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

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Metro takes extra-long electric bus for test drive on the Orange Line


By Samantha Masunaga, December 26, 2014

 L.A.'s extra-long buses
The Lancaster, named after the city where it was built by BYD Motors Inc., is entirely electric and features the accordion-like articulation of L.A.'s extra-long buses.

With a faint hum about as loud as a Toyota Prius, 60 feet of transportation history rounds a corner in a Lancaster parking lot.

Fresh from a test run on Los Angeles' Metro Orange Line last week, it is the country's first electric articulated bus.

"It's an opportunity for there to be a renaissance in public transportation," said James Holtz, fleet sales manager for manufacturer BYD Motors Inc.

The bus runs on eight lithium iron phosphate battery modules, four to a side, that provide enough charge for more than 170 miles, Holtz said. In lab tests, the batteries have a life cycle of about 27 years, about twice the life span of an average bus, he said. The bus can hold up to 120 passengers.

The zero-emission bus, named the Lancaster after its birthplace at the BYD manufacturing facility, was unveiled in October at the American Public Transportation Assn. Expo in Houston. Its next big appearance was on the Orange Line, whereHoltz said the bus was praised for its quietness. Electric buses themselves are not so uncommon. Cities around the country already run these types of buses, including San Antonio, Pomona and the Tri-Cities area in Washington state. Stanford University also operates a 40-foot bus, which was BYD's first U.S. electric bus order. But none of those electric buses bear the accordion-like articulation of L.A.'s extra-long bus.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has submitted an order for 25 of BYD's 40-foot electric buses, said Brendan Riley, vice president of sales for BYD Motors Inc. But it has not ordered the articulated electric one, which is still being shown around several cities.

Gary Spivack, division transportation manager for Metro, said the testing of the articulated electric bus was positive; operators enjoyed driving the bus based on the smooth ride and quiet inside, and passengers enjoyed being in the bus, he said.

He said Metro hasn't made up its mind about ordering the 60-foot bus, saying range is a paramount issue when it comes to any electric bus.
"We need something that goes 250 miles a day," Spivack said.

The cost for the electric articulated bus is about $1.2 million, Riley said. In contrast, a comparable natural-gas articulated bus sells for $800,000.

BYD plans to take the Lancaster up and down the state, from the Bay Area to San Diego, and up the coast, to Portland and areas of Washington, to showcase it, Holtz said. Ultimately, the bus will go to Altoona, Pa., for testing.

BYD might be new to the bus manufacturing game in the U.S., but in China, where BYD is headquartered, it has been manufacturing cars for 11 years and buses for at least 5, Holtz said.

The company got its start in battery manufacturing, and produces about 30-40% of the world's cellphone batteries, Holtz said.

Back in Lancaster, bus operator Peter Balian starts the vehicle with the push of a button and drives around the parking lot of the manufacturing facility. He's only been driving buses for eight months, but he said his previous work driving a tow truck, as well as working at Metrolink, made the transition relatively easy.

Balian said he enjoyed driving the large bus.

"It has a lot of power," he said, "and it grabs a lot of attention."

Readers React: Why high-speed rail might be a target for terrorists

December 26, 2014

High-speed rail

 An artist's conception of a high-speed rail train in California.

To the editor: George Skelton's and Jeff Morales' fanciful musings about the security advantages of high-speed trains trivialize a substantial risk. Trains cannot be flown into buildings, but they are attractive targets for terrorists. ("An upside of high-speed rail? It's more traveler friendly than flying," Dec. 21)

During rush hour on March 11, 2004, four commuter trains in Madrid were hit by 10 nearly simultaneous explosions in a coordinated attack that killed 191 and wounded more than 2,000. On Jan. 26, 2005, a car parked by a suicidal man on train tracks in Glendale derailed three trains, including two Metrolink commuter trains, killing 11.

The Alvia high-speed train from Madrid to Ferrol derailed due to driver recklessness on July 24, 2013, killing 79.

Securing aircraft requires securing only airports. Securing trains requires securing the entire right of way. High-speed trains are particularly vulnerable to attack.
James E. Moore II, Los Angeles

To the editor: Skelton writes, "But like many, I chortle at the route — Madera to Bakersfield for the initial leg." As a retired engineer, I take exception to Skelton's statement. This is the perfect place to start.

I have worked on large projects. You start where engineering problems will be fewest in order to work out the techniques, procedures and testing. The construction environment should be as uncomplicated as possible.

Even construction on the Interstate Highway System was begun in the 1950s on rural sections.

Lee Mellinger, Valley Glen

To the editor: It may be a nice idea to have a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but it is far more important to safeguard Los Angeles' water supply.

 The Northwest and Northeast have abundant fresh water. The Southwest has very little, and that's not going to change any time soon.

Instead of valuable dollars and engineering brilliance being expended on a high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, surely it makes more sense to figure out a way for a pipeline to be constructed to ensure that L.A.'s water needs are met for the next century.

Build the pipeline, then build the train line.

David B. Hill, Pacific Palisades


Proponents, Opponents Prepare for Release of 710 Extension DEIR


By Jason Kurosu,  December 25, 2014

The proposed 710 Freeway extension is currently undergoing a review of the five proposed alternatives: a freeway tunnel, bus rapid transit, light rail transit, transportation system management/transportation demand management and a no build option.

With just over a month until the release of the draft environmental impact report/draft environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS), groups opposed to the possibility of a freeway tunnel continue to seek alternatives to what some view as a foregone conclusion.

 Susan Bolan of the No 710 Action Committee said that the 5-Cities Alliance, which is composed of Glendale, La CaƱada, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena, is prepared to react to the draft EIR with alternate proposals outside of the five included in the EIR and request an extension on the 90-day public comment period. Metro increased the comment period from an initial 45-day period.

“The DEIR is expected to be over 50 comprehensive studies and upward of 10,000 pages in length,” said Bolan. “We have no doubt that there will be many studies to pore through.”

The No 710 Action committee has circulated a petition on its website, no710.com, supporting “a multi-modal approach that may include implementation of Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM), Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail individually or in combination, but does not include a surface freeway or tunnel connecting the 710 and 210 Freeways.”

This multi-modal solution would be “a comprehensive plan that has a combination of local street repairs, signal synchronization, grade separations between street and rail, walkability, bike paths, busways and light rail,” said Bolan, who emphasized that the approach should be environmentally sound. “All of it green. Not a tunnel which moves back to 20th century, build-it-at-any cost mentality, which will increase traffic and, hence, pollution.”

When the petition is signed online, various members of the political and transportation communities in the state are messaged including the governor, members of Metro, Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission.

Bolan compared concerns over the tunnel to the issues associated with the two-mile long Alaskan Way Viaduct Tunnel in Seattle, the construction of which has been delayed since 2013 due to mechanical failures.

“We are watching the lack of progress with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Tunnel as Metro/Caltrans have used this tunnel for cost and logistics comparisons. The diameter is comparable to the 710 tunnel, which makes it the largest roadway tunnel ever attempted in the U.S.,” she said.

Expectations for the stacked tunnels are a length of 4.9 miles.

A number of bodies within the 5-Cities Alliance have publicly opposed the tunnel plans, including the Glendale City Council and the Crescenta Valley Town Council.

“The City of Glendale is committed to providing useful, factual and relevant information regarding any proposal related to the 710 extension, as evidenced by our participation in the 5-Cities Alliance,” said Glendale City Council member Paula Devine, who requested that the council discuss utilizing city resources for advocacy in the opposition effort.

“We have given our support to the 5-Cities Alliance and have asked that Metro look to alternative transportation ideas and stop the 710 tunnel,” said Crescenta Valley Town Council President Robbyn Battles, who said CVTC will address the issue when the draft EIR is released.

Bolan said that the No 710 Action Committee is prepared to respond to the draft EIR upon release, a response that will address various environmental and traffic related issues.

The draft environmental document will be released in February 2015.

Congestion at ports of L.A., Long Beach is putting a damper on economy


By Andrew Khouri, December 25, 2014

Port congestion is a drag on U.S. economy

The number of ships at anchor off the coast has declined, but the docks at the Long Beach and L.A. ports still overflow with cargo.

 Brutal congestion at the nation's busiest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach is throwing a kink into an economy that's
finally kicking into high gear.

The months-long bottleneck is hurting retailers and other businesses that aren't getting their shipments on time as massive ships from Asia anchor off the Los Angeles coastline waiting for the docks to clear.

"It's been the bane of my existence," said Lisa Foster, whose Venice business sells reusable shopping bags imported from China. "And it's only getting worse and worse and worse."

 That's in stark contrast to a national economy that's on pace to add the most new jobs since 1999. On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 18,000 threshold for the first time, after a government report showed the economy last quarter grew at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

Growth, however, would have been stronger if the ports — which handle roughly 40% of U.S. imports — were operating smoothly, said international trade economist Jock O'Connell. The negative drag probably will worsen in the fourth quarter, when the most brutal congestion surfaced, he said.

"This does act as a drag on the economy," O'Connell said. "You want the ports, the entire supply chain to operate at maximum efficiency. And it's not."

L.A. and Long Beach are trying to speed up the flow of cargo. The ports are taking a variety of steps to ease the logistical nightmare they blame on the increased use of massive container ships, a surge in cargo as the economy improves and a shortage of the trailers that truckers use to haul goods from the ports. In February, a shared trailer system will roll out, designed to make the equipment more available for truckers.

And this week, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted to ask the federal government for permission to work with its competitor in L.A. in a bid to clear the docks.

"These are systemic problems that can only be solved by bringing all the parties together," Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said in a statement.
According to terminal operators and shipping lines, dockworkers are also slowing down on the job to gain leverage during contract negotiations, further hindering the nation's busiest port complex.

The congestion is wreaking havoc on supply chains across the country. Many retailers airlifted their goods or diverted them to the East and Gulf coasts to ensure presents arrived for the holidays.

Businesses are likely to eat the added costs, which will affect bottom lines in the fourth quarter, said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.

Yoga clothing firm Lululemon Athletica Inc. lowered its 2014 revenue guidance earlier this month, in part because of West Coast port congestion. FedEx Corp. Chief Executive Frederick Smith told analysts that some consumers are finding goods out of stock when they order online.

"The slowdown in the West Coast ports has been a much bigger deal than people think," he said. "I suspect that you'll see a lot of purchases of gift cards in lieu of merchandise."

The logjam has been a nightmare for small firms as well.

Foster, owner of 1 Bag at a Time in Venice, said she can't promise potential customers speedy delivery of her company's reusable shopping bags from China. In response, would-be clients went elsewhere and sales were lost, she said.

"Uncertainty kills a lot of my business," she said.

The situation has improved slightly since Thanksgiving, said Port of Long Beach spokesman Art Wong. The number of ships at anchor off the coast has declined, but the docks still overflow with cargo. And a likely cargo surge before the February Chinese New Year — when factories traditionally close — threatens to reverse any improvement.

According to the Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents employers operating shipping lines and terminal operators, the union is directly thwarting traffic flows by refusing to dispatch skilled workers for nearly two months at L.A. and Long Beach. Slowdown tactics have also been deployed in Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., according to the employers.

Nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports have been working without a contract since July, when their six-year agreement expired.

The union says the congestion stems from other factors, including the shortage of trailers. Before the slowdown accusations surfaced, L.A. and Long Beach were already experiencing the worst congestion in a decade.

On Monday, employers called for federal mediation to help reach a new agreement, saying the two sides remain far apart on many issues. The union has not yet responded.

In the meantime, businesses such as electric bike shop Pedego Irvine say they don't know what to do.
Owner Bob Bibee said the Chinese parts needed to assemble the bikes are repeatedly delayed at sea and on the docks.

"It is costing me thousands," Bibee said. "It's really frustrating; there's nothing we can do about it."

Sinking soil halts work at Seattle tunnel repair project


December 8, 2014


 SEATTLE (AP) - There are more problems for the Highway 99 tunnel project beneath downtown Seattle, as engineers study whether settling soil means work should be altered on a pit being dug to reach a stalled digging machine known as Bertha.

Tests over the weekend showed the settling around the pit is uneven, the Department of Transportation said.

No differential settling, which is potentially risky for structures, was detected on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which remains safe for travel, the department said Monday.

The settling near the pit is apparently the result of groundwater pumped out by Seattle Tunnel Partners as it digs a 120-foot access pit to reach and replace the damaged head of the boring machine.

Bertha overheated and stopped a year ago. It has drilled about 10 percent of the way into a planned 2-mile tunnel to replace the viaduct.

State engineers are analyzing the settling data to make sure the pit, viaduct and nearby buildings are secure. On Sunday, the state said pumping necessary to reduce water pressure on the pit would be stopped. However on Monday, Laura Newborn, spokeswoman for the viaduct replacement project, said the dewatering was continuing.

Seattle Tunnel Partners had told the state it planned to resume tunneling in April on the $2 billion project. It's already about a year behind schedule. The opening was previously scheduled for December 2015.

Bertha is stuck about 60 feet under a street not far from the Seattle waterfront. To remove the 57-foot diameter cutting head, the 80-foot-diameter access pit needs to be about 120 feet deep. It's currently about 70 feet deep.

Engineers last week said the viaduct had sunk about an inch in the past month. That's in addition to earlier sinking after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

The risk of the 61-year-old viaduct collapsing in an earthquake is one reason the state pushed for the tunnel replacement project to carry Highway 99 traffic through the city. The viaduct carries about 100,000 vehicles a day.

Work on the access pit was stopped for several weeks this fall after clam shells were uncovered. Experts determined they were not archaeologically significant.