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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Obama calls on Congress to pass 'bipartisan infrastructure plan'


January 21, 2015

 The White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to "pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan," but stopped short of calling for a federal gas tax increase to help pay for it, The Hill reported.

RELATED: U.S. senators push to raise gas tax to shore up Trust Fund

“So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline," Obama said, citing the Keystone XL oil pipeline. "Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

Transportation advocates have pushed for an increase in the 18.4 cent-per-gallon tax to help pay for infrastructure projects, and the idea has picked up some steam on Capitol Hill, as gas prices have declined sharply in recent months, according to The Hill. Instead, Obama stuck to his previous proposals of closing corporate tax loopholes to pay for transportation projects.
For the full story, click here.
Statement by APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy on the 2015 State of the Union

On behalf of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and its 1,500 members across the country, I applaud President Obama for stating that “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains…”  I also applaud President Obama for saying, “Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan…and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

Americans want Congress and the President to break the gridlock and work together. As President Obama pointed out, infrastructure is a bipartisan issue.  APTA believes that Republicans and Democrats should be able to find common ground on and move forward to pass a multi-year, multimodal, well-funded surface transportation bill before the May 31 deadline.  Congress must also fund the Highway Trust Fund, which includes the Mass Transit Account.

In his State of the Union, President Obama talked about jobs and how important it is for everyone to have economic opportunity in this great nation.  Public transportation plays an important role in helping millions of people become economically independent since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes.

Transportation is the economic backbone of our economy.  With President Obama’s remarks on economic opportunity and the need to update our infrastructure needs, it should be noted that every $1 invested in public transportation leads to $4 in economic returns.  Economically competitive communities need quality public transportation.

At a time of growing demand for public transportation (10.7 billion trips in 2013 – the highest in 57 years), public transportation funding should be a priority, not only to expand public transit access, but also to provide adequate funding to address the $86 billion in backlog projects to ensure safe, reliable, and modern public transportation services.

As we approach the May 31 deadline for a new surface transportation bill, it is critical that our national leaders come together to create legislation that will ensure years of economic growth and opportunity for communities across the country. As President Obama said at the conclusion of his remarks, “Let’s start the work right now.”

How the Trucking Industry Could Be Vastly More Efficient

Meet Transfix, a start-up that fashions itself "Uber for trucks."


By Eric Jaffe, January 21, 2015

 Image tnchanse / Flickr

Take a look at the map below. It shows 25 trucks in New Jersey traveling to pick up 25 loads of goods over the course of a single day using a traditional industry approach: one that manually pairs drivers and freight. A few matches are short and efficient, but many require drivers to go well out of their way. The result is 1,752 "wasted" miles that create unnecessary traffic congestion and perhaps even lead to making those goods a little bit more expensive down the line.

Courtesy Transfix

Now the next map is the same day as managed by a start-up called Transfix, which pairs drivers and loads using an automated matching system. Those 1,752 empty miles have been cut to 274. A driver in Port Jervis, toward the top, travels to nearby Sussex rather than trekking across the state to Wilmington. He's less tired, the shipper can move onto a new load, commuters in the area face less traffic, and consumers across the region are happier.

Courtesy Transfix

Expand that efficiency to the two million or so commercial trucks traveling through cities and along interstates across the country every day, and you'll begin to understand just how big this could be.

Transfix is a digital freight marketplace that CEO and co-founder Drew McElroy hopefully but not naively calls the "Uber for trucks." Last week the company won the Six Minute Pitch contest for transportation start-ups held at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board. The previous winner, TransitScreen, has since gone on to big things, and with nearly $2 million raised to date and Barnes & Noble an early adopter, Transfix is already charting its own course for success.

At its core, Transfix is a logistics company. The traditional style of matching drivers here and loads there through a series of phone calls takes a freight broker several hours, says McElroy. Even after all that effort trucks end up with the types of inefficient matches shown above; using a rather generous assumption of 8 percent empty miles, McElroy calculates that U.S. commercial trucks drive 19 billion needless miles each year, clogging roads, wearing down infrastructure, and burning fuel.

Transfix automates the entire process. If Barnes & Noble, for instance, needs to ship a load of books from Indianapolis to New Jersey, it enters the shipment into the Transfix system, which then scans the pick-up vicinity for available drivers. The system then scores each driver based on empty mileage from their position to the load, waiting time until load availability, and past performance. The best match gets pinged for the job.

From there everything is handled by smartphone. The Transfix app registers a digital shipment contract, supplies dynamic navigation to the destination (taking into account severe weather and traffic), and tracks driver progress in real-time. By comparing expected travel time to a delivery appointment, the system knows when a truck falls behind schedule and takes corrective action—from simply texting the driver to sending a breakdown alert. Upon arrival a driver uploads a photo of the proof-of-delivery, triggering payment and starting the cycle anew.

"We're able to manage all these things proactively," says McElroy.

Here's a look at the interface from the user's perspective, using a trial trip that Transfix made from Long Beach, California, to Miami, Florida (McElroy notes the cell phone dead zones along U.S. interstates):
Courtesy Transfix

Freight logistics aside, metro areas also stand to benefit greatly from such a system. Goods movement can be a forgotten problem in urban transportation: not only does it contribute to congestion and pollution, but it produces massive mobility complications at key hubs such as Los Angeles and Chicago. Former Chicago (and D.C.) DOT chief Gabe Klein, a judge for the Six Minute Pitch contest, called Transfix a "fascinating" concept whose impact could extend beyond intercity trucking to urban street networks.

"This is an exploding market," said Klein, who voted for Transfix (along with both other judges), during the contest. "And in this case not only do I think it's a huge market that's antiquated and old school that needs to be updated, but I also think there are other use cases in terms of local delivery service."

McElroy is quick to point out there are plenty of benefits at the personal level, too, especially with regard to truckers. Transfix currently has a roster of more than a thousand drivers, he says, all vetted through a three-tier process. The automated system reduces the time they spend hunting for loads, a costly practice under new federal rules that cap daily driving, and it pays drivers within 24 hours rather than several weeks, which is often how long it takes to return a physical proof-of-delivery document to home base.

"Truck drivers are a unique bunch, but by and large they are genuinely wonderful, down-to-earth, friendly people," says McElroy. "Anything we can do to make their lives easier and make this a better process is something we embrace."

In some sense, McElroy has been part of the industry since he was in the womb, when his father started a trucking company named Andrew's Express for his son-to-be. After years working alongside his parents for a subsequent business, he broke off to focus on Transfix (with co-founder Jonathan Salama) in August of 2013. McElroy says he got a call from a logistics manager at Barnes & Noble within 15 minutes of updating his LinkedIn profile, and had freight loads to manage before hanging up.

After raising seed money in August of 2014, Transfix moved into a New York office and began building the team. (They've raised nearly $2 million to date, he says.) They're already doing several hundred thousand a month in revenue—taking a cut of that, a la Uber. McElroy says the next step is a push for Series A funding sometime this year.

"We're trying to do something pretty serious here," he says. Cities should be just as serious in paying attention.

Is MTA having second thoughts on Boyle Heights development?


By Leslie Berestein Rojas, January 20, 2015
 Mariachi Plaza's "kiosko," with the historic Boyle Hotel in the background. A proposal to develop retail and medical office space at the plaza has drawn controversy.

 Mariachi Plaza's "kiosko," with the historic Boyle Hotel in the background. A proposal to develop retail and medical office space at the plaza has drawn controversy.

On Thursday, county Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials will seek public input on three developments in Boyle Heights. One that’s drawing controversy is at Mariachi Plaza, the iconic gathering place at First and Boyle.

The proposal recommends building roughly 120,000 square feet of retail and medical office space surrounding the plaza, named for the musicians who have gathered there for decades.

MTA officials say their goal is to increase ridership by building amenities like housing and retail near the tracks. But unlike two planned development at nearby stations, this one isn't getting as much community support.

The two other Boyle Heights site plans involve affordable housing. This one doesn't. The proposal also calls for tearing down an existing structure that houses several small merchants.

“If we have to move, what is going to happen to us?," said Minerva Villa, who with her husband owns a snack and ice cream shop on the plaza. "I’m concerned about that.”

This and other businesses sit on a private parcel adjacent to the MTA property that would also be part of the development. Tenants worry they would not be able to afford higher rents.
But MTA officials say it may not come to that . There is no development contract yet, and enough community input could sway them to rework what's being proposed.

"Generally there has not been much support for Mariachi Plaza. We might start over from scratch," said MTA development officer Jenna Hornstock.

She said the agency has been trying to gather community input since the proposal was announced in the fall. Results are to be presented to the MTA board next month.

The plaza's history - and its name - date back to when there was little there save for the 1889 Boyle Hotel, once a popular crash pad for immigrant musicians. The mariachis often waited outside a small donut shop, hoping to be hired for gigs.

But the area has seen its share of changes and development in recent years. A Metro Gold Line station nearby opened in 2009. Then the Boyle Hotel was renovated, partly as affordable housing - although musicians say it's not affordable enough. New businesses have sprung up around the plaza, and downtown development to the west has added to fear of creeping gentrification.

The Metro community meeting takes place Thursday, Jan. 22 between 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Puente Learning Center, 501 S. Boyle Avenue, Los Angeles.