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, August 18, 2014

CV Town Council General Meeting – August 21 7:00 pm


August 13, 2014

On August 21 at 7:00 pm please stop by our CV Town Council meeting. Joining us will be Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Metro Transit Board Member, Ara Najarian and CV Historical Society member Mike Lawler. Come here all the latest on the State, the 710 tunnel and Rockhaven.
The meetings are held in the LA Crescenta Library Community Room at 7:00 pm.

Car-Free Households Are Booming in San Francisco


By Aaron Bialick, August 15, 2014


San Francisco is quickly adding residents, but very few cars.

Between 2000 and 2012, the city has seen a net increase of 11,139 households, and 88 percent of them have been car-free. That’s according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Michael Rhodes, a transportation planner at Nelson\Nygaard and a former Streetsblog reporter.

The stats show that car ownership is declining almost as fast as the population is growing. The data don’t distinguish which specific housing units have cars, so this doesn’t necessarily mean that the residents of all the new condo buildings going up are car-free. But the broader effect is reverberating throughout the city — whether car-free residents are moving in where car-owning residents previously lived, or residents are selling their cars.

This finding flies in the face of complaints from NIMBYs who protest new housing developments that forego parking, based on a faulty assumption that new residents will own cars anyway and take up precious, free street parking. That’s one of the arguments heard from proponents of the cars-first Proposition L, who complain that “the City has eliminated the time-honored practice of creating one parking space for every new unit.”

“A lot of people who are moving here are choosing it because it’s a place you can get around without a car,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. “People will self-select. If convenience for an automobile is their criterion, there’s a lot of places in the city and elsewhere” to live.

Radulovich noted a number of changes in the 21st century that have made it easier not to own a car. San Francisco has expanded its bike lanes, car-share services now exist, and taxi service has improved (besides the new “ride-share” apps like Uber and Lyft). Muni, BART, and Caltrain ridership have also increased to record levels over the years.

And, Radulovich noted, even the new wave of tech workers tends to get to work on shuttles — unlike those in the dot-com boom of the 90s, who favored living near highways 101 and 280 so they could easily drive to Silicon Valley.

“There’s a lot of people who get to work on the tech buses — those might’ve been car owners a decade ago,” he said.

Across the country, Americans are driving less, and millennials in particular are generally more interested than earlier generations in car-free city living. Radulovich pointed out that it’s often older residents who insist that the city build more free parking (see: Prop L). ”There’s definitely a set of cultural expectations, from those raised in the 50s and 60s, for car ownership and automobility,” he said.

According to the American Communities Survey Census data, 30.7 percent of SF households were car-free in the average of data collected between 2010 and 2012. That’s up from 29.8 percent in 2009, and 28.6 in 2000. (Note: The 2013 SFMTA Transportation Fact Sheet incorrectly cited the latest stat as 21 percent.)

Even among the 12 percent of new households since 2000 that do own cars, many are car-lite — not each individual owns a car. SF has actually seen a net decline in two-car households despite growth in total households, while the number of households with three or more cars increased by slightly more.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of changes in car ownership rates since 2000, provided by Rhodes:
Unit type Change
All units +11,139
Car-free +9,837
1 car +1,242
2 car -1,123
3 or more cars +1,183

The statistics show the efficacy of providing better alternatives to car ownership, but they also underscore the importance of building more housing in walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area.

“Certainly, we need to find places in those [walkable San Francisco] neighborhoods where we can build. The good news is, if the new households that are coming to those neighborhoods are car-free, then we can spend a lot less space on parking and use that for housing, and the automobile-oriented impacts [like traffic] of increased density may not materialize,” said Radulovich. “But San Francisco’s a small place — and if we’ve got a whole generation that wants walkable, urban places, and this is the only place in the Bay Area that offers that, then there’s gonna be a lot of competition for it.”

LACMTA Rail Ridership Update – July 2014


August 2014

Another three months have passed, so it’s time for another look at LACMTA rail ridership. Here’s the last three years of raw data, and the rolling 12-month average for weekday boardings.

wkdy-12mo-201407 rawdata-201407

For weekday ridership, Blue Line ridership picked up a little from lows earlier this year, but the Green Line slipped a little. The Gold Line more or less held steady.

After a couple years of solid ridership gains, the Red Line has dropped off quite a bit in 2014. This might be due to the fare gate locking program resulting in fewer scofflaw riders.

Weekend ridership largely reflected the same trends as weekday ridership, with the exception of the Gold Line, which has seen considerable weekend ridership growth over the last 9 months or so. This may be due to the more frequent weekend service that Metro started running in 2013.

The star is the Expo Line again. After leveling off in the second half of 2013, weekday Expo Line ridership resumed its climb in the first half of 2014. In terms of boardings per route mile, the Expo Line, in its third year of operations, is now at about 90% of the utilization of the Blue Line – 3,603 boardings per mile for Expo, and 3,978 for Blue. The Expo Line achieves greater boardings per mile than any other modern LRT system in the country, and hit that level of ridership in less than year.

wkdy-bpm-12mo-201407 rawdata-bpm-201407

It seems possible that when Expo Phase 2 opens, the Expo Line will become LA’s most productive LRT line by boardings per mile. And of course, Regional Connector is only going to strengthen the LRT network’s appeal.

Gov. Brown signs bills on transit projects, bribery, tax breaks


Dutch Trucks Will Drive Themselves


By Philip E. Ross, June 17, 2014

Container-bearing trucks at the Port of Rotterdam

The Netherlands has just announced a five-year plan to make the country safe for autonomous vehicles and vice-versa, with a particular emphasis on trucks. Rules of the road will be redrafted, infrastructure built, and research funded.

The country thus joins a stampede that, like so many automotive fashions, began in California, with the unveiling of the Google Car. Nevada joined the charge early, and Michigan was quick off the mark too, the city of Ann Arbor having just established a center for autonomous driving. Sweden's Gothenburg, home of Volvo, is doing much the same.

One thing Holland has that few other countries can match is a compact territory coupled to an enormous transportation hub, which boasts Europe's busiest air, sea and land links. And trucks seem to be a particularly good match because of their role in the container shipping model, which has transformed the world economy.

Trucks are, in fact, the last link in the chain connecting production to consumption that remains fully under the control of a mere human being. Here's how it works: A robot at a factory in Japan loads a standard container with refrigerators, say, bolts it shut, and places it on a flatbed truck. The truck takes the box to the most convenient seaport, where a robotic crane hoists the box onto a ship, where it fits a perfectly matching space in the hold. The ship—itself mostly robotic, with merely a skeleton crew—steams to the port city of Rotterdam, where another robotic crane hoists the container onto another truck that takes it to a retailer, say in Germany. There the box is unbolted and unloaded, again perhaps by robots. And presto, all the refrigerators are still there; not one has "fallen off the back" of a truck.

That's basically why stuff has gotten so cheap and manufacturing jobs have become so scarce. A robotic truck would thus merely complete what is already an almost all-robot system.

The Dutch government says that the first tests will be simple computer simulations. The first road tests will involve truck convoys, perhaps putting just the lead vehicle under the control of a human driver. That test will be conducted by a research consortium including DAF, a Dutch truckmaker, the Port of Rotterdam and Transport & Logistiek Nederland. "The consortium wants to test autonomous lorries that drive in convoys. The aim of the consortium is, within five years, to bring technology onto the market that logistics companies with such lorries can use to drive on public roads."

Keep on truckin': Automated 'road trains' of lorries controlled by just one driver are coming to Britain next year

Lead driver of the convoy would control braking, acceleration and steering

Technology allows convoy's 10 other lorry drivers to relax while on road

Supporters of the plan say it cuts fuel consumption and eases congestion

Motoring organisations warn they could intimidate other road users

Plans follow demonstration of self-driving lorries in Germany last month


By Eleanor Harding, August 17, 2014

 The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 prototype, pictured on a German Autobahn during a trial last month. It is a major step in an escalating race to develop self-driving vehicles, like those set to be introduced to Britain

 The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 prototype, pictured on a German Autobahn during a trial last month. It is a major step in an escalating race to develop self-driving vehicles, like those set to be introduced to Britain.

During the trial, trucker Hans Luft was relaxing with his hands behind his head while at the wheel of his 40-tonne heavy goods vehicle. Similar technology is expected to be tested in Britain next year

 During the trial, trucker Hans Luft was relaxing with his hands behind his head while at the wheel of his 40-tonne heavy goods vehicle. Similar technology is expected to be tested in Britain next year

Computerised lorry convoys which are controlled by just one driver are set to be tested on British roads next year.

The lorries would be  electronically linked together, meaning the driver of the front vehicle could control the acceleration, braking and steering of  the others.

It would allow whole ‘road trains’ of lorries to travel long distances on motorways with only a few yards between  each vehicle.

 While the other lorries in the line would still have dedicated drivers, the automated system would allow them to ‘switch off’ for most of the journey.

In an emergency, or at busy junctions, the drivers of  the follow-on lorries would  be able to retake control of  their vehicles.

Backers of the proposal say the system would allow drivers to use their laptop, read  a book or ‘sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch’. They also say platoons would cut down on road congestion and cut  fuel consumption by about  10 per cent.

 Further trials would then be carried out on motorways which are heavily congested to test how well the automated system works in practice.

The vehicles would communicate via wi-fi, so that if the lead vehicle changes speed, the others follow suit. In addition, the movements of the entire convoy would be monitored by laser sensors and infrared cameras. 

News of the British tests comes after Daimler announced last month that it had run an autonomously driven truck on a closed section of the German autobahn.

Swedish lorry maker Scania has also been testing platoons on Swedish roads since 2012. This latest plan, devised by the Department for Transport, follows a trip by officials to Sweden to study the system.

Their report concluded that similar trials in Britain would be feasible and ministers are expected to give the green light for them to start next year.

 A government source told the Sunday Times: ‘There are potential benefits, notably reduced costs for haulage firms and reduced congestion for motorists, so there is sense in looking into it. 

‘Equally we have to be cautious and ensure that safety isn’t compromised in any way.’ 

Paul Watters, head of roads and transport policy at the AA, said: ‘It’s a complicated one and road users will naturally have concerns about it.

‘If the lorries are following each other closely, it might be hard to spot the road signs on the near side of the motorway.

‘Putting it into practice would mean a complete re-design of the signage system.

‘It would also make exit  and entry very difficult on motorways, so the convoys would have to separate at every junction.

‘These ideas always need to be looked at, but at this stage I can see some pitfalls.

‘Motorways are the safest roads we have, and we wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.’

 The 'road trains' of lorries have been announced after it emerged last month that driverless cars, like the ones pictured, could be driving on British roads as of next year

The 'road trains' of lorries have been announced after it emerged last month that driverless cars, like the ones pictured, could be driving on British roads as of next year

 Earlier this month it was revealed that Google has begun lobbying the state of California to allow it to test driverless motorbikes, like the one pictured, and trucks on its roads
Earlier this month it was revealed that Google has begun lobbying the state of California to allow it to test driverless motorbikes, like the one pictured, and trucks on its roads.

California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update


By Melanie Curry, August 15, 2014

 Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 4.34.24 PM

Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.
With a deadline for amendments looming next Friday, marathon floor sessions are keeping legislators in the capitol churning through long lists of bills.

Protected Bike Lane Bill Still Being Amended: A.B. 1193 from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) is the bill that would add protected bike lanes, or “cycletracks,” to the four types of bike facilities defined in the California Street and Highways Code, and would require Caltrans to create engineering standards for them by January of 2016.

A secondary aspect of the bill, which allows local jurisdictions to choose a different safety criteria than that created by Caltrans, is meeting some resistance on both sides of the liability debate (cities don’t want liability, and consumer advocates want someone to take responsibility). The bill actually passed on the Senate floor on Wednesday, but it was pulled back to make amendments to address those concerns.

The California Bicycle Coalition, the bill’s sponsor, is pleased with the results of negotiations. “We have come to an agreement with both sides of the debate,” said Dave Snyder, CalBike’s director. “We’ve agreed to new language and that this bill will not affect liability.”

A.B. 1193 will be heard again in the Senate some time next week. It’s expected to pass, but the Assembly will have to approve the new amendments.

School Zone Violations: S.B. 1151, from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres), would raise fines for traffic violations in school zones and put any proceeds from those fines towards the Active Transportation Program. The bill passed the Assembly this week, and must go back to the Senate for another vote because of minor amendments made on the Assembly floor. If it passes there, it will have to be signed by Governor Jerry Brown, who has been unwilling to sign bills that raise fines in the past.

Hit-and-Run Fines: It’s also unclear whether Brown will sign A.B. 1532, from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), which would raise fines for hit-and-run convictions. The bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations committee and is now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

Hit-and-Run Alert System: A.B. 47, also from Assemblymember Gatto, would create a “Yellow Alert” system to notify law enforcement and the public about hit-and-run crashes when someone has been seriously injured, and solicit help in finding the perpetrator. This bill has sailed through the legislature, with the Senate adding one requirement to the list of conditions under which the system can be activated: that “public dissemination of available information could either help avert further harm or accelerate apprehension of the suspect.” The bill passed the Appropriations Committee this week and it’s awaiting a Senate vote.

Bicycle Infrastructure Surcharge: S.B. 1183, from Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), would authorize local agencies to impose a motor vehicle registration surcharge — upon approval by 2/3 of local voters — to fund bicycle paths and trails. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee this week on a partisan vote and has moved on to the Assembly floor, where it is set to be voted on next week. If it passes without amendments, it will go straight to the governor. Will he sign it?

Las Vegas Finally Antes Up for a Real Public Transit Network

The city has commissioned a plan to expand mobility options on the Strip.


By Eric Jaffe, August 18, 2014


For all the showy excess of Las Vegas, the city's public transportation network is strikingly understated. That's especially true on that casino-laden part of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip. Bits and pieces of transit do exist there—double-decker buses, a monorail connecting the SLS (formerly the Sahara) with the MGM via the convention center, a few tiny trams that link casino couplets—but they're no more related than roulette is to craps.

"There's no connectivity of one single system on the Strip," says Tom Skancke, head of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance and a board member for the Nevada Department of Transportation. For all the vehicle types on the boulevard, from taxis to limos to billboard trucks, the one thing missing is "a transit system that provides other modes for how people want to move," he says.

Well the city has finally anted up on a comprehensive transportation plan. The Regional Transportation Commission recently staked $2.7 million to engage the urban planning services of Michael Gallis, who will study the Vegas resort corridor and recommend how it can create (and pay for) a genuine cohesive mobility network. The plan is expected within the next year and a half.

The Strip is crammed with traffic on a daily basis. Between the visitors and the employees, the resort corridor hosts an estimated 155,000 people per square mile—a density that approaches that of Manhattan on a business day. Yet cars remain the overwhelming transport option for those near and far: Passenger rail doesn't serve the city, the monorail stops short of McCarran International Airport, light rail has never materialized.

(Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada)
To Skancke—who calls himself a transit "convert"—providing more mobility options in Las Vegas is a matter of smart business as much as smart transport. Young professionals might prefer other major metros in the mountain and desert region that have reduced car dependence, such as Denver, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix. (To attract the same crowd, Zappos has planned a private ride-sharing network for its downtown Vegas headquarters.) Globally, other resort destinations have doubled down on rail access; Exhibit A, says Skancke, is the MRT subway station built right on the property of the Sands Marina Bay in Singapore.

"Las Vegas as a community is behind the rest of the world as it relates to global competitiveness and connectivity," he says. "We're the number one tourism destination in the world, but we don't provide the modes of transportation that will keep our community competitive going forward."

While it's far too early to tell what recommendations the new plan will make for Vegas mobility, Gallis is known for his work with Charlotte's emerging light rail system. And during an interview with the Las Vegas Sun in May, he suggested that a rail system will be strongly considered:
When we say mass transit, there are two forms: buses and fixed guideways, meaning rails. Bus ridership in Las Vegas is some of the highest in the United States. The road network has grown remarkably well and effectively. But it’s a new era. Looking at fixed guideway systems as yet another alternative is an extremely important step for us to take.
If rail does take center stage in the plan, it could face an uphill battle. Past attempts to bring light rail to the Strip have been greeted with skepticism and fought by road advocates until they failed. Meanwhile, plans have stalled for a high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Las Angeles, as have plans to extend the monorail to the airport—despite recent increases in both ridership and farebox revenue.

On paper, at least, the Strip seems perfectly suited to a fixed transit system in an exclusive lane: it's a straight-shot through a high-density corridor loaded with attractions. If rail is a non-starter, the Strip might dedicate existing boulevard lanes to a bus rapid transit service. (May we suggest a free one paid for with on-board video slots?) And if any place can make a strong case for transit subsidies on the grounds of reducing drunk driving, it would have to be Vegas.

In practice, of course, there are financial reasons the Strip's transit network has come together so haphazardly. A mobility network that makes it easier for visitors to jump from casino to casino runs counter to the business strategy of keeping their wallets in one place. But Skancke believes the Strip might be more receptive this time around because resort ownership has been consolidated into fewer hands, and because the plan is being touted on its business merits.

"I've become an advocate for transit because one, it works; and two, it is a must be to competitive," he says.