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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Question is .. To Tunnel or Not to Tunnel. Does it make sense to complete the 710.

Video published on Aug 20, 2014
Does the proposed 4.5 mile and multi-billion dollar 710 tunnel 300 feet below the surface make economic or planning sense in the wake of Boston's Big Dig and the disaster in Seatle? Join MTA Board Member Ara Najarian, Crescenta Valley Town Council President Robbyn Battles and South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez for a frank and candid discussion about the 710 tunnel process and its impact on north and south communities.

Guest Editorial: Dreaming Big About Rail Lines, Grand Boulevards, Bus Rapid Transit and Measure R2


By Denny Zane and Gloria Ohland, August 20, 2014

 The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org

The proposed Lorena Plaza development. 

(Move LA’s mission is to build a broad constituency that will advocate for the development of a comprehensive, diverse, robust, clean and financially sound public transportation system for Los Angeles County. Denny Zane is the executive director. Gloria Ohland is the policy and communications director.)

More and more people — from elected officials to bike and pedestrian advocates — are talking about projects that could be funded if a transportation sales tax measure is put on the November 2016 ballot.

Most recently, for example, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian stood in front of the TV cameras with a host of heavy-hitting transportation leaders from San Fernando Valley to advocate conversion of the super-successful Orange Line to light rail, and an extension to Bob Hope Airport, then Glendale, then Pasadena.

Other cities and their councils of government are dreaming big as well.

It’s all possible if voters have the opportunity to approve the right measure. Move LA is using a “strawman” proposal of funding ideas to gin up a “let’s dream big” conversation about the sales tax, which some are fondly calling “Measure R2” in acknowledgment of its predecessor — the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008 that is building the five new rail lines underway now.

The proposed 45-year half-cent sales tax “strawman” could generate $90 billion for transportation. The centerpiece is, as it was in Measure R1, significant expansion of the rail system. But we have another favorite in our strawman proposal — a transformational “Grand Boulevards” program. We propose taking 5-10 percent of the $90 billion for cities and councils of governments to invest in reviving and reinventing several-mile, multi-community-long stretches of maybe 15-20 arterials around L.A. County as transit-oriented boulevards that promote economic development as they pass through more than one community.

This money could fund both conventional and sustainable transportation improvements, from repaving and signal synchronization to clean, green, cool, and complete streets with more bus service,  better bus stops with real time arrival info, and wider sidewalks and bike lanes. It could fund landscaping and other community improvements that would make the boulevards appealing places on which to live and shop, and there would be incentives for transit-supportive mixed-use community development. Funding it could help leverage and implement L.A. Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets program!

It’s important to remember that this is a transportation sales tax and must be used for transportation purposes. But what if 30 percent, a significant share of the funding in the Grand Boulevards program, were set aside in a competitive pot for cities willing to promote transit ridership by permitting moderate-density mixed-use transit-oriented development (TOD) along these grand boulevards?
This extra funding for transportation projects could be made available to those cities willing to permit apartments over shops and other housing that’s affordable and appealing for young people, aging Baby Boomers and others who want to be able to live without a car — and who can do that because it’s easy to walk and bike and take transit instead.

Paris, not Los Angeles, but maybe one day, in a decade. Boulevard Saint-Germain by Aleksandr Zykov, Russia.
Paris, not Los Angeles, but maybe one day, in a decade. Boulevard Saint-Germain.  

Perhaps the 25 percent of the set-aside funding could also provide an incentive to those cities willing to further reduce the need to own an automobile by adding shared-use mobility hubs that offer car-, ride- and bike-sharing services. Together with bike lanes and wider sidewalks these improvements could provide the first-mile last-mile connections into neighborhoods that will make Los Angeles County truly transit-oriented.

Imagine stretches of Pico, Venice, Colorado, Artesia, Lankershim, Hawthorne, or Foothill — this funding program could target communities that won’t see development of new rail lines — dressed up as “grand boulevards.” There wouldn’t be the intensity of activity and development that occurs around rail stops, which are typically located a mile or two apart and attract significant private investment. Because buses stop more frequently than rail transit, the development that occurs here would be more distributed in districts up and down the boulevards at an intensity that’s in scale with development in neighborhoods on either side.

This idea has a little something for a lot of people:
  • For communities that won’t be getting a new rail line out of a new sales tax measure, Grand Boulevards funding could serve as a comparable prize that also makes it easier for people to get around.
  • For local governments, there would be enhanced economic development and tax revenues.
  • For new residents there would be the appeal of an attractive neighborhood where one could live without a car, while current residents could visit a revitalized and well-landscaped street on which to shop and dine.
  • For local businesses there are likely to be more customers because there are more people walking down the street.
  • For bus riders there are better service and stops.
  • For bicyclists and pedestrians there are bike lanes and wider sidewalks.
But there’s even more to this program, and this part is key: This program could leverage even more funding for local governments, especially state cap-and-trade dollars, because these boulevards with this kind of transit-oriented development comprise the “sustainable communities” that cap-and-trade is intended to fund in order to reduce car trips and GHG emissions.

And it’s not chump change: cap-and-trade revenues are expected to increase from $872 million this year to $3-$5 billion annually until 2020. Twenty percent of cap-and-trade funds will be dedicated to transit-oriented development, active transportation, and other “sustainable communities” strategies. Half of that will be dedicated to constructing affordable housing near transit, with the goal of building transit ridership.

Cities that agree to permit affordable housing along their boulevards could also — one day soon — be able to use tax-increment financing (TIF). No, Governor Brown has not yet committed to reinstating TIF, which he virtually eliminated when he dissolved all community redevelopment agencies in 2011. But some observers believe he will revive the use of TIF to help finance the creation of sustainable communities before he leaves office, and the nodes of activity and development that would spring up along Grand Boulevards would be ideal locations for TIF.

The layering on of all these improvements could have a multiplier effect that would indeed make these boulevards grand — and it’s all a natural spin-off of the transit system development. Because there’s more bus capacity, there is potentially enough ridership to justify systematic upgrades from improved service, to bus-only lanes, then to bus rapid transit — if that’s what a community wants.

And for businesses worried about the loss of on-street parking to bus-only lanes there could also be Measure R2 funding as well as Cap & Trade funding and/or TIF when the state legislature and the governor reinstate it — for off-the-street structured district parking. Funding for structured parking would provide an additional benefit: It would take some of the heavy, heavy cost of building parking (estimated as about 25-30 percent of development costs) off the pro formas of mixed-use developers, enabling them to construct housing that’s more affordable for renters and buyers and to make communities attractive for new development.

All of this takes us back to the original reason we wanted to write this opinion piece: We agree with Daniel Jacobson, who wrote on Streetsblog earlier this summer that a “spectrum of bus improvements, including bus rapid transit” — not just new rail lines — is needed to enhance transit ridership in Los Angeles. Given the concerns of business owners about the loss of parking for bus-only lanes and BRT, this could take more time than less — years, maybe a decade or more
— but we agree that BRT is an essential part of the mix, and that this Grand Boulevards program would help move us toward a comprehensive BRT system.

One can imagine the view out the window of a new BRT line, with people walking and visiting along tree-shaded streets, bicycles parked in front of local businesses, an air of shared prosperity and friendliness, and development that happens incrementally — with second floors being renovated as apartments, then new development appearing on vacant lots or replacing decrepit buildings, with new development inching up from two stories to three and then four.

This is how L.A. communities can evolve over time in a way that honors existing architecture, development patterns and long-time residents, rather than blasting them into a high-density future that some communities are not ready for yet. And it’s a peaceful evolution that started with the Measure R transit investment.

City of Beverly Hills approves MOU with Metro for Purple Line Extension utility work permits


By Dave Sotero, August 20, 2014


The Beverly Hills City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a Memorandum of Agreement and authorized its staff to issue permits to Metro to relocate utilities for the Purple Line Extension’s future station at Wilshire/La Cienega. This clears the way for Metro to move forward with its planned pre-construction work within the city’s borders.

Metro will now be able to relocate water, power, sewer and other utility lines once a contractor for the Wilshire/La Cienega station advanced utility work is selected.   Relocating the utilities now will ensure that area residents and business will be able to continue to receive service once actual construction begins for the Wilshire/La Cienega station.

The Memorandum of Agreement clearly defines how the two parties will work together during utility relocation. The MOA is similar to established agreements Metro already has with other cities throughout Los Angeles County.

The unanimous 5 to 0 vote is the result of months of close coordination between Metro and Beverly Hills. The City Council put the agency’s requested permits as well as its MOA through close scrutiny and public debate over the last eight months. City Council members expressed concerns regarding night-time work, noise, parking and local business impacts, among others.

During the vote, the Beverly Hills Council publicly thanked Metro and its construction relations team for working closely with the city. Council Members reported that Metro came to the table, listened to their concerns and worked cooperatively through their issues.

The approvals are welcome news to Metro and will help keep planned pre-construction work on track. Advanced utility relocation work for the other planned stations in the City of Los Angeles has been going on for the last year-and-a-half.

In July, Metro selected a design-builder for the first section of the Purple Line Extension.  The agency is now in a 45-day protest review period. Following the contract award, major construction would likely start next year.

The first phase of the Purple Line Extension will extend tracks for 3.9 miles from the current terminus at Wilshire and Western to Wilshire and La Cienega. New stations will be built at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. The second phase of the project will extend the Purple Line to downtown Beverly Hills and Century City while the third phase will include two stations in Westwood — one at Wilshire and Westwood boulevards, the other at Wilshire and the VA Hospital.

The Purple Line Extension is being funded in part with Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Practically Green: Better air may be coming soon to a port near you


By Susan Carpenter, August 20, 2014

ARSON – A stretch of Alameda Street in Carson is about to look a whole lot different.
Under a pilot program set to break ground in September, one mile of road near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will be converted into a so-called eHighway.

A global first, the system will use overhead wires to deliver electricity to hybrid freight trucks, allowing them to run on clean electric, cutting down on diesel emissions.

“Freight trucks, locomotives, off-road equipment and other heavy-duty diesel, goods-moving technologies are the sector that contributes most to our smog problem,” said Matt Miyasato, deputy executive officer with the South Coast Air Quality Management District – the agency tasked with reducing Southern California’s smog-forming emissions 65 percent from current levels by 2023.
Heavy-duty diesel trucks like the ones that operate in the ports are the No. 1 one contributor to area smog, he said.

More than 40 percent of the freight arriving in the U.S. through shipping containers comes into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. About 10,000 trucks then move the freight to rail lines, warehouses and other distribution centers, Miyasato said.

With U.S. freight transportation expected to double by 2050, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, reducing emissions is key to meeting federal clean air standards for the area.

The movement of goods through the two ports affects almost 17 million Californians and causes billions of dollars in health-related costs annually, according to the AQMD. In addition to generating ozone-forming emissions, burning diesel generates particulates that can cause health problems, such as asthma, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Air quality levels in port areas are far worse than in other communities due to the activities of trains, trucks, ships and heavy equipment, Miyasato said.

“Communities in the port areas are shouldering the burden so people can have plasma TVs in Chicago,” said Miyasato, who first learned about the eHighway system a couple years ago and was so impressed by the technology’s potential to reduce Southern California air pollution that he traveled to Germany to see it in action.

German electrical engineering giant Siemens created the technology to address the carbon footprint of trucking. It has been operating a test of the system on an old airstrip in Berlin since 2011. The Alameda Street system in Carson is the first real-world application of the technology.

It will take one year to build the mile of eHighway, completion of which is expected in late 2015. Once the system has been built, the AQMD will run a pilot program for 12 to 18 months “to understand the viability of the technology and to identify a business model,” said Miyasato, adding that the eventual goal is to extend the system along the heavily trafficked I-710 corridor.

Building the one-mile stretch of eHighway will cost $14 million, with funding provided by the California Energy Commission, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Siemens, L.A. Metro and various environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.

For the pilot, just four trucks will run on the overhead electrical wires.

When the trucks’ rooftop connectors are attached to the electrical lines, the trucks run entirely on electricity. When the connectors are lowered, they run on a hybrid electric propulsion system similar to the Toyota Prius, only with diesel.

“If you compare the diesel truck to an electrified truck, they are 50 percent more energy efficient and it has zero emissions,” said Matthias Schlelein, president of Siemens’ Mobility and Logistics Division. “That’s the key point. If you substitute just a certain percentage of a road’s trucks, every reduction of diesel trucks with electrified trucks helps people to get better air.”

Costa Mesa councilwomen call city's toll lane ballot measure political