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, July 17, 2015

Paris Wants to Bid Adieu to Sexual Harassment on Public Transportation

After 100 percent of women surveyed in the French capital said they’d been subjected to unwelcome comments or touching on the Métro, the government decided to crack down.


By Liz Dwyer, July 16, 2015

 Paris subway.

Inappropriate touching, intimidating behavior, catcalling, wolf whistling, or rape. In April, a shocking survey conducted by France’s High Council for Equality between Women and Men found that 100 percent of women respondents who ride public transportation in Paris reported experiencing one of those forms of sexual harassment or assault. Now the French government is making good on a promise it made to crack down on the offensive behavior and make buses and trains safer for women.

To that end, last week government officials headed to a busy Paris subway station to launch a 12-point campaign to combat harassment. Pascale Boistard, France’s minister for women’s rights, told the crowd that sexual harassment “begins with salacious remarks [or] a hand on a behind” and “is also a much more serious aggression that goes as far as rape,” reported The Independent.

 So, Why Should You Care? Some men who engage in harassing behavior might think that as long as they’re not being violent, there’s nothing wrong with their actions—or that women secretly enjoy the attention. But according to the results of an international survey released in May by Cornell University and anti–street harassment group Hollaback!, 72 percent of women who responded said they had altered their transportation plans because of harassment on buses and trains.

The survey found an overwhelming number of women experience feelings of fear, anger, and anxiety because of unwanted attention from men. Sixty percent of women in the Parisian study reported feeling afraid of being attacked while riding a bus or train—something no one should have to deal with while trying to get to work or school.

 “The problem is that harassment on public transport has basically been trivialized. The figures are shocking. It exists everywhere, but it’s something young foreign women notice when they come to Paris,” Margaux Collet, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Dare Feminism, told The Local following the report’s release.

To help curb the behavior, awareness posters are being put up in subway cars, buses, and stations informing offenders that they can be thrown in jail for five years or be fined more than $82,000 for harassing another citizen.

The government is holding focus groups to help determine the stops on the Métro where riders feel most vulnerable to harassment. Officials will use that information to install additional lighting or boost the presence of law enforcement officers. Plans for expanding night bus service so that women don’t have to walk as far by themselves are also in the works. To empower bystanders who may observe women being harassed but are too afraid to speak up, a text message alert system has also been launched.

“These acts are not harmless, said Boistard. “They are punishable by law.”

Letter: Proposed 710 tunnel is a boondoggle


July 16, 2015

On June 18, the governing board of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted to support the tunnel alternative proposed to extend the I-710 north to the I-210 Freeway. The proposed tunnel alternative is one of five options studied in the SR-710 North Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement. This decision is disconcerting and irresponsible. The city of La Cañada Flintridge was one of several cities adamantly opposed to this decision.

The SGVCOG governing board voted to support this alternative without considering the true cost and impacts to the taxpayers. The vote of support took place prior to the release of the draft report’s cost-benefit analysis, which was published the day after the vote. As stewards of the taxpayer dollar, the elected officials on the board who voted in favor of this ill-conceived project should have reviewed the economics of this project prior to taking a vote.

Furthermore, the draft report concedes that if the tunnel is built, 90% of motorists would either receive no travel-time savings or their commute would actually worsen. Only a small percentage of travelers would benefit, with an estimate 2.5-minute travel-time savings. Spending $3 billion to $5 billion to save 2.5 minutes of travel time for 10% of commuters is a bad choice.

L.A. County has a backlog of numerous transportation infrastructure projects waiting for funding. Many of these projects could benefit from the billions of dollars that will be wasted on this tunnel boondoggle. Those projects would benefit far more commuters.

Economics aside, if built, the tunnel alternative will increase traffic onto the 210 Freeway, elevating pollution and decreasing air quality for the children playing outdoors at the 20 schools located along the freeway.

The SGVCOG should have never gotten involved in such a contentious matter. The members of its governing board unnecessarily involved themselves in an issue that only serves to divide our region and did so without consideration of the cost-benefit to taxpayers and commuters.

The city of La Cañada Flintridge is a member of the five-city Connected Communities Coalition, representing the shared concerns of the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Glendale, Sierra Madre and La Cañada Flintridge. Together, the coalition supports a much less expensive and less invasive approach to congestion relief that includes street widening coupled with bus and rail improvements. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune Editorial Board recently came out in support of the Connected Committees Coalition, and its “Beyond the 710” proposal (beyondthe710.org). The group continues to garner support for its approach to regional congestion management.

The public comment period for the draft report has been extended from July 6 to Aug. 5. I encourage every resident to submit comments for review and get involved in this important decision-making process. For more information visit the project website: dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis/.

Terry Walker

Council Member
City of La Cañada Flintridge
LCF Representative to SGVCOG

SGVCOG Supports the Completion of the 710 Tunnel

on June 18th,  the San Gabriel Valley Council of Government's Governing Board voted in support of closing the 710 gap via tunnel. "The completion of the 710 gap has been a long-standing transportation priority of the SGVCOG". Read more from their letter of support here:

LA Street Hazard: The City Bus is a Moving Traffic Jam


By Bob Gelfand, July 17, 2015


GELFAND’S WORLD-I was tempted to start this piece with the demand that we get rid of the damned busses. But I'm not looking for click bait so much as I'm interested in making a point that hasn't been discussed very much. Here it is: The standard city bus and the standard city are just not design-compatible. The city has streets that are narrow and congested. The bus is too wide for those streets. As a result, the city bus is a moving traffic jam. 

Every time a bus stops to load and unload passengers, it sticks out into traffic. If you are the unlucky driver sitting behind that bus, you just have to wait. That's because the bus does not leave enough room for you to go around. 

The standard bus, like the ones that GM used to build, covers about 40 feet in length and 8.5 feet in width. Compared to the modern compact car, that bus is about half again wider, as a compact car can be as little as 5.5 feet in width, and more often is about 6 feet. The 3 feet doesn't seem like much of a difference, but street width is limited, and lanes are designed to move traffic and to allow for the average sized car to park along the curb. If you were to add another 2.5 feet to the width of a parked car, you would have an impediment that sticks out into the lane and blocks traffic. 

And that's exactly what the bus does when it pulls up at its bus stop. It creates a temporary halt to all the traffic behind it. 

And yes, there are exceptions. If the road is wide enough, the traffic engineers can make that right hand lane really wide, wide enough to accommodate not only a parked bus, but automotive traffic too. But this is not usually the case when it comes to our congested streets. In a crowded city, the traffic engineers will try to squeeze in as many lanes as they can on each busy street. They don't have the room to leave that extra 6 pr 8 feet along the curb that would allow for you to pass a stopped bus. 
The result is that when it comes to life in the big city, we either have efficient automotive flow or we have busses. 

The problem is that we can't just wave our magic wand and get rid of the d--- busses. They are currently a necessary part of our civilization. They move a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't be able to get around. They are also uncomfortable to ride in, polluting, and noisy. These are all consequences of design requirements. If you want lots of busses that can carry 30 or 40 people all day long over city streets, which necessitates thousands of starts and stops, you have to build the busses to be strong and stable. That means that they are big and bulky and potentially noisy. 

I won't go into the problems that diesel exhaust creates (at least in this piece), but they are significant. Try looking up the expression ultrafine particles if you want to get an idea. The standard diesel powered bus or truck leaves a plume of unhealthy particulate matter trailing behind it. 

So is there a solution, or is this just another Los Angeles resident complaining about the traffic? 

I think that the answer is somewhere in between these two extremes. If we are to redesign our transportation system here in Los Angeles so as to make life better for the next generation, then we have to think about a comprehensive redesign of the whole system. That means we should think about the way that we build and use our new light rail lines so that more people will be able to get to them easily. And it means a redesign of city streets to reduce the current system of stop and go driving. 

Rethinking the modern city is obviously going to require that we rethink the concept of the 8.5 foot wide bus straddling the 12 foot lane. We might, for example, try rethinking the system of intermingling wide busses and smaller cars on narrow city streets. Dedicated bus lanes already exist, but their use has been fairly limited in the big cities where most of us travel. 

Another possibility is a radical redesign of the current bus. It wouldn't be an easy task, but it ought to be possible. Most designs for smaller busses concentrate on making them shorter as opposed to narrower. City planners ought to be talking to vehicle manufacturers about building a narrower, shorter bus that can move in and out of automobile lanes without acting as a mobile traffic jam. 

An even more radical redesign of the modern city would involve replacing many of the bus lines with a system of personal rapid transit. I've made no secret of the fact that I am interested in this concept, because it solves the problem that other approaches do not. It goes up in the air, where there is room to build extra transportation capacity, and thereby avoids adding more vehicles to our already jammed streets and highways. Whether we will have the political will to make this kind of change is the most significant sticking point. 

Just to illustrate how complicated this whole subject can be, let's consider briefly an essay that argues for more busses and less light rail.  James V. DeLong, writing for the Reason Foundation, cites cost figures and ridership of bus, rail, and autos in Los Angeles as well as other cities. His conclusion is that light rail typically makes commuting even more difficult than older bus routes, because the introduction of light rail causes cities to abolish some of their bus routes. The poorer commuters who lack cars are forced to travel by bus to get to the train, and then at the end of their train journeys, to take another bus to get to their destinations. 

The economic arguments made in DeLong's essay may be legitimate, in the sense that building and operating fleets of busses involves economic savings over the costs of gaining railway rights of way, building the rail lines, and paying off the bonded debt that usually goes into such projects. 

But DeLong's essay involves a different perspective than the one I am trying to develop here. I'm not arguing the existence of busses, but the way that the current bus design is a misfit for the way our streets are arranged. 

Some designers are beginning to argue that the new generation of driverless cars will be the solution to our transportation problems. The idea seems to be that the average family will buy and own fewer cars. We won't need to be 2 and 3 car families because we will have access to a fleet of robot vehicles. You might think of it as having access to a taxi cab whenever you need it, without the labor costs that go into paying a cab driver for his time and investment. Whether this could work efficiently and safely is a question yet to be answered. 

In any case, the current system whereby Angelenos sit in traffic behind diesel particulate belching trucks and busses is something that ought to be considered from the design perspective. It needs to be considered from the bottom up, rather than in terms of patchwork semi-solutions. Since the design of the current day city bus would be one of the easier redesigns, we ought to start thinking about that redesign in a serious way.

Throwback Thursday: Here Comes the Train


By Jason Islas, July 2015

The train’s a-comin’! Expo testing is scheduled to extend all the way to 4th Street today, marking the first time a passenger train has been west of Lincoln Boulevard in decades.

At the turn of last century, trains brought freight and visitors to Santa Monica regularly. Photo via KCET
At the turn of last century, trains brought freight and visitors to Santa Monica regularly. 

It won’t be long before getting from Downtown Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles is as easy as hopping a train. While many have come to know Los Angeles as a car-dominated town, that’s quickly changing with the growing rail network and extensive bus service. But before this city got its car-centric reputation, it was first a rail town.

Starting in 1875, freight and passengers could travel between Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica — before it really had anything that could be considered a downtown — by train.
By the turn of last century, Santa Monica was flourishing as a beach destination.

By 1912, Santa Monica had full-fledged daily passenger service as part of vast and sprawling rail network. In a brochure from 1910, Pacific Electric advertised a “Balloon Route Excursion” for only a dollar. The route ran from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica, then south to Venice and Playa del Rey before returning eastward.

A brochure advertising the Balloon Route, circa 1910. From pacificelectric.org.
A brochure advertising the Balloon Route, circa 1910. From pacificelectric.org.

The “Balloon Route” promised passengers glimpses of exciting sites:
  • Largest Oil District in Southern California
  • The Beautiful Driveways of Sunset Boulevard and Prospect Boulevard
  • The Modern ‘Garden of Eden’ — Beautiful Hollywood
Largest Beanfields in Southern California

Then, the train would stop north of Santa Monica Canyon, offering passengers a chance to see the long wharf at Port Los Angeles. Now lost to history, the long wharf was Santa Monica founder and Nevada Senator John P. Jones’ attempt to make Santa Monica the primary shipping port for Los Angeles. Eventually, Jones lost out to San Pedro.

Passengers were then treated to a stop at “Santa Monica by the Sea, Southern California’s Oldest Beach, with Panoramic View at the Great Camera Obscura,” followed by a jaunt at “Pretty Ocean Park with a Delightful Ride on the Roller Coaster over the Sea.”

The Balloon Route, which was “endorsed by thousands,” continued south before returning eastward by a different route. Its promoters also boasted that it passed “through orange, lemon, olive, walnut and fig groves.”

Passenger service continued to the beach city along the Santa Monica Air Line into the middle of last century. The line was used for freight trains until 1988, when the track was officially abandoned.

Earlier this month, for the first time since 1953, an electric passenger train crossed into Santa Monica as Metro began testing on Expo Phase II. If all goes as planned, Expo II will open in early 2016, ushering in a new era of passenger train travel in West Los Angeles. The future is almost here and it looks vaguely like the past, only better.

LAX votes to allow Uber, Lyft passenger pickups


By Brian Watt, July 16, 2017

Los Angeles has moved toward becoming the biggest city in the U.S. to allow ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at the airport.

“The only place that we can come and make money is at the airport,” said Paul Ero, a taxi driver in Los Angeles for the last 19 years. “Now they want to take that away from us, so they can bring Uber in without any kind of regulations.”

Ero joined a group of taxi drivers outside the airport administration building before the commissioners' meeting. They held signs with slogans like “sharing economy is a disaster for workers” and  wore yellow t-shirts that read "Uber driver or convicted felon? BOTH."

Dozens of taxi drivers testified before the Board of Airport Commissioners that allowing the ride-sharing services to pick up passengers at the airport would put taxi drivers out of business.

UCLA Labor Center Research Director Saba Waheed analyzed taxi meter data from the L.A. Department of Transportation and found that, between 2013 and 2014, taxi ridership in Los Angeles dropped by 18 percent. But taxi trips to and from LAX increased during the same period.

“It shows that the new services are actually cutting into the taxi industry in all places, except at the airport,” Waheed told KPCC. “It means that the airport is really the last lifeline for taxis in Los Angeles.”

But airport commissioners said they’d heard from a lot of consumers who wanted the choice of calling an Uber or a Lyft driver and voted unanimously to let the services operate under certain regulations.

Lyft driver Lauren Szendrei said she uses her driving income to pay off student loans and that arriving passengers at the airport were going out of their way to call on services like hers.

“They will take a shuttle off the airport grounds, go to local hotels, just in order to request us,” Szendrei said.

Pickups could begin as early as August, according to the Associated Press, but the plan is still subject to final approval from the airport and the city attorney.

The proposal includes a digital "fence" that would tell the airport when a driver from one of the services enters or leaves the terminal area, KPCC confirms.

Currently, the drivers are allowed to drop off passengers but not pick them up, according to the AP. Under the proposed changes, they'd have to pay a $4 fee to do either.

Update: Metro schedule for 2016 Potential Ballot Measure


By Jessicam, July 16, 2015

Metro Schedule

At the July 5th Metro Ballot Measure and Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), Metro staff shared a updated timeline for the development of the potential 2016 Ballot Measure.  A key element of this schedule update is Metro is asking stakeholders to submit in writing their initial input for the framework of this Ballot Measure by September 1st.

Investing in Place will be sharing our input with partners over the next several weeks, leading up to our next partner meeting on September 9th.  Please reach out to Jessica Meaney if you’d like to be involved in developing our letter.  It will be guided by the input we have been gathering over the past 7 months at our partner meetings.

If you are submitting a letter by the September 1st deadline, we encourage you to send it to Investing in Place so we can post on our blog and share with partners the variety of stakeholder frameworks/goals for this potential ballot measure across the County and support partnerships on shared common outcomes for this developing expenditure plan.

We also encourage our partners to consider attending the monthly LRTP/Ballot Measure Technical Advisory Committee meetings, they are open to the public.  They happen the first Wednesday of each month from 11am – 12:30pm at Metro headquarters. There will not be a meeting of this TAC in August as most Metro committees are dark for the month.  To sign up to receive the LRTP/Ballot Measure agenda materials, email Patricia Chen at ChenP@metro.net.

CBS2 Investigates: CalTrans Accused Of Being Slumlord By LA Tenants


July 16, 2015

See website for a video.

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — In a CBS2 investigation, tenants in one Southland community are calling their landlord a slumlord.

Rene Uribe of El Sereno says he has mold hidden under the flooring of his bathroom.
“It’s dangerous,” he said.

Virginia Flores says she has mold on her bathroom wall.

“It looks like it’s eaten up the whole wall,” she said.

For Lisa Almeida, it’s cracks.

“You see how it’s cracking, chipping? And you see that crack already starting to lead up?” she asked.
Tina Moreno is concerned about the safety of her foundation.

“I have a sinkhole under my house and in my bathroom I have mold,” she said.

These tenants all have one thing in common: They rent their homes from CalTrans, CBS2/KCAL9’s David Goldstein reports.

“All CalTrans tenants know them as slumlords,” Almeida said.

Residents say they’ve been living with these conditions for years and have been complaining to city inspectors and county inspectors. And they claim no one will do anything.

The homes are part of 460 properties CalTrans purchased for the proposed extension of the 710 Freeway in Pasadena and Alhambra.

Some were bought as far back as 1954, and under state regulations, are being rented to low and moderate-income families.

Uribe has lived in his residence for 13 years.

“We advised them of it. Every time they come for the annual inspection, they say we’ll send someone and nobody ever comes,” he said of the mold, which she says has been there for at least a year.
Flores has lived in her residence for 20 years.

“I have complained to the rental agent that works for CalTrans and I told him I had mold and a sink that leaks water when you’re taking a shower,” she said.

“He said they would get back to me.”

All fear health problems because of the conditions.

“I’ve been living here for 19 years,” Moreno said, adding that she uses a hotplate to cook because she fears a gas leak.

“I haven’t had a stove because I’m afraid to cook because I’m afraid it’s going to blow up because I hear it bubbling a lot,” she said.

At this point, she’d like to get out but doesn’t have the money.

“I wanted them to relocate me or just give me some kind of money to hep me,” she said.
CalTrans refused to provide anyone for an on-camera interview.

The agency would only release the following statement to CBS2/KCAL9: “The health and safety of our tenants and our rental units is a priority.”

As far as the mold, the spokesperson continued: “Lab results have all come back negative for black mold, and further indicated that the issues reported were neither toxic nor harmful to tenants.”

When asked for the lab results, CalTrans initially provided heavily redacted reports, with the addresses of the properties, as well as the name of the technician that approved the findings, hidden.
The agency did eventually send copies with addresses.

In testing for stachybotrys, or black mold, the most dangerous, no traces were found. But there were plenty of findings for other mold, which residents says could lead to asthma and other health conditions.

State Sen. Carol Liu authored a bill two years ago forcing CalTrans to sell the homes, with the renters getting a first shot. The state expects that to begin later this year.

“They have over the past 50, 60 years, have not been good landlords,” Sen. Liu said. “CalTrans does not need to be in the real estate business, and they know it and we’re encouraging them to get out of the business and they want to get out of the business too.”

Within days after CBS2/KCAL9 first alerted CalTrans we were doing an investigation, residents say inspectors were out at the houses making some repairs. The residents insisted the repairs that were made were still not enough.

What Is the Future of L.A.’s Transit?

Los Angeles

What Is the Future of L.A.’s Transit?

Phillip Washington

The Plaza on Olvera Street
El Pueblo De Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Parking information available here.
A Zócalo/Metro Event
Moderated by Conan Nolan, General Assignment Reporter, NBC4
What does Phillip Washington, the new CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), think is the future of transportation in his new home in L.A. County? Washington comes to Los Angeles after six years heading Denver’s Regional Transportation District in a period of rapid growth, particularly for rail. In the midst of the recession, he secured $1 billion in federal grants and completed planned rail expansion on time and under budget. Washington, who grew up on the south side of Chicago, is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served for 24 years and earned the highest non-commissioned officer rank an enlisted person can achieve. In Los Angeles County, Washington will be presiding over major projects that include five new rail lines, the widening of the 5 freeway, and massive bike lane expansion. What does Washington think L.A.’s transit priorities should be, and what is his vision for the region? How does he see Angelenos getting around five, 10, and 25 years from now? Washington visits Zócalo to talk about how his experiences in Denver and the military have prepared him to run Metro, where L.A. fits into America’s larger transit landscape, and the politics of urban transportation today.