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 25, 2014

What Could Speed Up L.A. Traffic?



Los Angeles

 A Zócalo/Metro Event

Moderated by Kajon Cermak, Traffic Reporter, KCRW
  When people say that death and taxes are the only certain things in life, they are forgetting about Southern California traffic. Despite freeway widening and highway construction and newly synchronized streetlights, there’s still not enough room on the roads. We now get accident reports in real time and can change our routes to avoid jams, but Angelenos still spend more time in traffic than other Americans. However, there is more change still to come. The region is in the early stages of a 30-year transit transformation that began with the passage of Measure R in 2008, a sales tax increase that is funding a wide range of transportation projects. Will express lanes, fewer potholes, and improved interchanges speed drivers along? And will new rail lines, improved bus service, and bike lanes finally get millions of people out of their cars? UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies director Brian D. Taylor, Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic executive director Hilary Norton, and Metro CEO Art Leahy visit Zócalo to ask whether traffic is forever L.A.’s destiny.


Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
Parking is $8.

Have Americans really fallen out of love with driving?


By Chris Matthews, August 15, 2014

 Heavy traffic at rush hour on the Interstate 10 Freeway in Los Angeles, California

The number of miles Americans are driving has remained stagnant over the past several years. Is this the end of American car culture?

The American consumer has come a long way since the depths of the Great Recession.
The unemployment rate has fallen from a high of 10.1% to 6.2% today, while many Americans have used the recession and recovery as an opportunity to pay down (or walk away from) household debt. And as you can see from the chart below, consumer spending has continued to rise at a steady pace except for a small blip during the worst of the recession:

US Personal Consumption Expenditures Chart

Of course, it’s not surprising that consumer spending has continued to rise. With a growing population, economy, and even moderate inflation, it’s expected that American consumers will spend more tomorrow than they do today. Most economic metrics, for these reasons, tend to grow over time. That’s why it’s so surprising that one statistic—miles driven—has been stagnant for almost seven years:

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 5.17.08 PM

The only other time in history that we’ve seen a similarly long time between the peak and trough was following the 1982 recession, in which it took 39 months for total vehicle miles traveled to recover to its previous peak. It’s now been more than twice that amount of time since we reached the all-time high in vehicle miles driven, and unlike the case in the 1980s, we don’t have the excuse of a recent gas-tax hike to blame for it.

So, what is going on here? In a note to clients Thursday, independent research firm Behind the Numbers argued that we’re entering a new era in which Americans simply prefer to drive less. They write:
It’s unlikely that miles driven is a lagging indicator that will eventually return to its prior trend. There is ample evidence that a 60-year trend of increased per capita driving has ended…. Among the reasons a sharp reversal is unlikely:
  • Boomers are getting older and driving less.
  • Millennials are less interested in driving, and are now the largest generation in the US.
  • The trend toward living near the urban core reduces the need for driving.
  • Higher gas prices discourage driving.
  • Mass transportation is winning over more consumers.
As a result, Behind the Numbers asks whether we should be skeptical of the future success of companies like Goodyear Tire GT 0.32% , as its sales are directly related to American driving. And lo, Goodyear’s tire sales have performed poorly:

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 6.09.38 PM

BTN wonders whether we should be worried about other companies too, like the big auto makers, or even retailers, as Americans gravitate towards driving less and sticking with public transportation. But it’s also a good idea to ask whether this trend towards driving less is as permanent as some commentators think.

While it’s true that Baby Boomers are aging and will continue to drive less throughout their lives, the argument that there have been significant changes to the economy and culture that will cause Millennials to drive less warrants a bit of examination. First off, the claim that gas prices are higher now than they’ve been in the past is just not true. Here’s a chart from economist Ed Dolan, which shows that fuel prices per hour worked is far lower than in the mid-1990s, when miles driven figures were still on an upward trajectory:


Second of all, the trend of Americans moving to the “urban core” seems to be slowing. While it’s true that urban areas have been growing faster than the suburbs over the last decade or so, it looks as if that trend may be starting to reverse its course. Big cities like New York and San Francisco, which have the sort of public transportation networks that enable people to go without a car, are running into fierce opposition against further development. And in some of the faster growing cities in America, like Dallas or Seattle, living without a car is still a hassle. It’s possible that the political obstacles to denser living in America will be overcome, but it’s no sure thing.

Finally, while Millennials are now America’s largest demographic group, we have yet to really feel their presence in the economy. The single most common age in America today is 23, an age where it’s much easier to get by living in a city without a car. As Millennials start to settle down, get married, and have children, it’s quite possible that their relative aversion to suburban life and cars will soften a bit.

There’s plenty of reason to believe that America’s love affair with the car is beginning to cool, but it’s probably a bit early to declare this case closed.

Fault Lines in L.A. Over New Subway Construction


By Joel Pollak, August 24, 2014

As residents of Northern California reel from the strongest earthquake in 25 years, debate rages in Los Angeles over how a buried tectonic fault might affect the path of a new subway line--or whether the fault exists at all.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) moved a station planned for the Purple Line in Century City from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard, citing a fault called the West Beverly Hills Lineament (WBHL). Critics have long suspected that commercial interests were at stake in the decision, and locals are upset that the new route will take the subway underneath the Beverly Hills High School.

In addition, the MTA's announcement of the WBHL fault triggered an immediate legal requirement that the high school spend millions of dollars to investigate the fault--which, despite several trenches, was never found.

Now, a new report by geological consultants Eldon Gath and Tim Buresh explains that the WBHL fault may not exist, and that there may actually be faults near the new station site--which, they say, should be investigated.

The MTA had assumed the WBHL fault lines existed, they say, because they extrapolated from older geological maps of the area that turned out, upon further investigation, to be inaccurate. "None of these studies have found any active faults where they had been interpreted, mapped, and published by MTA, or any active faults anywhere else in the MTA study area. On the WBHL no faults were found at all," they explain.

"The proposed WBHL fault zone started its life as a hypothesis, and became a foundational element for many structural geology papers, which led to it becoming an established fault, then an active Holocene fault, then an MTA investigation target, then a reason to relocate the Westside subway station, then a serious hazard for BHHS to quantify, and ... it does not exist as a fault," they conclude, citing several reasons for the error (original emphasis).

In contrast, Gath and Buresh say, reports that the new Constellation site is safe "appear to be based upon the same geologic errors that led to the WBHL mistake," and more investigation is needed. In addition, "MTA has never revised, retracted or otherwise qualified its active fault map...Instead it has issued a series of reports or memoranda that have challenged the various new findings, though never with any new data," they say.

The MTA disputes such criticism. Dave Sotero, communications manager for the MTA, told Breitbart News that while he had not seen Gath and Buresh's report, the accusations they make against the MTA are nothing new.

Noting that the Purple Line extension was already in "pre-construction" and that arrangements had been made to move existing underground cables so that the community would not experience service disruptions during digging, Sotero said that the MTA had relied on the expertise of highly credible geologists and seismologists throughout the planning process. He referred Breitbart News to several memos from 2011-2 on the subject.

The third of these memos reiterates that "there is no place safe to build a subway tunnel and station for the Westside Subway Extension along Santa Monica Boulevard in the Century City area due to the presence of active earthquake faults." It also disputes reports of commercial deals with private property owners in the Constellation area.

Reached Friday, Gath and Buresh told Breitbart News: "That's what MTA always says."

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, August 25, 2014

This is a weird week, with a state holiday on Friday and some school districts (Culver City and more) starting up the school year. Oh, well. The Week in Livable Streets Events rolls on.

  • Wednesday – A crowded transportation committee includes a possible change in how LADOT measures bike plan implementation. The proposal would require LADOT to address the most dangerous areas first identified in the bike plan instead of placing the emphasis on bike infrastructure miles. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Read the agenda, here.

  • Thursday – The Metro Board of Directors does not meet in August.

  • Thursday - Councilmember José Huizar’s Bringing Back Broadway initiative and LADOT celebrate the completion of phase one of the Broadway Streetscape Master Plan – a “dress rehearsal” that sets the stage for future improvements. This phase of the plan reconfigures the roadway from four lanes to three, and reclaims space formerly used by vehicles to increase pedestrian areas, provide shorter safer crosswalks, allow for 24-hour parking and loading where none previously existed, while offering public outdoor seating along Broadway with tables, chairs and umbrellas “adopted” by Broadway businesses. Get more details, here.

  • Thursday – But wait, there’s more. YPT-LA and APBP-SoCal are joining forces to bring you a free walking tour of the new Broadway Streetscape Dress Rehearsal project with LADOT’s Pedestrian Coordinator, Margot Ocañas. Meet at Grand Central Market at 5:00 and start the walk at 5:30pm. RSVP by email to losangeles@yptransportation.org. Get more details, here.

  • Saturday – It’s L.A.’s 233rd birthday! Celebrate by walking or biking. Get more details, here.

  • Saturday -The LA Explorers Club, C.I.C.L.E., and L.A. history experts, Esotouric, team for al bike ride through Hollywood’s Culture and Lore. Esotouric is an actual tour company that knows the dirty secrets of LA and we are so happy to be collaborating for their first bike tour. Get all the details, here.

L.A. County supervisor's alternate bullet-train route gaining traction


By Dan Weikel, August 23, 2014

Which way for the bullet train?

To get high-speed rail from Palmdale to Burbank, planners have focused for years on two potential routes that parallel the 14 Freeway and course through the rural and growing communities of Acton, Agua Dulce and Santa Clarita — hostile territory for the bullet train project.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich thinks there's a better way to go.

He is recommending to the California High-Speed Rail Authority an alternative to the south that would rely on extensive tunneling to cross the rugged Angeles National Forest.

"Such an approach," Antonovich recently told bullet train officials, "could provide a boon to the authority by eliminating conflict with Acton, Agua Dulce and Sand Canyon communities in my district while also helping the project reduce its costs and travel times."

He has made the pitch before, but this time his suggestion is getting some traction. The authority, which recently accelerated planning for the Palmdale-to-Burbank leg, has begun to seriously consider Antonovich's proposal.

During seven meetings this month in communities from Palmdale to Los Angeles, high-speed rail officials have asked members of the public to comment on the proposed corridors, including Antonovich's.

The public has a month to respond. If there is enough support for the supervisor's recommendation, the authority says his proposal could qualify for more in-depth studies, the outcome of which might eventually lead to its selection as the route for the Palmdale-Burbank leg.

"We ought to take a serious look at this," said Jeff Morales, the authority's chief executive. "I continually push our team to look at ideas and to solicit and listen to what we get from the outside. We are sensitive to community input, and we've heard the concerns of Acton, Agua Dulce and Santa Clarita. That matters."

Antonovich first approached the authority with his idea several years ago, but board members and the chief executive at the time were reluctant to work with the range of federal environmental agencies that would have to be involved in planning and approving a route through a national forest. With the arrival of Morales and board Chairman Dan Richard, the agency has been more receptive.

"We've had some discussions and talked to the supervisor," Morales said. "I'm impressed by his focus to bring improvements to that part of the county and state. He's pushed hard and we've listened."

Antonovich's proposal would run about 35 miles through the Angeles National Forest. It would go around the Hansen Dam Recreational Area, authority officials say, and include roughly 20 miles of tunnels. A specific route has not been determined.

In contrast, the other two proposals along the14 Freeway are about 48 miles long and generally follow the highway and a San Fernando Valley railroad right-of-way used by the Metrolink commuter line. About 18 to 20 miles of tunneling and more than 20 grade separations would be necessary if either was chosen.

Both corridors would begin at the Palmdale Transportation Center and end at the Burbank Airport Station, a developing transportation hub.

Although none of the proposals have been fully vetted, Morales said there could be advantages to Antonovich's plan, including lower construction costs and shorter travel times. The trip would take an estimated 15 minutes, 7 to 10 minutes less than the highway routes.

In addition, both Morales and the supervisor said there would be substantial benefits from reducing the project's effects on communities along the 14 Freeway, where the population has grown at least 24% in the last decade.

Local leaders and community groups say the routes along the 14 would bring high-speed trains near schools, disrupt the rural setting and mar the center of Acton with a viaduct.

The Santa Clara River, residential water wells and hundreds of properties would be adversely affected, they said, including the Shambala Preserve in Acton, a big cat sanctuary owned by a partnership that includes actress Tippi Hedren.

Michael Hughes, president of the Acton Town Council, said he was "very much in favor" of Antonovich's proposal, but residents and local leaders would like to see the suggested corridor moved a few more miles east to take it completely out of Acton.

In a recent letter to the rail authority, Assemblyman Scott Wilk, a Republican who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, said he supported Antonovich and urged the agency to disavow the routes along the 14 Freeway in order to "reset the discussion."

Katherine Sky Tucker, who has a ranch off the Angeles Forest Highway in east Acton, said, however, that Antonovich needs to be more specific and move his proposal out of the community.

"If Palmdale wants a station so bad, the route should all be in Palmdale so we can maintain the rural environment" in Acton, said Tucker, whose land and neighboring properties could be crossed by the project's right of way. "We are trying to save what we have here."

Other concerns could come from environmental groups should Antonovich's alternative gain momentum.

"The environmental impacts would be enormous," said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, which generally supports the high-speed rail project. "Going through a national forest isn't going to sit well with my members."

Morales defended Antonovich's proposal. Even if a route is built through the forest, he said there would be substantial environmental benefits, such as reductions in traffic and air pollution across the region.

"I'm sure questions will be raised; that's why you go through the environmental review process," he said. "The tunnels could be an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of thing."