Purpose

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 30, 2014

Zocalo Public Square tackles the can-we-fix-traffic question at last night’s event

http://thesource.metro.net/2014/09/30/zocalo-public-square-tackles-the-can-we-fix-traffic-question-at-last-nights-event/

By Steve Hymon, September 30, 2014


 From left, UCLA's Brian Taylor, FAST's Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW's Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
 From left, UCLA’s Brian Taylor, FAST’s Hilary Norton, Metro CEO Art Leahy and KCRW’s Kajon Cermac. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Zocalo Public Square and Metro held a panel discussion Monday night at the Petersen Automotive Museum with an appropriate topic for the venue: what, if anything, can be done to speed up traffic in our region?

A podcast of the discussion is above (see website). KCRW traffic reporter Kajon Cermac served as the moderator with the panel including Metro CEO Art Leahy, UCLA Director of Transportation Studies’ Brian Taylor and Hilary Norton, executive director of Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic.

Can traffic be fixed or seriously improved? The short answer: probably not much can be done unless the region embraces drastic and politically unpopular measures such as heavier tolling across all lanes on freeways to reduce peak hour traffic, passing laws to greatly restrict driving, building many billions of dollars of new freeways (which includes the challenge of finding places to put them) or going the Detroit route by shedding jobs, residents and the local economy.

In other words, as UCLA’s Taylor put it, the status quo of traffic congestion is the least bad option for the politicians who frequently ask him how to fix traffic.

Which is not to say that things can’t be done to improve mobility and even some traffic.

Taylor praised the congestion pricing projects on freeways in our region (which Metro’s ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110) and said they are improving capacity and speeds in the toll lanes, as well as Metro’s Rapid Buses and the Orange Line. Norton pointed to the increasing number of people taking transit to big events.

And Leahy noted that thanks to Measure R, Metro is currently in the midst of the largest transit building boom in the nation (one that will include a subway station next door to both the Petersen and LACMA on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile). He said the goal is to keep expanding the transit network and making it work better so that people can use it travel far and wide and get out of their cars.

The conversation covered a lot of ground and I’m interested in feedback and comments from those who listened or attended the event.

My three cents: I felt like it was a good, albeit brief, adult conversation about traffic and urban planning — and the fact that traffic is not something easily “fixed” without serious consequences. I also thought UCLA’s Brian Taylor did a good job pointing to the fact that a lot of the traffic stereotypes about our region are total bunk and that concentrating density around transit and high activity centers may not fix traffic — but often makes places nicer, happier places to live and visit.

APTA: 2.7B trips taken on public transportation

http://www.metro-magazine.com/news/story/2014/09/apta-2-7b-trips-taken-on-public-transportation.aspx?ref=Express-Tuesday-NEW-20140930&utm_campaign=Express-Tuesday-NEW-20140930&utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Enewsletter

September 30, 2014




More than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the second quarter of 2014, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) — a 1.1% increase over the same quarter last year, representing an increase of 30 million more trips. Public transportation ridership outpaced urban vehicle miles traveled (VMT) which grew at 0.97% for this quarter.

Noting that in five of the last eight quarters, ridership on U.S. public transportation has increased, APTA President/CEO Michael Melaniphy said, "Public transportation ridership continues to grow nationally, showing that federal investment in public transit is paying off. With greater travel options, peoples' lives improve and communities grow."

MetroRail, the commuter rail line for Austin, Texas, reached record ridership for the second quarter. Its ridership has quadrupled since it was launched in 2010. With the new light rail system that opened in April 2013 in Denver light rail ridership reached record numbers with an increase of 8.1% in the second quarter. Seattle's five year old light rail line saw another record quarter with a quarterly ridership increase of 17%, marking 20 consecutive quarters of double digit growth.

Ridership reached record numbers in several systems across the country. For example, Capital District Transportation Authority (Albany, N.Y.), Spokane Transit (Spokane, Wash.) and Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (Canton, Ohio), saw quarterly record ridership numbers, as did San Mateo County's commuter rail line Caltrain (San Carlos, Calif.). New York’s Long Island Rail Road saw the highest ridership for the month of June since June 2008 when gas prices were very high.

Ridership increases were due to a number of factors including high gas prices and recovering local economies. Nationally, the average cost of a gallon of gas in the second quarter was $3.75.
Nationally, heavy rail ridership increased by 3.2%; light rail ridership increased by 2.8% in the second quarter of 2014; commuter rail systems increased by 3.1% in the second quarter; bus ridership decreased nationally by 1.2%, although in cities with populations of less than two million, bus ridership increased; demand response (paratransit) increased in the second quarter of 2014 by 2.2%; and trolleybus ridership decreased by 3.8%.

To view APTA’s ridership report, click here.

Ground is broken for Regional Connector project to link Blue, Expo and Gold Lines

http://thesource.metro.net/2014/09/30/ground-is-broken-for-regional-connector-project-to-link-blue-expo-and-gold-lines/

By Steve Hymon, September 30, 2014


RegionalConnectorMap
RegConnectorPlan

The official groundbreaking for the $1.42-billion Regional Connector project is being held this morning in Little Tokyo. The 1.9-mile underground light rail line will link the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines, allowing for faster and more frequent service on Metro’s light rail lines to and through downtown Los Angeles.

The project will also eliminate the need to transfer for many light rail riders. Riders on the Expo and Blue Line will be able to continue north on light rail from 7th/Metro Center to other downtown neighborhoods such as the Financial District, Civic Center and Little Tokyo. Likewise, Gold Line riders will no longer have to transfer to the Red/Purple Line subway at Union Station to reach the heart of downtown.

The project is currently forecast to be completed in 2020. When done, Metro plans to run trains between Long Beach and Azusa on a north-south light rail line and east-west between Santa Monica and East Los Angeles. Metro continues to work on potential naming and color schemes for its light rail lines to be used in the future.

Three other Metro Rail projects are already under construction: the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line, the six-mile second phase of the Expo Line to downtown Santa Monica and the 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Extension to the Azusa/Glendora border. The 3.9-mile first phase of the Purple Line Extension subway is in pre-construction with utility relocations underway.

The Regional Connector, like those other projects, is receiving funding from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in November 2008.
Below are the station renderings. We’ll add more pics to The Source from today’s media event later and will be posting photos to our Twitter and Instagram streams during the event. Media, bloggers, anyone: feel free to use/share any photos or renderings that we post.

Here is the news release from Metro:

Federal, State & Local Elected Officials Join in Groundbreaking Ceremony

Metro Breaks Ground on New Regional Connector Light Rail Project in Downtown Los Angeles

Metro joined U.S Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx along with state and local elected officials today to officially break ground on the $1.420 billion Regional Connector Light Rail Project in downtown Los Angeles that will better connect the Metro Blue, Gold and Expo lines with the rest of the region.

“This project will mean people can take a one-seat ride through Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, the Eastside and points in-between,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “Bringing our rail lines together and making transfers simpler will make it easier for people to use rail and will help take more cars off the road.”

The Regional Connector Project completes a 1.9-mile segment between the Metro Blue and Expo Lines and the Metro Gold Line by providing a direct connection with three new stations planned for 1st Street/Central Avenue, 2nd Street/Broadway and 2nd Place/Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Regional Connector will dramatically improve passengers’ daily commutes,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina.”It will provide them with better connections to the rest of the Metro Rail system without requiring them to transfer from one line to another. The Regional Connector is a major step forward in transforming Los Angeles County’s mass transit network into a truly world-class system.”

The Regional Connector Project is an important rail connection project overwhelmingly approved by the voters and funded by the Measure R half-cent sales tax ordinance for LA County transportation improvements. In addition to Measure R funding, a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the federal government secures $670 million for the project. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted Metro a loan of $160 million for the Regional Connector project from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan (TIFIA) to complete the project.

“Los Angeles is a world-class city and deserves a world-class transit system. Today’s groundbreaking for the Regional Connector represents the coming together of federal and local efforts to invest in our rail system and put Angelenos to work building our city. These new improvements will provide significant economic and environmental benefits for Angelenos not just in downtown L.A., but throughout Los Angeles County,” said Congressman Xavier Becerra.

“The Regional Connector is an example of our commitment to develop transportation projects that serve the entire County,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Knabe.  “This project will make it easy and seamless for commuters to get to their destination, which has a huge impact on their quality-of-life.  Linking lines that cover nearly every corner of the County will vastly improve Metro’s network and the experience of our riders.  This is exactly the type of project voters asked for when they approved Measure R – expanding transit to serve all residents.”

The Regional Connector Project, expected to be completed in 2020, will attract nearly 17,000 new daily riders and provide access to more than 88,000 passengers saving commuters up to 20 minutes off their daily commutes. It will provide a one-seat, one fare ride for commuters from Azusa to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica without the need to transfer between rail lines for major east/west and north/south trips.

“The groundbreaking for the Regional Connector is another welcomed step in increasing the efficiency of our Metro system,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard. “When the Regional Connector is completed, many of my constituents commuting through Downtown will have a chance to reduce their commuting time by 20 minutes.  I hope that Metro Rail’s expansion plans will continue to bring rail service to new parts of L.A. County.  Many of the communities I represent, including the Southeast cities, would benefit greatly from further Metro expansion.”

The new Metro Rail extension will offer an alternative transportation option to congested roadways, provide significant environmental benefits and spur economic development throughout the County. Through improved connectivity, riders will be better able to use the entire Metro Rail system, municipal bus lines and other regional transportation services.

“While its execution will be grand in scale, the Regional Connector’s true aim is simply to make the lives of those who depend on public transit better,” said Los Angeles Councilmember and former Metro Board Member José Huizar. “From helping parents get home sooner to be with their children, to taking the stress out of being stuck in traffic, to reducing pollution so the air we breathe is cleaner – these quality of life attributes will be the true legacy of this great project and I am proud to help bring the Regional Connector to Downtown L.A.” 

In April, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors approved a $927.2 million contract to Regional Connector Constructors, a joint venture between Skanska USA Civil West California District, Inc. and Traylor Brothers Inc. to design and build the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project.

In awarding the contract, it was noted that Skanska/Traylor had the overall highest ranking including the highest technical score and the highest evaluated score for pricing, based on the criteria in the request for proposals. In recommending the award of the contract, staff noted that Skanska/Traylor indicated that they plan to finish construction 115 days early and will absorb the cost of any delays caused by Metro or subcontractors.

Most Americans Still Driving, but New Census Data Reveal Shifts at the Metro Level

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/the-avenue/posts/2014/09/29-americans-driving-census-data-metro-tomer-kane

By Adie Tomer and Joseph Kane, September 29, 2014

Driving to work has been a staple in the American commute for decades, but it appears the country’s love affair with cars is stalling in many places. After years of sustained growth, driving levels are flat-lining, while more young people are opting for alternative transportation modes.

Newly released Census data from the 2013 American Community Survey offers additional insight into the shifting nature of our daily commutes.

To be sure, the car is still king for the United States as a whole. Based on the new Census estimates, over 85 percent of all workers still get to their jobs by private automobile. That amounts to over 122 million commuters, the vast majority of whom travel alone rather than in a carpool. It’s also relatively consistent with our commuting patterns from 1980, when nearly the same percentage of workers commuted by car.

But those long-term trends mask real changes over the past few years. The share of national commuters traveling by private vehicle is edging down for the first time in decades—from 86.5 percent in 2007 to 85.8 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, other transportation modes have grown in relative importance. Public transportation, which just recorded the most passenger trips since 1956, saw its share jump to over 5 percent, reaching levels not seen since 1990. The share of those bicycling and walking to work also continued to rise, now representing nearly 4 percent of all commuters. The biggest gain, however, came from those workers who didn’t technically commute at all. With the help of burgeoning broadband coverage, nearly as many people now work from home as ride public transportation to their jobs.

Leading these national trends are the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.* Over two-thirds of these places experienced driving declines between 2007 and 2013, while also simultaneously seeing a rise in commuters walking, bicycling or working at home. 

Metropolitan Share of Non-Car Commuters, 2007 to 2013Metropolitan Share of Non-Car Commuters, 2007 to 2013
Source: Brookings analysis of American Community Survey data

From Los Angeles and Seattle to Boston and Miami, this shift in commuting patterns is taking place all across the country, even in traditionally car-centric locations. Large metros like New York and San Francisco grew their transit shares, but so did Tucson and Albany. Similar shares of people now bike or walk to work in Columbia, SC, as they do in Portland, OR.

Over time, these evolving commuting habits will help influence—and be shaped by—the built environment of our communities. The proliferation of pedestrian-scaled developments, for instance, represents one way in which many metropolitan areas are stitching together their urban fabric and responding to a new geography of innovation. As more individuals work from home, stroll to their office, or even engage in widespread bike sharing and car sharing, metropolitan areas will need to consider a range of plans and policies that further address these multimodal needs.

*: Due to changing metropolitan definitions and limited county-level data, we can only compare 69 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas between 2007 and 2013. For a more thorough technical explanation, see Elizabeth Kneebone and Natalie Holmes’ report on the same data issues.

Los Angeles Is Building an e-Highway

The road would eliminate truck emissions, and is being tested in a corridor that connects the port to downtown.

http://www.citylab.com/tech/2014/09/los-angeles-is-building-an-e-highway/380914/

By Nate Berg, September 30, 2014

Image



 The neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach bring in roughly 40 percent of the goods shipped to the United States. Once there, the first leg of their journey to warehouses and stores and cities across the country is a 20-mile stretch of roadway between the ports and downtown L.A. known as the Alameda Corridor, used almost exclusively by large trucks hauling goods between the ports and various freight rail links. The corridor's high concentration of diesel-truck traffic has created a similarly high concentration of pollution in the surrounding areas, causing health and air-quality concerns for nearby residents and the region as a whole.

But a new road design project dubbed the e-highway is aiming to reduce and maybe even eliminate the pollution problems caused by all this truck traffic. The experimental system is being built along a mile of the corridor to test how highly polluting diesel truck traffic could instead run on emission-free electric power. If successful, this demonstration could offer a solution to pollution-related problems along the Alameda Corridor and other high-traffic roadways all over the world.

The e-highway consists of an overhead catenary system that will run along the outside lanes of both sides of the road, sort of like the overhead wires that provide power to electric buses, trolleys, and trains in cities. Specially outfitted hybrid or all-electric trucks can attach to the system using automated current-transfer devices called pantographs. Once connected, the trucks will pull all their power from the overhead lines, effectively becoming emission-free vehicles.

The $13 million project is a collaboration between the electronics and engineering company Siemens and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the public agency tasked with controlling air pollution in Orange County and the urban parts of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Construction is underway, and officials behind the project expect the two-way, one-mile system to be operational by July 2015. SCAQMD will then conduct a yearlong test of the system using up to four different trucks, each with a different engine type and fuel source. Though four trucks are just a small fraction of the corridor's traffic on any given day, they could pave the way for a larger-scale transition of port truck traffic from diesel to electric—in L.A. and beyond.

"It makes a lot of sense to deploy this system where you need to bridge a short area, where the distance isn't too long, where you have heavy traffic from trucks," says Matthias Schlelein, president of Siemens' mobility and logistics division in the U.S.

Schlelein says the project has three main goals: to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, to preserve the flexibility of trucks in the goods movement chain, and to be operationally cost-effective. He's confident the system will work, because Siemens has been testing a prototype of this overhead system at one of its German facilities. Schlelein says the L.A. ports complex is an ideal place to use the technology in the real world.


(Siemens)
It's also a place in need of new solutions. A 2010 study from the University of California Transportation Center estimated that the annual cost of health impacts from exposure to pollutants in the major freight corridors around the ports—measured by increased incidence of respiratory illnesses and premature deaths—was roughly $900 million. And another study by researchers at the University of Southern California, in 2005, found striking correlations between childhood asthma and proximity to major corridors and freeways.

"For our region, on-road, big, heavy-duty trucks contribute the most NOX emissions, which in turn form smog or ozone," says Matt Miyasoto, deputy executive officer for science and technology advancement at SCAQMD. Miyasoto says the worst polluters are heavy-duty diesel technologies like trucks, bulldozers, graders, marine vessels, and locomotives. "They're all conventional, big diesel engines," he says, "and they're all related to the goods movement chain."

The impact of this pollution is being felt on the ground in the communities surrounding the major corridors leading out of the ports. "We think there's a disproportional impact on the areas that run along these major corridors," says Miyasoto. "We do believe it's an environmental justice issue, and technologies like these which give us zero emission miles in areas where you need it are necessary to ensure not only that the economic engine of our region, the ports, can continue to do business and grow but that the communities aren't adversely impacted."

Funding for the project is coming from a variety of organizations, including the California Energy Commission, the California Environmental Protection Agency, SCAQMD, the Port of Long Beach, and potentially the Port of Los Angeles. Some community groups in the areas immediately adjacent to the ports and the Alameda Corridor have also contributed.

Miyasoto says it's in everyone's best interest to start looking for and implementing this type of solution to freight emissions. If the EPA implements stricter standards on the amount of allowable pollutants in the air, as he expects, more high-traffic areas across the country will find themselves in non-compliance. The e-highway could be a relatively quick way to transition from heavily polluting vehicles to those that are emission-free. "We can look at any long stretch of corridor that is near populated areas and envision that this could be a solution for that area," Miyasoto says.

The one-mile test of the e-highway system may just be the start. Miyasoto says the various funders are hoping to expand the system along the remaining three miles from the ports to the major railhead, and there are discussions underway about a 20-mile northwest corridor that could connect the ports with inland warehouse complexes. If this first mile test works out, it could help provide a healthier future for high-traffic corridors around the world.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti: We Will Be the First City to Do Autonomous Vehicles Right

He says Angelenos "might not own cars" in as soon as a decade.

http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/09/la-mayor-we-will-be-the-first-city-with-true-autonomous-vehicles/380915/

By John Metcalfe, September 29, 2014

 Image

 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at The Atlantic's CityLab 2014 summit.



It's no secret that Eric Garcetti has a thing for autonomous vehicles. At a conference last winter, L.A.'s self-proclaimed "tech mayor" shared his dream of having an entire neighborhood devoted to whirring, driverless machines.

Today at The Atlantic's CityLab 2014 summit in downtown Los Angeles he doubled down on that vision, saying that L.A. "could be the first place really in an urban center where we have autonomous vehicles that are able to be ordered up [like] a car service, right away in a real neighborhood, not just in a protected area."

Garcetti's future-gazing came in the context of the city's ongoing, massive expansion of its transit system. A slew of new rail lines are in the works, and beleaguered air travelers are finally getting a cheap and direct conduit to LAX. The mayor said it was not enough to ponder the current construction projects, and not even what comes next, which he said might be more bus rapid transit lanes. Garcetti's interested in what Michael Lewis might call the new, new thing, which he painted as inevitable as the rising of the sun.

“While we're building out this rail network, we simultaneously should be looking at, I think, bus rapid transit lanes, not because BRTs are [good]of course they've been proven successfulbut because autonomous vehicles are going to be here," he said. "How do you spend billions of dollars on fixed rail, when we might not own cars in this city in a decade or a decade and a half?"

Such bus lanes could come in handy when the age of autonomy arrives, he added. "A bus lane today, may be a bus and an autonomous vehicle lane tomorrow."

That's not empty talk: Garcetti says the city is working with UCLA to develop a neighborhood for driverless vehicles, perhaps around the university in Westwood. He's also working on something secretive-sounding with the brains at Xerox—"kind of like the Skunk Works guys who brought us the mouse and everything else"—to manage such a driverless network, as well as more traditional manned vehicles from bus down to bicycle.

The basic idea is that commuters would be allowed to purchase a dollar amount of transit (say, $500 a month) and then use their phones or computers to order transit in the way they might a pizza. Here's Garcetti's explanation of what this platform might involve:
"Now through a single app, I could order a taxi, an Uber, a Lyft, a Sidecar; I could get on the bus, I could get on the rail, I could take out a shared bike, I could get a shared car like a Zipcar or something like that. And you never have to stress out anymore about how you're going to get some place. You know you have the options.... And maybe the city makes a small transaction fee off of that, or MTA, so it's actually in our interest to build that and then share that open-source again with the rest of the world."