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, September 4, 2014

Federal, state rail agencies launch train safety campaign


By Greg Lee, September 4, 2014

 The Orange County Transportation Authority, Metrolink and Operation Lifesaver are launching a public safety campaign called 'See Tracks? Think Train!'
The Orange County Transportation Authority, Metrolink and Operation Lifesaver are launching a public safety campaign called "See Tracks? Think Train!" The campaign urges people to stay away from train tracks to avoid injury or death.

"You have to think that a train can come at any time, in any direction, at any speed, at any time of the day, and you must always be aware of that," said OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson.

Mark Kalina, a man lucky enough to survive being hit by a train in 2012, is the spokesperson for the new campaign. He's sharing his story as a way to demonstrate the danger of railroad tracks.

"I feel extremely lucky to be alive, because I should've died on those tracks," said Kalina.

Kalina got stuck trying to walk across a train track in Columbus, Ohio in 2012. A train came speeding over him, cutting off both his legs.

"Horrible to look down and see a piece of your body that's been there, for me, 23 years, and it's just gone," said Kalina.

Now Kalina is walking on prosthetics and helping promote a new rail safety campaign.

A Metrolink train collided with a car in Burbank on Tuesday. The 79-year-old driver died at a hospital.

"Maybe if they had the education and the understanding of the rules and laws, then maybe we could have kept them off the tracks," said Kalina.

Kalina wants people to listen so no one else has to go through what he has, or worse.

"I want to further turn this into a positive thing by helping more people out by sharing my story, and hopefully they hear it and learn from my mistakes," said Kalina.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there have been more rail-crossing deaths in California than in any other state.

Millennials make public transportation trendy


September 3, 2014

The American Public Transportation Association released a report documenting Millennials and their mobility needs. The report shows the decline in driving among Millennials and helps shed some light on the implications of this trend for public transportation in the United States.

According to the report, Millennials are multimodal which means they choose the best transportation mode based on the trip they are planning to take. The report highlights public transportation modes in five cities most populated with Millennials. In these cities, most Millennials rely on public transportation because of its convenience and environmental factor, the ability to digitally socialize, and the cost.

Public TransportationWhile the trend to use public transportation is rapidly growing, the industry itself needs to be keen on what Millennials want, this way they will keep coming back for more.

Inexpensive means of travel

Millennials crave inexpensive modes of transportation due to their high levels of debt and low levels of income. One respondent was quoted as saying, “My generation is strapped financially … we’ve acquired $50,000 to $100,000 in student loan debt–it forces us to start our adult life in debt … All this makes my generation need to be a bit more creative on how we get around town.” In response to this, public transportation providers need to be able to find ways to keep the cost of commuting down, while providing other key factors to attract Millennials.

Ability to connect, digitally

The workforce is changing, and Millennials are leading the charge. Work has become something that is done in and out of the office; with some people working during their commute. Being able to connect with digital resources and accomplish work while traveling is a growing trend and it is also an important benefit of public transportation. Millennials are using public transportation because it gives them a chance to connect with their peers, digitally. Most respondents (54 percent) said that they would like to see better 3G/4G or Wi-Fi service during their commutes. They also requested more real-time updates—which they can check from their smartphones—to help them avoid long waits and delays.

Convenience and environmental impact

For Millennials who live in the city, public transportation is more convenient and better for the environment. City living allows for convenient modes of transportation due to the close proximity between home and work. More than half of the people questioned for the report used public transportation when commuting to and from work.

The environmental impact is important Millennials as well. One respondent said, “Our generation grew up knowing all about the effects on the environment that cars can have, so we've grown up with an attitude of wanting to do our part for the Earth—something that we can easily do with public transit and not with cars.” Millennials do their part for the Earth by using public transit, but they also see the benefits in other modes of transportation as well.

Many Millennials, who live directly in the city, use walking, biking and skateboarding as modes of travel when the weather is nice. One millennial said “I think my generation is more environmentally conscious because of all the research on the detrimental effects fossil fuels have on the environment, so I think more people in my generation try to reduce their carbon footprint.”

As more and more Millennials enter the workforce, this trend is likely to grow larger. Companies and organizations should be aware of this trend so they, too, can maximize on the full potential public transportation has to offer city dwelling Millennials. By offering public transport incentives, companies can do their part for the environment, while retaining and attracting this younger generation!

For the full report, visit the American Public Transportation Association website.

Electrified car sales stall as buyers back away from hybrids


By Charles Fleming, September 4, 2014

Tesla electric vehicles
Intense coverage of Tesla and electric vehicles may give the impression sales are soaring. They're not.

Sales of electrified vehicles in the United States have slowed dramatically in the last year, causing concern that the emerging technology has lost its charge.

A study by online automotive research company Edmunds.com suggests a stall in the market for electrically powered cars, especially hybrids.

“This was a market that was supposed to grow, relatively rapidly, as people embraced these new technologies and more brands began selling these models,” said Edmunds senior analyst Jessica Caldwell. “That hasn’t happened.”

Caldwell’s research showed substantial gains in the pure EV and plug-in hybrid segments -- 35% and 44%, respectively.

But the study also showed a drop in traditional hybrids -- by far the largest segment in the electrified vehicle market -- that offset sales gains in pure EV and plug-in hybrids sales, which remain a tiny fraction of the market.

“The EVs and plug-ins have shown growth," Caldwell said, "but it’s like a rounding error in the whole electric drive vehicle market.”
The slowdown in traditional hybrid sales comes despite the success of the Toyota Prius -- the bestselling car in California last year -- and manufacturers’ continuing efforts to introduce more hybrid models.

Further, it comes during a year in which sales of all cars have been booming. The industry just reported its best August in more than a decade and has gained about 5% so far this year compared with the same period last year. Sales of all electrified cars totaled 408,516 vehicles between January and August, down just a tick from the 408,694 vehicles sold during the same period last year.

Of that total, the bigger percentage gain came in plug-in hybrids, which grew from 28,241 vehicles sold to 40,748. Battery-powered EVs -- with no gas engine at all -- also grew, from 29,917 vehicles sold to 40,349.

But traditional hybrid sales fell from 350,530 vehicles from January to August last year to 327,418 during the same period in 2014.

The market share for electrified vehicles also fell. So far this year, they account for 3.66% of all vehicles sold, down from 3.84% for the same period a year ago.

This may seem counterintuitive to Los Angeles drivers, Caldwell said.

“Los Angeles is a different place,” Caldwell said. “What we see here isn’t what’s happening everywhere. The rest of the country isn’t on the same page. And they buy a lot of cars too.”

Electric cars and hybrid also have enjoyed intense media coverage as automakers seek to boost fuel economy and regulators look to control tailpipe pollution. On Wall Street, meanwhile, Tesla’s stock has soared. All that may create the impression that sales are soaring.

“People see more and more of them on the road, and they read about Tesla and its supercharging stations, and they think this technology is taking off,” she said. “But the entire electric drive vehicle market is just over 400,000 vehicles sold – during a period when there were over 11.1 million total vehicles sold.”

Caldwell said stable gas prices may have contributed to a slackening in interest in non-gasoline electric hybrid and plug-in vehicles. So have the increasingly good fuel-efficiency levels of gas cars in general.

Buyers are looking at the higher average price of electric vehicles, Caldwell said, and deciding that "the math doesn't really work out."

Could strong sales in the fourth quarter reverse the trend?

Not likely, Caldwell said.

"The latter part of the year, as the weather gets colder, there tends to be more SUV and truck sales," Caldwell said. "So I don’t expect to see a run on electric vehicles."

Why Metro fare hikes won’t fix transportation agency’s deficit


By Steve Scauzillo, September 3, 2014


 Thousands turned out at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority or Metro Gold Line’s Atlantic Station in Los Angeles to ride the rails for free on the official opening day for the eastside stations on Nov. 15, 2009.

Increased Metro bus and rail fares set to take effect in 11 days will raise $21 million by the end of the 2015 fiscal year, but that’s still not enough to lift the giant Los Angeles County transit agency out of an operating deficit, officials said Wednesday.

Despite charging more than 1 million daily riders more each time they hop on a bus or subway, it won’t be enough to close Metro’s $36.8 million deficit, leaving the agency scrambling to pursue other revenue sources and operating cuts, said Michelle Navarro, Metro director of planning and development.

A board report on where Metro will place the budgetary ax is due at the end of the month, she said. Navarro declined to say what areas are under consideration for “cost trimming.”

The double-whammy — a rate increase possibly followed by service cuts — reflects the agency’s low collection rate from riders. At present, Metro fares pay for only 25 percent of the agency’s operating costs, a figure that must reach 33 percent for the agency to achieve a balanced budget, she said.
Metro took in $345.1 million from fares last year that went toward bus and rail operations, according to Rick Jager, Metro spokesman.

About 75 percent of operating funds comes from three county sales tax measures in effect: Propositions A, C and Measure R. In addition, Metro receives federal and state tax dollars to make up for what it doesn’t get from fares. It’s operating budget is about $1.3 billion. Metro’s total annual budget is $5.5 billion.

Metro figures its fiduciary picture will get worse before its improves.

When fares go up Sept. 15, the agency anticipates a 3 to 4 percent drop in ridership to last for about six months, said Dave Sotero, Metro spokesman. Currently, Metro averages 1.4 million weekday boardings on buses and trains combined, he said.

Reaching 33 percent from fares will not happen unless Metro raises rates higher in 2016 (Phase two) and 2017 (Phase three), Navarro said. That option was rejected by the Metro board in May when it voted 12-1 to raise fares, beginning Sept. 15.
A basic one-way ride goes from $1.50 to $1.75, still lower than a ride in New York City ($2.50), San Diego ($2.25) and San Francisco ($2.25), Metro officials said.

At 12:01 a.m. Sept. 15, the cost of a day pass increases from $5 to $7, a weekly pass goes from $20 to $25, the popular 30-day pass goes from $75 to $100 and a countywide EZ Pass jumps from $84 to $110. The fare hikes do not spare seniors and the disabled, whose single rides go from 55 cents to 75 cents during peak hours and 30-day passes from $14 to $20.

Only K-12 students escaped increases. Their fares were frozen, Navarro said.

There is some good news for riders who take more than one train or bus per trip.

Those using TAP cards, a card with an embedded chip loaded with value using a credit card or debit card or by cash at customer service centers, will get free transfers on another Metro bus or rail line during a one-way trip. The transfer time lasts for 2 hours from tap to tap.

This reduces the overall cost of a trip for many riders.

For example, a passenger taking the Gold Line to Union Station, then riding the Red Line or Purple line subway to Hollywood or other downtown locations, will only pay once — $1.75 — instead of twice for $3. Instead of two taps, $1.50 + $1.50, the card deducts $1.75 for the first ride and $0 for subsequent rides within the 2-hour window.

To get the free transfers, passengers must use pre-loaded TAP cards, explained Kelly Hines, director of TAP technical systems. “The TAP card does it automatically. We don’t have to track paper transfers,” she said. Metro did away with transfers in 2007.

Hines said about 26 percent of riders pay cash. She predicts more will switch to TAP cards. Metro will be handing out TAP cards at 30 heavily used bus stops starting Monday for 30 days, Navarro said. These include intersections at: Slauson and Western, Westwood and Wilshire, Roscoe and Van Nuys, Venice and Broadway and many other locations.

A TAP card costs $1-$2 depending on where it is purchased. It’s $1 at the Orange Line and Metro Rail stations but $2 from outside vendors, such as universities and check-cashing stores. The cost of the card will be waived during the roving TAP card sales, Sotero said.

Hollywood FlyAway experiences hiccups


By Lauren Jow, September 4, 2014


 Brian Flynn of Hollywood hops on to the FlyAway bus to LAX at the new stop in Hollywood on Wednesday.

 First days are difficult, I had to remind myself while waiting an hour and 15 minutes for a FlyAway shuttle to take me from the Los Angeles International Airport to a new stop in Hollywood.

Spoiler alert: The shuttle never came. But the next one did, 15 minutes late.

Neither of us is new to the game. For years, FlyAway has been providing nonstop rides to and from the airport from Van Nuys, Union Station, Westwood and now Santa Monica and Hollywood. During my four years at UCLA, I was a loyal customer every holiday break, along with thousands of other students.

But drivers struggled through rush-hour traffic Wednesday along a new route from Hollywood to LAX. Shuttles take the 101 and 110 freeways to pick up and drop off passengers, scheduled every hour on the southeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue.

The Hollywood stop opened a day after FlyAway ended service to Expo/La Brea, which had as few as one or two riders per day, according to Mary Grady, director of media and public relations for Los Angeles World Airports, which runs LAX and the FlyAway.

The changes to the shuttle service reflect a bumpy road in recent years that gradually is starting to straighten out.


FlyAway has been operating in the red for the past five years, though the deficit gets smaller every year, according to a December 2013 report by Los Angeles World Airports.

In 2013, fares increased by $1 for Union Station and Van Nuys – FlyAway’s two most popular stations – to make up for deficits.

FlyAway almost discontinued service to Westwood in 2011, but held off after outcry from residents and UCLA students. Even though lines stretch around the block during UCLA breaks and major holidays, Westwood has low ridership during the year, especially on weekdays.

Instead, FlyAway doubled Westwood fares from $5 to $10 and reduced service from every half hour to every hour. In 2012-2013, Westwood was the only route that made a profit.

Los Angeles World Airports is required to operate nine FlyAway routes by the end of 2015, according to a 2006 settlement reached with Los Angeles County, three cities and a community group based in Westchester.

FlyAway opened a Santa Monica route in July and ended service to Irvine in August 2012 because of low ridership. A line to Orange will open in early 2015, and the Torrance Transit Center will be completed mid- to late-2015, according to Marshall Lowe, a spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports.

Expanding FlyAway service is part of a massive renovation, as LAX tries to improve the ways travelers get to and from the airport. Although the shuttle service sometimes suffers from long wait lines, and isn’t as accessible or flexible as ride-sharing apps such as Uber or Lyft, supporters say it fills a need.

FlyAway is good for international travelers who aren’t familiar with ride-sharing apps and folks who want a cheaper option, said Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

“Transportation planners like to have a lot of arrows in their quiver to provide people with different options,” he said.


For his first time in Los Angeles, Michael Kuo had a relatively easy trip from LAX to the Airbnb apartment he’s staying at near Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, just a block from the new FlyAway stop.

After 50 minutes of waiting at the airport, Kuo hopped on the FlyAway for the last leg of his trip around the United States before he returns to Canberra, Australia.

Civic leaders hope the new FlyAway stop appeals to tourists like Kuo, who make Hollywood their main destination. Last year, 42 million visitors came to Los Angeles. The city expects those numbers to grow as the economy improves and attractions rebuild. The Walk of Fame is undergoing restoration, for example, and 1.5 million square feet of office space will be built in the next year.

“We are working to keep the stars shining,” L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said on Wednesday.

The FlyAway route, paired with the Metro Red Line stop at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, will also appeal to business travelers and local residents, Gubler said.

“There are actually people that take mass transit,” he said.

Brian Flynn didn’t have a plan on how to get to the airport when he woke up Wednesday morning. So it’s a good thing he saw a Facebook post about the new FlyAway stop, just a six-block walk from his apartment.

“I wouldn’t mind waking up a couple hours earlier to spend a little less,” he said.

One $8 nap later, he was at the airport.