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

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Koch Brothers Quietly Seek To Ban New Mass Transit In Tennessee


By Katie Valentine, April 1, 2014

 A rendering of Nashville's Amp bus system.

 A rendering of Nashville’s Amp bus system.

 The Tennessee Senate passed a bill last week that, if approved, would broadly ban mass transit projects in the region, an anti-transit effort that’s gotten some help in the state from Charles and David Koch.

 On Thursday, the Tennessee Senate passed SB 2243, which includes an amendment that “prohibits metropolitan governments and any transit authorities created by a metropolitan government from constructing, maintaining or operating any bus rapid transit system using a separate lane, or other separate right-of-way, dedicated solely to the use of such bus rapid transit system on any state highway or state highway.” The amendment is aimed at Nashville’s proposed $174 million rapid bus system called the Amp, but would apply to any mass transit system proposed in Tennessee’s cities.

The Amp, a proposed 7.1-mile bus rapid transit system that would cut commute times along one of Nashville’s major corridors, has been staunchly opposed by the Tennessee branch of Americans for Prosperity, a lobbying organization founded in part by the Koch brothers. AFP’s Tennessee director told the Tennessean that SB 2243 was the result of a conversation he’d had with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Tracy. In addition, AFP pushed the Senate to vote on the bill — efforts that led to StopAmp.org, one of the lead groups opposing the Amp, thanking AFP in a press release after SB 2243 passed the Senate. The transit system’s opponents say it would create traffic problems and safety issues due to its middle-lane location, a claim that a spokesman for the Amp Coalition disputes.

Holly McCall, Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s spokesperson for the Amp project, told ThinkProgress AFP has kept a low profile throughout the campaign for and against the Amp. She said she’d suspected AFP was involved in the Amp’s opposition, but didn’t know for sure until StopAmp.org thanked the group in their press release.

“It’s pretty tough to fight that kind of money — AFP gets funds from the Koch brothers, and they’re billionaires,” she said. “We continue to work our local campaign, and we’re probably going to make some tweaks to the design — we’re interested in compromise, because if we don’t, our entire future transit plan is going to be dictated by people who live out of state.”

Nashville has a bus system, McCall said, but it’s not enough to transport people throughout the suburbs and into the city, especially not as the city grows. By 2035, almost 1 million new residents will come to live in the Nashville area, according to the MTA.

“It would be hugely transformational,” McCall said of the Amp. “If we don’t do it now, we’re going to be so far behind, and it’s really going to start to hinder our economic development and growth.”
Mike Schatzlein, chairman of the Amp coalition, said in a statement that the Senate’s passage of the bill was an overreach of its authority.

“The Senate basically took a local project that has been in development for five years and voted an amendment to kill it,” Schatzlein said. “The project is the first leg of a regional transit system, so this vote impacts all of Middle Tennessee.”

AFP has chapters in 35 states, and this isn’t the first time they’ve lobbied against local energy and transit initiatives. Last Summer in Georgia, AFP launched a “multi-pronged, grassroots driven initiative” that urged citizens to pressure members of the state’s Public Service Commission to reject an effort to require Georgia Power to expand its use of solar energy. That effort had won the support of members of the Atlanta Tea Party, who saw an expansion of solar in the state an expansion of their ability to choose where their power comes from, but AFP still claimed that the expansion would increase electricity bills and “reduce the reliability of every appliance and electronics gadget” in residents’ homes. Despite AFP’s efforts, the Georgia PSC ultimately voted in favor of requiring Georgia Power to expand its solar usage.

Court rules in favor of Metro in pair of state lawsuits brought by Beverly Hills over subway extension


By Steve Hymon, April 2, 2014

A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Metro on Wednesday in state lawsuits brought by the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills alleging that the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension project were flawed and needed to be redone.
To put it in plain English: the judge upheld the studies and denied the requests that they be redone, a task which could have potentially cost Metro millions of dollars and delayed construction of the project.

Metro issued this statement about the ruling:

“Metro is pleased that our in-depth, multi-year environmental review process was found valid by the Superior Court.  We look forward to working with all the communities along the alignment, including Beverly Hills, to fulfill our commitment to deliver this regionally significant and beneficial project for the taxpayers of L.A. County.”

The dispute involves Metro’s plans to tunnel under the Beverly Hills High School campus in order to reach the approved Century City station at the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Avenue. The station location was selected by Metro for three reasons: to locate a station closer to the heart of Century City, generate higher ridership for the new line and to avoid an active earthquake fault  zone that runalong Santa Monica Boulevard as determined by seismic and geotechnical studies by Metro and its contractors.

The Constellation route meant that the subway would have to tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. School District and city officials complained that could damage the school and/or prevent them from building an underground parking garage, among other issues. After a final Metro Board hearing on the matter in May 2012, Metro determined that it was safe to tunnel beneath the campus, the tunnels would not prohibit any new development, noise and vibration levels would be within federal limits, old oil wells in the area do not present an unmitigable risk to tunneling and the project would not prevent the campus from being used as an emergency evacuation center.

Both the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have also filed lawsuits against the Federal Transit Administration, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policuy Act. The FTA is helping fund the Purple Line Extension and approved the environmental studies for it. Those lawsuits are still in court.

Local funding for the 8.5-mile Purple Line Extension was approved as part of the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase that was supported by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The project is being built in three phases: phase one is from Wilshire & Western to Wilshire & La Cienega, phase two extends the project to Century City and the third phase extends tracks to two stations in Westwood — one at Wislhire and Westwood and the final one near the Westwood/VA Hospital, just west of the 405 freeway.

Advanced utility relocation for the first phase of the project is underway and the FTA is expected to soon announce a funding agreement for that part of the project. The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to select a contractor to build the project this summer with construction starting in late 2014. The first phase is currently forecast to open in 2023.

Westside subway survives legal challenge from Beverly Hills


By Laura J. Nelson, April 2, 2014

Knocking down one of the last hurdles for Los Angeles’ long-awaited Westside subway extension, a judge ruled late Wednesday that transit officials followed environmental laws when choosing a route that will require tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s five-year, $13.8-million environmental review process was thorough and fair, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio wrote in a 15-page decision.

The Beverly Hills School District and the city of Beverly Hills, which sued Metro two years ago claiming in part that risks of tunneling under the school were not adequately considered, can appeal the decision. Representatives from the city, which has two federal lawsuits involving the subway still pending, could not be reached for comment.

Transportation officials said Wednesday’s ruling effectively ends a generation of controversy and studies over the subway extension, which will connect downtown to West Los Angeles and serve one of the nation’s most chronically congested commuter corridors. As currently planned, the nine-mile, $5.6-billion line, slated to open in 2035, will include seven new stations between Koreatown and Westwood.

Metro staff said in a prepared statement that the agency is looking forward to “working with all the communities along the alignment, including Beverly Hills.”

Had Metro lost the lawsuit, the Westside subway extension could have faced years of delay and millions of dollars in extra costs while new environmental impact studies were completed, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said.

The route Metro has chosen includes a station near Constellation Boulevard in Century City, two blocks west of Beverly Hills High School. It will require tunneling under parts of the campus. Metro considered an alternative route along Santa Monica Boulevard but discarded it after agency studies found a complex earthquake fault zone in that area.

“The Constellation Station is located in the middle of high rise office buildings that house thousands of potential subway riders,” Torribio wrote. The Santa Monica Boulevard station favored by Beverly Hills “would require these same riders to walk a considerable distance to access the subway.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the Westside, said in a statement that he was “gratified” by the ruling. “It validates Metro’s decision to bring the subway to West Los Angeles safely, while serving the greatest number of riders,” he said.

Last year, the city of Beverly Hills sued the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation over federal grants and loans allocated to the subway, saying the project violated environmental, transit and administrative laws.

America’s Zippy New Trains Still Lag Behind the Speed Demons of Europe


By Keith Barry, April 2, 2014

 Image: Siemens



Transit authorities in five states have ordered 32 new locomotives that are more efficient and faster than their predecessors. Ideally, they’ll make for more reliable service, but they’re not exactly what most people have in mind when they think of high-speed rail.

California, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, and Washington all ordered Siemens Charger diesel-electric locomotives for passenger service. And some of those services are being touted as “high speed.”

For instance, in Illinois, the new locomotives will debut on a new so-called high-speed corridor between Chicago and St. Louis, which is currently under construction. After track upgrades, the new locomotives could reach speeds of 110 mph, faster than Amtrak’s current ceiling of 79 mph on the same route.

Does that make the new trains high speed? It depends on who you ask. According to the European Union’s definition, high speed trains must be able to travel above 124 mph on conventional tracks, and at speeds over 155 mph on tracks specifically upgraded for high-speed rail.

Although the Charger locomotives feature the latest technology, with emission controls and on-board diagnostics, they’re relatively conventional. The “new” trains are based on a popular European design, and top out at 125 mph. That’s as fast as the Metroliner that ran between New York and Washington D.C. in 1969. By that definition, the new Siemens trains don’t qualify as “high speed.”
However, the International Union of Railways adds a major caveat to what the Europeans say:

“It is also necessary to take into account those railways which are making laudable efforts to provide high speed despite a basis of old infrastructure and technology which is far removed from that employed by the railways of western Europe.”

In other words, because the American passenger rail system is so far behind the rest of the world, any improvement whatsoever could be considered high speed. It’s an important step forward, despite the appearance that the U.S. is rejecting HSR.

In California, a slim majority of likely voters are opposed to a HSR proposal. In Illinois, it’s unlikely that funding will be available to make the Chicago-St. Louis line truly high speed. And some states have rejected HSR out of hand.

That’s why it’s important to improve existing services. The Charger is a diesel-electric version of the all-electric Cities Sprinter that Amtrak debuted on the Northeast Corridor earlier this year. Where the Cities Sprinter works on electrified routes, the diesel-electric Charger is expected to improve service on key routes that aren’t electrified—across the majority of the country.

And if those passengers get a taste of reliable, quick train service, there’s a chance they’ll want more. In that case, the Charger may be the first step in moving towards an American rail system that’s truly high speed.

A tunnel under Sepulveda Pass? It might be yours for 25 cents a day


By Kerry Cavanaugh, April 1, 2014

 405 Freeway

 Traffic crawls along the northbound 405 Freeway during rush hour in Westwood.

Having experienced the misery of commuting from the San Fernando Valley to Santa Monica, my ears always perk up when someone mentions building some kind of rapid transit through the Sepulveda Pass. There have been ideas floated, but the magnitude of the project, the technical challenges and the expense have always made an alternative to the 405 Freeway sound like a distant dream.

It’s true that Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase passed in 2008, included about a billion dollars to begin developing a transit line along the 405. But transportation planners estimate that it will cost anywhere from $6 billion to $20 billion to build a rail connection from the Valley to the Westside. Metro is studying the possibility of building a tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass through a public-private partnership -- with a toll road and a privately operated rail line -- but that will still require some serious public money.

Yet the possibility of easing the most congested corridor in the nation is so tantalizing that Los Angeles voters might just be willing to tax themselves again to build it, right? That’s what transportation advocacy group Move LA is certainly hoping. Last week during a conference focused on developing a new half-cent sales tax increase proposal, Move LA organizers made the Sepulveda Pass tunnel a key focus of the discussion.

Move LA is pitching the sales tax measure for the November 2016 ballot, with a eye toward raising $90 billion over 45 years. The group estimates that it would cost the average county resident about 25 to 30 cents a day. This would be on on top of the existing Measure R half-cent tax increase for transportation.

After the loss of Measure J (a 30-year extension of the Measure R tax, which voters narrowly rejected) in 2012, Move LA and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are approaching the ballot measure cautiously. They’re trying to build more county-wide consensus on needed transportation projects, with the incoming Metro board president, Mayor Eric Garcetti, promising a more “humble Los Angeles city” as he courts the San Gabriel Valley and South Bay cities that rejected Measure J.
However, Garcetti is going to have to look first at his own city, where a proposal for a sales tax hike to pay for street repairs could jeopardize Metro’s proposal.

As David Zahniser and Laura J. Nelson reported Tuesday, there is concern among transportation advocates that back-to-back measures may undermine support for a second tax increase.  "When you need a two-thirds vote" to pass a transportation measure, "you don't really start out with any margin for error," Move LA executive director Denny Zane told The Times.

It’s possible that L.A. city voters could support two sales tax hikes in two years. There’s also a possibility that voters may feel overtaxed and reject both. Or the dueling measures might lead voters, like me, to make a choice about which they would rather have fixed: the horrible commute over the Sepulveda Pass or the crumbling streets leading to the 405 Freeway.

Editorial: Fixing L.A.'s asphalt jungle won't come cheap

Estimates of the cost to fix potholed streets and jagged sidwalks run to $4.5 billion. Is a bond or a sales tax increase the answer?

April 2, 2014
 Rebuilding a road graded D or F can cost $400,000 to $2.5 million per mile, which City Hall officials say they can't afford to pay from the annual budget.

 Los Angeles' streets are a potholed mess and its sidewalks are cracked and jagged. Some 35% of the streets have been given a failing grade by the Bureau of Street Services, and a city consultant estimates it will cost nearly $3.9 billion to fix the worst of them. Add to that the cost of repairing the sidewalks and the tab jumps to $4.5 billion.
In the past, City Council members have floated the idea of a bond measure, to be approved by voters and repaid by property owners, to cover the cost of repairs. An alternative proposal at City Hall is to put a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot and let L.A. shoppers fund the work. But as city leaders figure out the details, they must ensure that however it is financed, the proposal protects taxpayers, delivers the most possible repairs and permanently ends the maintenance backlog.

City Hall officials shouldn't forget the 2013 Measure A debacle. That was the last time Council President Herb Wesson and others pushed a half-cent sales tax hike, insisting it was absolutely necessary to preserve 500 crucial Los Angeles police officer jobs and to prevent the city from falling into a financial abyss. But after voters rejected it, the LAPD did not lose 500 cops, city finances did not get noticeably worse and, in fact, many city workers got a raise. If city leaders want to sell voters on a big new street repair program, they must show that their proposal is not just Measure A 2.0.

Rebuilding a road graded D or F can cost $400,000 to $2.5 million per mile, which officials say they can't afford to pay from the annual budget. Council members Mitchell Englander and Joe Buscaino initially proposed a bond measure to finance the work, but later sought public input on how best to fund it. Community groups have since called for the proposal to also include sidewalk repairs, street trees, streetscapes, "green streets" to absorb storm water, "complete streets" that incorporate bicycle and pedestrian enhancements — all great amenities, but ones that could increase the project's cost and complexity. City leaders must define their mission. Is it to fix crumbling asphalt? Or remake L.A.'s urban landscape? Can both be done affordably?

A bond has drawbacks; it ultimately puts the financial burden on property owners rather than everyone who uses city streets, and interest payments in the out years significantly increase the overall cost. Last year, city officials estimated that a $3-billion bond just for street repairs would add $121 a year in property taxes to a $350,000 home.

But a bond also has benefits: Its provisions ensure that the money is used for its intended purposes and that it can't be raided in times of financial distress. Plus the city has a good track record managing bond-funded infrastructure projects.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller proposed the sales tax measure as an alternative that could raise more money ($4.5 billion vs. $3 billion) and spread the cost to all street users. A tax hike would cost about $91 per household for 15 years. If city leaders opt for the sales tax, they'll need to explain how they would control costs, deliver projects on time and prevent future City Councils and mayors from tapping the revenue during the next budget crisis.

Finally, any measure to fix the city's worst and most decrepit streets — whether financed through a bond or a sales tax hike — must go hand in hand with a commitment by the City Council and mayor to fund ongoing maintenance of the rest of the city's streets. Otherwise, the city could find itself in the same situation in the future, with a big backlog and a big cost on its hands.


Senate Committee Grills CA High-Speed Rail Authority on Its Funding Plan


By Melanie Curry, April 1, 2014


 The California High Speed Rail construction and phasing plan. Source: CAHSRA’s 2013 Report on the Contribution of the High-Speed Rail Program to Reducing California GHG Emissions Levels

Doubts about the High Speed Rail Authority’s ability to fund its estimated $68 billion program dominated last week’s Senate Transportation and Housing Committee hearing (see the background report in this PDF). Committee Chair Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said he was “somewhat skeptical” about the Authority’s 2014 Draft Business Plan and questioned CAHSRA CEO Jeff Morales on the authority’s reliance on uncertain funding sources.

“You couldn’t get a [small business loan] based on what we’re assuming here,” DeSaulnier told Morales, referring to the high cost estimates and funding prospects in the Business Plan.

DeSaulnier asked all the questions at the informational hearing, since he was the only Committee member who showed up for it. However, he came well prepared, so instead of  yet another presentation on how cap-and-trade works, there was a pointed exchange about the funding capabilities of high speed rail.

DeSaulnier warned Morales that the Authority may have a hard time getting the necessary votes in the state legislature to pass the governor’s cap-and-trade expenditure plan, which proposes giving $250 million to high-speed rail from the proceeds of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions law, A.B. 32.

“If the legislature does not approve the governor’s allocation of cap-and-trade funds, what do you foresee would be the impact on the high-speed rail program?” DeSaulnier asked Morales.

Morales responded, “The governor’s proposal allows us to move forward with certainty. If we can accelerate the program, it saves money.”

Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing. Image: CA Senate TV

“If we don’t get it, we can’t do [all that we need to do],” he said.

That “certainty” was called into question by testimony from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, whose report says that there are currently no estimates of how much revenue the cap-and-trade system will bring to the state in the future. It’s also unclear if the cap-and-trade program will continue to bring in funds after 2020, the target set in A.B. 32 for California to lower its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. If the goal is met, a cap-and-trade system may no longer be legally required unless another bill is passed to extend it.

Even if the cap-and-trade funds are approved, CAHSRA will still have a shortfall of $13 to $21 billion. There is an additional risk that if the project is not completed, any federal funds already spent may have to be repaid by the state.

DeSaulnier also grilled Morales about the Business Plan’s reliance on the private sector to invest in high speed rail. “We’ve been told this over and over again,” he said. “Is there anything specific? Have you had meetings, is there public testimony, do you have letters? Any indication at all, other than the hope that someone will become interested?”

“There is a risk implicit in authorizing $250 million [from cap-and-trade] — funds that I believe could be much better targeted” to reduce GHG emissions, said DeSaulnier. “Where is that other money coming from?”

Failing to get a strong response from Morales, DeSaulnier requested that the Authority produce a “detailed spreadsheet, the sooner the better,” noting that “we have three months to approve the governor’s budget.”

Louis Thompson, chair of the High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group, said it is fair to assume that private investment will come. “There will be private funds available, but not until 2028, because only by then will there be enough experience with the system for private funders to believe the forecasts.” Meanwhile, he said, the funding gap will continue to grow.

DeSaulnier also questioned whether cap-and-trade funds, which must go towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are appropriate to spend on high-speed rail under A.B. 32.

Morales said it is, arguing that high-speed rail emits 1/9 the greenhouse gases of airplanes, and experience in other high-speed rail lines has shown that travelers do tend to switch from plane trips to rail once a system is in operation. In Europe, for example, aviation previously had 80 percent of the travel market. “That has flipped in many areas, with rail now achieving an 80 percent market share,” he said, also pointing out the high ridership on the Acela routes on the U.S. east coast. “That kind of mode shift has a major impact on greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office argued that high-speed rail may not be the best way to maximize ghg reductions, since it won’t contribute to reductions from mode shifts until it after is operational, in 2022, then connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2029.

Morales argued that emissions from the project’s construction before 2020 would be negated using “green” techniques (such as clean fuel vehicles, planting trees, and using recycled materials). But the LAO pointed out that “cap-and-trade revenue will be used to produce and then offset emissions, rather than reduce them,” as A.B. 32 requires.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times’ report on the hearing zeroed in on the statement from Thompson, the CAHSR Peer Review Group chair, that the project would not provide trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 2-hour-40-minute time frame as promised in Prop 1A, the high-speed rail bond fund passed by voters in 2008. “It’s not impossible to design it,” he said, “but it would take more money to make it work because of scheduling issues.”

3 Enormous Benefits to Charging the Right Price for Parking


By Eric Jaffe, April 2, 2014

 3 Enormous Benefits to Charging the Right Price for Parking

Costanza's universal theory of parking states that drivers should never pay for a spot because, if they apply themselves, they'll get it for free. Most U.S. cities do everything they can to abide the theory. They undervalue the price of street spaces. They keep parking so cheap it encourages driving (and thus undermines their own transit investments, leading to more driving). And they require a minimum number of parking spaces for new developments whether residents need them or not.

These policies conspire to create a situation in which even someone as lazy as George Costanza can eventually find a free — or, at least, very cheap — parking space in the city. But what's thrilling for Georgie Boy (assuming no one steals his space by pulling in head first) is bad for the city as a whole. Three recent studies highlight big benefits to setting the right price for city parking: less traffic, more transit use, and greater tax revenue.

Less congestion

First comes a close evaluation of SFpark, San Francisco's world-class effort to match the price of parking with real-time demand. SFpark changes the cost of street spaces in commercial areas to maintain an average occupancy of 60 to 80 percent. By making sure the streets are never completely full, the program hopes to reduce circling and thus congestion on city streets.

The new study (here, in full), led by Adam Millard-Ball of UC-Santa Cruz, analyzed hourly parking data to determine that SFpark has indeed achieved this target occupancy rate through demand-responsive parking prices. As a result, the researchers conclude, SFpark was responsible for a 50 percent drop in cruising for spots. Millard-Ball calls the finding evidence "of the benefits of meters more generally," and says even cities without sophisticated programs like SFpark can benefit from responsive pricing.

"People might not like new meters or an extension of meter hours, but certainly our data suggests that they're very effective in reducing the amount of traffic cruising for parking," he says.

If anything, says Millard-Ball, the rate changes imposed by SFpark weren't drastic enough. Bay Area drivers were actually slow to respond to the price changes, perhaps because SFpark only raises meters a quarter at a time. But the impact of any parking price on cruising came through most clearly in the traffic spikes that occurred right after the meters turned off (below, circling in the Marina neighborhood surges in red at 6 p.m. / 1800 hours) — another reason to extend pricing into nights and weekends, and onto residential streets:

"I think the broad lessons are, firstly and most simply, that charging for parking works," says Millard-Ball. "We see this most dramatically in our data around the time the meters get switched off. Cruising spikes, and it's much more difficult to find a space."

Higher transit use

Another new study, this one led by Amy Auchincloss of Drexel, surveyed public parking costs from 2009 in 107 U.S. cities. The researchers found a significant association between these parking prices and public transit use during the same period. In larger cities — defined as those with more than 6,700 people per square mile — transit passenger miles increased 2.3 fold with higher parking costs, even adjusting for the economics of a given city. (Note though that the researchers found no such link in smaller cities.)

The upshot is that cheap parking encourages people to drive into a big city. Put another way, public transit investments alone aren't enough to attract riders. Cities must consider raising the cost of driving and parking, too.

More tax revenue

The third study in Costanza's ménage a parking focuses on the effects that parking can have on a city's bottom line. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and the State Smart Transportation Initiative found that land devoted to street and garage parking generates less tax revenue for a city than other types of development do. This is especially bad news for cities with minimum parking requirements — policies that compel developers to provide a certain number of spots regardless of market demand. (That includes most U.S. cities at the moment, though a trend toward parking maximums has started in some places.)

In Hartford, this lost tax revenue amounts to roughly $1,200 per year per parking spot (below, Hartford parking in 1960 and in 2000). That amounts to $50 million a year for a city in which all downtown real estate pays $75 million in annual taxes. "If the city can find new uses for these parking lots, then this means that it can bring a lot of revenue," study co-author Norman Garrick told WNPR in Connecticut.

To be sure, there are equity challenges that go along with raising parking prices on city streets. But cheap parking is already compromising fairness in many city neighborhoods — hurting traffic, transit, and taxes for the many while helping Costanza's theory for the few. A better theory of parking would hold that drivers should never pay less for a spot than it's truly worth.

3 big rig crashes shut down 210 East in Pasadena


April 2, 2014

Police respond to a big rig accident on the eastbound 210 Freeway in Pasadena on Wednesday, April 2, 2014.

Three separate big rig accidents shut down lanes on the eastbound 210 Freeway interchange in Pasadena for the second time in as many days. 

Authorities say the lanes are closed until further notice after the crashes sent two people to the hospital.

The accidents were reported around 2 a.m. Wednesday in the transition road tunnel.

 The cause of the accidents has not yet been determined.