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, December 5, 2014

NEWS FROM the CVCA » Sharon Weisman


Posted by Robin Goldsworthy, December 4, 2014

Two major transportation issues have the potential to cause negative changes for the Crescenta Valley. As anyone who has lived in the area for any length of time knows, there is tremendous pressure to extend the 710 Freeway from its current end in Alhambra to connect to the Foothill (210) Freeway. International corporate interests and others who would profit from a huge construction project have used the legitimate need to reduce traffic congestion to convince Caltrans and Metro that a tunnel is the best answer.

Sharon Weisman
Sharon Weisman
humanist/free thinker

There are many flaws with this reasoning. The tunnel would need to be nearly five miles long, the longest in the U.S. The only other tunnel of similar large diameter, the Alaskan Way Tunnel in Seattle, has run into problems and cost overruns and is currently halted. Any link-up with the 210 would result in increased traffic, particularly trucks carrying freight, and generate much more noise, particulate matter air pollution, and danger of accidents in our valley. And it is unlikely to solve the problem. Studies of recently completed freeway widening projects indicate little relief of traffic congestion.  Demand simply increases to fill any added capacity.

Caltrans and Metro continue to spend scarce transportation funding on the potential tunnel while ignoring the benefits of faster, less expensive and more readily implemented solutions such as increased light rail and bus service and changes in the configuration of the end of the 710 and surrounding surface streets. Our tax money could be better spent and generate faster results.

The Stopthe710 Yahoo group, No710.com, or the No 710 Extension group Facebook page all have details, links to documents and further background on how bad this tunnel idea really is.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report on the project is scheduled to be released in February 2015 and an alliance of five cities opposed to the push for a tunnel have joined together to share responsibility for responding to it. There is typically a short time period for comments and it is wise to divide the various areas of consideration, such as geotechnical and hydrogeological elements, transportation, air and noise pollution, among experts. This avoids duplication of effort and maximizes the public input.  Glendale agreed to join South Pasadena, La CaƱada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and Pasadena in a coordinated response.

Support for this effort was on the Nov. 4 Glendale City Council agenda and the discussion among the council members was quite disappointing. There was a motion to direct staff to work with consultants to prepare for the DEIR response. Despite pledging support for the Stopthe710 effort during their respective campaigns, Mayor Sinanyan abstained and Councilmember Devine joined Councilmember Weaver in voting no. With only Councilmembers Najarian and Friedman voting yes the motion failed. A subsequent motion to merely note and file the report passed 4-1 with only Councilmember Najarian voting no.

Councilmembers Devine and Weaver must stand for re-election in April 2015. I urge every voter in Glendale who cares about using tax money effectively to attend the candidate forums and ask pointed questions about this project. It is very important to elect those who not only speak of their support but will also act in their constituents’ best interest.

The other threat to this area is the high-speed rail project. The California High Speed Rail Authority has been working for years to develop the Palmdale to Burbank section along the existing route of the Antelope (14) Freeway. In August, our county supervisor, Mike Antonovich, proposed an alternative through the Angeles National Forest. Either route would start at the Palmdale Transportation Center and end at the Burbank Airport station. Each would require roughly 20 miles of tunnels. While the forest route might reduce impacts on some communities along its route it would severely impact Lake View Terrace and Shadow Hills. There are a series of public meetings to inform the public of the recent consideration of alternatives. See www.hsr.ca.gov/ for more information on this project.

Mass public transportation has the potential to provide environmentally sound options to travel the length of our beautiful state but we must be watchful to make sure the impacts on local communities are not too high.

Viaduct and soil sinks near stranded Bertha


By Mike Lindblom, December 5, 2014

The Alaskan Way Viaduct and nearby soil have sunk 1.2 inches this fall alongside stranded tunnel machine Bertha, senior state engineers said Friday afternoon.

The settling shows that the tunnel team is having trouble controlling the soil, crucial to protecting downtown as the Highway 99 tunnel project attempts to move ahead.

A few buildings in historic Pioneer Square have also settled to a lesser extent, the engineers said.

However, neither the  viaduct nor the buildings are showing signs of stress such as cracking or buckling, said Matt Preedy, deputy administrator for the tunnel project. He said the viaduct remains safe to drive, as the state collects more data.

Surveys by the state and contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) confirmed the sinkage 1 1/2 weeks ago, but there hasn’t been further settling this week, said Dave Sowers, a geotechnical engineer at the state Department of Transportation.

This latest worry comes near the one-year anniversary of Bertha’s stall, when the machine overheated and failed to advance Dec 6, 2013.

Contractors are digging a 120-foot deep vertical pit to reach, remove and replace damaged bearing parts at the front of the machine’s 57.3-foot diameter cutter. This phase includes a sophisticated operation to remove water from the soil that can disrupt nearby areas.

Dewatering may have caused the soil to sink, said Preedy, but there could also be natural forces, or other construction, at work.

A state survey crew will measure the sides of the viaduct to confirm ground-level and electronic data, and check for any continued slumping.

Now worth $40 billion, upstart Uber outraces other tech models


Auto Industry Analyst Predicts Decline of the Two-Car Household


By Angie Schmitt, December 2, 2014

 Image: KPMG

 With fleets of vehicles for “mobility services” replacing personal vehicles, KPMG predicts that the total number of cars on American roads could start to decline.

Bailey Mareu, 30, and her husband were looking for ways to save money after she left her job to help run the family business in Lawrence, Kansas, two years ago.

So they decided to downsize from two cars to one. The Mareus were both working from home most days, and they were just a mile-and-a-half walk from the shops and restaurants of downtown Lawrence.

“It just kind of made sense financially,” said Mareu. “We decided to sell my car because it has the higher loan amount on it.”

What Mareu and her husband did might be the wave of the future, according to the automotive division of consulting giant KPMG. While predicting continued global growth in car sales as countries like India and China become more affluent, KPMG’s recent white paper about trends affecting the car industry [PDF] sees different forces at work in the United States.

In the U.S., says KPMG, car sharing companies like Zipcar, on-demand car services like Uber, and even bike-share will eat away at the percentage of households owning multiple vehicles, especially in major cities. Today, 57 percent of American households have two or more vehicles. KPMG’s Gary Silberg told CNBC that the share of two-car households could decrease to 43 percent by 2040.

In this scenario, KPMG predicts that the rise of “mobility services” will displace car ownership by providing similar mobility but without the fixed costs. The typical new car now costs $31,000 but sits idle 95 percent of the time. Given other options, Silberg told CNBC, many Americans will be happy to avoid that burden.

Other contributing factors flagged by KPMG include increasing urbanization, telecommuting, changing travel preferences among younger generations, and growing traffic congestion in big metro areas.

Caltrans Grants $550 Million to Transit Projects Statewide


By Melanie Curry, December 4, 2014

Caltrans announced over the holiday weekend that it has allocated one of the remaining chunks of money from Prop 1B, the massive transportation bond act approved by California voters in 2006.
Over $550 million was awarded to transit capital projects throughout the state. The projects include building transit centers and bus stop facilities, replacing buses and rail cars, and building repair facilities. Large and small agencies received the funds; a complete list is available here [PDF].

Among the largest receipients is Los Angeles' Metro Expo Rail Phase 2. Photo via Metro's The Source.
Among the largest Prop 1B transit capital funding recipients is $106 million for Los Angeles’ Metro Expo light rail. Photo of Expo Phase 2 construction via Metro’s The Source.

The largest allocations include:
  • $106 million to L.A. Metro for Exposition light rail, phase 2
  • $81 million to San Francisco Muni to complete the Central Subway project
  • $58 million to L.A. Metro for the Regional Connector light rail subway
  • $43 million to Orange County for the Raymond Avenue grade separation
  • $41 million to L.A. Metro for bus procurement
  • $36 million to San Diego for light rail vehicles
  • $30 million to Santa Clara for the Alum Rock Bus Rapid Transit
  • $20 million to AC Transit to complete the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco
Many smaller projects were also awarded funds, a total of $559,368,166 for 77 projects. Kern and Fresno counties received money to buy natural gas buses and a new fleetwide computer system, Santa Monica got money to replace buses, and the city of Chowchilla got enough to purchase one new transit bus. The smallest award went to California City, in the Mojave desert: $11,715 for a park-and-ride lot.

Prop 1B, known as the Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act, authorized the issuance of close to $20 billion in general obligation bonds for transportation projects throughout the state.

Since then, Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission have been allocating funds in the following program areas (the amounts shown here are what was originally called for in the bill–not all of the money has been allocated):
  • $6.75 billion for major corridors and highways
  • $3.1 billion for ports, including money to the California Air Resources Board for air pollution reductions
  • $200 million for school bus retrofits and replacements
  • $4.6 billion for public transportation, including modernization, service enhancement, and security
  • $375 million for railroad crossings and bridges
  • $2 billion for local streets and roads improvement, congestion relief, and traffic safety
  • $1 billion for the State-Local Partnership Program
  • $2 billion for the State Transportation Improvement Program
Funds remaining after this last allocation include:

Public Transit: $290 million for public transit projects, $50 million for local streets and roads, $240 million for emission reductions in freight, and $458 million for transit system safety, security and disaster planning.

Local agencies have two more years to submit requests for these funds.

Last December, Caltrans allocated more than $230 million for 86 transit projects, including $45 million to purchase 550 replacement buses in Los Angeles County.

How Millennials Have Changed Rush Hour in 14 Cities


December 4, 2014


The U.S. Census Bureau released a new tool today, “Young Adults Then and Now,” that mashes the info gathered about 18- to 34-year-olds in censuses from 1980, 1990, and 2000, and the 2009-2013 American Community Survey. The result is a robust, mapped-up, color-chartful presentation of numbers via dropdown menus and metro drilldowns that you could easily spend an afternoon eyeballing.
Among the notable stats: “The percentage of young adults today who are foreign born has more than doubled since 1980 (15 percent versus 6 percent).” And while millennials have more college degrees than then-younger baby boomers did in 1980, currently, “one in five young adults lives in poverty (13.5 million people), up from one in seven (8.4 million people) in 1980.”

While this new tool will undoubtedly fuel scores of articles pitting one generation against another — an American national pastime — given the recent focus on the millennial preference for walkable urbanism and public transportation, we zeroed in on how the commuting habits of today’s younger adults stack up against those of past generations in 14 U.S. metros.

For context, here’s how the number of young people driving to work has changed nationally since 1980.

And here are the drive-to-work changes in 14 U.S. cities.

New York-Newark-Jersey City


Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI


Austin-Round Rock

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach

Eno: Stop Obsessing Over the Gas Tax and Change How We Fund Transpo


By Tanya Snyder, December 4, 2014

 U.S. drivers pay far lower gas taxes than in peer countries. They also get less national transportation investment. Image: Eno

 Of these six peer nations, America has the lowest gas tax and is also the only one that uses the gas tax exclusively for transportation spending. Table: Eno Center

Twenty years ago, Japan’s electoral reform redistributed power, giving urban constituencies a greater voice. One result: Japan eliminated its version of the Highway Trust Fund, which urban voters saw as satisfying the interests of the construction lobby, not their own.

If city-dwellers had a greater voice in the United States, would the same thing happen?

The Highway Trust Fund has more problems than just its 1950s-era name. Funded by the federal gas tax, the trust fund is becoming obsolete over time, as efficiency gains and declining miles-traveled sap its size. The Eno Center for Transportation says it’s time to rethink the entire system.

In a new report [PDF], Eno compares the U.S. method of funding transportation to that of five peer countries. Ours is the only one that still pretends to rely on a “user-pay” system. (Yes, pretends: The last six years of constant last-ditch infusions from the general fund, totaling $65 billion, have exposed that particular myth.)

It’s important to note that in all five of the countries examined — Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the UK — drivers and truck companies actually pay far more for the use of the roads than they do in the United States. The idea of making people pay to use infrastructure is not the problem — the problem is assuming that those user fees will go to nothing but infrastructure, and that infrastructure will be funded by nothing but user fees.

As the chart above demonstrates, all the countries Eno looked at charged far higher national gas tax rates than the U.S. does. This graphic from The Economist in 2011 shows that a broader cross-section of countries makes the point even more strongly:

 (See article for graph.)

 But in the countries studied for the report, the revenues from gas taxes don’t become an exclusive fund for the transportation sector. They go into the country’s treasury.

Though Germany’s $3.43/gallon gas tax isn’t earmarked for transportation, its substantial tolling system does dedicate its revenues exclusively to roads. Meanwhile, Japan has replaced its gas tax with a carbon tax, with revenues going to the treasury. Japan spends $288 per capita on surface transportation at the national level, compared to just $165 here.

Eno acknowledges that a user-pays system “discourages over-consumption [of roads] and helps minimize externalities, such as congestion and emissions.” But abolishing the Highway Trust Fund and getting rid of the user-pays system once and for all can be done without letting drivers off the hook. What it could do is restore sanity to transportation funding.

Eno argues that the Highway Trust Fund skews funding decisions by introducing petty conflicts over whether states are getting back what they paid in gas taxes (the donor-donee drama) and by exacerbating divisions between modes, since projects must fall under either the Highway Trust Fund’s “highway” account or its “transit” account. “These challenges have historically overshadowed substantive arguments over policy and hindered the tying of federal funds to national goals or performance measures,” according to the report.

While efforts to bring revenues in line with planned or desired expenditures have largely focused on raising the gas tax — Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) just yesterday made a push to raise it by 15 cents a gallon — Eno calls for funding transportation through general funds.

This is something transit and active transportation advocates have long feared, since general-funded programs are subject every year to the whims of the appropriations committees, which are forever under pressure to cut budgets. The last few rounds of fiscal cliffs and sequesters largely spared transportation because it’s protected in the trust fund. Eno suggests that there could still be dedicated pots of money for transportation — they just wouldn’t necessarily come from transportation-related sources.

Instead of constantly taking the Highway Trust Fund to the brink of collapse, assuming that some future cohort will have the courage to raise revenues, Congress could do away with the Highway Trust Fund, let gas taxes flow into the treasury, and fund transportation at whatever level it deems appropriate. The pressure to raise revenues government-wide would still exist, but the paralysis over raising gas taxes would likely ease.

In other countries, general funding of transportation programs seems to have led to — or at least, developed alongside — better mechanisms for prioritizing projects that meet national goals. Australia keeps a National Priority List of important projects to fund. The New Building Canada Fund is a 10-year, $13 billion program that distributes funding to provinces for projects of regional and national importance. Germany has a Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan that helps guide funding toward projects of national significance. The UK has a mode-neutral, discretionary program for “Major Schemes” of national significance, and those “schemes” must be proven to have a high return on investment.

The common thread here is that these countries, through general-funded transportation programs, have been able to place a far greater priority on projects of national significance — and projects with a sound financial rationale — than the United States. We might be able to achieve that too — while at the same time breaking out of tired debates over how to solve our transportation funding crisis.