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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gold Line an economic catalyst for San Gabriel Valley: Guest commentary


Does Cycling Culture Have a Drinking Problem?

A new study reveals that a high rate of accidents involve cyclists biking while intoxicated.


By Kriston Cappa, October 31, 2014


The numbers from the latest study on cycling and safety are alarming, no doubt. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of cyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles climbed 16 percent between 2010 and 2012. So alarming, in fact, that Streetsblog pulled out both Y axes to deflate the claim that cycling is dangerous.

Risk, according to fatality data put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is far lower today than at any point in the last three decades. Although the number of fatal accidents has increased, the number of cyclist commuters has absolutely surged. In part, that's a function of new investments in infrastructure and innovation, which has made cycling more appealing to more Americans in only a short time. And that means that even though the absolute number of deaths has risen, the relative risk of every ride is actually much lower.  
Case closed. Miller time, right? Not exactly. Another part of the report is slightly more worrisome, and not just a trick of the numbers. The same Governors Highway Safety Association study finds that 88 percent of the victims of fatal cycling accidents in 2012 were men. Worse still, 28 percent of all fatal-accident victims in 2012 had a BAC of more than 0.08 percent. The risk question aside, is bro culture claiming cyclists' lives?

Up front, let's be clear about something. The behavior of cycling victims in accidents with motor vehicles is almost never the cause of accidents. The number-one contributor to traffic fatalities in New York today is motorist speed. So when the League of American Cyclists condemns the Governors Highway Safety Association report as victim-blaming cyclists ("helmet-less drunks"), that's why: Even though cycling is more popular today, the dominant narrative still holds that it's cyclists getting themselves killed in accidents with automobiles.

(Transportation Alternatives)
The way to reduce traffic fatalities—of all kinds—is to slow down drivers, just as Mayor Bill de Blasio has done in New York by reducing the city's speed limit to 25 mph. Achieving a Vision Zero world of no traffic fatalities also means building out cycling infrastructure to go with public transit.

Yet there are things that cyclists could do to curb the deadliness of accidents. Cycling advocates sometimes suffer from cataracts when it comes to these things, especially regarding helmet laws, and I understand why. When the Governors Highway Safety Association says that "[l]ack of helmet use is a major contributing factor in fatalities," it's a call for regulations on cyclists and a shift of the burden of road safety onto them. While it may be partly true that helmets can affect the deadliness of an accident, they can't prevent them.

And when it comes in a report that comes with scary speeding cyclist graphics (there's one image that shows a beer bottle merging with a cyclist's head, for example), then it reads as if the full weight of the responsibility for fatal accidents is falling on the victims. That's not fair, and it's not useful. The way to make cycling safer is to build cycling infrastructure and rude the speed of drivers. A bill being considered in Washington, D.C., that will give more rights to cyclists and end the doctrine of contributory negligence is another tool that promotes safety (by dividing up liability costs of accidents more equitably, if not the consequences). Still, helmets still sometimes mean the difference between bad accidents and fatal ones.
More to the point, though: People aren't just cyclists or motorists. They're rarely one or the other exclusively. Especially in cities today, car-sharing options turn people who don't own cars into occasional drivers. It's in cities that the majority of fatal crashes involving cyclists occur (69 percent, according to the study). And it's in cities that people—not cyclists or drivers, but people—continue to regularly make bad decisions regarding alcohol and transportation.
Avoiding BUIs can't save cyclists from accidents. It seems clear that
only reducing vehicle speed can do that. But insisting that no one operates any sort of transportation after drinking confirms a culture in which people don't drink and cycle (which they probably shouldn't do) and also don't drink and drive (which they really shouldn't do).

More men are cyclists than women, but even factoring for that, they're overrepresented in cyclist traffic fatalities. And when 1 in 4 cyclists who were killed in 2012 were alcohol impaired—some of them severely so—then yes, there is a cultural problem there that needs to be addressed. Even if it comes at the cost of cyclists making concessions to people who too often blame them totally for accidents that only drivers can actually prevent. Some drunk cyclists are also drunk drivers. There's not a good argument for tolerating either.

Trains Are Not the Silver Bullet

A Successful Rail System in L.A. Has to Help People to Get to Work, Complement Existing Bus Routes, and Serve 1,000,000 Riders a Day.


October 31, 2014

Trains and rail are inseparable from California’s past. When Leland Stanford hammered “The Golden Spike” in an 1869 ceremony in Utah, he united the first transcontinental railway in the U.S.—and tied California to the rest of the country. That connection between the two coasts set the state on a path to becoming the economic and cultural force it is now.

In the 21st century, California, and Southern California in particular, is once again poised to be reshaped by trains and rail lines. Public investment—from the $68 billion marked to establish a bullet train from L.A. to San Francisco to the half-cent sales tax that will, among other things, expand light rail throughout L.A. County—means more trains will be pulling into more stations throughout the region in the coming decades. In the next two years, Angelenos will be able to take the train from downtown to the beach.

In advance of the Z√≥calo event “Are Trains the Future of L.A.?”, we asked transportation scholars, writers, and policymakers to tell us what a successful rail system would look like in Los Angeles. What kind of ridership would such a system have? And how would it affect traffic, quality of life, and commerce in Southern California?

Robert Puentes

Trains need to get people to work

A successful rail transit system in Los Angeles will be one that gives people access to economic opportunity (jobs, healthcare, education, recreation) with less emphasis on reducing traffic congestion or simply moving people from one place to another.
And Los Angeles has done a surprisingly good job getting transit to where the people are. A 2011 Brookings report found that no other metro area in the continental U.S. has better transit coverage than Los Angeles: 96 percent of workers live in neighborhoods with transit coverage. Unfortunately, only 26 percent of all jobs in the L.A. metro area are reachable by transit in under an hour and a half, a long commute even for Southern California standards.

The problem is that while public transit in regions like Los Angeles serves people well, jobs remain spread out. Less than 10 percent of jobs are located within 3 miles of the two central business districts in the region (downtown L.A. and downtown Long Beach). To be sure, many of those jobs are bunched together in neighborhoods. But those places are too scattered to serve efficiently with public transit. The end result is that people have no choice but to drive in order to get to work.

This is where the rail system comes in. Because of its ability to attract high-density development around stations and terminals, rail can concentrate jobs—and become a potentially attractive option for transportation. That kind of strategy won’t work for all jobs, of course. Southern California’s large warehousing, logistics, and truck driving industries may be better off in low-density areas.

But by thinking of the rail system as a means to an end—in this case, economic opportunity—this massive investment can make the region stronger and help all residents share in its growth.

Robert Puentes is a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program where he also directs the program's Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative.

Jerard Wright

Rail stations can be community centers

By voting for Measure R—a sales tax increase funding a wide range of transportation projects—L.A. County citizens committed to transforming how we commute, connect, and grow with our neighbors. The Pacific Electric Red Cars system did something similar at the turn of the last century, but by the 1950s, the freeway system broke down those connections. Measure R captured the public’s imagination with 12 transit projects, including the Purple Line extension down Wilshire Boulevard, the Crenshaw/LAX corridor finally linking the rail system to the airport, and the Regional Connector subway that ties Metro’s light rail lines together—from the inland valleys to the ocean—through a single corridor in downtown L.A.

Strategic land use decisions can transform the new stations associated with these projects into activity centers combining culture, commerce, and community. The new station activity centers will enhance pedestrian and cyclist use and open the bus network to new passengers. Combined with other major transit investments–such as an expanded line through the Sepulveda Pass—these stations will allow ridership on such a rail system can to easily reach over 1,000,000 boardings a day, making it the busiest rail system in North America outside of New York City.

A successful system would provide alternatives to traffic congestion and in turn the physical and emotional stress that traffic has on our health. And, a successful system would increase productivity: Each year—on average—we Angelenos lose 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. When you multiply that time by wages per hour, you realize that could add up to a lot of lost tax revenue that could have been invested into more transit and mobility alternatives.

Jerard Wright is a transportation policy analyst at Move LA and has an abiding passion for transportation. He is currently co-chair of Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee, a member of Metro’s Citizens Advisory Council, and past co-chair of the Green LA Transportation Working Group. He graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a B.A. in Architecture. 

Juan Matute

Rail is only part of the equation

A successful rail system would integrate well with current and future land uses. But trains would be just one layer of a comprehensive, multi-modal network that greatly enhances both neighborhood and regional accessibility for people all across the L.A. region.

A rail network gave the region its initial form, but going forward, our transit system must integrate with low-density neighborhoods built with the automobile in mind. A comprehensive approach to transportation—including rail, buses, bikes, and other transportation services—will accommodate L.A.’s transit-oriented future without ignoring its auto-oriented past. Existing and future rail stations will form the center of complete transit-oriented neighborhoods, with housing, services such as day cares, amenities such as grocery stores, and thoughtfully designed open space. People arriving at rail stations via buses, bicycles, taxis, and shared ride services like UberPool or Lyft Line will keep these neighborhood centers free of vehicle congestion, enabling a high quality of life.

A myopic focus on rail transit would shortchange much of the region. Even if we could quadruple the size of the rail transit system, this network would still fail to reach vast swaths of Southern California. A singular focus on rail would divide the region into two: neighborhoods with rail and neighborhoods without. Such a future would perpetuate income inequality as housing costs rise near stations and station areas would be choked with traffic congestion.

I write this from a bus that travels from Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles in 35 minutes, quicker even than the future Expo Line. This serves as a reminder that getting our existing buses out of traffic is the quickest, most cost-effective means to bring high-quality transit to the greatest number of Angelenos.

Juan Matute is the associate director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies. He worked with Caltrans to develop a Statewide Transit Strategic Plan and currently manages TransitWiki.org, a website for sharing best practices for the future of transit in California.

Madeline Brozen

Mobility is a bigger idea than trains and traffic

To answer the question, “What would a successful rail system look like in Los Angeles?”, I’m going to flip the terms. Because, for me, the more interesting and important question is, “What would Los Angeles look like with an expanded rail system?” If the city’s rail system covered a larger area and ran more frequent service at most hours, a transformed Los Angeles would be a place that thought differently about mobility, and not just in terms of the rail system alone.

The exact ridership on an expanded rail system is hard to estimate. But what places that have “successful” rail systems, like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco have in common is that they aren’t just successful places for rail, but they are places that are successful for mobility. Point being, when you plan for more people on the rail system, you have to plan for more people walking to and from stations and for mobility for many modes. Jarrett Walker, of the blog Human Transit, describes rail stations as pedestrian fountains out of which people stream. This means we cannot simply think of rail transit in a vacuum.

In order to have a “successful” rail system, we need to have safe facilities for pedestrians when they arrive or leave the station. To borrow a line from public health, the transit choice must be the easy choice. Giving trains priority over private vehicles, and giving pedestrians at intersections priority over cars when accessing rail stations makes the transit choice easy and safe. This connection extends to bicycles as well. The rail network should connect to a bicycle network and provide secure bicycle parking so that the two networks can work together seamlessly.

In order to think about transit in Los Angeles, it’s important to get away from framing the issue around traffic and flip the question to be about mobility. Namely, how will an expanded transit network require rethinking existing transportation engineering and planning paradigms in Los Angeles?

Madeline Brozen is the assistant director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the Institute of Transportation Studies. She is also the manager of the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative, focusing her research on issues of walking and bicycling. 

Damien Newton

Trains will be the backbone of mass transit in L.A.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District will spend $9 million to fight the subway route that runs under the Beverly Hills High School campus. In South L.A. and West L.A., a specter remains of trains running at-grade and endangering communities.

It’s enough to make one wonder: Is all this stress really worth it? After all, as L.A. Weekly seems to enjoy pointing out, even the expensive Westside subway will barely impact car traffic speeds on Wilshire Boulevard.

I have good news. It will absolutely be worth it.

L.A. is a city that outgrew its freeways a generation ago. Instead of accepting this reality, planners and politicians doubled down by spending billions of dollars to continue to grow our freeway culture. The result is a car-dependent population that yearns for faster commutes even as the streets grow more clogged with other people’s cars.

It’s time for something different. People need options, and encouraging them to walk or bike isn’t going to work.

The future is going to require us to provide more choices as a growing population makes car-driving-for-everyone impossible. A transit system—with trains as its backbone—will also encourage more busing, biking, and walking for anyone who needs to get from one place to the other.

Not everyone will choose to ride a train, even if the stop is right outside of their front door. The key is providing a lot of transportation modes so that people can make choices. Many will still choose to drive. That’s OK too. But I choose a future that doesn’t require me to get on the 10 to get downtown or the 405 to get to my brother’s house. I suspect that many people will join me.

 Damien Newton is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative, the nonprofit publisher of Streetsblog Los Angeles, Santa Monica Next and LongBeachIze. Newton has been honored for his work in journalism by The L.A. Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists - Los Angeles, the American Planning Association, and L.A. Weekly.

Amid Frustrations, Metrolink Is Said to Face an 'Imminent' Change

1 image
By Nick Gerda, October 2014

 Passengers board a Metrolink midday commuter train in Fullerton.

Southern California’s main passenger railroad is in for a significant “imminent” change, Orange County’s transportation board chairman said Monday, noting frustrations by the county’s representatives on the railroad’s board.

While he was vague about the potential change, Orange County Transportation Authority Chairman Shawn Nelson suggested the possibility of a different agency being contracted to manage rail service.
“It’s imminent. They cannot run this system and we are wasting our time asking them to,” Nelson, who also sits on the railroad’s board, said at Monday’s OCTA board meeting.
“I’m not trying to make a news story,” he added.
OCTA board members went directly into closed session Monday morning after the public part of their meeting.
Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten didn't immediately return phone messages seeking comment.The potential changes come amid frustration by OCTA board members over what they describe as a poor customer experience at Metrolink and unreliable ridership figures.
“Metrolink is poorly run and wouldn’t have any idea what their ridership is,” said Nelson. “It’s sort of an endless source of frustration.”
“Management there – we’re just continuing to go back to a very poor model, with a lot of [human resources] issues,” he added. “We’re just tired of fighting about HR and personalities and not focusing on ridership and fares and things like that.”
Michael Hennessey, who is the vice chairman of Metrolink’s board, also chimed in with frustrations over ridership figures and financial issues.
Across the region, Metrolink has experienced a drop of nearly 600,000 annual passengers since 2008, according to the railroad. Ridership in Orange County was reported to have increased over the last year.
But Hennessey said the data isn't to be trusted.
“Ridership could be up, ridership could be down. We really don’t know,” said Hennessey.Referring to what he described as a “budgetary problem,” Hennessey said Metrolink is late in “closing out” its books.
“You can ask for these things all you want…but they just don’t act,” said Hennessey.
When they don’t seem capable of reacting or understanding, “what do you do?” he asked.
Nelson replied that “the short answer” is to find an agency with the “pieces in place” and contract them to run the partnership.
It was unclear which partnership Nelson was referring to – Metrolink’s board is comprised of representatives from across Southern California, and OCTA itself pays Metrolink to provide rail service.
OCTA board member Lori Donchak asked how OCTA should get Nelson’s message across.
“I’m being polite on purpose,” Nelson replied. “It’s imminent. The thing is not workable right now.”OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson has spoken with the transportation agency CEOs from other county members of Metrolink, Nelson added.
As for providing more specifics on the changes, Nelson said: “Those alternatives are very difficult if we out them in advance.”
During Monday’s discussion, Donchak pointed to difficult-to-use ticket machines as one of many customer experience problems with Metrolink.
“You have to be a rocket scientist to figure” out the machines, said Donchak. “It’s time for the customer experience to move to the top of the priority list.”
Unlike the other regional rail service, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, Metrolink tickets cannot be purchased online or via a mobile app – thus requiring passengers to purchase the tickets at the station.Additionally, after a ticket and receipt is printed out, the machines often wait about 20 seconds before allowing a new ticket buying process to start.
During busy ridership times, those delays exacerbate long lines of people waiting to buy tickets. Sometimes, people who arrive early still miss their train due to a long line at a station’s sole Metrolink ticket machine.
And even when passengers do purchase tickets, they’re often not checked on board the trains.OCTA’s board has had a fraught relationship with Metrolink recently.
Last year, the OCTA board voted to postpone subsidy payments to the railroad amid a $66 million accounting error.

Repairing L.A. County’s roads will cost more than $19 billion, experts say


By John Schreiber, October 28, 2014

 Photo by John Schreiber.

Bringing roads up to par in Los Angeles County over the next decade will cost more than $19 billion, the highest total of any county in the state, according to a report released Tuesday.

Road and bridge repair work in Orange County will cost more than $4.8 billion over the next 10 years, according to the “California Local Streets & Roads Needs Assessment 2014 Update.”

The biennial report — a collaboration between the California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities and the state’s regional transportation planning agencies — found that pavement conditions statewide are declining, and current funding levels are insufficient to properly fix or maintain streets, roads, bridges, sidewalks, storm drains and traffic signs.

“The state gas tax is only worth half of its value compared to when it was last increased in 1994,” said Matt Cate, the executive director of the counties association. “While revenues are decreasing, cities and counties are doing more with less, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building sustainable communities, both of which rely on a functioning local transportation network. It is no wonder that funding is woefully inadequate.”

He said it’s “time to get serious about a more stable funding source for local streets, roads and bridges so we can begin to catch up on a backlog of work that should have been completed long ago.”
The report predicts that further deferrals in completing the work could double the cost of repairs in the future.

The condition of roadway pavement in Los Angeles County was rated in the study as a 66, which falls in the “at risk” category and matches the state’s overall rating. Orange County fared better, with a 77 rating.

The pavement conditions of 10 counties were described in the report as poor. All 10 are in Northern California.

Nearly $7.3 billion in annual statewide spending is needed to fix California’s roads and bridges, according to the report.

57 Freeway/60 Freeway bottleneck relief on the way: Guest commentary


By Hasan Ikhrata, October 29, 2014

Southern Californians spend 3 million hours a year stuck in traffic, through it probably feels like more for anyone forced to navigate the confluence of the 57 and 60 freeways in the San Gabriel Valley on a regular basis.

Ranked as the nation’s seventh worst highway bottleneck in the nation by the American Transportation Research Institute, the 57/60 epitomizes the daunting challenges Southern California faces in moving people and goods throughout our growing region.

The tangled, two-mile stretch near Diamond Bar and the city of Industry merges two freeways into one, compressing 17 lanes into 14 and racking up more than 600 accidents a year from among the 340,000 vehicles a day that pass through it.

Fixing it is a major priority for our region, and to that end, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded a $10 million grant, unlocking another $27.2 million in matching funds from state and local sources, to begin work on a multi-phase realignment of the interchange.

The overall project will cost $256 million — money well spent when you consider both the quality-of-life and economic costs of doing nothing.

With 18 million people, more than all but four entire states, Southern California will see its population grow by another 4 million over the next 21 years — compounding congestion and air-quality challenges that already rank among the most difficult in the United States.

Pivotal to all of this are the importance of goods movement to Southern California and the role of the 57/60 as a trade gateway, not just for the region but the country as a whole.

Though we don’t always think of ourselves as a manufacturing center, the six counties that comprise the Southern California Association of Governments’ region in fact represent the nation’s third largest, behind only the states of California and Texas. Combine that with our having the largest container port complex in the U.S. and neighboring Mexico’s emergence as a global trade partner, and it’s no wonder that goods movement and related industries now comprise one-third of all jobs and economic activity in our region.

Today, approximately 1.5 billion tons of goods are moved through Southern California each year, with 24,000 to 30,000 trucks a day traveling the 60 Freeway alone. According to published reports, traffic congestion regularly delays one of every five commercial trucks in the region, increasing the cost of shipping by 50 percent to 250 percent.

Investing in projects such as the 57/60 confluence is, therefore, good business. SCAG’s most recent Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy identified $524 billion in vital mobility improvements over the next 25 years, and found a return on investment of $2.90 for every dollar spent.

In the case of this project specifically, estimates are that 5,100 jobs will be created over its life. Construction could begin as early as next year on the first phase — a dedicated westbound on-ramp to the 60 Freeway from Grand Avenue. Subsequent phases include widening Grand Avenue and Golden Springs Drive, a westbound off-ramp and auxiliary lane from the 60 to Grand Avenue, and more than $200 million in freeway improvements and by-pass connectors.

By themselves, these improvements are expected to reduce the accident rate by at least 160 annually, and 3,200 to 3,300 over the next 20 years.

We applaud the Department of Transportation’s awarding of $10 million through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, and thank all of the stakeholder groups that have already committed funding to this essential project. These include the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city of Industry and the Federal Regional Surface Transportation Program.

Their commitment not only will begin to fix one of the worst highway bottlenecks in the country, but have a lasting positive impact on the economy and quality of life throughout our region.

Hasan Ikhrata is executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.

China Closes Beijing's Mass Transit to Halloween Ghosts and Goblins


By Dexter, Roberts, October 31, 2014

 China Closes Beijing's Mass Transit to Halloween Ghosts and Goblins

Those dressing up for Halloween in Beijing must stay off mass transit or face the consequences, a state-owned paper reported today. Worst-case scenario? Costumed ghouls, ghosts, and witches who board China’s 465-kilometer-long subway system and cause “panic” could find themselves arrested, the Beijing News warned.

Why the harsh admonition to garbed revelers? The crackdown on Halloween is part of a much broader, citywide security and beautification effort ahead of the APEC meeting in Beijing on Nov. 7. Other measures include carrying out anti-terrorist drills, ordering schools closed, and tightly restricting vehicles on the roads, in an effort to clean up the capital’s notorious pollution.

The last thing authorities want is a major disturbance in the runup to APEC, which will bring 20 heads of state to the city, the sort of high-profile international event not seen in China’s capital since the 2008 Olympics. Groups of costumed partygoers could cause crowds to gather who create “trouble,” the paper reported. “The wearing of gruesome costumes or scary makeup,” could also frighten other passengers, the paper noted.

The Beijing News also warned that police have been authorized to arrest anyone who causes trouble. “If chaos ensues and it causes a public safety or other serious incident, the police will deal with it severely, according to the law,” the paper said.

For the last several years on Halloween night, groups of celebrants, many of them expatriate residents, have flooded Beijing’s mass transit system. The subway has been “invaded by ghosts and ghouls for an underground flashmob,” with hundreds of people “embarking on a ghastly loop around the city,” CRIENGLISH.com reported two years earlier, on Halloween day.

As with other Western holidays including Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Halloween has grown in popularity in recent years among young Chinese, reported the China Daily today.