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

Friday, June 5, 2015

L.A. Metro Is Trying to Redefine the Transit Trip


By Josh Stephens, June 4, 2015


f all the misconceptions that get assigned to Los Angeles, one of the most untrue is that the city has no public transportation. In fact, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) runs the second-most extensive public transit system in the country, behind only that of New York City. Metro records 1.5 million average boardings per day on buses that traverse every major boulevard in the city and trains that parallel some of the region’s busiest streets and freeways.

 Even so, only 11 percent of Angelenos commute via transit. For the rest, it’s still easy to miss Metro’s services for all the cars.

“L.A. has always been considered a city of the automobile, a city of the freeway, a city of sprawl,” says Diego Cardoso, a Metro executive.“[Transit ridership] depends on the cultural shift that needs to occur in the city of Los Angeles.”

This is the shift that Metro’s “First Last Mile Strategic Plan & Planning Guidelines” aims to effect. Adopted in early April, it won a 2015 National Planning Excellence Award for a Best Practice from the American Planning Association a few weeks later. Anything that gets Angelenos, famously fossilized by traffic, out of their cars surely is worthy of celebration. That goes double in a state that is aggressively trying to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The so-called first mile/last mile problem plagues transit systems across the U.S. Naturally, lines have to follow major corridors and serve population centers. They can’t be everywhere. In a dense but geographically sprawling city like Los Angeles, that means that many workplaces, and even more residences, are not in easy walking distance to a station. According to some planners, this problem, more so than issues of routing or headway, prevents Angelenos from taking full advantage of public transportation. (The Los Angeles area is served by a dozen or so smaller transit systems sponsored by individual municipalities. Many of them coordinate with Metro.)

“First mile/last mile solutions are very good value for their dollar because they have an opportunity to encourage more users on your current system,” says Hilary Norton, executive director of Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic, a business-backed advocacy group for transportation.

For the past decade, Metro has focused on the development of $40 billion worth of major infrastructure — light rail, busways, highway expansion and the like — that collectively constitutes the largest public works program in the country. The strategy, developed in collaboration with the Southern California Association of Governments, is the agency’s way of thinking small.

“The emphasis is going to be in investing transit dollars in such a way that it maximizes the connectivity of the system,” says Cardoso. “The system is not just the trains, the bus. It’s more than that. It’s bicycles, it’s walking. It’s understanding the better interaction between land use and transit.”

Metro’s strategy addresses this problem on multiple fronts, acknowledging ways that different modest of transportation complement each other. It includes everything from recommendations for novel new “mobility centers,” to better bike lanes and wheelchair accessibility, to partnerships with ride-hailing and bike-sharing services, to attitudinal changes that neighborhood groups can effect. It also includes informational shifts, like analysis of “access sheds” and “pathway” maps of high-volume transit stops that identify the ways that passengers can arrive at and depart from a given stop.

Because it can be replicated countless times across the region, the strategy takes a more expansive view of transit than has ever been conceived of in Los Angeles — or, possibly, anywhere else.
“Metro went from saying, ‘we run buses and we run trains’ to, we get people from their homes to the buses to the trains to their destinations,’” says Norton. “That’s a big change in their overall view of what a transit trip looks like.”

Among the most novel of the strategy’s ideas, “mobility centers” would be a cross between a convenience store and a bus stop. They would give transit riders safe, comfortable places to wait. They could come with secured bike racks, rain shelters, landscaping and information kiosks about the transit network.

“If you’re waiting for a bus or a train and it’s night and you’re female, you’d like to be in or near someplace that’s open for business that you can be inside drinking a cup of coffee or reading a newspaper,” says Norton.

Importantly, Metro envisions them as being privately funded — by the retailers themselves. Convenience store chain Famima, a Japanese import that has made inroads in Los Angeles, has already expressed interest in sponsoring pilot projects. The chance to increase ridership without spending a public dime has Metro officials nearly giddy.

“We welcome any strategy from the private sector that maximizes the reach of accessibility to our system,” says Cardoso.

More modest tactics include the installation of signs and other wayfinding devices, to help cyclists and pedestrians locate the nearest transit stop. Metro is also discussing partnerships with ride-hailing services like Lyft to arrange short-distance rides between home and the bus stop or train station.

Especially with the rise of app-based transportation, these strategies face few technological hurdles. The logistical hurdles, however, have been massive thus far. Because Metro is a countywide agency, its services run through the vast majority of the county’s 88 cities and its pockets of unincorporated areas. Metro has control over only its own services and rights of way. This means that the passengers whom Metro wants to attract have traditionally been beyond their grasp.

Metro’s strategy overcomes this challenge by taking a do-it-yourself, open-source approach to infrastructure development. The strategy is essentially a guidebook that cities, community groups and businesses can follow according to their own needs, timetables, capacities and — perhaps most importantly — budgets.

“The culture in L.A. was that Metro kind of stayed to its own right of way,” says Metro Transportation Planning Manager Steven Mateer, who worked on the guidelines. “A lot of cites were really excited about Metro being a partner in conducting the planning work for ‘First Mile Last Mile.‘”

Metro is currently pursuing pilot projects. Generally, there is no master plan or timetable, and Metro will accept implementation as it comes — hopefully sooner rather than later. Metro officials are promoting these strategies in the hopes that partners will see their wisdom and jump on board. In essence, anyone can now be a transit planner in Los Angeles. In fact, Metro’s strategies may apply to plenty of other cities around the region and around the country.

“Not everybody can go and build a rail system, but lots of people can address the first mile/last mile problem,” says Norton.

Ballot measure bill OKd by State Senate


By Steve Hymon, June 5, 2015

As many of you know, Metro is getting feedback on developing a new long range transportation plan and a possible ballot measure for Nov. 2016 although there’s nothing definitive yet before the the Metro Board.

In order to take a ballot measure to voters, Metro first needs a bill approved by the Legislature allowing the agency to do so. On Thursday, that bill — SB 767 (Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles) — was approved in the State Senate by a 24-13 vote. It next will be considered by the Assembly.
Here is the update from Metro’s government relations team:
Yesterday, SB 767 (De Leon), which would authorize Metro to place a sales tax measure on a future ballot was approved in the State Senate. The bill has been amended to incorporate legislation from last year, SB 1037 (Hernandez). The Board of Directors adopted a Work with Author position on that measure. To view the amended version of the bill, please click here. The measure will now be moved to the Assembly and will soon be considered in the Assembly Transportation Committee.
The SB 1037 bill requires Metro to update its long-range plan and an expenditure plan before taking any measure to voters. Metro is in the process of doing that.

Pacific Rim trade deal - could boost traffic in California ports

Welcome to California Inc.

June 1, 2015

Trade deal: In Washington, the House returns Monday from a 10-day Memorial Day recess, and

considerable jockeying is expected on granting President Obama "fast track" authority to negotiate 

Pacific Rim trade deal. The deal would establish closer economic ties in the region, which in 

turn could boost traffic in California ports.

Historic Communities of 710 in Southern California Named a National Treasure

Joins the 'Beyond the 710' Coalition with Cities Opposing Tunnel

June 5, 2015 



The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Historic Communities of the 710 as its newest National Treasure on Sunday.

The National Trust is joining the Beyond the 710 coalition to call on Caltrans, Metro of Los Angeles, and other key decision makers to embrace a progressive, forward-thinking model for transportation planning that is suitable for the 21st century needs of the Los Angeles metro area. The Historic Communities of the 710 encompasses several historic neighborhoods and communities in the San Gabriel Valley, including Glendale, Sierra Madre, Pasadena, South Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Alhambra, and the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The National Trust has decades of experience working for better transportation solutions in Southern California. As early as 1989, the Trust named South Pasadena, Pasadena and El Sereno to its annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, shining a national media spotlight on the devastating threat a highway project posed to area historic communities. And in 1999, the Trust’s legal advocacy helped secure an injunction that stopped the proposal to build a surface route that would have demolished hundreds of historic homes and cultural sites.

Now, the Trust continues this three-decade legacy, partnering with the coalition supporting Beyond the 710 to advocate for a series of economical, 21st century transportation solutions that consider the needs of the region as a whole. Rather than focusing solely on moving people in their cars, the alternative solution that the Trust and Beyond the 710 support instead encourages a range of mobility options that will provide people of all ages and backgrounds with more flexible, accessible transit choices. This approach is in alignment with the current policies of Metro, which has embraced more progressive regional transportation planning that includes an expanding regional network of light rail, one of the largest bus systems in the country, and a rapidly growing network of bike and pedestrian options.

“Rather than returning to a highways-first, 1950s approach to transportation planning that inflicts harm on thriving, historic communities, the Trust and our partners are offering a forward-thinking, less costly alternative that helps sustain these special places and better reflects the current needs and wishes of area residents,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The cost of the proposed freeway tunnel—in dollars, air pollution, health care costs, quality of life factors, and damage to the historic fabric of multiple communities—is simply too high.”

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation is proud to join the cities, institutions, and organizations supporting ‘Beyond the 710: Moving Forward’ as committed advocates for more effective and equitable regional transportation solutions suited to the 21st century needs of this dynamic, diverse, and growing metropolis,” said Meeks. “Today, we are announcing Historic Communities of the 710 as our newest National Treasure—our signature advocacy program focusing on critically important and threatened historic places across the country. The National Trust supports and advances policies that promote urban livability, and we firmly believe that a transportation plan focused on the needs of the entire region will yield a much better solution for the residents and business owners who live and work in some of the oldest, most historic communities in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.”

Recently, the National Trust has been conducting seminal research into the factors that make 21st century American cities thriving, diverse and livable places. The findings clearly show that people want to live in places that feel like someplace. Across the country, new residents—especially younger people—are drawn to the unique character and experiences that can be found in older and historic urban neighborhoods. This historic fabric plays a critical social and economic role at the local level, creating jobs, strengthening neighborhoods, spurring revitalization, expanding prosperity, and improving quality of life for urban residents.

National Treasures are a portfolio of nationally-significant historic places throughout the country where the National Trust makes a long-term commitment to finding a preservation solution. As the Presenting Partner of the National Treasures program, American Express has pledged $6.5 million to help promote and enable the preservation of these cultural and historic places.

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) sends letter to CalTrans opposing SR-710 Tunnel Alternative

From Sylvia Plummer, June 5, 2015

Thanks to Anthony Portantino, who serves on the SMMC board, t he following Letter was approved by Unanioumos vote of the SMMC on Monday night, June 1, 2015.  The letter will be sent to CalTrans.  Link to the Letter:


Alhambra 'Close the Gap' Event

From Sylvia Plummer, June 5, 2015

Mark your Calendars!  Alhambrans Against the 710 Tunnel need your help!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015   5 - 7pm

We are planning to meet starting at 5pm by the Alhambra arch / rose garden at the corner of Valley and Fremont. Please show up when you can.
You will be able to find us.

Please wear your No 710 T-shirts, buttons, or at the very least a red t-shirt.

For parking, Consider parking at Kohl's at Mission and Fremont.
Or take Marengo down to Valley and find parking at CVS on Fremont and Valley.
Carpooling and other forms of transport are highly encouraged.

The city will close off Fremont again at the height of rush hour.  (See pictures from last year here:

Last year, the city provided blue t-shirts for all city employees who then attended during working hours.

Please RSVP so we know you¹re coming: Alhambrans_against_710@yahoo.com

We hope we can count on your support!


From Sylvia Plummer, June 5, 2015

-  Last day to comment to the SR-710 Draft EIR:  July 6, 2015

    -  Resources to comment to the SR-710 Draft EIR:  Go to No710.com

    -  Link to sign the No 710 Tunnel Petition: Go to No710.com

    -  Beyond the 710 website:   http://www.beyondthe710.org/news

    -  Link to sign the Beyond the 710 Petition:  http://www.beyondthe710.org/petition

Around Town: Beyond the 710 an ideal solution


By Anita S. Brenner, June 4, 2015

Until this month, the 710 Freeway connection battle was a zero-sum game. San Marino and Alhambra are pro-tunnel to reduce local traffic. LCF, South Pasadena and Pasadena are anti-tunnel.
Zero-sum means there are only two options. Either you win or you lose. If San Marino wins, La Cañada loses. If South Pasadena wins, then Alhambra loses.

If you live in Pasadena, you know the connection is a bad idea. The proposed tunnels require giant vents that would spew exhaust into Old Town Pasadena. The geologic component of the draft environmental impact report is dubious. There could be subsidence. There could be sinkholes.

If you live in LCF, you know the connection is a bad idea. There would be increased truck traffic on the 210 Freeway. Historically, one accident shuts down the 210 and Foothill Boulevard.

If you are Caltrans, your job is to build freeways. Caltrans runs heavy equipment all night long under the 2 Freeway, by Goldstein's Bagels, Starbucks and Café Sole. LCF construction hours? They don't seem to apply to Caltrans. Count on Caltrans to push the tunnel.

But if you are Rep. Adam Schiff, you are a child of the future. Rep. Schiff and a group called Beyond the 710 (beyondthe710.org) have proposed an elegant solution that will reduce the congestion in Alhambra and San Marino without connecting the 710 Freeway.
Under the group's plan, everyone can win.

Beyond the 710 notes that over 85% of the cars exiting the 710 Freeway at Valley Boulevard are headed to local destinations, and that well-planned transit lines could reduce that traffic, at a fraction of the cost of the tunnels.

“Beyond the 710 believes that the proposed 710 Tunnel would not only devastate communities, it would be a massive waste of money that could be much better spent on different projects... Caltrans' and Metro's own studies show that the billions of dollars would not appreciably improve anyone's commute, and would further add congestion on already overloaded freeways,” Beyond the 710 says on its site.

We change our cellphones every two years, why do we depend on 1960s' transit plans? That's why state-of-the-art traffic synchronization, well-planned bus service, enhanced light rail and better use of existing freight networks will reduce traffic and avoid the tunnels.

Freight traffic is a key component. We see way too much freight traffic on the 210 Freeway through LCF as things are now.

The 20-mile long Alameda Corridor is an underused dedicated freight rail expressway, parallel to Alameda Boulevard, that was designed to connect the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the interstate rail system in downtown Los Angeles. The Alameda Corridor is underused. Why use container trucks when there are container trains?

Enhancement of the Alameda Corridor connection would reduce the number of big rig/container trucks on all of the freeways, including the 210, and free up real estate for parks, bike lanes, houses and public use.

The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Coalition, “a coalition of neighbor councils and community activists,” calls the historical goal of the 710 Freeway to “link” the Long Beach and L.A. ports to “the rest of the nation's highway network” mere “backwards thinking.” On their Facebook page, the Coalition says, “we built the Alameda Corridor for a reason. Instead of spending money on more highway lanes, we need to augment Alameda's use. Rail is the way to go for freight. Truckers might not like it but we really can't afford to have more trucks driving right though the heart of LA anymore.”

Will we use outmoded technology and analysis? Or will we embrace the 21st century and find a win-win solution?

Tunnel Opponents Propose ‘Street Network’ for 710 Gap


By Jacqueline Garcia, June 4, 2015

A coalition of community organizations and cities gathered at Metro headquarters last week to publicly oppose to the construction of a tunnel connecting freeways between Alhambra and South Pasadena and to present what they said is a new direction in the SR-710 debate.

“Today is a new day in the 710 debate,” said Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, a firm opponent to the building of a tunnel to close the gap between the terminus of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

“We are committed to finding solutions that work for everyone,” Najarian said during the May 28 press conference to announce the Beyond the 710 Plan, a new initiative backers say will do a better job of reducing traffic and connecting people than the current options under review for the 710 Freeway.

The cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena have all signed onto the coalition and support its plan for expanding public transportation and building more pedestrian- and bike-friendly paths to reduce traffic congestion in the western San Gabriel Valley.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“There’s a lot of money at stake here,” said Najarian, referring to the $5.6 billion it would cost to build the tunnel, one of five alternatives currently under review. Najarian is also a member of the Metro Board and said last week that the 710 Freeway tunnel is favored by engineers, contractors and developers because they stand to make a lot of money.

The closing of the 4.5 miles gap between where the 710 ends in Alhambra and the 210 Foothill Freeway in Pasadena has been under debate for nearly six decades. In March, Metro released a Draft Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DIR/EIS) that contains five proposed alternatives for improving traffic through the region; a freeway tunnel, a light rail train; a rapid bus line; a traffic management system and the required “no build” option.

Several public hearings on the draft report have already taken place in cities and neighborhoods that would be the most impacted by the project: The tunnel and light rail line alternatives have by far generated the most support and opposition.

Backers of the new Beyond the 710 initiative said last week that Metro initially had more than 100 proposals to choose from  and that none of the five alternatives in the Draft Impact Report would be as cost effective or good for the community as what they are proposing.

The group presented its plan to the Metro Board, which is in the process of evaluating the alternatives for closing the 710 gap but did not comment on the Coalition’s plan to expand bus service and build a network of surface street projects, including a four-lane roadway – Golden State Boulevard – that would travel from the south stub of the 710 freeway to Cal State LA, connecting along the way to Freemont Street, Alhambra Avenue and Mission Boulevard.

They claim the surface street network will make using public transportation easier by connecting both legs of the Metro Gold Line, the Green and Blue Lines, as well as Metrolink’s San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange County lines and the El Monte busway. The Coalition said there would be stops on or near Huntington Hospital, Cal State LA, East LA College, St Francis Medical Center and the communities of Bell, Maywood and South Gate.

The plan also proposes restoring the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla, a year-round creek that runs alongside and under the 710. Restoration would provide over 30 acres of new parklands, three regular soccer fields, and a 2.5-mile bike path connecting Alhambra, El Sereno and South Pasadena.

Planners for the project estimate the cost at $875 million.

His TAP card in hand and bike at his side, South Pasadena Councilman Michael Cacciotti said they are all he needs to get around. “It took me 45 minutes [to get] from Pasadena to Los Angeles,” he said, “and I exercised.”

Claiming it would cause significant damage to their cities, the group said building a tunnel is completely unacceptable. “Pasadena has suffered the negative impacts of freeway ‘solutions’ and we recognize that better options exist, such as great streets and smart transit,” said City Manager Michael Beck.

On the other side of the issue, the 710 Coalition — which includes several cities and communities along the 710 freeway that favor the tunnel alternative — released a statement criticizing the new initiative as too late in the game. Tunnel opponents have “rebranded themselves” in an effort to undermine Metro’s ongoing DEIR/EIS process, which took four years to be reviewed, processed and released, they said.

City officials, businesses, labor and local residents have been engaged in the ongoing public comment process since March 6, the 710 Coalition pointed out.

“To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout the years,” said Alhambra Councilmember Barbara Messina.
Metro and Caltrans have spent countless hours and millions of dollars to support the review and analysis of the five alternatives to address the incomplete 710 Freeway, the statement said.