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

Monday, February 8, 2016

Report: Closing the 710 Freeway gap would take years and cost billions

http://canmua.net/california/report-closing-the-710-freeway-gap-would-take-years-321725.html

By Laura Nelson, January 20, 2016

Report: Closing the 710 Freeway gap would take years and cost billions : <p>Any major modifications to the unfinished 710 Freeway, one of Los Angeles County’s most persistent transportation controversies, would cost billions of dollars and take years to complete, according to environmental documents released Friday.</p> <p>In a <a href="http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis">2,260-page draft environmental report</a>, the California...</p>

Any major modifications to the unfinished 710 Freeway, one of Los Angeles County’s most persistent transportation controversies, would cost billions of dollars and take years to complete, according to environmental documents released Friday.

In a 2,260-page draft environmental report, the California Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority examined four construction options they say could address the congestion and health issues that stem from the 710’s abrupt ending on a surface street in Alhambra. The freeway is a favored route for truckers shuttling between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and distribution centers in central Los Angeles County.

"This area is widely considered to have an incomplete transportation infrastructure," Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales told the Los Angeles Times. "The way it affects the region is part of this study -- what it means for traffic, what it means for mobility, what it means for air pollution. We closely associate the 710 with a handful of specific cities, but it’s connected to the whole region."

To address the 4.5-mile gap through Alhambra and South Pasadena, the agencies are considering a bus system, a light-rail line, a freeway tunnel and a range of upgrades to the existing route, as well as the required "no build" option.

Building an underground freeway would be the most expensive option. Tunneling between the 10 Freeway and the nexus of the 210 and 134 freeways in Pasadena would cost between $3.1 billion and $5.6 billion and would take about five years to complete, the report said.

The $5.6-billion freeway option calls for side-by-side, double-decker tunnels to separate northbound and southbound traffic. The route would feature a 4.9-mile tunnel and 1.4 miles of surface-level freeway.

The $3.1-billion option calls for one double-decker freeway tunnel. Northbound traffic would use the two lanes on the upper level, and southbound traffic would use the lower level.

A 4.9-mile tunnel would be the longest in California, and almost as long as downtown Boston's 5.1-mile Big Dig tunnel. Under either option, drivers could be charged a toll and trucks could be barred from the tunnels, the report said.

A 12-mile rapid bus route would link Huntington Drive in San Marino to Whittier Boulevard in Montebello, according to the environmental analysis. Buses would have some dedicated lanes, and could run every 10 minutes during peak hours. Adding the bus routes would cost $241 million and take about two years.

A 7.5-mile light-rail line would cost $2.4 billion and would add seven stops to Los Angeles County’s growing rail system, the report said, connecting the Gold Line’s Fillmore Station in Pasadena with the East L.A. Civic Center stop. The route would run underground through Pasadena and South Pasadena, then run on elevated tracks through Monterey Park and East Los Angeles. Construction would take about six years.

The cheapest option would be to make the existing freeways and roads more efficient without major construction, the report says. That could include meters for on-ramps, synchronized traffic signals, and lanes that change direction during peak hours. Those options would cost about $105 million and take two years to complete, the report said.

Caltrans and Metro are accepting comments from the public until July 6. The Metro board of directors will choose a final option for the project sometime in 2016, Gonzales said.

The 710 project has $780 million in funding through Measure R, the half-cent sales tax for transportation projects that county voters approved in 2008. Selecting a light-rail or tunnel option would require that Metro seek additional federal, state or local funds.

Transit ridership, the obvious and the complex

http://thehealthycitylocal.com/2016/02/04/transit-ridership-the-obvious-and-the-complex/

By Frank Gruber, February 4, 2016

Last week the Los Angeles Times ran a story, by Laura Nelson and Dan Weikel, about how transit ridership has declined in Southern California at the same time that large investments have been made in public transit, mostly in the rail system. The article led with the fact that Metro’s boardings declined 10 percent between 2006 and 2015, notwithstanding billions of dollars of capital expenditures, and that Metro had also experienced long-term declines in ridership, going back to when L.A. transit ridership peaked in 1985.

Then the Times ran something of a counter piece, an op-ed by Ethan Elkind, a researcher and writer on environmental law and policy. Elkind explained some of the reasons for the recent decline in ridership, argued that the long-term decline is not as bad as the article made it seem because of the starting date the authors chose to compare to (more on that below), and why the future should not be so bleak for transit in the region, once the rail lines and extensions those billions are paying for have opened.

Then, today, there were four letters in the Times responding to Elkind.

Transportation issues are complex, involving at the micro level decisions that individuals make balancing myriad tiny factors and at the macro level decisions that governments make balancing massive public and private interests. To me, the Times story and the response to it illustrate how people can ignore this complexity at the same time that they fail to make obvious connections.

To begin with, the original article has contradictions. Its main point is that recent investments haven’t had a positive impact on ridership, but the article itself includes a chart that shows that since 1995 Metro ridership has increased from 362 million boardings per year to 453 million, an increase of 25 percent. When did the Blue Line, L.A.’s first new rail line, open? In 1990. When did the Red Line subway open? 1993. Green Line? 1995. Gold Line? 2003. What do you know, but there’s a correlation between when L.A. began investing in a modern rail system and when ridership
began to increase.
The Times' chart. (C) 2016 Los Angeles Times
The Times’ chart. © 2016 Los Angeles Times

What about the 10 percent decline since 2006? Well, the article answers that question, but you have to dig. Nelson and Weikel recount the history that after a settlement with the Bus Riders Union in the 1990s Metro added more than one million hours of bus service; as a result, ridership soared, reaching 492 million boardings in 2006 (very nearly the 1985 peak). Then what happened? Well, it’s right there in the article: the Great Recession hit, ridership which had been rapidly increasing leveled off, and then between 2009 and 2011 Metro reduced bus service by 900,000 hours. Hardly a shock, but there will be a correlation between reducing service and losing riders.

There are, of course, many factors that affect decisions that people make about how to travel. In the 30 years since the 1985 peak in ridership, many of the jobs that people once took transit to were moved outside of the region’s inner, transit-served core to places like Lancaster and the inland Empire (or, in the case of the garment industry, to Asia). Immigrants, who, as the article points out, use transit more frequently than non-immigrants, followed those jobs into sprawl-ville. We also have fewer immigrants now than in 1985. Given these trends, both demographic and geographic, it’s remarkable that Metro has about the same ridership today that it had 30 years ago (and don’t forget that 25% increase since 1995).

Reading the letters in today’s Times about the ridership issue illustrates that no matter how complex a problem is you can always try to reduce it to something you can express in a letter to the editor.

The first letter is from Santa Monica’s own Bruce Feldman, who presents himself as the classic Everyman, with “common sense,” in contrast to “scholars like Ethan N. Elkind.” To Feldman, it’s clear: Southern Californians “want real world steps that can be put into place quickly.” He says that we should dramatically lower the cost of public transportation, create more bus lanes and run buses every three to five minutes to make transportation “even more convenient than cars.” “That’s just common sense,” he says.

Hey, I agree. But does Feldman believe that anyone could accomplish those things quickly? I mean, does he know, for instance, how many years it took to wrestle the new bus lanes on Wilshire away from those Southern Californians of his who drive cars? Does he known anything about the politics (and federal financing) of fares? Does he know what buses cost?

Common sense is great, but does Feldman believe that he’s the first to think up this stuff?

Feldman concludes his letter with classic Amur’can anti-intellectualism, saying that he’s “sure academics will have plenty of theoretical reasons why I’m wrong.” I don’t think so! I mean, I read a fair amount of academic literature in this field and I’ve never read anything saying that lowering fares, increasing frequency, and speeding up buses would not attract more riders. The problems are not theoretical; they’re practical and political.

The second letter, wouldn’t you know it, comes from an academic, but one who agrees with Feldman. (This only goes to show that if you’re going to attack intellectuals be careful, because there’s going to be at least one whose pointy-head points the way you want it to point.) The letter, naturally, is from USC professor James E. Moore II, who has led a personal crusade for many years against building rail in L.A. As Times reporters often do, Nelson and Weikel quote Moore in their article, this time to the effect that Metro has been driving ridership down by spending on rail. (Maybe I mentioned this already, but since Metro began opening new rail lines, ridership is up 25 percent.)

Moore’s point in today’s letter is that if you lower fares, you increase ridership more effectively than by using the money to build rail. Although everyone likes low transit fares, particularly for poor people, around the world the cities that have the best and busiest transit systems, including the best service for working-class and poor people, are not cities where fares are cheap. And by the way, they usually have lots of rail.

Time is money for everyone, especially for people without much money since they need every minute they have to make money. If you treat your transportation system as an adjunct of the welfare system, you’re not going to have a good transportation system serving the people in the welfare system. (And nor will you have a system that reduces traffic congestion by attracting the non-poor.)

Every few weeks during the academic year I take the Metro 534 bus from downtown Santa Monica to Culver City, where I catch the Expo train to meet my wife at USC (where she teaches). We do this so that we can get some dinner and then hear a concert at Disney Hall or the Music Center. Mind you, my wife has her car at USC and we drive back, but we never regularly went to weeknight concerts before the Expo line opened, because for me to get or USC or downtown L.A. on the freeway would be a nightmare. I get on that 534 bus around 4:30 p.m. and it’s always packed, usually standing room only, full of workers coming home from jobs in Malibu and Pacific Palisades. We get on the freeway, and it usually takes 50, 55 or even 60 minutes to get to the train in Culver, where most of us passengers disembark.

When the train opens in Santa Monica in May, those passengers, our transit-riding heroes, will be able to exit the bus and get on the train here in Santa Monica, and a trip that now takes almost an hour to Culver City will take 15 minutes, saving them up to 45 minutes in each direction.

And the ride will be smooth.

Thanks for reading.

We Need to Make Transit Part of Our Lives

https://www.metrans.org/blog/we-need-make-transit-part-our-lives

By Lisa Schweitzer, February 4, 2016

There are always questions about where you should slice data. The rail fans online have thrown a fit over the LA Times decision to begin in 1985, arguing that the numbers are misleading and that rail has been a success since 1995 in bringing people back to the system. If you look at the "ridership peak" graph (from the LA Times article), you’ll see that ridership has grown since 1995, not declined. Is that the right period to use to evaluate productivity? Or should we go all the way back to 1980 figures, which would make our current ridership look better than the 1985 beginning?

image
Source: Calculated by the author

It might be more helpful to use ridership per capita. During the time period, LA County, which covers the most of Metro’s service area, also grew in population. Probably the best way to suss the numbers is via ridership per capita, which I have roughed out here. There has been growth since 1995; in 1995, we had about 40 trips per year per person living in LA County. in 2015, the number is up to 44 rides per person. We’ve spent approximately $20 billion on capital improvements during the entire time frame, and capital improvements are supposed to last. These up-front costs are meant to attract riders years and years into the future, long after the up-front costs have been paid.

It’s way beyond the scope of what I can write about in a blog post to test that claim. We’d like to know exactly how much those 4 additional trips per person cost us to get. But Metro as an agency has expanded tremendously from the 1986 time period onward, with each successive sales tax proposition that passes. Even since 2011, the agency’s budget has gone from around $3.9 billion to $5.6 billion, but that includes highway projects as well since the passage of Measure R.

So are the ridership numbers terrible? No, just…meh. Underwhelming, even if we start with 1995. The market share numbers, for just about every travel diary we run in Los Angeles, show that we aren’t moving the dial much in the old transit-versus-auto choice even if we are getting more trips. Trains cost quite a bit to build, just like everything in California is expensive to build, and if the rail advocates want a system, they have to convince other, less enthusiastic people that rail investment is super-duper, way worth the taxes collected. The promises can’t be small because the investments aren’t small, and as a result, transit capital projects get sold with a lot of hoopity doo and fanfare. We get promised the world with each new ballot box measure and list of investments. These are meant to clean up the environment! Make us thin! Clear up congestion! Whee!

And then, another train line opens, but it’s not world-changing. It’s nice, and useful to people who have access to it. Some new riders hop on, and some existing riders get somewhat better service. Traffic doesn’t get better, really; it only gets worse more slowly, and that’s the boring reality of most investment. The overpromise of budgetary politics often mismatches the slow ground game of incremental change in mobility services and urban environments.

Nonetheless, Angelenos have voted to support Metro and its activities in 3 out of 7 times out of the chute. They can be convinced to support the spending, and voters—and their representatives on the Metro Board—appear to support the system expansions. It’s hard for me to argue with democratic preferences.

In terms of alternative policy or planning solutions, we need to do much better with land use and station-area development. First of all, I think Metro is prevented by state law from acquiring land near stations except for Metro's immediate operational uses, and that means they are not allowed to buy up land for joint development. That’s a dumb rule, for Metro and for some real estate submarkets, because Metro is in a better position to take on land development risk than private developers in certain parts of the region.

Secondly, I think the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) needs to start getting tougher with its allocations for new starts. FTA should refuse to fund projects where the local city has not already increased allowed zoning densities and granted approvals around the proposed station areas. As it is, we have people who are demanding, and getting, $100+ million rail investments to serve their single-family suburban developments, and that’s no way to get good returns on capital investments.

And we really need to stop cutting bus service. There is no way that LA becomes a train-only market. The "last mile" problem is significant in most markets, not just in LA, and the idea that we can build up our trains and starve our buses simply dooms us to lose passengers because LA’s geographically distributed employment means that most transit commutes are likely to involve a modal transfer. If that transfer is awful, transit loses that trip to another mode.

I do think Metro could do more with running specials and ‘ride free’ days and using specials to pique interest. For example, we are having a free museum day this weekend. It could also be "free ride to free museum day."

Metro also needs to do better in working with employers and with other institutions. For instance, Metro did absolutely nothing when USC discontinued its support for transit riders. Regardless of whether USC’s transit subsidy program attracted many riders, it was a signaling and leadership moment when USC axed its program. Metro’s leaders didn’t say "boo" in response. The LA DOT didn’t say "boo." For all the prancing around our Mayor and other state Democrats do about alternative transportation, they did diddly to stand up to USC. When one of the region’s largest employers kicks transit support to the curb, agencies like Metro and the DOT, and our Mayor, need to show leadership, set the tone, and say "Hey, wait a minute. We know this program costs you money, but we’re trying to accomplish something here; we’re trying to build transit as a way of life in this city. Why are you bugging out on us?" That episode is so discouraging because it shows how much LA’s elected leadership wants to dig into taxpayers’ pockets at sales tax time to make sure the pretty trains get built, but how little real political capital our politicians wield in helping riders ride the pretty trains once they actually get built.

And finally, if Angelenos want transit to work, they have to do more than just add a few pennies to their sales taxes and cut ribbons in front of new trains. They have to get on the system and make it a part of their lives. I don’t think it’s possible that transit can outcompete the car until the auto environment gets really miserable, and LA is a long way from that. People don’t have to give up their cars to make a difference; taking transit a couple times a week, for lunch, to get to work, to go on a weekend outing with the kids—those are small changes that can bring people onto the system. If it is going to be a public system, the public has to be on it. Taking transit is a virtue. It’s good for the city. And it’s good for public life. And yeah, it’s probably going to take extra time, you’ll have to walk a bit, and chances are, you’ll associate with people you wouldn’t normally. Suck it up and get on the buses and trains if you want better numbers here. It’s on Metro, but it’s also on all of us, too, to make the system we’ve been building into what it could be.
There are always questions about where you should slice data. The rail fans online have thrown a fit over the LA Times decision to begin in 1985, arguing that the numbers are misleading and that rail has been a success since 1995 in bringing people back to the system. If you look at the "ridership peak" graph (from the LA Times article), you’ll see that ridership has grown since 1995, not declined. Is that the right period to use to evaluate productivity? Or should we go all the way back to 1980 figures, which would make our current ridership look better than the 1985 beginning?
image
Source: Calculated by the author
It might be more helpful to use ridership per capita. During the time period, LA County, which covers the most of Metro’s service area, also grew in population. Probably the best way to suss the numbers is via ridership per capita, which I have roughed out here. There has been growth since 1995; in 1995, we had about 40 trips per year per person living in LA County. in 2015, the number is up to 44 rides per person. We’ve spent approximately $20 billion on capital improvements during the entire time frame, and capital improvements are supposed to last. These up-front costs are meant to attract riders years and years into the future, long after the up-front costs have been paid.
It’s way beyond the scope of what I can write about in a blog post to test that claim. We’d like to know exactly how much those 4 additional trips per person cost us to get. But Metro as an agency has expanded tremendously from the 1986 time period onward, with each successive sales tax proposition that passes. Even since 2011, the agency’s budget has gone from around $3.9 billion to $5.6 billion, but that includes highway projects as well since the passage of Measure R.
So are the ridership numbers terrible? No, just…meh. Underwhelming, even if we start with 1995. The market share numbers, for just about every travel diary we run in Los Angeles, show that we aren’t moving the dial much in the old transit-versus-auto choice even if we are getting more trips. Trains cost quite a bit to build, just like everything in California is expensive to build, and if the rail advocates want a system, they have to convince other, less enthusiastic people that rail investment is super-duper, way worth the taxes collected. The promises can’t be small because the investments aren’t small, and as a result, transit capital projects get sold with a lot of hoopity doo and fanfare. We get promised the world with each new ballot box measure and list of investments. These are meant to clean up the environment! Make us thin! Clear up congestion! Whee!
And then, another train line opens, but it’s not world-changing. It’s nice, and useful to people who have access to it. Some new riders hop on, and some existing riders get somewhat better service. Traffic doesn’t get better, really; it only gets worse more slowly, and that’s the boring reality of most investment. The overpromise of budgetary politics often mismatches the slow ground game of incremental change in mobility services and urban environments.
Nonetheless, Angelenos have voted to support Metro and its activities in 3 out of 7 times out of the chute. They can be convinced to support the spending, and voters—and their representatives on the Metro Board—appear to support the system expansions. It’s hard for me to argue with democratic preferences.
In terms of alternative policy or planning solutions, we need to do much better with land use and station-area development. First of all, I think Metro is prevented by state law from acquiring land near stations except for Metro's immediate operational uses, and that means they are not allowed to buy up land for joint development. That’s a dumb rule, for Metro and for some real estate submarkets, because Metro is in a better position to take on land development risk than private developers in certain parts of the region.
Secondly, I think the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) needs to start getting tougher with its allocations for new starts. FTA should refuse to fund projects where the local city has not already increased allowed zoning densities and granted approvals around the proposed station areas. As it is, we have people who are demanding, and getting, $100+ million rail investments to serve their single-family suburban developments, and that’s no way to get good returns on capital investments.
And we really need to stop cutting bus service. There is no way that LA becomes a train-only market. The "last mile" problem is significant in most markets, not just in LA, and the idea that we can build up our trains and starve our buses simply dooms us to lose passengers because LA’s geographically distributed employment means that most transit commutes are likely to involve a modal transfer. If that transfer is awful, transit loses that trip to another mode.
I do think Metro could do more with running specials and ‘ride free’ days and using specials to pique interest. For example, we are having a free museum day this weekend. It could also be "free ride to free museum day."
Metro also needs to do better in working with employers and with other institutions. For instance, Metro did absolutely nothing when USC discontinued its support for transit riders. Regardless of whether USC’s transit subsidy program attracted many riders, it was a signaling and leadership moment when USC axed its program. Metro’s leaders didn’t say "boo" in response. The LA DOT didn’t say "boo." For all the prancing around our Mayor and other state Democrats do about alternative transportation, they did diddly to stand up to USC. When one of the region’s largest employers kicks transit support to the curb, agencies like Metro and the DOT, and our Mayor, need to show leadership, set the tone, and say "Hey, wait a minute. We know this program costs you money, but we’re trying to accomplish something here; we’re trying to build transit as a way of life in this city. Why are you bugging out on us?" That episode is so discouraging because it shows how much LA’s elected leadership wants to dig into taxpayers’ pockets at sales tax time to make sure the pretty trains get built, but how little real political capital our politicians wield in helping riders ride the pretty trains once they actually get built.
And finally, if Angelenos want transit to work, they have to do more than just add a few pennies to their sales taxes and cut ribbons in front of new trains. They have to get on the system and make it a part of their lives. I don’t think it’s possible that transit can outcompete the car until the auto environment gets really miserable, and LA is a long way from that. People don’t have to give up their cars to make a difference; taking transit a couple times a week, for lunch, to get to work, to go on a weekend outing with the kids—those are small changes that can bring people onto the system. If it is going to be a public system, the public has to be on it. Taking transit is a virtue. It’s good for the city. And it’s good for public life. And yeah, it’s probably going to take extra time, you’ll have to walk a bit, and chances are, you’ll associate with people you wouldn’t normally. Suck it up and get on the buses and trains if you want better numbers here. It’s on Metro, but it’s also on all of us, too, to make the system we’ve been building into what it could be.
- See more at: https://www.metrans.org/blog/we-need-make-transit-part-our-lives#sthash.LoRTdtP6.dpuf

Déjà vu! Is Transit for You?

http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/10435-deja-vu-is-transit-for-you

By Ken Alpern, February 1, 2016

 


GETTING THERE FROM HERE--I couldn't help but get a massive case of deja vu when I read the Times-reported decrease in transit ridership, and an excellent response by transit advocate Ethan Elkind.

My advice, if you want to learn the whole picture, is to click on both links above.  No worries, I'll wait ...

... I think it's important to appreciate both points of view yet scrutinize them carefully.  Ignore them at your peril, but don't take either approach as "gospel".  I think that the Times writers are doing their jobs, and very much enjoy reading the work of both Ms. Laura Nelson and Mr. Dan Weikel, but feel obliged to mention that I've seen an anti-transit bias from Dan Weikel of the Times for as long as I've read him.

Yet while I also respect and appreciate Mr. Elkind's work and opinions, I think that he, too, has his own bias that should be understood, noted, and appreciated.

And, of course, I have my own bias--yet I have striven mightily over the years to be a "transportation" advocate and not merely a "transit" advocate.  Which means that I am as bullish about smoothing out the 101 freeway for smoother flow, and widening the I-5 freeway to enhance mobility, as I am creating an Expo Line, a Downtown Connector, a LAX/Metro Rail connection, etc.

I am also into innovative Uber/Lyft and telecommuting as I am major works projects such as the aforementioned freeway and rail projects.  Ditto for DASH and bus operations funding while wanting to create more parking, bicycle and other access to transit.

But it's not about me ... it's about YOU.  Is transit for YOU?

There are those who think that mass transit is something to be worshiped, with the car being the transportation anti-Christ.  There are those who think that mass transit is a form of wicked socialism that prevents us from being free.

And then there are the rest of us who just want a choice and a cheap, easy way to get from here to there, and who really wonder about the above two groups.We want affordable mobility that's not too tough on the environment, and which allows us to live our lives and make a few bucks to get by.

Transit being "free" is like health care or college being "free"...unless there are volunteers involved, somebody is paying for it.  Which isn't a concept too tough for most adults to grasp, unless some of us want it for free and demand that others pay for things for which we benefit.  That demand doesn't sit well with most Americans, although economic stresses are probably making enough of us frustrated enough to insist on a break.

Hence the desire of transit advocates for higher gas costs (to "force people out of their cars") is probably the last thing we need to encourage more transit spending:

1) If the price of gas goes down, then we lose transit riders--and the Times writers have their case proven in that people DON'T really want to ride transit.

2) No one likes to be "forced" to do ANYTHING.

So for any transit advocate or planner or transportation expert who bemoans the recent falling of gas prices, perhaps a good self-administered slap in the face (and I mean so hard that it stings for five minutes afterwards) is in order.

Cheap gas means cheaper food, cheaper industrial costs, cheaper transit operations, cheaper airline costs, and a host of secondary benefits.  Wanting gas and food and other economic costs to go up is misanthropic--and if you hate people, then fine...but don't be surprised if they'll hate you right back.
Or at least ignore you.

I think that both Nelson and Weikel on one hand, and Elkind on the other hand, do us all a good service.  We need to confront why many of us either don't want to, or cannot use transit if there are other ways to achieve mobility.  Lousy service, fears of our physical safety, convenience, etc. are all valid reasons and must NOT be ignored.

Yet until we have a completed Expo Line, and a Foothill Gold Line, we won't have Metro Rail (with all of the linking bus lines) reaching the western and eastern ends of the county.  And to be honest, until we get a Downtown Light Rail Connector and a LAX/Metro Rail connection, we will have a disjointed rail system as inconvenient our freeway system would be without the I-10 or I-110.

So some hard lessons learned, and the ability to really LISTEN to both sides, are good for us all.
Problems with transit DO exist, and yet our Metro Rail system DOES have a brilliant future.  
But everything from parking to buses to bicycle amenities will be needed for transit to work.

(And why in Heaven's name is the Eastside Light Rail Extension not sufficiently linking up to Metrolink, now?)

The Expo and Eastside/Foothill Gold Lines are alternatives to the freeways in which they parallel, so WHY is there insufficient parking for those driving long distances to get out of their cars to access the trains?

Why are we using rail projects an an excuse for overdeveloping?  Why are we using freeway expansions for overdeveloping?

And why are we overdeveloping at all, if it will undo the mobility established by any new transportation project. That phenomenon is as smart as spending 25% more after a 10% raise.
So maybe transit is for you.  And maybe transit isn't for you.  And maybe transit is for you when it comes to some needs, but not for others.

But let's keep theology out of this.  Neither cars, buses, nor trains have the numbers "666" engraved under them, and those who advocate for either of those forms of transit should use common sense and common decency in making their case.

And I'll let YOU figure out whether you like my idea or not:  I am a "transportation" advocate, a "mobility" advocate, and an "economic opportunity" advocate.  I like ANY form of transportation that is smart, cost-effective, attractive, and something that enhances our Economy, Environment, and Quality of Life.
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--I couldn't help but get a massive case of deja vu when I read the Times-reported decrease in transit ridership, and an excellent response by transit advocate Ethan Elkind.
My advice, if you want to learn the whole picture, is to click on both links above.  No worries, I'll wait ...
... I think it's important to appreciate both points of view yet scrutinize them carefully.  Ignore them at your peril, but don't take either approach as "gospel".  I think that the Times writers are doing their jobs, and very much enjoy reading the work of both Ms. Laura Nelson and Mr. Dan Weikel, but feel obliged to mention that I've seen an anti-transit bias from Dan Weikel of the Times for as long as I've read him.
Yet while I also respect and appreciate Mr. Elkind's work and opinions, I think that he, too, has his own bias that should be understood, noted, and appreciated.
And, of course, I have my own bias--yet I have striven mightily over the years to be a "transportation" advocate and not merely a "transit" advocate.  Which means that I am as bullish about smoothing out the 101 freeway for smoother flow, and widening the I-5 freeway to enhance mobility, as I am creating an Expo Line, a Downtown Connector, a LAX/Metro Rail connection, etc.
I am also into innovative Uber/Lyft and telecommuting as I am major works projects such as the aforementioned freeway and rail projects.  Ditto for DASH and bus operations funding while wanting to create more parking, bicycle and other access to transit.
But it's not about me ... it's about YOU.  Is transit for YOU?
There are those who think that mass transit is something to be worshiped, with the car being the transportation anti-Christ.  There are those who think that mass transit is a form of wicked socialism that prevents us from being free.
And then there are the rest of us who just want a choice and a cheap, easy way to get from here to there, and who really wonder about the above two groups.We want affordable mobility that's not too tough on the environment, and which allows us to live our lives and make a few bucks to get by.
Transit being "free" is like health care or college being "free"...unless there are volunteers involved, somebody is paying for it.  Which isn't a concept too tough for most adults to grasp, unless some of us want it for free and demand that others pay for things for which we benefit.  That demand doesn't sit well with most Americans, although economic stresses are probably making enough of us frustrated enough to insist on a break.
Hence the desire of transit advocates for higher gas costs (to "force people out of their cars") is probably the last thing we need to encourage more transit spending:
1) If the price of gas goes down, then we lose transit riders--and the Times writers have their case proven in that people DON'T really want to ride transit.
2) No one likes to be "forced" to do ANYTHING.
So for any transit advocate or planner or transportation expert who bemoans the recent falling of gas prices, perhaps a good self-administered slap in the face (and I mean so hard that it stings for five minutes afterwards) is in order.
Cheap gas means cheaper food, cheaper industrial costs, cheaper transit operations, cheaper airline costs, and a host of secondary benefits.  Wanting gas and food and other economic costs to go up is misanthropic--and if you hate people, then fine...but don't be surprised if they'll hate you right back.
Or at least ignore you.
I think that both Nelson and Weikel on one hand, and Elkind on the other hand, do us all a good service.  We need to confront why many of us either don't want to, or cannot use transit if there are other ways to achieve mobility.  Lousy service, fears of our physical safety, convenience, etc. are all valid reasons and must NOT be ignored.
Yet until we have a completed Expo Line, and a Foothill Gold Line, we won't have Metro Rail (with all of the linking bus lines) reaching the western and eastern ends of the county.  And to be honest, until we get a Downtown Light Rail Connector and a LAX/Metro Rail connection, we will have a disjointed rail system as inconvenient our freeway system would be without the I-10 or I-110.
So some hard lessons learned, and the ability to really LISTEN to both sides, are good for us all.
Problems with transit DO exist, and yet our Metro Rail system DOES have a brilliant future.  
But everything from parking to buses to bicycle amenities will be needed for transit to work.
(And why in Heaven's name is the Eastside Light Rail Extension not sufficiently linking up to Metrolink, now?)
The Expo and Eastside/Foothill Gold Lines are alternatives to the freeways in which they parallel, so WHY is there insufficient parking for those driving long distances to get out of their cars to access the trains?
Why are we using rail projects an an excuse for overdeveloping?  Why are we using freeway expansions for overdeveloping?
And why are we overdeveloping at all, if it will undo the mobility established by any new transportation project. That phenomenon is as smart as spending 25% more after a 10% raise.
So maybe transit is for you.  And maybe transit isn't for you.  And maybe transit is for you when it comes to some needs, but not for others.
But let's keep theology out of this.  Neither cars, buses, nor trains have the numbers "666" engraved under them, and those who advocate for either of those forms of transit should use common sense and common decency in making their case.
And I'll let YOU figure out whether you like my idea or not:  I am a "transportation" advocate, a "mobility" advocate, and an "economic opportunity" advocate.  I like ANY form of transportation that is smart, cost-effective, attractive, and something that enhances our Economy, Environment, and Quality of Life. 
- See more at: http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/10435-deja-vu-is-transit-for-you#sthash.eUS25FY1.dpuf

Enough Hand-Wringing and Kneejerk Blowback: Let’s Rethink Metro’s Ridership Slump, New Tax

http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/10440-enough-hand-wringing-and-kneejerk-blowback-let-s-rethink-metro-s-ridership-slump-new-tax

By John Mirisch, February 4, 2016


 





MUSING WITH MIRISCH--The recent LA Times article which highlighted a ridership slump at Metro has occasioned much hand-wringing, kneejerk blowback and rationalization among self-styled transit hipsters. The article points out how, despite ongoing expenditures of billions of dollars, Metro continues to struggle to get people to use public transportation. While it’s fairly easy to understand where the hand-wringing is coming from, if anything, the article indicates that we in LA County should collectively be cautious before approving another “transit tax” – something that is being proposed by Metro for this November’s ballot.

For Metro and the transit advocates, many of whom themselves nosh on the taxpayer bounty provided by Measure R (with more noshing to come with the potential successor this November,) it’s all about the money. Focus groups, lobbyists, political advisors are all aimed at answering the question: How can we get the voters of LA County to approve a new tax? “Promise bones” are being thrown in all directions of the county to try to secure endorsements of local politicians in an effort to make sure the future tax measure doesn’t suffer the fate of Measure J, which failed to pass despite massive Transit Establishment support and virtually no funded opposition.
It’s the wrong question for Metro to be asking.

The critical question is not how we can get a new tax passed. The question is: How can we best improve mass transit within the County? And if we are going to pass another tax, how can we get the best value for our taxpayer dollars? And are we currently getting the best value for the billions Metro spends each year? And shouldn’t we ensure we are getting the best value-for-money before committing more funding to Metro? Finally, shouldn’t we ensure that the Metro Board proportionally and equitably represents all the residents of the County before the taxpayers of the entire County commit more money to the agency? (In a blatant rejection of the principle “one person, one vote,” the 6 million non-LA residents of the County are currently underrepresented by some 60% on the Metro Board).

Much of the blowback to the Times article has been from anti-car activist types and their suggestions to increase Metro ridership have, not surprisingly, been punitive actions towards motorists: increase the cost of gas, increase the cost of parking, make parking more difficult by reducing building code parking requirements, end investment in road infrastructure, etc. In a headline in Metro’s “The Source,” Metro’s in-house publicist Steve Hymon questions a contention made in the LA Times article: “Is it really the dream of every bus rider to have a car?”

Indeed, the question is somewhat ironic in view of Metro’s own at times almost monomaniacal focus on building rail lines at the expense of bus service. As the Times article points out: “Although buses account for about 75% of Metro's ridership, rail operations and construction receive more money than buses do from Measure R, the county's most recent half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects.”

A number of transit hipsters have tried to discredit the Times article by pointing out that some of Metro’s expenditures haven’t borne fruit because construction is currently in progress and new lines haven’t opened yet; they have tried to relativize the situation by comparing ridership declines with even steeper dips in other jurisdictions. (However, none of them points out that the County’s population has increased by some 2 million from the height of ridership in 1985.) But no matter how you play with the figures, it’s hard to gainsay what I consider to be the crux of the Times article:

"There's been lots of focus by transit agencies on shiny new things, sometimes at the expense of bus routes which serve the primary constituencies of transit agencies: low-wage workers," said Brian Taylor, the director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies. "Lots of resources are being put into a few high-profile lines that often carry a smaller number of riders compared to bus routes."

In light of this, it’s difficult to reasonably support a new tax (or a tax extension) without some major rethinking, reframing and a healthy dose of common sense, despite the sexiness of “shiny new things.”

Metro’s new CEO, Phil Washington, has said of Metro’s construction efforts: “We’re not building for today. We’re building for 100 years down the road.”

Washington’s long-term thinking is to be applauded, especially when the other Washington – and all other levels of government below it down to the local – generally think in vistas which don’t go beyond the next election cycle. But there is also clearly a challenge with spending billions of dollars now for “100 years down the road.” It means we need to make sure that any infrastructure we are building now will not be obsolete; it means we need to build with technological and demographic adaptability in mind.

In the “Is it really the dream of every bus rider to have a car?” article, Steve Hymon writes: “I like my car (which I often park at a Gold Line Station).” The implication is that a mix of transit options which includes cars can best serve the County’s residents. Hymon drives his car to the Gold Line, then takes public transit. However, this mix would be made more difficult by the anti-car hipsters who want to use punitive measures to force people to use public transit. Neither does Metro itself actually encourage or enable this mix on a consistent basis. The much touted Purple Line, for example, will offer no park-and-ride options, boxing out potential riders like Steve Hymon who would like to leave their cars at transit stations.

As I wrote last April in The Los Angeles Business Journal, in which I proposed a municipal automated shuttle system for Beverly Hills, driverless vehicle technology offers an exciting solution to first/last mile challenges; getting to and from transit stations (“the first/last mile”) can be a substantial obstacle to potential commuters’ use of public transportation. In addition to hyperlocal transit applications, driverless vehicle technology can be a substantial part of the overall public transit equation, much bigger, in fact, than Metro is currently acknowledging.

And that, quite frankly, seems to be a major part of the problem with Metro’s tax-and-spend strategy. It’s difficult to be forward-thinking with such an embrace of yesterday’s technology. Because as it currently stands, the next Measure R largely focuses on and plans to spend billions and billions on traditional rail lines and other “shiny new things.”

Not every bus rider may dream of having a car, but it’s pretty safe to say that almost every transit rider wants to get from Point A to Point B in as efficient and time-saving manner as possible. D’uh. On demand point-to-point public transportation should be any transit agency’s ultimate goal, and while this will likely involve a cocktail of transportation forms, driverless mass transportation can and should play a major role in achieving solutions.

Driverless vehicle technology, both within the private and public transportation sector has the potential to take significant numbers of vehicles off the streets, as well as to use the streets more efficiently. The irony of the potential of driverless vehicle technology within the public transportation sector should not be lost upon transit advocates who are more concerned with getting people from Point A to Point B than shiny new things and an anti-car bias: the road infrastructure we have developed in LA, much to the dismay of the anti-car crowd, could very well unwittingly prove to be the best “Point A to Point B” infrastructure investment we ever have made with the advent of automated vehicles and automated public transportation.

A significant investment in driverless vehicle technology, along with an eye towards other kinds of developing technological solutions, perhaps including advanced models of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) should be a major focus of any future tax measure or additional transportation expenditures.

What is being proposed now is mainly just a form of “same old, same old,” some of which indeed may be necessary, but certainly not to the exclusion of new, developing and future technologies with a 100 year forward-looking vista in mind. In other words, Metro is looking more to cobble together political support to get a new tax passed, rather than providing a forward-thinking vision to solve the actual transportation problems we face in LA County every day. Right now it seems like a case of matter over mind and money over vision, and that’s something we can and must change.

When the Purple Line was approved, the notion of a municipal automated shuttle system would pretty much have been in the realm of “Beam me up, Scotty.” Now, the technology will be ready for prime-time before the LaCienega/Wilshire station opens.

In short, a revolutionary end to Metro’s ridership slump is within our grasp, but Metro will have to change its current endgame. Metro should be less concerned with answering the question, “How can we get voters to approve a new tax?” and more concerned with answering the question: “How can we get people from point A to point B in as efficient, cost-effective and convenient a way as possible?”

If Metro can use technology to figure out good answers to this question, ridership will naturally and organically increase and traffic will decrease. Rather than simply looking backwards to transportation models of the past hundred years, practical and political solutions should follow a well thought out, forward-looking vision which looks to fully integrate new and developing technologies. This is the clear and logical answer to Metro’s ridership slump.

The Metro Board now has a historic opportunity to fix Metro’s ridership slump by providing real leadership for the benefit of all the residents in LA County; not surprisingly, it involves more – much more – than simply trying to get us all to pass another transportation tax.

(John Mirisch is the Vice Mayor of Beverly Hills; as Mayor, he created the Sunshine Task Force to increase transparency, ethics and public participation in local government.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

MUSING WITH MIRISCH--The recent LA Times article which highlighted a ridership slump at Metro has occasioned much hand-wringing, kneejerk blowback and rationalization among self-styled transit hipsters. The article points out how, despite ongoing expenditures of billions of dollars, Metro continues to struggle to get people to use public transportation. While it’s fairly easy to understand where the hand-wringing is coming from, if anything, the article indicates that we in LA County should collectively be cautious before approving another “transit tax” – something that is being proposed by Metro for this November’s ballot.
For Metro and the transit advocates, many of whom themselves nosh on the taxpayer bounty provided by Measure R (with more noshing to come with the potential successor this November,) it’s all about the money. Focus groups, lobbyists, political advisors are all aimed at answering the question: How can we get the voters of LA County to approve a new tax? “Promise bones” are being thrown in all directions of the county to try to secure endorsements of local politicians in an effort to make sure the future tax measure doesn’t suffer the fate of Measure J, which failed to pass despite massive Transit Establishment support and virtually no funded opposition.
It’s the wrong question for Metro to be asking.
The critical question is not how we can get a new tax passed. The question is: How can we best improve mass transit within the County? And if we are going to pass another tax, how can we get the best value for our taxpayer dollars? And are we currently getting the best value for the billions Metro spends each year? And shouldn’t we ensure we are getting the best value-for-money before committing more funding to Metro? Finally, shouldn’t we ensure that the Metro Board proportionally and equitably represents all the residents of the County before the taxpayers of the entire County commit more money to the agency? (In a blatant rejection of the principle “one person, one vote,” the 6 million non-LA residents of the County are currently underrepresented by some 60% on the Metro Board).
Much of the blowback to the Times article has been from anti-car activist types and their suggestions to increase Metro ridership have, not surprisingly, been punitive actions towards motorists: increase the cost of gas, increase the cost of parking, make parking more difficult by reducing building code parking requirements, end investment in road infrastructure, etc. In a headline in Metro’s “The Source,” Metro’s in-house publicist Steve Hymon questions a contention made in the LA Times article: “Is it really the dream of every bus rider to have a car?”
Indeed, the question is somewhat ironic in view of Metro’s own at times almost monomaniacal focus on building rail lines at the expense of bus service. As the Times article points out: “Although buses account for about 75% of Metro's ridership, rail operations and construction receive more money than buses do from Measure R, the county's most recent half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects.”
A number of transit hipsters have tried to discredit the Times article by pointing out that some of Metro’s expenditures haven’t borne fruit because construction is currently in progress and new lines haven’t opened yet; they have tried to relativize the situation by comparing ridership declines with even steeper dips in other jurisdictions. (However, none of them points out that the County’s population has increased by some 2 million from the height of ridership in 1985.) But no matter how you play with the figures, it’s hard to gainsay what I consider to be the crux of the Times article:
"There's been lots of focus by transit agencies on shiny new things, sometimes at the expense of bus routes which serve the primary constituencies of transit agencies: low-wage workers," said Brian Taylor, the director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies. "Lots of resources are being put into a few high-profile lines that often carry a smaller number of riders compared to bus routes."
In light of this, it’s difficult to reasonably support a new tax (or a tax extension) without some major rethinking, reframing and a healthy dose of common sense, despite the sexiness of “shiny new things.”
Metro’s new CEO, Phil Washington, has said of Metro’s construction efforts: “We’re not building for today. We’re building for 100 years down the road.”
Washington’s long-term thinking is to be applauded, especially when the other Washington – and all other levels of government below it down to the local – generally think in vistas which don’t go beyond the next election cycle. But there is also clearly a challenge with spending billions of dollars now for “100 years down the road.” It means we need to make sure that any infrastructure we are building now will not be obsolete; it means we need to build with technological and demographic adaptability in mind.
In the “Is it really the dream of every bus rider to have a car?” article, Steve Hymon writes: “I like my car (which I often park at a Gold Line Station).” The implication is that a mix of transit options which includes cars can best serve the County’s residents. Hymon drives his car to the Gold Line, then takes public transit. However, this mix would be made more difficult by the anti-car hipsters who want to use punitive measures to force people to use public transit. Neither does Metro itself actually encourage or enable this mix on a consistent basis. The much touted Purple Line, for example, will offer no park-and-ride options, boxing out potential riders like Steve Hymon who would like to leave their cars at transit stations.
As I wrote last April in The Los Angeles Business Journal, in which I proposed a municipal automated shuttle system for Beverly Hills, driverless vehicle technology offers an exciting solution to first/last mile challenges; getting to and from transit stations (“the first/last mile”) can be a substantial obstacle to potential commuters’ use of public transportation. In addition to hyperlocal transit applications, driverless vehicle technology can be a substantial part of the overall public transit equation, much bigger, in fact, than Metro is currently acknowledging.
And that, quite frankly, seems to be a major part of the problem with Metro’s tax-and-spend strategy. It’s difficult to be forward-thinking with such an embrace of yesterday’s technology. Because as it currently stands, the next Measure R largely focuses on and plans to spend billions and billions on traditional rail lines and other “shiny new things.”
Not every bus rider may dream of having a car, but it’s pretty safe to say that almost every transit rider wants to get from Point A to Point B in as efficient and time-saving manner as possible. D’uh. On demand point-to-point public transportation should be any transit agency’s ultimate goal, and while this will likely involve a cocktail of transportation forms, driverless mass transportation can and should play a major role in achieving solutions.
Driverless vehicle technology, both within the private and public transportation sector has the potential to take significant numbers of vehicles off the streets, as well as to use the streets more efficiently. The irony of the potential of driverless vehicle technology within the public transportation sector should not be lost upon transit advocates who are more concerned with getting people from Point A to Point B than shiny new things and an anti-car bias: the road infrastructure we have developed in LA, much to the dismay of the anti-car crowd, could very well unwittingly prove to be the best “Point A to Point B” infrastructure investment we ever have made with the advent of automated vehicles and automated public transportation.
A significant investment in driverless vehicle technology, along with an eye towards other kinds of developing technological solutions, perhaps including advanced models of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) should be a major focus of any future tax measure or additional transportation expenditures.
What is being proposed now is mainly just a form of “same old, same old,” some of which indeed may be necessary, but certainly not to the exclusion of new, developing and future technologies with a 100 year forward-looking vista in mind. In other words, Metro is looking more to cobble together political support to get a new tax passed, rather than providing a forward-thinking vision to solve the actual transportation problems we face in LA County every day. Right now it seems like a case of matter over mind and money over vision, and that’s something we can and must change.
When the Purple Line was approved, the notion of a municipal automated shuttle system would pretty much have been in the realm of “Beam me up, Scotty.” Now, the technology will be ready for prime-time before the LaCienega/Wilshire station opens.
In short, a revolutionary end to Metro’s ridership slump is within our grasp, but Metro will have to change its current endgame. Metro should be less concerned with answering the question, “How can we get voters to approve a new tax?” and more concerned with answering the question: “How can we get people from point A to point B in as efficient, cost-effective and convenient a way as possible?” If Metro can use technology to figure out good answers to this question, ridership will naturally and organically increase and traffic will decrease. Rather than simply looking backwards to transportation models of the past hundred years, practical and political solutions should follow a well thought out, forward-looking vision which looks to fully integrate new and developing technologies. This is the clear and logical answer to Metro’s ridership slump.
The Metro Board now has a historic opportunity to fix Metro’s ridership slump by providing real leadership for the benefit of all the residents in LA County; not surprisingly, it involves more – much more – than simply trying to get us all to pass another transportation tax.
- See more at: http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/10440-enough-hand-wringing-and-kneejerk-blowback-let-s-rethink-metro-s-ridership-slump-new-tax#sthash.pGYxcX0p.dpuf

MTA's report on 710 Freeway gap project accused of tunnel vision

http://canmua.net/california/mta-and-apos;s-report-on-710-freeway-gap-project-accused-of-312261.html

Sara Cardine, January 19, 2016

MTA&apos;s report on 710 Freeway gap project accused of tunnel vision : Activists say cost-benefit analysis of 710 alternatives shows bias of project engineers.

For months, elected officials and local activists have asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a cost-benefit analysis of five project alternatives being put forth as potential solutions to addressing a 4.5-mile gap in the 710 Freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena.

Now, less than a week after Metro released the long-anticipated document, those who oppose a multibillion-dollar underground tunnel as a means of connecting the freeway’s end points claim the evaluation reveals a pro-tunnel bias and excludes several very real costs.

“It does not instill the confidence in either impartiality or competence I was hoping for,” said former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who along with Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian and former La Cañada Flintridge City Councilman Don Voss, among others, urged Metro to issue the document alongside its draft environmental impact report of the alternatives, released on March 6.

Instead, Metro and California Department of Transportation officials issued the cost-benefit analysis Friday, announcing that the deadline by which the public could comment on the DEIR itself would be extended from July 6 to Aug. 5 to accommodate additional input.

The nearly 50-page document attempts to monetize the costs of each alternative, comparing them with a valuation of the benefits each would deliver, in terms of capital expenditures, travel time benefits, emissions, safety effects and job growth associated with the implementation and maintenance of the projects in a 20-year period.

According to the analysis, a 4.2-mile single-bore tunnel, including various toll and truck use scenarios, would cost from $1.95 billion to nearly $2 billion, but could provide nearly $3.6 billion in benefits to the region. It’s dual-bore counterpart, costing up to nearly $3.4 billion, might potentially produce a value of up to $3.73 billion to communities served by the 710 Freeway.

Comparatively, the report states bus infrastructure upgrades would cost $510 million but could add a value of $879 million, while light rail improvements between East Los Angeles and Pasadena would cost up to $2.2 billion, but provide $1.29 billion in estimated benefits.

Among all options, the single-bore tunnel would have the highest net present value — between $1.48 billion and $1.59 billion — according to the report. Reached Wednesday while traveling in Armenia, Najarian stated in a text message his disappointment with the document’s findings.

“To say that the tunnel provides the greatest benefit without stating that it is the most costly, by far, borders on misrepresentation,” Najarian stated, referring to previous tunnel estimates from Metro as high as $5.6 billion. “I will be bringing this dereliction of basic duties owed to the taxpayers of the county to the highest authorities who have jurisdiction over this matter — enough is enough.”

Sharing his reactions to the analysis, Voss said inclusion of the estimated “employment benefits” associated with each option creates potentially misleading discrepancies in their net values. When employment benefits are removed, he stated, a combination of traffic management and bus improvement provides more “bang for the buck” than any tunnel scenario.

La Cañada resident Jan Soo Hoo, a 710 activist opposed to the tunnel option, said the model used by engineers contracted by Metro and Caltrans reveals many limitations, while failing to factor in costs and benefits of critical importance to stakeholders, including reliability, resiliency and the potential hazardous long-term health impacts to adults and children.

“If a bus or light rail breaks down, another can be put into service, but if a tunnel shuts down, there is no replacement. And while emissions are monetized, health impacts are not,” Soo Hoo said of the report. “It’s an engineer’s model with an engineer’s perspective — we’re getting what they wanted us to see.”
--

San Gabriel Valley Route 710 Tunnel Makes National List of Highway Boondoggles New Report Identifies 12 of the Worst Highway Projects Across the Country

https://webmail.earthlink.net/wam/msg.jsp?msgid=149637&x=-1448806297

January 19, 2016


San Gabriel Valley Route 710 Tunnel Makes National List of Highway Boondoggles
New Report Identifies 12 of the Worst Highway Projects Across the Country
A new study by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies 12 of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $24 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the proposed 710 Tunnel Project, which officials estimate would cost $5.6 billion. The new study details how despite America’s massive repair and maintenance backlog, and in defiance of America’s changing transportation needs, state governments across the country, including California, continue to spend billions each year on new and wider highways. The study shows how some of these highway projects are outright boondoggles.
“California is considering prioritizing the most expensive, most polluting, and least effective option for addressing the area’s transportation problems, a single or double bore tunnel,” said Emily Rusch, Executive Director at the California Public Interest Research Group. “This project would cause more pollution than any of the alternative projects by increasing car and truck traffic in the area – and would actually make congestion worse,” she noted.
The most recent federal data show California has more than 2,500 structurally deficient bridges, nearly 1 in 10. At the same time, other data also show 34 percent of roads are in poor condition.
Meanwhile, the project fails to account for changing transportation trends, especially among Millennials. “America’s long-term travel needs are changing, especially among Millennials, who are driving fewer miles, getting driver licenses in fewer numbers, and expressing greater preferences to live in areas where they do not need to use a car often,” said Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst at Frontier Group. “Despite the fact that Millennials are the nation’s largest generation, and the unquestioned consumers of tomorrow’s transportation system, California is failing to adequately respond to these changing trends.” he added.
The study recommends that states:
1. Adopt fix-it-first policies that reorient transportation funding away from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and bridges;
2. Invest in transportation solutions that reduce the need for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects by improving and expanding public transit, biking, and walking options;
3. Give priority to funding transportation projects that reduce the number of vehicle-miles people travel each year, thereby also reducing air pollution, carbon emissions, and future road repair and maintenance needs;
4. Include future maintenance costs, a range of potential future housing and transportation trends, and the availability of new transportation options such as car-sharing, bike-sharing, ride-sharing, and transit in transportation project selection decisions;
5. Invest in research and data collection to better track, and more aptly react, to ongoing shifts in how people travel.
“Given that the proposed tunnel has extraordinarily high costs and would not serve to reduce congestion or improve air quality according to their EIR, Caltrans should immediately drop the 710 tunnel project,” said Rusch. 
Elected officials and community leaders joined CALPIRG in expressing their concerns about the SR 710 tunnel project.
U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff: "I do not believe that the 710 freeway tunnel alternatives proposed by Caltrans and Metro make sense for our region or taxpayers. For the same cost as the $5.6 billion tunnel, we could likely complete all of the alternatives -- light rail, bus, surface street improvements, bike and pedestrian walkways, cargo movement, and other traffic flow solutions -- combined, and use the remainder of the money to repair some of our aging infrastructure. These alternatives are not only more cost effective, but far less disruptive of the affected neighborhoods.”
State Sen. Carol Liu: “To date, analyses in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impacts Report indicate that the proposed 710 tunnel will not improve air quality or relieve congestion, the intended purposes of the project. These analyses alone have already cost over 40 million dollars and leave many questions unanswered. Clearly, this and future money spent on the tunnel project would be better spent on transportation infrastructure maintenance and upgrades and on alternative transportation modes that will benefit local communities and the region.”
Ara Najarian, Mayor of the City of Glendale: "The 710 tunnel is an archaic solution to the transportation needs of our modern society. It is too costly, too polluting, too dangerous and too inefficient to solve our transportation challenges. The 710 tunnel will surely exceed the "estimated" cost of $6 billion, while increasing cancer and other health risks to children, adults and seniors. It is unconscionable for elected officials to pursue this terrible project. Rather, let's support responsible transportation projects aimed at reducing vehicle trip miles, greenhouse gases and toxic emissions."
Bill Bogaard, Former Mayor of the City of Pasadena from 1999-2015: “The 710 tunnel freeway proposal, after more than 50 years, exists as a solution in search of a problem, in light of today’s priorities and the limits of resources. Its original purpose—to increase north-south drive-through capacity for trucks—has been outmoded by evolving truck mobility patterns and the emerging alternative transportation needs throughout the west San Gabriel Valley. The DEIR/EIS, although grossly inadequate, does demonstrate that the tunnel increases air pollution and local traffic.  Meanwhile, for investment much less than the cost of the tunnel, a comprehensive range of traffic and mobility improvements can be achieved, such as light rail, bus, surface street improvements, bike and pedestrian walkways, cargo movement, and other traffic flow solutions. With currently existing support for such solutions, they could proceed now, creating thousands of jobs, instead of continuing the 710 tunnel stalemate for decades into the future.  The 710 project does not offer comprehensive relief, it costs too much, it creates new environmental problems, and it is not going anywhere. The proposal should be dropped!”
Joe Cano, resident of El Sereno and member of the No 710 Action Committee: “The residents of El Sereno oppose a transportation project that will endanger the health and wellbeing of our community. We support intelligent, thought-out transportation solutions. The SR710 tunnel is not one of them.”
Jan SooHoo, resident of La Canada Flintridge and member of the No 710 Action Committee: “After a "trial" that has cost taxpayers more than $40 million (to date), the verdict is in. The panel of independent jurors (Congressman Adam Schiff, Natural Resources Defense Council, South Coast Air Quality Management District, US Environmental Protection Agency, USC Keck School of Preventive Medicine, and others) have judged the DEIR/EIS and the Cost/Benefit Analysis as "flawed", "inadequate", "analytically inadequate", "deficient", "misleading", "confusing" and "lacking transparency." It is time to end the hemorrhage of taxpayer dollars on this boondoggle and put the remaining money to work funding worthwhile projects that will actually meet the needs of our communities.”
The report also looks back at the 11 highway boondoggles identified last year. Since the original report came out, several states have revisited plans to expand and build new highways, realizing that the money could be more wisely spent elsewhere. For example, the Trinity Parkway project in Dallas has been revised from a six-lane road to a more limited 4-lane road, and the original proposal to create a double-decker tunnel for I-94 in Milwaukee has been postponed for the foreseeable future. And in Southern California, in March 2015 the San Diego Water Board voted 6-0 to uphold a previous decision to deny the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) a permit to build a 5.5 mile extension to their existing 241 toll road.
The report can be read at this link here.

Opponents of 710 Freeway extension offer alternatives to tunneling

http://canmua.net/california/opponents-of-710-freeway-extension-offer-alternatives-315758.html

January 19, 2016

Opponents of 710 Freeway extension offer alternatives to tunneling : Opponents of a controversial proposal to extend the unfinished 710 Freeway unveiled on Thursday a variety of options they say would eliminate the need for an underground highway between Alhambra and Pasadena.

It was designed to speed motorists from Long Beach to Pasadena through the heart of Los Angeles County.

But for decades, transportation officials struggled to find a politically acceptable way to fill a 4.5-mile break in the 710 Freeway without paving over every home and business in between.
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FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this article said that the public comment period for the draft environmental impact report would start July 6. It began March 6 and ends July 6.
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In 2013, officials narrowed options to five rail and roadway plans, the most ambitious of which would bore a $5.6-billion tunnel between Alhambra and South Pasadena.

But on Thursday, a community group submitted yet another set of ideas intended to turn the conversation away from tunnels and highways.

Beyond the 710, a coalition of community organizations, environmental attorneys and five San Gabriel Valley cities, said its plan would reset the debate over closing the gap between Interstate 10 and the nexus of the 210 and 134 freeways.

The group contends that simply expanding bus service, improving surface streets, adding bicycle routes and developing more walkable communities would better address traffic congestion, air pollution and the transportation needs of the west San Gabriel Valley.

“We are hoping to move beyond the old, tired 710 Freeway debate, which is wasting lots of time, money and resources,” said South Pasadena City Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian, vice chair of the Beyond the 710 coalition. “Some of these ideas are new, but they have great potential.”
The group presented its ideas to the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is evaluating options for the 710.

Metro board members listened to the proposals but did not discuss them. After the meeting, several declined to comment on whether they were swayed.

Options for the 710 extension are now in the environmental review process, which includes a public comment period that ends July 6. Under review are a bus system, a light-rail line, the tunnel and some upgrades to street intersections. The Metro board is scheduled next year to select one or more approaches or leave the route as it is.

Other groups in or near the freeway’s path, such as the 710 Coalition, say they prefer putting the extension underground.

On Thursday, they said tunnel opponents are only hoping to undermine the review now underway. They say more than 300 community and advisory meetings have been held over the past four years to help form the current environmental impact report.

“To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout the years,” said Alhambra Vice Mayor Barbara Messina, whose city is a member of the 710 Coalition, along with four other San Gabriel Valley cities.

Noting that Alhambra is inundated with traffic coming off the 710, Messina said the options proposed by opponents would not do enough to increase mobility and reduce air pollution and congestion.
“This is all politics. We can thank Congressman Adam Schiff for this,” Messina said.

Schiff (D-Burbank), who opposes the tunnel project, declined to respond to Messina’s charge, but said some people “will have difficulty leaving the struggles of the past behind and embracing a new solution to our air and congestion problems that benefits all of the communities involved. What may have made sense 50 years ago, doesn’t make sense now.”

Appearing at a news conference at Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, Schiff called on board members to think outside the box. He said he was willing to consider a tunnel but then saw the price tag balloon.

Instead of constructing the extension, Beyond the 710 envisions building several local surface-street projects, including a four-lane thoroughfare called Golden Eagle Boulevard that would head 1.9 miles north from the southern stub of the 710 to Fremont Street in Alhambra.

Golden Eagle would intersect Valley Boulevard, Alhambra Avenue and East Mission Road, allowing traffic to be distributed to other surface streets while protecting residential neighborhoods.

The group contends that the improvements would reduce congestion, especially around Cal State L.A., where a large number of car trips are made.

A proposal for the northern stub of the 710 in Pasadena calls for it to be filled in — an idea that could provide 35 acres of open space or developable land for homes and commercial buildings.

Another key proposal is a north-south transit corridor that meanders along the 710 route and would connect to major destinations as well as Metrolink service, the El Monte busway and the MTA’s Gold, Green and Blue light-rail lines.

Khubesrian said the coalition also opposes an elevated light-rail option that is undergoing environmental review. She said it would not connect to the Gold Line or go to many popular destinations.

Coalition planners say the work that can be done immediately, such as street improvements, bikeways, safe pedestrian crossings and expanded bus service, would cost an estimated $875 million.

With additional funding, the group says that improvements to Metrolink, extensions of the Gold Line, rapid-transit bus lines and bike networks throughout the San Gabriel Valley could be done at a cost of almost $3 billion.

Supporters of the tunnel claim, however, that the draft environmental report illustrates the benefits of putting the freeway underground. Opponents, they add, are desperate to combat growing support for the project.

“This group is beyond reasonable,” said Ron Miller, executive secretary of Los Angeles/Orange Counties Buildings & Construction Trades Council. “They are not new. In fact, they are the same vocal minority that continues to oppose the increasingly popular tunnel alternative.”

12 of America's Biggest Highway Boondoggles

A new U.S. PIRG report names names.

 http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/01/highway-boondoggle-uspirg/424700/?utm_source=nl__link3_012016

By Eric Jaffe, January 20, 2016

 Image cemaxx / Flickr

 The Katy Freeway outside Houston, in 2013.

When Texas expanded the Katy Freeway in Houston a few years back, the expectation was that making the massive road even wider would relieve traffic. Some $2.8 billion later, the 26-lane interstate laid claim to being the “world's widest freeway”—but the drivers who commuted along it every day were no better off. More lanes simply invited more cars, and by 2014, morning and evening travel times had increased by 30 and 55 percent, respectively, over 2011.

The lesson of the Katy Freeway is precisely the one that U.S. PIRG hopes to convey in its new report, “Highway Boondoggles 2,” the sequel to a 2014 effort. Given that expanding highways at great public cost doesn’t improve rush-hour traffic, there are better ways to spend this money, argue report authors Jeff Inglis of Frontier Group and John C. Olivieri of U.S. PIRG. They identify a dozen road projects, costing $24 billion in all, that are “representative” of the problem:
America does not have the luxury of wasting tens of billions of dollars on new highways of questionable value. State and federal decision-makers should reevaluate the need for the projects profiled in this report and others that no longer make sense in an era of changing transportation needs.
There are plenty of powerful trends to back this position. The Highway Trust Fund and can’t sustain current spending levels. Driving trends across the U.S. have plateaued. Climate concerns demand prioritizing projects that reduce vehicle miles. The connection between road expansion and economic development, once taken as a given, seems more and more tenuous—with little opportunity for new access in mature corridors, and lesser need for travel in the digital age.

The case is bolstered by the fact that there’s a natural outlet for all that highway expansion money: road maintenance, which everyone agrees is vital and urgent, especially for America’s crumbling bridges. There are also far better ways to handle congestion—namely, setting a price for traffic during the peak periods. The point is not so much that no new road should ever be built, but that highway expansion should be a last resort instead of the immediate instinct.

The report is worth a full read, but here’s a taste of the 12 projects it spotlights.

1. I-95 widening (Connecticut): $11.2 billion

This project is part of a 30-year, $100 billion plan transportation package designed to improve many travel modes across the state. But while traffic in the metro New York region is obviously awful, experts have been saying for years that expanding I-95 isn’t the answer—something one Connecticut state planner echoed in October: “You can’t build your way out of congestion.” A better focus is improving Metro North rail service in the corridor or charging road fees during rush-hour (which could be reinvested in the system).

2. Tampa Bay Express Lanes (Florida): $3.3 billion

Plans to build an interstate bypass near Tampa were approved back in 1996, but owing in part to local opposition they never materialized. That changed in May 2015, when the project was bundled into a larger interstate project known as the I-4 “Ultimate” expansion. Inglis and Olivieri note that the Tampa city council voted against the express lanes in June, but the state has subsequently given clear signs that the plans are moving forward.
Shovels are lined up for a groundbreaking of Florida’s I-4 “Ultimate” highway. 
 

3. State Highway 45 Southwest (Texas): $109 million

This planned four-lane toll road near Austin, Texas, is not only likely to draw more traffic to a congested corridor but raises significant environmental and public health concerns. Case in point, via Inglis and Olivieri: “nearly all of the road’s planned route crosses above the Edwards Aquifer, which provides drinking water for 2 million Texans.” As an alternative outlet for the funding, they point to 21 “structurally deficient” bridges located throughout the region.

4. San Gabriel Valley Route 710 tunnel (California): $3.2-$5.6 billion

This Los Angeles County highway link, tossed around for half a century, got new life with a local long-term funding measure in 2008. Officials studied four project options for the corridor: including BRT, light rail, and a potentially double-decker freeway tunnel (the most expensive option).* The tunnel would seemingly violate the state’s emerging mandate against projects that increase vehicle miles, and a five-city alliance is calling for a new report examining the options.

5. I-70 East widening (Colorado): $58 million

The I-70 viaduct that cuts through Denver and dates back to 1964 clearly needs an overhaul: despite heavy repairs in 1997, the bridge is considered “structurally deficient” and it’s time has come. But local officials also plan to use the viaduct reconstruction to widen the highway from eight to 10 lanes. An expert review panel raised concerns that outdated traffic models informed that decision, and the project also raises environmental justice concerns given its location in a disadvantaged area.
A view beneath the I-70 viaduct in Denver in 2011. 
 

6. I-77 Express Lanes (North Carolina): $647 million

This express lane project represents a public-private partnership, with a company called Mobility Partners managing the new priced lanes. But the 50-year deal leaves a lot to be desired, according to Inglis and Olivieri. As is the case with many flawed PPP contracts, the state has to compensate the company for any other projects in the region that could potentially divert traffic from the road and thus drain toll revenue—including more free lanes or expanded transit options.

7. Puget Sound Gateway (Washington): $2.8-$3.1 billion

The gateway plan would expand two state roads between Seattle and Tacoma (though a component to expand I-5 is “no longer being considered,” according to the state DOT).* But Inglis and Olivieri question its value from a traffic perspective—pointing out that “traffic on routes 167 and 509 remained stagnant between 2003 and 2014.” Instead they suggest repairing all of the state’s deficient bridges at a cost of $1.2 billion, which would even leave some money left over for other projects.

8. State Highway 249 extension (Texas): $337-$389 million

In April 2015, Texas opened a six-lane, six-mile tolled expansion of S.H. 249. Now the state wants to extend the project another 30 miles in two phases. Officials justify the new corridor as necessary given population growth, but Inglis and Olivieri counter that its traffic projection relied on outdated trends and that this area already suffers from air quality concerns. They also note that officials failed to truly consider alternatives to a road expansion.

9. U.S. 20 widening (Iowa): $286 million

This project would widen U.S. 20 from two to four lanes over a 40-mile stretch of rural territory. The spending would seem to violate a new contract with voters who agreed to increase their gas taxes in 2015 provided the money went toward “critical road and bridge construction projects that significantly extend the life of such assets.” Despite that mandate, Inglis and Olivieri write that three-quarters of the funding pile is going toward highway maintenance instead of expansion, with U.S. 20 widening leading the way.
U.S. 20 in Iowa on a congested day in 2000.

10. Paseo del Volcan extension (New Mexico): $96 million

Paseo del Volcan would build a new road on the outskirts of Albuquerque as a conduit for a sprawling residential development called Santolina, according to Inglis and Olivieri. “That project has drawn significant criticism from residents concerned about how much water the project would require,” they write. The plan seems to be preferred over a cheaper effort to upgrade the existing road network.

11. Portsmouth bypass (Ohio): $429 million

Inglis and Olivieri say this 16-mile, four-lane highway scored “near the bottom” of the state’s priority list. Yet in June 2015, preliminary work began. The project’s potential impact on traffic is questionable at best: average annual vehicle miles in the county fell from 2004 to 2014, and officials claim “no transportation outcomes or benefits, apart from allowing drivers to avoid several traffic lights,” according to the boondoggle report.

12. Mon-Fayette Expressway extension (Pennsylvania): $1.7 billion

Original plans for this new highway, which had it connecting into downtown Pittsburgh, were scaled back out of concerns over social and environmental damage. That’s great for the city, but it means the expressway itself offers transportation access “little better than that which existed before the project,” write Inglis and Olivieri. Meanwhile Pennsylvania has more than 5,000 deficient bridges, with the second-highest percentage of poor spans in the U.S.

*Corrections: A previous version of this article said that officials had chosen the tunnel option for S.R. 710 in California; it is just one of the alternatives being considered. A previous version also focused on the I-5 express lane component of the Puget Sound Gateway instead of on the expansion of state routes; changes to the interstate are no longer being considered, according to the Washington DOT project website.