To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Zipcar Expands Car Sharing in the City of Pasadena

Addition of 20 Zipcars Makes Sustainable and Cost-Effective Transportation an Even Easier Option for Residents, Visitors and Businesses Who Are Members of Zipcar


PASADENA, Calif., May 13, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE via COMTEX) --
The Pasadena Department of Transportation (DOT) and Zipcar, the world's leading car sharing network, are partnering to introduce 20 Zipcars in 10 new locations to provide members, including Pasadena residents, students, businesses and visitors, increased access to an affordable transportation option that is convenient, and helps to reduce congestion, emissions and parking demand.
Two Zipcars will be available in reserved parking spots at or near each of the 10 locations, including the South Lake Avenue Business District, Playhouse District, Old Pasadena and select Metro Gold Line stations:
  • City Hall at Holly Street and Garfield Avenue
  • Del Mar Gold Line Station at Arroyo Parkway and Cordova Street
  • Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station at Foothill Boulevard and Halstead Street
  • Green Street and De Lacey Avenue
  • Pasadena City College at North Bonnie Avenue and Colorado Boulevard
  • Fair Oaks Ave and Green Street
  • Westin Hotel at Los Robles Avenue and Walnut Street
  • Target at Oak Knoll Avenue and Colorado Boulevard
  • Mentor Avenue and Green Street
  • Del Mar Avenue and Lake Avenue
"Zipcar is a convenient, low-cost sustainable transportation option that has grown considerably in North America during the past 10-plus years," said Fred Dock, director of transportation for the City of Pasadena. "The partnership reflects the City's commitment to improving local transportation options as well as making Pasadena more accessible to visitors." 

The new Zipcars come in addition to two existing Pasadena locations, which include four vehicles at Caltech and two at the Westgate apartments. A variety of more than 230 Zipcar vehicles are located in more than 80 locations in the greater Los Angeles area, including hybrids, utility vehicles, minivans and small sedans such as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Nissan Sentra. 

"With studies showing that about one quarter of trips taken by California households are taken via alternative transportation options, we're experiencing first-hand a trend of people putting down the keys, including Angelenos," said Jeff Shields, general manager of Zipcar's Los Angeles region.
"With increased availability of transit and a health conscious community, this region's traditional car culture is changing, opening the door to new options like Zipcar. We look forward to working with the city to grow our service even more." 

Employees of local businesses in Pasadena can benefit from Zipcar's presence through the Zipcar for Business program that offers discounted driving rates Monday through Friday. This program helps businesses save money, meet environmental sustainability goals and reduce parking requirements by providing their employees with Zipcar memberships, allowing them access to Zipcars for business needs and other uses. 

More information, including how to become a Zipcar member in Pasadena, is available at www.zipcar.com or following along with Zipcar on Twitter and Facebook

Stay connected to the City of Pasadena! Visit us online at www.cityofpasadena.net ; follow us on Twitter @PasadenaGov, www.twitter.com/pasadenagov , and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cityofpasadena . Or call the Citizen Service Center, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at (626) 744-7311. 

About Zipcar 

Zipcar, the world's leading car sharing network, has operations in urban areas and college campuses throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Austria. Zipcar offers more than 30 makes and models of self-service vehicles by the hour or day to residents and businesses looking for smart, simple and convenient solutions to their urban and campus transportation needs. Zipcar is a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, Inc. CAR -1.75% , a leading global provider of vehicle rental services. More information is available at  www.zipcar.com .


Standoff on U.S. roadway repairs becoming 'highway cliff'


By Kathleen Hennessey and Michael A. Memoli, May 14, 2014

Barack Obama
President Obama speaks near the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is being replaced. "First-class infrastructure attracts first-class jobs,” he said.

Without quick action by Congress, the U.S. Transportation Department may begin scaling back or halting work on thousands of roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects at the height of the construction season this July, when the nation's Highway Trust Fund is expected to run dry.

But as recent spending battles in Washington have shown, finding bipartisan cooperation to prevent the fund from becoming insolvent will be no easy task, particularly in an election year.

The standoff is the latest example of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, reminiscent of similar battles over the budget. Some are already referring to the transportation funding deadline as the "highway cliff," a reference to the 2012 fight over expiring tax rates and the debt ceiling.

 On Wednesday, President Obama prodded Congress to move quickly, calling infrastructure investment essential to the nation's economic future.

"First-class infrastructure attracts first-class jobs," Obama said, standing against the backdrop of one of the nation's most ambitious infrastructure projects, New York's aging Tappan Zee Bridge and its partially built $4-billion replacement.

Failure to agree on new funding sources will put at risk more than 112,000 highway projects, 5,600 transit programs and nearly 700,000 jobs, the White House warned.

In addition to keeping federal funds flowing, lawmakers must come up with a longer-term solution to close a projected $16-billion annual shortfall in the trust. But key figures on Capitol Hill remain at odds over how to make up the gap.

Washington finds itself in this jam because taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, which provide 90% of the revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, no longer raise enough money to support the programs, in part because cars have become more fuel-efficient.

Congress last passed a major transportation bill in 2012, authorizing spending on such areas as public transit and safety programs. Major business groups and labor unions are pushing lawmakers to pass a longer-term package. Some lawmakers are also eager to renew the bill because it would give them an opportunity to trumpet the role of the federal government.

Lawmakers are only now taking their first steps. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, announced a bipartisan proposal this week that would keep highway spending at existing levels, indexed for inflation, for six years. But the plan was silent on the key question of how to replenish the trust fund, leaving that to the Senate Finance Committee.

The previous two-year transportation bill tapped the Treasury to make up for a projected gap, but the highway fund ran dry faster than anticipated.

One proposed solution would increase the current 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax. Federal fuel taxes have not been raised since 1993, but doing so this year seems unlikely when the entire House and more than a third of the Senate are up for election.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has yet to put forward a proposal. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the departing chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, called for dedicating $126.5 billion to the trust fund as part of a major overhaul of the nation's tax code, which would fully fund highway projects for eight years.

The White House has also called for replenishing the trust fund through an overhaul of the corporate tax system.

"This is an area where there is bipartisan interest," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters this week. "It's just that we have to play this out and work hard every day to make progress on it."

But prospects for a major deal on tax reform are dim, and time is running out.

"The uncertainty is troubling," said David Parkhurst, staff director for the National Governors Assn.'s office of federal relations, noting that states are likely to bear the brunt of any funding lapse.

"The states have spent the money. The states have paid the bill," Parkhurst said. "If the trust fund shortfall goes down to zero and the federal government is unable to make those cash reimbursement payments to the states for work already done, the states are on the hook."

While waiting for Congress to act, Obama said his administration is speeding up infrastructure projects by streamlining permits and improving transparency. The result would increase job growth, repair crumbling infrastructure and keep the U.S. competitive with its rivals, he said.

The president cast the issue as bipartisan, but blamed Republicans for cutting funds for building projects and refusing to work with him out of political spite. "Usually they show up at ribbon-cuttings for projects they refuse to fund," Obama said. "I guarantee you they will have more than enough to disagree with me about. But let's not fight on something we all know makes sense."

While Obama spoke in New York, Vice President Joe Biden was in Cleveland holding his second event in as two days as part of the administration's infrastructure push.

Also this week, the Laborers' International Union of North America announced a $1-million effort that will include radio ads pressing Congress to act.

"Another short-term patch — simply duct-taping the roads and bridges we all rely on — must be off the table," union General President Terry O'Sullivan said.

Short of a major breakthrough, the most likely scenario is for lawmakers to tap the Treasury again to avoid insolvency in the fund this year. But even that may be a fight, particularly from Republicans who insist that new spending be offset by cuts.

"Even getting to a patch is not easy," said Marcia Hale, president of the Building America's Future Educational Fund, which advocates greater infrastructure spending. "That's a tough vote for some people."

Air quality monitor near I-5 in Anaheim finds higher pollution level


By Tony Barboza, May 14, 2014

The first permanent air quality monitor near a Southern California freeway has detected elevated pollution levels, a finding that will increase pressure on state and local officials to address health risks facing nearly 1 million people in the region living near busy transportation corridors.
Readings from a new monitoring station 30 feet from Interstate 5 in Anaheim show concentrations of nitrogen dioxide air pollution that are 60% higher than the region as a whole, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said.

The measurements were collected under new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules that require air quality monitoring along the nation's busiest roadways.

Monitoring instruments have typically been placed away from major roads and pollution sources because they are intended to gauge regional air quality. Now, the EPA is ordering local regulators to measure and factor in the dirtier air being breathed by tens of millions of people across the country who live within a few hundred feet of a major road.

 The data will be valuable to local planning officials, who must consider the environmental impacts of siting developments near traffic, and give more leverage to clean air advocates.

Environmentalists and community activists, who have pressed for near-road monitors for years, vowed to use the information to fight freeway expansion projects, push for steeper emissions cuts and oppose development near freeways, where less expensive real estate is often sought for schools and affordable housing.

"For those of us that think that a lot of attention needs to be paid to people that live near the freeway, this is very powerful evidence that we're right," said David Pettit, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The higher pollution levels did not surprise health experts. For almost 20 years scientists have warned that people who live within a few blocks of major roads and highways are at higher risk of a variety of health problems because they breathe more polluted air.

But the results validate the concerns of many Southern Californians who live, work and go to school near heavy traffic.

"Many of us have been exposed to this for years and it's a normal way of life for us and that's sad," said Thinh Luong, who teaches social science at Mark Keppel High School in a classroom that sits about 100 feet from the 10 Freeway in Alhambra. "It's about time they start to take our quality of life seriously."

Starting this year, air quality officials in more than 100 big cities across the country are required to install monitoring devices near major roads and use them to determine whether the air meets federal health standards for nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particle pollution.

South Coast air regulators said the pollution levels found near traffic in Anaheim were not high enough to violate federal air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide. But the smog-forming gas is an indicator of other, more worrisome pollutants that are not regulated, including ultrafine particles that can deposit deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream and brain.

 Air pollution has dropped sharply in recent decades because of tighter emissions standards, but higher levels remain in neighborhoods close to freeways, where the mixture of harmful combustion gases and particles from diesel trucks and automobile tailpipes can raise pollution concentrations five to 10 times higher than surrounding areas.

Scientific studies link air pollution from major roadways to a growing list of health problems, including pre-term births, reduced lung function in children, asthma, heart attacks and premature death.

"This has big costs," said Rob McConnell, a professor of preventive medicine at USC whose research has attributed 8% of childhood asthma cases in Los Angeles County to living near a major road, with each case costing families an estimated $4,000 a year in healthcare and other expenses.

 The Anaheim air monitoring station is the first of four required in the South Coast basin. It is one of 36 stations that measure air pollution levels in the nation's smoggiest region, which includes the most populated areas of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The monitor is near Disneyland, downwind of a congested stretch of freeway where an average of 272,000 vehicles pass by each day.

South Coast air district officials say they have little power to reduce exposure to pollution from traffic because only state and federal regulators have jurisdiction over vehicle emissions. The district can, however, provide incentive funds for cleaner engines and pay for filtration systems for schools.

The California Air Resources Board advises against building homes, schools, playgrounds, day care centers and medical facilities within 500 feet of freeways and high-traffic roads. But those guidelines are voluntary because local officials control land-use decisions.

Los Angeles city Planning Commissioner Maria Cabildo urged caution with the new readings.

Government officials must balance air quality concerns with the need to build homes in low-income communities, said Cabildo, who is president of the East LA Community Corp., a nonprofit advocacy group and affordable housing developer. "I don't think that we should have a knee-jerk reaction to this data and stop all development near freeways."

McConnell, the USC professor, said planners should consider the health consequences of approving high-density developments near transportation corridors.

"If we build a lot of dense housing along freeways now, knowing what we do, we're likely to make a lot of people sick," he said. "People will look back 50 years from now and wonder: What was wrong with us?"