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, March 11, 2015

Civic leaders reimagine 'mobility'

Coalition says it will offer a 'superior' alternative to closing the freeway gap.

By Sara Cardine, March 11, 2015

 710 freeway

 Traffic moves slowly southbound on the I-5 Freeway between the 710 and 605 Freeways Thursday, Feb, 5, 2015. 

Now that the California Department of Transportation has released its 2,260-page report reviewing the environmental effects of closing the 710 Freeway gap between Pasadena and Alhambra, the public has until July 6 to share its opinions on five alternative plans.

But while residents pen lists of concerns with the report's findings and contracted consultants analyze the data therein, a newly formed cadre of elected officials is working with regional health, safety and transportation groups to develop what they believe will be a more effective and less harmful alternative to the options provided by Caltrans.

Mayors and council members from La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena and Sierra Madre recently formed the Connected Communities Coalition (C3) to provide policy in a positive direction, instead of fighting a controversial dual-bore tunnel projected to cost taxpayers as much as $5.6 billion.

South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez said elected officials in the coalition hope to identify regional transportation projects that, when considered together, would better connect communities along the proposed 710 route and beyond.

"There are far superior ways to improve mobility in the area. (But) people are asking the wrong questions," Gonzalez said. "It shouldn't be how do you move cars more efficiently, but how do you move people more efficiently?"

Coalition members are in the preliminary stages of analyzing the details of a new alternative that envisions new light-rail commuter and heavy-rail shipping routes, but say more will be revealed in a forthcoming press conference to take place during the EIR's comment window.

La Cañada City Councilman and coalition member Jon Curtis said the group is considering wider regional transportation needs and challenges in an attempt to give area leaders and constituents proper facts beyond those listed in the report provided by Caltrans.

"I think everybody was equally interested in exploring this, and now was the right time," said Curtis, who also represents La Cañada, Pasadena and South Pasadena on the Regional Council of the San Gabriel Assn. of Governments.

In 2012, when details of the proposals for the 710 issue were still unknown, that body updated a transportation master plan designed to map out regional mobility needs through 2035. Now, aspects of Southern California Assocation of Government's Regional Transportation Plan could help guide the coalition's vision for a broader, multicity solution.

Coalition member Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian called the solution being sought a more comprehensive, grass-roots answer to traffic problems beyond the plans laid out in Caltrans' recent EIR.

"It's something I believe will maybe stop the consideration of the tunnel cold," he said.

Gonzalez said the Connected Communities Coalition plans to submit its alternative proposal as a comment to the 710 report, to which Caltrans is required to respond by law. In addition, each individual city will submit its own individualized comments.

What's important now, he added, is action.

"There are constituents in all our cities who don't want us to sit and wait for the EIR," Gonzalez said. "They want us to advocate."

RTD's general manager, Phillip Washington, moving on


By Kieran Nicholson and Monte Whaley, March 11, 2015

Phil Washington RTD

 RTD General Manager and CEO Phillip Washington, left, and RTD Board Chair Chuck Sisk, invite people to board a train car at Denver's Union Station.

The executive who heads the Regional Transportation District is moving on.

Phil Washington, general manager and CEO of RTD since 2009, resigned Wednesday morning, said agency spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas, to become the CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority system.

"The greatest impact that one can have on any enterprise is to continue to see the results of their involvement long after they have left," Washington wrote in his letter of resignation to the RTD board. "I will always be proud to speak to my years here at the RTD and the success and experiences that we have shared."

Washington, who has worked at the RTD for 16 years, turned down requests for an interview Wednesday.

Retired from the U.S. Army, as a Command Sergeant Major, Washington is credited with bringing business and government leaders together with RTD to discover alternative financial mechanisms during difficult times in the recession.

Among projects under Washington's leadership is the $2.2 billion Eagle P3 project, a public-private partnership building the district's East Rail Line, the commuter rail line from Denver International Airport to downtown Denver. The project also includes the upcoming Gold Line, a commuter rail maintenance facility and the Northwest Rail Line Westminster segment.

"He threw open the doors in calls for innovation from the private sector to come up with ideas on how help get projects done," Tonilas said.

The Los Angeles Metro system covers 1,433 miles of bus service and 87 miles of rail service, which has four light rail lines and two subways. It served about 37 million boardings each month, according to its December 2014 ridership numbers.

In 2013, Washington was named American Public Transportation Association's outstanding public transportation manager of the year.

RTD's ridership continued to grow under Washington's tenure, which included the continuing roll out of FasTracks.

"He has made his mark in Denver in many ways," Tonilas said.

Washington was the transit district's assistant general manager of administration for nearly 10 years before becoming general manager.

His last day with RTD hasn't been determined, Tonilas said.

L.A. Mayor Garcetti hopes to tap Denver transit chief as Metro CEO


State bill introduced to allow Metro to seek ballot measure


By Steve Hymon, March 11, 2015

As many of you know, Metro has been exploring the possibility of going to Los Angeles County voters with a ballot measure in Nov. 2016. Although no decision on the ballot measure has been made  — I can’t emphasize that enough — a state bill that would allow Metro to seek a new sales tax via the ballot has been introduced by State Sen. Kevin de Leon. It is SB 767; click here to read the text of the bill.

The decision on any type of ballot measure will ultimately be made by the 13-member Metro Board of Directors, the elected officials and their appointees who oversee Metro. The Board in 2013 asked Metro staff to begin asking cities in L.A. County and other interested parties for their input about a potential ballot measure — in particular about transportation projects that cities would like to see funded.

Some history: L.A. County voters have approved three half-cent sales tax increases to fund projects and programs in L.A. County: Prop A in 1980, Prop C in 1990 and Measure R in 2008. The Prop A and Prop C sales tax increases remain in effect until voters decide to end them. Measure R was a 30-year sales tax increase that went into effect July 1, 2009, and expires on June 30, 2039; Measure R is generating the funding behind the five rail projects that Metro is currently building, as well as highway projects that Metro helps fund in coordination with Caltrans.

A ballot measure (Measure J) to extend Measure R another 30 years went to voters in Nov. 2012. It garnered 66.1 percent approval from voters but failed because it did not meet the two-thirds (66.67 percent) approval required for passage.

Metro staff is expected to release details on a proposed ballot measure later this year. One interesting fact: Nine of the 13 current Metro Board Members were not on the Board in 2008 when Measure R was placed on the county ballot — and three Board Members have joined the Board since this past December (Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis and Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts). At this time, I don’t think anyone can predict what the Board will or won’t do — especially since there is not an actual expenditure plan yet. Metro will also presumably have a new CEO by the time the ballot measure issue reaches the Board.

The state bill allowing Measure R to go to voters was signed into law just weeks ahead of the Nov. 2008 election, a reflection of the fact that the agency didn’t ultimately decide to pursue the ballot measure until spring and summer of 2008. It’s different this time around with a lot more lead time although the state bill certainly doesn’t guarantee anything will happen.

Fantasizing About Self-Driving Cars, Sunnyvale Opposes El Camino Bus Lanes


By Andrew Boone, March 10, 2015

 Between Palo Alto and San Jose, traffic congestion delays trips on VTA’s “Rapid 522″ skip-stop express up to 30 minutes, making bus trips twice as long as driving during rush hour.

The Sunnyvale City Council voted 4-3 last month to oppose dedicated bus lanes that could cut transit riders’ trips nearly in half along the length of El Camino Real, making bus trips almost as quick as driving. More than one council member said the city shouldn’t invest in transit because self-driving cars are going to make it irrelevant.

The city’s “officially preferred alternative” for the Valley Transportation Authority’s future El Camino Real bus service would include new bus stations on sidewalk bulb-outs, but not bus lanes anywhere between Palo Alto and San Jose.

This “mixed flow” option, which would leave buses stuck in traffic, would shave just 4 to 5 minutes off the current 70- to 85-minute bus trip during morning and evening rush hours. By comparison, bus-only lanes on El Camino Real would slash rush-hour trip times by 25 to 35 minutes, according to the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Converting two of the street’s six traffic lanes to exclusive bus lanes would bring 6,000 new weekday passengers to VTA’s El Camino Real buses in 2018, and another 12,000 on top of that by 2040. The Bus Rapid Transit project is the longest of three BRT lines planned by VTA to span Santa Clara County, converging in downtown San Jose.

“The travel time savings from a bus today to a dedicated lane bus would be so significant that it would make it an alternative for people who don’t see it as an alternative today,” Sunnyvale Public Works Director Manuel Pineta testified at the City Council meeting.

VTA expects weekday traffic volumes on El Camino Real to drop by up to 4,500 vehicles in Sunnyvale and 5,600 vehicles in Mountain View if the dedicated bus lanes are built, as some drivers shift to transit, bicycling, or walking, and others choose different routes. Car congestion on the redesigned El Camino would increase only slightly, with rush-hour driving trips from Palo Alto to San Jose taking 37 to 44 minutes instead of today’s 36 to 40 minutes.

Sunnyvale City Council
Sunnyvale’s City Council voted 4-3 to adopt the “Mixed Flow” alternative to dedicated bus lanes that would leave VTA buses 22 and 522 stuck in rush-hour traffic in El Camino Real. 

But after hearing two hours of public comment, with 30 speakers in support of the proposed bus lanes and 20 speakers opposed, City Council members David Whittum, Glenn Hendricks, Jim Davis, and Pat Meyering dismissed VTA’s analysis. Speeding up El Camino Real buses through Sunnyvale, they said, isn’t worth the “broader impacts” on the city.

“Let’s make improvements to public transit, let’s give improvements to the current and future riders of the service, but not going the step to dedicated lanes,” said Hendricks, who along with Meyering argued that the “mixed flow” improvements proposed by VTA are good enough.

Bus lane opponents placed an ad in the February 22 San Jose Mercury News attacking the BRT project, which stated that bus lanes would “not materially reduce vehicle traffic on El Camino or anywhere else,” would “only marginally reduce average bus rider transit time on El Camino,” and would “forever compound traffic congestion.”

Some council members dismissed better bus service entirely as impractical and outdated, despite the repeated success of dozens of rapid bus projects worldwide, and pointed to self-driving vehicles as a more appropriate transit solution for Silicon Valley.

“Instead of getting involved in Bus Rapid Transit, let’s start thinking of new and innovative ways that make travel better for everyone,” said Davis. “I’m not against smart transportation, but smart transportation is not increased numbers of buses. World class transportation systems are not those that rely on traffic lights and roadways.”

“When cars are actually autonomous and speak to each other, they will be packed more densely on
the roads, and they won’t be creating that congestion,” said Whittum. ”So the idea of spending huge amounts of money on concrete to do this, it’s not a futuristic 21st century idea, it’s actually a very 20th century idea.”

Not only are self-driving vehicles many years away from hitting the market, let alone saturating it, but even in a hypothetical future with autonomous vehicles, the geometric reality is that cars take up far more roadway space than buses, and the financial reality is that many people won’t use them.

Faster bus service would provide access to mixed-used development “nodes” along El Camino Real in Sunnyvale without worsening traffic. BRT stations are planned to be located at these nodes. Image: City of Sunnyvale

Not every official wanted to leave buses stuck in rush-hour traffic. A project without bus lanes “doesn’t give people any option that approaches automobiles’ usefulness,” said Vice Mayor Tara Martin-Milius, who voted against declaring a preference for the “mixed flow” option, along with Mayor Jim Griffith and Council member Larssen. ”The transit dependent are not going to do any better than what we’ve got right now, and I don’t think that’s good enough,” she said.

In early January, Palo Alto’s City Council also recommended against dedicated bus lanes for El Camino Real, but Mountain View and Santa Clara haven’t taken a position on the project’s design. Later in March VTA staff will choose whether or not to recommend pursuing bus lanes — and for which sections of the street — to the agency’s Board of Directors, which is expected to review the BRT project in April and select a design alternative in June.

U.S. Transit Ridership Continued Upward Climb in 2014, Thanks to NYC


By Angie Schmitt, March 9, 2015

 Healthy growth in New York City's subway ridership is a big part of the United States' overall transit ridership picture for 2014. Photo: Wikipedia
 New York City subway ridership increased substantially in 2014.

Transit ridership continued to climb in American cities last year, even as gas prices sank. The American Public Transit Association is out with new data on the number of transit trips in the United States — 10.8 billion in 2014, the highest in 58 years.

Total transit trips were up about 1 percent compared to 2013, with significant variation between individual cities.

In Minneapolis, light rail trips grew 57 percent in 2014, reflecting the launch of the Green Line. Transit ridership grew 4 percent overall in the Twin Cities region.

Other cities that saw ridership growth include San Diego (8 percent over 2013), Baltimore (4 percent), Denver, (3 percent, Atlanta (2.5 percent), and Boston (just under 2 percent).

Meanwhile, transit trips in Detroit dropped 14 percent — concerning, but not surprising given the ongoing dysfunction of regional transit service. In Los Angeles County, transit ridership decreased 2.8 percent. The Chicago Transit Authority saw a 4 percent increase in rail trips but an 8 percent drop in bus trips, for an overall decline of 2.8 percent.

APTA attributed ridership growth in Indianapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Riverside, California, to service increases. In cities like Atlanta, San Francisco, and Seattle, APTA says the increasing number of transit trips probably had more to do with economic growth.

As interesting as it is to track fluctuations city by city, any change in the New York region, which accounts for about a quarter of all transit ridership in the country, will make a mark in the national numbers. Transit savant Yonah Freemark points out that growth in New York City subway ridership — an additional 107 million subway trips in 2014 — is slightly more than the total national increase of 101 million transit trips.

Looking at different modes, the biggest growth was in light rail ridership, which climbed about 4 percent nationally. Bus ridership was down 1 percent.

According to Freemark, growth in rail transit ridership is part of a long-standing trend. Rail now accounts for 46 percent of total boardings in the U.S., up from 35 percent in 1996.

Seattle Tunnel Update

From Sylvia Plummer, March 11, 2015

"Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager says he doesn’t have a new figure for how much repairs and delays might ultimately cost." 
"If it's going to be a couple billion in overruns, Seattle Tunnel Partners will declare bankruptcy and just stick it to the taxpayers."

Here are two articles to read, take a look at the size of Bertha the Tunnel Boring Machine.  
There will be one working at each end of the planned SR-710 tunnels

Cleveland's Highway Revolt

From Sylvia Plummer, March 11, 2015

"1969 marked the year of strong opposition within cities to urban highways. In Cleveland, they are referred to as the highway revolts." 
"Such pressure led to a pledge in April 1970 by (Republican) Governor James A. Rhodes, then locked in a primary fight for a seat in the U.S. Senate, that he would never force a highway on a community that did not want it ."
 "it does show the strengths that can be found when likeminded communities find common cause to question a decision that was made for them."

We need to see this happening here in Los Angeles County.
Read article:

NO SR-710 Petition

We are currently at 2420 signatures.   If we hit 2,500 during the Draft EIR comment period, it will trigger notifications to Jerry Brown, the California Transportation Commission and the others on the list.

Let's see if we can do it.  
We need you to sign the petition if you have not done so.   Ask your family, friends and neighbors...  all they need is an email account.
Here's a direct link to the petition:

Save the Date - Not to be missed

From Sylvia Plummer, March 11, 2015

Please plan to attend this very important meeting 
Monday, April 13, 2015 at 6:30pm  (This date could change)

Pasadena City Council will meet at the Pasadena Convention Center to discuss and vote on:

1.  Pasadena's local preference as an Alternative for the SR-710 project
2.  Resolution opposing the SR-710 Tunnel(s)

Here's the link to news story: