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, December 22, 2014

A Scourge Is Spreading. M.T.A.’s Cure? Dude, Close Your Legs.

‘Manspreading’ on New York Subways Is Target of New M.T.A. Campaign


By Emma C. Fitzsimmons, December 20, 2014

 (See website for a video.)

It is the bane of many female subway riders. It is a scourge tracked on blogs and on Twitter.
And it has a name almost as distasteful as the practice itself.

It is manspreading, the lay-it-all-out sitting style that more than a few men see as their inalienable underground right.

Now passengers who consider such inelegant male posture as infringing on their sensibilities — not to mention their share of subway space — have a new ally: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Taking on manspreading for the first time, the authority is set to unveil public service ads that encourage men to share a little less of themselves in the city’s ever-crowded subways cars.

The targets of the campaign, those men who spread their legs wide, into a sort of V-shaped slouch, effectively occupying two, sometimes even three, seats are not hard to find. Whether they will heed the new ads is another question.

Riding the F train from Brooklyn to Manhattan on a recent afternoon, Fabio Panceiro, 20, was unapologetic about sitting with his legs spread apart.


 Manspreading in action. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will address the practice as part a new ad campaign.

“I’m not going to cross my legs like ladies do,” he said. “I’m going to sit how I want to sit.”

And what if Mr. Panceiro, an administrative assistant from Los Angeles, saw posters on the train asking him to close his legs? “I’d just laugh at the ad and hope that someone graffitis over it,” he said.
For Ke
lley Rae O’Donnell, an actress who confronts manspreaders and tweets photos of them, her solitary shaming campaign now has the high-powered help of the transportation authority, whose ads will be plastered inside subway cars.

“It drives me crazy,” she said of men who spread their legs. “I find myself glaring at them because it just seems so inconsiderate in this really crowded city.”

When Ms. O’Donnell, who lives in Brooklyn and is in her 30s, asks men to move, she said, they rarely seem chastened: “I usually get grumbling or a complete refusal.”

 Kelley Rae O’Donnell, who confronts manspreaders and posts their photos online, captured an image of one on a train this month.

The new ads — aimed at curbing rude behavior like manspreading and wearing large backpacks on crowded trains — are set to go up in the subways next month. They will all carry the slogan, “Courtesy Counts: Manners Make a Better Ride.”
One of the posters is likely to be especially welcome to women — as well as to men who frown on manspreading: “Dude... Stop the Spread, Please” reads the caption next to an image of riders forced to stand as a man nearby sits so that he takes up two seats.

The campaign is the latest in a long line of courtesy-themed crusades by the authority going back to at least the 1940s. One such ad urged women annoyed by impolite male riders to, “Hit Him Again Lady, We Don’t Like Door-Blockers Either.”

The new ads come as more riders are crowding onto the subways than at any time in recent history. In 2014, the system logged as many as 6.1 million riders on a single day, up from just under 5.1 million riders on the busiest day a decade ago. The city’s population, meanwhile, has swelled to more than 8.4 million people, pushing everyone closer and closer.

With crime no longer rampant on the subway, the campaign is the latest sign that other unwelcome behavior is getting attention.
A poster taking aim at the practice of manspreading is part of a new civility-themed campaign by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Several blogs regularly highlight instances of manspreading where knees stretch several feet apart. On some sites, images of large objects like the Death Star from “Star Wars” have been added with Photoshop into the space between the splayed legs. While there are women who take up more than their share of space, the offenders are usually men.

One admitted manspreader, John Hubbard, sat with his legs wide apart on an F train as it traveled through Manhattan recently.

“It’s more comfortable,” he said with a shrug.

Mr. Hubbard, 45, an engineer who lives in New Jersey, said he might move his leg, but not for just anyone. For an older person, he would. And for an attractive woman, he said, he definitely would.

Sherod Luscombe shook his head when he saw two men sitting with their legs spread on another train, taking up three seats between them. Mr. Luscombe, 58, a clinical social worker, said he thought the men should move, but he was not about to confront them.

 Ms. O’Donnell has little trouble finding subjects to photograph as part of her campaign.

“I’m not going to say, ‘Bro, there is a lady standing up right there. Cross your legs, young man,’ ” he said.

Women have theories about why some men sit this way. Some believe it is just a matter of comfort and may not even be intentional. Others consider it an assertion of power, or worse.

Bridget Ellsworth, a 28-year-old music teacher, views manspreading as sexual harassment because some men engage in it near her even when the subway car is not packed.

“They could move over and spread out their legs all they want,” she said, “but they’re squeezing next to me and doing it.”

For men who think that sitting with their legs spread is socially acceptable, manners experts say it is not. Peter Post, the author of the book “Essential Manners for Men” and great-grandson of etiquette guru Emily Post, said the proper way for men to sit is with their legs parallel rather than in a V-shape.

As this poster from an earlier public service campaign shows, today’s manspreader may be related to the space hog of old. Credit Courtesy of the New York Transit Museum
“I’m baffled by people who do that kind of thing, who take other people’s space,” he said.
Olof Hansson, a director of the Manhattan men’s spa John Allan’s, put it more succinctly. “A true gentleman doesn’t sit on the subway, he stands.”

As for men who may worry that crossing their legs could hurt their virility, doctors say there is nothing to fear. A half-hour train ride with legs crossed might raise testicular temperatures, but not long enough to do any harm, said Dr. Marc Goldstein, director of the center for male reproductive medicine and microsurgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Philadelphia has a new etiquette campaign, too, with posters that say, “Dude It’s Rude... Two Seats — Really?”

But Kristin Geiger, a spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, said the campaign in the City of Brotherly Love is aimed at passengers with bags on seats, not people spreading their legs too far apart. Manspreading, she said, may be a “localized” problem in New York. “I don’t know of any complaints that have come through customer service about manspreading,” she said. Transit officials in Chicago and Washington said the phenomenon is not a major concern for riders in those cities either.

In New York, the transportation authority went back and forth about what tone to take when tackling the topic, said Paul Fleuranges, the authority’s senior director for corporate and internal communications. Officials knew it could be ripe for parody on late night television and did not want their approach to be too snarky. But Mr. Fleuranges said he knew that the ads had to speak directly to the spreaders.

“I had them add the dude part,” he said, “because I think, ‘Dude, really?’ "

Lack of new San Fernando Valley rail lines draws complaints


By Dakota Smith, December 21, 2014


 San Fernando Valley transit goals for the region include bus improvements and a light rail system along the Orange Line that connects to Bob Hope Airport and the San Gabriel Valley, according to Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian.

Helping Los Angeles shed its image as a car-dependent city, new rail lines are being built across the region at an unprecedented clip.

Along South L.A.’s Crenshaw Boulevard, construction crews are adding a light rail line. In Mid-Wilshire, prep work is underway on a subway to Westwood. And the Expo Line’s final phase, expected to open in 2016, will allow beachgoers to travel from downtown to Santa Monica.

Those projects and others represent L.A.’s biggest transit expansion in decades. They follow passage of 2008’s Measure R, when Los Angeles County voters agreed to fund transportation projects and highway upgrades via a half-cent sales tax.

But as the region’s transit network grows, some say the San Fernando Valley is being left out.
“The Valley clearly has been shortchanged by Measure R,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents parts of the Valley and serves on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board.

Narrowly approved by voters, Measure R launched a flurry of construction projects and helped raise federal dollars to pay for new rail lines. The sales tax is expected to raise about $38 billion over 30 years.

With the exception of a new Orange Line busway extension, which opened in 2012, no major Measure R projects have broken ground in the Valley. Instead, studies are being conducted on a rail or bus line along Van Nuys Boulevard. A new Sepulveda Pass transit line is in the early planning stages.

As Measure R funds expand transit options in other parts of the city, Valley leaders say they are growing increasingly impatient.

Renee Berlin, Metro’s managing executive officer of transit corridor planning, said the agency considers population, employment centers and travel routes when prioritizing bus and rail projects. Financing also plays a major role, she said.

“We’re a county agency,” Berlin said. “We don’t look at what one area has. ... We look at it from a countywide perspective.”

The complaints from the Valley come at a sensitive time. Metro is considering a 2016 ballot measure that would ask voters to fund more transit projects. In the next two months, officials are expected to begin finalizing a list of possible countywide projects for the ballot measure, which some are calling Measure R2.

The new measure comes after voters rejected a 2012 proposal to extend Measure R by 30 years.
Some Metro board members are threatening to withhold support for R2 unless Valley projects are prioritized in the measure.

The Valley received 13 percent of the city of Los Angeles’ total Measure R project funds, despite the fact that the region makes up 39 percent of the city, said Michael Cano, transportation deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

The supervisor, also a Metro board member, opposed Measure R in 2008 and campaigned against it.
According to Krekorian, of the 80 commuter Metro rail stations in Los Angeles County, just two are located in the Valley. The councilman listed a number of transit goals for the region, including bus improvements and a light rail system along the Orange Line that connects to Bob Hope Airport and the San Gabriel Valley.

Metro’s Berlin argues that longstanding legislation hampered rail upgrades along the Orange Line. Until it was repealed this year, a state law forbade converting the route into light rail. The law was requested by local neighborhoods.

Also putting pressure on Metro is Valley on Track, a coalition of business and neighborhood groups that formed earlier this year.

“We just want to get what the rest of the county is getting,” said Stuart Waldman, head of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, which founded Valley on Track.

The coalition wants Metro to find funding for Valley-based Measure R projects, including a new Van Nuys Boulevard line. The group also contends that project’s environmental analysis process is taking too long. Metro’s Berlin disputed that, saying an environmental review typically takes 18-24 months.
The Valley isn’t alone in raising complaints about Measure R.

Transit advocates from the San Gabriel Valley to the South Bay have also stated that their communities were overlooked in the planning process.

An upside of high-speed rail? It's more traveler friendly than flying


By George Skelton, December 21, 2014

High-speed rail project

 An artist's rendering shows a proposed train station of California's $68-billion high-speed-rail project. (California High Speed Rail Authority)

In the holiday spirit, here's something cheerful to say about the California bullet train if Gov. Jerry Brown ever gets it assembled:

It would be a whole lot more passenger-friendly than demeaning air travel.

No torturous, long security lines. No stripping off your belts and shoes. No pat-downs or X-rays. No inhuman stares. No re-dressing.

Instead, Welcome Aboard.

Use the tray table anytime. No need for a seatbelt. Recline and relax.

Granted, there is still a caboose load of questions about this $68-billion project, which is projected to cost double what voters were promised back in 2008 when they approved $9 billion in bonds to help build a 500-mile high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

With the escalated cost, is it really worth it? This would be by far the most expensive state public works project ever. Is this the top spending priority for a state that has hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure needs — not only for commuter rail, transit and highways, but waterworks?

Universities have been shortchanged while students have shouldered higher tuition. Courtrooms have been shuttered for lack of money.

But most of all, even if it were a sound investment, where would the state get all those dollars to build a bullet train? No state anywhere ever has. It's a job for nations that can print money and private financiers who envision an ultimate profit.
So far, the federal government has kicked in only $3.3 billion, and Congress is vowing no more. Investors have not put up a dime.

The money situation is starting to look less gloomy, but more about that later.

First, a recent comment by Jeff Morales, chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, caught my attention. He said: "I guarantee that you can keep your shoes on."

Morales was on a panel about the future and asserted that there'll be a lot less security harassment in train depots than at airports because there's not the compelling need.

"For one thing, you can't take a train anywhere but on a track."

Later I called him.

Morales said that behind the scenes, the high-speed rail agency has been conferring with the California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement about passenger protection.

He envisions cops eyeballing passengers, but not screening them. There'll be security cameras, but no intrusive metal detectors. That could save travelers, say, a good half hour.

Get to the airport 15 minutes before departure and you've lost your seat. But get to the train depot 15 minutes ahead and walk aboard.
A flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, on paper, may take an hour-plus. But add to that driving way out to the airport, parking and running up the blood pressure while packed into a security line, and it's a three-hour-plus trip. The train trip is designed for two hours, 40 minutes. But the depot is downtown, and there's no security line.

Morales referred me to a security expert, Brian Jenkins, a senior adviser at RAND Corp. and an analyst at the Mineta Transportation Institute. He has written a lot about terrorist threats.

The only place in the world where high-speed rail passengers are screened is for the Eurostar that tunnels beneath the English Channel between London, Paris and Brussels, Jenkins says. That's because when the tunnel was built, the British were threatened by Irish Republican Army terrorists, he says, and recently they've been concerned about illegal immigration.

On all other high-speed lines, he says, there's no screening even of luggage, except occasionally when there are random checks of riders and their bags during high terrorism alerts.

"Terrorists remain obsessed with bringing down airlines," Jenkins says. "A bomb in an airplane can bring it down, killing everyone on the plane and where it lands. A bomb in a train station or even on a train can do no greater damage than at a crowded shopping mall or movie theater."

He adds: "And last time I looked, these things run on rails. A terrorist can't exactly hold a gun to the engineer's head and say, 'Take me to Syria.'"

OK, I'm definitely sold on the convenience and comfort.

But like many, I chortle at the route — Madera to Bakersfield for the initial leg. Construction has already started on that lightly populated stretch. Brown is trying to get far enough down the track to discourage any turning back by his eventual successor.

The financing is starting to look conceivable.

The train was jump-started this year when the Legislature agreed to Brown's request for $650 million in cap-and-trade greenhouse emission fees.

Even more important, the lawmakers allocated 25% of future cap-and-trade revenue to the project. That could mean between $500 million and $1 billion-plus annually for construction. That is attracting private interest, Morales says.

"We're having serious discussions" with investors, he asserts.

OK, show us the money when it gets here.

Meanwhile, the bullet train may still be a fantasy. But at least it's a pleasant dream — not a nightmare like air travel.

Here’s How Much Safer Transit Is Compared to Driving


By Angie Schmitt, December 19, 2014

 Traffic fatality risk by transportation mode. Image: Journal of Public Transportation

Keep this in mind the next time a high-profile train crash generates more press coverage than a year’s worth of car wrecks: Despite the media sensationalism and overwrought regulatory responses that follow such events, transit is already a lot safer than driving.

Looking at traffic fatalities per mile traveled in the U.S., analyst Todd Litman found that riding commuter or intercity rail is about 20 times safer than driving; riding metro or light rail is about 30 times safer; and riding the bus is about 60 times safer. Factoring in pedestrians and cyclists killed in crashes with vehicles, the effect is smaller but still dramatic: the fatality rate associated with car travel is more than twice as high as the rate associate with transit. Litman’s study was recently published in the Journal of Public Transportation [PDF].

Litman notes that most transit travel involves some walking or biking, which carry a relatively high risk of traffic injury. But those risks are mostly offset by the health benefits of physical activity. Living in a place with good transit has safety benefits as well: Litman cites research showing that cities with higher transit ridership rates tend to have lower per-capita traffic fatality rates.

Using FBI data, Litman also busts the myth that transit is linked to high levels of crime. While direct comparison is difficult because transit riders and drivers are susceptible to different types of crimes (transit riders are more likely to encounter assault and property theft, while drivers see more to road rage incidents, vehicular assault, and auto theft), Litman shows that on balance, people riding transit are less likely to be victimized than car drivers, passengers, and owners.

While much transit service operates in low-income communities with relatively high crime rates, Litman writes, relatively few crimes occur on transit property. In fact, when you normalize for exposure, owning a car and making driving trips is riskier than riding transit, Litman finds. Litman says transit facilities tend to have low crime risk because of there are so many other people around keeping an eye on things: employees, passengers, and bypassers.

“The greatest risks occur when passengers walk and wait in isolated areas, but these risks are no greater than what motorists encounter walking to and from isolated parking lots,” he writes.
Furthermore, the types of property thefts transit riders usually encounter — a stolen wallet or phone — generally incur much less expense than having your car stolen or vandalized. The average car theft costs about $6,000, according to Litman.

In media coverage and in transit agencies’ own public messaging campaigns, transit is often linked to the threat of terrorism, but internationally, Litman notes, about 360 times more people are killed in auto collisions than in incidents of terrorism.

Litman concludes that transit agencies should make the safety of bus and rail travel more of a key selling point, instead of broadcasting messages like the “If you see something, say something” campaign that end up contributing to a heightened sense of risk.