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, February 28, 2015

Getting Ready for the EIR!

Posted on Facebook by A-Team Portantino, February 28, 2015

A big shout out to the City of La Canada Flintridge and the outstanding citizen activists who put on and attended this very important EIR workshop this morning. Our numbers are growing!!!! ‪#‎no710‬ ‪#‎pasadena‬ ‪#‎southpasadena‬ ‪#‎lacanada‬ ‪#‎sierramadre‬ ‪#‎lacrescenta‬ ‪#‎glendale‬ ‪#‎sunlandtujunga‬ ‪#‎losangeles‬ ‪#‎MTA‬ ‪#‎Caltrans‬

 City Holds 710 EIR Workshop:


  Photos from this monring's workshop — in La Canada Flintridge, California.


 Cities from LA to the San Gabriel Valley and West to through the foothills are coming together to oppose the 710 tunnel and bracing for the release of the EIR.

Helping any and every way I can to get the word out.


Oh no, we don't want this at the base of Huntington Hospital on one end and the great community of El Sereno on the other.

1 comment:

I guarantee they won't have that image for Pasadena....but are.have already planned it for El Sereno...current designs would place the starter shaft on the north side of Valley Blvd between the Recycle Plant and Grifols. The hole in the ground would be about 200ft wide, along Valley and extend north about 800ft toward the UPRR tracks (about half the vacant lot's length) and be about 200ft deep -total excavation of 1.5-2,000,000 cu yd. Also all vent exhaust during the 4-7 year construction would be exhausted next to the Front Str. Neighborhood of Alhambra (but remember BM says that they want it). So it is now getting real and everyone want to do something.... If you are real and not just digital...I can help your review and commenting on the DEIR BUT I need 5-9 people for 3 hrs to really learn how to review and comment on an EIR...not like what we got today....this is now REAL time not just talk and chatting...Send me a mail and I will help...ctwilliams2012@yahoo.com

Potential Tunnel Trouble


By Bill Glazier, February 28, 2015

    • Borinmachine

MACHINERY FAILS – They call it “Bertha,” a massive tunnel-boring machine that arrived Seattle in July 2013. Seattle city officials expected a tunnel underneath the city to be completed this year. The machinery has remained motionless since December 2013 after it was damaged. Now no one in the City of Seattle is saying when work will restart and be completed. 

It might be fascinating, admits South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez, talking about a boring machine that could work its way under the city someday, but the reality is they can fail miserably.

A case in point in what might happen close to home, explained Gonzalez, can be found in the Northwest where an underground tunnel project has been less than successful. The “Bertha” drilling machine, as it is known to those living in Seattle, got stuck in the ground not long after arriving in 2013. Only 11 percent of a two-mile tunnel route is complete to date. City officials can’t confirm when the project will resume or be completed, yet some are projecting sometime in 2017 – long past its 2015 timetable.

“The boring machine broke down more than a year ago,” stressed Gonzalez. “It’s broken down, stalled. Not only is it causing cost overruns, but it’s causing physical damage to the area.”
In Seattle, a 120-foot-deep pit has been dug to allow a giant crane to pull out the “Bertha” drilling machine and repair it.

Metro is expected to release a draft Environmental EIR/EIS report by the end of the month. It will provide information about the best way to close the State Route 710 between its terminus just outside the Alhambra city limits to Pasadena after studying five proposed options. They range from leaving the 4.5-mile gap alone to implementing traffic signal upgrades and synchronization, increasing bus service, making better use of light rail, and, finally building a tunnel freeway, much of which would go under South Pasadena.

Gonzalez already suspects the latter.

“The reality is machine’s fail,” stressed the city manager, explaining that the City Council is reaching out to the City of Seattle to learn more about the failure of “Bertha” as Metro looks at the idea of a tunnel under South Pasadena.

“We’re very concerned about it,” said Gonzalez. “We want to make it clear to our residents that we are going to continue to fight as smart and hard as we can to prevent a 60-foot in diameter hole from being drilled under our city. There are much better ways to improve mobility in the region, create jobs and improve air quality than having to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on a dream of a project that will most-likely fail.”

South Pasadena City Council members approved a letter going to the Seattle Councilman Mike O’Brien, an opponent of the tunnel project in that city. “We want to partner with the City of Seattle because the same thing could happen here. Our letter states that we may be going down the same path and we’re very concerned.”

Boosters of proposed transit sales tax woo San Fernando Valley voters


By Dana Bartholomew, February 27, 2015

 Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian speaks at a San Fernando Valley Transit Town Hall on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 regarding Measure R2.

 Seven years ago, voters across Los Angeles County barely approved Measure R, a half -cent sales tax that resulted in nearly no transportation upgrades for the San Fernando Valley.

 Now mass transit boosters are appealing to snubbed Valley voters for their crucial support in passing another proposed half-cent transportation sales tax known as Measure R2 for the November 2016 ballot.

“This is a really important moment in the transportation history of the San Fernando Valley,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, a Metro and Metrolink board member, addressing a packed rally for a Measure R2 late Thursday at the Van Nuys Civic Center. “We’re embarking on a discussion that will affect transportation in the San Fernando Valley for generations to come.

“The Valley now wants public transit that works.”

The “Imagining Our Transportation Future” transit town hall meeting drew elected leaders, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials, public transit advocates and hundreds of Valley and Santa Clarita residents for a three-hour conversation about local transit needs.

At its heart was a draft for a so-called Measure R2, a second sales tax measure that could raise $90 billion over 45 years for a raft of transportation upgrades.

Supporters, including town hall hosts Move LA, a Santa Monica-based public transit advocacy group, and the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments, which Krekorian chairs, hope to put it before voters in late 2016. It would add to the current half-cent tax.

To win their support, they had to address a shortcoming of bond Measure R, a 30-year half-cent sales tax that narrowly passed in 2008. Of $40 billion in rail, bus and highway projects, few were destined for the Valley — which makes up 30 percent of Los Angeles but got only 13 percent of the money, county Supervisor Michael Antonovich said, getting just two of 80 Metro rail stops.

Another transportation sales tax initiative in 2012 would have extended the countywide transportation sales tax, but Measure J failed to achieve a required two-thirds vote.

While he didn’t support the first transportation tax, Antonovich said it’s time voters step up to bankroll new rail lines, “grand boulevard” street improvements, bicycle lanes and a potential tunnel beneath the traffic-choked Sepulveda Pass.

He called for a “bottom up” approach to transportation planning, with buy-in from 88 cities and half a dozen councils of government.

“We’re all in agreement to see that the San Fernando Valley and the north county receive the resources that they need,” Antonovich told the town hall meeting. “Historically, the (Valley) has not received its fair share in the Measure R proposition.

“In the past, you had cotton candy — a lot of fluff, no substance. This time, we want broccoli, all substance.”

The improvements being championed by Metro and such groups as Move LA would be funded by $27 billion in new railroad money.

Some proposals include: Convert the Metro Orange Line into a faster light rail line. Extend a light rail line down Van Nuys Boulevard, also known as the East Valley North-South Transit Corridor.

Punch a rail line from the North Hollywood Red Line Station to Burbank Airport, then loop down Interstate 5 to Union Station. Run a rail line from Glendale along the 134 Freeway to the Metro Gold Line in Pasadena, then out to the San Gabriel Valley.

And the whopper: A proposed tunnel drilled under the Sepulveda Pass with a potential toll road and rail line connecting Sylmar with Los Angeles International Airport. Minimum cost: $6 billion.

“The San Fernando Valley needs to be very happy,” said Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA and a former mayor of Santa Monica. “Because we have to win a two-thirds vote.”

Many residents at the town hall, however, were skeptical.

How can Valley voters support a Measure R2 when the Valley stands to be disrupted by a high-speed bullet train? they asked. And what about the current Metro stations that lack parking, bathrooms, cafes and even drinking fountains. And why should a majority of taxpayers ante up more money to shore up a public transit system used by only 10 percent of voters?

“The bulk of the people who are paying for this will not be taking rapid transit,” one man said. “They own cars, they want something in return -- like fixing the 101/405 (freeway) interchange.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

Eagle Rock CD 14 Candidate Forum 2/25/2015--Video by Joe Cano

Published on Feb 27, 2015
A point of clarification. In response to Molina's supporters handing out attack literature in previous forums in Boyle Hgts, Highland Park, Calstate LA & El Sereno, I distributed a flyer critical of Molina at this event. A staffer named Brandon, either in error or intentionally, informed Molina that Huizar's campaign was responsible for handing it out. I do not work for the campaign, I am an El Sereno resident that decided to give Gloria Molina a taste of her own medicine. Her goon squad was having free reign at previous events & various social media sites. Payback.

Teaching Driverless Cars to Fit Your Human Driving Style

After all, not everyone takes an off-ramp the same way.


By Eric Jaffe, February 27, 2015

 Image HERE

Here's the scene that was scaring people: It was a driverless-car test run in Germany on a perfectly straight road with a medieval gate up ahead. The gate was a tight squeeze, and a regular driver would slow down to a crawl to make sure the car fit. But the driverless car made the calculations ahead of time and knew it had enough space, so it cruised along at the speed limit, maybe 30 m.p.h. And as it got closer to the gate, with no signs of slowing down, the passengers lost it.

"It's perfectly fine and safe, but the people inside the car, they basically freak out in these situations," says Dietmar Rabel, head of automated driving product management for HERE, an arm of Nokia that's developing data tools to help car companies make driverless cars. "This was the start of this idea that we really need to look at how people really drive in the real world."

That idea has grown into what HERE calls the "humanized driving" project. By analyzing a huge archive of data collected through its existing traffic products, HERE has identified behavioral patterns and styles that can be organized into various driver profiles. A "sports" profile might represent a more aggressive driver, for instance, whereas an "economy" profile might suit someone more defensive behind the wheel.

Take the different ways drivers use a highway exit ramp. Some slow down dramatically as soon as they merge off the highway, others decelerate more gradually through the ramp, and still others keep driving 55 m.p.h. or so as long as they can. These varying off-ramp styles might be included in economy, comfort, and sports profiles, respectively, says Rabel.

Other common scenarios modeled by HERE is how people handle inclement weather, how they change speeds at certain times of the day (turns out there's a reliable dip in speeds when cars head into the sun), how they approach a yellow light, and when they decide to prepare for an exit. A driverless car could safely move into the exit lane at the last moment, for instance, but some people would feel more comfortable doing that earlier.

One can also imagine profiles that vary geographically, for both legal and cultural reasons. In New York City, for instance, a driverless car would need to know not to turn right on red. In Pittsburgh, of course, cars notoriously turn left as soon as a light turns green. Such practices could conceivably be built into the mind of the driverless car and programmed to occur based on GPS location.

Ultimately behavioral profiles may become consumer options on driverless cars, says Rabel. Maybe buttons let people toggle between "sports," "economy," or "comfort" styles; or maybe a car adopts one singular style. "If you're buying a Porshe you probably don't need the 'economy' profile," he says.

That's really up to manufacturers to decide. HERE provides back-end data services to car companies developing driverless cars, but isn't making one itself. (Rabel wouldn't say which specific companies partner with HERE, but he acknowledged it's "fairly known" which auto makers are pursuing driverless technology.) Along with the Humanized Driving profiles, HERE's data services include extremely precise mapping (with "10-20 cm accuracy") and real-time road information (such as crash or weather or construction notifications).

HERE's driverless data services include extremely precise mapping (top) and real-time road information (such as crash or weather or construction notifications). (HERE)
The idea of a more aggressive driver profile diverges noticeably from the approach being taken by Google's self-driving car team. For now, at least, Google is programming its car to be as cautious as possible; when I rode in it last spring, the car didn't turn right on red for just that reason. Team leader Chris Urmson told me it's "probably not the right thing to emulate all the human behavior" in driverless cars. Theoretically they could be programmed for road rage, of course, but Urmson hopes people will feel less anxious in driverless cars because they can use their time more productively.

HERE is obviously not suggesting that driverless car profiles will or should compromise safety to any extent. That's priority number one. But the point of the Humanized Driving project is that people will expect driverless cars to behave a certain way—at least in the early iterations of the technology—and building driver profiles that meet these expectations might help manufacturers make the ride more comfortable.

"There are many other things that could be envisioned," says Rabel. "The sky is the limit. Nobody knows right now what's needed."

The Detached and Corrupted LA City Planning Continues to Undermine Transportation Initiatives


By Ken Alpern, February 27, 2015

GETTING THERE FROM HERE-After having witnessed a rather well-done (albeit low turnout) Metro presentation for an Airport Metro Connector (LINK: ) that is the result of a first-rate-and-no-idea-not-explored, years-long exhaustive review on how to connect MetroRail and mass transit to LAX, I'm reminded at the contrasting scenario of how LA City Planning is (again!) destroying our efforts to enhance our Economy, Environmental Sustainability and Quality of Life. 

And after spending so much time, energy and personal resources to enhance, I am not going to mince words: Mayor Garcetti, I like you personally and believe you want to do well by our City, and you deserve mega-kudos for your regional efforts to promote transportation/mobility improvements, but if you don't FIRE some of the wild-eyed, detached, and crazy "thought leaders" at City Planning, all of your efforts will be for naught: 

--The Mayor and the City of Los Angeles did the right thing, and the US Olympic Committee did the wrong thing, when the sentiment over the Boston Marathon tragedy led to a decision to favor Boston over LA for the 2024 Olympics.  Only LA has the wherewithal and infrastructure to be ready for that event, and this was a golden opportunity blown. 

--Furthermore, the Mayor and the City of Los Angeles (and let's not forget CD11/Westside Councilmember Mike Bonin) have leaned hard on both LA World Airports and Metro to work together to create the most cost-effective and viable Metro/Airport Connector that is possible, given the geography and operations needed to create both a countywide MetroRail/bus system and a LAX that works well together. 

--However, the crazies and corrupting influences who continuously and repeatedly suck up the oxygen from the Planning room in their intensity to replace cars with bicycles, and who punish those who want mobility but not overdevelopment (which decreases mobility), and who are dominated by family/children-unfriendly/clueless advocates, are turning off those who did (and still do) want to create a viable and livable 21st-Century Los Angeles. 

One thing I've learned, and I pretty much everyone else involved with Neighborhood Councils have learned, is that families with children--small, and school-aged children--don't have the time, money or energy to go to daytime or evening events that are dominated by those who will either unintentionally and/or callously destroy what Angelenos need for economic, environmental and quality of life improvements in our City. 

This issue has tie-ins with the reality of the City of LA having no ability (or desire) to force or even work with the LAUSD to create more cost-effective and cooperative park, library, open-space and related needs with publicly-funded schools, but that's another topic altogether--it hurts mobility and traffic and children's quality of life in innumerable ways, but that's not the main focus of this article. 

The main focus is that the same transit advocates, and community advocates, and environmental advocates, and neighborhood leaders, who fought for the Expo Line, for a Metro/LAX connection and a workable bus/bike/pedestrian/car cooperative system, are watching the Planning leaders hellbent on converting the Expo Line-adjacent portion of Pico Blvd. from a 1-story commercial thoroughfare to a 5-story corridor and wondering: WHICH UNIVERSE ARE YOU LIVING IN?! 

The Expo Line is on its way to being completed in the Westside, and the lack of DASH/local bus access for local residents, and the lack of parking for long-distance commuters from the Valley and the South Bay, is appalling. No money for sufficient parking, no money for a Westside Regional Transit center adjacent to the 405 freeway and Expo Line, and no money for DASH buses isn't going to sit well with the City taxpayers. 

Neither, of course, will overdeveloping Pico Blvd. (or any other City rail-adjacent corridor) sit well with taxpayers and residents who not that long ago watched with horror as former Mayor Villaraigosa chose to treat the Westside the way he treated his family and throw them to the wolves of the Casden Developers in an attempt to create as transit-UNFRIENDLY a project as possible next to the key Expo/Sepulveda station. 

(Mayor Garcetti...may I call you Eric?  Eric, you really want Westsiders to hate you as much as they hate Antonio Villaraigosa?  Really?) 

And meaning no hurt feelings to some fighting for a proper bicycle network throughout the City (as I have), but while bicycling is both good for mobility and recreation, it is truly "jumping the shark" altogether by suggesting that we can create a more economically-vibrant and mobile City by slapping the bejeezus out of commuters who recognize that cars, buses, rail and telecommuting will be far more successful when it comes to numbers. 

When the transportation and environmental fighters (I won't mention names, but it would probably surprise the Mayor as to their identities) are now stunned and betrayed by City Planners who are more open to the input of the agenda-driven and financially/politically-connected advocates and developers then they are the citizenry who pay most of the taxes, it doesn't bode well for more transportation planning... 

...or more transportation funding.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Roundup of today’s Metro Board of Directors meeting


By Steve Hymon, February 26, 2015

Below are some of the highlights from this morning’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. The full agenda is here.

One of the New Flyer buses recently put into service in front of Metro HQ. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
One of the New Flyer buses recently put into service in front of Metro HQ. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

•Item 23. The Board approved exercising an option with New Flyer to purchase an additional 350 new buses for $195 million on top of the 55o previously ordered. These buses will replace 40-foot buses due to reach the end of their useful lives with expiring compressed natural gas fuel tanks; it’s illegal to continue to operate such buses and most will be 14- or 15-years-old by the time they’re retired. This option is part of an ongoing Metro bus replacement project with some of the New Flyer buses being put into service in recent months.

•Item 21. The Board approved a motion by four Board members (Eric Garcetti, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Don Knabe and James Butts) asking Metro to study possibly extending the Silver Line south to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Silver Line’s current last stop in the South Bay is the Harbor Gateway Transit Center. The motion also asks Metro staff to study ways to improve transfers to the Silver Line from Metro Bus Lines 246 and 344.

•Item 50. The Metro Board heard an oral presentation on the agency’s latest customer survey, which included a question about sexual harassment experienced by bus and train riders. Twenty-two percent of riders reported experiencing some unwanted form of sexual behavior.

Metro officials said that the agency has a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment and is a preparing a public awareness campaign with the group Peace Over Violence and working with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to better police the system and crack down on harassment.

Several Board Members voiced their concern over the issue while recognizing it’s hardly limited to transit. Board Member Sheila Kuehl said that a staff member had recently been harassed on an escalator in a Metro station. Staff report and recent Source post with reader comments.

•Item 52. The Board approved a motion by Board Members Michael D. Antonovich and Hilda Solis asking Metro staff to develop a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to Red Light violations by Metro trains (i.e. trains not stopping at train signals telling them to stop). The motion also asks Metro to hire an independent consultant to study the issue and determine its root cause. There have been 38 Red Light violations in the past 24 months, according to Metro data.

•Item 12. The Board approved seeking funds from the California cap-and-trade program for two projects: 1) Improvements to the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station on the Blue Line, along with Blue Line signal and track upgrades to improve rail service, and; 2) Track improvements to the Red/Purple Line adjacent to Union Station that would allow trains to enter and exit the station more quickly. Staff report

•The Board approved a motion by three Board Members (Eric Garcetti, Diane DuBois and Don Knabe) to rename the Division 3 bus yard in Cypress Park to “Leahy Division 3″ as a tribute to the family of outgoing Metro CEO Art Leahy. Art’s parents both worked in transit and drove streetcars and met at Division 3 in the years after World War II. Art was born in 1949 and later became a bus operator with the RTD before jobs as CEO of OCTA, General Manager of Metro Transit in the Twin Cities and then CEO of Metro for the past six years. Art’s wife and brother are also transit veterans with many years of service. Here’s a good Steve Lopez column that ran recently in the LAT about Art.

The 710 Question--Video by Joe Cano

710 Freeway Gap: What's Your Opinion

From Steve Madison, Pasadena City Councilperson, February 26, 2015

The publication Westways (March/April 2015, page 12) has a short article of interest that requests our opinion on the 710 Freeway Gap.

“…The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and Caltrans conducted a study of a 100-square mile area to explore options that would address the problem and reduce traffic congestion.  Ideas include an underground freeway tunnel, a light-rail-line, express bus service, upgrading surface streets, or leaving things as they are.”
Metro is seeking our input on ways to address safety, traffic and transportation in the area that  affects District 6, Pasadena and neighboring communities.  It’s important that you express your opinions now at  metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations.


  From Sylvia Plummer, February 26, 2015

The League of Women Voters from the Pasadena Area are hosting a forum.


Location:  Cal State Los Angeles

  Please make plans to attend this important Forum on the SR-710 Tunnels.
Monday, March 9, 2015 from 6:00 to 8:30 PM

Cal State LA, Golden Eagle Ballroom, 3rd Floor

Parking:  Park in Lot 5, you must purchase a parking permit from the yellow permit dispensers.  The dispensers accept cash and credit cards.

You will need to register for the event. 

Please wear your NO 710 t-shirts or a red shirt.  We will have NO710 buttons to pass out.

Here's the flyer:

Monday March 9, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM PDT
Add to Calendar

Cal State LA, Golden Eagle Ballroom, 3rd floor
5151 State University Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90032

  Driving Directions
SR-710 North - Extend or Not? #SR710NForum

We invite you to join with the many residents commuters, and other stakeholders in the region who are seeking an opportunity to learn more about all aspects of this complicated and far-reaching issue.

The Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A. and the League of Women Voters of Pasadena are committed to providing high quality civic education experiences to the people of Los Angeles County.

Please plan to attend Monday, March 9th for #SR710NForum.

Event details:
Reception 6:00 p.m.
Program 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Get more information
We look forward to seeing you at the #SR710NForum!
Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs
League of Women Voters Pasadena

Ultrafine particles linked to California heart disease deaths, study finds


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

FasTrak express lanes turn 2, but traffic hasn't improved


February 23, 2015

  83340 full

 Motorists make their way out of downtown Los Angeles headed east on the Interstate 10 freeway on August 30, 2013.

FasTrak express lanes on the 10 Freeway turned two years old on Monday. They span 14 miles between downtown L.A. and the 605 Freeway. They were supposed to improve traffic flow. But so far: no such luck. 

MTA officials say it's all about the economy.

There are more drivers on the 10 Freeway now than there were a year ago. And express lane drivers can't complain. Their speeds have stayed consistently above average of 45 miles per hour during peak travel times.

But solo drivers in the general purpose lanes might feel differently. Between September 2013 and September 2014, their speeds during the morning commute dropped from 40 miles per hour to 31 on the stretch between the 605 and Fremont Avenue.

Metro is a big fan of the express lane and wants more of them.

This summer, its board members will consider extending lanes on the 110 south to the 405 and converting lanes on a portion of the 105.

It would help Metro's bottom line — it's collected more than $21 million on express lanes on the 10 Freeway.

How to Solve Downtown's Traffic Problems

CCA Event Brings Together Industry Leaders to Discuss Gridlock and Solutions


By Eddie Kim, February 23, 2015

  How to Solve Downtown's Traffic Problems

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Downtown is quickly becoming a hub of technology, new business and innovation. Yet when you’re mired in gridlock on Spring Street, staring at a sea of red taillights, it can feel like the neighborhood is stuck in the transportation dark ages.

Leaders in transportation, mass transit and technology came together on Thursday, Feb. 19, to discuss and predict the future of traveling in and around Downtown. The “L.A. Fast Track” conference was hosted by the Central City Association at the L.A. Hotel.

Seleta Reynolds, general manager of the city Department of Transportation, was bullish on the community’s potential.

“Downtown is where I think L.A. is going to establish itself as a national leader in transportation,” said Reynolds, who took over the department in August after being hired by Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“People here are open and ready for the kinds of investment and 21st century infrastructure that we can make.”

Participants in a panel discussion addressed the need to move away from car-centric planning and refocus on ways to diversify travel in a dense urban center. Reynolds, who moderated the panel, pointed to Broadway, where driving lanes have been trimmed and the sidewalks widened.

It is currently in a “dress rehearsal” phase, but Reynolds is optimistic about the results and what they could mean for both residents and businesses. She said studies show that streetscape improvements can boost revenues by 5%-12%.

“Downtown is a fantastic place for us to start,” she said.

Another point of discussion was the proposed $270 million Los Angeles Streetcar, which is currently undergoing environmental review. The 3.8-mile project propelled by 14th District City Councilman José  Huizar would help connect regional transit (light rail, for example) to local transit (buses) in an efficient and effective way, said Steve Ortmann, vice president of streetcar project manager URS Corp.

“We’ve spent 100 years figuring out how to get more cars through Downtown at the expense of our communities and the built environment and accessibility,” Ortmann said.

He also expressed optimism that the streetcar would get a dedicated lane, rather than sharing it with other vehicles, which some studies have shown boosts traffic efficiency.

Garcetti, who delivered the conference’s keynote speech, addressed the importance of innovation and risk-taking. He also pointed to a telling statistic: The city averages 1.1 persons in a car at any given moment. If that was bumped to 1.6, Los Angeles wouldn’t have a congestion problem, he said.

“Traffic is perhaps the most vexing issue and the one we lose the most productivity and dollars and sleep over,” he said. “The potential for [Downtown] to be the center of solving transportation problems and being a model for L.A. is more robust, more fertile than ever before.”

What could such innovation look like? Alan Clelland, a senior vice president at transportation consulting and engineering firm Iteris, championed the idea of shared driverless cars that roam the streets. It makes no sense, he said, for “your second-most expensive purchase” to sit idle for 22 hours of the day.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Penney, vice president of the Washington, D.C., consulting firm CH2M Hill, discussed the construction of a 27-mile bike path along the city’s Anacostia River, saying it has become a valued transportation resource as well as a recreational feature.

Such changes will come with pushback, Garcetti said, but he urged attendees to believe in the city’s transportation potential.

“There will always be counterarguments. ‘Why are we spending all this money? You’re trying to force me out of my car. Can’t you just have more parking spaces?’ We’ve had that philosophy for many years,” Garcetti said. “Can we all just say it’s a failed philosophy?”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Metrolink train derails in Oxnard; dozens are injured


Amsterdam Has Officially Run Out of Spaces to Park Its Bicycles

The cycling mecca of the Netherlands plans to build a partially underwater bike parking facility to deal with its crush of two-wheeled commuters. 


By Feargus O'Sullivan, February 24, 2015

 Image REUTERS/Koen van Weel

 A man rides his bike in a bicycle shed near Central Station Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is currently tackling a problem most cities can only dream of having: It has way too many bikes.

So massively popular is cycling in the Netherlands' largest city that the city center has run out of places to put them all. Amsterdam’s daily two-wheeled commuter flood fills downtown with more bikes than it has space to park, forcing the city come up with a drastic, visionary solution. It’s going to park those bikes underwater. Oh, and on water, too.

A women parks her bike in a bicycle shed near Central Station Amsterdam.

The city has just announced a plan to excavate a 7,000-space bicycle garage under the Ij, the former bay (now a lake thanks to the construction of the Afsluitdijk barrier) that forms Amsterdam’s waterfront. The lake forms a sort of moat around the city’s Central Station, its main transit hub and a place where it could be possible to connect a subaquatic bike catacomb directly via tunnel to the city’s metro system. Stacking a total of 21,500 new bike spaces around the station by 2030, Amsterdam also plans to create two new floating islands with space for 2000 bikes each. Add this to the 2,500 spaces already in place and you have what will comfortably be the largest bike parking accomodations in the world.

This might seem like a pretty grand infrastructure overhaul just to stow a few bikes, but Amsterdam’s cycling statistics are phenomenal. A massive 57 percent of Amsterdammers use their bikes daily, with 43 percent of them commuting to and from work using pedal power. It helps that this is a city in which cycling is particularly easy to do—the terrain is flat, the city compact and segregated bike paths make it pretty safe, while central canals often make road widening to accommodate cars impossible anyway.

The problem is what to do with bikes when they arrive downtown. Inner Amsterdam is densely built with often narrow streets, and bicycles chained up randomly here and there can become a major headache. So infested is Amsterdam with wrongly parked bicycles that in 2013 the city had to remove a phenomenal 73,000 of them from the streets. This is expensive—it costs from €50 to €70 per bike, while owners pay €10-12 to retrieve them from the pound. The city could increase the release fee, of course, but Amsterdam is also a great place in which to buy a cheap used bike—there’s a sense that many local scofflaws would simply buy another before paying a large fine.

All round, offering a lot more real parking places is a better and ultimately cheaper option. But where to put them? Not only is central Amsterdam full, but thanks to its marshy soil, it’s not an easy place to create basements either. Plans a while back to give canal houses parking places went as far as planning to temporarily drain the canals to build vaults in the clay beneath them. In a tight, soggy space like this, constructing under and on water is often the best solution, which makes the plan for Amsterdam’s Central Station less surprising. It should be impressive when it's finished. Within 15 years, the building will bristle both above and below ground with so many stacks of bikes that it may end up resembling some sort of vast brick pincushion.

City to host workshop on 710 EIR comments


February 25, 2015

 710 freeway
The beginning (left) and end (right) of the southern section of the 210 Freeway as seen from Del Mar Blvd. towards California Blvd. in Pasadena on Tuesday, October 2, 2012.

The City of La Cañada Flintridge will host a workshop on how to submit effective comments for the draft Environmental Impact Report for the 710 Freeway extension project, due to be released this month.

Topics will include a brief history of the California Environmental Quality Act, the contents of an Environmental Impact Report, the environmental review process and how to target your comments on the draft.

Last May, Los Angeles County transportation officials announced that the draft EIR would be delayed until February 2015.

Metro also announced that once the release occurred, community stakeholders would have 90 days to respond to findings. By law, Caltrans is required to allow a response window of only 45 days.

The workshop will be led by Delaine Shane, who has more than 34 years of experience preparing environmental documents in both the public and private sectors, according to a city notice.

The event will be held Saturday, Feb. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon at the City Hall Council Chambers, located at 1327 Foothill Boulevard.

Space is limited and reservations for the event will be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Attendees are asked to RSVP to Jan SooHoo at jan@soohoos.org

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Myth That Everyone Naturally Prefers Trains to Buses

When you focus on what really matters—service—much of the difference actually disappears.


By Eric Jaffe, February 23, 2015

Take a look at the image above. This rendering represents modern bus rapid transit service. The BRT vehicle travels in its own separate lane, free from the constraints of traffic congestion or traffic lights. The bus is sleek and the shelter is pleasant. If you could see the boarding procedure, too, you'd find that passengers buy their fares ahead of time, enabling them to enter quickly through any door, just as they do on a train.

Now take a look at the image below, which shows a modern light rail service. The scenes are remarkably similar. This train travels in the same dedicated lane and even has the same style. The only real difference you'll find, if you look very close, is the faint sign of tracks on the ground.
Given what we know from these two pictures alone, there's no reason to suspect these two rides—modern BRT or modern light rail—would be noticeably different experiences. And yet when transport scholars David Hensher and Corinne Mulley of the University of Sydney Business School showed these images to about 1,370 people in six Australian capital cities, the difference in preference was enormous.

For the study, Hensher and Mulley gave survey respondents the two images above, plus two others whose only difference was older-looking vehicle styles (one bus and one train), and asked them to rank the four images in terms of "which one you would like to travel in most." They found that 55 percent chose the modern light rail image, and another 18 percent chose the older light rail. Only about 17 percent chose the modern BRT. Just 10 percent chose the classic old bus.

The responses varied slightly among individual cities—Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth—but only slightly. A majority of respondents ranked the modern light rail image first in every city except Sydney, where 49 percent gave it the top rating. The modern BRT got more first-place votes than the old bus across the board, but it never eclipsed 20 percent in any city.

What makes those findings more vexing is that every city involved in the survey is familiar with both modes. In other words, lack of awareness of BRT couldn't explain the preference gap. Even in Brisbane and Adelaide, where BRT is more prevalent than light rail, the train earned top marks: 53 and 56 percent chose it first, respectively, to about 18 percent in each place for modern BRT.
The results suggest, at a very superficial level, "that 'bus' has a relatively bad image, and that BRT suffers from its indirect association with bus, with a very high preference for non-bus images," as Hensher and Mulley put it. So we might be tempted to conclude that people simply like trains more than buses. But as the rest of this study (and others) show, that simplified conclusion would be wrong.

Buses Are Boring — Unless They Run Well

Paraphrasing a former mayor of Los Angeles, Hensher tells CityLab there's an overwhelming perception "that buses are boring and trains are sexy." That mindset complicates the discussion of mass transit plans in growing metros: though advanced bus systems can perform as well or better than streetcar or light rail systems for less money, people would rather have trains. In previous work, Hensher has called this emotional preference a "blind commitment":
The main point is that the enthusiasm (almost blind commitment) for LRT [light rail] has caused many to overlook the potential for more cost-effective bus-based systems and even simpler improvements to bus services that do not require dedicated right of way.
For sure, some people have an almost ideological preference to certain modes of public transportation. But as with so much else we take on faith, that blind commitment breaks down in the face of exposure.
As Hensher and Mulley dug deeper into the data, they found that images alone didn't tell the whole story. On the contrary, certain ridership factors influenced bus perceptions in a positive way. Respondents who had taken more trips by bus in the past month, for instance, had a higher probability of preferring a bus image to a train image. Ditto for those who'd gotten a seat for the entirety of a recent bus trip. Ditto again for those who'd taken any mode of transit in the past month, compared to those who had not.

The results, conclude the authors, underscore "the importance of exposure and experience in using public transport as conditioning preferences for bus and light rail options." One reason they suspect Sydney residents gave buses the highest bus rankings, relative to other cities, is that service there has recently improved. In other words, people might indeed have an initial tendency to dislike the bus, but once they get on board and find it's not so bad, those feelings start to change.

The findings echo a study from 2013 that also showed how transit service can matter more to riders than transit type. Analyzing 44 BRT systems and 57 light rail (and streetcar) systems, Graham Currie and Alexa Delbosc of Monash University in Australia found that the rail systems did, on average, carry more passengers. But once they adjusted for capacity, they found that routes with better service—features like higher frequency and integrated ticketing—"attract more ridership than low-service routes."

In another recent study, Hensher and Mulley (along with colleague Chinh Ho) showed a head-to-head transit proposal to 1,018 people in eight Australian cities. One proposal was labeled BRT, the other light rail. The construction costs were the same for each system, but many of the 20 service and design features included in the proposals varied, including construction timeline, frequency, travel time, fare, and expected mode-switch from cars.
A University of Sydney Business School survey found a bias against BRT—but that disappeared when researchers adjusted for the service features they deemed irrelevant (above, a sample survey). (Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice)
With all 20 features in play—including, critically, the name of the system—people seemed to prefer light rail to BRT. But the researchers also asked respondents to mark which service attributes they deemed irrelevant. When the preferences were tallied again through the lens of what "really mattered" to riders, lo and behold, the bias against buses disappeared. Or, as Hensher and Mulley put it, "the modal image expressed through the name is, on average, of no consequence":
Hence we might suggest from this evidence that once what really matters (differentially) to each individual is narrowed down, the LRT-BRT distinction blurs into a domain of non-relevance.

Marketing Alone Isn't Enough

The point is not to pretend that everyone secretly hearts buses. That is not the case. A lot of people really un-heart buses.

Their reasons range from defensible to disturbing. Some rightly equate trains with unfettered movement while seeing bus travel as captive to the same congestion that cars endure, but without the benefits of privacy or trip flexibility. Others suffer from what Hensher calls an "obsession with technology." Still others—namely, public officials—simply go where the free federal money is. We've seen that before with the people mover, and may be seeing it again in places with the modern streetcar.

And, fair or foul, buses carry a social stigma for some people in some places. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported results from focus groups held to gauge the public perception of bus travel in Los Angeles. The comments they received about local bus service, in particular, had a pretty consistent (and appalling) theme of "shame":
  • "I'm ashamed to tell that I am taking buses…In Europe, I wouldn’t. But here, they would think, 'Did he lose his job?' "
  • "The shame factor is majorly big."
  • "I'm just saying that when I was in L.A. and I was in the car and just looking in at the bus…the people getting on….it just seems scary..."
If a shameful image of buses were the whole of the problem, we could probably throw some ad money at it and change the conversation. Indeed, citing this 2009 DOT report, Josh Barro of the Upshot recently argued that cities can save money on rail projects by spending more on bus marketing. But while the right ad campaign could help at the margins, what the research in the preceding section really shows us is that transit service influences transit perceptions—not the other way around.
The Orange Line BRT in Los Angeles has shown that good service will attract new bus riders.
Barro points to the success of L.A.'s Orange Line, for instance, as evidence that "it is possible to overcome anti-bus bias with the right amenities and marketing." But in doing so, he mistakes the Orange Line's integral service improvements, such as high frequencies and dedicated lanes, for amenities at best or marketing ploys at worst, when in fact they represent a fundamentally stronger system. To suggest that reliable service and exclusive lanes are a product of savvy marketing is to suggest that Michael Jordan jumped high because Nike said so.

You can sense the magnitude of the change from buses to BRT in the way L.A. riders speak about the Orange Line, at least as captured in the 2009 DOT report. Riders can't seem to reconcile that it's a bus at all; instead, they describe it the same way they'd describe a train. Some actually called it a "train-bus":
  • "I was informed that what I take is the bus but I don’t consider the Orange Line a bus. I think of it as a train."
  • "…my main issue is efficiency, speed...what I associate with that is the Orange Line, the subway system, the railways, any dedicated streets or maybe a dedicated lane."
  • "At least the Orange Line has its own busway. Nothing but buses. That’s why I like it. And you have the clock thing when the next one's coming and you feel like it's a New York subway."
So it's possible that some people just love trains more than buses. But it's equally likely, in many cases, that people have just used "trains" to mean "good transit" and "buses" to mean "bad transit." If that's the case, then marketing better buses as something like trains (or, at least, something other than buses) should weaken this automatic association. But such efforts will fall flat without meaningful investments in well-designed service: dedicated lanes, reliable peak and off-peak service, off-board fare payments, comfortable stations or enhanced shelters, or reconfigured routes, to start the list. A pretty picture alone isn't enough.

Performance Metrics: Aligning California's Transportation Funding with Policy Goals


February 21, 2015

To develop a vision and policies for moving a greater share of state transportation dollars to projects and outcomes that are more cost-effective and better aligned with environmental goals a group of transportation advocates, experts and public officials, gathered at the University of California, Los Angeles in October 2014 for a discussion sponsored by the University of California Berkeley and Los Angeles Schools of Law and recently published this findings in a new report – Moving Dollars: Aligning Transportation Spending with California’s Environmental Goals.
The report finds: California’s state, regional and local governments spend roughly $28 billion a year on transportation infrastructure projects, with almost half of that amount derived from local funding sources. Local decision-makers control almost three-quarters of these funds, while state agencies control the remaining quarter. Year after year, the majority of these dollars goes to automobile infrastructure, including new road and highway expansion projects.  The continued predominant financial support for automobile infrastructure particularly new road and highway expansion projects, undermines California’s environmental goals. With relatively little funding remaining for alternative transportation modes, it also increases transportation costs for residents. And it exacerbates inequality related to housing, transportation affordability, and access to jobs.
Contributor Jeff Tumlin from Nelson/Nygaard states, “We still don’t have an objective, state-wide basis for determining good projects from bad projects. The only thing that we look at is whether the funding pieces are in place.”  One of the key recommendations of the report is the need for performance measures to evaluate and select projects at the state and regional level.
The report  states, “A performance standards-based model would encourage transportation decision-making that results in better outcomes in terms of traffic reduction, mobility, public health, affordability, and emissions. The standards would need to be accompanied by accountability measures and possibly land use incentives to encourage growth around sustainable infrastructure. Ultimately, these performance standards would help state leaders better communicate state goals among state agencies and to regional and local officials on transportation spending priorities.”
Read the full report here.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


February 23, 2015

People in Westwood are suddenly optimistic that Councilmember Paul Koretz is close to turning around on bicycle lanes on major streets. Momentum is building for bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard just north of National Boulevard. We’ll see.
  • Today – A host of community and national advocacy groups are hosting a conference on shared-use mobility even as you read this calendar. Unless you’re reading it on tomorrow. Then it’s over. Read my preview from last week, right here.
  • Today - Come out to express to the WVIA the need for bicycle infrastructure on Westwood Blvd. — a key direct route to and from campus for many cyclists — to enhance safe travel options, community health, and support thriving businesses. Ryan Snyder, President, Ryan Snyder Associates, LLC, will give a special presentation on the proposed Westwood Boulevard Bikeways “Remove Nothing Plan” to local merchants, neighbors, and stakeholders. Get the details, here.
  • Wednesday – The City Council Transportation Committee will not be meeting this week. See the notice, here.
  • Wednesday – Bike lanes are bad! Tunnels for freeways are good! This is some of the insanity that has been thrown around in the CD 14 race between Councilmember Jose Huizar, Supervisor Gloria Molina, and Nadine Diaz. The last forum in the race is this Wednesday in Eagle Rock. Get the details on Facebook.
  • Thursday – The Metro Board of Directors holds its monthly meeting. You can read the agenda, here. You can read the highlights from last week’s committee meetings, here.
  • Thursday - South L.A. community leaders will share their diverse and dynamic visions for food justice, urban agriculture, community arts, and recreation from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at a USC Visions and Voices panel. Panelists include South L.A. notables Ben Caldwell (Kaos Network); Karen Mack (LA Commons); Javier “JP” Partida (Los Ryderz); and Neelam Sharma (Community Services Unlimited). Details, here.
  • Friday – Critical Mass. Wilshire/Western. 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday – C.I.C.L.E. will lead a community bicycle ride, “Tweed, Moxie, and Mustaches,” through Cypress Park and Glassell Park to pedal back in time. This expedition, open to all bicyclists, will make several stops, including the Heritage Square Museum, a living history museum, as well as the former Van de Kamp Holland Dutch Bakery, built in the early 1900s. Participants will get a taste of history at each stop. Get the details, here.
  • March 11 - Santa Monica Next will host a happy hour with the team from Gehl Architects visiting for the West Coast Urban District Forum. RSVP on Facebook.

Rivals take on Huizar over business interests, development decisions


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Shipping lines and dockworkers reach deal; port shutdown averted


Friday, February 20, 2015

LA’s Ports: More to Fear Than a Work Stoppage


By Kay Martin, February 20, 2015


 As you read this, shipping bound for the US is anchored and rotting off our coast.

LEANING RIGHT-Mexico's government is preparing the largest infrastructure project in the nation's history, a $4-billion seaport at Punta Colonet that could transform this farming village into a cargo hub to rival the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 

If completed as planned the port will be the linchpin of a new shipping route linking the Pacific Ocean to America's heartland. Vessels bearing shipping containers from Asia would offload them on Mexico's Baja peninsula, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, where they would be whisked over newly constructed rail lines to the United States. 

The trucking and shipping will be done by Mexican contractors. 

"All the major players …  they'll be here," said a confident Rodriguez Arregui, who is overseeing the selection process. 

The prospect of billionaires duking it out over this remote stretch of Baja underscores just how lucrative the movement of goods between Asia and North America has become. About 30 million containers crossed the Pacific last year, a flow that had been increasing by about 10% annually for more than a decade until recently. And, though transpacific trade has slowed because of weakness in the U.S. economy, experts said those figures would continue to grow over time. 

With the West Coast's largest port complex, LA-Long Beach, constrained by urban development and environmental regulations and endless labor issues,  shippers are searching for alternatives. 

Punta Colonet has emerged as an attractive option. It's close to the United States. It possesses a wide, natural harbor. And it's located in a rural, lightly populated area offering almost unlimited room for expansion. 

"In the long run … it could get to the size of Long Beach-LA," which last year handled 15.7 million containers combined. "Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest green-field projects ever to be done" in the industry. 

The plan is nothing if not ambitious. Punta Colonet would be the first major seaport built in North America in nearly a century. When completed, the port will be the linchpin of a new shipping route linking the Pacific Ocean to America's heartland. Vessels bearing shipping containers from Asia would offload them here on Mexico's Baja peninsula, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, where they would be whisked over newly constructed rail lines to the United States. 

Panama is also in the midst of a $5.3-billion expansion of its landmark canal. Canada, whose coast is the shortest sailing distance from Asia, is looking to capitalize on that advantage with $3 billion in port and rail improvements to speed cargo to the United States. 

Panama is in the midst of a $5.3-billion expansion of its landmark canal. Canada, whose coast is the shortest sailing distance from Asia, is looking to capitalize on that advantage with $3 billion in port and rail improvements to speed cargo to the United States. 

The enlarging of the Panama Canal will allow any ship in the world to use it. 

Ports along the West, East and Gulf coasts of the U.S. have begun their own upgrades. So has Mexico's own Puerto Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast of the state of Michoacan. 

Right now Southern California is in a ‘chicken little’ mode and nothing getting done other than report generation will result in nothing accomplished. This in turn will result in the loss of millions of dollars worth of business and of thousands of jobs. 

The west coast of the United States has finally done something to counter these threats from Mexico and Panama. 

Wait just a minute. We have finally done something. We have shut down all US west coast ports.