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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Two-thirds of Americans likely to use HSR if available, survey says


September 24, 2015


If high-speed rail were available today, two-thirds (63%) of Americans are likely to use high-speed trains and this jumps to nearly seventy percent (67%) when respondents were informed of the costs and time saving benefits of high-speed rail service, according to a 2015 survey released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

"People want high-speed rail in America and we are seeing support among various ages and in different regions of the country regardless of political party," said APTA President/ CEO Michael Melaniphy. "In addition, the millennial generation and younger adults will lead the way with their preferences to have a multi-modal transportation system that supports their lifestyle. It is critical that we include implementation of high-speed rail as we look to plan for the nation's future transportation needs."

In the survey "High-Speed Rail in America 2015", conducted by TechnoMetrica for APTA, the likelihood of respondents using high-speed rail for their work and leisure travel increases as they were informed that it will be less expensive than flying and that it will take less time than driving to their destination. When told of these cost and time saving benefits, Millennials and young people (18 - 44) strong likelihood of use at 71% jumps to 76%. Those respondents who identify as Republican represent the largest growth of intended use, their likelihood of using high-speed rail increases from 58 to 65%, followed by Independents, 61 to 67%, and Democrats' already strong likelihood of use goes from 73 to 75% when informed of the savings of time and costs.

"A high-speed rail network will have a tremendous benefit to our entire transportation system," said Melaniphy. "It will enable America's air, rail, bus, ferry and highway systems to each function effectively and efficiently as we face a dramatic population growth that adds more travelers than our current capacity can accommodate."

The survey also revealed that Americans overwhelmingly support efforts to streamline government regulations that will promote real-estate development near high-speed rail. This development could include amenities such as popular retail shops, walkable neighborhoods, and unique dining experiences. Overall, nearly three quarters of respondents (71%) support reducing regulations so that amenities can be built near high-speed rail stations.

"High-speed rail not only provides a great transportation option, but the public's interest in amenities near high-speed rail stations is another way to create economic growth and jobs in local communities across the country," said Melaniphy. "If we have strong investment in high-speed rail, it will be an opportunity to generate real-estate and land use income for the private sector as well as local tax revenue for communities for decades to come."

High-Speed Rail in America 2015 survey was conducted by Techno Metrica for APTA. The survey includes 1,005 interviews using random digit dial sample of both landline and cell phone numbers. At the 95% confidence level, the margin of error for the respondents' overall sample is +/-3.2 percentage points.

'Beyond the 710' Seeks Multimodal Alternatives to Filling Freeway Gap


By Elana Eden, September 23, 2015

A coalition in Los Angeles County wants to reframe the debate about closing the gap in the 710 Freeway, asking Metro to look "beyond the 710"—and toward a multi-pronged, multimodal approach to transportation problems in the region.
In the early 2000s, legal battles finally blocked a surface freeway extension across the 4.5-mile stretch where the I-710 was meant to connect to the I-210. This year, Caltrans and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) released a draft EIR/EIS examining five other options, with Caltrans recommending an underground tunnel.

But several cities—particularly those in the proposed tunnel’s path—say the era of building freeways is over, and that Metro should instead study sustainable, "complete street" alternatives that alleviate regional traffic while benefiting local communities.

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian—who serves on, and once chaired, the Metro board—co-chairs the Beyond the 710 coalition with South Pasadena City Council member Dr. Marina Khubesrian. In an interview with The Planning Report, they explained why they think a tunnel would be wrong for the area, and the benefits of a comprehensive "complete streets" solution instead.

For Khubesrian, a physician, one crucial factor is community health: According to the Air Quality Management District, the tunnel project could raise the risk of cancer by almost 15 times. The area, Khubesrian says, is already chillingly known as "the cancer corridor."

Additionally, the tunnel would cost several billion dollars, and cities worry it could become a drain on funding for other projects the region may need.

Beyond the 710 worked with transportation consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard to develop an alternative proposal—one that costs $705 million, and which consultant Paul Moore says addresses numerous problems felt by residents throughout the area.

The proposed bundle of solutions includes extending a Metro rail line, improving a north-south surface transit route, funding a regional bike plan, and taking steps to enhance pedestrian safety. As part of a strategy for travel demand management, it would subsidize transit passes for students in the corridor—which Moore says would eliminate more driving trips than the tunnel would carry.

The debate in the San Gabriel Valley has become so heated that several cities—including Glendale, South Pasadena, Burbank, and Pasadena—are looking into leaving the area’s Council of Governments and forming a new alliance, to receive separate funding and make its own transportation decisions.

For Mayor Najarian, this disagreement has revealed an important lesson around regional planning that he thinks should be recognized countywide:

"Communities most affected can’t just be one more vote in the decision-making process," he says. "They have to have a weighted and seriously accentuated voice… The stakes are much higher for cities and communities where projects are located. Decision-making cannot be based on a one-city-one-vote process."

The Unbreakable U.S. High-Speed Rail System

Without federal funding, bullet train projects across the country have gotten creative.


 Image XpressWest
 A rendering of a Las Vegas to Los Angeles XpressWest train. (XpressWest)

The Republican smackdown of federal high-speed rail funding was supposed to be the death of the national system of fast trains the White House envisioned early in President Obama’s first term. And yet cities across the country keep trying to make HSR happen.

The latest example is XpressWest, the proposed bullet train between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Last week project officials announced a new partnership with China Railway International, complete with $100 million in seed money, to “accelerate launch” of the line. The September 2016 target date to start construction seems ambitious, but given that the project’s environmental documents are already in order, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

If you’d given up much hope on XpressWest, you’re not alone. One insider tells CityLab the China Railway announcement caught even top Nevada officials by surprise. The project hadn’t made much noise since being denied a federal RRIF loan in June 2013 on the grounds that it violated the “Buy America” provision that encourages recipients to use parts manufactured in the U.S.—the obvious problem being that America doesn’t really have a high-speed rail industry at the moment.
But the new deal seems ready to address that concern head on. Here’s the L.A. Times:
XpressWest materials state that although the project has adopted an “assemble and manufacture in America” plan, the manufacturing base for high-speed trains is “not yet mature.”
Therefore, venture backers indicated they intended to partner with foreign suppliers for the estimated 42 train sets they anticipate needing, with assembly being performed in southern Nevada.
The Buy America provision was a tenuous reason to deny the RRIF loan in the first place—highway projects get relief from these requirements all the time. But if XpressWest truly makes plans to open a manufacturing plant in Nevada, the loan comes back on the table. Suddenly, the $5 billion or so that the project is expected to cost seems far less daunting.

One more thing to keep in mind: the announcement is explicit about a rail line “connecting Las Vegas, Nevada to Los Angeles, California.” The inclusion of L.A. has been interpreted to mean Southern California broadly; after all, XpressWest is only cleared through Victorville. But consider that L.A. Metro and Caltrans have advanced plans in the works for a “High Desert Corridor” that will connect Victorville and Palmdale—with a preferred design alternative that involves running high-speed rail in the median of a freeway. Point being that with California high-speed rail slated to reach Palmdale, too, it’s not hard to see a single-seat ride from L.A. to L.V. emerging in the future.

The XpressWest news is the latest example of how local officials and project coordinators have gotten fiscally creative in the absence of sustained federal funding for high-speed rail. California turned to cap-and-trade revenue. Florida is banking on value capture and real estate profits. Texas is insisting on private investors.

Nothing is done yet, and plenty of U.S. HSR projects still haven’t identified any reliable source of funding at all. But planning continues to advance with the expectation that something will come along—as it has for the above ventures.

Illinois is taking an incremental approach via “higher”-speed rail. Japan has offered to put up serious cash for a Baltimore-Washington train as a sort of advertisement for maglev technology. Parts of a Southeast rail corridor just got environmental approval, clearing the way to go knocking on wealthy doors. And the Northeast corridor remains the most viable HSR stretch in the U.S., especially if plans can be scaled back to fit more realistic funding expectations.

In other words, the U.S. high-speed rail map, long left for dead, is actually coming into form—albeit slowly. There’s admittedly a great degree of uncertainty with all these projects; it’s quite possible many will fade away yet, and others will take many years to emerge. But it’s also possible we’re seeing the staggered, shadowy outlines of a new national transportation network in the making.

Despite a solid case to be made for more federal high-speed rail funding, the sort of unified national vision that led to the Interstate Highway System probably isn’t coming through that door. But history reminds us that the interstates weren’t immaculately conceived by Eisenhower’s brain alone in 1956. Some toll roads later incorporated into the system were already being built out of a need—a need that U.S. intercity travelers stuck in highway traffic or on airport runways feel every day.



By Richard Risemberg, September 23, 2015

Now that Mobility Plan 2035 has been voted into law by the city council, the bikelash bozos are prancing around again blowing their rubber-bulb horns and shouting out all kinds of invented “facts” (technically called “lies”) to support their contention that it’s impossible—impossible, I tell you!—to live any semblance of a normal life if bike lanes are striped and cars have to slow down to the speed limit.

There are spurious claims that road diets will keep emergency vehicles from rushing to the scenes of the crashes that won’t happen as much anymore—yet it is cars that blockade firetrucks and ambulances right now; cyclists can pull off to the parking lane or even on to the sidewalk when the sirens howl. With road diets in place, there is more room for motorheads to get out of the way of serious drivers hurrying to save lives endangered by recreational drivers hurrying to show off.

There’s the even more spurious claim that road diets will “kill business.” This one’s been debunked by actual real-world observation so many times that it hardly bears repeating that No, road diets are good for business. Its been proven over and over again.

The latest favorite to float up in the swamp of disinformation is that “You can’t go grocery shopping on a bicycle.”

I can disprove that one myself: for over ten years, I did all the grocery shopping for a family of three, plus pets, by bicycle. I didn’t use a trailer, a cargo bike, or an e-bike either, just a normal everyday standard bicycle with two folding boxes attached to the rear rack. A full large bag of groceries in each one, and a big sack of potatoes or cat litter (or both) on top of the rack. Two trips a week to the supermarket, one to the Trader Joe’s. Easy enough. I still shop by bike, though less so now that I live a two-minute walk from two groceries.

I’m not alone. Here are a few of the photos I’ve snapped recently of bikes parked in front of grocery stores.

Yes, you can shop by bike.

Trader Joe’s in Hancock Park

Trader Joe’s in Hancock Park—another day

Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake (near the Rowena road diet)

Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake—another day

Grand Central Market on Broadway—I’ve started grocery shopping there myself

Shopping by bike in Osaka, Japan

Air Pollution Kills More Than 3 Million People Every Year

Fine particulates and ozone have been linked to deaths from heart disease, stroke and lung cancer around the globe


By Sarah Zielinski, September 16, 2015

Tiny particles and troublesome gases in the outdoor air are ultimately responsible for some 3.3 million premature deaths annually, according to a comprehensive new look at the health effects of air pollution.

The data suggest that globally, more people die from outdoor air pollution than from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. And if there is no change to our current control measures, outdoor air pollution could cause around 6.6 million early deaths each year by 2050.

“Air pollution appears to be a very significant source of premature mortality,” the study’s lead author, Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, said this week in a telephone press conference.

Low-altitude ozone and fine particulates in the air have been linked to heart disease, strokes, respiratory illnesses and lung cancer. But global data on this pollution has been lacking because air quality is not monitored in many parts of the world.

Lelieveld’s team combined atmospheric modeling with population data and health statistics to create estimates of air pollution levels, where it was coming from and how many people it was killing.
Particulates can come from natural sources such as dust as well as unnatural ones, including burning wood and charcoal, large-scale power generation, vehicles and agriculture. Agriculture may seem like an odd source of air pollution, but fertilizer and domesticated animals both produce ammonia, which mixes with other types of emissions in the atmosphere to produce particulates.

The source of the particulates—and thus deaths from air pollution—varies from region to region, the study demonstrates. In the United States, for instance, where air pollution accounts for some 55,000 deaths annually, traffic and power generation are big contributors. In the eastern half of the country, the combination of agricultural fields and dense cities and suburbs combines to produce many deaths, Lelieveld says.

But the majority of deaths from air pollution occur in China and India, mostly from residential heating and cooking, which is often inefficient and produces a lot of particle-filled smoke. Researchers already knew that this type of pollution, when breathed indoors, causes around 3.5 million deaths. But Lelieveld and his colleagues found this source is also a huge contributor to outdoor air pollution, responsible for killing another million people globally.

“You cannot stop people from eating and cooking, but you can provide better technologies,” Lelieveld said during the press conference. He noted, however, that though inventors have tried to lessen this source of pollution with more efficient cookstoves, it has often been difficult to convince people to give up their traditional methods.

Lelieveld admits that his group’s dataset is not perfect. For instance, there is some research that shows that black carbon—the main component in soot—is worse than other types of particulates. If that is true, than the scope of deaths from various sources of air pollution would change. But Lelieveld and his team hope that their research will help guide governments in creating better control measures.

Evidence that such measures can reduce deaths comes from another study published today in Nature Geoscience. Dominick Spracklen of the University of Leeds and colleagues looked at the health impact from a reduction in fires linked to Amazon deforestation. They estimate that fewer fires lessened airborne particulates enough to prevent some 400 to 1,700 premature deaths in South America each year.