Purpose

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Media Bashes 710 Alternatives…the Transit Ones Anyway

http://la.streetsblog.org/2015/03/10/media-bashes-710-alternatives-the-transit-ones-anyway/

By Damien Newton, March 10, 2015


 Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 2.34.19 PM

 This idea totally makes sense and would only cost $5.6 billion dollars!



Last week, Caltrans and Metro released the long-awaited draft environmental impact report for options to improve transportation near where the I-710 ends, 4.5 miles south of the I-205. As usual, the discussion around the document depends on whether or not one thinks it’s a good idea to dig a five-mile tunnel 150 feet underground to connect one freeway to another freeway.

Metro will receive public comment on the report starting on Thursday of this week and continue collecting until July 6. Details on how to comment are available at the end of the article. In addition, Streetsblog will submit this article, and any other published between now and July 6, as part of the public record.

Following the report last week that traffic has not improved at all following the massive and costly widening of the I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass, one would think the media might consider a $5.5 billion double-decker tunnel or $3.1 billion single-level tunnel a farcical proposal not worthy of further discussion. One would be wrong.

Most media played it straight, announcing the report’s findings, the public comment period, and other basic factual information. “Closing the 710 Freeway gap would take years and cost billions,” reported the Times. “Caltrans Releases EIR For Proposed 710 Freeway Extension,” snored Patch.

But much of the rest of the media applied a more critical eye and came down hard–against the option to provide better transit service instead of digging a gigantic tunnel. The $240 million cost of the bus rapid transit option, which is 7 percent of the single-level tunnel option and roughly 4 percent of the double-decker tunnel option, is the subject of the headline “Busway option to close 710 freeway gap would cost five times early estimate” at KPCC.

But it’s not just the cost of the busway option that is under intense media scrutiny. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune  and Contra Costa Times and Daily Breeze all printed the story, “Environmental report on 710 freeway gap: Tunnel would ease traffic more than light rail.”

It’s always good to see the media jump on a story. Those six giant exhaust stacks planned for Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena? Eh, who cares? That the tunnel would increase the number of cars on the freeway and local streets, as we’ve just seen happen on the Westside? That’s just a theory.
What about what happens if there’s a crash or other disaster in the tunnel? It’s “addressed in the report.”

The option of building light rail, at a fraction of the cost of digging the tunnels, is dismissed out-of-hand because of displacement and the bizarre reasoning that, “According to the EIR/EIS, impacts to land, air, noise and aesthetics are minor compared to the impacts from building a 7.5-mile light-rail train from East Los Angeles through Alhambra and Pasadena.”

That’s right, a report with a Metro logo on it dismisses a light rail proposal because it would be too noisy, pollute too much, be too noisy and too ugly.  Way to have some ideological consistency.

So let’s look at the last transit option standing.One of five options in addition to light rail that was considered for “closing the gap” (a goal which pretty much guarantees that the best solution would be a gigantic tunneling project) is to build out the bus system by adding Bus Rapid Transit to the impacted area. An initial estimate of the project placed the capital price tag at just over $50 million. As KPCC notes, that number grew in the EIR to $240 million. When asked what caused the growth, a Metro spokesperson refused to comment to KPCC reporter Sharon McNary.

Laurie Barlow with NO 710 Action Group maps out the bus route as proposed in the EIR. One reason that ridership projections aren't all they could be? The route doesn't exactly make sense. Follow the conversation on Facebook.
Laurie Barlow with NO 710 Action Group maps out the bus route as proposed in the EIR. One reason that ridership projections aren’t all they could be? The route doesn’t exactly make sense. Follow the conversation on Facebook.

While this growth is troubling, the $240 million price tag still falls well within the project budget. Measure R, the 2008 Transportation Sales Tax, put aside $780 million for the Big Dig or whatever project is chosen to improve transportation in the region.

The other argument in favor of the expensive freeway tunneling projects is that, according the EIR, they will do more to “reduce congestion” than the transit options. If one ignores all of the highway planning that has been done in Greater Los Angeles over the past decades, it is possible that someone could believe this to be true.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend every freeway expansion project that’s been completed in recent memory was a complete success. I can get in a car on the Westside and drive to my brother’s in the Valley in twelve minutes. It’s autotopia!

But even in this exciting world where highway expansion means less congestion, the project still does not actually make sense. The price tag of at least $3.1 billion–and let’s remember that Caltrans’ estimates for the 405 one-lane widening was low–is nearly fifteen times as much as the bus option.

As mentioned above, Measure R set aside nearly 3/4 of a billion dollars for the 710 project. Even if one believes Caltrans’ estimated cost, there is over $2.25 billion needed to even consider construction. Supporters  of the tunnel point out that the project is in the regional long-term plan, but that means that funding it with state and federal funds would need to be the top priority of the lobbyists and politicians at Metro.

If the tunnel backers are this committed to the tunnel expansion that’s their call. But for the region to compete for funding for this project it would need to become the region’s top transportation priority.
Is that really something that anyone wants to see?

Public Comment:
  • April 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., East Los Angeles College, Rosco Ingalls Auditorium, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park.
 
  • April 14, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom 300, East Green Street, Pasadena
An informal forum will be hosted by Cal State Los Angeles and the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs:
  • TONIGHT March 9, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p,m., Cal State Los Angeles. (Cancelled)
Send written comments on the EIR/EIS: Garrett Damrath, chief environmental planner, Division of Environmental Planning, California Department of Transportation, District 7, 100 S. Main St, MS-16A, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Send comments via email: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/comments.php

John Oliver Created a Summer Blockbuster to Make You Care About Our Infrastructure

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/03/02/john_oliver_infrastructure_video_last_week_tonight_s_summer_blockbuster.html?wpsrc=sh_all_mob_fb_bot

By Forrest Wickman, March 2, 2015



John_Oliver_infrastructure


















John Oliver is a virtuoso at making entertaining and enlightening television out of our most unsexy issues—judicial election, predatory lending, student debt—and this week he took on the granddaddy of unsexy issues: our very poor infrastructure.

How will Oliver make you care about this issue, which almost everyone agrees on but almost no one is doing anything about? As Oliver notes, “every summer [at the movies], people flock to see our infrastructure threatened by terrorists or aliens, but we should care just as much when it’s under threat from the inevitable passage of time.” So Oliver brought together Ed Norton, Vincent D’Onofrio, and other movie stars to make a trailer for an action blockbuster that’s all about the United States’ D+ infrastructure. He also manages to slip in a pretty good Bill Cosby joke along the way.


2 Notes of Caution on America's 'Record' Mass Transit Year

The dominance of New York, and the decline of bus ridership.

 http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/03/2-notes-of-caution-on-americas-record-mass-transit-year/387349/

 By Eric Jaffe, March 10, 2015



 Image Stefan Georgi / Flickr

The saying about a Monet—that's it's lovely from afar but messy up close—also applies to the annual ridership statistics released by the American Public Transportation Association. The 2014 figures that came out Monday are no exception.

At the broadest level, everything looks great. Americans took 10.75 billion mass transit trips in 2014, up from the 10.65 billion taken the year before. APTA calls this a ridership "record" that's higher than any annual total in 58 years. Since 1995, public transportation ridership has indeed grown 39 percent, almost double the population growth over the same time period. And the overall U.S. ridership trend inched upward even in the face of plunging gas prices.

The picture still looks good as we start in on local success. APTA says 18 local agencies set ridership records. Minneapolis light rail use jumped 57 percent on the strength of its new Green Line. Subway use increased in 8 of 15 cities (led by San Francisco's 6 percent rise). Commuter rail increased 3 percent across the board, with huge bumps in Salt Lake City (16 percent) and Seattle (10 percent).
That's all very encouraging for city mobility, but some of the finer details give pause. APTA's own historical figures show total transit trips much higher from 1912 to 1956 than at present, calling the use of "record" into question. Ridership shifts often lag gas prices by several months. And transit trips per week are still much, much lower than in the past—about .65 for 2014.
Courtesy Michael Smart
Then there are two bigger notes of caution: The overwhelming distortion of New York City, and the disturbing decline of the bus.

New York Accounts for the Vast Majority of Trips

In evaluating the APTA report last year, transit scholars David King, Michael Manville, and Michael Smart wrote in the Washington Post that while U.S. transit trips increased by 115 million from 2012 to 2013, they'd risen by 123 million on the New York subway and bus system. They continue:
In other words, transit use outside New York declined in absolute terms last year. This fact shows how crucial public transportation is to our largest city and how small a role it plays in most other Americans' lives.
Things weren't quite so bad this year. APTA figures show 101.1 million new transit trips across the country from 2013 to 2014. We tally 98.2 million new trips from metropolitan New York alone—or 97 percent of the total. Here are the numbers by agency:
  • New York City Transit (subway and bus): 89,084,600 new trips
  • New Jersey Transit: 4,752,300
  • New York City DOT (ferry): 1,350,100
  • Long Island Railroad: 1,303,400
  • Metro-North: 1,117,200
  • PATH: 358,200
  • Staten Island railway: 243,500
The total dives a bit if you prefer to remove New Jersey Transit, but the take-home message is the same: America's transit ridership goes as New York City goes. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
New York is the biggest, most transit-intensive place in the U.S., and should reflect the lion's share of total use. But it does call into question whether the city is truly a transit model for other U.S. metros to follow, or an outlier that doesn't really apply.

The Decline in Bus Ridership

More concerning from the national perspective was the big decline in bus ridership. Americans took about 60.2 million fewer bus trips in 2014 compared with 2013—down a little more than 1 percent. This was especially true in the country's biggest cities: ridership declined in metros with populations between 500,000 and 2 million, as well as in those above 2 million.

But trips fell by 17.2 million in New York alone. Other big cities that experienced a decline included Los Angeles (down 3 percent), Miami (3 percent), and Detroit (nearly 14 percent), Minneapolis (nearly 4 percent), Philadelphia (almost 3 percent), and Milwaukee (nearly 7 percent). Chicago bus use fell on Pace suburban buses (2.7 percent) and city CTA buses (8 percent).

Again, some cities are heading in the right direction. Bus ridership is up 4 percent in San Francisco, more than 5 percent in Portland, Oregon, 1.6 percent in Boston, and 2 percent in Seattle. Bus use rose nearly 3 percent in Atlanta, and should rise more in 2015, as service expands to Clayton County.

Any single year makes not a trend, but APTA's historical figures show a consistent drain on bus ridership compared with rail. Buses became the majority transit mode in 1948, and the share of bus riders relative to all transit riders rose steadily over the years, peaking at 71.6 percent in 1976. Since that time the share has fallen; in 2014, bus trips accounted for less than half of all transit trips—49 percent.

This pattern is troubling insofar as it reflects underinvestment in critical city bus service (and the absence of a higher, socially appropriate cost of driving). The tools exist to make buses as attractive as rail: dedicated lanes, all-door boarding, transit signal priority, smarter system configurations. Better still the necessary infrastructure is already there in the form of road capacity. How cities use this canvas will decide what type of mobility portrait we're really painting.