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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Toyota's New Transit Idea Is Like a Bikeshare for Tiny Electric Cars


By Alissa Walker, September 12, 2014


 Toyota's New Transit Idea Is Like a Bikeshare for Tiny Electric Cars


Small, weird-looking smartcars are nothing new; there are plenty of them on the road, especially in cities where space is at a premium. But Toyota has launched something that makes great use of its zippy 3-wheeled i-Road vehicles: a new car-sharing service that integrates with a city's existing transit system.

The concept is basically a sort of bikeshare/Zipcar hybrid, meant to supplement existing public transit systems. You can reserve a nearby car ahead of time if you want by using an app on your phone, but you don't have to take it back where you originally found it at the end of your trip. The kiosks also act as charging stations for the vehicles to make sure they stay juiced up.

After being tested in Tokyo earlier this year, a pilot program named Cité lib in partnership with Japan-based car-sharing company Ha:Mo has rolled out in Grenoble, France, where residents can rent one of 70 cars from 29 stations across the city. 

Not only do these small EVs make more sense, logistically, than a full-sized gas-guzzling car for the one person who simply needs to get from the tram station to work, the new system also helps make the idea of car-sharing more convenient and palatable. Zipcar and other traditional car-sharing systems (which Grenoble already has) are pretty easy to use, but these are visible and well-branded, more like an extension of the transit system. 

With enough of these in place, people would start to see how they might replace their own car (plus, imagine never having to worry about parking). As far as what resident are paying, Cité lib charges as little as 3 Euros for a trip less than 15 minutes, although you still have to sign up for an annual pass to use the service.

Toyota's New Transit Idea Is Like a Bikeshare for Tiny Electric Cars

The concept is also a smart move by Toyota. Car ownership is not the gold mine that it once was, thanks to people ditching their cars as they move into more urbanized areas. If cities are willing to invest in fleets of these shareable vehicles, that's a good place for the automaker to position itself. GM's already getting into the game with its shareable, stackable, and eventually completely autonomous EN-V. Toyota's system already has the car-sharing infrastructure built in. 

Now if these could only be programmed to swing by to pick us up at home, they'd be just about perfect. [Toyota via @Grescoe]

Driverless rides trial at Chinese and Japanese Gardens


By Saifulbahri Ismail, October 20, 2014

 Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology driverless buggy which will be deployed at Chinese and Japanese Gardens

SINGAPORE: From Thursday (Oct 23) till Nov 1, you will be able take a ride on driverless buggies at the Chinese and Japanese Gardens as part of the Smart and Connected Jurong Lake District Pilots and Trials initiative.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) will begin deploying two driverless vehicles to ferry the public free of charge. Those interested can book the vehicles via smartnusav.com. The buggies will be available between 8am and 2pm.

The buggies feature vehicle-to-vehicle communications that will allow each vehicle to sense where the other vehicle is. They are fitted with about S$30,000 worth of technology and can ferry up to three passengers per trip.

The vehicles have been programmed to travel to 10 designated stops around the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, with the entire route spanning nearly four kilometres.

The driverless buggies are designed with safety in mind - they have sensors that are intelligent enough to assess the environment.

Dr James Fu, a postdoctoral associate at SMART, explained: "We have varying speeds, where if there is an obstacle close by, the vehicle will slow down at a faster rate. If it is further away, it will slow down normally.

"There are also on-board safety features. If any of the sensors are not working, or the computers are not working for whatever reason, the vehicle will not move."


Researchers said the potential for such driverless vehicles is huge - one practical use is to ferry residents from their home to the MRT station. The next phase of development is to enable the buggies to intelligently go round obstacles instead of just coming to a stop. And there is more to come.
"Moving forward, we are actively researching on predicting driver behaviour and pedestrian behaviour," said Dr Marcelo H Ang Junior, acting director of the Advanced Robotic Centre at the National University of Singapore.

He elaborated: "The car can move intelligently by examining what is happening in the environment, and predicting how the moving obstacles and other vehicles are moving. It will know when it is safe to cross an inter-section, safe to enter a roundabout and when it should do a lane merging by seeing how other drivers are behaving."

The SMART-NUS team aims to fulfil 100 trips within this trial period and will consolidate feedback to improve the driverless mobility experience.

Reflecting the residents we serve: A conversation with City Council candidate Stephen Sham


By Nasrin Aboulhosn, September 25, 2014

Sylvia Plummer: Read what the current Mayor of Alhambra thinks about development in Alhambra and what he says about the 710 Extension.  It's not clear he understands the link between the City's development policies and its traffic woes.

Councilman Stephen Sham has been a part of the Alhambra community for decades. A resident for 12 years and business owner for 20, Sham has served as president of the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Alhambra, and Chinese-American Elected Officials, among other positions. In November, he is running for another post: his third term on City Council.

Sham was elected to Council in 2006 and automatically re-elected in 2010 after the city canceled its elections for the first time due to a lack of challengers. This election, Sham will face off against Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Eric Sunada to represent Alhambra's 1st district.

Sham with his daughter Kristie (center) and wife Rebecca (right). | Photo courtesy of Stephen Sham.Sham with his daughter Kristie (center) and wife Rebecca (right).
We spoke to Sham, who lives in Alhambra with his wife Rebecca and 17-year-old daughter Kristie, about the upcoming election. In an email to Alhambra Source, Sham answered our questions about a historic preservation ordinance, bike plan, and dog park. Check out his answers below.

Why did you run for City Council in 2006? Were you involved in politics before becoming a councilman?

I immigrated to the U.S. at a young age, eventually attending Cal State LA, opening my printing business in Alhambra, and starting my family here. I ran for City Council because I wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much and to provide the same types of opportunities for others to succeed. Running for Alhambra City Council was my first time running for office, although I served on city commissions and worked with local government officials before then.

What issues are the most important to you?

Quality of life issues. My priorities are to make sure Alhambra is a safe community, where kids can get a quality public education and where businesses and families can succeed and thrive. I want to make sure businesses and families have access to the resources they need—well-maintained streets, utilities, and an environment conducive to business.

READER QUESTION: Alhambra officially supports closing the 710 gap, and is part of a decades-long debate about how and if to extend the freeway to the 210. How do you feel about this issue?

Traffic congestion is getting worse and worse. The original plan decades ago for the regional transportation network was to connect the 710 to Pasadena. Since then, Alhambra has suffered negative impacts with the 710 Freeway ending on Valley Boulevard, placing an unfair burden on our community, including increased pollution and traffic.

We have to do something to enhance the regional transportation network, improve traffic flows, and make it easier to get around, especially as the population continues to grow in the region. I look forward to hearing what Metro and Caltrans have to say about potential solutions to the 710 gap as they prepare to release the environmental impact report.

Recent studies show that minority voters, especially Asian Americans and Latinos, have a lower turnout rate than other groups. How would you help increase civic engagement in your district?

I have made it a priority to engage the Asian American community since I was elected. I regularly convene the Asian press and have made it a priority to attend ethnic events and meetings in the area. I will continue to engage the Asian American community to discuss issues of concern and work with my fellow council members to make sure City Hall is reaching out to the larger community.

Sham (center) speaks to residents at the 2013 710 Day festival. | Photo by Alfred DiciocoSham (center) speaks to residents at the 2013 710 Day festival. 
Do you think language accessibility is an issue for city programs and services?

Alhambra is a very diverse community and the city needs to be able to provide services to all residents. In my time on the City Council, I’ve pushed for more diversity with City Hall staff and with our police department to better reflect the community we serve.

What would you like to improve in Alhambra?

I would love to preserve the historical aspects of the city—the many homes and features that date back to the early years of the community.

READER QUESTION: Some residents are advocating for an official policy in the city that will preserve its historic and cultural resources. Do you support implementing a historic preservation ordinance in Alhambra?

The city has single-family residential design guidelines to preserve the charm, history, and aesthetics of our residential community. I am open to other steps to preserve Alhambra’s unique charm, including enacting a historic preservation ordinance. It’s important to preserve our past, especially our local historical treasures. But we have to craft it in a responsible way. I look forward to having a dialogue about the best way to move forward.

Many of our readers have said that they feel Alhambra, and especially Main Street, is overdeveloped. What is your stand on development in the city? Do you feel think Main Street is overdeveloped?

Development is necessary to keep the city vibrant. Bringing in new housing and retail is needed to upgrade infrastructure and keep our city revenue strong. Much of the development on Main Street is occurring as approved in the West Main Street Master Plan.

READER QUESTION: Are there any plans to ease traffic congestion on the city’s main streets?

We have traffic issues across the region, not just in the city. Our transportation network is utilized well beyond original capacities. Locally, I pushed for the construction of the Mosaic parking structure in downtown Alhambra to help alleviate traffic along Main Street. We need to continue to invest in maintaining our streets and improving them to allow for greater traffic flows—synchronizing traffic signals, adding right turn lanes, expanding streets where appropriate, and encouraging the use of public/alternative transportation.

Alhambra developed a Bike Master Plan in 2012, but the draft has not come up in City Council in over a year. What is your stand on adding biking infrastructure in Alhambra? Do you support implementing a bike master plan?

Biking is a great activity and can potentially reduce some of the vehicle traffic on our streets. A bike plan for the city would be great, but the benefits would only be realized if we work with our neighbors to create a truly regional bike network that connects areas of interest.

Alhambra Mayor Stephen Sham talks to Chinese press about Alhambra PD and Alhambra Source's outreach efforts.Alhambra Mayor Stephen Sham talks to Chinese press about Alhambra PD and Alhambra Source's outreach efforts. 
READER QUESTION: City staff in February 2013 identified possible locations for a dog park, but said that more research needed to be conducted. Where do you stand on creating a dog park in Alhambra?

I think it would be great to have space for residents to play with their dogs, but we have to find the right spot for it, as well as funding. City staff are actively looking into the potential for developing a dog park.

Why should a resident vote for you?

I have worked hard the last eight years on City Council to deliver results—weathering the economic downturn, growing city reserves, alleviating traffic, bringing businesses and jobs to the city, and keeping the city safe. If given four more years, I will continue working to keep Alhambra moving forward.

I want to remind community members to register to vote and make sure to engage in local elections. There’s a lot of attention when people are voting for president, but local government has a more direct impact on our daily lives, and I hope readers will get educated and engaged on local issues.
Editor's note: This interview was edited and condensed. This piece does not represent the views or opinions of the editorial staff and is not an endorsement.

Alhambra Source interview with Congressional candidate Jack Orswell (opposing Judy Chu)

From Sylvia Plummer, October 20, 2014, submitted by Sam Burgess

Jack Orswell is a candidate for the congressional seat now held by Congresswoman Judy Chu.  The attached article/interview was conducted by Alhambra Source, an on-line newspaper for the City of Alhambra.
Mr. Orswell's views on the 710 extension sound as if he has been listening to many of the arguments of the No 710 Action Committee: construction costs; tolls; and improving the traffic management system.  He also speaks of improving alternative transportation networks.

Remember, Jack Orswell is expressing his anti-710 extension views in the City of Alhambra and by speaking as he does, he shows that this issue crosses political party lines.
We are making a difference.

(For those of you in Alhambra you might be interested in his views on over-development, historic preservation and bike lanes).


Compare and Contrast Mr. Orswell's view with that of current Congresswoman, Judy Chu:  

Content from the No 710 Action Committee website

"Judy Chu, U. S. Congresswoman Incumbent and Candidate 27th Congressional District, Nov 6th 2014 (and wife of Mike Eng) District Map
Quote about Chu: "In the fall of 2001, and led by State Assemblymember Judy Chu of Monterey Park, the 710 Freeway Coalition helped form the 710 Freeway Legislative Action Group (710 FLAG) at the state level. The 710 FLAG is a determined group of about a dozen state senators and assemblymembers who are committed to pushing the 710 Freeway through to completion."

Source: Support of Elected Officials is Nearly Unanimous. Nat Read's 710 Freeway Coalition website.

and, more recently

Quote: "The Environmental Impact Report will advance this project, and reflects the overwhelming position of the San Gabriel Valley cities that recognize, as I do, that completing the 710 gap is the highest highway priority for the two million residents of this region. We simply cannot delay progress on this project."

Source: Letter from Congresswoman Judy Chu to Metro Board. April 21, 2010"

California readies pay-as-you-drive tax test, coming soon to a road near you


By Justin Hyde, October 17, 2014

 Traffic on the eastbound Hollywood Freeway, U.S. Highway 101, approaches the four-level interchange in downtown Los Angeles.

 Traffic on the eastbound Hollywood Freeway, U.S. Highway 101, approaches the four-level interchange in downtown …

It won't happen immediately, or even within the next year, but not too far into the future you might pay a tax for every mile you drive — thanks to California.

Three weeks ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the first test of mileage-based road taxes in the Golden State. The bill, which passed the state legislature with the backing of transit agencies, environmental groups and most major automakers, creates a 15-person panel to oversee a pilot of pay-by-the-mile taxation by 2018.

The move makes California the largest state to explore how modern technology might replace the dwindling money from gasoline taxes used to build and maintain roads, thanks to ever-more efficient vehicles and less driving overall. Congress has been forced to fill the gap at the federal level with billions of dollars in temporary funding; in California, where residents pay 48.5 cents on the gallon in state gasoline taxes worth more than $3 billion a year, the state has borrowed from those revenues in recent years to cover shortfalls elsewhere.

Of the other states which have explored such systems, Oregon stands as the most advanced, with its plan to offer a voluntary pay-as-you-drive tax setup next year offering 5,000 drivers the chance to pay 1.5 cents for every mile they travel in the state. The Oregon system uses a pair of devices — one in vehicles, and one in special fuel pumps — that used GPS to track miles driven, then gave the appropriate credit or surcharge at the pump itself. (Oregon also found that drivers in a test program paid 28 percent more than they would have using fuel taxes alone.)

But the backers of Oregon's mileage tax system say the technology could be far less complicated, and adoption far quicker, thanks to services like Apple's iPay and in-car Internet setups, such as General Motors OnStar. State Farm already has a pay-as-you-drive discount for its customers with newer Ford vehicles that use Ford's Sync to automatically keep track of how far they've traveled. As the Oregon officials imagine it:
One envisions a time when all new cars will come equipped with mileage reporting capability. New car buyers will decide during the registration process whether to activate the mileage reporting capability already installed into the car or add an external reporting device. They will also choose a provider for account management or default to government managed account. Motorists will then drive and periodically receive a bill by mail or email—their choice—that may be bundled with other value added services... Motorists may check the bill details and pay online or by mail or authorize automatic payment from their smartphone, tablet device or the connected vehicle console in the dashboard of their car. Giving motorists the ability to choose their mileage reporting and bill payment preferences will make mileage reporting and per-mile charge payment simple and comfortable— as each motorist defines it.
If you think this sounds like another way for government to invade personal privacy, you're not alone: the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concerns about unapproved tracking, and privacy was the top concern of those who took part in Oregon's trial. The California law requires the test panel to address privacy worries, but also says the system must take into account "public and private agency access, including law enforcement," of any data it collects.

Movements may be a more personal form of data than even name and address; where you live is a public record, but tracking someone's daily routine can reveal far more private information. Yet there are already many ways businesses can do so; every iPhone running the latest iOS 8 update has the ability to send location data to advertisers or remember a user's frequent locations, and license-plate scanning firms already have a billion plates on record. 

Chances are, given the technology on hand and the money at stake, California will devise a system similar to Oregon's that can satisfy some privacy complaints (perhaps by tracking odometers only) but is also easily adoptable by motorists. With 17 percent of all U.S. new-car sales in the Golden State, and a need for road repair mimicked in most other states, it's entirely likely that when it comes to taxing by the mile the old saw is true: As goes California, so goes the nation.