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, May 19, 2014

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, May 19, 2014

There’s some big stuff on this pre-holiday week. The two biggest things are clearly the “Ride of Silence” and the Metro Board meeting.
  • Tonight – The city of San Marino holds a public meeting on its Bike Plan. Bike SGV seems to think it’s pretty good. But there are NIMBY’s. And they have flyers. Get the meeting details, here.
  • Wednesday – The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) hosts their general assembly. They do it every year. They sort of have to. This year, the focus of this public meeting is a discussion of how best to use new technology to best move people and goods.This all sounds very familiar. To find out how to register and attend, click here.
  • WednesdayOn May 21, 2014 at 7:00 PM, the Ride of Silence will begin in North America and roll across the globe. Cyclists will take to the roads in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Although cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists, the motoring public often isn’t aware of these rights, and sometimes not aware of the cyclists themselves. The local ride is sponsored by East Side Riders, and will start at the Ghost Bike location for Benjamin Torres in Gardena. Get more details, here.
  • Thursday – Metro answers the question everyone’s been wondering: have they fired so many people they can’t hold public meetings. No, that’s not it. Oh, yes. The new fare proposal. The Metro Board of Directors votes on a fare proposal that increases the cost of a ticket and eliminates transfer fees. Read the full agenda, here.
  • Saturday – Join Walk and Rollers for the El Monte Bike Festival, a Kids Bike Safety Festival, this Saturday morning. Lots of fun activities, including Bike Skills Course, Bike Repair, Group Rides, Fitness Obstacle Course and more! Big thanks to Bike SGV, Day One and City of El Monte Health & Wellness. Get more details, here.
  • Next Monday – Is Memorial Day. Streetsblog Los Angeles will not publish unless there is major breaking news.

Fare Dodging Is an Organized Rebellion in Stockholm, and It’s Winning


By Matt Flegenheimer, May 17, 2014


 Alex Berthelsen, right, slipping through subway station gates in Stockholm last month.

STOCKHOLM — The first target stumbled through the Hornstull metro station here with her nose in her purse, too harried to notice the man sidling up behind her.

She swiped her fare card. A pair of barriers slid apart, and before they could close, two train rides had been unlocked for the price of one.

Too easy, the fare thief announced, returning through the gates.

“I’ve got a little practice,” said the man, Christian Tengblad, 32, stealing a look back at a station agent.

Every transit network has its fare beaters, the riders who view payment as either optional or prohibitively expensive. Many cities, most notably New York, view turnstile-jumpers as a top policing priority, reasoning that scofflaws might graduate to more serious crimes if left alone.
But in Stockholm, the offenders seem to have defeated the system.

For over a decade, Mr. Tengblad has belonged to a group known as Planka.nu (rough translation: “free-ride.now”), an organization with only two prerequisites for admission: Members must pay a monthly fee of about $15 and, as part of a continuous demonstration against the fare, promise to evade payment every time they ride. If travelers keep their side of the agreement, the group will cover any of the roughly $180 fines that might result. (An unlimited ride pass for 30 days costs about $120.)

The group’s efficiency in evasion has created an enviable business model. Last year, the group took in more than twice as much money — more than $7,500 per month — as it paid out in fines, organizers said.

The agency that operates the metro system, Stockholm Public Transport, seems to have grown increasingly discouraged, especially after the failure of a recent investment in taller gates to stop the fare-beaters.

“We could build a Berlin Wall in the metro stations,” a spokesman, Jesper Pettersson, said. “They would still try to find ways to dodge.”

Since Planka’s founding 13 years ago, its legend and influence have grown. Though it has about 500 official members, the organization has helped lead many thousands more to simply stop paying fares on their own, according to transit officials. Mr. Pettersson said that about 15 million trips last year were not paid for — 3 percent of all rides. The Planka Facebook page has more than 30,000 “likes.”

High rates of evasion have been reported among high-school students, particularly in the city’s suburbs, Mr. Tengblad said. The group has also sprouted sister organizations in Goteborg and Oslo, and is credited with influencing the free-fare protesters of Movimento Passe Livre in Brazil, who carried out demonstrations last year.

Efficiency has improved with time. Planka’s organizers said that 30 to 40 percent of membership dues were typically required to pay off fines. That means that of the 500 paying members, only about 15 reported being caught per month. In 2004, the group said, about 80 percent of fees were needed to cover fines.

There have been public pleas from Swedish authorities and international searches for a dodger-proof turnstile, instructional videos teaching new group members how to evade payment, and at least one fare-beating dog trained to open the barricades for its owner.

That maneuver: Let the animal squeeze through the small space beneath the gates, then coax it to jump up and down until the sensor is set off to open them. Well-developed canine leg muscles are required.

Most other strategies appear to involve closely following a fellow traveler, using a scarf or jacket to set off sensors on the far side of the barriers, or, for the city’s slender evaders, simply slipping through the sliding gates.

The dodgers’ ubiquity seems to have weakened the resolve of those charged with stopping them. On a recent afternoon at Stockholm Central Station, a station agent sipped an energy drink beside the gates as riders filed past.

“If someone does it, like, 20 yards from here,” he said, “I’m not going to run.”

One group member, Alex Berthelsen, 29, said that many guards and fare controllers — employees in yellow suits who are expected to check tickets — had come to recognize him, but still failed to stop him.

Now, Mr. Berthelsen said, he often exchanges knowing nods with them during station demonstrations held by the group.

“They’re doing their job, I’m doing my job,” he said.

The agency said it had made gains with “the leisure dodger,” citing a reduction in revenue losses since higher gates were installed. (The figure is still estimated to be about $36 million annually.)
But Mr. Pettersson acknowledged that the most determined evaders would probably remain a problem in perpetuity.

“These hard-core dodgers,” he said, “I think we will never reach them.”

During a recent gathering at the group’s headquarters in the Sodermalm district of central Stockholm — a space decorated with protest stickers, a half-dozen empty beer cans and a vegan takeout menu for the occasional late-night session — members outlined the ideology underpinning their actions. The transit system should be financed through taxes, they said, ensuring that a greater share comes from affluent residents and drivers.

Each evasion is treated as part of a “collective fare strike,” Mr. Berthelsen said, and is a signal to fellow travelers that the system should be fare-free. The more ostentatiously a rider can breach the system, according to this logic, the better.

As a result, group leaders have chafed at a recent trend of forged electronic tickets, displayed on phones, which can fool transit personnel without creating a scene.

“It normalizes that people have tickets,” said one member, Sandra Lindquist, 32.

Disdain for the fake passes is shared at the transit agency, which has begun testing technology that could scan a phone to verify a ticket’s validity.

If history is instructive, though, the dodgers appear likely to remain a step ahead. About six years ago, as officials were considering installing the new gates, a Planka member filmed a video in Lyon — where the barriers were already in use — to demonstrate how they could be conquered.

Outside an agency meeting in Stockholm to discuss the potential purchase, protesters’ signs and shouts shared a simple message: Save your money. We already know how to breach the new barriers.

“They didn’t listen,” Mr. Berthelsen said.

Riding the Metro


By Matthew Fleming, May 17, 2014

Commuters on the Gold Line pass by a series of parked train cars as the metro rail makes its way towards Chinatown on Wednesday.

One of the first lessons I learned when I moved to Los Angeles from Washington, D.C., was I didn’t have to sacrifice my experience riding the Metro system.

It took only three trips on the L.A. Metro to learn it’s just as good as the one in D.C. I’d ridden all my life. That D.C. Metro has built a venerable reputation worldwide for its ability to move people around.

Here, I’ve mostly heard complaints: the L.A. Metro doesn’t go anywhere; no one uses it; it’s awful.

Truth is, people who say that don’t know just how good they’ve got it.

It’s no surprise that art is a big difference between L.A. and D.C. The art at L.A.’s stations is amazing. Each is unique. From random mannequins hanging from the ceiling, to mosaic benches and an artistic bazaar in between, L.A stations are far more aesthetically pleasing then D.C.’s brown and gray tunnels.

L.A.’s stations are like a hip spot; D.C.’s feel like the underground world from the movie “Demolition Man.” D.C. is a pretty uptight place.

But what D.C. loses in style points for it’s lack of station decor, it makes up for with its Metro drivers.

An automated voice informs riders what the next destination is in L.A., but in D.C., this job is done live, and no two drivers are the same. Some talk really fast, some have a broken mic, some are peppy, some sound sad. Occasionally, you get one that’s not afraid to show some spunk.

 During rush hour one time, I remember a D.C. driver saying “there’s another train directly behind this one. You don’t need to pack into this one. Seriously. It’s coming. You can trust me. Yes, I’m talking to you.”

Cell Service
One distinct advantage D.C. has is cellphone service at underground stations. It could just be that my carrier doesn’t get a signal down there; it has certainly let me down before. Regardless, there was no signal.

Fare Evasion and Enforcement
D.C. Metro makes sure you pay for your rides. There are turnstiles that allow access upon payment. It’s a pretty standard system.

To get through without paying, you’d have to either follow someone closely through or jump the turnstiles – difficult since the turnstile is hip-high and there are usually Metro employees at the gate.

Meanwhile, much of L.A. seems like an honor system. Some stations have turnstiles, but they don’t appear to lock. I don’t know for sure, since I now have a Pavlovian response whenever I see a turnstile. In D.C., you know your card didn’t work, because you’ll walk into a locked turnstile and bruise your hip bone.

In L.A., a sheriff’s deputy checks each tap card with his or her phone. If someone hasn’t tapped, then that person receives a $75 ticket, as happened with one lady in my car.

Due to a combination of a rapidly expiring tap card balance, my lack of experience riding the subway, and an unwillingness to figure out the proper procedures, I would have certainly been fined near the end of my journey had I been asked to provide proof of tap.

 On a recent trip to the Valley, I evaded fare accidentally. At the North Hollywood station was a sheriff deputy. I wasn't near him, so he didn't check my card, and I didn’t realize the inconspicuous pedestal where I was supposed to tap. Honestly, in the bus-boarding melee, I didn’t even think to pay and didn’t realize what happened until much further along into the trip.

All of this could be avoided with turnstiles.

The deputies do make me feel safer, though. Neither Metro system has a big crime problem. Both systems’ crime rates are less than 1 incident per 100,000 boardings. I never felt threatened on the L.A. metro. But I did feel safer with the occasional deputy’s presence. D.C. doesn’t have a roaming sheriff.

The lack of turnstiles and the presence of sheriffs highlight another difference: If you have to transfer in L.A., you’re going to pay. D.C. has a minimum fare of between $1.70 and $2.10 depending on time of day, but total cost is determined by final destination.

On a trip to Redondo Beach, I needed two transfers one way – I avoided a transfer on the way home. Some of this could be attributed to rookie mistakes, but I had no idea how much transfers cost. I just kept tapping away as if they were free – which I thought they were. By the end of the trip, I think I spent about $17, although I have no way of knowing since I never saw a balance at any point throughout my trip.

I have since learned that transfers cost $1.50 each. And the savvy metro rider purchases daily, weekly or monthly passes that allows for her or him to not get double charged.

To sum up about cost: D.C. has a maximum of $5.75 per ride. L.A. charges $5 for a day pass. The advantage goes to L.A, but I think too much institutional knowledge is required.

 Station Location
Truth is, the subway works great if it’s convenient. I don’t ride the Metro, because the two offices I go to are located at the two closest Metro stops to my apartment. I’m walking either way.

The L.A. system is reliant on buses to offset the limitations of station location, which is something few people want to deal with. There are a lot of commonly traveled places that are inaccessible by the subway.

As I got out of the train at the Redondo Beach station, I realized that the Metro station is not near the beach and is instead in an office park. I was expecting more water. Or some water. And some sand. But it’s about 2 miles from the water.

This is not a problem for just L.A.

Georgetown is one of the most desirable places to go in D.C., mainly for the shopping. But there’s no Metro stop there. Actually, there isn’t one in the next best shopping site, either, Tyson’s Corner, Va., although one will be opening soon. There’s a lot of great shopping in L.A. that the subway can't seem to find.

If you live near a station, so you don’t have to park, and you are going somewhere that’s also near a station, Metro is really helpful.

Only the ends of the line have parking in D.C. I haven’t seen any parking lots at stops in L.A., although I think I saw one in the Valley, and there could be others.

Even if parking is provided, it comes at an additional cost. It costs $5 per entry in D.C., so a commuter could spend around $10 round trip on an average day. I don’t know the cost to park in L.A., having never seen a Metro-specific parking lot. But day parking will cost anywhere from $6-$10.

 Escalator Etiquette
Once I get to the L.A. station, I’m reminded of a more subtle difference. It’s more of an insider-type difference, yet one that every Washingtonian would notice.

It is a local custom in D.C. that you do not, under any circumstances, ever, for any reason, ever, ever, stand on the left side of an escalator.


In L.A., it’s more of an anything-goes-type situation. People standing on the left and passing on the right. Or standing on both sides creating a back up. It’s pandemonium. Did I mention that D.C. is uptight?

Everything is always under repair in D.C. I’ve been told that L.A. has a lot of repairs, but so far I haven’t seen many.

In D.C., I’ve seen a supposed fix of a door, which used two plastic trash bags tied together. One end of the plastic bag rope was connected to a door handle to keep it closed, the other end was connected to a metal beam inside the frame of the adjacent wall, accessed through a hole in the drywall. This lasted for several months.

In D.C., it’s not uncommon to spend your ride mired in frustration over of being jammed into a car, face-to-face with a total stranger, with one selfish person holding up the train by squeezing in as the doors try to close.

On another trip through the Valley, it was crowded 90 minutes before rush hour. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and it was standing-room only. Pretty busy for a system that I’d heard no one uses.

This problem is worse on a rainy day in D.C., when riders are less likely to walk anywhere – it’s like the Hunger Games trying to board a train.

Speaking of uptight, there is an annoying trend in D.C. of people listening to songs without headphones. It’s tough to explain why exactly this is annoying, but it is, even if I like the song. I didn’t think this happened in L.A.

I was wrong.

I also thought that only in D.C. would there be people rapping to themselves, but not really keeping it to themselves, with no music and little talent.

Again, I was wrong.

It’s not uncommon to find people outside a D.C. station playing a random assortment of buckets arranged like a drum set. It’s actually pretty cool and is derived from Gogo music, native to D.C. and an acquired taste.

Somewhere past Willowbrook, I saw a man selling candy bars on the train. I’ve never seen that in D.C., which surprises me. It’s actually not a bad business idea.

Final Stop
Transferring to the Orange Line at North Hollywood felt like a bait and switch. It’s not a train, it’s a bus. It is unencumbered by traffic on a dedicated road, but it still is at the mercy of traffic lights. My trip down the Orange Line ended in Reseda, for no other reason than I felt satisfied with the answer “Yes, this is all that’s going to happen.”

Satisfied with the conclusion that the L.A. Metro is at least as good as D.C’s, I headed back downtown.

 Three more questions for Art Leahy 

When we we be able to get to LAX on the Metro? So we have two things going on: We have the airport looking at the development of a People Mover and we have Metro looking at the Crenshaw Line. In December, Metro and LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports) met together to talk about different options, and we’re in the joint planning phase. I hope that by the end of the year we come to some conclusions.

And then we’d start doing project development which will probably take several years. So I don’t think we’re going to have the connection done in two years, but when the Crenshaw Line opens up in four years, by then we’ll have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do, so we could begin construction reasonably soon after that.

There's been talk of rate increases. How are those justified when so many stations are on the honor system, which seems to promote fare evasion? About four years ago, we began to install turnstiles at the bigger stations. We've also directed the sheriff to increase the amount of fare inspections to make sure that everybody is paying. Even if we had no fare evasion, we would still need a fare increase. Our fares are too low against the cost of the system. It will still be amongst the very lowest in the big cities in the world.

Our current system does not permit transfers. Part of the fare proposal is to permit transfers. What we want is for bus lines and rail lines to work together as one system. When you don't permit transfers, you're combating the ability of people to use it as one system, which is simply not reasonable. So we do have low fares, and we'll continue to have low fares, and we'll offer the additional significant benefit of transfers.

What other improvements are coming up for MTA? Several things. First of all, the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley will open up in about 18 or 20 months – it will go all the way out to Azusa. The Expo Line, which will run out to Santa Monica, will also open in about 18 to 20 months.

In the next few weeks, we're going to have a grant for the subway to La Cienega. We'll award the contract this summer sometime, and we'll be under construction later this year.
 We'll be under construction on Crenshaw – the subway and the regional connector – that will hook up the lines on the Eastside, Pasadena and East L.A., with the lines on the Westside and Long Beach.

We are buying 550 new clean-air buses – we've just received a delivery. They have improved safety features and accessibility for wheelchair passengers.

In addition to that, we're buying $1.5 billion of new rail cars, so that they can run the lines that I've just described.

We're investing substantial sums of money in reducing maintenance. When I arrived here, I discovered a fair amount of deferred maintenance on signal systems and power distribution and landscaping, so we're going back systematically to correct those defects.

My Horrible, Hopeful L.A. Commute

The Hours I Spend Stuck in Traffic Are Bad for My Health. But Along the Way I Get a Front Seat View of Southern California’s Transportation Transformation.


 By Joe Mathews, May 15, 2014

 Expo Line construction

Since I started driving from my South Pasadena home to my Santa Monica office by way of Arcadia (which isn’t on the way) and back, I’ve spent between three and four hours a day commuting. Studies show that long commutes take a toll, and that’s borne out by my own health and habits: I’m more tired but still find it harder to fall asleep. I exercise less and spend less time with my kids. I’ve gained 10 pounds in a year when I needed to lose 20.

But in an odd way, my awful commute leaves me hopeful. Because every day, as I make my long, slow drive—first nine miles east to my kids’ preschool, then a U-turn and 34 miles west across most of central L.A. to the offices of Zócalo Public Square, where I’m a columnist and editor—I get to see the daily progress of Los Angeles’ transportation transformation. Along my miserable drive, there are many signs that my commute will get better and healthier—very soon.

It’s important to stipulate that while many Californians hate our long commutes, such commutes are sometimes the byproduct of love. I love living in a strong community with great schools that is less than two miles from the Pasadena house where I grew up. I love my kids’ preschool in Arcadia, the only Jewish preschool in this part of the San Gabriel Valley, which has come to mean a lot to me even though I’m the only member of my nuclear family who isn’t the least bit Jewish. And I love my job, even though it is in a gridlocked section of Santa Monica. I feel very comfortable in all three places—it’s just shuttling between them that’s uncomfortable.

But all this travel does hold glimmers of promise.

I start by strapping my two older boys, 5 and 3, into their car seats in the back of the Prius (a godsend for gas savings), and head north to pick up the 210 Freeway East. The boys love this leg of the trip, because they can see the Metro Gold Line—the light rail that runs from Pasadena to East L.A.—as it winds its way north through South Pasadena and Pasadena before turning right and going down the middle of the 210. They love competing to see who can count the most trains; eight is usually the winning number in the 15-minute drive.

For me, the best part is where the Gold Line ends at the eastern edge of Pasadena—and the construction begins. The Gold Line is being extended all the way to Azusa, one of five new rail projects underway in L.A.; we pass the first new stop in Arcadia’s little downtown, near the Santa Anita Racetrack. Every day, I watch workers lay more track down the middle of the freeway. Earlier this year, I marveled as they built a bridge over Santa Anita Avenue in just one week. The full 11.5 mile extension is supposed to be completed by September 2015, encouragingly soon.

Once I’ve dropped the boys off, I head south, cutting through the city of El Monte—and by El Monte’s airport, full of little planes—to pick up the Santa Monica Freeway, the 10 West. (One day when traffic was especially bad, I stopped and walked into the airport to ask how much it would cost me to fly to Santa Monica; a pilot explained that the fuel alone would bankrupt me.) I pass the beautiful new El Monte Station, a point of convergence for a dizzying array of buses, trolleys, and shuttles. There’s space for a bike hub, and also new express buses that could get me to downtown L.A. in just a few minutes if that were my destination. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

So I get on the 10, which is usually jammed. But that’s not a problem for me. I have a transponder that allows me to use the Metro ExpressLanes, the controversial “Lexus lanes” that charge drivers anywhere from 25 cents to $1.40 a mile, depending on the time of day. Most days, I pay, rationalizing that I’m transferring the gas money the Prius saves me to Metro to improve their services. Studies have raised questions about how much time is saved by the lanes, but, merging in shortly after 9 a.m., I save more than 20 minutes. I’m glad Metro recently made the lanes, which had been a one-year pilot, permanent.

I ride the lanes all the way to their conclusion downtown at Alameda. There on my right is Union Station and on my left is Little Tokyo, where a new regional rail connector is being built so that the Gold Line, which has a stop six blocks from my house in South Pasadena, can connect seamlessly with other rail lines that will eventually take me to the southern and western edges of the county. I jump on the 110 Freeway through downtown, then get back on the 10, and battle the merciless traffic to Santa Monica.

On the way, I can catch a glimpse of the extension of the Expo line, which now ends at Culver City, but by the end of next year should go all the way to Santa Monica, just six blocks from my office. Today, when I get off the 10 in Santa Monica, I have to cross through the construction of the line’s end along Colorado Avenue. Most days, it’s about 10 a.m. when I arrive at the office; I leave the house a few minutes after 8.

In the late afternoon, I repeat the journey, in reverse.

It’s brutal, but I can literally see the possibility of a better commute out of the driver’s side window. By early 2016, I may be able to walk or bike to a Gold Line train—either near my house or after preschool drop-off—and ride to work. If the trains are reliable and on time, I’ll save gas and stress and have more hours to devote to serving you, reader. Look for me—I’ll be the guy writing this column on the train.

Kuehl Earns Courier Endorsement for Opposing Subway Route, Shriver and Duran Respond (Update: Kuehl Touts Transit Bonafides, Says She Will Not Hold Up Subway)


By Damien Newton, May 16, 2014

(Comment to the article by Sylvia Plummer: Interesting statement by Shriver: "Metro believes it cannot place a stop at Santa Monica Boulevard due to the presence of two earthquake fault lines. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is convinced that the safest route is the current route with the Constellation Stop.  I agree with Zev.”

Yet it's okay to go thru 4 earthquake faults to built the 710 tunnel.)

(Update: This is a first. The Courier didn’t get one thing wrong in its editorial, it got two things wrong.

Sheila Kuehl has responded. The full text of which is available at the end of the story. The highlight: “I strongly support fully building the Purple Line and never said anything indicating I would take any action, ever, to stop the project. That’s pure fantasy on someone’s part.”)

This morning, in the announcement of its endorsements of the County Supervisor’s Race in SD3 to replace Zev Yaroslavsky, the austere Beverly Hills Courier dropped a bombshell: both of the supposed leading candidates for Supervisor, former State Senator Sheila Kuehl and Santa Monica City Councilmember Bobby Shriver were opposed to the currently planned subway route under Beverly Hills High School.

Shriver at the  Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2012. Photo: ##http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Bobby+Shriver/2012+Audi+Best+Buddies+Challenge+Washington/EALHQNA2_RX##http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Bobby+Shriver/2012+Audi+Best+Buddies+Challenge+Washington/EALHQNA2_RX##Paul Morigi/Getty Images##
Shriver at the Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2012.

Knowing the Courier’s uneven relationship with the truth (run a text search for my name) when it comes to the Subway, we researched the positions of both candidates. For Kuehl it was easy, the specifics offered by the Courier and discussion on social media from some supporters (who asked not to be quoted in this story) made it clear she is supporting the people opposed to a route under Beverly Hills High School, even if it means killing the project, robbing their children, or making accusations in a way that makes everyone giggle. (Update: While the Courier’s editorial certainly made it seem this was Kuehl’s position, she says that is not so. Again, see below.)

And for this (update: imaginary) stance, Kuehl was honored with the endorsement of the Courier. But Shriver didn’t even get that for siding with the subway obstructers. It turns out there was a good reason for that. Santa Monica Next editor Jason Islas contacted Shriver’s office and received the following statement. Shriver is unapologetically not in favor of moving the Subway route to a more dangerous route with lower projected ridership.
Shriver stated in an email:
“My position has always been not to interfere with the settlement negotiations that are part of the current litigation. 

However, in light of the probability of earthquakes in the region, I want to ensure a safe route in the area.

Metro believes it cannot place a stop at Santa Monica Boulevard due to the presence of two earthquake fault lines. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is convinced that the safest route is the current route with the Constellation Stop.  I agree with Zev.”
John Duran uses exercise and involvement to combate HIV. Here he's pictured taking part in Lifecycle. Photo:##http://www.wehonews.com/z/wehonews/using-recovery-as-a-guiding-star-john-duran-reaches-for-county-supervisor/##WehoNews##
John Duran uses exercise and involvement to combat HIV. Here he’s pictured taking part in Lifecycle.

Of course it may not matter what the new Supervisor, who will take Zev’s seat on the Metro Board of Directors, even thinks. The project is approved. The environmental studies are done. The lawsuits against the project have struck out (thus far) in court.

Streetsblog L.A. is planning a longer preview with all of the major candidates for Supervisor District 3 before the primary election on June 3. However, given the explosiveness of this issue to Streetsblog readers, we wanted to make sure to get the best information into your hands for the two candidates quoted in today’s editorial. (Update: and that best information remains that one should not trust the Beverly Hills Courier.)

But while we didn’t reach out to every candidate on this issue, it didn’t stop another candidate from emailing us his position.

John Duran,  criminal defense lawyer and a member of the West Hollywood City Council who was recently endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, writes:

Well, no surprise.  But I disagree with both Sheila and Shriver. (note: this is before Shriver denied the Courier presented his opinion correctly. Update: Kuehl, too)

I do support a line along Santa Monica Blvd someday.  Maybe in the next round of funding and approval of the proposed “Pink Line” to connect Hollywood to the Ocean along the Hollywood Hills.  But that is not the issue before us today.

The Constellation Station is needed now.  It makes sense in building our transit grid to serve the Westside.  The Constellation project also has a project labor agreement which means very important construction jobs right away.  I also think that the Beverly Hills School District should not be spending $3 million in bond money fighting the subway.  The new millennium is here.  Los Angeles County must make the hard decisions and build a transit grid for future generations.
I must admit some surprise to see the subway rise as an issue that is being taken seriously, but it’s becoming clear that Beverly Hills establishment is not ready to give up this fight and it will be an issue for candidates in June and November.
Update: 9:53 p.m.: Here is the full text of the response from Sheila Kuehl
Regarding the Purple Line, and my position on whether it should go forward, here is what I have consistently said:
1) I preferred the route down Santa Monica.
2) I never liked having the line go under the high school.
(That’s as far as the Courier got).
3) I have been told that some folks are seeking a “third way” and have offered to try, with others, to see if anything could be worked out.
4) I strongly support fully building the Purple Line and never said anything indicating I would take any action, ever, to stop the project. That’s pure fantasy on someone’s part.
Nor do I know who the anonymous “supporters” were on social media who were supposed to be speaking for me.
As the author of the bill that created the Expo Line Authority, I have consistently demonstrated, not only support, but leadership, on regional transit issues.
I will do nothing that might slow down, hold up, or otherwise get in the way of, the Purple Line.  We need it.

Using Insights and Incentives to End Rush Hour

A start-up called Urban Engines believes data analysis and commuter lotteries can help cities reduce congestion.


By Eric Jaffe, May 15, 2014


 You can think of rush-hour traffic as a fairly straightforward problem of supply and demand. The supply is the capacity on city buses, trains, and roads. The demand is the share of metro area commuters who want to ride transit or drive cars. Congestion at the morning and evening peaks is a sign of demand overwhelming supply: too many commuters trying to use buses and trains and roads at the same time.

That's how the founders of Urban Engines, a congestion-relief start-up making its public launch today, prefer to view the city traffic problem. It's also the key to the company's proposed solution. On one hand, they believe new data insights can help cities adjust the supply of transit vehicles and road space. On the other, they plan to use behavioral incentives to control commuter demand.

"That's us in a nutshell: insights and incentives to attack congestion," says CEO and co-founder Shiva Shivakumar, a former Google engineer. "The better you can understand both sides of the [supply-demand] equation, the better you can start optimizing it."

On the insight side, Urban Engines relies on an approach called "crowd-sensing" to understand what's happening across an entire city transport system. Let's take the example of a subway. Each fare card entry swipe delivers basic information on rider location and (at least for cities that require a swipe in and out) total travel time. Using algorithms and supplemental data, such as real-time transit schedules, Urban Engines can deduce what's happening at any given subway station or train at any given time.

"Every single person in a crowd becomes a mini sensor," says co-founder Balaji Prabhakar, a Stanford professor of computer science. "Their overall trip plan actually tells us, when taken together, what's happening in the system."

That's a big improvement over the small platform or on-board samplings some cities currently use to get a sense of system flow. As a result, Urban Engines can produce interactive data visualizations that give short-term congestion insights (this platform is overcrowded, trains on this line are bunching) and longer-term traffic trends (on rainy days this station needs more cars). Transit operators can use that information to scheduled and dispatch train supply more efficiently.
The incentives side of Urban Engines draws from programs that Prabhakar has helped conduct that pay commuters to travel at off-peak hours. Recognizing that too few cities had implemented congestion pricing plans, Prabhakar and collaborators have taken the opposite tack — rather than charge commuters who traveled during rush hour, they reward them for traveling outside it. In behavioral terms, it's a carrot instead of a stick, and Prabhakar says it's been successful so far in Bangalore, Singapore, and Palo Alto.
"Mostly anything that has a punitive quality, like a stick-style approach, seemingly just runs afoul of the working populous," he says.

In the original pilot study, held in Bangalore from October 2008 to April 2009, the incentives system worked incredibly well. Roughly 14,000 locals were given the chance to commute outside peak hours; every time they did, they improved their odds of winning a weekly raffle that paid out prizes ranging from $10 to $240. Over the course of the pilot, commuter traveling pre-rush hour doubled, and the average morning commute time of all bus riders fell from 71 to 54 minutes. 
Urban Engines, which has been developing its twin approach for two years, is already working with three cities. In São Paulo, the company is working to relieve the crowded bus system; in Singapore, it's using incentives to promote off-peak travel on the MRT railway; in Washington, D.C., it's in the early stages of data analysis for Metro. At the moment, Urban Engines is working only with transit agencies, though eventually they plan to develop ways to help commuters directly.

It's a bold response to a big problem, with some obvious obstacles before it. Most metro traffic emerges on roads, not on transit, which means Urban Engines will need to collect data through vehicle transponders (e.g. E-Z Pass) as effectively as it does via fare cards. (Fare cards themselves have an uncertain future.) Transit systems have limited equipment and personnel, and won't always be able to deploy more buses and trains even if they identify a need. Local employers play a role, too, since workers can't arrive early or late unless that's fine with the boss. Above all there's the generally entrenched nature of commute habits, especially among drivers.

Shivakumar and Prabhakar are aware of the challenges and ready to move forward despite them. "We're now at a stage where, from both the data side and the incentive side, we're ready to go from the thousands to the millions and onwards," says Prabhakar. Onwards and hopefully upwards.