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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Schedule of public hearings for Gold Line Eastside Extension study


By Steve Hymon, September 23, 2014


Here’s the news release from Metro:

A series of public hearings conducted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is set to receive community input to a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) on a proposed extension of the Metro Gold Line Eastside light rail system from East Los Angeles to either South El Monte or Whittier. In addition to the two alternatives, the Draft EIR/EIS analyzes a Transportation Systems Management proposal that identifies bus corridor improvements and a no-build option. The environmental document was released August 22, 2014.

Metro will conduct four public hearings during a 60 day public comment period, which is open until 5 p.m. October 21, 2014, each to include a 30 minute open house when the public can view the Draft EIR/EIS, see project display and talk to staff. They are:

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Pico Rivera Senior Center
9200 Mines Ave. Pico Rivera, CA 90660
Open House: 9 a.m. Public Hearing: 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Monday, September 29, 2014                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
 Quiet Cannon BanquetCenter
901 Via San Clemente, Montebello, CA 90640
Open House: 5:30 p.m. Public Hearing: 6-8 p.m.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014                                                                                        
Uptown Whittier Senior Center
13225 Walnut Street, Whittier, CA 90602
Open House: 5:30 p.m. Public Hearing: 6-8 p.m.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014  
South El Monte Senior Center
1556 Central Avenue, South El Monte, CA 91733
Open House: 5:30 p.m. Public Hearing: 6-8 p.m.

The Draft EIR/EIS studied the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2, an extension of the existing Gold Line connecting Pasadena and East Los Angeles through Union Station to communities where commuting to work is expected to grow by 32 percent by 2035 and peak period travel times to increase 25 percent in the morning and 34 percent in the afternoon by 2035.

The Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 project includes proposals known as the SR 60 Alternative and the Washington Boulevard Alternative.

The SR 60 Alternative proposes a 6.9 miles extension of mostly elevated tracks running adjacent to the 60 freeway to South El Monte with four proposed new stations in Monterey Park, Montebello and South El Monte.

The Washington Boulevard Alternative would extend the Gold Line 9.5 miles, traveling south in an aerial configuration down Garfield Avenue, turning southeast on Washington Boulevard where it would transition to a street running operation at Montebello Boulevard before ending in Whittier. The alternative would include six proposed new stations in Montebello, Pico Rivera and Whittier.

Each of the two alternatives would begin at the Eastside Gold Line’s current terminus at Atlantic and Pomona boulevards in East Los Angeles.

Estimated ridership for the SR 60 Alternative is 16,700 boardings each weekday with a cost estimate of approximately $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion in 2010 dollars. Estimated ridership for the Washington Boulevard Alternative is 19,900 weekday boardings with an estimated cost of approximately $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion in 2010 dollars.

An EIR is required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and an EIS fulfills requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The laws require government agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects. Information from public comments will be weighed before preparing the final environmental document.

Metro staff is scheduled to present a summary of technical analysis and comments received along with a recommended Locally Preferred Alternative to the Metro Board of Directors in November and the Board will decide how to proceed.

For more information about the project, review the Draft EIR/EIS and submit comments, visit the project web page at www.metro.net/eastsidephase2

Your electric car isn’t making California’s air any cleaner


By Lisa Margonelli, September 23, 2014

This is a tale of two zip codes.
First there’s 94582: San Ramon, Calif.


 Since 2010, the roughly 38,000 citizens and businesses of this prosperous Bay Area suburb, where the median household income is $140,444, have purchased 463 zero-emissions vehicles. Such vehicles receive major state subsidies; nearly $1 million of these subsidies went to vehicle purchasers in San Ramon. But San Ramon doesn’t need the anti-pollution help. Despite being home to a large highway complex and a business park, the city scores in the cleanest 10 percent of California’s zip codes, according to the CalEPA’s Enviroscreen Index.

The second zip code is 93640, the Central Valley town of Mendota, population 11,800, with a median annual household income of $28,660, which is less than the $36,625 sticker price of a battery-powered Honda Fit EV. Mendota is in the top 10 percent of California zip codes for pollution and vulnerabilities such as childhood asthma, according to the CalEnviroScreen. And how many vehicles were purchased there under state subsidies? Exactly one, a lone car whose owner received $2,500.

California’s green vehicle policies have been successful enough to become a model for other states, fueling a movement that is electric, both literally and culturally. The state’s audaciously utopian vision has cajoled an initially reluctant auto industry into producing cheaper, better behaving electric cars, led by the media-savvy upstart Tesla. Since 2010, Californians have put more than 100,000 electric vehicles on the road. But those green vehicle policies contain a flaw that undermines their intent and magnifies the unfairness of California’s economy. These rebates — of as much as $5,000, funded by an extra charge on vehicle registrations — go mostly to affluent communities on California’s coast.

Of the $151 million in subsidies paid since 2010, people who bought zero-emissions vehicles in the Bay Area, South Coast (Los Angeles), and San Diego Air Basins have gotten $132 million. Over the same period, people in the San Joaquin Valley have gotten $3 million, despite having the most intractable air quality problems in the state.

Go below the Valley’s smog, and the problem runs much deeper: Its cars are old — much older, on average, than the state’s vehicle fleet. Estimates suggest that the median vehicle in poorer Valley communities is from 1996. According to the Air Resources Board, a vehicle made in 1996 produces 29 times as much pollution per mile from its tailpipe as one sold in 2012.

Translation: The Valley’s stock of old gas guzzlers is wiping out the clean air benefits of the subsidies we’ve bestowed upon the wealthy parts of the state.

You can see the dynamic by looking at those two zip codes together. Every 1997 vehicle in Mendota wipes out the emissions benefits of 29 electric vehicles in San Ramon. More precisely, it only takes 16 of Mendota’s finest clunkers to turn the benefits of nearly $1 million in subsidies for San Ramon into a pile of sooty particulate.

I am not making this point to advocate the end of the green vehicle subsidies, but to point out that these subsidies were created to target the state’s wealthy. And they succeeded.

Rebates, tax credits, and HOV lane stickers appealed to the better-off in parts of the state with thriving economies and traffic congestion. Now the state needs to come up with a new set of policies to target California’s many Mendotas. We need a suite of incentives — low-interest loans, nonprofit auto leasing, and more accessible, appropriate rural transit — to get working families out of older polluting vehicles and into cleaner transportation (which doesn’t have to be electric).

Last year, I spoke with a Mendota farmworker who drives a 1995 Ford Explorer. Mr. Hernandez drives twice as far to his skilled job every day — 115 miles round-trip — as the average driver of a Nissan Leaf. Last year, he had to pay for two smog tests and repairs, totaling around $500, just to keep his car registered.

From Hernandez’s point of view, the car is a money pit, but it’s necessary in order to get himself to work and bring his daughter to high school. (Parents have to drive their kids to school when the Valley’s Tule fog delays school start times.) Because the car gets only 15 mpg, he spends $400 to $500 a month on gasoline, and often puts off paying other bills to keep getting to work.

Hernandez said he’d love to get “a little Honda.” Ironically, if he had access to credit, he could get a Ford Fiesta for $1,400 down and $194 a month, which would cut his gasoline bill in half. But such credit is not easy to come by: The percentage of families without a bank account in Fresno is 3.5 times the national average, and used car dealers charge much higher interest.

A well-designed state program to enable families to finance or lease better cars would improve their financial situation and reduce gasoline consumption, and carbon emissions. Hernandez’s clunker is a big opportunity to make much more dramatic air quality gains than we’re currently achieving. Once they’re in place, these programs can be extended to make electric or other zero-emissions vehicles accessible to more families and income levels. This will not be easy, but it is no more utopian than the dream of kick-starting an electric vehicle market.

And as it now stands, California’s air incentive policies miss the people who could use them, and sometimes even seem to work in reverse.

California’s air districts offer cash to owners who turn in old, polluting cars to junkyards, but these programs seem to pick up clunkers that are not driven much. In a survey of 164 vehicles scrapped in Southern California, 29 percent were incapable of driving 25 mph.

By contrast, Hernandez, with his high weekly mileage, got stymied when he went to his local scrapyard. He was offered a $400 incentive, but was told he’d need to pay $650 to clear up an issue in the title. The deal simply didn’t make sense. “Now I own an antique!” he said throwing up his hands like a man who’s trapped. But he’s not the only one: California’s big green vision will be stuck in neutral until we figure out how to extend its promise to every zip code.

Transit and congestion, part 1: is transit a solution to congestion?


September 22, 2014

The issue of transit and congestion comes up quite often. Oftentimes, transit proponents will sell transit to car drivers as a solution to congestion in order to get them to support spending money on transit solutions.
In reality, transit rarely allows for congestion to be reduced. The simple reason is that if transit does manage to get traffic down, the reduced congestion is likely to lead to induced demand as more people will make choices that result in them driving across the congested chokepoints of the road network... or maybe even transit users who have cars will see that congestion is light and so will switch back to cars!
Indeed, transit in most cases is actually much slower than cars, in North American cities, it isn't rare for transit to take 2 to 3 times as much time as cars to get anywhere, at least without congestion. Subways in dense cities where cars are forced to drive slowly are one rare exception. The only way for transit to be really attractive is thus for cars to see their average speed fall because of congestion. The moment when car drivers switch for transit is when they see they have an advantage to do so, and the most obvious advantage is time.
Average speed of cars and transit (with or without right-of-way) on an highway as it congests
What the previous graph shows is that the moment when people are going to flock to transit is when the speed curve of cars go down to the level of the speed curve of transit, which only happens in the case of congestion. Transit with a right-of-way, which may be simply buses with a bus lane allowing them to bypass lines of stop-and-go traffic until they reach the chokepoint of the network, will also be much better at it. Transit that go in mixed traffic will also see speed fall because of congestion, and people will go to them much less readily.
So, is transit useless then? No, it is very useful to avoid having central urban areas be suffocated by traffic. 
Let's take a simple representation of a CBD and a suburb, connected with a single highway with a capacity of 20 000 people in cars over an AM peak period (6 to 9 AM). Currently, the road is at capacity in the morning peak, when most people commute to work.
The suburb is predicted to grow 10% over the next 10 years. This growth in population is likely to result in more jobs too, so normally you might see the CBD grow likewise to provide jobs to these people, because there is an advantage in industries to stay close to similar companies.
However, this would result in more people wanting to go through the road than it can bear. Congestion will rear its ugly head, then people will try to find ways around it. One of the ways would be to live in the CBD, but for many reasons, it tends not to be easy to do. Or roads can be widened, but that is often supremely expensive in urban areas. One of the most likely alternatives that may occur is that instead of being in the CBD, the job growth will occur elsewhere, in an industrial park near the suburb.
So, in this case, the CBD stagnates while suburbs and job centers in suburbs grow. This may not seem so bad, but this tends to lead to downtown areas losing vitality and importance, in the end, the CBD may even start losing jobs to industrial parks in suburbs. The new developments also tend to be car-dependent, forcing people to own cars to get anywhere, which increases costs for everyone.
Transit can offer an alternative. Indeed, transit can increase the capacity of roads, a single bus can carry 50 or 60 people and take the place of just 2 cars on the road. Betting on transit is a cheap way to increase road capacity and so to keep the CBD growing and staying a vital part of the region rather than becoming just another industrial park amongst others.
This kind of transit is a mixed blessing... yes, it allows the central city to keep growing and keep its relevance, but it also enables residential-only suburbs to keep growing and sprawling. So it prevents job sprawl, but not residential sprawl. It can even be seen as an enabler of sprawl, as a mere aspect of a road-only policy.
So transit doesn't reduce congestion... but allows more people through nonetheless because of its greater spatial efficiency. But there is another aspect of the relation between transit and congestion that needs to be talked about, and that is the disastrous effect congestion has on transit. For transit has actually historically been a victim of congestion.
It's late and it's a distinct enough subject to warrant another post, so I'll stop here tonight.

U.S. DOT to Publish Its Own Manual on Protected Bike Lanes


By Tanya Snyder, September 23, 2014

 FHWA's Dan Goodman pointed to before-and-after images from New York's First Avenue retrofit to show how separated bike lanes can improve safety. Photos: ##http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/42/First_Avenue_in_New_York_by_David_Shankbone.jpg##Wikimedia## and ##http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Downtown-First-Avenue.jpg##Streetsblog NYC##

 FHWA’s Dan Goodman pointed to before-and-after images from New York’s First Avenue redesign to show how protected bike lanes can improve safety.

Before the end of this year, the Federal Highway Administration will release its own guidance on designing protected bike lanes.

The agency’s positions on bicycling infrastructure has matured in recent years. Until recently, U.S. DOT’s policy was simple adherence to outdated and stodgy manuals like AASHTO’s Green Book and FHWA’s own Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) — neither of which included protected bike lanes.

In 2010, the department developed a policy stating that “every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems” and that they should “go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.” That was the first hint that the agency was looking beyond the Green Book and the MUTCD, which were (let’s face it) the very minimum of standards.

The department’s new strategic plan, released last year, emphasized pedestrian and bicycle safety and highlighted the need to create connected walking and biking networks that work for all ages and abilities, which is also a focus of the secretary’s new bike/ped safety initiative.

Then last year the agency explicitly endorsed “design flexibility,” unshackling engineers from the AASHTO and MUTCD “bibles” and encouraging them to take a look at the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ urban bikeway guide and the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ manual on walkability.

Now, with a secretary at the helm who’s determined to make bike and pedestrian safety his signature issue, the agency is going further. First, the next edition of the MUTCD (expected to be released in 2016 or 2017) will have a slew of new signage and markings recommendations for bicycling. FHWA’s Dan Goodman told an audience at Pro-Walk Pro-Bike earlier this month that the updated MUTCD is expected to have everything from signage indicating how bikes should make two-stage turns using bike boxes to stripes extending bike lanes through intersections — and, of course, guidance on buffered and protected bike lanes.

But perhaps more important than the changes to the MUTCD is the fact that FHWA is publishing its own manual dedicated to the design of protected bike lanes. (Despite the fact that the guide will deal exclusively with bike lanes that are protected from traffic with some kind of vertical barrier — not just paint — they still insist on calling the designs “separated” but not “protected” bike lanes, out of recognition of the fact that even what passes for “protection” in the U.S. these days — like flexible plastic bollards — don’t offer much protection against a moving car. Streetsblog calls these lanes “protected,” however, as a way to distinguish them from regular painted lanes, which are also “separated” from traffic.)

Goodman also pointed to the Dearborn Street bike lane in Chicago as a model. Photo: ##http://gridchicago.com/2012/dearborn-streets-celebrity-status-skyrockets/##Grid Chicago##
Goodman also pointed to the Dearborn Street bike lane in Chicago as a model.

And FHWA is collaborating with exactly the right people on the project. Carl Sundstrom from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center and Ryan Russo of NYC DOT, who presented alongside Goodman at Pro-Walk Pro-Bike, are both consulting on the new guidelines. Sam Schwartz Engineering and Kittelson & Associates, Inc. — firms which have developed specializations in protected bike lanes — are on the consultant team. NACTO and ITE are on the technical work group along with the League of American Bicyclists’ Equity Initiative and some forward-looking state DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies.

The guidelines will discuss the pros and cons of different intersection designs, one- versus two-way lanes, and different types of protection. Sometimes cities prefer two-way lanes to one-way lanes, or using parked cars as buffers instead of concrete, specifically because those treatments create enough width to allow street cleaning equipment to go through. Hot tips like that from experienced cities will fill the guide.

During their presentation, Russo and Sundstrom genially disagreed about whether separated signal phasing or mixing zones were the best way to deal with turning vehicles. Questions like these are still open to debate. It will be interesting to see how Goodman and his colleagues treat them in the manual — whether they’ll take sides or simply present the options.

In many cases, Goodman said, it’s hard to take a definitive stand on these treatments because there’s simply no data backing up one design over another. He and his colleagues weren’t satisfied with the safety analysis they were able to perform because they simply didn’t have good data to work with. “The data is not good enough to draw specific design conclusions,” he said.

Sundstrom, however, said the little before-and-after data they do have is convincing enough to say protected bike lanes improve safety. In Sundstrom’s study of protected bike lanes, total cyclist injuries did go up, but since more people were biking, the crash rate went down on eight out of nine streets. They also saw that crashes at intersections made up 90 percent of the crashes that did occur — up from 70 percent before the facility was installed — indicating that intersections are where they need to put their focus.

Russo said they found even more striking results in New York, where crashes with injuries went down 17 percent on streets with protected lanes. Injuries to motor vehicle occupants — “wonderful beneficiaries to these projects” — went down 25 percent. And despite the fact that biking in New York has quadrupled since 2000, the total number of crashes is actually down 2 percent, and injuries and fatalities remain flat, making for a 74 percent reduction in crash risk.

The FHWA document will end with a call to action, including a plea for cities to collect before-and-after data when they make changes. But Goodman makes clear that their commitment to promoting protected bike lanes isn’t up for negotiation and that the call to action will urge cities to build them. “One conclusion to draw from our effort is that yes, separated bike lanes are part of the toolbox that you can use to create and connect bike networks,” he said, “and that’s where we’re going.”

Port of L.A. fire spurs toxic-air concerns; some schools may be closed