Friday, September 29, 2017

Congested Interstates Traffic through the Temecula Valley: Options

Michael H. Momeni, Environmental Nuclear Scientist

The average daily traffic through Temecula Valley was about 165,000 vehicles during 2015 (source Caltrans: 159,000 to 169,000).  This number was projected to increase to 250,000 by 2030 at the junction of the Riverside and San Diego county line. A review of construction expansion within the Interstates 15 and 215 corridors would indicate that the 2030 projection is expected to be much larger. Interstates 15 and 215 connect San Diego to Ontario and to Riverside, respectively.
To reduce traffic on Interstates 15 and 215, several options have been presented. Among these is an improvement of California State Route 79 from Highway 8 to Aguanga, north to Hemet connecting to Highway 10 and 60 at Beaumont. It would allow an alternative route for trucks and cars passing through the region to the north and east of Temecula Valley.
The second option is an improvement of both Interstate15 and 215.  These improvements would include the addition of traffic lanes and an extension of the express lanes from Escondido to Ontario and Riverside. This option relies on the concept that once a highway is expanded by adding more lanes, the problem of the congested road will evaporate.  This concept is fully false. Indeed, expansion of Interstate 15 in Temecula may make the commuting time shorter but it allows more distant places such as Hemet to become more desirable because of the affordability condition:

The third option is the creation of a commuter train linking San Diego to Ontario and Riverside:
The creation of a regional commuter train connecting East Ontario to San Diego has been previously reported here (Palm and Pine Publication, September/October 2017, page 3) and will be the topic of a Regional Transportation Workshop on October 25, Temecula, sponsored by the Santa Margarita Group.

Any of these options must be subjected to detailed analysis of the environmental impacts as well as cost-benefit analysis prior to approval. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dealing with traffic on the Interstate 15 Corridor

Michael H. Momeni, PhD

Why is it that we continue to have heavy traffic on Interstate 15 in spite of the expansion of a major portion of this corridor? It seems intuitive that to reduce the congestion, we think that either we have to decrease the number of cars or build more capacity.  But this runs contrary to what seems to happen. Observation suggests that traffic expands to meet existing capacity.  As an example, traffic on Interstate 5 between San Clemente and Los Angeles is still congested in spite of recent road expansion.

Observation indicates this transition following the highway expansion would happen quickly. The new lanes would not ease local traffic and once more congestion would return.  It is understood that by improving interstate traffic, more people would move further away from the workplace and would lead to more local congestion on the interconnecting interstate roads. The same principle equally applies to other modes of mass transit system, such as conventional commuter trains. With one exception, environmental impact and social-psychological impacts of an electric commuter train is a very small fraction of a congested highway.
The primary contributing factor appears to be the greater affordability of housing in Riverside County when compared with adjacent counties, such as San Diego County. For commuters with families, the decision of where to live is related to proximity to better schools and a willingness to accept the hardship of living far from one’s workplace. The latter consideration plays out not only in the price of gasoline and the wear and tear on one’s car, but also in the quality of life compromised by a long, time-consuming commute. While increasing the freeway’s capacity to accommodate more cars initially might decrease travel time for some, it might also make the more distant townships even more desirable. The added housing would result in more highway congestion, once again causing longer commuting time from home to the workplace. 
Clearly, accommodating more automobiles in the I-15 corridor would not be the ideal solution, either for the commuters or for the air quality in the Southern California region.   Currently, a light rail system connects several cities in Riverside County to Los Angeles, with Union Station serving as a hub. Could such a light rail system be built to serve Riverside and San Diego counties?

The housing shortage leads to more real estate development. It is intuitive that the regional population within the Temecula Valley will increase, within a short time the combined population within Temecula-Murrieta region will approach half-million people. It is imperative that we chose those modes of transportation that use clean energy, such as electric train for mass transit over fossil fuel automobiles.

This essay way was reviewed by Elena Garcia. I am deeply appreciative of her constructive suggestions. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Cost-benefit Analysis for an Inland Empire Electric Commuter Train

A common basis for rail feasibility evaluation has been the cost per passenger using the train, i.e. a comparison of anticipated revenue relative to the cost for the development and operation of the train. This does not include any social, medical and environmental impacts from using a gasoline fueled car.
A previous study evaluated the feasibility for developing a commuter train for the Temecula Valley region. It was reported as RCTC 2007:

The RCTC 2007 study is partial analysis of the feasibility for the creation of a commuter train along route I-15. Although the report is 10 years old, many of the analyses are pertinent to our mission for creating such a commuter train. The RCTC 2007 partial evaluation is a stepping stone for a complete evaluation.
Since 2007, many of the assumptions made for the RCTC report would require adjustment. The population density within the whole I-15 corridor has increased or is under pressure due to the continuous demand for reasonable cost housing.  In turn, higher populations have resulted in further congestion of the Interstate 15 corridor. A second study of population expansion would be required for a realistic forecast to the year 2030.   In addition, the cost per mile and the ridership population is highly dependent on economic metrics, such as the cost of fuel, cost of time on the congested roads, and the necessity to use more environmentally safe commuter transportation.

This report is not based on a complete cost-benefit analysis. It is a straight comparison of the estimated development costs of a rail system - tracks, stations and trains relative to the projected number of passengers. The analysis was projected to 2030. The validity of the projection is open to question. Some of the evaluations were based on a 2004 model.  In order to evaluate the RCT 2007 report, a documentation of the model and a list of all input parameters should be made available.

As such, the report published in 2007 is a partial analysis.  A new study should consider the total costs and benefits for developing an electric commuter train connecting East Ontario to San Diego via the Temecula Valley.  

Note:  RCTC report did not include any of the benefits identified in the following report:

Michael H. Momeni

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wildlife Protection in Temecula: Progress Report

Michael H. Momeni

Mountain lions in our Southern California region are facing ultimate extinction caused by a shrinking gene pool, poaching, disease and the removal of cats deemed dangerous to domestic animals and a potential public safety threat.  This indictment has been exacerbated by the fragmentation of their territories as a consequence of expanded highway construction and ever increasing urban sprawl.
In the past several years, the Sierra Santa Margarita Group has identified the need to protect the area’s mountain lion population from further deaths on the freeway, genetic isolation and shrinkage of their habitat. Santa Margarita Group has identified 4 essential steps for a process to protect the natural balance of wildlife in our region:
1. Identifying the Essential Passages between the Two Mountain Ranges:
The following picture shows the region for the confluence of the Temecula Creek, Murrieta Creek and Santa Margarita River.  The lower part of the picture shows the Interstate 15 Temecula Creek Bridge. This location is an essential region for migration of wildlife within the Cleveland National Forest between the Trabuco District and Palomar District. 


The following picture shows the passageway under the bridge of the Interstate 15 Temecula Creek. The bridges can be easily and relatively cheaply converted to an off-limits wildlife passage. 

The condition of the space below the bridge is shown in the following picture:

The pictures vividly show examples of debris strewn near and under the Interstate 15 Temecula Creek Bridge.

2.  Removing the Trash from the Passage Area

Santa Margarita group along with some members of the community joined together in June, 2017, and, after several hours of work, partially removed trash from the western area of the bridge. 

3. Outreach Program to the Community for Site Control

On July 16, 2017, Pam Nelson organized a public visit to this area through outreach to our community.  The Santa Margarita Group has been concerned that intrusive land use would allow uncontrolled public access to this sensitive region, eliminating wildlife migration. Understanding the significance of this important habitat is crucial to the protection of the region. 

4. Community and Government Agency Participation

Pam Nelson organized the “wildlife crossing group” including the staff from Riverside County (several departments), California and U.S. Wildlife, Caltrans, Temecula City, and wildlife-focused non-profits.  The wildlife crossing group met on July 20th. The tour and brainstorming session resulted in setting up dates for future cleanups, restoration plans, funding discussions, and an increased interest in making the Temecula Creek underpass a viable wildlife crossing for I-15.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Outreach Program: Protection of the Wildlife Habitat

Outreach Program

The following picture shows the area for confluence of Temecula Creek, Murrieta Creek and the Santa Margarita River.  The lower part of the picture shows the location of the Interstate 15 Temecula Creek Bridge. This location is a critical region for the migration of wildlife within the Cleveland National Forest between the Trabuco Range District and the Palomar Range District. 

The Santa Margarita Group iis concerned that unauthorized public use of the confluence is hindering the east/west migration essential for the survival of mountain lions.  This area is identified on the central-lower region of the above picture.

Understanding the significance of this important habitat is crucial to the protection of this important region. 

Pam Nelson organized a visit to this area through outreach to our community on July 16, 2017.  The Santa Margarita Group has been concerned that intrusive land use would allow uncontrolled public access to this area eliminating wildlife migration. 

The following  pictures vividly show the impact of uncontrolled access to this important area.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Santa Margarita Group Celebration of the 4th of July 2017

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 Independence Day National Celebration
Please join the local SIERRA CLUB, Santa Margarita Group, as we all march in celebration, the Temecula 4th of July Parade.

Register ASAP with Margaret Meyncke

Please arrive at 9:00am. Come earlier to find parking space. Parking is on Pujol Street near the community center, or the public parking structure near city hall.
Bring your stuffed animals and wear a green t-shirt if you have one. Participants will receive an umbrella, flag, and kazoo. We will be singing "This Land is Your Land". We are number 7 in the lineup this year, so don't be late or hesitate!
We the Santa Margarita Group are PROUD to be AMERICAN! This is our land, the land of the free and the home of the brave!
This is our most visible and effective outreach event to our local community.
* Registration is $10 for adults and $5 for youth.

* All participants must sign a liability release form that will be provided at the event.
We were there on 4th of July 2016. 

4th of July 2016

We were there on the 4th of July 2017.  

The Photo courtesy of Caren Hanson

This photo was taken on July 4t, 2017 by Margaret Meyncke

The following Photos are courtesy of David Marrett.  We had a lots of fun and showed our colors.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Call for Action: Cleanup of the area near the Interstate 15 Bridge at the confluence of Temecula Creek, Murrieta Creek and Santa Margarita River:

The following picture shows the region for the confluence of Temecula Creek, Murrieta Creek and Santa Margarita River:

The following link provides a detailed
description of some of the issues:

Managing wildlife passage requires several immediate practical corrections:
1. Cleanup the trash from the area; 
2. Install fencing both sides of the highway to guide wildlife to the bridge area;
3. Restrict public access to the area under the bridge by using barrier fencing. 

4. Clear bushes and trees near and under the bridge to increase visibility.

Step 1: Cleanup of the area near the Interstate 15 Bridge at the confluence of Temecula Creek, Murrieta Creek and Santa Margarita River:

Date: June 30 at 8:00 AM
Location to meetJack and the Box parking lot

29105 Old Town Front St, Temecula, CA 92590 near the western end  of the Temecula Parkway. 
What to wear:  Please wear appropriate shoes, work gloves, sun hat, long pants and full sleeve shirt. 

Please bring along cool beverage for your own consumption.

We will be guided by Pablo Bryant (SMER) to the site for cleanup.  Please confirm by June 26 if you will be assisting us in the cleanup by sending your confirmation to: 

Michael Momeni

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Survival in Southern California, Mother Nature and her Birds and the Bees

Speaker: Richard W. Halsey 

Time and Date: 6 PM on June 8, 2017
Location: Temecula Library
Address: 30600 Pauba Rd, Temecula, CA 92592

Richard W. Halsey is a writer, photographer, and the director of the California Chaparral Institute, a non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to the preservation of native shrub land habitats throughout the world and supporting the creative spirit as inspired by the natural environment.
There was a time when understanding the environment around you was a matter of survival – when the flowers bloomed, where the flowers were, and how to avoid the grizzly bear. Now, our local knowledge is limited to street names, navigating freeway off ramps, and avoiding traffic tickets. Join Richard Halsey as he explores ways to find more joy in life by understanding and connecting with the local landscape, what rock is underfoot, and being able to distinguish male and female shrubs while driving seventy-miles-per-hour. It is time to become intimate with the wild nearby and know what home truly means.

Richard W. Halsey is the director of the California Chaparral Institute, a non-profit, research and educational organization dedicated to the preservation of native shrubland habitats throughout the world and supporting the creative spirit as inspired by the natural environment. Mr. Halsey also works with the San Diego Museum of Natural History, publishes The Chaparralian, a periodic journal focusing on chaparral and wildfire issues, and continues to teach natural history. He has given more than 350 presentations about the chaparral ecosystem over the past decade. Mr. Halsey taught biology for more than twenty years in both public and private schools and was honored as the Teacher of the Year for San Diego City Schools. He has also conducted numerous research projects and published several papers concerning the ecology of California’s chaparral ecosystem. Halsey has also been trained as a Type II wildland firefighter, past an age most would consider prudent. The second edition of his book, Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California, was published in 2008 and was awarded the Best Nonfiction-Local Interest Book by the San Diego Book Awards Association.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Call for Action: Save Mountain Lions in Temecula Valley Region

One more Mountain Lion was killed on May 5, 2017 on Highway 15 in southern Temecula.  

The Highway 15 area between Temecula and Fallbrook has blocked a natural passage route for wildlife between the eastern and western areas of Cleveland National Forest.  The following photographs show one of the bridges over the Temecula Creek, it is often a dry. It is near the confluence of Temecula Creek, Murrieta Creek and the Santa Margarita River has the following estimated dimensions: East to West width of about 195 feet, length along the highway (north to south) of about 295 feet and the bridge has  a very high ceiling. These estimated dimensions indicate the channel has enough space to allow for a wildlife passage.  

But several factors have restricted its usefulness.  The area under the bridge has become a habitat for the homeless population.  Visibility on both sides of the bridge has been reduced by trees and bushes.   

Managing wildlife passage requires several immediate practical corrections:

1.  Installation of fencing both sides of the highway to guide wildlife to the bridge area;
2. Restriction of public access to the area under the bridge using barrier fencing;
3. Enforcement of prohibition to use the area as a homeless village;
4. Cleanup the trash from the area.

5. Clearance of bushes and trees near the bridge to improve visibility.

The area to the east of Highway 15 is very close to residential area.  Now, fencing the boundary between the residential area (east of Highway 15) and the Golf Course would guide wildlife to seek the lower elevation of the mountainous region to the east of the highway, and the bridge over the Temecula Creek for passage to the foothills to the west.

The proposal to subdivide the Gulf Course will completely remove any hope for the wildlife passage using the present Highway 15 bridge over Temecula Creek.  Before such a subdivision would be granted, a wildlife corridor over the highway 15 further south must be included. The following photo shows an example of a wildlife bridge over Highway 15.

Time for talk is over, it is the time for action. 

Michael Momeni