Pedestrian View Of Los Angeles

This blog focuses on rail lines in LA country that exist, are under construction or under consideration. The Californian high-speed rail project and southern CA to Vegas project will also be covered. Since most of the relevant developments in the news, rail websites and blogosphere take place on weekdays, this blog will be updated primarily Monday through Friday and occasionally on the weekends. Your comments, criticism and suggestions are encouraged. Miscellaneous stuff will also appear here.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Entrances and Shoplifting

One sign an area is going down is more theft at stores. Here's one example. This business had two entrances/exits until it found that people were using the other-unobserved-exit to steal from the store.

Safety as felt from the sidewalk

As someone who's been walking and talking buses throughout the city, I see the city in slower motion than a car driver. I know fewer areas well.

I've lived in two areas that became crime ridden. The process as seen from street level starts with small things: bars on windows, fences in front of houses, dogs, screen doors made of thick bars among other things.

As the process unfolded in the second place I lived, I would ask home owners, when the opportunity presented itself, why. There answers always were from some incident that would have been unimaginable before such as my house got broken into, I found a stranger in my front yard among others.

It's a game a cat and mouse where when some psychological threshold has been reached, people move. The area is now "sketchy."

I wonder if I'll see it again where I live now?????

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Op/Ed: Gold Line Brings Gold to L.A. Region

Gold Line Construction Authority Chairman Doug Tessitor writes about the economic advantages of the coming Gold Line Foothill Extension.


December 14, 2011

From the Rose Bowl to the Fairplex, the San Gabriel Valley is home to public venues and projects that create jobs and generate much-needed economic activity for the entire L.A. region.

With the recent approval of a distinctive final design for a Gold Line bridge over the I-210 Freeway, another of these job-generating projects will soon be visible to the public and will provide a new "Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley."

The $18.6 million bridge, which is already under construction and providing jobs, will feature columns designed to resemble American Indian baskets in recognition of the region’s original inhabitants and the important role they played in the San Gabriel Valley’s development.

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency responsible for the Gold Line’s planning and construction, sponsored an international competition and chose award-winning public artist Andrew Leicester to envision this unique structure to welcome travelers to the Valley.

Caltrans’ and the Construction Authority’s approval of the final design is a significant milestone in one of the region’s largest and most important transit projects—the $735 million extension of the Metro Gold Line light rail line from Pasadena to Azusa. This is the first of two approximately 12-mile extensions that will ultimately connect Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire along the Foothills of the San Gabriel Valley.

The current construction project is expected to generate nearly 7,000 new jobs (2,600 in construction) and $1 billion in economic output for the region during its four-year construction period, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

Using a design-build approach, the Construction Authority is moving forward faster than would otherwise be possible. Under this approach, for instance, construction on the I-210 Gold Line bridge began months ahead of the of the final design’s approval.

By using design-build contracting, the Construction Authority is creating jobs when they are most needed and keeping the Measure R-funded rail project on schedule. Approved by two-thirds of Los Angeles County voters in November 2008, Measure R initiated a half-cent sales tax increase to upgrade the region’s transportation system including the Foothill Extension projects.

Long before the voters spoke, the Construction Authority had already completed the first segment of the Gold Line from Los Angeles to Pasadena on time and under budget. That 13.7-mile section opened to the public in 2003, and monthly boardings on the Gold Line have continually increased, now reaching nearly 40,000 average weekday boardings.

The Legislature created the Construction Authority in 1998 for one purpose—to extend rail transit along the Foothills. As leaders of the Construction Authority, we have been single-minded in our pursuit of that goal.

Working together with our elected leaders, state and federal officials, local communities and residents throughout the region, we have continued to move the project forward this year with the final I-210 bridge design approval and the launch of construction.

As we near the end of 2011, we are on track to complete the light rail extension to Azusa in 2015, and are focused on readying the next 12-mile segment for construction - easing traffic woes and helping to ensure a healthier and more prosperous future for all who live, work and visit Los Angeles County.

Doug Tessitor is the Construction Authority board chairman and Glendora mayor.

Metro VS Reason: Agency Calls Foundation's Light Rail Slam 'Factually Challenged'


Metro has fired back at the Reason Foundation for their recent pro-bus video "17 Miles in Just 78 Minutes! Light Rail vs. Reality in LA."

In the video, viewers follow comedian Watt Smith as he chats with light rail commuters about local public transportation. Informational pop-ups crowd the screen throughout the video, but Metro says these facts, as well as other claims in the video, are largely inaccurate.

Describing Reason.TV's video as "amusing and "a little factually challenged," Metro posted the following corrections and suggestions to its blog, The Source. Watch the video again after skimming through Metro's rebuttal and let us know what you think.

•It’s about 29 miles by road — not 17 — from LAX to downtown Burbank, according to most of the maps that I consulted.

•To the dude in the video: if you seriously got from the LAX terminals to Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank using only buses and rail in 78 minutes, then you’re some kind of Jedi Knight of mass transit. That’s more like a two-hour trip — owing in part to the bus between LAX and the Green Line’s Aviation station.

•It’s hardly a secret that LAX-to-Burbank isn’t terribly well served by transit. As part of the Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters, a transit connection between the airport and the future Crenshaw/LAX Line is under study.

•There might be faster alternatives between LAX and Burbank. One idea: shell out a few more bucks and take the Flyaway bus to Los Angeles Union Station, a trip that usually takes 30 to 50 minutes depending on traffic. From there, it’s possible to take the Red Line subway to Universal City and catch a bus to Warner Brothers. Or take Metrolink from Union Station to Burbank and then bus or taxi to the studio.

•To the bubble suggesting that light rail is less energy efficient than cars…that’s hardly an undisputed fact and there are other considerations such as pollution. The federal government has found that transit produces a significantly less greenhouse gases than single-occupancy vehicles. Here's a good report.

•Transit is heavily subsidized — in Los Angeles County and elsewhere. The correct figures: Metro currently subsidizes on average 72 percent of a bus fare and about 76 percent of a rail fare. See page 64 of this year’s adopted budget.

•We can confirm the video’s keen observation that trains are more crowded during rush hour. However, the trains don’t run all night, as the cute thought bubble alleges.

•A new 40-foot CNG-powered bus costs about $450,000 and a new 60-foot CNG bus about $750,000 — not the $300,000 figure shown in those clever bubbles!

•It’s totally fair to question how much bang taxpayers get for the bucks they invest in any type of transit, rail included. But chew on this: if we got rid of the rail system in L.A. and put everyone on buses and put more buses on local streets and freeways, is there anyone that really thinks traffic or transit would improve?

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.

Manhattan Beach trolley talks trail on


News|December 14, 2011 11:25 am

After years of debating the implementation of a fixed-route trolley system in Manhattan Beach, the City Council decided to pursue the project further by soliciting feedback from residents through a needs assessment.

The proposed trolley system would cost between $562,000 and $633,000 to implement during its first year, and up to $483,000 annually thereafter, depending on its hours of operation, according to Richard Gill, director of parks and recreation.

To fund the trolley, the city would exhaust the $350,000 in available Measure R funds. The city anticipates receiving $279,000 in revenue annually in Measure R funds – still, operating costs for the trolley could exceed these revenues by up to $250,000 per year, according to a city staff report.

Competing projects for these funds include street repairs and the Dial-A-Ride program, Gill said. The numbers do not include revenue from the trolley, which could be gained through a riding fee or by selling advertisements on the trolley.

Councilmember Amy Howorth thought a trolley could decrease traffic throughout the city and provide children transportation to school or summer camp on the beach. “I think we need to try it,” she said. “There’s a community benefit to having public transportation.”

The proposed trolley would offer riders transportation from east to west and back. “I think if we do it right, there will be a demand for it,” said Mayor Nick Tell.

Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Powell and Councilmember David Lesser were opposed to the project. “We all would welcome a free service, but it somehow needs to be paid for,” Lesser said, later adding that while he grew up riding a bus, he is concerned about the viability of the proposal.

Powell drew parallels between the proposed trolley and other transportation options like the Ocean Express, which the city is asked to subsidize each year due to low ridership, he said. “I can’t support something that’s not cost effective,” he said, adding that pedestrian improvements and pothole repairs are among the list of competing uses of the funds. “I believe we have an obligation to spend our taxpayers’ money wisely.”

Resident Patrick McBride spoke against bringing a trolley system to Manhattan Beach. “There’s better ways to spend this money,” he said. “People in Manhattan Beach don’t want to ride public transportation. That is the sad truth.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Breaking News: High Speed Rail Designed To Achieve High Speeds


Dec 14th, 2011 | Posted by Robert Cruickshank

I have no idea why the LA Times thought it would be a good idea to put Ralph Vartabedian on the high speed rail beat, but the results have been disastrous. The guy has no clue how the project actually works and almost certainly has never actually used a high speed train in his life. The result has been a series of nonsensical articles trashing the project for common-sense things that are not actually newsworthy issues.

Today’s article from Vartabedian is perhaps the worst yet. In it, he actually argues that the requirement that trains connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes was somehow a shocking thing sneaked into the Prop 1A legislation without anybody realizing its intent.

I’m serious. That’s actually the story he filed. Vartabedian basically thinks it’s somehow a major news story that a high speed train is intended to achieve high speeds:

California’s proposed bullet train will need to soar over small towns on towering viaducts, split rich farm fields diagonally and burrow for miles under mountains for a simple reason: It has no time to spare.

In the fine print of a 2008 voter-approved measure funding the project was a little-noticed requirement that trains be able to rocket from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to San Francisco in no more than two hours and 40 minutes.

It was an aggressive goal, requiring cutting-edge technology, and was originally intended to protect the sanctity of the bullet train concept from political compromise. Whether the California High Speed Rail Authority can meet such a schedule is far from certain. Even some backers of the project now say it was a mistake to lock in the strict requirement.

Huh? It wasn’t “fine print” – HSR supporters like me shouted from the rooftops that the trains would connect SF to LA in just over two and a half hours. It was compelling. It was sensible. It was one of the things that generated public support for the project. We put together postcards that fall with the following image on one side and handed them out at train stations across the state, such as Union Station, loudly trumpeting the travel time:

After all, people understood that they were voting for high speed rail. They were voting for short travel times. That’s the entire point of high speed rail – to be something other than Amtrak, to provide fast and reliable transportation between California’s metro areas.

For Vartabedian to treat this as something of a surprise just shows how disreputable a journalist he really is. That travel time is comparable to other successful HSR routes around the world. Spain’s AVE train connects Madrid and Barcelona in 2 hours, 38 minutes. France’s LGV Est operates trains at speeds of 200 mph. Given technological improvements, 220 mph by 2020 is a reasonable expectation.

Instead Vartabedian makes this sound like some hidden trick, and quotes high speed rail opponent Alan Lowenthal to supposedly make his case:

Some state legislative leaders and rail authority officials say the time requirement never should have been put into the law. “It was a mistake,” said Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), a key supporter of the project who has asked increasingly tough questions about the cost.

In fact, Lowenthal has always opposed high speed rail, wanting to steal the $10 billion in voter approved funding for slower-speed trains. So it is in his interest to argue that high speeds are not desirable and are some sort of trick.

I don’t understand why the LA Times continues to pay Ralph Vartabedian to mislead their readers about this project. He is a dishonest reporter who is writing hit pieces rather than objective journalism. A reputable newspaper would not continue to have him on their staff.

California voters knew what they were doing when they voted for Prop 1A. They knew it would provide fast train service between SF and LA. That’s the entire point. And it’s the right goal to pursue, even if HSR opponents like Vartabedian want to mislead the public about what they actually voted for in 2008.

Are streetcars the answer to our transit and environmental needs?


By Steven Dornfeld | Published Mon, Dec 12 2011 9:06 am

Cities could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more by linking streetcars and higher-density land use.
SiemensCities could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more by linking streetcars and higher-density land use.

Patrick Condon wants to turn back the clock to the streetcar era.

Condon, an urban planner and professor at the University of British Columbia, says bringing back the streetcar is the best thing cities can do to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases and become more sustainable.

Speaking last week at the University of Minnesota, Condon said most North American cities developed out of the agricultural grid system, in which the land was divided into one-mile-square parcels. Streetcars could easily be added back into cities that developed on a grid pattern and many suburbs could be retrofitted to include them, he said.

Congdon said he came to be a "train nut" late in life, and does not readily identify the older guys "in bib overalls hovering over their train layouts in the basement."

But he argued that cities could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent or more by linking streetcars and higher-density land use. Making communities walkable and bikeable also could help.

One major challenge would be getting public buy-in, Condon said. Half of the public "doesn't believe climate change is a problem."

There is, however, a certain amount of nostalgia for streetcars. Many baby boomers and their parents recall the days when it was possible to hop on a trolley and get to just about anywhere in the Twin Cities area.

900 streetcars
Up until the early 1950s, the Twin Cities had 900 streetcars and more than 500 miles of track that extended from Lake Minnetonka to Stillwater. On University Avenue, there were more than 60 cars operating during peak periods.

Annual ridership hit a peak of 238 million in 1920. It began to drop as automobiles became affordable and plummeted after World War II, when GIs returned home, formed families and sought that prized home in the suburbs. (By comparison, transit ridership last year was 91 million.)

The streetcar system came to an unfortunate end in 1954, when the last trolleys were pulled from the streets and replaced with buses financed by General Motors. In the conversion process, the transit system was defrauded by company executives and mobsters, several of whom went to jail.

The last run of the streetcars in Minneapolis on June 19,1954.
Hennepin County LibraryThe last run of the streetcars in Minneapolis on June 19,1954.

The history of the system is recounted in a richly illustrated book, "Twin Cities by Trolley," by John W. Diers and Aaron Isaacs. The Minnesota Streetcar Museum also provides a brief history of the system.

Condon said there are solid environment and economic reasons for bringing back the trolley. A modern low-floor tram [PDF] manufactured by Siemens has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile of all transportation options.

Streetcars also are more affordable, with a capital cost of $20 million to $40 million per mile compared with $60 million to $100 million a mile for light rail transit.

Key density goal
The key, Condon said, is to achieve sufficient density — 10 to 40 residential units per acre — to support the investment. "You could marry transit to land use in a way where you don't have to subsidize it at all," he says. However, he acknowledged that achieving that density goal "is going to be very hard."

In the Twin Cities, the typical urban neighborhood might have a density of seven to 10 units per acre, while the density in developing suburbs is more in the range of two to four units per acre. The Metropolitan Council requires a minimum of three units per acre in areas where communities want regional sewer service.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have expressed interest in streetcars, and Minneapolis landed a $900,000 federal grant to explore the idea. The city has embarked on a study of a possible nine-mile line along Nicollet and Central Avenues from 46th Street in south Minneapolis to a transit station just outside of Columbia Heights.

St. Paul failed to win a $200,000 grant to conduct a study of its own, but Joe Campbell, a spokesman for Mayor Chris Coleman, says the city is "pursuing other options" to fund the effort.

Metro Transit, meanwhile, is studying another option — a form of bus rapid transit (BRT) — in 11 urban corridors in the two cities. It is would include such features as distinctive vehicles with traffic signal priority, heated bus shelters, off-vehicle fare collection, real-time travel information, more frequent service and faster trips.

The capital cost for urban BRT would be about $2 million to $5 million per mile, according to Metro Transit planners.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gabbard: High Speed Rail Route, Business Plan, Deserve a Chance

by Dana Gabbard

As a long-time observer of the California high speed rail project who advocated in favor of the 2008 bond, to me one interesting recent trend is that the original hotbed of support (the Central Valley) of late has become much more skeptical and critical. Some of that is due to the dynamics of large projects — early on excitement holds sway whereas when construction begins to approach folks begin to confront the downside impacts of such ventures, causing a backlash. And frankly, until recently, I think it can be fairly said the Authority’s outreach and handling of politically sensitive aspects has been less than stellar.

Click on the report go visit the CAHSR website.

I am well aware a lot of folks are having serious sticker shock about this project. But the improved business plan seems to be attacked for merely doing what critics have long asked for — provide realistic estimates of costs, ridership and the likely timing of private investment. Plus many cities are reeling from the technology’s attributes resulting in many towns being impacted without the benefit of having a station.

All that said, I am not big on second guessing the authority unlike many other rail activists. Having the first segment in the Central Valley seems a reasonable approach, especially since it is a condition of the federal funding they have been awarded. And after many convulsions this latest news of a preferred route seems to auger the project getting back on track with support from those to be most effected.

I am not unaware this is just one step in a lengthy process. And that there are many more obstacles ahead. But I think those predicting loudly of late the bullet train is on life support are being premature.

Gold Line Basket Bridge Getting Its Weave On in Arcadia


Tuesday, December 13, 2011, by Neal Broverman

The first column for the iconic Gold Line "basket bridge" over the 210 was poured last week in Arcadia and the other three columns are following as we speak, reports the Gold Line Construction Authority. The above picture shows how the design is embedded in the column--"The remaining segments of the [column] form will be stripped in the next few days, and then crews will install the form on the second column by the end of the year," according to a GLCA press release. "Over the coming weeks and months you will start seeing activity out along the 11.5-mile corridor." The bridge, designed by artist Andrew Leicester and AECOM, will be the first part of the Gold Line extension to Azusa to be finished. According to a Pasadena Star-News op-ed from GLCA board chairman/Glendora mayor Doug Tessitor, the extension remains on track to open in 2015, even with that one resident filing lawsuits like it's going out of style.

Alameda Street Train Tracks Being Removed


DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Alameda Street is one of the most heavily used transit corridors in the region. It has also long been one of the bumpiest rides in Downtown, thanks to a surfeit of potholes and uneven pavement.

The culprit behind Alameda's ruddy surface is a section of old, long-defunct rail track embedded in the street. Safety regulations and concerns about potentially hazardous materials made the removal of the tracks cost-prohibitive in the past.

Now, the metal is coming out. Over the past two months, the Bureau of Street Services, in partnership with 14th District City Councilman José Huizar, performed a series of trials and concluded that their system for removing the tracks is safe.

Now the effort is on to remove all remaining track on Alameda between First and Seventh streets, said Huizar spokesman Rick Coca.

The project cost is estimated at $900,000. The track is expected to be removed entirely on that seven-block stretch by spring 2012, and Huizar representatives said they will push for the resurfacing work to be done as soon as possible.

The section of Alameda Street between Seventh Street and the California (10) Freeway is slated for full track removal in 2017.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Union Station Panel Says Area Could Be Downtown's Next South Park


A panel of land use experts spent the week studying potential uses for the 500 acres around Union Station, which Metro bought this year.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Union Station could be the center of Downtown's next big development boom, a panel of land use experts told the city and Metro on Friday morning.

The team of eight planners and development experts had spent the week studying the 500 acres around the historic train station, looking for ways in which the city can maximize the benefits it receives from Metro's ownership and development of the station site.

In presenting their results to an audience that included two city councilmembers, the head of the city's Planning department, Metro CEO Art Leahy and top planners from the transit agency, the panel said that the publicly-owned land that surrounds the station presents a tremendous opportunity because it creates a "land bank" for future development.

The nexus of all the transportation options coming into the station and the historic neighborhoods nearby could create a major destination, the panel said. Several talked of the potential for the Union Station area to be Downtown's next South Park, citing the mass of development that sprung up on Downtown's southern edge over the last ten years.

The current uses for that public land, however, is a challenge. Northeast of the 1939 station, roughly 75 acres are dedicated to two jails and a bus maintenance facility.

"The jail's got to go," said Bill Kistler, a senior client partner with Korn/Ferry International in London.

The county, though, will vote later this month on moving forward with a $1.4 billion project to rebuild the Men's Central Jail. While other locations are being studied, current plans call for the new facility to be built on the same site. The three ten-story towers would have 5,040 beds for male inmates.

Councilman Jose Huizar, whose 14th district includes Union Station and the jail site, said that after hearing the experts speak so highly of the area's potential, the city needs to get involved in that conversation.

"Now we have a number of experts telling us, after their review, that it makes sense to look at other options for that jail because of the tremendous opportunities that exist," said Huizar. "This is the beginning. It sounds like we as the city and Metro are on the same page, now we need to lobby the county supervisors to find another location for the jail."

"Right now we're at one of these pivotal points for this region where we're planning and looking ahead 50 years."

"What will this area look like in 50 years? With everything we're seeing and the demand for housing and jobs and transportation in this area—a key hub for that transportation—it makes sense to move that jail somewhere else."

In the short term, the panel advised that the city focus on finding ways to partner with the county to create development on the surface parking lots between Union Station and Hill Street, and that it focus on improving the connectivity between Union Station and the neighborhoods around it.

"We can't just streetscape and put in signs, we need development," said Mary Smith, a senior vice president with Walker Parking Consultants/Engineers in Indianapolis.

The panel also advised the city to push ahead with the development of above-ground retail at the L.A. Mall, a site that has long proved problematic.

Long-term, higher passenger volumes would likely create opportunities for higher-density residential, office space and hotels.

The group, which was put together by the Urban Land Institute, gave the local planners in attendance plenty to think about.

"The value of having outsiders come in and look at a problem is really important," said Martha Welborne, Metro's top planner. "We gave them a list of questions to address, but other than that they had to discover the problems and come up with solutions on their own."

Imagining a City Without Its Public Transportation

Emily Badger

Dec 12, 2011


LA County Metro delays bus schedule changes until spring

Los Angeles County Metro has delayed scheduled changes to some of its bus routes that were supposed to go into effect Sunday.

Metro had set the date months ago to ax a few of its bus lines and add new stops to some of its rapid buses. Agency officials say they’d hoped to create easier access to the nearly-completed Exposition Light Rail Line, an eight-and-a-half-mile route that will eventually connect downtown L.A. with Culver City.

But spokesman Marc Littman says Metro yanked planned changes to about 20 bus lines at the last minute. He says engineers need more time to analyze the way those changes will affect riders.

Littman says he expects Metro to settle on bus route schedules before the Expo Line opens in the spring.

Santa Monica Tries to Figure Out What to Do When Bergamot Station Becomes a Train Station Again

Photo by polaroid-girl via the LAist Featured Photos pool
Way back in 1875, the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica was actually a train stop for the Red Line that ran through Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier. Now the city of Santa Monica is trying to decide what to do in 2015 when the gallery space again becomes a train stop — this time for the new Expo Line.

The Expo Line will bring big changes: it will require the destruction of one gallery, and it will bring in tons of new riders. Now the Santa Monica Daily Press reports that planning department staff is wondering if the city should try to bring in some new, profitable businesses — like hotels and restaurants — to an area full of galleries that may be culturally rich but require subsidized rent to stay afloat. This talk of revenue around the arts of course makes some on the planning commission a little nervous.

Here are the three main options the planning department is considering, according to the Daily Press:

Option A would be adding a few new two or three-story buildings to the area but mostly preserving the footprint of Bergamot Station

Option B would be divvying up the parcels between a variety of owner-developers to allow the spaces to change organically as new owners come and go

Option C would preserve the eastern portion of the site and open up the western side for development, which could include buildings up to four stories tall, a proposed hotel and underground parking

The majority of speakers at the meeting said they prefer changing nothing at all about Bergamot Station or voting for option A, which would change the site as little as possible.

Ruthann Lehrer, who is on the commission, pointed out that there's already a large-scale development being planned right across the street from Bergamot at the transit village. She suggested that maybe that development will be enough to subsidize the arts across the street.

"I'm looking at the balance between this wonderful complex and the galleries, which we value a lot and all of the development that's taking place across the street," Lehrer said. "They're supposed to provide community benefits. That would provide some of the subsidy and support."
Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.

Fewer still on board with bullet train Fewer still on board with bullet train

December 11, 2011 9:30 AM

The Orange County Register

Last week was a bad week for California's touted high-speed rail project. That made it a good week for Californians, particularly for taxpayers.

The best news was a new Field Poll that showed the public has wised up to the boondoggle foisted upon them by a slick public-relations campaign and self-interested types, who want to profit no matter the cost to taxpayers.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they want an opportunity to vote again on the $9.9 billion in bonds voters approved for the project three years ago. Even more gratifying was the fact that 59 percent said they would vote "no" the next time; 31 percent said they would vote "yes."

We have called for undoing the damage set in motion with the 2008 vote ever since it passed with a 52 percent favorable vote. As the proposed 800-mile route to tie together Southern and Northern California ballooned in cost, and its completion date was extended 14 years, public opposition has grown.

Voters and taxpayers have seen the project once estimated to cost $35 billion and to be completed by 2020 inflate to almost three times the original price and to take more than twice as long as promised. And that's if we believe the High-Speed Rail Authority's latest estimates. It's anyone's guess how much will be added to the current estimate of $98.5 billion or how many more years will be tacked on to the present 2034 estimated completion date.

There's no reason to saddle Californians with $1 billion a year burden, which is about the cost to pay off those bonds alone, if they all are sold. The Legislature should refuse to authorize bond sales. There's less reason to beg Washington for more money to backfill what now approaches a $90 billion shortfall.

Also last week there was good news out of Washington, D.C., where Republican lawmakers bashed the Obama administration's handling of $10.5 billion in grants doled out around the country, rather than concentrating the money in the congested northeastern corridor, where rail improvements make more sense.

House Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the administration should have funneled a majority of federal funds into one major project "to do it right," and serve as a showcase for other projects to come. Clearly, that one place wouldn't be California, where only $9.9 billion in state funding is assured, only $3 billion in federal funding has been allocated conditionally, and zero private financing has emerged.

The Legislature should put this matter back on the ballot, where voters assuredly would kill it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Transportation Got ‘US’ Into A Greenhouse Gas Fix, Public Transportation Can Get ‘US’ Out


By Alan Kandel

California ranks as high as the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (one source says we’re the 15th largest emitter - the most conservative ranking of the bunch). Think about it: Of 194 nations represented at the U.N. climate summit being held in Durban, South Africa, California’s GHG emissions surpass up to 182 of those represented countries. That is neither flattering nor a title to be proud of.

Looking at California more closely, transportation alone contributes a full 38 percent of our GHG emissions. (In some regions this figure is surpassed even). Transportation is followed (in descending order by contributed amount of GHG) by industrial (20%), imported electricity (13%), in-state electricity (12%), residential (6%), agriculture and forestry (5%), commercial (3%) and other sources (3%).

Meanwhile, within the transportation sector, the largest single GHG producer is, you guessed it, on-road light duty trucks and cars, contributing a whopping 74 percent, followed by on-road heavy-duty trucks which contributes 19 percent, according to Environment California Research and Policy Center’s Spring 2008 report: “Getting California on Track: Seven Strategies to Reduce Global Warming Pollution from Transportation”. The above was based on 2004 data and numbers may be similar today. (See page 7).

Broadly speaking, “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 28 percent of the Unites States’ total GHG emissions come from transportation.” And a July 28, 2009 press release from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) stated “Emissions have had the fastest growth in the transportation sector.”

An eye-opener and thought-provoker is the notion that “Expanded public transit strategies coordinated with combining travel activity, land use development, operational efficiencies can reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) by 24 percent, according to the study entitled Moving Cooler,” APTA noted. It estimates that the annual savings in vehicle costs to consumers exceed the cost of enacting these strategies by as much as $112 billion.

“The study shows that from 1996 to 2006, growth in U.S. transportation GHG emissions represented almost one-half (47 percent) of the increase in total U.S. GHG emissions. The research points out that the U.S. cannot reach its emission reduction goals without successful strategies to reduce GHG emissions from transportation.”

Is this likewise true for California?

The California challenge is thus: In order to meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets specified in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, California must reduce such emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and by an additional 80 percent below that by 2050. Can it be done? Rest assured it can, but will it? That, of course, depends.

I’m thinking that the installation of the California high-speed rail network would be the single-biggest saver GHG-wise. Implementation of high-speed train service here in the Golden State, even though deemed expensive, its immediate, short- and long-term environmental benefits would be far superior to adhering to “business-as-usual” practices. Reducing GHG from both heavy-duty and light-duty trucks as well as from other motor vehicles would definitely help.

So don’t get me wrong. High-speed rail is extremely attractive because legions of commuters and travelers who would typically occupy the roadways and airways and thus adding to the global warming pollution problem might turn to and stay with trains because that would become an available option. The same could be said for urban rail options.

At the same time it is important to keep in mind, in an economy on the rebound, the presumption is the growth in vehicle miles traveled will resume. But, it need not be this way. The recessionary economy forced us to be more frugal with our finances, and as a result driving, and thus vehicle miles traveled were scaled back. When the economy does rebound and the presumption is that it will, it would behoove us to not be so quick to return to our former ways, i.e. getting back on the road in ever-increasing numbers. Having viable transportation alternatives to choose from is paramount. And this can be the best fix among them all to help get us out of our current greenhouse gas fix.


Alan Kandel is a concerned California resident advocating for new, improved and expanded freight (and passenger) rail service. He is a retired railroad signalman previously employed by the Union Pacific Railroad in Fremont, California.