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 23, 2014

Op-Ed: What Stockholm can teach L.A. when it comes to reducing traffic fatalities


By Nicole Gelinas, June 21, 2014

Wilshire Boulevard
 Vehicle and pedestrian traffic converge on Wilshire Boulevard at the intersection of Veteran Avenue in Westwood.

New York's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has promised to make the streets of his city safer for those who travel them, whether by foot, bicycle or car. How? By following Sweden's lead.

Over the last 15 years, Stockholm has cut pedestrian deaths by 31% and overall traffic deaths by 45%. Last year, the Swedish city suffered only six traffic deaths, or about 1 per 150,000 residents. New York had nearly five times that rate, and Los Angeles County, with somewhere around 600 traffic fatalities a year, had roughly nine times the death rate of Stockholm.

Sweden's "Vision Zero" philosophy holds that human error shouldn't be fatal. When a child runs after a bouncing ball and a speeding car strikes and kills him, for example, that death shouldn't be accepted simply as an unavoidable tragedy. Rather, it should be studied to see how it might have been averted with better road design or behavioral reinforcement or both.

We already think this way about aviation accidents. When a jet crashes, no one shrugs it off by saying, "Well, accidents happen." Instead, the government and the industry analyze the contributing factors and do everything they can to prevent such an accident from happening again.

De Blasio is confident he can reduce deaths, and that is in part because previous New York mayors have already shown the way. Last year, 228 people died in crashes in New York, 170 of them pedestrians. That sounds bad, and it is. But in 1990, New York had 701 traffic deaths, with 366 pedestrians killed. And 20 years before that, the city saw nearly 1,000 traffic deaths in a single year. It wasn't unusual to lose 500 pedestrians annually.

New York's current traffic fatality numbers compare favorably with other American big cities. But it, along with the rest of America, remains well behind many other global cities, including Paris, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Successful programs need to address two main issues: speed and inattention.

Reducing speed has immediate effects for reasons that are easily understood. Someone hit by a car going 20 mph will live 90% of the time. Someone hit at 40 mph will live only 30% of the time.

 Speeding also distorts the judgment of both driver and potential victim. "Drivers overestimate their own ability to stop" and "underestimate the impact" of a crash, says Rune Elvik, a civil engineering professor at Denmark's Aalborg University. And pedestrians can underestimate the speed of approaching cars, thinking they have more time to cross a street than they do.

Inattention can be caused by distractions — phones, radios, passengers — or simply from a failure to focus on the road.

One way of dealing with both problems involves redesigning streets, adding pedestrian plazas and bike lanes, which make car and truck lanes narrower and remind drivers that they're in a city where people live, not on a highway where it's OK to drive fast.

Talk show hosts made fun of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg when he added pedestrian plazas and narrowed roadways at Herald Square (near Macy's) and Times Square. But the redesigned streets make it absolutely clear to drivers that they share the road, and require them to slow down and pay more attention.

De Blasio has promised more such design changes, focusing particularly on dangerous intersections. This is good public policy. At intersections where the city has changed the design of the streets, fatalities have fallen by a third since 2005, twice the city's overall rate.

The city is also focusing on ways to gather better data. It intends to add speed cameras at key intersections. And it has directed taxi regulators to explore outfitting taxis with "black boxes" that could record data and sound warnings when drivers go too fast.

 The devices would be used not only to deter drivers from breaking the law but also to provide the city with more data on who speeds and where, and to enable the city to crack down on lawbreakers. Police will be able to use the information to deploy manpower, while the transportation department can use it to pinpoint intersections in need of redesign.

Making the streets safer for people rather than faster for cars is not simply a public health measure; it's also an important step in helping cities to grow. Most cities really can't grow outward, at least not without making multibillion-dollar investments in new public transit. That means cities need to get denser, which makes it more convenient for people to get around on foot or bicycle.

Richard Snook, owner of Wabi Cycles, has lived in downtown Los Angeles for nearly seven years. He notes that though downtown is adding people, the streets have little capacity for more traffic.

Easing traffic requires increasing the number of people getting around without cars — on bicycle or on foot — and Snook notes that there has already "been an increase in the number of cyclists."

Still, he says, "for the average person, [cycling in Los Angeles] is very daunting." But L.A.'s new lane markers and other measures for bicyclists are starting to change that. Indeed, the L.A. County

Bicycle Coalition notes that bike trips in the county increased 56% between 2000 and 2010, while the population increased only 3%.

More bicyclists on the street is also good for walkers, since the presence of bicycles forces car and truck drivers to drive more slowly and pay attention.
"It's kind of goofy that we got ourselves to the point" th
at road deaths "are accepted," says Snook.
The good news, though, is we're less and less willing to accept them every year.

Next Senate leader Kevin de León wants Brown to rethink bullet train


By George Skelton, June 22, 2014

Kevin de León

 Sen. Kevin de León, the incoming Senate leader, wants Gov. Jerry Brown to rethink where construction should start on California's bullet train.

Gov. Jerry Brown must be saved from himself, says the next state Senate leader. He needs to be talked out of starting the bullet train in the Central Valley boonies.

"I don't think it makes sense to lay down track in the middle of nowhere," asserts Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). "It's illogical. No one lives out there in the tumbleweeds."

De León, who will become the Senate leader in October, says he supports the concept of high-speed rail, but with the caveat that track-laying begin in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.
Most Californians would probably agree. But good luck with that.

For various reasons, the state chose to lay the first track of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco rail line along a 130-mile stretch between Bakersfield and Madera.
Two rationales were that the land was relatively cheap there and the flat straightaway would offer a good test for high-speed trains. But more important was that Washington insisted on it as a condition of the train project landing $3.3 billion in federal stimulus money. Those fed bucks must be spent in the Central Valley.

Why? Several anonymous sources have pointed to politics. U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, a longtime bullet-train advocate, voted for Obamacare after being assured that rail construction would begin in his Fresno district. The Democrat denies any trade-off.

But does that mean the federal mandate couldn't be changed — especially with new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) being a sworn enemy of high-speed rail, particularly if it splits farms in his district? It might be worth a try, if Brown weren't so wedded to Madera.

"If we do high-speed rail," De León says, "the governor has to be intelligent and invest the dollars at the 'bookends' — San Francisco and Los Angeles."

How do you make that happen? "We're going to have to persuade the governor," De León answers. "We're going to have to save the governor from himself on high-speed rail."

De León says he intends to start soon by amending a bill passed with the state budget. That bill allocated $250 million in cap-and-trade greenhouse emission fees to the $68-billion train project. In future years, high-speed rail will receive 25% of cap-and-trade money, amounting to several hundred million dollars annually.

De León's amendments will prioritize reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in urban areas. A prime example of a worthy project, he says, is at L.A.'s Union Station. The plan is to add substantial track capacity and move commuter and intercity trains through the terminal faster, reducing the long idling that fouls the air.

The project price tag is $350 million. The state already has committed $175 million, but an additional $158 million is needed. De León wants it to come from cap and trade. It's the kind of project these fees are supposed to pay for.

"The infrastructure at Union Station is antiquated," the senator says. "High-speed is going to come in eventually. We need to upgrade that system. Every day the Metro comes in, the Amtrak comes in and they idle their engines for hours, spewing poisonous toxins — all that crap — into the air. That increases asthma rates, particularly of poor children who live in the community. That's in my district, OK?

"The point I want to make is this: How do we invest the dollars wisely and intelligently? They should be invested in the 'bookends' in anticipation of high-speed rail."

At the same time, he continues, "we're putting hard hats to work. When people see the healthful impact this is having and all the hard hats constructing, their minds may change about high-speed rail. But out in the Central Valley, where the train's not going anywhere, no one will see the construction jobs."

Here's apparently another point: Just because De León and Brown are Democrats doesn't mean that the next Senate leader will be timid about expressing his views when they differ from the governor's. Whether he'll aggressively act on those views, however, we'll learn after he assumes the powerful office.

De León is also not sold on another signature Brown project: Digging two 35-mile-long, 40-foot-wide water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The tunnels would drain fresh Sacramento River water on the delta's north end and funnel it into aqueducts headed south into the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The $26-billion project, which includes some delta restoration, would be paid for with higher water rates and taxpayer-funded borrowing.

"I'm not quite sure if investing tens of billions of dollars in two tunnels is going to be the panacea for our water woes, particularly in Southern California," De León says. "I haven't come to a real conclusion, but we've got to be conserving water more."

De León, 47, will be California's first Latino Senate leader in 129 years.

He was raised by an immigrant San Diego house cleaner with a third-grade education. "From her I learned the value of hard work," the lawmaker says. "She was a woman with grace and dignity who held her head up high. I didn't want to embarrass her by getting into trouble, getting mixed up with gangs.

"But one thing I want to make clear: As highly an improbable pathway that my journey has been from where I came from to where I am, yada, yada, yada, my story is not unique. It's the story of millions of kids out there, from East L.A. to San Jose to Oakland."

De León is bound to inspire some. Perhaps he'll also inspire fellow Democrats to occasionally stand up to the governor.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, June 23, 2014

Things tend to slow down this time of year. But while the Week In… is sparse, it doesn’t mean that the two meetings on Wednesday and Thursday aren’t some of the most important of the year.
  • Wednesday – The Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee takes the first step in the confirmation of LADOT GM nominee Seleta Reynolds and discusses the first round of People St projects. Full agenda. Read it, here.
  • Thursday – It’s the Metro Board of Directors! Live at 9:30 a.m. from the Metro Board Room. Big decisions on LAX, CicLAvia expansion, and more. Read the agenda, here.
  • Friday - Critical Mass. Wilshire Western. Fun and Advocacy. 7:30. Details.
  • Saturday – Bright and early at 9:00 a.m. it’s Santa Monica Kidical Mass…the family friendly version of Critical Mass. The ride starts at Douglas Park. Get the details, here or on Facebook.
  • Saturday - Experience artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter’s olfactory artwork, “Sillage,” and other exhibitions on view. Then, join Santa Monica Next and Santa Monica Museum of Art in Bergamot Station’s nearby People Park for the first of many Vote Local meetings we have planned over the next few months. The fun starts at 4:30. Get the details, and RSVP, on Facebook.
  • Sunday – The Valley Bikery hosts “the sweetest bike ride in the Valley:” the Chocolate Bike Ride. This will be a family friendly ride and opened to the whole community. Bring family, friends, and neighbors along for a sweet time. There are more details on what shops are part of the ride on the events Facebook Page