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, June 2, 2014

Boxer: House transportation plan ‘unworkable’


By Keith Laing, June 2, 2014

The chairwoman of the Senate committee that is pushing for a new $265 billion transportation bill called the House’s proposal to use cuts at the United States Postal Service to help pay for the measure “unworkable.”

Republican leaders in the House said last Friday that they were planning to use revenue from rolling back Saturday postal deliveries to pay for a short-term transportation bill.

The GOP leaders argued that linking the postal cuts and transportation funding would prevent a bankruptcy in infrastructure spending that has been projected to occur in August without congressional action.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the GOP’s transportation plan was “strange,” however.

“Late Friday, Republican leaders of the House came out with a strange plan to ‘rescue’ the Highway Trust Fund for a few months,” Boxer said in a statement. “Instead of working with Democrats to come up with a sensible user fee which has been the foundation of the Highway Trust Fund, House Republican Leadership proposes cutting back mail deliveries to American households. This idea is a jobs killer which does not even fund the Highway Trust Fund for a long enough period of time to provide the certainty that states, cities, and businesses need.”

GOP leaders said their plan to link postal cuts to transportation spending bill could provide about $14 billion to $15 billion, which they said would provide a year’s worth of reinforcement for the Department of Transportation’s highway trust fund.

The traditional source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund is the federal gas tax, which is currently priced at 18.4 cents per gallon. The gas tax has not been increased since 1993 and it currently only brings about $34 billion per year, however.

The Senate is pushing for a six-year transportation bill that would maintain the current level of annual funding, which is approximately $50 billion per year.

The upper chamber has not yet identified how it would pay for the transportation spending beyond the $204 billion that is expected to be brought in by the gas tax between now and 2020.

Boxer said she was not impressed with the House GOP’s plan to take money from the USPS, however.

“This plan is a classic example of House Republicans not planning for a shortfall we have known about for years,” Boxer said.  “It is ‘the dog ate my homework excuse.’ It is unworkable, makes no sense, and ignores the huge infrastructure needs we face, as so many bridges and roads are in grave disrepair. If the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee can do its job and pass a bill unanimously, then surely the House can begin to do the work needed to solve this problem -- and not kick the can down the road with a totally unrelated and unworkable idea.”

The Congressional Budget Office has projected that lawmakers will have to find an extra $100 billion in addition to the gas tax money to approve a six-year transportation bill.

L.A. Is Still Car Crazy, and We Shouldn't Apologize For That


By Dennis Romero, June 2, 2014


In the wake of an infusion of nearly $2 billion in federal cash for the Purple Line subway extension to Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles Times recently opined that "L.A.'s love affair with cars is over."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, a skeletal light-rail system, a burgeoning network of bike lanes, and a millennial generation that's more interested in smartphones than cars has helped Los Angeles diversify its transportation. And considering that we rate as the nation's traffic-congestion leader, that's a very good thing.

See also: Subway To Beverly Hills Is Gonna Happen

But that's a far cry from the death of our car-loving ways. This city is a world capital of car culture, and even in the age of global warming, we should never apologize for our four-wheeled lust. Here's why:

Automobile design and manufacturing, though we take them for granted, remain one of the great achievements of mankind. Cars are incredibly complex instruments, filled with computers and driven by precisely machined metal. And somehow we still put two in just about every driveway.

Now, we know what you're thinking: We're neanderthals over here at L.A. Weekly, because cars are just four wheels surrounded by the controlled chaos of a campfire known as a combustion engine, which burns our limited fossil fuels and pollutes in our neighborhoods.

California has come a long way in conquering auto-borne pollution, however, and those smoggy days of yore are few and far between. Because of standards inspired by L.A.'s pollution problem, the auto industry now boasts that some of its products emit cleaner air than they take in.

And, as Google's driverless car has proven, automobiles aren't going anywhere. The future isn't all cyclists and pedestrians; for most of us, living right next to where we work is never going to be an option in this sprawling city. What may be instead? You happily passed out in your car as it takes you home from work.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: For this Birkenstock fantasy of a Los Angeles moving on rails to happen, an unprecedented investment in infrastructure would have to take place. What we have now is nothing.

Los Angeles would have to lay down miles and miles of track to have a subway system with the efficacy of New York's. At nearly 500 square miles for the city of L.A. alone, nothing will ever entirely replace individual, motorized transportation in this town. Our breadth is why the LAPD relies heavily on helicopters to do its job.

You needn't be a Luddite or pig to embrace our love affair with cars, either. Vehicles are evolving at an amazing pace, and you can still be a "car guy" (or girl) and environmentally conscious at the same time.

Don't get us started on all the rich Westsiders with power-sucking McMansions who think they're doing their part by driving Priuses. You don't have to be this kind of hypocrite to dig cars nowadays.

Look at the Porsche 918 Spyder. It's one of the fastest street-legal automobiles in the universe. A plug-in hybrid that also generates power from braking, the two-seater is enough to get any petrol-head excited about the future of car culture. It can achieve 78 miles per gallon.

  • The 918 Spyder via Porsche
The dreaded four-banger (four-cylinder car), once a thing of shame among the auto faithful, has become the punch-packing, turbocharged norm for even some of the most luxurious car markers. That's because pressure to be fuel efficient and earth-wise has made it so.

This is indeed a new age for transportation, and the modern car is the centerpiece.

L.A. is deeply rooted in car culture. This kind of thing doesn't vanish because the federal government is providing the cash for three new subway stops.

The whole concept of "custom," now a $31 billion industry, was practically invented in L.A. (and the "aftermarket" industry's trade group is based in Diamond Bar) by Ed "Bid Daddy" Roth and his contemporaries.

The modern version of custom is probably best represented by the big-wheel craze and Dub Magazine, which is based in the San Gabriel Valley.

Even before Roth's day, prewar L.A. surfers like pioneering board-maker Bob Simmons adapted old jalopies (named for the junkyards of Jalapa, Mexico) to fit their needs.

The emergence of a new youth culture after World War II - including surf and car clubs - contributed heavily to very existence of modern street fashion, including the use of the t-shirt to advertise one's tribe.

Auto racing's 1960s heyday, too, had much to do with Los Angeles, and the legendary Mustang modifier Carroll Shelby set up shop in Marina del Rey.

It was about this time that the Meyers Manx dune buggy was invented in Newport Beach.The postwar era also had Latino youths on the Eastside turning 1940s cars into flowing, deco-like lowriders.

The import-tuning scene made famous by the multi-billion-dollar Fast and The Furious movie franchise came directly from the streets of Los Angeles County in the 1990s.

Who knew, Los Angeles Times, that so many young people were so enveloped in this scene until Fast and The Furious actor Paul Walker died in a crash after taking a ride in a rare Porsche Carrera GT last year in Santa Clarita? The outpouring that followed his death caught the mainstream media off-guard. But it shouldn't have. For every newspaperman who denounces cars, there are a dozen kids learning to love them.
  • Shannon Cottrell for L.A. Weekly
L.A. is not a manufacturing center like Detroit, Tokyo or Stuttgart, but the heart of car culture still beats here. The Los Angeles International Auto Show is one of four or five crucial showcases (alongside the shows in Detroit, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Geneva) for the global car industry.

Some of the top car collections in the world, including those of Jay Leno and the late Otis Chandler, have been based in Southern California. The renowned Mullin Automotive Museum is in Oxnard, and L.A.'s own Peterson Automotive Museum, fruit from the L.A.-bred Hot Rod publishing empire, is a must-see for any car fan.

Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda, VW, Mitsubishi, Mazda and other manufacturers have design studios in Southern California, because this is where car style begins. The Art Center College of Design and other local schools have been the training grounds for countless top auto designers.

Hyundai Motor America is based in Orange County, and Toyota just recently announced that the bulk of its U.S. operations were moving to Texas from Torrance. Many of Germany's top "tuners" for Porsche, Mercedes and BMW located their North American operations in Southern California.

And superstar customizers like Magnus Walker and ex-Catherine Wheel leader Rob Dickenson (of Singer Vehicle Design) continue to gravitate toward Los Angeles.

  • Magnus Walker by Ryan Orange for L.A. Weekly
Even our world-influencing culinary scene is based, in part, on the portable gastronomy of the taco truck. We rely on cars to get our medical marijuana delivered and for coming-of-age make-out sessions. Try to do that last one in a bike lane.

SoCal is also the place to be if you want to see Ferraris crash or if you need to purchase pretty much any high-end vehicle that's legal to drive on U.S. roads.

It was the home of James Dean and Steve McQueen and one of the places where American Graffiti was filmed.

Hollywood has done a lot to broadcast our love affair around the world. You can't just erase this heritage with four new miles of subway.

Sure, traffic is a downer, even for the four-wheeled faithful. But most of us happily see the flip side in a weekend trip up the PCH or a spirited sprint on Mulholland Drive. There's yet to be a train or bike that will take us comfortably to Las Vegas, Coachella or Baja (the latter of which inspired a whole breed of SoCal offroad vehicles, including the "Baja Bug").

The Times got it wrong. Cars aren't leaving L.A., except when they're taking families on cherished road trips. And we should be proud of that.

A one-track question: When will the Las Vegas monorail expand to the airport


By Richard N. Velotta, June 1, 2014

web1_MONORAIL_051914CS_006_1.jpg The Las Vegas Monorail arrives at the Harrah's/The Quad stop in Las Vegas on Monday, May 19, 2014.

Ridership is up, the economy is improving, new attractions are opening, so let’s just cut to the chase about the Las Vegas Monorail: When will Las Vegas see a line extension to McCarran International Airport?

Curtis Myles chuckles at the question.

“I hear that every day,” the CEO of the Las Vegas Monorail Co. said. “And when I see my dad every Sunday, he asks me the same question.”

It seems to be a reasonable inquiry. Monorail proponents have assumed since the 3.9-mile elevated transit system opened in 2004 that it would become successful only if and when it linked the airport with the resort corridor, a common strategy for rail systems in cities worldwide.

The simple answer from Myles now is that it’s still too early to tell if the extension, which would cost between $400 million and $500 million, is worth pursuing. A spokeswoman for the monorail said the company could raise money through investors or by taking on debt through bonds, but “it’s too soon to discuss funding of any project and it would be part of the conversation involving the Regional Transportation Commission’s transportation plan.”

A committee of transportation and tourism leaders has met regularly since last summer to build the outline of what’s being called a transportation investment business plan that incorporates the development of a multimodal transportation center at the Las Vegas Convention Center.


Michael Gallis, a Charlotte, N.C.-based consultant, is in the research phase of the Regional Transportation Commission plan that isn’t expected to be delivered until next year.

In the meantime, Myles is content to wait for the study’s results and watch the monorail’s financial picture brighten in the months ahead.

In April, the company reported its third straight quarter of passenger increases with 1.1 million riders and farebox revenue of $5.1 million over the first quarter of 2013. That’s a 14 percent increase in passengers and an 11.5 percent increase in revenue from the same period a year ago.

Company officials attributed the bump partly to the opening of the highly visible High Roller observation wheel. Monorails cruise below the Caesars Entertainment attraction about every five minutes.

In March, Las Vegas also hosted the ConExpo-Con/Agg construction show, an event that occurs just once every three years.

Thousands of the nearly 130,000 show delegates used the monorail on show days.

Myles believes the double-digit percentage increases will continue through the rest of this year, especially with the SLS Las Vegas opening on Labor Day weekend.

The monorail company first met with SLS executives when the company broke ground on the property at the site of the old Sahara to discuss marketing and partnership strategies.

“There’s a tendency to believe that SLS, as a popular Southern California brand, would produce some great numbers for us, but we’re going to look at it conservatively,” Myles said. “We’re looking at it producing the same numbers as when the Sahara was open.”

And that would mean an increase of 8 percent to 11 percent.


The transportation committee, formed by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter, has all the key players in transportation and tourism at its table. Among the stakeholders are representatives of the resort community, the convention industry, the Regional Transportation Commission, McCarran, the Metropolitan Police Department, the city’s bus and limousine companies, taxi company owners and Nevada Taxicab Authority regulators.

“We’re finally all at the table, and it’s really nice,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of the Clark County Aviation Department. “I think that’s a first. We’re all talking about all modes of transportation and how they can work together.”

Vassiliadis said the group will get recommendations from the Gallis report and analyze what’s best for the community and visitors.

One of the options is developing a new light-rail system or a more versatile bus rapid transit line with dedicated lanes.

The committee has traveled to Phoenix and Salt Lake City to see how their light-rail transit systems serve the airport.

The Salt Lake City TRAX light-rail system has a station at Salt Lake City International Airport. In Phoenix, the Valley Metro Light Rail line is within a few blocks of Sky Harbor International Airport, so the airport runs a free shuttle bus from two terminals and a Sky Train rail line to it from another.


Would the monorail work at McCarran?

Vassiliadis isn’t tipping her hand on what she thinks will happen, preferring instead to be ready for whatever unfolds.

Airport planners have sketched out where monorail stations would work at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. She said inquiries were made of the monorail company in the construction phase of Terminal 3 and when it became apparent there wasn’t anything on the immediate horizon, some options were blocked because construction could cause operational disruptions.

Vassiliadis’ predecessor, Randall Walker, wasn’t a big advocate for the monorail, saying he didn’t believe the system’s riders would be interested in walking with their suitcases to and from monorail stations when easier options would exist.

Myles disagrees. He said resort operators would find a way to accommodate monorail riders so that they wouldn’t have to walk as far once they arrive at their hotel station. Myles also said by the time the monorail tracks get to the airport, the company would be acquiring new trains that would include racks for bags and suitcases.

“My job is to get people to the hotel,” Myles said. “You’ve got CEOs that are billionaires that know how to manage their customers once they get there. And they’re pretty good at it. They’ve told me over and over that the real challenge is getting people here in the first place. We’re competing with China. We’re competing with Brazil. Soon, we’ll be competing with Japan, which is supposed to be the next big thing. So I’m not worried about where I drop them off once they get here. I worry about them getting here.”

Tina Quigley, the Regional Transportation Commission’s general manager, considers the monorail a community transportation asset.

“We’re working collectively,” Quigley said of the group. “Every alternative needs to be included in the discussion. And I think the key is we have to think in terms of growing as a destination, not just growing our own businesses.”


Quigley’s goal is to have “as many alternatives and modes as possible to get people from Point A to Point B.” She scoffed at the notion that the politically connected taxicab industry would block any effort to extend the monorail to the airport or that extending the monorail to the airport would kill the cab industry.

“There’s a certain demographic that is always going to want to use a taxi instead of mass transportation,” Quigley said. “There will be enough for everybody.”

Myles said since he’s been CEO of the monorail company he never has seen any political pressure from the cab industry.

“The cab industry isn’t doing anything today to prevent us from going to the airport,” Myles said. “I don’t know what they did in the beginning when I wasn’t here.

“I’ve had conversations with some of the cab company owners about us going to the airport. I don’t think the monorail going to the airport is going to do anything to the cab industry. That (suspicion) comes from a lack of understanding of who’s coming to town and why. There’s always going to be a huge demographic that is going to want to take a cab.”

Myles said it’s a perception “we’re going to have to deal with.”

Brent Bell, who heads Bell Transportation, which has taxi and limousine operations in Southern Nevada, said in a recent editorial board meeting of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the only dustup the cab industry has had with the monorail company involved plans to build the monorail guideways from Paradise Road and Twain Avenue to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The guideways on the southern end of that section straddle Paradise Road, but farther north, they’re supported by structures in the center of the street. The end result was that the monorail track placement resulted in the loss of a traffic lane where taxi drivers need it most — near the Convention Center.

Bell said the taxi industry has no organized effort to block the monorail to the airport.


So what’s next for the monorail?

Myles said until the Gallis plan is presented and vetted by the committee, he and the company are satisfied with continuing efforts to rebound from the Great Recession that resulted in the company filing for and successfully emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

For monorail investors and the insurance company that backed the bonds to build the system, the bankruptcy was a disaster.

The two-year trip through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceeding that ended in 2012 left the company with a 98 percent reduction of debt to $13 million and maintained its not-for-profit status.

Local governments didn’t lose any money, but the company lost its ability to advertise and market the system, one of the conditions set by the bankruptcy restructuring officer. The ad budget was slashed by 95 percent.

With finances reorganized and debt manageable, the company can get back to promoting the system and selling contracts to convention groups for big events and trade shows.

“We knew we had to get back into selling the system,” Myles said. “We basically went dark in terms of our marketing presence for four years, from June 2008 to June 2012.”

Myles knew that it normally takes at least six months for a renewed marketing effort to show results, and the company started seeing increases in April 2013.

Another piece of the marketing that went away in bankruptcy in 2008 was a customer-service presence in stations. That’s something that has returned postbankruptcy.

Now, Myles is confident that the system has the cash flow necessary to maintain its operation and set aside money for capital improvements.


There’s even a plan in place to replace trains and upgrade stations in coming years.

“Guideway improvements occur constantly, and they’re part of our operations and maintenance contract we have with (manufacturer) Bombardier,” Myles said.

The company expects to replace elevators and escalators in the system’s stations by 2021 and 2022.
The trains have a 30-year lifespan, and the first ones went into service in 2002 and 2003. When initially purchased, the trains cost around $9 million apiece. Since then, Bombardier has made improvements to the system to make manufacturing less expensive, but factoring in inflation, he expects new trains will run between $8 million and $10 million each.

Myles said the newer trains might also have new amenities, such as luggage racks, electrical outlets for passengers to charge their electronic devices when they get off their planes and onboard Wi-Fi.
If the monorail line is extended to the airport, it would require the company to purchase another seven trains at $8 million to $10 million each to maintain its current level of service.

An extension to the airport isn’t the only one under consideration. Ralenkotter and Myles have discussed the possibility of connecting the city’s three major convention centers, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Sands Expo and Convention Center and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

“That,” said Myles, “would be an incredible competitive asset. We’d have 10 million square feet of exhibit space connected. There’s nothing like that anywhere in the world.”

Connecting the convention centers would require building a station near the Sands Expo and Convention Center — presumably over the intersection of Koval Lane and Twain Avenue — and an extension from the monorail’s southern terminus at the MGM Grand to Mandalay Bay. Myles noted that a station at Mandalay Bay could become the beginning point for a line on the west side of the Strip that eventually could connect even more rooms to the airport some day.

There also has been talk of extending the monorail north from the SLS station to downtown Las Vegas where more and more tech-savvy millennials who use mass transit are moving.

Any extension of the line would make the system more appealing to local residents, which now make up just 2 percent of the approximately half-million monthly riders. It’s not that the company hasn’t tried to get more locals to ride — Las Vegas residents can buy a one-way ticket for $1 at stations staffed with customer service representatives — the least expensive mass transit on the Strip.


So for now, Myles will continue to wait.

“Everybody (on the transportation committee) agreed to set their private interests aside, which is a hard thing to do,” he said.

“But if the community isn’t going to get behind it, it’s not going to happen. We have to be a part of a bigger solution. And it’ll happen when we collectively agree that it’s in the best interest of the community.”

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, June 2, 2014

All of the advocacy in the world isn’t going to make much of a difference if the wrong people are in office. Primary election day is Tuesday. Two of the seats on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will be voted on, as will a new head of the Sheriff’s Department. A new mayor will be selected in that quaint little suburb of 500,000 people just south of here. There’s a lot to be decided. Make sure to vote.
  • This Morning – As Joe noted yesterday, a court hearing that could stop the planned demolition of the Figueroa-Riverside Landbridge (which will be replaced as a transportation bridge) so it can be converted to open space is expected. Supporters will hold a rally before the hearing at 8 a.m. Get the details at yesterday’s post. Streetsblog will be at the hear and will report afterwards.
  • Tuesday – It’s election day (or primary day, pending your city). If you’re not sure where to vote, click here.
  • Tuesday – Advocates from around the city meet-up to discuss what can be done to stem the city’s hit-and-run epidemic. Gather your voices and be part of something that will help change the streets of Los Angels in a positive light for young and old alike. Come and network with a diverse community of people that believes in advocacy, education, and community building over dinner. Get more information, here.
  • Thursday - Metro invites you to attend the latest update meeting in preparation of the Draft Master Plan, including presentation of project cost estimates, commercial development opportunities and a conceptual design of the forecourt. Meetings are open to the public and we urge you to invite your friends and neighbors. Get more details, here.
  • Saturday - The 11th Annual Inner City Mini-Marathon & Health Festival, spanning throughout South Los Angeles, Watts and Inglewood area, will be held at Darby Park in Inglewood this Saturday. Following the Mini Marathon, participants are invited to enjoy the free outdoor festival and health fair. City Lites Network Inc. encourages families, youth, seniors, and those with physical challenges to attend this very unique and essential community event. It includes a Health Pavilion, Community Resources, Interactive Kid’s Zone, Adult and Kid’s Entertainment Stages, Diverse Food,  and a Bike Show Competition. Register at Event Brite.
  • Sunday - Ride the COLT (Chatsworth Orange Line Tour) during this family friendly bike ride and walk, brought to you by the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council! Explore the neighborhood and local businesses, ejoy treats, and participate in a raffle. More info at ridethecolt.com.

Miami Official: Transit Won’t Work Because “Car Culture” Is “in Our DNA”


By Angie Schmitt, May 30, 2014

There are public officials like this in every city: so uninspiring and resigned to the status quo that they end up defending it.

In Miami, that guy is Esteban Bovo, chair of the Miami-Dade County Finance Committee. At a recent hearing, shown in the video above, Bovo wasn’t outright antagonistic toward transit, just depressingly unwilling to advocate for, or even imagine, something better for the city.

On Transit Miami, Eli Stiers and Leah Weston took him to task:
While acknowledging his own frustration with the paucity of our transit options, compared to cities like Paris and Washington, D.C., Commissioner Bovo lamented that living without better access to transit is a “sad reality about Miami.”  We could not agree more. We further contend that lack of better public transit is preventing Miami from joining the roster of world-class cities.

Where we strongly disagree with Commissioner Bovo is with his indifference to the status quo.  His statements that Miami’s “car culture” is “in our DNA,” and that it would be difficult for people to leave their cars and “stand in the hot sun” to wait for a bus are problematic. We think that Miamians choose to sit in cars for hours on crowded interstates because they lack other options. Indeed, when the only option is to wait for a bus in the Miami heat, most will choose a car. Those who cannot afford a car, on the other hand, are left to cope with our chronically underfunded and underperforming transit system.

Commissioner Bovo’s comprehension of how transit inadequacies affect immigrants and retirees is similarly flawed. The Commissioner dubiously claimed that immigrants and retirees come to Miami seeking the freedom of the open road after leaving other parts of the world that usually have better transit options than we have in Miami. To the contrary, immigrants and retirees, frequently of low and moderate incomes, are more dependent on transit than any other demographic. This is bad news for Miami — an area recently documented by the Center for Housing Policy to be the least affordable place in the country for middle-to-lower income families, due to combined housing and transportation costs, which account for a whopping 72% of income!

Offer the public something better, like an expanded Metrorail service that truly links our community, and our guess is that many Miamians will abandon the stress of the daily commute on I-95, US-1, 826, and 836 for the comfort of an air-conditioned train car, and the chance to read a book, answer e-mails, or take a nap on the way to work or school. It is not a “small segment” asking for better transit in our community. To the contrary, Miamians are desperate for better transit. Don’t blame the culture and concede defeat—find a way to move this city forward.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Delaware reports that legislation requiring states to work to reduce bike and pedestrian fatalities has passed a U.S. House committee. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance of Oregon shares the organization’s perspective on the $140 per year, per household “street fee” being debated in Portland. And Pennsylvania Walks and Bikes explains how speed enforcement cameras save lives.