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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The many reasons millennials are shunning cars


By Emily Badger, October 14, 2014


There's a lot of evidence that millennials don't drive as much — or care as much for cars in general — as previous generations their own age did. They're less likely to get driver's licenses. They tend to take fewer car trips, and when they do, those trips are shorter. They're also more likely than older generations to get around by alternative means: by foot, by bike, or by transit.

There's still a lot of dispute, however, over exactly what these trends mean. Are millennial driving habits a byproduct of the weak economy? (If you have no job to go to, chances are you drive less.) Or do they signal deep and permanent shifts in the American relationship to automobiles? If the latter is true, these nascent millennial indicators could have major implications not just for car dealers and gas stations, but for how the U.S. invests in transportation.

We probably won't know the answer with certainty for at least several years. But researchers at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group, who have been tracking these trends, argue that the case is growing stronger for a major and lasting change in how today's youngest would-be drivers — and those to follow them — use cars. In a new report (an update to an earlier survey two years ago), they argue that this also means it's time to rethink how we subsidize, encourage and invest in car use.

As for the millennials themselves, Tony Dutzik, Jeff Inglis and Phineas Baxandall write, "they have the most to gain or lose from the transportation investment decisions we make today, as they will be affected by those investments for decades to come."

Their report defines millennials as born between 1983-2000, the youngest of which are just on the verge of their first driver's licenses (should they choose to get them). The case for durable changes in their behavior — beyond the recession — is three-fold.

The economic argument

It's true that the recession has probably dampened car use, not just for millennials but for everyone. But there are also some relevant, long-term socioeonomic shifts underway that will likely continue to affect car use even after the economy fully recovers. As student loan debts rise, alongside the cost of housing in many big cities, budgets for car payments will be squeezed. This is particularly true in cities like Washington, D.C., where the high cost of housing is partly subsidized by the low cost of transportation for young professionals who rely on transit and bikes instead of cars.

Americans are also forming their own households, getting married and having children later — all trends that predate the recession and that postpone life stages associated with the peak driving years. Of course, this means that as millennials age, as they move into their own homes and have their own children, they'll likely start to drive more. But these long-term demographic shifts also suggest that future twenty-somethings may continue to drive less than baby boomers, for example, did at that age.
Add to this research that shows that millennials are driving less than previous generations did at this stage of life, even when accounting for the state of the economy or for household income.

And one more economic argument: Americans just reaching driving age today "have no living memory of consistently cheap gasoline," the PIRG and Frontier Group authors write. And they're not likely to see it again in the near future, regardless of what the economy does:

The technology argument

Many of the economic arguments address whether millennials can afford to drive, which is a different question from asking whether they want to. This second strand of technological arguments suggests that maybe they simply chose not to, precisely because they now have more and better alternatives.
One popular argument is that young people no longer have to get in a car to visit friends because they can meet up online. These results from a Zipcar survey suggest, not surprisingly, that millennial and 34-44-year-olds are a lot more likely to say they do this:

This isn't the most compelling technological argument, though. More importantly, technology has made it possible to travel by car without owning (or driving) one, by fueling the advent of car-sharing schemes like Zipcar and car2go, or taxi-like "rideshare" platforms like Uber and Lyft. Most of the data on driving patterns doesn't capture these newer activities very well. So it's possible that part of the millennial decline in miles traveled or trips taken by car fails to account for the growth of trips taken in cars that belong to someone else.

But technology has also enhanced other alternatives to the car. It's made bikeshare systems possible and transit more appealing (through real-time arrival apps). Smartphones and WiFi have also increased the relative costs of driving. You can now read your email on the train, starting your workday during your commute. But you can't (or at least you shouldn't) do that from behind the wheel of a car.

There's every reason to think the influence of this technology on transportation will only grow, regardless of what happens next with the economy.

The cultural argument

This last theory posits that the underlying cultural preferences of millennials are changing, too, in ways that make them less dependent on cars than their parents. They'd rather spend their money on experiences than things. Of the things they do own, they value smartphones and laptops over cars. They keep telling survey-takers that they view cars as mere transportation, not status symbols. And there's some evidence that millennials factor the environment into their driving decisions (although not as an overriding factor).

The housing preferences of millennials — which are equally up for debate — are also closely tied to their transportation patterns. If, in fact, they chose cities over suburbs, apartment living over detached homes, and "walkable" places over drivable ones, those preferences would translate into less car use as well.

Whatever millennials do right now, it's highly likely that they'll drive more as they age into their 30s and 40s. The question is whether they'll continue to drive less than their parents did at each stage of life — and whether future generations will replicate their patterns.

How Not To Measure Traffic Congestion—Hold the Hyperbole, Please!


By Todd Litman, October 14, 2014


INRIX provides traffic data that drivers can use to anticipate and avoid congestion. Many motorists and businesses willingly pay for this valuable information. So why must they exaggerate congestion costs? It’s a classic case of overselling.

INRIX just released a report, Counting the Future Costs of Gridlock: The Economic Impacts of Congestion in Europe and the US: 2013-2030, which like other congestion costing studies, uses analysis methods which tend to overestimate congestion costs: free-flow baseline speeds that are far higher than what is economically optimal or legal (by my estimate, a quarter to half of congestion costs in estimated in the Urban Mobility Report consist of motorists reducing their travel speed to legal limits), values of travel time that are higher than what most motorists are actually willing to pay to avoid delay, and unrealistically high estimates of future traffic growth.

The new INRIX report uses colorful graphics to illustrate its traffic congestion cost estimates. 

The INRIX methodology produces upper-bound estimates that almost certainly exaggerate congestion costs. The report uses these estimates to forecast congestion cost growth between 2013 and 2030, ignoring various demographic and economic trends that are causing vehicle travel to peak in most developed countries. In addition, with real-time information on roadway conditions, and improved urban transport options such as teleworkflextime and public transit improvements, travellers are better able to avoid congestion than in the past. Total US vehicle travel and traffic congestion peaked in 2006 and have declined since, a critical detail ignored by most transportation planning agencies and congestion cost predictions.

The INRIX report comes up with some very large but almost certainly exaggerated congestion cost estimates. Here are examples of their statements:

“The combined annual cost of gridlock to these countries is expected to soar to $293.1 billion by 2030, almost a 50% increase from 2013.” Notice that their estimate has four significant digits, implying a great degree of precision, but they provide no discussion of issues of uncertainty or how results would change with different assumptions. Most likely, congestion costs will stay about the same as they are now or decline somewhat due to improved travel information and urban transport options.

“The overall economic impact is greatest in the U.S. where the estimated cumulative cost of traffic congestion by 2030 is $2.8 trillion – the same amount Americans collectively paid in U.S. taxes last year.” Yes, $2.8 trillion is a very large number, but why compare seventeen years cumulative costs with a one year government expenditure. They are unrelated. It would be better to compare congestion with other transportation costs, such as the total amount expenditures on vehicles and fuel, roads and parking facilities, and the monetized value of roadway land, accidents and pollution damages; measured this way, congestion is a modest cost overall, bigger than some but smaller than others. It would be accurate but anti-climatic to say, for example, that congestion adds 3-5% to the total time and fuel that North Americans devote to travel.

“At the individual level, traffic congestion cost drivers $1,740 last year on average across the four countries. If unchecked, this number is expected to grow more than 60% to $2,902 annually by 2030.” This projection is almost certainly exaggerated. If it really were so large, more motorists would support significant investments in congestion reduction strategies, such as efficient road pricing, alternative mode improvements, and roadway expansion. The lack of action on these strategies is empirical evidence that most citizens consider congestion a modest cost not worth occasional tolls or a few cents per gallon fuel tax increase.

Such very large numbers are virtually meaningless. For economic analysis it is usually best to convert impacts into annual costs per capita - let's see what that means for these congestion impacts. 
 According to the graph on study's page 40, average annual hours of delay for an average automobile commuter are projected to increase from a current 22.0 up to 23.4 in 2030, a gain of 1.4 hours per year or 42 seconds per day for 200 commute days. Since adults devote about 90 daily minutes to travel, current 22 annual hours of congestion delays add about 4% to total travel time, and the projected increases this to 4.5%. These impacts are tiny overall. 

The INRIX report makes several other basic errors. It describes traffic congestion as “gridlock,” a greatly abused term. Gridlock refers to a specific situation in which vehicles in a network are totally stuck due to clogged intersections. It almost never occurs. In fact, congestion tends to maintain equilibrium: it increases to the point that some potential peak-period automobile trips shift to other times, modes or routes, so threats of “gridlock” based on extrapolating past trends are almost always exaggerations.

The report contains no evidence that the authors reviewed the growing literature on congestion costing best practices; it's key references are the outdated 2000 Highway Capacity Manual (a revised version was published in 2010) and the highly critized  Urban Mobility Report. If the authors want their analysis to be taken seriously they should include a literature review, describe why they chose the assumptions they used, and include sensitivity analysis which tests how their results would change with different inputs.

The report also claims inaccurately that congestion delays “rob the economy.” Most congestion costs are increases in personal travel time – they do not reduce economic productivity, and to the degree that individuals have alternatives, those motorists are choosing to bear these costs. In fact, there is virtually no evidence that traffic congestion actually reduces economic development, on the contrary, more compact, multi-modal, congested cities tend to be more productive overall, apparently because increased costs of peak-period driving are more than offset by improvements in overall accessibility, which reduces the total time people must spend travelling, and therefore their total transportation costs.

Exaggerated claims such as this study contains reflect a game that planners encounter all too frequently called “my problem is more important than your problem.” Proponents seem to believe that publicizing very large numbers ($2.8 trillion!) will raise their issue up the political agenda. I think they are mistaken. Such embellishments make me think of somebody demanding in a shrill voice that they should be allowed to jump a queue because of their "urgent" needs. Why should traffic congestion problems be considered more important than, for example, inaffordability, accidents, pollution, or even chauffeuring burdens, which are all comparable or larger than congestion costs? By recognizing other planning issues, congestion reduction advocates can build coalitions with other interest groups, for example, promoting congestion pricing and public transit improvements with stakeholders concerned with traffic safety, environmental protection and improved mobility for non-drives.

INRIX has good products that help solve problems—that’s all they need to communicate. Please, just give us accurate information, not hyperbole.

For More Information

Robert L. Bertini (2005), You Are the Traffic Jam: An Examination of Congestion Measures, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Portland State University, presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting.

Eric Dumbaugh (2012), Rethinking the Economics of Traffic Congestion, Atlantic Cities.
Susan Grant-Muller and James Laird (2007), International Literature Review of the Costs of Road Traffic Congestion, Scottish Executive.

Eric Jaffe (2014), Why Commute Times Don't Change Much Even as a City Grows, Two words: Balanced Transportation, City Lab.

Todd Litman (2012), Smart Congestion Relief: Comprehensive Analysis Of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Benefits, paper P12-5310, Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting.

Todd Litman (2014), Congestion Costing Critique: Critical Evaluation of the ‘Urban Mobility Report,’ Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Todd Litman (2014), Smarter Congestion Solutions in 2014, Planetizen.

Eric Sundquist (2014), U.S. DOT Highway Travel Demand Estimates Continue to Overshoot Reality, Smart State Transportation Initiative.

Ian Wallis and David Lupton (2013), The Costs Of Congestion Reappraised, Report 489, New Zealand Transport Agency. 

Tweets (more discussion)

#metrorocks: Click It and Go

State Supreme Court lets bullet train project go forward


By Lauren Raab, Otober 15, 2014

The state's $68-billion bullet train project will proceed after the California Supreme Court decided Wednesday not to review a lower court ruling that said project officials have complied with a high-speed rail ballot measure that voters approved in 2008.

Kings County and two Central Valley landowners had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in September challenging an appellate court decision in July that said the California High-Speed Rail Authority basically met the initiative’s requirements related to developing a financing plan.
Wednesday’s decision “reaffirms that the Authority can continue building a modern high-speed rail system that connects the state, creates jobs and complies with the law," Dan Richard, chairman of the authority’s board, said in a statement. “We will continue to move forward aggressively to deliver the nation’s first high-speed rail system.”

Signs Of Trouble In Alhambra

Posted on Facebook by Joe Cano, October 15, 2014

Here is the newest instance of Alhambra's spending spree of Measure R Funds (Tax$$$$$). The change of color indicates the public was tuning out the white motif of the previous signs. The same as when people ignore those annoying flyers that accumulate on your fence. Alhambra's Barbara Messina & her schizophrenic messaging continues. Is it a freeway? (which would be free), or is it a tunnel that will have to be tolled. Sloganeering & jingoistic. These people are as morally suspect as car salesmen or even 'carny people'.


 Sign near Valley Blvd.


Sign past LA Fitness. Sign #4 not up by Alberson's

WTF. This looks like a rush job.

Six Maps Showing 90 Years of LA's Alternate Transit History


By Bianca Barragan, October 14, 2014


 Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan for the County of Los Angeles (1925) Kelker, De Leuw and Co. [All images via Metro's Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library]


 Now that Los Angeles's transit network is finally expanding in a big way (with extensions of the Expo Line to Santa Monica and the Gold Line to the Azusa, and the creation of Downtown's Regional Connector all moving along, plus loads of projects in the works), what better time to look back at more than 90 years of failed starts and broken transit dreams that Los Angeles has had in the past. Inspired by CityLab and KPCC's recent (and excellent) exploration of never-built transit networks, this collection of maps reveal some hopes that LA is only just now fulfilling, like a train all the way to the beach (in one version, it might've been a railcar with space for your surfboard). As LA continues to shed its car-dependent reputation and move toward a more multi-modal future, reality might start looking a little more like these dream maps.

· Past Visions of L.A.'s Transportation Future [Metro]
· What would LA look like if 100 year-old transit dreams came true? [SCPR]
· What Old Transit Maps Can Teach Us About a City's Future [CityLab]
· The Long History of Wilshire Subway Regrets (and Success!) [Curbed LA]
· New Metro Rail Map is Very Real and Pretty Spectacular [Curbed LA]

Uber Calls Woman's 20-Mile Nightmare Abduction an "Inefficient Route"


By Sam Biddle, October 14, 2014



 Uber Calls Woman's 20-Mile Nightmare Abduction an "Inefficient Route"



Several days ago, a Los Angeles Uber customer decided to leave a party for home early via UberX, the company's affordable taxi replacement. Instead of taking her home, the driver took her on a nightmare ride to an abandoned lot—and Uber doesn't seem to care. 

 The passenger—who asked that I not use her name out of fear for her own safety—entered her home address in the Uber app before her ride arrived. Uber touts this smartphone feature as a time-saving mechanism. But as seen in the screenshot above, provided by the passenger, she was taken almost 20 miles out of her way, while the driver ignored her questions and directions. They finally arrived in a dark, empty parking lot in the middle of the night, despite her repeated protests. When she tried to exit the car, her driver locked the doors, trapping her inside. Only when she caused a commotion and screamed did he finally return her home. What should have been a quick ride took over two hours.

The next day, shaken, the passenger detailed her story to Uber. In response, she received only an "automated" email reply apologizing for the "inefficient route." The passenger's fare was partially refunded, with no acknowledgement of the fact that she was basically briefly kidnapped (she's now dealing with the LAPD and an attorney). A day later, the remainder of her fare was reimbursed. That's the extent of Uber's response. They seem sorry!

Let's get some things out of the way: 

Yes, there are dangerous people in any industry.

Yes, there are dangerous taxi drivers.

No, Uber isn't actively recruiting criminals and creeps.

But the company demonstrates, again, and again, and again, that it cares more about beating back regulations and destroying organized taxi services than it does about you, your happiness, or your wellbeing. Uber is one of the only startups that's skipped straight to the large, unfeeling, contemptuous phase of any corporation—dismissing a kidnapping attempt as an "inefficient route" is so horrifically perfect for Uber that it comes off as a bad joke. But it's not a joke, and now a dangerous person—who Uber will of course remind you is not technically an Uber employee, but instead a mere independent contractor!—has this woman's home address. For now, she explained to me via telephone, audibly shaken, she's staying in a hotel.

 I've asked Uber for a comment, and will update if they reply.