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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Helsinki Has a Plan to Get People to Stop Owning Cars

A system being developed in Finland would allow people to subscribe to all kinds of mobility options and pay for everything on their phones


By Randy Rieland, September 30, 2014

The movement to dramatically reduce car traffic is picking up speed.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/helsinki-has-plan-to-get-people-stop-owning-cars-180952694/#rV0LpriJ1SDTEMbF.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Cars overcrowd the world’s cities, locking people into a commuting model that pretty much guarantees gridlock. To handle all of those vehicles, almost half of the space in cities is taken up by roads and what’s known in the urban planning business as “transportation storage”—what the rest of us call garages and parking lots. Considering that by mid-century, more than two out of every three people on Earth will live in metropolitan areas, all that space will be badly needed.

So what’s a city to do?

Helsinki, Finland, is thinking boldly: if its plans come to fruition, by 2025 no one in the city will need to own a car. While it may seem inconceivable, planners there believe that by combining one of the pillars of 20th century urban mobility—mass transit—with two of today’s more potent trends—the sharing economy and all-purpose smartphones—they can make car ownership a quaint concept.

Why drive?

The Finnish city has committed to a concept called “mobility on demand,” in which a wide range of transportation options from buses to driverless cars to bikes would be meshed together into one system that a person could use to order any trip on a smartphone. The passenger would need to enter just an origin and a destination, and the mobile app at the heart of the program would do the rest, selecting the most appropriate modes of transportation and mapping the best route based on real-time traffic data.

Everything would be covered through one payment plan, either through a monthly charge, like the taxi service Uber, or a pay-as-you-go option. Users would be able to monitor their costs and adjust how they use different means of getting around.

The plan offers door-to-door service that would eliminate the first-mile and last-mile complications of getting to and from public transit. And trips would be customized based on their purpose. For instance, since you wouldn’t need an empty car to get to the grocery store, a bike through a sharing program might be arranged, but a driverless car would be recommended to get you and all your food home. If the weather’s expected to change, you’d get an alert so you’d be able to switch your ride.

If the concept evolves as imagined by its inventor, a traffic engineer named Sonja Heikkil√§, the multi-modal transit system wouldn’t be run by the government, but would be built around multiple apps created by different private companies. They would compete by packaging transit options for people who could subscribe to a plan, with the option of switching to a different one, much as people can with cell phone service today.

The bus stops here

To have such a complex program functioning in a decade or so clearly is an ambitious goal, but Helsinki already has one piece in place. Last year it rolled out an on-demand minibus service called Kutsuplus (Finnish for “call plus”), and so far it’s living up to expectations. 

Once people sign up for the service, they use their smartphones to order rides on the nine-passenger vehicle. They can also request a private trip at a higher fee. Then the system’s proprietary software kicks in, determining which of its 15 minibuses is in the best location to pick up and deliver a passenger to his or her destination. Adjustments are made throughout the day as buses are routed and rerouted around the city to provide the most direct routes for those who make requests. Since it works on the fly, the Kutsuplus system may have to do millions of calculations on a busy day to dynamically move buses around to service its customers. More than 13,000 people have now signed up.

Fees are more expensive than bus fares, but about half the price of taxis. Helsinki officials say they don’t want to put cabs out of business, but instead are trying to entice more people to switch to public transportation, particularly those who currently opt to drive themselves rather than make multiple bus changes for their commute. There’s even free Wi-Fi.

Where people drive when

Now the Finns have taken another step in the reinvention of their travel ecosystem. Since planners will need to know as much as possible about their citizens’ travel habits and patterns, the government has launched a partnership with private companies to collect anonymous data from the cars of their employees.

Through the program, called Traffic Lab, Finland’s Ministry of Transport will pay companies for driving data from people who opt into the research. Information will be collected from traffic apps or in-car navigation systems; not only will that allow officials to stay on top of problems in real time, but it will also build a deep cache of driving data that ultimately could be made available to entrepreneurs creating “mobility packages” of the future.

Will the experiment be successful?

On a very small scale, mobility on demand has already proven popular with customers in Sweden. As part of a trial last year in the town of Gothenburg, 70 households agreed to pay for a mixed mobility program called UbiGo. They were able to use their UbiGo accounts to arrange and pay for public transit, car sharing, rental cars, taxis and bike sharing.

None of the households stopped using the service during the six-month trial and most wanted to continue as customers. And while those participating initially did so out of curiosity, they wanted to keep using UbiGo for its convenience. Half of the users said they’ve changed their modes of travel as a result of using the service and 4 out of 10 say they now plan their trips differently. An upgraded version of UbiGo will launch next year in Gothenburg and two more as yet unannounced Swedish cities.

 (See website for a video.)
Ryan Chin, managing director of the City Science Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, has been talking about the need for mobility on demand for years. He's particularly interested in the development of on-demand "city cars"electric vehicles that would actually be foldable so they could fit into a very small space.

Intermountain states seek to keep hope alive for high-speed rail

Utah symposium » Transit officials work on strategy for bringing speedy trains to region. 


By Lee Davidson, October 2, 2014

California, Texas, Florida and the Northeast are talking about new or expanded high-speed rail lines, which travel maybe 150 to 200 mph. But the Intermountain states are usually left out of the discussion, and without much hope for federal funding.

So Intermountain transit officials gathered Tuesday at the University of Utah to discuss how to keep the possibility alive in their area.

 One message was that if high-speed rail is ever to connect Salt Lake City with Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix and Denver, it probably depends on California first having success with a now-underway project to connect its cities.

"We desperately need a success" to build support for high-speed rail elsewhere in the West, David Carol, vice president of the Parsons Brinckerhoff engineering and planning firm, told a symposium of the Western Regional Alliance.

"We need somewhere in this country for someone to get a true high-speed rail going, and I think it will sell itself," he said.

So Carol said Intermountain officials should support efforts by California as it begins building the first segments of its system with limited money, and seeks more funds to expand. He also urged support for separate efforts to connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

"If those things move forward, I think you’ll see a big change in perception about the value of rail," he said. And if high-speed rail makes the Los Angeles to Las Vegas connection, he said the next logical expansion is for Las Vegas to Salt Lake City and/or Phoenix and beyond.

Hal Johnson, director of integrated-project management for the Utah Transit Authority, said while the Intermountain area lacks the concentrated urban areas and obvious markets for rail of the Northeast or California, he said Intermountain high-speed rail may cost half as much to construct because of open spaces and government-owned land.

A variety of studies also show "there is a strong business case for developing high-speed rail in the Intermountain West. There’s a market for it. There’s a need for it," he said. But officials have not yet made that case to the public for projects that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ram Kumar, vice president of ARCADIS US design firm, urged officials to find a champion to push their cause, as he said John F. Kennedy did for the U.S. space missions to the moon and how he said California Gov. Jerry Brown is doing for high-speed rail there.

 He also urged them to take whatever incremental steps they can to keep the possibility of high-speed rail alive, even such as preserving potential rail corridors. "This process has to be incremental. We have no choice," he said.

Experts Say 'Good Jobs Are No Longer an Afterthought' in Transportation Spending


October 3, 2014

In conjunction with Tuesday’s telebriefing, the Jobs to Move America coalition released a new interactive online Map (www.jobstomoveamerica.org/map), detailing 34 current and upcoming purchases of buses and trains in 24 states, as well as locations of 28 bus and train factories in 15 states.
In conjunction with Tuesday’s telebriefing, the Jobs to Move America coalition released a new interactive online Map (www.jobstomoveamerica.org/map), detailing 34 current and upcoming purchases of buses and trains in 24 states, as well as locations of 28 bus and train factories in 15 states.
On a telebriefing convened by the Jobs to Move America coalition this week, experts in economics, sociology, and urban planning highlighted a national trend of city and state leaders harnessing billions in public transportation spending through a new, innovative U.S. Employment Plan – an incentives-based approach to reward manufacturing companies for creating high quality American jobs, hiring and training diverse workers, and investing in U.S. factories.

“Good jobs are no longer an afterthought when we spend billions of public dollars on transit equipment,” said Madeline Janis, Director of Jobs to Move America and National Policy Director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “By leveraging our public transit dollars, we can support up to 53,000 good American jobs (i), rather than buying on the cheap, which creates a competitive ‘race to the bottom’ and hurt taxpayers, transit riders and unemployed Americans alike.”

RELATED: Chicago to restart railcar procurement with job-creating approach

In the past, many U.S. transit agencies awarded publicly-funded contracts to the lowest-priced bidder among global manufacturers, without considering long-term U.S. economic impacts. In turn, companies manufacture significant portions of America’s buses and trains overseas, bypassing millions of unemployed Americans and struggling communities. On the briefing call, experts discussed the new approach taken in recent train manufacturing contracts – collectively worth an estimated $4.4 billion – that contained enticements to foster U.S. job growth. Those contracts included Amtrak’s recent procurement, as well as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Transit Authority’s $2 billion rail car buy and the Maryland Transit Administration’s upcoming $400 million Purple Line purchase.

“This is the beginning of a new era,” said Ed Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Dept., AFL-CIO. “The Jobs to Move America Coalition, and the U.S. Employment Plan it supports, has become a game-changer. It gives transit agencies a powerful tool – one that prioritizes jobs and investment here at home and promotes long term economic growth.”

“Good jobs manufacturing buses and trains are a commonsense way to improve the economy and share prosperity more widely,” added George Wentworth, Senior Staff Attorney, National Employment Law Project.

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) including a U.S. Employment Plan require manufacturers to disclose information about their plans to create American jobs and the quality of those jobs –
including wages, benefits, training opportunities, and recruitment of disadvantaged workers such as veterans – in connection with the contract. The transit agencies will evaluate bidding companies’ U.S. jobs plans, and incorporate their commitments into final contracts. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority adopted similar policies in 2012 on a railcar contract valued at $900 million and a bus contract valued at $300 million.

“Smarter transit purchasing is happening at the local and regional level,” said Jacquelyne Grimshaw, Vice Chair of the Chicago Transit Authority Board and Vice President of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. “As cities transform our approach to transit contracting, we can address this jobs crisis and put our public dollars to their best use.”

“Chicago is leading the way to harness the spending power of taxpayer investments,” said Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor. “Our partnership with CTA and Mayor Emanuel demonstrates how city government can play a strong role in reviving our economy.”

In conjunction with Tuesday’s telebriefing, the Jobs to Move America coalition released a new interactive online Map (www.jobstomoveamerica.org/map), detailing 34 current and upcoming purchases of buses and trains in 24 states, as well as locations of 28 bus and train factories in 15 states. The map includes upcoming transit purchases affecting cities such as Houston, New York, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Seattle, and Baltimore, across the nation.

“This map gives policymakers and others a long-term view of transportation investment as a potential job-creation engine,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the University of Southern California Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE). “With billions of public dollars being dedicated to transit spending in every region of the United States, there’s great potential for transit system growth to transform the lives of low-income Americans.”

“There is moral imperative for good jobs, because poverty is real for families in East St Louis and in so many cities,” said Pastor Norma J. Patterson with Good Shepherd of Faith UCC and the Gamaliel Foundation. “We need the jobs building that rail, we need jobs building the station, we need jobs building the train, we need jobs on the train, off the train – we need jobs everywhere.”

Bust Up Those LA Traffic Jams: Get ‘PTWs’ into the Mix


By Robert B. Lamishaw, October 2, 2014

TRAFFIC AND PARKING SOLUTIONS … A TWO-PART SERIES-It is no secret to anyone who drives in LA that getting to and from work, or even taking a quick trip into town is becoming ever more difficult, expensive and time consuming. Increasing traffic levels mean road users can spend up to several hours a day stuck in traffic.
The result of the ever increasing traffic is an increase in business costs, a loss of productive working hours, increased air pollution, reduction in the average mpg of automobiles (due to the low speeds caused by traffic congestion and delays), higher levels of impatience and “road rage” and a general reduction in the amount of time people can spend with their families or pursuing personal interests.  These factors all result in a general reduction in the overall quality of life for LA’s residents. 

LA faces huge problems from the weight of traffic congestion and high levels of pollution caused by mobile sources. Much has been said and a lot of money has been spent encouraging alternative forms of transport, with the focus being on bicycling, public transport and walking.   

However, walking and cycling are options which are generally considered to be only viable for regular trips of up to a couple of miles. The under development of public transport in LA means that large numbers of people living outside so called transit corridors have problems taking advantage of alternatives such as buses and trains.  

In addition, people’s lives are now more dynamic than they were 30 years ago, with individual aspirations for work and leisure demanding door to door transport which is not restricted by the constraints of public transport timetables.  

The "Father Knows Best" days when Dad went to work in the morning and Mom stayed home are pretty much gone.  Today most families are either made up of a single working parent or a two parent family where both parents work.  In this more demanding and stressful environment only personal transport seems to allow the kind of flexibility most people need and demand. 

These considerations might explain why previous campaigns to get people to switch in greater numbers from car use to public transport; walking and cycling, have often had limited success. 
There is, however, one widely used form of transport which (like bicycling was until the 1990s) has been largely ignored by transportation strategists, yet:  

● Provides significant environmental advantages over current patterns of car use; 

● Addresses the transportation problems outlined above, while at the same time allowing people to continue to enjoy the freedom that personal transport gives;  

● Can help to reduce traffic congestion and commute times for automobile drivers; 

●And can play a positive role, along with the encouragement of cycling, walking and public transport in developing an integrated transport strategy for the future. 

That strategy is to encourage the voluntary use of PTWs, (Powered Two Wheel vehicles, basically motorcycles, mopeds and motor scooters), as part of a total integrated transportation system. 

Environmental Considerations- The EPA and AQMD are placing increased demands on LA to reduce air pollution. A significant portion of air pollution comes from mobile sources, specifically commuter traffic and private passenger vehicles.  Additionally, it is becoming increasingly clear that our reliance on fossil fuels is something which needs to be reduced. 

The real world fuel efficiency of even modern cars is significantly reduced in the LA commute due to the amount of time drivers spend idling, or moving slowly during rush hours. Average speeds on LA’s freeways during rush hour traffic are frequently below 15 mph, often with long periods where cars are near idle or with speeds in the 5 to 10 mph range.  Beside the obvious negative effect on our quality of life, high levels of traffic congestion produce excessive noise and emissions, which have been linked to health problems among the general population.

The accepted solution – Public Transportation-The picture for public transport in LA is very mixed.  High costs of construction, limited public funding, limited routes; huge geographic area; all constrain the potential for mass public transit to be “the solution” to increasing congestion. Don't take this the wrong way, mass transit is a very important part of the mix but it does have a number of limitations, including: 

● Limited routes and time tables; 

● High cost per passenger mile, often requiring significant tax payer funded subsidies to keep ticket costs reasonable; 

● An increasingly complex transportation pattern that is not limited to the classic suburb to downtown commute but is as much, or more, a suburb to suburb commute; 

● High cost of construction and limited availability of public funding; 

● The fundamental belief that public transportation is something “the other guy should use so that I can enjoy less traffic when driving my car”; 

● And, individual aspirations for work and leisure which demand door to door transport which is not restricted by the constraints of public transport timetables and routes. 

There is an alternative-The Powered Two-Wheeler (PTW) – including motorcycles, scooters and mopeds - offers a viable alternative for many to reliance on the automobile and as part of an integrated transport policy can benefit all of LA residents.  Large numbers of drivers have street legal PTW's which they limit to recreational use.  With a little thought and very little money we can encourage the wider use of this underutilized resource and start to reverse some of the damaging trends that traffic congestion has on our daily lives. 

It is ‘integration’ that is the key. Working together with cars, buses, bicycles, trains and planes PTWs can have a significant role in reducing traffic congestion and providing us with a better faster more efficient transport system. PTWs can be very economical, take up much less road and parking space than does a car and produce less pollution than most cars actually do.  Even the smallest moped can offer a much reduced travel time compared to a car for many shorter and inner-urban trips. 

In Part 2, I'll go over how LA can, with very little public funds, start to take advantage of the vast untapped resource and help encourage the voluntary use of PTW's thus reducing LA's traffic problems and improving the quality of life for all.

Do the Transpo Experts Really Despise Us This Much?


By Bob Gelfand, October 3, 2014

GELFAND’S WORLD-There was a panel discussion the other night which included the CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the MTA), a college professor, and the head of a nonprofit organization dedicated to making our transportation lives better. 
When you look at the video or read the accompanying report by Sarah Rothbard, it all seems sort of reasonable and even civil. 

But speaking as someone who came to hear something useful rather than just the same old glibness, I have to say that I've never seen a more patronizing, elitist group of folks in my life. The level of illogic was monumental, and the disdain for people who don't want to pay tolls on our freeways was palpable. 

You can find the whole performance on the first link I've provided, above. Ordinarily, Zocalo presentations are pretty good, but this one, not so much. One hint: The panel seemed to love the new toll pricing on the 110, a system that is largely hated in the harbor area. They seemed oblivious to the idea that the policy involves renting out the public property that is our freeway system to the people who are rich enough to be able to buy its exclusive use. They seemed content with the idea that the rest of us get to sit in bumper to bumper traffic, while the Lexus owners in the Express Lanes whiz by at  65. That's why numerous pundits have nicknamed the Express Lanes the Lexus Lanes. 

But their contempt for the suffering drivers of Los Angeles was actually not the worst element of this performance. Much worse was their seeming acceptance of the status quo. In a word, these people were so far inside the box, they should be made to wear gift wrapping. Hardly a word was spoken about the miserable, rotten, gut challenging commute on the 405. Not a peep was peeped about the fact that the 101 and the 110 are jammed many hours of the day. 

What was their solution to our current traffic problems, and what view of reality was it based on? 

Brian Taylor, the professor from UCLA, was actually kind of interesting, as he suggested ever so subtly that LA doesn't really have it that bad, that commuting is only a small fraction of our total driving, and that some neighborhoods benefit from having a lot of congestion. That sounds harsh, but I think there is a certain amount of merit in the argument. Places that are popular destinations will draw a lot of people, which means that they draw a lot of cars and use up their available parking. I think we can understand that part of the argument. 

What I don't want to accept, and what the panel ignored entirely, is the increasing mess on the north-south routes. Creeping from Inglewood to Van Nuys at 11 miles per hour has nothing to do with the enjoyment of walking through Westwood or meeting for lunch at Barney's. 

Art Leahy, the CEO of Metro, was pleasant, almost cute, but entirely stuck in the moment, which is to say, he wants to play with the bus routes and build out the train routes. I've got nothing against these ideas. In fact, I strongly support building out the commuter rail lines as quickly as we can, and I've written long screeds about creating the systems to get people from their homes to rapid transit lines. 
What was missing was any imagination about future technologies. A long time ago, I heard a transportation professional explain to a quizzical radio host why we aren't building newer and better freeways. "We ran out of dirt." 

It's a pretty simple idea. As I've written previously, that leaves us two choices. We either dig down below the surface or we go up above the surface. The choice I make is to do both, when necessary, but the smart money has to be on developing much cheaper systems that go up above the roadway. 

The technology that my colleagues and I have been supporting is called personal rapid transit (PRT). It sounds futuristic at first, but the next generation is being developed in New Jersey and there is a demonstration project currently under way in Tel Aviv. We don't know for sure what these technologies will cost, but a not-unreasonable estimate is something in the range of 20 million dollars per mile. And that's if the systems go 50% over budget. Meanwhile, the Metro CEO had the courage to mention the idea of drilling rail tunnels through the Sepulveda Pass, and not crack a smile while doing so. Every cost estimate for this proposed boondoggle begins at $20 billion. It's right around a hundred times the estimate for building a PRT line over the same ground. 

Let's be clear. PRT has to prove itself in demonstration projects and testing, and it has to show that it can carry large numbers of passengers in a quick and safe way. But there is nothing unreasonable about the science or about the engineering projections. Within 18 months or so, we will see whether the Tel Aviv project lives up to expectations. If it is half as good as we think it will be, it will provide an adjunct to the light rail systems we are building (at one-tenth the price per mile), and it won't clog up our city streets. 

Did we hear one word about newer technologies? Not hardly. Only in private discussions after the panel presentation was there a chance to discuss the topic with any of the panelists. Mr Leahy of the Metro, when asked whether he had heard of PRT, answered that yes he had, and "There is a coven of PRT supporters who come to our meetings." I told him that I guessed I was a member of the coven (although I haven't been to an MTA meeting), and that the word sounded a little insulting. Leahy made clear that it was intended to be insulting. 

I'll give Art Leahy credit for having a sense of humor (I've never been compared to a witch before), but he is totally locked into the box of 2014 technology, which is to say, 1914 technology. 

A word about the topic of toll roads on what used to be freeways, with the accent on the word free.
 Every panelist was jumping for joy over the introduction of toll roads, not only in the Orange County area, but on the Harbor Freeway (there I go, using that word free again). Hillary Norton is the executive director of something called Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic.  When I spoke to her after the panel, pointing out that the toll roads give the advantage of the road to those rich enough to take it, she smilingly and sweetly disagreed. Mind you, she had no logical defense for her position, but apparently this is the era when everyone has a right to an opinion, and unfortunately, some people take the idea a little too seriously. If you look at her website (linked above), you can see that it is the same old same old, encouraging us to get out of our cars and ride the city's wonderful bus system. 

As I said above, I've never run into such a patronizing, opinionated group of people in my life, and not a one of them was willing to hazard a thought about the introduction of newer technologies or the effect of rising gas prices on automobile usage. 

A colleague who attended with me corrected me on one point. Where I heard a lot of complacency from the panel, he pointed out that what they really told us was that we are progressing in the way that is intended. Apparently the idea of spending 10 more years to build out the trains (it was originally going to take a lot longer), or to spend 20 years planning, funding, and blasting a rail tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass, are proceeding according to the timeline, and are therefore reasonable. If you add a mere 50% overage to these numbers, you're looking at close to 2 decades for the trains, and a third of a century for the Sepulveda Tunnel. 

It's important that city and county planners begin to draw the possibility of PRT systems or other futuristic technologies into their maps, because there is a good solid fighting chance that we will have a working PRT system ready to look at in a year and a half. 

I'd like to set forth a modest challenge here. After the presentation, I was talking to 3 students (or recent graduates) about the introduction of toll roads on the 110. I was told that there have been studies and computer modeling that show that the introduction of a few toll lanes on an already existing freeway can actually increase overall traffic flow. 

This is supposed to be the consequence of nonlinearities in traffic flow. 

That last term actually means something that is mostly understandable. Think of it like this: You've got 1000 cars on a particular stretch of road, and they are all doing 65 miles per hour. You also know that this number of 1000 cars is the magic number, because if you add any more cars, traffic will have to slow down. So nonlinearity just says that if you push the number of cars up to 2000, you won't see traffic slow by half, to 30 mph. Instead, traffic will grind to a halt. You will be in a bumper to bumper traffic jam. 

There is a point (think about putting enough cars onto the road that they are closer than a car length apart) where adding a few more cars will slow things down substantially. Maybe going from 1000 to 1100 cars will put you into that irritating experience where you cycle between 22 miles per hour and standing still. 

The students told me (and who can sound more patronizing than students who have just completed a course of study) that models for traffic flow exist. I was asked whether seeing such a model would convince me. 

My answer: Why haven't I seen that kind of demonstration at any of the meetings I've attended? Their answer was that meetings that allow the public to participate are the worst kind of meetings to hear technical details. 

So if anybody would like to contact me at the email address below and direct me to a computerized model for traffic flow, preferably one with animated graphics, I will look with an open mind. But remember, the question is not whether the congestion pricing lanes do better for those who pay (we know they do), or that they add to the total traffic flow (a possibility), but that the people in the free lanes also do better. That, as the bard said, is the rub. 

One technical point that the panelists did not answer, either in the presentation or in personal discussion: Considering that traffic flow has this characteristic of nonlinearity, doesn't it also follow that when the non-toll lanes begin to build up traffic, that they will hit that nonlinearity earlier, and all because the additional road space in the toll lanes is denied to them? This model fits the observed situation where I am in a traffic jam in the free lanes, while the toll lanes are fairly empty and their traffic is going at full speed. As the Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic website points out, the addition of a few percent more cars can have a serious effect on traffic flow.

Attack of the YIMBY’s!


By Ken Alpern, October 3, 2014


ALPERN AT LARGE-From Whittier to Westchester, from Montebello to Ontario, and from Downtown LA to Anaheim, we are witnessing an embrace of the future that is cause for both hope and concern, and bodes well for an electorate (not NIMBY's but YIMBY's … Yes In My Backyard) that strives for a future with more mobility and quality of life when it comes to rail transit. 
And, as usual, I won't go off the rails--pun intended--and ignore (or, even worse, be an apologist for) those who have used transportation/mobility efforts to justify overdevelopment, lack of coordination between our road and transit transportation networks, and faux-environmentalist endeavors that don't help our Economy, our Environment and Quality of Life. 

There are lots of bad opportunists out there (and you know who you are), and we residents and taxpayers must be on our guard. 

Yet witness... 

1) ...Witness the crowds in both Montebello and Whittier, who both clamored for the Eastside Gold Line Light Rail Extension to go through their neighborhoods.   

This extension of the Gold Line isn't as well-popularized as the Foothill Gold Line that parallels the I-210 freeway, but this Gold Line extension would extend the MetroRail network beyond the Eastside and potentially into Whittier. 

I admit to having serious (VERY serious!) misgivings about the project in the past, because it did appear to be merely drawing lines on a map, and to do so merely to create geographic balance--a sort of politically-correct but ill-advised version of including the entire county into MetroRail's expanding system. 

Yet the idea of extending MetroRail into the suburbs (which are so dense in L.A. County as to be more appropriately called "urban") does appear to catching hold outside of the City of Los Angeles. 

A few days ago, when I saw a crowd of over 100 people in Whittier at a Metro outreach meeting overwhelming and enthusiastically favor a Washington Blvd. routing, I couldn't help but think of my own past Expo Line efforts, back when that line was considered science fiction that would neeeeeeever happen. 

The option of having this light rail instead extend down the SR-60 freeway to the I-605 freeway is one that I long favored, because it was cheaper and had quasi-Metrolink benefits as an alternative to our overtaxed freeway system.
Yet those many residents from the Whittier region in unincorporated eastern L.A. County felt that Washington Blvd. development and job access was vital to their future, and to their children's future.  
A simple show of hands showed they WANTED this rail line down Washington Blvd. 

Having learned that a crowd in Montebello at a previous Metro meeting was equally enthusiastic about the SR-60 routing, it dawned on me yet again that Supervisor Gloria Molina really has underserved her constituents by not being a better advocate for the full potential of the Gold Line...and for Eastside transit advocacy in general. 

The Eastside Gold Line Extension will cost roughly $1.5-$2.0 billion in today's dollars, but will apparently face a Hobson's Choice of choosing between two routes that serve decidedly different regions. 

It also does NOT coordinate or connect with Metrolink or our freeway system by emphasizing parking and intermodal transportation linkage; I've been told that Metrolink and MetroRail serve different purposes, but I doubt that few taxpaying commuters buy that line of baloney, or any excuses why they won't connect.  

There is also no linkage being discussed with the eastern portion of the Green Line in Norwalk, and it appears that little if any discussion (at least to MY knowledge) with Whittier's neighbors in Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk as to whether they want "in" to MetroRail. 
The Westside didn't have to choose between the Expo and Wilshire Lines, and the Eastside shouldn't have to choose between the SR-60 and Washington Blvd. routes if both routes have overwhelming local support. Things have changed in the eastern portion of L.A. County, just like they did in western LA County. 

It's hoped that the Metro Board, when it reviews this project in November, consider that this change mirrors that of the Westside, and take advantage of the years of waiting for this project by studying a larger project that is phased to include both routings, as well as a duo of lines that links to an Eastside network of rail, bus and freeway connections. 

2) ...Witness the enthusiasm of federal, state and local support for the Downtown Light Rail Connector Project, an underground light rail that will tie the entire MetroRail light rail system together to Downtown in a manner that arguably makes THIS the most important project of Metro's rail planning for the early 21st Century. 

It's easy to debate whether this project is more or less important than the combined LAX Airport Connector and Crenshaw/LAX light rail line projects, and maybe that's a debate that's both silly and moot...but it is evident that the two major endeavours are being fought to achieve completion circa 2020.   

It's also evident that City Hall and the Downtown region really wants this project, and that the whole county wants IN (more YIMBY's!) to tie our four light rails, our Red Line Subway, and our Metrolink network together. 

It's hoped that this project, as well as the Metrolink Union Station Run-Through Project, will allow better east/west and north/south flow for rail commuters that has been overdue for decades.
It's also evident that the money for this sort of project should be coming more from Sacramento, and the debate between so much transportation money being diverted to the California High Speed Rail Project goes on. 

Putting so many chips on one square, so to speak, is never a good idea--even if one still favors the California High Speed Rail Project after so much controversy. 

3) ...Witness the enthusiasm of the Inland Empire to take over Ontario Airport from LA World Airports, despite the efforts of the latter to fend off local legal action of Ontario and the Inland Empire to wrest control away from LA World Airports. 

References to the "inbred Inland Empire" by LA World Airports officials are both regrettable and should be investigated--perhaps they were taken out of context--but it's difficult to understand why those running LAX would care if the Inland Empire took over Ontario if they believe regionalization is a waste of money and time. 

As it stands, airfare prices are so weighted towards flying into/out of LAX that it makes it very difficult to use Ontario Airport.   

Riverside, San Bernardino and north Orange County residents would certainly prefer Ontario to LAX, and Westside/South Bay residents would also prefer that their neighbors to the east use Ontario, so it's very difficult to flesh out the hype from the reality as to what would work. 
LA World Airports believes that regionalization of more flights diverted to Ontario is a bad idea, and the Inland Empire believes that the opposite is true--so why not just dump the financial burden on them and see where things end up? 

LAX-adjacent Westchester has been accused of NIMBYism with respect to northern LAX expansion, but that region is also embracing the future Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail station at Hindry, and made no bones about having the rail yard in Westchester.   

So is Westchester "NIMBY" or "YIMBY"... or just reasonable and balanced? 

Meanwhile, the Foothill Gold Line Rail Authority has made it very clear that their ultimate eastern terminus is Ontario Airport...and, as with Whittier and Montebello with the Eastside Gold Line, the cities along the Foothill Gold Line route deserve inclusion and realization of their stated goals and dreams. 

Transportation and associated planning is a difficult and contentious issue, and is both thorny and complex. This has been made much more complicated by the City of Los Angeles that all-too-often bends, if not breaks, the law through "variances" and changes of policy that thwarts all sense of legality and propriety. 

But "YIMBYism" is potentially good, while fraught with peril and unintended consequences, for a Southern California that wants a better economic, environmental and quality lifestyle for the 21st Century.

Mapping Los Angeles's Better But Still Terrible Air Quality


By Bianca Barragan, October 3, 2014


 Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 2.09.32 PM.png


Though the persistent brown halo around Downtown might suggest otherwise, the amount of cancer-causing toxins in the Los Angeles basin air has fallen 65 percent since 2005, says a new report out from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Don't breathe too deeply yet. Despite the improvement, "The levels still occurring here in Southern California are too high and need to be further reduced," an executive officer of the SCAQMD tells the Daily News.

The existing levels of pollution increase the cancer risk for 418 out of every million people in the basin, but that's a significant drop from 2005, when it threatened 1,194 out of every million people.
Ninety percent of the contaminants we breathe in the LA basin (a section of SoCal that includes Riverside, Orange, LA, and San Bernardino Counties) come from emissions from trucks, ships, trains, and planes; in fact, air quality improved a lot during the recession because there was a lot less transport and construction going on. Considering the sources, it makes sense that port-adjacent areas like Long Beach, San Pedro, and Wilmington would have the worst air, which they do. But there's even a silver lining there: port areas also saw the greatest reductions, the LA Times points out, mostly because of state and local regulations specifically aimed at cleaning up the air, like forcing enormous ships to turn off their engines and "plug into shore power" instead of just running their engines and burping crap into the air.

This is the fourth study like this that the SCAQMD has done since 1987, when it began monitoring the LA basin's air.
· New AQMD study finds much lower air pollution levels across Los Angeles County [LADN] · Cancer risk from air pollution drops in Southern California [LAT] · Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study in the South Coast Air Basin [SCAQMD] · Pollutant Study Shows Mar Vista's Air Worse Than Downtown's [Curbed LA]


This Caltrans Report Looks Like a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper


By Adrian Glick Kudler, October 2, 2014



Yesterday, Caltrans and Metro released a draft environmental impact report for the High Desert Corridor project, which seeks to connect the Antelope Valley in the northeast part of LA County with the town of Apple Valley in western San Bernardino County (possibly with rail but almost definitely with a freeway). This would ordinarily be mind-numbingly dull, except for the cover of the report, which strongly resembles a Trapper Keeper from roughly 1983. It looks like someone's kid made it with stickers. It has a tortoise named Brad following a chipmunk (??) and some solar panels possibly frying a psychedelic butterly (?????) and a hippie bird riding a bicycle (????????????). Streetsblog LA first posted the cover on its tumblr and LA Times transportation reporter Laura Nelson has also been all over this story on Twitter; hopefully we'll know soon if Brad the tortoise is named for a dreamy boy in third period or just an annoying little brother. Developing…

Actions taken today by the Metro Board of Directors


By Steve Hymon, October 2, 2014

A few highlights from the meeting (agenda here) of the Metro Board of Directors on Oct. 2, 2014:

•Item 7: The Board approved a lease with Eric Needleman and Cedd Moses for a new gastropub for the Fred Harvey Room at Union Station. Staff report and earlier Source post.

•Items 5 and 6: The Board also approved leases for two kiosks in Union Station’s East Portal. One will serve bento boxes and the other kiosk will offer coffee.

•Item 23: The Board approved moving ahead with the design and environmental review of a new portal and pedestrian passageway between 7th/Metro Center Station and the shopping center across 7th Street now known as The Bloc. In plain English, this project will add an entrance to the busy 7th/Metro Center from the south side of 7th Street. Staff report

•Item 20: The Board approved a budget of $1.4 million to add approximately 200 parking spaces at the Red Line’s North Hollywood Station using “temporary parking surface material” in order to lower the cost and make the project more feasible. Staff report

•Item 77: The Board approved calling the new 788 Rapid Bus between the San Fernando Valley and Westwood the “Valley Westside Express” — the bus will use the HOV lanes on the 405 freeway to get across the Sepulveda Pass. Please see this earlier Source post for a map of the service, which begins Dec. 15.

•Items 74 and 75: The Board approved motions by Members Ara Najarian and Pam O’Connor calling for Metro to incorporate the names of two Board Members — Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina — into the names of the North Hollywood and East Los Angeles Civic Center stations, respectively. Item 74, Item 75 and earlier Source post.

•Item 26: The Board approved a schedule to update the Metro’s long-range transportation plan to incorporate projects for a potential ballot measure in 2016. Under the schedule, a draft expenditure plan and potential ordinance would be ready for Board review between March and May 2015. Staff report

•Item 72: The Board gave approval for Metro to begin seeking a federal New Starts grant of $1.146 billion and federal TIFIA loan of $307 million to help fund the second phase of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/La Cienega and the Century City station at Avenue of the Stars/Constellation. Metro hopes to use the money to complete the second phase by 2025, one year ahead of the agency’s long-range plan schedule. Staff report

•Item 57: The Board approved a motion directing Metro to create a $10-million pilot program for a “business interruption fund” to help small firms whose businesses suffer as a result of construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the first phase of the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector. Motion

•Item 83: The Board approved a motion to direct Metro staff to continue working with DTLA Arts District residents for design improvements to a new subway maintenance building that will be adjacent to a new park under the new Sixth Street Viaduct. Several Arts District residents in public testimony said they were not happy with progress on the redesign. Motion
•Item 78: The Board approved a “resolution of necessity” to begin eminent d
omain proceedings to acquire 25 properties needed for construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Owners of the properties either have not accepted a written offer from Metro or have not reached a negotiated sales price with the agency. Staff report

Shhh! $1.5 Billion Dallas Freeway Won’t Actually Reduce Gridlock


By Angie Schmitt, October 3, 2014


There’s been a heated debate in Dallas the last few years about whether to build the $1.5 billion Trinity Parkway.

While some early backers now oppose the project, key supporters like Mayor Mike Rawlings and North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris have insisted that the road is absolutely necessary to prevent a complete traffic apocalypse.

But guess what? According to the project’s own environmental impact statement, the road won’t actually do anything to reduce congestion. On the Dallas Morning News transportation blog, and in a longer piece that ran in the paper, reporter Brandon Formby says that since this information came to light, supporters of the project have been tongue-tied:
Some of the Trinity Parkway’s most influential supporters have been virtually silent since The Dallas Morning News reported last month that the controversial $1.5 billion toll road isn’t expected to significantly help traffic congestion by 2035.

North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris, perhaps the project’s most influential cheerleader, hasn’t been available to discuss the project for two weeks. But an agency spokeswoman said late Thursday that he was not dodging the issue. Dallas City Council member Vonciel Jones Hill, a proponent who chairs the Transportation and Trinity Project Committee, hasn’t returned phone calls.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, whose office previously didn’t reply to requests for comment, responded late Thursday after The News said a story was running about officials’ silence. That collective hush came after former advocates for the project flipped sides to oppose the 9-mile road. It continued even after a City Hall attorney said the City Council is likely under no obligation to fund the project.

Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs, who opposes the project, had a theory for the persistent quiet.

“I imagine they’re trying to come up with a new reason for it,” he said.

To kill the project, a majority of the City Council has to side against it, and right now the votes aren’t there. But Formby notes that city elections next May could change that, if a new crop of candidates emerges to oppose the road.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Together North Jersey writes that limited transit and poor walking conditions are preventing some Newark residents from accessing jobs. And Transportation for America sums up how Denver overcame challenges to implementing its ambitious transit expansion.

Pasadena residents brainstorm ideas for 710 Freeway stub ‘ditch’


The Koch Brothers’ War on Transit


By Angie Schmitt, October 3, 2014

 The Koch Brothers (Photo: Screenshot from The Koch Brothers Exposed film)

 David and Charles Koch (Photo: Screenshot from The Koch Brothers Exposed film).

This post first appeared at StreetsBlog USA.

Transit advocates around the country were transfixed by a story in Tennessee this April, when the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity made a bid to pre-emptively kill Nashville bus rapid transit. It was an especially brazen attempt by Charles and David Koch’s political network to strong-arm local transportation policy makers. But it was far from the only time the Kochs and their surrogates have taken aim at transit.

The Koch brothers, who owe their fortune to fossil fuels, are best known for funding global warming deniers and Republican insurgents aligned with the Tea Party. With their political influence under greater scrutiny during election season, now’s a good time to pull together the various strands of Koch anti-transit activism.

The Kochs fund a wide-ranging network of “think tanks,” nonprofits and political organizations. Their best-known political arm is Americans for Prosperity and its various offshoots and subsidiaries.
 David Koch was founding chairman of Americans for Prosperity, and both brothers provided funding for its launch. Among other activities, the group does plenty to manufacture Agenda 21 paranoia, which has cable subscribers around the country convinced that smart growth is a United Nations conspiracy that will lead to one-world government.

The Kochs also have plenty of ties to widely quoted, transit-bashing pundits like Randall O’Toole, Wendell Cox and Stanley Kurtz — people employed by organizations that receive Koch funding, like the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation, and who spout the same talking points against walkability and smart growth.

Fake experts like O’Toole and Cox have been making the rounds for ages, but the Nashville BRT story raised new questions. How many local transit projects are drawing fire from the Koch political network? And what impact is it having?

Who’s afraid of a bus lane? Rendering of Nashville BRT station. (Photo: Nashville Public Radio)
Who’s afraid of a bus lane? Rendering of Nashville BRT station.

Ashley Robbins, policy manager at the Center for Transportation Excellence, which supports transit ballot measures around the country, said the Nashville case was an eye-opener. “We’re definitely going to be watching it as we see more conservative efforts pop up in Milwaukee and Oregon as well,” she said. “We’re starting to keep an eye out to see if it’s going to be a trend.”

In Tennessee, the local Americans for Prosperity chapter failed to enact the transit lane ban, but it did undermine and weaken the Nashville BRT project, which won’t be as robust as first planned. The Nashville example got us wondering where else Koch-backed groups are attacking local transit projects.

Here are a few more examples we turned up:


Americans for Prosperity Indiana was a leading opponent of efforts to expand transit in the Indianapolis region. The group lobbied state officials to kill legislation that allows Indianapolis to hold a tax referendum to expand its transit network.

Americans for Prosperity was unsuccessful in completely stopping the Indiana legislation, but it made its mark. The language of the bill that eventually passed was amended to forbid the Indianapolis region from pursuing light rail with any funds raised from the tax. Americans for Prosperity has been especially critical of rail, citing a Cato Institute study [PDF] that says rail projects are likely to run over budget (which road projects never do, of course).


Americans for Prosperity Virginia fought a new tax in Loudoun County to pay for Metro’s Silver Line extension. The organization issued robo-calls calling the extension a “bail-out to rail-station developers,’’ according to the Washington Post. The county Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with the project anyway.


A report by the Pioneer Institute created a “manufactured controversy” over the costs of service at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Ellen Dannin wrote in Truthout earlier this year.

The Pioneer Institute is part of the State Policy Network, a group of think tanks with “deep ties to the Koch brothers” according to the Center for Media and Democracy [PDF]. According to one of the institute’s studies, maintenance costs at the MBTA are “out-of-control,” but Dannin, an author of two books on labor issues, wrote in Truthout that Pioneer relied on metrics that were bound to arrive at a predetermined outcome. For example, it chose to compare bus maintenance costs on a per-mile basis, a standard that puts a dense, crowded city like Boston at a disadvantage.

“Pioneer must have been aware that choosing a cost-per-mile standard would put the worst face on the MBTA’s performance and that neither a bus driver nor a mechanic could do anything to change that situation,” wrote Dannin.

The report also relied on some suspect comparisons. As the basis for its claims that MBTA’s pay was “out of control,” Pioneer compared costs with less expensive cities like Spokane, Washington, where the cost of living is about 22 percent lower than Boston’s.


Koch-backed organizations were instrumental in sinking Florida’s high-speed rail plans. In 2000, Sunshine State voters passed an amendment to the state’s constitution requiring the state to establish high-speed rail exceeding 120 mph linking its five major cities.

But when Governor Rick Scott was elected in 2010 in a wave of Tea Party governors, he fell in line with fellow members of the Republican Governors Association who were killing rail projects on Ohio, Wisconsin and New Jersey.

Scott hired the Reason Foundation — where David Koch is a trustee — to write a report about the proposal. To the surprise of no one, the foundation’s Wendell Cox found the project would cost way more than projected [PDF]. Scott used Cox’s dubious claims as the basis for killing the project.
Since that time, private investors have taken up the project, which is, in itself, pretty compelling evidence of the financial feasibility of the concept.

Los Angeles

The same week the first phase opened, Reason concluded Los Angeles’s Expo Line ridership projections were greatly exaggerated. One year later, the line had already surpassed projections for 2020. (Photo: Buildexpo.org)
The same week the first phase opened, Reason concluded Los Angeles’s Expo Line ridership projections were greatly exaggerated. One year later, the line had already surpassed projections for 2020. 

The Reason Foundation was also critical of the Los Angeles Exposition Line extension, a $2.5 billion, 15-mile light rail line that will connect Santa Monica to downtown. In May 2012, the week the first phase opened, Reason conducted a “study” in which staff went to Expo Line stations and counted passengers. Researchers counted 13,000 passengers, short of the 27,000 daily ridership forecast for 2020. The organization concluded that even by “the most optimistic figure Reason can come up with,” ridership projections had been “vastly inflated.”

Proponents of the line argued that counting passengers during the first week of service wasn’t a fair way to measure its long term success. And they were right. The following year, the Expo Line exceeded anticipated 2020 daily ridership, seven years sooner than expected.

A study by the University of Southern California reinforced the success of the project, finding that those living within a half mile of the station had reduced their driving by 40 percent. A little bit less of their paychecks will end up in the Kochs’ pockets.