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, June 19, 2014

Pasadena light rail upgrades could trump 710 extension


By Sara Cardine, June 19, 2014

La Cañada officials are watching with anticipation as something unfolds in the city of Pasadena that could affect the outcome of the controversial 710 Freeway extension.

Not content to wait until February to hear and respond to the results of an Environmental Impact Report on five possible alternatives, some Pasadena officials want to seek a solution that could reduce regional traffic and potentially eliminate the need for the extension altogether.

The Pasadena City Council will soon vote whether to convene a community-based task force to further analyze light-rail system upgrades that would connect East L.A. and Cal State Los Angeles with Pasadena's Fillmore Gold Line station.

The light-rail option is one of the five alternatives currently under review by Metro officials. Another option, a 4.2-mile dual-bore tunnel, is being protested by several cities, including La Cañada, for its cost and potentially negative environmental impact.

"Pasadena would like to do something sooner than later, and this is what they've come up with," La Cañada Mayor Pro Tem Don Voss said of the new plan. "I think this is a very, very interesting alternative."

The task force would explore modifications to Metro's light-rail option, including an underground Gold Line tunnel that would run under Glenarm Street and California Boulevard, eliminating the gridlock that occurs there when light-rail trains cross traffic.

That would not only ease local traffic concerns, but possibly bolster support from both advocates for and opponents of a freeway build or tunnel, said Councilman Terry Tornek, who floated the task force idea to fellow council members in late May.

"When I started looking at this alternative, I started getting excited about it," Tornek said Monday. "We'd be taking advantage of the time [Metro's] afforded us to modify one of the alternatives they've given us and be proactive."

If the task force convenes, Pasadena will likely welcome involvement from Metro and Caltrans representatives, as well as nearby communities like La Cañada, said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.
Voss said the idea of San Gabriel Valley communities working together in support of a solution, rather than simply voicing solidarity against the tunnel option, is something that appeals to city officials.

"We're very encouraged by this action for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is getting Pasadena positively engaged in finding a better solution," Voss said.

In December, La Cañada formed an alliance with Pasadena and three neighboring cities — Glendale, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre — to jointly respond to the findings of Metro's EIR.

Called the 5 Cities Alliance, the group was intended to be simply an information- and cost-sharing partnership, not an advocacy group against any one alternative, according to La Cañada City Manager Mark Alexander.

Because Pasadena residents voted in 2001 to support an extension of the 710 Freeway, the city was legally obligated to back a project in that vein. But if Pasadena residents were united in support of the light-rail alternative, Bogaard said, the Alliance could potentially become a unified force.

"Pasadena values the opportunity to work with the other cities in the coalition, because when it comes to political decisions, the bigger the numbers, the more influence that's held," he said.

Voss said La Cañada officials would certainly be willing to contribute to the task force in hopes of finding a viable and widely supported alternative to the tunnel.

"We don't want the tunnel option — period," he said. "Let's replace that with something that's more modern, more sustainable, greener, more effective and less expensive."

San Gabriel Valley business leaders urge Metro to build promised Goldline extension to Claremont


By Jason Henry, June 18, 2014

A group of San Gabriel Valley business leaders on Wednesday called on Metro to fulfill a promise to voters to extend the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont by adding the project to a recently-released plan.

A draft of its Short Range Transportation Plan released earlier this month by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority incensed stakeholders when it did not include the Claremont extension. Proponents argued Metro agreed to the project when voters passed Measure R, a half-cent sales tax, in 2008.

“We are concerned that the Metro will not keep its promise to voters who approved Measure R to complete the Gold Line to Claremont,” stated Cynthia Kurtz, president and CEO of San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, “The completion of this project is vital to this region where nearly one-fifth of Los Angeles County residents reside.”

Kurtz, along with the heads of 11 San Gabriel Valley chambers of commerce, signed a letter to Metro’s Transportation Planning Manager Robert Calix that urges Metro to amend their plan to include the Claremont segment. The letter joins previous calls from legislators and other stakeholders for Metro to finish its complete foothills extension.

“The Gold Line Foothill Extension to Claremont was one of only two Measure R rail transit capital projects identified in 2009 as a ‘first priority’ project for new funding. The now fully funded Crenshaw Line was the other project,” the letter states. “As currently drafted, the SRTP completely ignores the Azusa-to-Claremont segment of the Gold Line. It does not even include completion of this second segment in the portion of the SRTP that assumes new funding becoming available.”

The first phase of the Gold Line’s expansion — from Pasadena to Azusa — is under construction now, but the second phase to Claremont stalled because Measure R does not have the funds to pay for it, said Metro Spokesman Paul Gonzales.

“It’s not like we’re not hearing this, we are hearing it, and it is something that we’re working on and it’s something that we’re working toward, but currently there is not adequate funding to get it there,” Gonzales said.

The partnership’s letter indicates that the Pasadena-to-Azusa segment is on schedule and on budget for a September 2015 completion. The Azusa-to-Claremont extension “is environmentally cleared and will be ready for design-build in 2017.”

While the project got environmental clearance from the state, federal clearance is still pending, Gonzales said.

“It’s part of the long-range plan, but currently there is not enough funding for it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that part couldn’t change. We just have to wait and see.”

Metro’s board will vote on the short-range plan at its July board meeting.

Electric Bus Charges in Just 15 Seconds

New system frees trolleys from cumbersome wires.


By Lindsay Prossnitz, June 17, 2014

 Zero emissions transportation solution.
Zero emissions transportation solution.

 TOSA electric bus

 Electric transportation systems are one step closer to becoming integrated into urban populations.

Current battery technology has limited trolleybuses, necessitating that they stay connected to a cumbersome web of cables at all times in order to remain charged throughout the day. However, this may all be changing soon after a successful pilot operation recently concluded in Geneva, Switzerland, using a cable-free electric bus system called TOSA.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have developed an electric bus that can recharge itself in just 15 seconds at a stop in what’s being called “flash” recharging. It’s a green infrastructure alternative that provides buses that are not only zero emissions, but are also able to roam free of cable tethers. These overhead wires can be a major inconvenience to the residents of buildings where the wires are attached. And TOSA buses are able to adapt their routes in the case of an accident or heavy traffic.

Bus battery
The batteries on-board the buses have twice the energy of an electric car battery, but are small enough to fit on the roof. Once a bus pulls into a charging station, a robotic arm on the roof zips up and engages, giving the battery 15 seconds of recharging time — about the same amount of time it takes passengers to board and exit the bus. It gives the bus enough energy to get to the next recharging station on the route, though the researchers haven’t specified how many miles the vehicle would be able to travel or how far away the next charging station would need to be.

The researchers are still investigating this very question, trying to create a framework of necessary charging stations that would need to be installed in order to keep the network of buses running reliably and on-time. These recharging stations would be installed along the normal bus route, and would ideally be a cost-saving investment that reduces the amount of infrastructure needed versus the traditional method for powering trolleys. The other question researchers are factoring into their design is what happens when two bus routes converge, seeing as the charging station can only charge a single bus at a time.

(See website for a video.)

Air pollution linked to cognitive decline in later years


By Shereen Lehman, June 18, 2014

 An airplane flies past the haze covered skyline of New York's Lower Manhattan as seen from the Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, New Jersey, August 31, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
 An airplane flies past the haze covered skyline of New York's Lower Manhattan as seen from the Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, New Jersey, August 31, 2012.

(Reuters Health) - The tiny particles in vehicle exhaust and other sources of air pollution may hasten cognitive decline in older adults, according to a new U. S. study.

“We decided to examine the link between air pollution and cognitive function in older adults because there is growing evidence that fine particulate matter air pollution affects brain health and development, but relatively little attention has been given to what this means for the aging brain,” said Jennifer Ailshire, who co-wrote the report.

Ailshire is with the Center for Biodemography and Population Health and the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

She, along with Philippa Clarke of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, say that based on their results, improvements in air quality may be an important strategy for reducing age-related cognitive decline.

There has been some evidence that people living in more polluted areas have greater rates of cognitive decline, and the link is not explained by wealth or other social factors, the researchers point out in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.

They gathered information from one wave of a large ongoing survey started in 1986, and focused their analysis on 780 participants who were 55 years of age or older at the time of the 2001/2002 survey.

Routine measurement of air pollution by census tract did not start until the late 1990s, they explain.
Cognitive function was measured by math and memory tests and participants got a score based on the number of cognitive errors they made.

Air pollution levels for each participant’s neighborhood were calculated using fine particulate levels reported by the U.S. EPA’s Air Quality  System. Those pollution particles 2.5 microns or smaller (PM2.5) can travel deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, past research has shown.

Ailshire and Clarke found the average PM2.5 concentrations in the study participants’ environments were 13.8 micrograms per cubic meter, which is above the EPA’s air quality standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

Then they compared the cognitive error scores to pollution levels and found that people living in high pollution areas, with 15 micrograms per cubic meter or more of PM2.5 had error scores one and a half times those of the participants who lived in low pollution areas with no more than 5 micrograms per cubic meter.

Poverty and other social factors as well as health problems can influence cognitive function, the authors note. And poorer neighborhoods tend to be more polluted. But after the researchers adjusted for education, employment, gender, marital status and several other factors, the differences in cognitive error rates remained.

“The emerging evidence showing a link between air pollution and cognitive function suggests air pollution may harm the brain as well as the heart and lungs,” Ailshire said in an email.

“Ideally,” she and Clarke wrote, they would want long-term data and more exact individual pollution exposures to assess the importance of PM2.5 in cognitive function.

Jennifer Weuve said the new research joins a growing number of large studies that suggest “higher exposures to everyday air pollution affect aging brains’ ability to think.”

Weuve, who was not involved in the study, is a researcher at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Scientists “believe that particulate matter may affect cognitive function in older adults by its harmful effects on the cardiovascular system - which is connected to the brain through blood vessels - and possibly by directly acting on the brain itself,” Weuve said.

This type of air pollution is difficult to avoid. The most important action is the one we take as a society, by regulating the amount of pollution that gets emitted into our air, not by individual actions, she said.

“Short of confining oneself to an indoor space with filtered air, it is extraordinarily difficult (and absurd) to imagine any one person being able to, for example, stop the air pollution that emanates into his or her environment from an industrial plant tens or hundreds of miles away,” Weuve said.

“Although finding a link between the air we breathe on a daily basis and our long-term brain health is alarming, the good news is that we have made remarkable progress in the last decade in reducing levels of air pollution across the country, and there are efforts underway to further reduce air pollution,” Ailshire said.

Still, she added, the public should understand that there are health risks to living in polluted environments, particularly for older adults, and we should all be more aware of issues related to air quality.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1y8PRSx The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, online June 6, 2014.