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

Friday, September 19, 2014

New wording approved on driver's licenses for those in U.S. illegally


By Chris Megerian, September 19, 2014

Immigrant licenses

 L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, second from right, and other state and local officials give a thumbs-up as Gov. Jerry Brown holds up a signed bill allowing immigrants lacking legal immigration status to obtain California driver's licenses on Oct. 13, 2013. Federal officials approved new wording on...

Federal officials have approved new wording on California driver's licenses that would be issued to immigrants in the country illegally, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The letter is a key step toward implementing legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

"We are moving forward with this design," said Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The approved wording says "federal limits apply" on the front of the card, an indication that the license cannot be used for federally regulated purposes like boarding an airplane.

Federal officials had rejected an earlier proposed design, which only had a subtle mark on the front and a disclaimer on the back saying, "This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes."

California is scheduled to begin issuing the new licenses Jan. 1, and the debate over designing the cards has been an ongoing issue. Federal law requires the licenses to be distinguishable from those issued to citizens and legal residents.
However, advocates for immigrants in the country illegally have fought to eliminate, or at least minimize, design differences, saying they would amount to a scarlet letter and prompt discrimination.

Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) said he was pleased by the federal government's decision.

“I’m elated that parents taking their kids to school will no longer have to constantly check their rear-view mirror thanks to this common sense agreement between Homeland Security and California,” he said in a statement.

Here’s the map and highlights for new 788 Valley-Westside Express Bus


By Steve Hymon, September 19, 2014

Line 788 Key Points

Line 788 Key Points2

As was reported yesterday on Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website, the new 788 Valley-Westside Express Bus will begin service on Dec. 15. The bus will use the HOV lanes on the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass (as you likely know, the northbound HOV lane was recently built and opened this year as part of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project).

The above PowerPoint slides show some highlights of the service and the route. For those wondering about the dip down to Oxnard Street in the San Fernando Valley, the reason is that it allows the new 788 to stop at two key Orange Line stations — Van Nuys and Sepulveda. It also makes it easier for the 788 to get on the 405 freeway and make its way over to the HOV lanes.


Seattle Tunnel Tops "Highway Boondoggles" List


By Dominic Holden, September 18, 2014

Seattle is a leader. Whatever we do, heck, we do it better than other cities. Football Super-bowlin'? Yup. Nirvana grunge-mashin'? Totally. Building an overpriced and impractical freeway that's decades out-of-step with traffic trends despite a forest of red flags warning us not to? You bet, son.


That we, Seattle, are a national model of bad freeway planning is a cornerstone of a report issued today by US PIRG, the United States Public Interest Research Group. It's posted here. Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future, which also names 10 other "projects that may no longer have a compelling transportation rationale," begins by carefully arguing that Americans are driving less.

"The total number of miles Americans drive is lower than it was in 2005, while per-capita driving has fallen by 7 percent in the last nine years," say authors Jeff Inglis and Phineas Baxandall. Among the reasons for driving drops: the highest transit ridership in more than 50 years, a millennial generation that's less interested in owning a car, carsharing, ridesharing, and bike-riding.

In the Seattle region, daily traffic has dropped 23 percent on average while transit ridership is up 42 percent. Still, the report continues, "States continue to spend tens of billions of dollars on new or expanded highways that are often not justified in terms of their benefits to the transportation system."

The golden child at the top of a list of examples: a project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a 2-mile underground freeway, which has a baseline cost of $4.2 billion dollars (accounting for state, city, and port contributions). The state has acknowledged the project runs a 40 percent risk of cost overruns, and only a fraction of viaduct drivers would use the tunnel.

Not only that, the tunnel project is at a standstill—the drill has been broken since last December—and the state is skeptical the drill will resume digging by a March 2015 deadline. Meanwhile, revenue estimates from tolling needed to pay for the project have dropped, and about $125 million in overruns are in dispute, which could to a lengthy court battle and more costs—all creating the very situation that was predicted years before drilling began.

"If the tunnel is ever finished," the report intones, "and if a proposal to charge tolls on the tunnel goes through, the project will have spent billions of taxpayer dollars to attract fewer drivers than are using the existing roadways right now."

Dear elected officials who backed this project: You are national leaders.

Joe Cano Video: Metro 710 Presentation El Sereno Senior Center

Measure R-2: A Few Reminders for the Politicians, Developers and Advocates


By Ken Alpern, September 18, 2014


GETTING THERE FROM HERE-Keeping my ears close to the ground, and trying hard to stay close to the grassroots, I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who sees BOTH progress and betrayal by the civic leaders who are using the former and ongoing grassroots efforts of Friends4Expo Transit, The Transit Coalition, SoCATA and other non-profit entities to further causes and ends that had NOTHING to do with the goal of increased mobility created by transportation spending. 
So a few reminders are in order to the politicians, developers, advocates (of which I am one) and other folks who truly believe that our latest half-cent sales tax (Measure R) needs to be extended, expanded or elaborated to finish our cause of transportation, transit and mobility for 21st Century LA County: 

1) After seeing the enabling of developers and planners and all those "fighting for a cause", but who really are just trying to enrich themselves, we're seeing "going green" becoming too much about the green dollar, not the green environment.  We do NOT have to pass the next transportation measure. 

2) After being warned repeatedly about our drought and our need to conserve water, electricity, etc., we're seeing too much emphasis about new housing and densification that makes no environmental sense.  We do NOT have to pass the next transportation measure. 

3) After fighting and paying for a bicycle lane, sharrow and other grid for bicyclists, we're not hearing enough about bicyclist responsibilities and motorists' rights.  BOTH bicyclists and motorists have rights and responsibilities and should learn how to share the roads.  "Adrenaline junkie" bicyclists that don't obey stop signs and stop lights and cause near-accidents and terrify motorists need the police to ticket them.  We do NOT have to pass the next transportation measure. 

4) While the LA City Council talks taxes, bonds and other payment methods to shake down homeowners, property owners and the rest of us to pay for roads and sidewalks, NO ONE there is talking about thinking outside the box and focusing on cost-effective measures, perhaps the rubber sidewalk alternative and keeping our budget focused on making our road/sidewalk repairs as low-cost as possible.  We do NOT have to pass the next transportation measure. 

5) Meanwhile, I hope that at least one mayoral or city councilmember rep is telling the DWP unions, police unions (or any other taxpayer-funded unions) that NO ONE WILL GET A RAISE until we can get our roads, sidewalks and water pipes repaired.  We do NOT have to pass the next transportation measure. 

6) We also did NOT ask to destroy  single-family homes and tracts, which now apparently are beginning to attract millennials as they get older and want families of their own.  Transit-oriented, multi-unit and affordable housing is great...but it doesn't have to be for everyone, and single-family homeowners aren't deserving of being overly-taxed or pushed out of Los Angeles--especially since they're paying for much of these measures.  We do NOT have to pass the next transportation measure.

7) Finally, those who will continue to use cars--and, in particular, those who truly MUST use their cars--to access our growing light rail/subway system to use parking are helping to PAY for our transportation measures just like everyone else, and they deserve to not be demonized.  No one deserves to be demonized, or told to pay up and get nothing in return.  We do NOT have to pass the next transportation measure. 

It would be really GREAT if we had a transportation measure that was transparent and really created a mobility, economic and transportation backbone for Los Angeles County in 2016. 
But we do NOT have to pass that next transportation measure.

Electric Tricycles: Something You Didn’t Expect to See in CityWatch


By Bob Gelfand, September 18, 2014


GELFAND’S WORLD-You probably didn't expect to see an article about tricycles in CityWatch, but what if they were really cool, adult sized vehicles that are powered by electricity, and that they can potentially help solve our traffic problems? What if I were to tell you that I watched grownups -- wearing suits and ties -- zooming around on futuristic tricycles inside the harbor's old Warehouse 10 at the Port Tech expo? 
In a world of diminishing gasoline supplies and increasingly crowded freeways, we have been offered a limited selection of transportation methods. You've got the automobile, the bus, and the commuter rail line. A few people use motorcycles. For the really hardy, there is the bicycle. I've known a few bicycle commuters, but the likelihood that this will become a majority transportation mode in a city this large seems fairly unlikely to me. When you've got a 20 mile commute each way, that's a lot of mileage to push your pedals through. 

Still, there ought to be a place for something like the bicycle as we integrate mass rapid transit into the life of the Los Angeles community. Getting it right depends on solving the problem of getting people to and from their homes to those light rail commuter stations. It turns out to be a curiously difficult task. One way would have been to plan the city a little differently a century ago, and to save huge parking areas all over town. Park and ride could have been universal. We didn't figure that part out in time. 

So we are building light rail commuter lines and imagining the new technology known as personal rapid transit, but we still have the problem of getting ourselves to the stations. 

Professionals refer to the issue of getting you from your home to the train station as the "last mile" problem. Transportation planners are good at laying out maps for subways and light rail, but they haven't been very good at figuring out how to get you to the station. If you live 5 miles away, you either have to catch a ride or take a hike twice a day. 

But suppose you could ride to the station on a 21st century device, and just take it with you on the train? Then, at the end of your train ride, you could go the rest of the way to your job using the same device. 

I'd like to report on two attempts at that "last mile" solution that I saw at the Port Tech show. 
The first device looked teensy at first glance. To me, it looked a little like something you would have put together out of an Erector Set in the old days. But it's a full-powered motor scooter which can be used in either a two wheeled configuration or in tricycle form. It weighs less than 30 pounds, and runs on rechargeable batteries. The Urb-e company has created a transportation device that will sell for roughly the same price as last generation's laptop computer -- figure a little under a thousand dollars. 

What impressed me is that the device is being marketed as "The ultimate 'last mile' vehicle." Here I've been trying to solve that problem in my own head, and this company went and built a solution. It's not for everybody of course, but the idea is to whittle down the negatives on commuter rail and personal rapid transit, and make life easier for people who can take advantage of such futuristic devices. 

Let me borrow a line from somebody who is involved in the design of light weight vehicles. As he explained, the cost of keeping a couple of cars in your garage is going to run you fifty dollars a day. And as I am forced to point out, gasoline isn't getting cheaper. So the more of us who can switch out of the gas guzzlers, the better our economy will be, and the easier our commutes will be. 

The other company that was marketing a futuristic electric tricycle was Acton. Their version, referred to as the M Scooter, is bigger and feels more stable. It's designed to carry somebody in a business suit or wearing a kilt (or a dress). That's because you can move the seat out of the way and drive it standing up, or you can set the seat back, like on a bicycle. 

The M Scooter is roughly a yard long, a yard high, and can be stored in an area only half a yard wide. That's because its rear wheels and its foot rests can be folded out of the way. In the folded configuration, the M Scooter is similar to a bicycle with two very closely spaced rear wheels. 
This means that the M Scooter would be ideal for taking with you on a personal rapid transit passenger carrier. In its folded configuration, it's adequately small to fit into a storage space.

It's also potentially something that could be brought with you on a commuter rail line. It's clean because it's all electric. That means that it's not at all like trying to sneak a gasoline powered motorbike onto the subway.  I've seen people take bicycles onto the BART trains in the bay area, and the system works just fine. The M Scooter is comparably sized and would work well as one element of a commuter system that is designed to work with light rail. 

Just to mention in passing: The Port Tech organization and its Expo featured several other home grown innovations. One of the more interesting was a UCLA invention that uses semipermeable membranes to clean the salt out of water and make it drinkable. The design group has shot past the theoretical questions and has full sized units already producing thousands of gallons of clean water each day.

Personal Rapid Transit Is Probably Never Going to Happen

But the podcar concept will live on in the form of compact driverless vehicles.

By Eric Jaffe, September 19, 2014


The Mineta Transportation Institute just released a massive comprehensive report on "Automated Transit Networks"—more commonly known as personal rapid transit, and more casually known as podcars. Whatever their name, these systems use on-demand pods and exclusive guideways to combine the advantages of private vehicles with those of rail transit. But while the Mineta report considers the future prospects of podcars, it's equally appropriate to wonder if they really have one.

At least as they're currently conceived, they probably don't. Though the concept has been around for half a century, only five completed systems in the world can be reasonably defined as personal rapid transit: those in Morgantown, West Virginia, which opened in 1975; Rotterdam in The Netherlands (1999); Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (2010); Heathrow Airport in London (2011); and Suncheon Bay in South Korea (2014). While there's been a noticeable uptick in the past 15 years, four projects in that span is still, in the report's own words, "not enough to claim that there is an active market sufficient to support an industry."

That's especially true if you consider that four of the systems hardly qualify as full-fledged. The podcars in Masdar and Suncheon are really just shuttles at the moment. The one in Rotterdam is a feeder that links suburban offices to a rail station on a guideway that isn't even exclusive all the way. And the one in Heathrow is basically an alternative to an airport people mover. Other proposals and plans have surfaced in this time—an elevated podcar system in Tel Aviv being the latest—but nothing has come of them.

The most impressive personal rapid transit system to date is the one built (as a government-funded experiment) on the West Virginia University campus in Morgantown back in the 1970s. The Morgantown PRT reaches five stations on more than eight miles of dedicated track, with pods that each seat eight people. Riders indicate their destination, and the pod can skip intermediary stops to get there (though during off-peak hours it waits a few minutes for others going to the same place). During the school year, some 15,000 people ride each day.

The Morgantown system shows the promise of personal rapid transit, and probably explains why the idea has hung around for so long despite rarely being realized. Transit advocates like it because such systems have the potential to reduce car reliance in cities. Transit opponents like it, too, because the on-demand service, relatively private pods, and direct-to-destination trips kind of make it public transportation without the whole bothersome public thing.

Upon closer inspection, it's this attempt to be everything to everyone that creates some problems for personal rapid transit. As more people use the system, it becomes less able to accommodate individual demand for destinations, which renders it more of a traditional rail transit system—but without enough capacity to handle rush-hour crowds. Meanwhile, the direct-to-destination element still can't beat the door-to-door service offered by taxi networks. In other words, personal rapid transit reproduces modes that already exist in the city, only less effectively.

For all that, cities still take on significant costs. Mineta estimates a cost of $10 million to $20 million per elevated mile for a medium-capacity personal rapid transit system (below). Only a handful of companies "can credibly deliver" a system within a few years, according to the report, and it's hard to see any of them being realized "without public intervention." Factor in the inevitable cost overruns of mega-projects, and podcars become a drain on precious transit resources without providing all of transit's benefits.

(Mineta Transportation Institute)

Then there's the problem of integrating such systems into the existing urban landscape. Between the need to dedicate lanes to high-capacity transit, create space for cyclists and walkers, and reduce road capacity overall where possible, there's just not much room for new low-capacity fixed systems on city streets. That leaves elevated podcar systems, which opens up a world of complexity with existing city infrastructure—exemplified by an awkward image in the Mineta report showing a PRT line blasting through sidewalk trees above the heads of pedestrians:

That's the elevated podcar up there—in the tree above the pedestrian's head. (Mineta Transportation Institute)

There are some situations where personal rapid transit seems like a reasonable option: distinct areas like airports or neighborhoods, or perhaps small-to-medium sized cities (Mineta suggests those with populations under 250,000) without mature transit networks. Cities like Masdar, being built from scratch to discourage private vehicles and road reliance from the get-go, are the ideal podcar canvas. Yonah Freemark summed up this potential best a couple years back:
For airports and new cities, PRT could supplement other mass transit systems rather effectively and encourage people to live car-free lifestyles by providing them destination-to-destination service with minimal walking to and from stations. In newly built environments, PRT could be constructed cheaply and it could be installed in such a way that does not disrupt its surroundings.
But there aren't many Masdars out there. And regardless, there's an even simpler reason why it's probably not going to happen for podcars: driverless cars. Once autonomous vehicles learn to navigate cities, they will offer every advantage of personal rapid transit without any of the limitations. In fact, cities that might once have deployed personal rapid transit have already turned to driverless cars, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom. An era of shared autonomous taxis is not far off.
Then again, the driverless cars of the futur
e might look a lot like the podcars of the past. Just take a look at the autonomous car prototype released by Google in May: it's as cute, compact, and geometrically similar as the personal rapid transit pods that zip around Morgantown. It's not a stretch to see them as conceptual cousins, with one capable of roaming the open roads while one is confined to closed tracks.

So there might a future for podcars after all—it just isn't the one initially envisioned.