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, August 31, 2015

Why Rush-Hour Traffic Isn’t the Best Way to Rank Urban Mobility

Focusing on the peak period, as the Texas A&M Transportation Institute does, can miss the big picture.


By Eric Jaffe, August 31, 2015

 Image Oran Viriyincy / Flickr

The lens you use to observe something says a lot about what you’ll see. If you examined the human condition only during the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., for instance, you might find a species that isn’t terrible productive for a full third of the day. Your response might even be to call for the elimination of sleep as a way of improving economic growth.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which puts out a regular ranking of rush-hour traffic congestion in U.S. metros, suffers from a similar myopia. It’s true that morning and evening commutes are a special form of hell with negative impacts on health and well-being. But by focusing on the narrow window of the peak period, the institute’s “Urban Mobility Scorecard,” as this year’s version is called, doesn’t actually do a good job scoring urban mobility—and instead arrives at some solutions that could hurt it.

Take your typical vision of bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic. The simplest conclusion here—beyond that the world enjoys self-inflicted torture—is that we need to build more highway lanes. That’s indeed a strategy the institute has embraced in the past; here’s Tim Lomax, one of the report’s main contributors, speaking to the Washington Post after the release of the 2011 ranking (spotted by Greater Greater Washington):
"You can do little things like stagger work hours, fix traffic-light timing and clear wrecks faster, but in the end, there's a need for more capacity."
Thing is, we know what happens when you reflexively expand capacity to fix traffic congestion: you do help things, but only temporarily. Inevitably, and before too long, congestion returns and you’re once again asking the same questions about how to handle it. As Robert Puentes of Brookings points out, the urban mobility report itself speaks to this process of “induced demand,” whereby commuters take to their cars once more lanes are available:
Since 1994, all but one of the top 100 places studied by the Texas A&M researchers saw congestion get worse, as measured by their Travel Time Index. Yet during that time, 92 of these places saw an increase in the amount of roadway miles per capita. … Yes, more road building in order to try to move vehicles faster often makes traffic worse.
Relying on highway expansion creates problems beyond more traffic—namely, a strain on transportation funding. Building new roads not only costs construction money now but it costs maintenance money later; a general failure to prepare for this full lifecycle of expenses explains much of America’s current infrastructure crisis. Additionally, in allotting so much money to the few-hour window that is rush-hour, local government finds itself without sufficient resources to provide mobility to the other 80 percent of travel that occurs outside the peak.
Commuting in America 2013
So by reducing urban mobility to rush-hour commuting, you’re missing the 20-some hour window of the day where metro areas have an underused (if not ghostly) roadway system as well as an underfunded city transit system—whose poor performance ironically leads more people to rely on cars. If you examined the traffic situation during this lens, you’d reach a much different set of conclusions.

Again, that’s not to say rush-hour traffic isn’t an economic drain or an emotional drag; it truly is. But it’s not entirely clear that commuter traffic is getting much worse over time. Joe Cortright at City Observatory, who has diligently tracked critiques of the mobility report, suggests the actual increase in congestion between now and 2030 will be a “trivial” 25 seconds per average commute trip.

The Texas institute predicts a much greater rise: something on the order of an hour or so a year. But that’s largely because the report relies on driving patterns from 2000 to 2005, the years immediately before most experts conclude that U.S. mileage trends peaked. Over at the Frontier Group, Tony Dutzik charts the years used for this forecast (below, in red), and explains that the future being outlined here essentially pretends (his emphasis) “that the last decade didn’t happen”:
The Frontier Group
To the extent that rush-hour traffic remains a problem, highway expansion is far from the only answer. Cities can discourage peak period driving by putting a price on it—either in the form of tolled lanes or congestion charging zones. They can also offer a discount for people who travel at off hours, or reserve existing lanes for buses that carry way more people, or encourage major employers to alter work schedules and reward alternative commutes, or generally shift planning focus toward development more suited to public transportation.

The Texas institute is coming around. In chatting with the Washington Post about the latest report, Tim Lomax acknowledges the limits of road expansion: “We need to figure out how to use our existing capacity smarter.” Meanwhile, other researchers—with Minnesota’s Accessibility Observatory leading the way—are now mapping job access instead of just quantifying gridlock to show why the rush-hour battle is often worth it. Nothing like looking at an old problem from a new perspective to open your eyes.

Kill the Transit Tax, Kill the Olympics


By Ken Alpern, August 28, 2015

ALPERN AT LARGE-You know, it's indeed possible that there will be enough voters who won't remember (or care about) the current shenanigans and budget games in the City of LA--enough to allow a 2/3 vote to pass a new sales tax measure in November 2016.  Then again, maybe enough voters will remember, and the initiative will (like its predecessor Measure J) fail to reach the 2/3 mark and fail.  And then you can kiss a 2024 Olympics goodbye. 

For the City of Los Angeles to be prepared for any 2024 Olympics, we'll need a "Measure R-2" to ensure enough funds to create the long-sought LAX/Metro Rail link, as well as any other Measure R project like the Downtown Connector and the Wilshire Subway, to be expedited and completed.

 Sidewalks and roads will need to be repaired, and the county will have to work together to make this 2024 Olympics tourist-friendly. 

And this will mean having the constituents--you know, the voters, the taxpayers, the citizenry--on board with their minds, hearts, and wallets open. 

Hence the slap in the face to the Neighborhoods Councils' Neighborhood Budget Advocates was either stupid or calculated on the part of Mayor Garcetti.  Not allowing the Neighborhood Councils access to budgetary issues affecting road repair and other City services? 

And you're going to ask Neighborhood Councils to support a "Measure R-2", Mr. Mayor? 

You're also going to ask Chambers of Commerce to support a "Measure R-2", Mr. Mayor--especially when City Hall just rammed a minimum wage hike (with a host of good intentions...but also with a host of horrific unintended consequences) without proper study down these Chambers' throats, and against their stated pleas? 

I'd say most of the taxpayers view Measure R-2 (which I'd love to support but which is becoming doggone hard to get behind at this time) as a way to build more rail and road projects, and to repair LA's infrastructure...and to prepare for the 2024 Olympics, to boot. 

But how many City of LA employees view Measure R-2 as a way to fund their next raise, coming after an obscene decade of giveaways between 2000-2010 for which Angelenos will suffer for decades? 

Did not Mayor Villaraigosa hamstring his own mayoral tenure by throwing out public sector union giveaways at the start of his first term? 

(And isn't Mayor Garcetti now repeating former Mayor Villaraigosa's errors?) 

Perhaps Mayor Garcetti and Council President Wesson are sick of hearing fellow CityWatch contributor Jack Humphreville complain about Downtown leadership shaking down and soaking taxpayers and ratepayers (but, then again, I repeat myself because ratepayers are just indirectly paying more taxes...and more taxes...and more taxes regardless of what they're called). 

And maybe voters and taxpayers are just too distracted by Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Kardashians, the Duggars, Caitlyn Jenner, Ashley Madison, world events, zombie series on TV,  and their personal lives. 

But November 2016 (it's just a little over a year away) will come around sooner or later, and then City Hall and the Mayor will need to convince the voters that a "Measure R-2" is a good thing.
A necessary thing.  A long-overdue thing. 

And then it will be evident for all to see whether there are enough distracted voters who will pay even more for a "Measure R-2" to prepare for the 2024 Olympics.  Maybe they will have been distracted, and will be ready to vote for more taxes after all that's going on with budgetary and utility rate-related mischief. 

And maybe enough weren't distracted, and they won't have that frame of mind.  2/3 of the voters is a rather high threshold to overcome what's currently going on with our City's financial decision-making.

Tenants worry as Caltrans prepares to sell homes along 710 Freeway corridor


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger Letter to G Damrath & P Washington Re Cost Benefit Analysis


San Gabriel Valley agency backs up from 710 Freeway project

Potential project is dropped from funding list should a sales tax measure pass.


 By Sara Cardine, August 28, 2015

 710 Freeway project supporters and critics

 In this file photo from July 2013, a "No on 710 extension" advocate passes supporters of the proposed 710 freeway extension in Alhambra earlier this month. The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments has removed the 710 Freeway tunnel from a list of projects to receive funding should a transportation tax be passed by L.A. County voters in 2016.

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments recently removed the 710 Freeway tunnel from a list of projects first in line for funding should a new transportation sales tax should be passed by L.A. County voters in 2016.

Local officials who support the tunnel view the Aug. 20 decision as a small sacrifice made for the greater good, while tunnel opponents believe it could signify a growing dissent and controversy surrounding the proposed $5.6-billion tunnel project.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working on a ballot measure that would ask Los Angeles County voters to approve a half-cent sales tax in November 2016. This levy would run concurrently with an existing 30-year half-cent hike, Measure R, narrowly passed by voters in 2008.

Although the exact life span of what’s casually called “Measure R2” is still uncertain, Move L.A. — the nonprofit business-labor-environmental coalition that worked with former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to pass Measure R — estimates it could collect approximately $90 billion over a 45-year period.

Metro staff assumes 50% of the revenue generated by the measure’s passage would be used for transit operations and facility repairs. Hoping to garner regional support for R2, Metro is asking L.A.
County COGs to identify how subregions might spend their portion of the remaining half of the revenues.

The San Gabriel COG was asked to prioritize $3.3 billion in transportation capital projects in a mobility matrix that would also help establish subregional goals, according to council documents.

Alhambra COG representative and tunnel advocate Barbara Messina said Monday the pro-tunnel contingent volunteered to remove the 710 project from the list, at the cost of $105 million in potential future tax revenues, to avoid controversy.

“We felt we didn’t want to jeopardize that (Measure R2) election and have the 710 be a part of it,” Messina said, explaining the decision followed a talk with current L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I knew he felt uncomfortable with the 710 tunnel being on that ballot.”

The decision also followed a July 23 recommendation from the council’s transportation committee that the panel reduce the amount of funding earmarked for highway efficiency projects in favor of transit and active transportation plans.

And, because pro-tunnelers are planning other means of paying the multibillion-dollar price tag, namely public-private partnerships, Messina said it didn’t seem worth it to argue for the 710 tunnel’s inclusion in the matrix.

“We weren’t going to be dependent on that money anyway, so it made sense for us to take it off the matrix of the COG as our priority project,” she added.

But those who oppose the tunnel, including La Cañada, Glendale and Pasadena city officials, for the for the congestion and health risks they believe it will bring, view the removal of the project as an indicator that the tunnel is controversial enough to doom Measure R2 to defeat.

La Cañada Mayor Pro Tem Jon Curtis said he believes the controversy has been stirred by recent criticisms leveled by agencies such as the South Coast Air Quality Management District against the draft environmental impact report released for Metro’s 710 Freeway extension alternatives.

“I think it’s a recognition there are some significant issues and concerns that have not been addressed,” Curtis said Wednesday.

La Cañada Councilwoman Terry Walker, who represents the city on the SGV-COG, said while she wasn’t in attendance for the Aug. 20 meeting, she believes the case against the tunnel in the wake of the draft EIR release seems to be growing.

“Sometimes a small group can have a big voice,” Walker said. “We have a lot of valid facts behind us.”

Walker and fellow anti-tunneler and La Cañada resident Jan Soo Hoo warned that just because the tunnel was taken off the mobility matrix doesn’t mean it’s gone.

“It’s so important the public not read this as a sign the tunnel is dead,” Soo Hoo said. “They’re not sacrificing the tunnel at all.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Insurers refuse STP Bertha breakdown claim


By Peter Kenyon, August 27, 2015

A consortium of insurance companies indicates its intent to refuse to pay out a multi-million dollar claim by Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) in respect of repairs to TBM Bertha.

Lowering repaired TBM back into the recovery shaft
Lowering repaired TBM back into the recovery shaft
Court papers lodged on August 18 (2015) in the Supreme Court of New York reveal that claims totalling US$89 million have been lodged by STP in respect of damages to its 17.6m diameter TBM. The design-build construction JV of Dragados and Tutor Perini estimates the total cost of repairs, including the excavation of the recovery shaft, will be US$143 million.

Ironically, the latest legal activity comes as STP and its specialist contractor Mamoet complete the hoist of the repaired TBM back into the recovery shaft for testing ahead of a scheduled November restart.

The insurance consortium – which agreed to indemnify STP against damages to its $80 million Hitachi-Zosen machine under a Builder’s Risk Policy – is claiming in the Supreme Court of New York that design flaws to the Japanese-built TBM made it unsuitable for the drive it was being asked to complete, and therefore subject to an exemption clause.

According to its own investigation – carried out by Maidl Tunnel Consultants (MTC) – “the TBM design was ‘under dimensioned’. In other words, the TBM specifications were higher than the loads achieved during the drive, but the operational loads were beyond the design limits for the equipment.”

Papers filed by the insurance consortium state: “MTC concluded that the ‘under dimensioned’ design caused the damage to the TBM. MTC also concluded that the lubrication system for this TBM was not suitable to control pressure and grease loads. According to MTC it is likely the TBM would have eventually failed because of the lubrication system, even if the TBM design was not under dimensioned.”

Damage to the rollers of the main bearing
Damage to the rollers of the main bearing
Following a series of site visits that were facilitated by STP, MTC made the following observations:
  • There was no serious damage on the cutterhead due to shock loads from hitting the steel pipe;
  • Cutter wear looked typical considering the ground conditions and general clogging problems of the cutterhead;
  • The temperatures were below critical limits;
  • The inner sealing system showed no significant wear;
  • The outer sealing system suffered from inconsistent lubrication from the beginning of the drive;
  • Cracks in the bearing block indicate high deformation also in the outer sealing system;
  • Thrust and torque after hitting the steel pipe were high but still inside specified ranges;
  • The original structural analysis lacked consideration of axial loads and considered incorrect overburden and water level;
  • The cutter head clogged, most likely because the foam conditioning equipment had several significant interruptions.
Heavy pitting damage to the softer metal of the pinions
Heavy pitting damage to the softer metal of the pinions
The insurers continue: “The Policy clearly and unambiguously stipulates that ‘it shall not indemnify the Insured for ‘Loss of or damage to in respect any item by its own explosion mechanical or electrical breakdown, failure breakage or derangement. This exclusion does not apply to resultant damage to the property.’ Here, the damage to the TBM was caused by its own mechanical or electrical breakdown, failure, breakage or derangement because its design was ‘under dimensioned’ and because its lubrication system was not suitable to control pressure and grease loads. As there is no evidence of resultant damage, the damages being claimed by the defendant [STP] are not within the exception to the Mechanical Breakdown exclusion in the Policy.”

STP has not yet submitted any claim relating to construction of the recovery shaft. However, the insurance consortium has indicated in advance that it will not pay out on this claim either, should one be made. The insurers claim that the cost of constructing the recovery shaft is not covered under Section 2 of the policy because the breakdown of the TBM was of a “mechanical” nature; and not covered under Section 1 because constructing it caused no damage to the permanent and/or temporary works.

The latest round of court action follows STP’s claim for breach of contract after the insurers failed to make any interim damages payments. That action was lodged in Superior Court of the State of Washington in June. According to documentation relating to that case, STP started supplying the insurance consortium in November 2014 with monthly schedules of costs incurred, but that no payments had yet been made.

Recovered inner bearing seals still covered with bearing seal grease
Recovered inner bearing seals still covered with bearing seal grease
Damage of bearing seal failure on the bullgear
Damage of bearing seal failure on the bullgear
It's case states: “This incident necessarily resulted in damages not only to the TBM itself, but also to the surrounding Project because of the need to retrieve and repair the TBM. Despite the damage to Bertha occurring over the past eighteen months, Defendant Insurance Companies have failed to indemnify STP for various covered costs associated with the damage to the TBM, including the costs to repair the TBM and other consequential costs associated with the damage to the TBM, thereby forcing STP to invest substantial resources required to effect the necessary repairs so that it can complete the work under its contract with the State of Washington.

“As of the date of this pleading, the Defendant Insurance Companies have not answered STP’s tender or stated their position regarding coverage under the policy at issue. STP has therefore been left with no recourse other than to seek a determination by this Court that STP’s losses are covered by the policy issued by the Defendant Insurance Companies. Additionally, STP seeks damages as a result of the Defendant Insurance Companies’ breach of its obligations under the terms of the Builders’ Risk Policy.”

The case will now be heard in New York after the insurers invoked their right, under the terms of the insurance agreement, to have the case arbitrated there in the event of a material dispute between the two parties.

Exactly who will end up paying for the damages to the TBM still remains unclear. If the insurer doesn’t pay out it is possible Hitachi will end up with a substantial bill since under the terms of its performance-related staggered payment supply contract with STP the machine has not travelled sufficient distance to be officially accepted.

Additionally, and separately, STP has applied for approximately US$200 million worth of change orders with the project owner as a result of claimed Differing Site Conditions that have materially affected progress. However, WSDOT has refused most of these and a number of Disputes Review Board recommendations in favour of the contractor have been rejected by the owner.

STP declined to make any comment to TunnelTalk regarding the insurance matter. Laura Newborn, for WSDOT said: “From our perspective, this is an issue between Seattle Tunnel Partners and its insurers.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

LACMTA Rail Ridership Update – July 2015 Edition


Another three months has passed, so it’s time for another LACMTA rail ridership update. As a reminder, bus ridership for the Westside and San Fernando Valley has been broken out into separate posts.

First, the raw data. Highlighted cells represent the top 10 months for that line (since January 2009).


Recent trends have continued, with the Blue and Red/Purple Lines continuing to slip a little, while the Green Line stabilized. The Gold Line and Expo Lines continue to be near, though not at, all-time highs, with the Gold Line just missing a top 10 month in July. Expo Line ridership picked up from April and May, but is still running a little below last year, so the rolling 12-month averages dropped a little.
Here’s the rolling 12-month average of weekday ridership:


As noted previously, some of the drop in the Blue and Red/Purple Lines may be due to ongoing construction that has increased late-night headways and shut down portions of the Blue Line at times.
Saturday and Sunday ridership on the Blue Line continued to slide, possibly due to construction. The Green Line declined but not as significantly. Interestingly, Red Line ridership dropped on Saturday, but had three straight top 10 months on Sunday. The Gold and Expo Lines also had three straight top 10 Sunday months, and had strong Saturday ridership as well.

Here’s the Saturday and Sunday rolling 12-month averages.

Sat-12mo-201507 Sun-12mo-201507

And lastly, here’s the update for the rolling 12-month average of boardings per mile:


Again, Expo Line ridership is leveling off. The Expo Line is closing in on the Blue Line for boardings per mile, but not for the reasons we’d hope!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

710 Tunnel: San Gabriel Valley cities take it off wish list for sales-tax funded projects


August 24, 2015

A group representing San Gabriel Valley cities has removed a controversial freeway tunnel proposal from its wish list of projects that might be funded by a new transportation sales tax.

The decades-old idea of extending the 710 Freeway north from its Alhambra terminus near Cal State Los Angeles to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena via an underground tunnel has been divisive.  Alhambra wants a tunnel, Pasadena doesn't. Other cities have taken sides.

But all 31 San Gabriel Valley cities united in taking the tunnel and other proposals for speeding traffic through the western valley off the list of projects that would have priority for funding with a potential new transportation sales tax.

The vote by the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments does not kill the tunnel idea, but it has the potential for limiting the means of paying for its construction, estimated by Caltrans at more than $5 billion.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is laying the groundwork for a ballot measure that would  double the countywide half-cent transportation sales tax if two-thirds of voters approve. Part of the sales pitch to voters would be the list of projects that would be built with the billions of dollars in new taxes.

SGV Council of Governments Executive Director Francis DeLach said pro-tunnel cities asked for the 710 Freeway-related projects to be taken off the SGV Council's list of sales tax-funded projects.
"Their intention is to make it a public private partnership," he said. The tunnel, if selected, would be funded by private investment and vehicle tolls, he said.

The tunnel remains under study, along with light rail, bus lines and road improvements. Caltrans will propose a final plan to Metro in about a year.

"The tunnel is so flawed and politically unpopular that it would be a poison pill that would kill any prospect of the sales tax measure getting passed by the voters  next year," said Coby King, spokesman for an anti-tunnel group known as Connected Cities .

Measure R, passed by voters in 2008, added one-half cent to the county's sales tax (bringing the basic county sales tax to 9 percent) and is estimated to produce about $40 billion for transportation projects over its 30-year lifespan. A new sales tax under study at Metro would increase the tax to one cent, however it's not clear yet how long it would last. A bill, SB 767, is pending in the legislature to permit the measure on the November 2016 ballot.

How should Metro handle the 710 project?

Metro’s five alternatives are:
  1. No-build: The only changes will be those already planned by local jurisdictions.
  2. Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management: Metro would improve the existing system by introducing strategies such as coordinating traffic signal timing and promoting carpooling and public transit.
  3. Bus Rapid Transit: By creating bus lanes, high speed and high frequency buses would run between 18 proposed locations.
  4. Light Rail Transit: Metro would build a 7.5 mile light rail with trains connecting East Los Angeles to Pasadena.
  5. Freeway Tunnel: A 6.3 mile four-lane tunnel would connect the end of the 710 freeway in Alhambra with the 210 freeway in Pasadena.

Metro is currently considering five options in the 710 project. Which one do you think is best?
Vote and View Results (Go to the website to vote and to view results.)

KPCC's online polls are not scientific surveys of local or national opinion. Rather, they are designed as a way for our audience members to engage with each other and share their views. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, facebook.com/kpcc, or in the comments below.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Public Comment period extended on Sale of SR-710 Surplus Properties

From Sylvia Plummer, August 24, 2015

Caltrans has extended two deadlines for public comment.  Both relate to the sale of the surplus properties.

1.   Rules and Regulations  For those of you interested in commenting on the proposed Affordable Sales Regulations – the written comment period, which was to have ended on 14 August 2015, has now been extended to  24 August 2015.  (For questions regarding the Notice or Public Hearings for the Affordable Sales Regulations, you may contact  Kimberly Erickson, Division of Right of Way and Land Surveys at (916) 654-4790.

 2.   DEIR Surplus Property Sales  For those interested in commenting on the DEIR Surplus Property Sales – the written comment period has now been extended to  September 8th. For more                               information, go to:   http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710sales/.

San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments Deletes SR-710 Tunnel from Priority Funding List


August 24, 2015

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments on Thursday approved a transportation priority list that did not include the SR-710 tunnel. Instead, the SGVCOG adopted a report that noted that possible funding for a tunnel could come from a future and undefined public private partnership.
“The SGVCOG’s action confirms what we’ve always known,” said Terry Tornek, mayor of the City of Pasadena and the city’s representative to the SGVCOG.  “The tunnel project is deeply flawed, politically unpopular, and presents so many environmental, health, legal, engineering, and economic concerns that it cannot be funded, let alone actually built,”
The SGVCOG’s action is part of a process set up by the Metro board to gather a set of priority projects from each Council of Governments in the county that might receive funding from a new measure to raise the sales tax.  That measure is expected to be on the ballot in November 2016.
Exclusion from the SGVCOG priority list makes it highly unlikely that the tunnel will be on the final county-wide project list, many observers say.
“The many supporters of the Beyond the 710 proposal, including the City of South Pasadena, continue to encourage Caltrans, Metro and the members of the SGVCOG to look beyond the terrible idea of the tunnel and study a modern mobility approach to congestion in the western San Gabriel Valley such as that represented by the Beyond the 710 proposal,” said Diana Mahmud, South Pasadena mayor pro tem and the city’s representative to the SGVCOG.
The Beyond the 710 Proposal shows that congestion can be relieved and economic development promoted by removing the freeway stubs at both the I-10 and I-210 freeways.  The Proposal, announced on May 28, 2015, has started a robust community discussion about how to bring about a mobility solution that benefits everyone and destroys no one’s community.  The Proposal can be found at http://bit.ly/1hk0o9u.
Beyond the 710, along with numerous cities, government agencies, elected officials, community organizations, and prominent individuals, recently submitted formal comment letters highly critical of the SR-710 environmental review process and encouraging a new approach along the lines of the Beyond the 710 proposal.  Many of those comment letters are available at the Beyond the 710 website.
Beyond the 710 is a project of the Connected Cities and Communities, comprised of the cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

SR710 Geotechnical Report submitted to CalTrans

From Sylvia Plummer, August 24, 2015

 SR-710 geotechnical report final.pdf

Here's a list of reasons (from the attached SR-710 Geotechnical Report)  why the Tunnel should not be build.  The 27 page report is ATTACHED.and was part of a larger report that was  submitted as a comment to the SR-710 Draft EIR.
"The SR-710 Tunnel will be one of the largest and longest highway tunnels in the world. Challenging geotechnical conditions have been identifiied along the potential tunnel routes, including variable geotechnical conditions ranging from unconsolidated alluvium to strong granitic rocks, high groundwater pressures, active earthquake faults, significant seismic hazards, formations with a high potential for methane and hydrogen sulfide gas, and contaminated soils and groundwater associated with Superfund sites."
"The geological conditions along the proposed tunnel are probably the most difficult ever encountered in a major tunnel project."

"During the course of studying these issues it became apparent to us that the tunnel project as proposed was most likely not feasible and that attempting to build it would end either in abandonment or radical modification of the project to a degree that would render our findings on local and detailed impacts meaningless."

 "Close reading of the EIR support documents shows that consultants and project sponsors are themselves uncertain with respect to the feasibility of the project as proposed. Instead the study suggests that necessary data will have to be obtained before even the preliminary design of the project. As far as we are able to see, an explicit declaration of technical feasibility of the project is never made in the EIR or supporting documents."

 "Possible fate of SR-710 project. From studies such as those discussed above we can suggest that reasonable scenarios of a serious failure of the SR-710 tunnel alternative project could include abandonment of the TBM construction technique, rerouting of the alignment, worker casualties, potential for sudden collapse features reaching the ground surface, major delays and cost
overruns, TBM breakdown with the attendant need for rescue excavation from the surface (as in Seattle), and even possibly abandonment of the project.  These suggestions are not exaggerations."

 "In our view it would hardly be surprising if the costs and construction time of the SR-710 tunnel were twice the predicted amount..."

 "The environmental impact of the tunnel project is currently unknowable because the project as proposed features unacceptable risks including construction safety problems and a high likelihood of needing a major redesign or realignment during construction with unknown risks of massive cost overruns and delays of possibly years. In the end, the tunnel may even prove to be technically infeasible."

Measure R-2

Joe Cano on Facebook, August 24, 2015

Here is a recent developement on the SR710 Tunnel. Mayor Garcetti & Metro are getting the message Measure 2 will not pass if the tunnel is included in the new tax initative. My fellow activists and I have appeared before the Metro Baord of Directors and warned them of the threat to Measure R 2 if the tunnel is included.

San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments Deletes SR-710 Tunnel from Priority Funding List after COG admits inclusion of tunnel project would probably doom sales tax measure.

August 24, 2015 – The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments on Thursday approved a transportation priority list that did not include the SR-710 tunnel, in effect admitting that the proposed project suffers from so much opposition that inclusion in a proposed county-wide sales tax measure would probably doom it to defeat. Instead, the SGVCOG adopted a report that noted that possible funding for a tunnel could come from a future and undefined public private partnership.
“The SGVCOG’s action confirms what we’ve always known,” said Terry Tornek, mayor of the City of Pasadena and the city’s representative to the SGVCOG. “The tunnel project is deeply flawed, politically unpopular, and presents so many environmental, health, legal, engineering, and economic concerns that it cannot be funded, let alone actually built,”

The SGVCOG’s action is part of a process set up by the Metro board to gather a set of priority projects from each Council of Governments in the county that might receive funding from a new measure to raise the sales tax. That measure is expected to be on the ballot in November 2016. Exclusion from the SGVCOG priority list makes it highly unlikely that the tunnel will be on the final county-wide project list.

 Joe Cano video:

The Trucks Are Killing Us


By Howard Abramson, August 21, 2015


ACCIDENTS like the one that critically injured the comedian Tracy Morgan, killed his friend and fellow comedian James McNair, known as Jimmy Mack, and hurt eight others on the New Jersey Turnpike last year are going to continue to happen unless Congress stops coddling the trucking industry.

More people will be killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks this year than have died in all of the domestic commercial airline crashes over the past 45 years, if past trends hold true. And still Congress continues to do the trucking industry’s bidding by frustrating the very regulators the government has empowered to oversee motor carriers.

In recent months, Congress has pursued a number of steps to roll back safety improvements ordered by federal regulators. It has pushed to allow truck drivers to work 82 hours a week, up from the current 70 hours over eight days, by eliminating the requirement that drivers take a two-day rest break each week; discouraged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from investing in wireless technology designed to improve the monitoring of drivers and their vehicles; and signaled its willingness to allow longer and heavier trucks despite widespread public opposition. Congress also wants to lower the minimum age for drivers of large trucks that are allowed to travel from state to state to 18, from 21.

All of these concessions to the trucking industry have gained traction in Congress even though the industry has consistently resisted safety improvements. The death toll in truck-involved crashes rose 17 percent from 2009 to 2013. Fatalities in truck-involved crashes have risen four years in a row, reaching 3,964 in 2013, the latest data available. Those crashes are killing not only car drivers but also, during 2013 alone, 586 people who were truck drivers or passengers.

And while a more than 3 percent drop in car deaths over the same period was largely accomplished by technological improvements like airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, the trucking industry has resisted most of those safety devices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the annual cost to the economy of truck and bus crashes to be $99 billion.
A number of changes that will inevitably make us all less safe are tucked into the pending highway bill, currently stalled because of differences between the House and Senate versions. In fact, Congress has failed to adopt a comprehensive highway funding bill for years, relying instead on dozens of temporary extensions since 2009 to keep any semblance of a federal road construction program moving. In July, the House and Senate passed another temporary patch, good through the end of October.

The crash involving Tracy Morgan shows why Congress needs to toughen its oversight of trucking, not loosen it. The driver who caused the crash was in a modern 18-wheeler that was well maintained and managed, owned and operated by Walmart. As detailed in the causation report on the crash released earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the driver had been on duty for about 13 and a half hours; federal rules allow a 14-hour workday. About a mile before the crash, the driver ignored work-zone warning signs on the New Jersey Turnpike of likely delays ahead. About a half-mile later, the posted speed limit dropped to 45 m.p.h. from the usual 65, which the driver also ignored.
Mr. Morgan’s Mercedes van was moving at less than 10 m.p.h. because of the construction. The truck driver, fatigued and slow to react, according to the N.T.S.B., was unable to stop in time, and slammed into the van, turning it on its side and jamming the passenger door closed. According to the board, if the driver had slowed to 45 when warned to do so, he should have been able to stop before crashing. But before his official work day began, the driver, the board found, had spent 12 hours driving his own vehicle from his home in Georgia to pick up his truck at a Walmart facility in Delaware, and had been awake for 28 consecutive hours at the time of the crash.

Large trucks are disproportionately involved in fatal accidents. While heavy trucks accounted for less than 10 percent of total miles traveled in the United States during 2013, according to federal data, the N.T.S.B. recently reported that they were involved in one in eight of all fatal accidents and about one-quarter of all fatal accidents in work zones, like the crash that injured Mr. Morgan.

Many accidents involve trucks rear-ending vehicles that have stopped or slowed because of accidents or roadwork. Technology to prevent or lessen the impact of such crashes is available from all of the manufacturers of heavy trucks in North America. Yet only about 3 percent of the Class 8 trucks — the heaviest ones, including most tractor-trailers — are equipped with any version of this collision-avoidance technology, according to safety advocates.

Most automakers now include or offer anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, airbags and collision-avoidance devices in their vehicles, and the technology is included in many of the heavy trucks sold in Europe. But the United States trucking industry has largely avoided using the safety technologies available for vehicles sold here, because of their cost.

The truck that injured Mr. Morgan was one of the few tractor-trailers that had a collision-detection system. But the N.T.S.B. was unable to prove that the system issued a warning to the driver. The board said it could not fully assess the performance of the device because the unit does not store enough system performance data. (The board has suggested all safety-system makers should ensure that their products store more data in the future.)

The trucking industry, through its chief trade group, the American Trucking Associations, insists that it needs longer work weeks and bigger vehicles so that more trucks will not be needed on the road, which it says could result in more accidents. That logic is laughable, but Congress seems to be buying it.

The industry also bases its opposition to safety-rule changes on money, saying that increasing costs will hurt profits and raise rates for shippers and, ultimately, consumers.

Higher safety standards and shorter work weeks may increase freight costs, but some of those standards should save carriers money in the long run through lower insurance rates and damage claims. And since trucking generates more than $700 billion a year in revenue, according to the trucking association, a small increase in safety costs would not put a large financial strain on carriers.

The trucking industry is vital to the nation’s economic well-being — it carried almost 69 percent of all domestic freight last year — and its executives have done an excellent job in keeping costs down. But Congress must make it clear to all parties that safety has to be a higher priority than penny-pinching.

Congress must pass a comprehensive highway funding bill and ensure that safety regulators have sufficient resources and political support to do what must be done in order to reduce the continuing carnage on our highways.

SR-719 Geotechnical Report Final

 Download at

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2,500 comment letters received on 710 Freeway project, as legislators take sides


By Steve Scauzillo, August 22, 2015


 In this file photo, vehicles get on the southbound 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra on Friday, October 7, 2011. Caltrans has received more than 2,500 letters responding to the 710 Freeway extension project.

Caltrans has received more than 2,500 letters responding to the 710 Freeway extension project, so many that two weeks after the six-month comment period has closed, the state transportation agency is still tallying the responses.

Aside from the sheer number and volume, the letters written by mayors and elected officials form a pattern: Those in favor of digging an underground tunnel to close the 4.5-mile gap from the 10 to the 210/134 freeways live south and east of the project, while those opposed live north or within the project footprint.

When a surface route going through the cities of South Pasadena and Pasadena was rescinded by the Federal Highway Administration in 2004, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2009 reported a tunnel was feasible, launching a $40 million draft Environmental Impact Report/Study which took four years, contains more than 26,000 pages and was released for comment on March 6, 2015.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, who only recently came out against the tunnel option, wrote in his letter that going underground and thereby not wiping out houses in the path was supposed to provide the communities common ground.

That did not happen, he wrote.

Schiff is joined by Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale, Sierra Madre, La Cañada Flintridge, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the West Pasadena Residents Association and state Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale in opposing the tunnel and/or calling the EIR inadequate. Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena questioned the project in his letter.

A majority of cities and elected officials who wrote letters favored the tunnel as the best way to close the gap and reduce congestion on local streets. Other alternatives in the study included: a dedicated busway; a new light-rail line; a series of roadway widenings, bikeways and traffic signalization, or no-build.

Some cities on the list wrote letters of support in 2014, before the EIR/EIS comment period opened. The combined list includes:

Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, Montebello’s Mayor Jack Hadjinian, San Marino, La Puente, West Covina, Covina, El Monte, La Verne, Pomona, Pico Rivera, South El Monte, Diamond Bar, Temple City, Huntington Park Councilman Johnny Pineada, Lynwood, South Gate, Commerce, state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Brea; state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina; Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park; Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina; Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Montebello; Los Angeles Community College District Board Member Mike Eng; the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments and the Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park Chamber of Commerce. Plus, the tunnel project received letters of support from numerous local union groups, including ironworkers, pipe-fitters, electrical workers and sprinkler fitters.

Aside from these, Caltrans received letters of support from some atypical groups. For example, an administrator of the nonprofit that treats drug addicts and former gang members known as Victory Outreach wrote: “These men and women would rejoice over the opportunity to work on a project like the proposed 710 tunnel.”

Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara Messina said the city and its pro-tunnel coalition garnered support from most municipalities and elected officials in the San Gabriel Valley. She said letters from churches and regular people signal a commonality. “We reached out to everyone. We are all impacted,” she said.

Alhambra supports a dual-bore tunnel of four lanes in each direction of more than 4 miles underground without exits. “Freeway tunnel alternatives do the best job of alleviating traffic and improving air quality on local arterials,” said the city in its lengthy letter.

The city also makes the case minority communities where the freeway ends in El Sereno have a higher cancer risk than communities at the north end with fewer minority residents and that a freeway tunnel would balance that disparity.

South Pasadena, along with the 7,000-household West Pasadena Residents’ Association and the city of Pasadena, support a combined alternative not in the EIR/EIS. The “Beyond the 710” initiative, for example, would turn the end of the freeway into a boulevard that takes cars through to Cal State Los Angeles and connects to Alhambra Avenue and Mission Road, “allowing traffic to be distributed into the arterial grid while protecting residential neighborhoods.”

At the so-called “north stub” north of Del Mar Avenue in Pasadena, the group’s proposal calls for connecting streets and as many as 1,300 new residential units from 35 “new acres” of filled-in land linking West Pasadena with Old Pasadena, a vibrant shopping district.

South Pasadena calls for Caltrans to drop out and give the Federal Transit Administration and Metro a chance at developing transit, bike and car connections that don’t include a freeway tunnel.
Geoffrey Baum, president of the WPRA, said the group put together a dozen transportation and air quality experts to produce its 430-page letter which calls for a new EIR/EIS, saying this one does a poor job estimating cost, air pollution and traffic.

“If not, we will consider legal action,” Baum said, saying the letter is the first step toward suing to stop the project.

Messina reminds opponents that voters approved Measure R, a county half-cent sales tax measure in 2008 that included $780 million for a 710 freeway tunnel. Caltrans and Metro estimate the cost of the larger tunnel at $5.4 billion, but opponents say the cost will be above $10 billion.

Since the tunnel would require a public-private partnership, the cost of the tunnel would be recouped by tolls. Neither agency has set the price of the toll for riding the tunnel. Metro says the tunnel would carry 180,000 vehicles per day and these cars must exit the tunnel and connect with the 210/134 in Pasadena.

Metro and Caltrans will incorporate the letters and comments into a new and possibly final EIR/EIS expected to be released in the middle of 2016.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Wonderfully Clear Explanation of How Road Diets Work


By Eric Jaffe, August 22, 2015

(See website for a video.)

A road diet is a great way for cities to reclaim some of the excess street space they’ve dedicated to cars—generally preserving traffic flows while improving safety and expanding mobility to other modes. But just as food dieters have Atkins, South Beach, vegan, and any number of options, road diets come in many flavors, too. Urban planner and Walkable City author Jeff Speck, in collaboration with graphic artist Spencer Boomhower, takes us on a tour of four types of street diets in a deliciously clear new video series. Here’s a taste.

Three lanes to two

In this case we have three traffic lanes flanked by two parking lanes. That’s an awful lots of city street space for cars, so here Speck proposes a “3-to-2” road diet: by removing one traffic lane and narrowing one parking lane, a city can make room for a protected two-way cycle track beside the curb. The 3-to-2 diet preserves travel times while increasing safety; as Speck point out, a similar design change made in Brooklyn reduced injury crashes by 63 percent.

Four lanes to three

The most classic road diet converts four lanes of traffic into three lanes: one in each direction, plus a left-turn lane in the middle. By eliminating one full car lane, the “4-to-3” diet also leaves room for bike lanes on both sides of the street—though this extra space can be used for sidewalk extensions or even dedicated transit lanes, too. A 2013 study of 4-to-3 diets found major safety benefits: a 47 percent drop in crashes in small metros, and a 19 percent dip in big cities.

Bike lanes to cycle tracks

"Bike lanes are good; a cycle track is better, and requires no more roadway,” says Speck in the road diet’s voiceover. Take the road that we ended up with after the 4-to-3 diet, for instance. In this design, bike lanes run beside car traffic on either side of the street, increasing the potential for collision. But by sliding one parking lane off the curb, this diet makes room for a two-way cycle track protected from moving traffic by a buffer strip as well as a lane of street parking.

40-footer lane insertion

This time we focus on a 40-foot street with two 12-foot lanes of opposing traffic and two parking lanes at the curb. Many cities have adopted 12-foot lanes with the assumption that they move more traffic; in fact, as Speck has argued at CityLab before, they present a major safety hazard for cities by encouraging faster driving. He recommends slimming them down to 10 feet—a design configuration that leaves room for a bike lane and makes the street safer, even as it more or less preserves traffic flows.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Where the Buses are Clean and Safe and the Trains are On-Time

New Metro CEO Phil Washington Shares His Vision for Transit in L.A. County


By Joe Mathews, August 20, 2015

“Finish the job.”

That was the focused message of Phillip Washington, the new CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), before a standing-room-only audience a Zócalo/Metro event at the Plaza on Olvera Street.

Washington, who came to Los Angeles three and a half months ago after years of heading Denver’s Regional Transportation District, spoke passionately about the need for Los Angeles to finish the build-out of its transportation infrastructure under Measure R—and for the country as a whole to devote far more attention and money to infrastructure.

To that end, he said Metro needed to leverage its assets and existing funding, and use more tools to complete projects faster. He mentioned in particular public-private partnerships, sometimes called P3s, in which private companies invest money upfront, assume the risks of the project, and are paid back over time. He noted that this approach could accelerate projects in L.A., and had been crucial to a rail project to connect Denver’s downtown and airport.

Washington also said he was starting up an Office of Extraordinary Innovation at Metro that would be “tasked with taking on and attacking the toughest transportation challenges in the region and implementing solutions.” He suggested the office could look at everything from automated or sensor-controlled cars to pods that could move individuals.

In response to a question from the evening’s moderator, NBC 4 reporter and News Conference host Conan Nolan (who declared himself a proud rider of public transit), Washington mentioned the half-century-long battle over what to do about the final extension of the 710 Freeway as one thorny challenge that could benefit from innovative thinking.

Innovation and flexibility in financing are more than goals—they are necessities, he argued, given the lack of financial commitment to infrastructure in the U.S. “We have to be innovative in the transportation industry now, because we’re not getting all the money we need,” he said.

Washington added that while Los Angeles County taxpayers had shown their commitment to infrastructure by voting for Measure R’s taxes and projects in 2008 (he pointed to Measure R when asked why he’d taken the job), Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation to maintain and rebuild the country’s aging roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. “Our infrastructure forefathers are turning over in our graves right now,” he said. “Because we have not taken care of the assets they have left us.”

He said that a commitment to infrastructure had to go beyond transportation to community building. He said that Metro had begun a pilot to look at property it owns within one-and-a-half miles of train stations or bus lines, with the goal of connecting those spaces to those communities. He also expressed concern about changes in cities that are pushing poorer people out of city centers, which can add to transportation costs as service must be built further and further out.

Pressed by Nolan on whether Metro fares should rise, Washington said, “our fares are some of the cheapest in this country” and quickly added that Metro also has “a very high percentage of low-income riders—I think it’s about 75 percent.”

Washington touched on dozens of topics in responses to Nolan and audience questions. Among other things, he indicated he supports the state’s high-speed rail project.

Asked by Nolan which of the five Metro rail projects currently under construction was a “game changer,” he mentioned the Regional Connector because it can connect existing lines and “open up economic development”; he suggested he was looking for ways to accelerate its scheduled completion.

In response to two audience members who complained about how security and sheriff’s deputies treat riders on the Blue Line, Washington said he had hired a new security chief at Metro and asked him to assess security throughout the entire system. He described security as one of several ways— including cleaner buses and rail cars, on-time buses, and technology—of “enhancing the customer experience” and convincing more people to use Metro.

In response to an audience question about the balance of bus and rail projects in a successor measure to Measure R on the 2016 ballot, he said Metro had asked local governments to prioritize projects by September 1. He said Metro has 2,300 projects it’s currently evaluating, worth a total of $250 billion.

Washington also praised the city of Los Angeles’ new Mobility Plan because it calls for more “balance” between different modes of transportation. Washington said that “we’re not going to get everybody out of their cars” but “we can hope for less driving.”

“This is an auto-centric country,” he added. “When you go to some places here in America, it’s like the Wild West. You pulled up on your horse, strapped your horse to the pole.” But in the long term, we should “wean ourselves” off the automobile.

When Nolan asked how he should be evaluated, Washington said he should be judged on whether Metro is completing projects on time and on budget, on the safety of the Metro system, and whether he is developing the workforce so there are more people properly trained and qualified to build infrastructure for the country’s needs.

Said Washington, “Years from now, I hope that our grandchildren will say of us, ‘That generation left us some great infrastructure that we need to take care of.’”

Video, audio and article: Metro CEO Phil Washington interviewed


By Steve Hymon, August 20, 2015

Metro CEO Phil Washington gave his vision for transportation in Los Angeles County at an event in downtown L.A last night at a Zocalo Public Square and Metro event last night. Washington was interviewed by NBC4’s Conan Nolan.

Here’s video of the event on Zocalo’s website. If you would like to listen to the audio only, here it is:

(Go to the website to listen to the video.)

Zocalo’s Joe Mathews wrote up the event. The entire article is here. Some highlights:

On accelerating projects:
Washington, who came to Los Angeles three and a half months ago after years of heading Denver’s Regional Transportation District, spoke passionately about the need for Los Angeles to finish the build-out of its transportation infrastructure under Measure R—and for the country as a whole to devote far more attention and money to infrastructure.

To that end, he said Metro needed to leverage its assets and existing funding, and use more tools to complete projects faster. He mentioned in particular public-private partnerships, sometimes called P3s, in which private companies invest money upfront, assume the risks of the project, and are paid back over time. He noted that this approach could accelerate projects in L.A., and had been crucial to a rail project to connect Denver’s downtown and airport. [snip]

Asked by Nolan which of the five Metro rail projects currently under construction was a “game changer,” he mentioned the Regional Connector because it can connect existing lines and “open up economic development”; he suggested he was looking for ways to accelerate its scheduled completion.
On the Blue Line:
In response to two audience members who complained about how security and sheriff’s deputies treat riders on the Blue Line, Washington said he had hired a new security chief at Metro and asked him to assess security throughout the entire system. He described security as one of several ways— including cleaner buses and rail cars, on-time buses, and technology—of “enhancing the customer experience” and convincing more people to use Metro.
On Metro’s potential long-range plan update and accompanying ballot measure to raise funds for projects:
In response to an audience question about the balance of bus and rail projects in a successor measure to Measure R on the 2016 ballot, he said Metro had asked local governments to prioritize projects by September 1. He said Metro has 2,300 projects it’s currently evaluating, worth a total of $250 billion.

(Go to the website to read reactions on social media.)

Houston Just Rebuilt Its Bus System From Scratch


By Angie Schmitt, August 18, 2015

 Houston's bus system before, on the left and after a complete system redesign on the right.

 Houston’s bus system before, on the left, and after a complete redesign.

On Sunday, Houston debuted an entirely new and improved bus system. The city didn’t pass a new transit levy. Instead it put existing resources to use in a way that is designed to maximize frequent service and boost ridership.

With the help of consultant Jarrett Walker (of Network blog Human Transit), Houston’s METRO changed nearly every route and every stop in the system. Smart Growth America explains what riders will gain from the process:
73 percent of bus riders will have access to high-frequency service—a 217 percent increase from METRO’s current system. The high-frequency routes will have 15 minute headways. An additional 19 percent of riders will be on routes with headways of 30 minutes or less. Almost 60 percent of bus trips to 30 key destinations will be 10 minutes or faster. METRO will accomplish this more frequent, speedier service primarily by shifting to a grid system that allows for more direct routing than the current hub-and-spoke network though downtown. Some of the speed improvements are the result of reducing the number of street-level rail crossings encountered on a bus route, almost eliminating route branching, and moving away from long, delay-prone routes.

To top it off, the frequent routes will run just as often on the weekends, dramatically expanding access for those with weekend shifts or who rely on the bus to make a Saturday grocery run. With Houston’s current system, about half of bus riders had access to high-frequency service during the week, that ratio dropped to 25 percent on the weekends.
It will be really cool to see if this kind of service upgrade can move more people to transit in a city like Houston. Columbus, Ohio is currently engaged in a similar effort.
Elsewhere on the Network today: We Are Mode Shift reports a new website will allow Detroit transit riders to share and publicize service issues. Green Caltrain says a bill in the California legislature would reserve some cap-and-trade funds for transit. And NextSTL shares lessons from one of St. Louis’s early experiments with parklets.

Move LA's Long Range Transportation Plan Strawman #41


Posted by Gloria Ohland, August 19, 2015


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Planning Our City for People or for Cars


By Ryan Snyder, August 18, 2015


MOBILITY 2035 THE DISCUSSION--The City of Los Angeles has taken an historical turnabout in placing higher priority on people than cars in its recently passed Mobility Plan 2035.Its Vision Zero goal is to eliminate traffic fatalities; something we have always just assumed was a fair price for transporting ourselves. As a long-time critic of an autocentric Department of Transportation (DOT), for the first time I can now say I am very proud of DOT, our Planning Department and our City. 

Mobility Plan 2035 calls for many new miles of bus lanes, protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements. We’ll have new ways of getting around. Safety comes first in this plan, even if it comes at the expense of slowing cars.  It seems so logical, but it took us way too long to conclude that people’s lives are more important that saving motorists five or ten seconds. 

Mobility Plan 2035 recognizes that we have to address climate change, health, safety, and overall livability. Planning our city for people does that.  Planning for automobility undermines all of those goals.  

While I believe that addressing climate change is the most urgent of these, I first want to focus on livability. Think of our favorite cities  -- Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC, Barcelona, Paris – they are places that put people first. You can walk, bicycle or take transit.  But having not sacrificed the soul of these places to the auto leaves them livable, interesting, rich in architecture, and places you’d want to live or visit.  

Now think of the cities that place the auto first – suburban San Bernardino County (or much of southern California for that matter), Phoenix or Houston. Are these places you want to visit on the weekends, take your out of town visitors to show, or go to on vacation?  Would you choose to live there?  I doubt it. 

When we plan our city so that it is safe for an 8-year old boy to walk to school, or our 80-year old mother to walk to the store, we plan a city that is good for people.  When we make it safe to bicycle to work, we plan a healthy city where Type II diabetes and premature heart ailments are kept in check. When we make it convenient to use public transit, we clean our air and reduce the threat of climate change.  When we plan this way, we plan a safe, healthy, livable, sustainable community.  That’s what Mobility Plan 2035 is about. 

Detractors are already complaining about congestion that might result from the Plan. As if congestion is our greatest worry.  This may be a shocker to some, but congestion shouldn’t be our greatest concern.  When it is, we just seek ways to keep the cars moving at the expense of all of our other community goals.  

Some people are threatening to sue.  These are the same people who scream about traffic congestion, and are the ones who fight attempts to provide attractive alternatives so that we don’t have to be stuck in congestion.  You can’t complain about congestion, and at the same time, complain about providing options to driving. Let’s be clear about one thing – it’s the cars that cause the congestion.  It’s not bicycles, buses or people walking. It’s cars. One person taking up 150 square feet of street space wherever they go causes congestion.

Let’s be clear about another thing. Each of us driving around with two tons of steel never was a sustainable transportation mode. Cars are largely responsible for climate change and this is the greatest threat to humankind. Tiny concerns over traffic congestion pale in comparison to the destruction of human habitability that awaits us from climate change if we keep our heads in the sand and fail to address it with great urgency. 

With the drought in California we have come to see that we are all responsible to do our part in reducing our water use. We have to adopt the same mentality when it comes to driving. We all need to do our part to carpool, walk, take the bus, or bicycle when we can. We need more attractive transportation options in order for more of us to use other modes.  We should embrace these options, not fight them. 

Most disturbing are the City Councilmembers who want to gut the Mobility Plan out of concerns over traffic congestion. Paul Koretz wants to take bike lanes off of Westwood Boulevard, the street leading into UCLA.  A plan has been sent to Koretz’s office that shows that bike lanes could be added to Westwood Boulevard without removing any travel lanes or parking.  No skin off of anyone’s nose.   

Despite widespread community support for the bike lanes, Koretz is carrying water for a small group of well-heeled homeowner association leaders that don’t want people on bicycles in their way when they drive. These are the same people who convinced him to remove the bus lanes from Wilshire Boulevard in their neighborhood. Councilmember Koretz simultaneously talks about the urgency of climate change, but his actions show he really cares more about re-election and he believes these people are key to that. 

Los Angeles is poised to move into the next era of transportation planning.  It’s one that can leave us a safer, healthier, sustainable and more livable city.  I hope the City Council has the wisdom to keep Mobility Plan 2035 in tact when a few Councilmembers look to appease the old guard.

Why ‘Fix The City’ Opposes MP2035 – The ‘ImMobility’ Plan


By Jim O'Sullivan, August 18, 2015

MOBILITY 2035 THE DISCUSSION--First off, Fix The City (FTC) supports increasing mobility.  We support encouraging alternatives to motor vehicles.  We support improved air quality.  Why then not support MP2035?  It is because MP2035 is not a mobility plan – it is a plan designed to create immobility while enabling increased development and density. (Mobility Plan 2035)  

MP2035 exposes itself as a false “mobility” plan from the start.  It states point blank that reducing traffic congestion is not its goal.  For the vast, vast, vast majority of us in this City, being stuck in traffic is the precise opposite of mobility and that is what this plan promises to do – stick us in more traffic.

In fact, this so-called mobility plan states (and in fact relies on the fact) that it will increase traffic congestion by, among other things, removing traffic lanes used by cars for buses and bikes.  Far from trying to reduce traffic congestion, the (mostly unstated) theory is that if traffic congestion becomes SO unbearable (even more than it already is) it will magically force people to take other forms of transit – whether they exist or not, are convenient or not or are economical or not.

Removing traffic lanes for the overwhelming bulk of traffic (see US Census chart at the bottom) decreases the capacity of the street.  This not only creates longer commutes, but also forces drivers to seek alternative routes which, according the MP2035, will be right through residential neighborhoods.

The LA Times quotes a Senior City Planner as presenting this bit of twisted logic: “Slower moving traffic does not necessarily lead to congestion. Those two are separate.   Slower traffic can actually in some ways accommodate more cars moving through an area.”

That’s the kind of logic that tells you the best way to save a drop of water is to approve huge development projects that consume tens of millions of gallons of water, or that the best way to put out a fire is to douse it with gasoline.

People need look no further than this quote from the LA Times: “The City’s Environmental Impact Report concluded that the plan’s projects, if completed by 2035, would result in “unavoidable significant adverse impacts,” including additional noise, cut-through traffic and diminished access for emergency vehicles. The report also found that there would be a considerable increase in the percentage of major streets that are highly congested during evening rush hour.”

This is not Fix The City’s opinion or analysis.  This is the City’s analysis.  Strange:  None of those speaking in support of MP2035 highlighted this conclusion, though one council member dismissed any negative conclusions as “worst-case scenarios needed to avoid legal challenges.”  Given that the council must base their decision on substantial evidence presented in the MP2035 study, such unsubstantiated conclusions may be hard to defend.

Perhaps most troubling is the last “unavoidable significant adverse impacts“  mentioned above: That increasing traffic congestion on major streets not only slows regular traffic down, but it slows down emergency response vehicles.  Again, this too is admitted by the MP2035 plan.

In 2012, Fix The City’s data analysis exposed (first through KNBC and then extensively in the LA Times) that LAFD response times were falling short – way short, of the City’s stated metric of arrival within 5 minutes after dispatch, 90% of the time.  At that time councilmembers were outraged.  They promised immediate action to improve this most basic service: Ensuring the safety of the City’s residents.

Since that time, response times have gotten worse and worse with the 5 minute/90% metric falling to under 60% for the City overall.  This last year the City Council congratulated itself for “addressing the problem” by including hiring in the current budget for the first time in years.

Unfortunately, not only is the approved hiring not even sufficient to replace firefighters lost to attrition, it does nothing to replace firefighters lost in previous years or to increase the number of firefighters needed to deal with increased population and density – and now decreased mobility for first responders.

Instead of doing what it takes to improve response times, the Council has approved a plan that admits it will harm response times.  To Fix The City, this is simply unacceptable.  Even more unacceptable is that certain council members hailed the plan as improving safety when the text of the plan and the plan’s analysis yields the opposite conclusion.  Even more callous is the public description of MP2035 has being one that increases public safety when the City’s own admissions show the reverse.

Below the surface, it is the hidden agenda of the MP2035 plan that links traffic congestion, emergency response times and consumption of other key resources such as water: The drive for increased density – even though the City cannot handle its current density.

Far more than being a mobility plan, MP2035 is actually a development-enablement plan which will have a dramatic effect on increased density in the City with all of its impacts.

To combat troublesome neighborhoods from raising concerns about local impacts and the livability of their neighborhoods, the State legislature passed several laws granting expedited review or exemption from certain review for projects near transit (oddly just like the transit proposed by MP2035).

Chief among these is SB743 which states “This bill would provide that aesthetic and parking impacts of a residential, mixed-use residential, or employment center project, as defined, on an infill site, as defined, within a transit priority area, as defined, shall not be considered significant impacts on the environment.”  Tell that to the people that live in that environment.  AB744 provides for density bonuses within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop (which is pretty much everywhere once MP2035 is implemented).

MP2035 studied none of this growth-inducing impact, nor did it study the increased funding for “transit-oriented development” that may result from non-City sources.

What should further frustrate this City’s residents is that far from being a representative democracy in which our council members are allowed to represent their area’s interests, this City is increasingly run by a very few people who were not elected by those their decisions impact.

The recent Council vote on MP2035 had Council Members Koretz and Cedillo asking for modifications of the plan in their areas.  In theory, those council members were elected by those voters to represent them and their interests.  It is expected that council members will have the ability to impact policy in their own districts.

Councilman Cedillo said it best when he said “I have to be a representative for the entirety of my district, not simply 1%.”  (He was referring to the fact that bike lanes would remove 50% of capacity for 85% of commuters while bike riders represent only 1% of trips.)

Instead, other council members ignored their colleagues.  Oddly, the elected class then wonders why voting in this City has declined to such low levels.  Why take the time to vote for council members if they can’t impact policy in their own districts?

We also wonder if the Council truly understands that AB2245 exempts the City/LADOT from having to conduct ANY further study for bike lane restriping once MP2035 is installed.  AB2245 “exempts from CEQA the restriping of streets and highways for bicycle lanes in an urbanized area that is consistent with a prepared bicycle transportation plan.”  No doubt there will be battles over what “restriping” is as the City attempts to shoehorn MP2035 projects into AB2245.

There is another troubling and misleading conclusion presented by the City:  That MP2035 will reduce pollution.  It is well established in the literature, and in common sense, that increasing congestion and therefore the time vehicles are operating leads to increasing air pollution.

So how do MP2035’s supporters attempt to circumvent this simple logic?  They attempt to use a metric called “Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT)” instead of the current “Level of Service (LOS)” or more logical “Vehicle Hours Traveled (VHT).”

Given that motor vehicles of all types represent the bulk of trips in the City, there truly is no other conclusion other than one that states the obvious:  Increased congestion for motor vehicles will worsen air quality.

The basic focus of “LOS” is to determine local impacts on intersections near a development project based on how free-flowing traffic is through that intersection.  LOS A means no traffic/free flow, LOS F means traffic jams/no mobility.

A huge project that creates 10,000 new trips per day would clearly impact local traffic in the area around the project.  It was getting harder and harder to justify building new mega-projects in areas with LOS F gridlocked traffic.  This analysis has annoyed pro-density forces as it had the nasty side effect of showing huge impacts on residents, businesses and neighborhoods near the project.  This made for bad politics.

So, what is the solution for pesky analyses that show negative local impacts?  You simply need to pull back a bit and look at the larger(and unprovable) picture until you are so far away that local neighborhood impacts can no longer be seen.
A plan such as MP2035 that will have major negative local impacts would merely try to do some fancy footwork to claim that because of unmeasurable efficiencies, overall regional VMT will be reduced.  What goes unstated is that this approach, even if valid and provable, has at its heart ignoring impacts on local neighborhoods in favor of some theoretical larger regional improvement.

Forget that local traffic will be even more soul-crushing than it is now.  Forget that local first responders won’t be able to get to neighborhoods fast enough.  Forget that local air quality will be negatively impacted.  Forget that parking and traffic lanes will be removed causing harm to local businesses.  For voters, the most troubling is that some councilmembers have accepted this approach:  Region/politics first, neighborhoods last.

One of the most frustrating parts of the MP2035 plan is that it is wholly inconsistent with itself and with other City policies, plans and laws.  Among these are the General Plan, Community Plans and several up and coming plans.

Nothing highlights the hypocrisy better than simultaneous support for MP2035 which admits it will increase congestion (which it counts on to discourage car use) and support for the “Westside Mobility Plan” which labels congestion as the enemy and seeks its reduction.

Three days before the council approved MP2035, it approved a motion to extend the $200,000+ contract for the Westside Mobility Plan.  Yes, the City is spending money in one place to solve the problems it is spending other money to create.  Our tax dollars at work.

One interesting admission was made by the City through its planning department and through the council:  That it is no longer possible to improve traffic congestion by widening lanes or using other measures.  This will come as a huge surprise to developers that have produced environmental impact reports which come to the opposite conclusion.  Ironically, these same environmental impact reports that say it IS possible to reduce congestion by making physical changes are universally given a stamp of approval by the City including the Council.  Those studies and their traffic conclusions may now no longer be supportable.

Fix The City supports improving public safety and improving the quality of life.  There is no more basic responsibility a City has than to the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of its residents.  Fix The City strongly believes that a plan that harms first responders’ ability to get to those who need help threatens the lives of the residents of the City.  We believe that being caught in ever-increasing traffic jams caused by over-development and now decreased road capacity keeps us prisoners in our cars and keeps us away from our families.  Not only does this impact our quality of life and our pursuit of happiness, but it makes pursuing happiness take far longer and far less happy.

Fix The City will be pursuing a legal challenge to the MP2035 on multiple grounds towards the goal of having an honest and productive policy which improves the quality of life for all of the City’s residents in all of the City’s neighborhoods.