park-by-phone program: revenue, response to demand? What other parking does Metro own, in addition to the rail and BRT lots this article focuses on? Perhaps, as Metro sets its target for fare recovery for operations cost, it can also set a target for parking cost recovery, with phased-in deadlines for meeting targets.

There are plenty of good reasons for Metro to charge for its parking: revenue, fairness, effectiveness, usefulness, environmental benefits, etc. Let’s look at just one more: charging for parking helps Metro track usage data. Data is needed to help Metro make accurate projections for where parking will be needed. If Metro gets a better handle on parking demand, then it can reign in excessive spending on parking in some locations, and dedicate limited funds to what’s most effective in providing transportation. 

(My spreadsheet calculations are here. As I’ve mentioned, these are rough estimates – please let me know if I’ve made any errors.)

Jackknifed big rig causes mess on 210 Freeway in Pasadena


April 1, 2014

Speed and rain may be to blame for a jackknifed big rig that shut down freeway lanes in Pasadena at the 210 and 134 connector early Tuesday morning. 

According to the California Highway Patrol, the big rig was traveling westbound on the 210 and continuing on the curve to the westbound 210 in Pasadena when the driver lost control and hit a center median at about 1:15 a.m.

The big rig went through a guard rail, which then became tangled under the big rig. No other vehicles were involved, CHP said. Crews had to clean up a small amount of diesel that spilled onto the roadway.

The accident also impacted traffic on the eastbound 134 Freeway to the westbound 210 transition road. All lanes reopened just after 5:30 a.m.

CHP says the big rig was likely going too fast for the slick roads and warned other drivers to slow down.

Peggy Drouet:  Quite a number of big rig accidents going from the 210 West to the 210 North. If big rigs have trouble making this turn, how do you think they will be able to make the turn on the connector from the 210 West to the 710 South to a tunnel? I wonder if the tunnel advocates have thought about this.