To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Commute Times Increase One Minute After Freeway Widening Project

Data from traffic analysts at INRIX shows that commute time increased by a minute since last year


October 8, 2014 

(See website for videos.)

After more than four years of construction, $1 billion, two "Carmageddons" and a Jamzilla, a notoriously traffic-choked stretch of the San Diego (405) Freeway has a new carpool lane but not a whole lot of relief to show for it.

Average travel time increased by one minute on a 10-mile stretch of the 405 connecting Los Angeles' Westside with the San Fernando Valley, jumping from an average of 34.5 minutes last September to 35.5 last month, according to INRIX, which studies traffic data.

Even Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who assumed office in July 2013, admits he had reservations about the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project on the busiest urban highway interstate system in the country.

"I'm glad I could accelerate it as mayor when I came onboard and inherited this project, but if I was starting from scratch I would have done it differently," Garcetti said.

Officials had expected the project to shave about 10 minutes off the average commute on a stretch that sees more than 350,000 cars daily.

But some drivers have a perennial migraine.

"It’s still really congested so I wouldn't say it got any better," said commuter Drew Gosselaar.

Analysts at INRIX attribute the 405 commute time flatlining to more motorists driving due to better gas prices, more people getting back to work and an overall increase in congestion, according to Jim Bak, an INRIX spokesman.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority say they hope to cut travel times in the area for bus riders with a new express bus to debut later this year.

As Trains Move Oil Bonanza, Delays Mount for Other Goods and Passengers


How the Lure of “Free Money” Leads to Highway Boondoggle


By Angie Schmitt, October 9, 2014


 Northeast Ohio has lost 7 percent of its population since the 1970s, but has continued to steadily add highway miles. Chart: NEOSCC

Why do transportation agencies spend so much money building new highways while letting their existing roads and bridges fall apart?

Jason Segedy, the head of Akron’s metropolitan planning agency (AMATS), shared a few thoughts on that question at his blog Notes from the Underground. A big problem, he says, is that regional and state agencies see federal transportation funding as “free money” for highway expansions:
I think that the federal government should transform most (if not all) of the [Surface Transportation Program] into a road and bridge maintenance program. I don’t think much (if any) of this funding should be available for highway capacity expansion projects.

I think that if state or local governments want to do those projects, it should largely be on their own dime. Too many states and local governments see the federal dollars as “free money” and undertake capacity expansions that they probably wouldn’t embark upon if these federal funds were unavailable for this purpose.

While there are always individual project exceptions, I think that most roadway capacity-adding projects (especially in a shrinking region like ours) are not cost-effective, especially given our changing demographics and our increasingly precarious fiscal position at the local, state, and federal level.

I think that governments throughout Ohio are collectively spending too much on new highway capacity and not enough on maintenance — largely due to the fact that federal money can be used for capacity expansion.
Making states face the full cost of road expansion — sounds like a great idea. Think Congress could be convinced?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Portland reports that business is booming for a local convenience store whose owner has gone out of the way to cater to cyclists. Urban Cincy shows off pictures of the Queen City’s brand new protected bike lane. And Transportation for America rounds up the important local transit measures on ballots around the country next month.

Better Bike Lanes And Public Transit Could Slash Emissions By 2050--And Save $100 Trillion

The benefits of trains, buses, and bikes seem intuitive. But this is the first study to look at exactly how much they could help.


By Adele Peters, October 8, 2014

As more and more people around the world can suddenly afford cars, transportation has become the fastest-growing source of carbon pollution in the world. But a new study explains how that can turn around: If the world's large cities make a serious effort to improve public transportation, we could collectively save $100 trillion and cut emissions from urban transit by 40 percent by 2050.

It seems intuitive that better public transportation would reduce pollution. But this is the first study to look at exactly how much it could help. In the past, carbon policy has often looked at another part of the problem--how we can shift to renewable energy. This study wanted to change that emphasis.
"There's been far less focus on how changing the way we design, build, and operate cities can influence the long term demand for energy," says Michael Repogle, policy director at ITDP, a group that co-authored the report. "What we find when we reframe the question like that is that there are vast savings that can be achieved."

The study looked at two possibilities for the year 2050--what would happen if cities continue with business as usual, and what would happen if they start to follow some of the most transit-friendly cities today, like Copenhagen or Tokyo. The researchers were especially interested in developing countries like China, where carbon pollution from transportation is expected to balloon by about 600 percent if nothing changes.
"The biggest growth that's going to occur in urban populations over the next several decades is in the developing economies of the world, and they have yet to make their investments that will be needed to support urban growth," Repogle says. "If they develop their transit closer to what we see in countries with good public transit, it makes a vast difference in the demand for energy."

It makes an equally important difference in more developed countries--which Repogle points out are also quickly changing. "In the U.S., for example, two-thirds of the buildings that will be in place in 2030 haven't been built yet, because we tend to renew our building stock over time. If we invest more in public transportation and make it easy to walk and bike to transit stops, then we can build around that system, and drastically cut the number of miles that we drive every year."

Beyond helping the climate and saving trillions of dollars, the changes could also help reduce inequality. For the poorest city residents, better public transportation could increase travel by 300 percent, making it easier to get to work or school.

"That's a huge difference in the ability of the world to deliver a promise of a path for inclusive growth that helps those who are now trapped at the bottom of our social and economic structure, so that they can find a way into access to education and health care, decent housing, and a good life," Repogle says.

The changes needed are far-reaching--much better rapid transit, better bike lanes and pedestrian networks, and tighter emission standards for buses and cars. But the researchers are optimistic that cities can make the shift. "I think we see city leaders coming together to make commitments in this direction," says Repogle, who was at the UN climate summit when we spoke, where hundreds of cities made commitments to reduce climate emissions by 13 gigatons by 2050.

"If we don't take action the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are forecast to increase by at least 70 percent," he adds. "But if we take the kinds of actions described in the study, we can cut those emissions significantly below their current levels and make a huge difference for our future environment and the quality of life in our cities."

A Proposed Floating Cycleway on the Thames Is Hilarious—and Insulting

The River Cycleway Consortium would build an expensive, buoyant bike path on the choppy Thames. But where's the money for Londoners who are actually in need?


By Feargus O'Sullivan, October 8, 2014


The odds were tough, but we did it: London has just come up with what must be the silliest cycling infrastructure idea in the world. Put together by a motley group called the River Cycleway Consortium, London is fielding a new proposal for a new central cycle path that will stretch eight miles and cost £600 million ($965 million) to construct. Quite a lot for a pair of bike lanes, isn’t it? Ah, but these are not ordinary paths. These babies would float. On the River Thames.

The answer to London’s cycling problems, the consortium argues, is a bobbing pontoon strung along the Southern side of London’s river. This aquatic cycleway would stretch from Battersea, just west of Central London, to the newish business district to its east at Canary Wharf, protected by what appear to be waist-high walls. Given the construction cost of over $65,000 per yard of path, using the cycleway wouldn’t be free. Cyclists would need to pay a £1.50 ($2.40) toll before entering.

The proposal isn’t just wrong. It’s a whole club sandwich of wrongness, made up of many delectable layers of stupid. For a start, there’s that cost. For that kind of money, London could create a whole network of properly protected cycle lanes on its streets; as things stand, the city already has some imperfect cycle routes covering the same stretch. It’s also arguable whether this project is needed.  Certainly there’s still life in the aging saw that if you build it, they will come. Still, to build a path connecting two business centers to each other, rather than either of these centers to more heavily residential districts, is to ignore what many Londoners want to use their bikes for: commuting.
The path would also rise and fall with the waterline. It would have to, of course, because the Thames is tidal—so tidal, in fact, that boats moored on the waterside are set into a perpetual jiggle by small waves. Boat wakes also lash the quayside, including those made by fast river ferries that dock at piers that the cycle path would need to thread past. This could turn a daily commute into a drunken cakewalk on a path wriggling like an eel—not to mention opening up the possibility of biking through the end result of cyclists' seasickness on rougher days.

Not that the path would attract many people, of course. That toll would only push the idea that urban cycling is a fancy fad for the wealthy, designed for the sort of person who would look down on you for poisoning your kids with non-organic vegetables. If that sounds an extreme reaction to a few dollars’ outlay, bear in mind that the U.K. is a country almost entirely without tolls. They’re charged on a tiny clutch of bridges and on no roads. Given all these obvious flaws, why is anyone even trying to float this preposterous idea?

Because London’s current attitude to both cycling and its river is somewhat messed up.  Messed up enough, at least, to give projects like this a slim chance of making it off the back of an envelope. Granted, the city is trying to push through some serious new cycling infrastructure at the moment, including a highway of properly segregated lanes bisecting the city. Trying is the operative word here, however, as plans risk being scuppered by fierce resistance from a powerful lobby including motorists' associations and the only indirectly elected officials, who govern the city’s financial district. In the meantime, the city is embroidering elaborate fantasies that could square the circle, providing new cycle routes without daring to reduce the precious road space left for cars.

Chief among these is SkyCycle, a plan from high-tech architect Norman Foster to build elevated bike highways above railway lines in and out of London. This plan would also be hugely expensive, difficult to connect to regular roads, and do very little to reduce general pollution levels or pedestrian safety. But despite Foster rightly labeling it a “Utopia,” it looks positively sober compared to the river path. At least it would follow established commuter routes.

Meanwhile, the Thames itself is also silting up with spectacular but essentially functionless projects, such as the chronically underused cross-river gondola that goes from one random point to another. I love this gondola, I really do. I go on it sometimes just for the view. Still, if I’d known the city was essentially spending a shower of cash on me alone, I think I’d have rather just had a check. 

Upstream, the river has yet another look-at-me crossing on the way soon: the Heatherwick Garden Bridge.  An expensive, possibly charming folly, its superfluous eccentricity might be charming if it wasn’t happening at a time when low-income Londoners were being evicted in the name of sensible bookkeeping, and the city’s most vulnerable kids being pushed into hunger and even prostitution. In this zany, smoke-ring world—where basic services are a luxury but the sky is the limit for spectacular white elephants—the River Cycleway plan makes sense. Sure it’s hilarious, but it’s also the sort of sideshow that’s distracting from meaningful attempts to make London a better city to live in. For people who actually care about this city, this matters. To paraphrase the Sex Pistols, there’s no future while London’s dreaming.

3 Big Challenges for Planning Multi-Modal Cities

It's just not as simple as: stop prioritizing cars.

By David A. King, October 9, 2014


 Cities of all sizes are reorienting their transportation priorities toward people over cars. Rebranding streets as "complete," "shared," or "great" reflects a turn away from automobility as the only choice for urban travel. Local transportation officials and planners now place a larger focus on offering many modes of travel and consider quality-of-life rather than simply encouraging driving everywhere. Though cars are still dominant, the era of automobility seems to have peaked. Yet continued reductions in driving require true multi-modalism: rather than relying on one mode of transportation, or expecting that most driving trips can be substituted for transit trips, people need to be able to choose from a network of options, including not traveling at all.

The promise of multi-modal streets hides the fact that such a dramatic shift away from the traditional American form of auto-oriented personal urban transportation is much more difficult than just accommodating drivers everywhere. Supporting many modes requires including multiple actors in the planning process, all with different priorities and preferences. More travel choices also means private entrepreneurs will take the lead on some services normally offered by the public sector: from taxi or bus services to parking management to goods movement. And with the benefits of redefining and reallocating street space in a multi-modal system come new political problems in terms of fighting for that space, too.

Here are three of the biggest challenges cities will face as they shift away from car-reliant transportation systems and toward multi-modal ones.

1. Moving Beyond Car Vs. Transit

As the cost of driving increases through higher gas prices, tolls, and parking charges, more people will look toward alternatives. Yet less driving does not necessarily mean more transit use. When people drive less they travel by all alternatives more; they also telecommute and use home deliveries. Greater use of alternative modes to driving adds bikes, pedestrians, trucks, transit, and taxis to already crowded streets. New thinking about the design and use of street space is needed as new modes, actors, technologies, and uses change the function of public roads.

For too long, transportation options have been debated and presented as a choice between autos and transit, as though these modes are perfect substitutes. Of course they are not, which is one reason our cities have such difficulty getting drivers to abandon their cars. An example of binary thinking about cars versus transit and how complementary multi-modalism is ignored is seen in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, where a new Silver Line Metro station recently opened. While it is nice that the area now has rail transit service, multi-modal concerns for reaching the station were ignored during design and construction. The usefulness and attractiveness of the Metro service is diminished through the challenge of getting to and from the station.

While these design errors may be fixed in the future, it shouldn't be the case that pedestrians, cyclists, taxi passengers, and other street users are an afterthought to cars and public transit. Multi-modal planning should be the norm.

2. Accommodating Public and Private Modes

Whatever clear lines once existed between public and private transport have blurred. Start-up technology companies, large corporations, and informal operators offer meaningful alternatives to driving, but also subvert the traditional public monopoly for supplying transit services. Ultimately we don't know if private transit and app-based taxi services will succeed or improve transit ridership—that remains to be seen—but the increase in private transit operators is certainly different and affects investment and regulatory decisions.

Private firms operating on public roads present similar issues as the shifting role of public space for private activities. Mass transit and taxi medallions are set up as regulated monopolies partly due to the fact that they use public assets for their operations. From a transportation perspective, we should welcome more taxis and buses and trucks if they can help minimize wasteful driving. The public does give up some control over how their public assets are managed, though, and confrontations between public transit and private operators will increase.

The commuter tech shuttles in San Francisco are a well-known example of unresolved tension between private and public transit, as both complete for scarce curb space to pick up and drop off passengers. While publicly operated transit has legal claim on bus stops, private transit service is growing rapidly across the country and needs access to curbs, too. In any city with taxi services or app-based ride-sharing services, curb space is critical for safe passenger access, but there are few examples of multi-modal curbside management in practice. In parts of dense cities, taxis, ride-sharing, and delivery trucks can cause far more traffic congestion and dangerous conditions for pedestrians than drivers cruising for parking spaces.

3. Balancing Transport Networks

Beyond new challenges for management and allocation of street space, multi-modalism makes travel patterns less predictable and more difficult to anticipate for investment and maintenance. How we travel around cities changes as available alternatives increase.

One feature of planning for automobility, or really any particular travel mode, is that there is a nice symmetry to travel. If you leave your house in the morning as a driver, you are almost certainly going to make all subsequent trips for the day by car, eventually driving back to your garage. With many choices, however, we might leave home on foot to the coffee shop, then take transit to work, then cycle to the store and lug our groceries home in a taxi. For this example, one car has been replaced by four separate modes of travel, all of which represent choosing a mode for each trip based on what works best for each person.

There are two takeaways from the multi-modal travel day. First, the choice between driving and transit isn't one or the other. To reduce automobility, many alternatives must be provided, and not as a bonus. The second takeaway is that multi-modal cities have a lot of one-way travel. For shared-travel modes, this results in large imbalances of vehicles across the networks, leaving many without the options they expect when they want to use it. The rebalancing problem is hard enough for bike-share, let alone many different types of vehicles.

In the end, multi-modal transportation options reflect the abundance of choice that make cities great. But having many choices means balancing many interests. The issues facing cities as they expand alternatives to driving are complex and should be treated as such by local officials, advocates, and transport planners. Redesigning streets to reduce reliance on cars and are big steps for cities, but these efforts will fall short if they don't welcome all travel modes—from walking and cycling to taxis and delivery trucks—as critical functions of our streets.

L.A. officials seek to ease parking problems


Judy Chu for House in 27th District: Editorial


October 8, 2014

 United States Congresswoman Judy Chu, during the Glendora Military Memorial Dedication Ceremony, at the Glendora City Hall in Glendora, Saturday, June 22, 2013.

Judy Chu has been an elected official in the San Gabriel Valley for almost three decades, ever since she first joined the Garvey School Board in 1985. She moved up through the Monterey Park City Council, the Assembly and the state Board of Equalization before winning her first congressional seat in the old 32nd District. After redistricting, Chu ran and won in the Pasadena-centric 27th District, which makes up much of the San Gabriel Valley. The first Chinese-American woman in Congress, her district has the second-most Asian residents in the state at 37 percent.

It’s also one of the safest Democratic districts in California. Last time around, Republican challenger Jack Orswell got 36 percent of the votes to Chu’s 64 percent.

But Orswell is back again for this 2014 race, campaigning hard against Chu’s hope to have the Angeles National Forest become a national monument in order to secure more funding for the San Gabriel Mountains. The former FBI agent is currently a small-business owner and sensibly told the editorial board that “the best thing Congress could do for small businesses” is to “reduce rules, regulations” and high corporate taxes. He has a sensible and principled objection to the tunnel proposal for the 710 Freeway extension, whereas Chu’s support for the proposal seems knee-jerk and out of touch with contemporary planning and transit realities.

But Chu remains a better representative for the district, and one reason is Orswell’s lack of experience in government. Rather than starting at the council or school board level, or even by running for state office, the Arcadian instead is once again going right for Congress — and in a district where the registration numbers continue to be very much against him.

Chu is bright and capable and has thrown tremendous energy into the effort to shore up resources in the San Gabriels, either as a national recreation area or a monument. But she needs to do a better job of understanding why many in the area are turned off by manipulative efforts in that process — busing in folks from Pico Union, for instance, to pack the house at a town hall on the San Gabriels, which left many local residents fuming on the outside of the meeting.

 But Chu’s cause is a good one, and she can do a fine job for the district, especially if she adopts a more down-to-earth, less bureaucratic style.