Friday, March 17, 2017

General Position Essay: Alternative Transportation









Gary A. Oddi
Retired Educator
Temecula, California

March 12, 2017
We often look at the issue of transit in terms fixing old infrastructure for autos and trucks, while ignoring new technology, old proven systems, and innovative thinking about how we get to where we want and need to go.  Sub – urban sprawl has strangled our movement since the 1960’s.  It’s now time to finally instill an upward spiral of safe, stress – reducing, and economy boosting transit systems.
Three compelling arguments for increasing alternative transportation are Safety and Health, Environmental Impact, and Economics.  There is increasing empirical data to support the movement toward alternative means of transportation and reducing the number of autos and trucks on the roads.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Scientific America; “Commuting times have steadily increased in the U.S., and the rising problem of congestion has only exacerbated the issue of wasting time, money and fuel. In 2011, congestion caused Americans to travel an extra 5.5 billion hours and purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel, leading to a $121 billion price tag to congestion (not to mention 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere due to urban congestion). The annual delay for the average commuter has been steadily rising since the 1980s, more than doubling to 38 hours of delays in 2011 for the average commuter and wasting an extra week’s worth of fuel for the average U.S. driver. In urban areas with more than 3 million people, commuters had an average of 52 hours of delay a year.”
Compared to active commuting (riding transit like trains and light rail), driving on freeways and long driving commutes are far more dangerous and have a negative impact on the economy.  There are 0.05 deaths per 100 million passenger miles on buses and trains versus 0.72 deaths per 100 million passenger miles in cars.
One major problem in the modern world is prolonged stress.  STRESS is known to be one of the greatest causes of death.  Stress also reduces the quality of life in many ways.  It lowers performance and production in many areas of life.  Considering “active travel” as opposed to “stress inducing driving” makes a great argument for alternative forms of transportation.  
According to Evans and Wener, “Car commuters showed significantly higher levels of reported stress and, more negative mood.” Commuting also has significant psychological and social costs. It can be a major cause of stress due to the unpredictability and a sense of loss of control. Commuters can experience boredom, social isolation, and anger and frustration from problems like traffic or delays.
Stress has been linked to illnesses that include cancer, lung disease, fatal accidents, suicide, and cirrhosis of the liver. A 2014 study by Adam Martin, Yevgeniy Goryakin, Andros Marc Suhrcke found that “psychological well-being, including ability to concentrate and happiness, was higher for people commuting by active travel like walking or public transport compared to driving. Furthermore, switching from car driving to active travel resulted in improved well-being. Longer travel time for walkers actually improved well-being whereas the opposite was true for drivers. In contrast, driving requires constant concentration and can result in increased boredom, social isolation, and stress.”
Changing the transportation paradigm from “autos only” to “public transit, viable walking and biking communities” will add to the health, lifestyle, and economy of communities and the nation.  Our local politicians must work to deliver our country one of the best Gross National Happiness ratings while giving our economy a boost.  Research tells us that building viable alternative transportation networks and fixing old “car only” networks will create good jobs, improve our health care system, and improve the production of our current work force.  This is consistent with the promise made to the working class of America!
For the first time in an over a half century, there is optimism about rebuilding America’s infrastructure.  Including alternative forms of transportation, (trails, walking, biking, and public transit), as a part of the rebuilding of the infrastructure will ultimately solve the nation's problems with traffic congestion.  This commitment to all forms of transportation will empower Planners, Politicians, and Citizens to build and benefit from alternative healthy transportation corridors (Breaking the paradigm of “car is the only way to go.”)
It’s time to get passed all the trivial rhetoric from years of partisan closed – minded power plays.  Let’s rebuild our infrastructure in a way that encourages healthy / stress – free movement!  Ultimately improving our life style and encouraging our potential to thrive!



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Riverside to San Diego Commuter Train



Michael H. Momeni, PhD
Sierra Santa Margarita Group

Hop on, East Ontario-Riverside to San Diego Using Commuter Train
As you might be aware, we have been pushing for the creation of a commuter electric train connecting Riverside and San Diego through the Temecula Valley. But why are we strongly advocating it?  A list of the significant reasons would include:



A. Jobs and Commuting:  We need an adequate income to support ourselves and our families, ideally working in a position commensurate with our education, training and experience.  We need more than a minimum wage to pay for living expenses such as rent or mortgage, transportation, food, and various types of insurance.  Many higher paying jobs are located close to major urban areas. Unfortunately, our region provides only a fraction of the jobs needed to support our population.

B. Housing and Schools:  The cost of housing in metropolitan Los Angeles and San Diego is extremely high. Many of us opted to live in the Temecula Valley region because the cost of housing was still affordable.  Families could live in an area with good schools and easy access to stores and medical facilities. 

C. Societal Impacts: When we commute by car to our employment a significant distance away, we pay a high price in terms of time away from family, friends and the community. Some of us commute in excess of three hours each day and also put in eight or more hours at work. Our time on congested highways exhausts us, depletes our energy and often robs us of our patience and good humor. When we allow ourselves to think about being away from our families for eleven or more hours a day, five days a week, we might feel resentful but also helpless to change the routine. Moreover, commuting is expensive; the costs of a personal car, fuel and maintenance can be a large share of our income. However, commuting allows our families to live in better homes and surroundings, so often the trade-offs seem necessary. 

At present, many of us have no choice but to use our personal car to commute to a job a far distance away. We simply don’t have feasible alternatives. 

D. Environmental Impacts:

We must also consider the physiological costs that a polluted environment incurs when cars on our congested highways spew toxic exhaust. These pollutants damage our personal health, including heart, lungs and nervous system. It is a well-documented fact that automobile exhaust is responsible for many medical and psychological diseases we have been experiencing in our modern society.  Aaron Reuben’s article, “This is your brain on Smog (July/August 2015, Mother Jones), provides a highly persuasive assertion that pollution contributes to inducing many neurological problems, including dementia. The recent article in Los Angeles Times by Tony Barboza and Jon Schleuss (March 2, 2017) indicates that L.A. keeps building [dwellings] near freeways, even though living there makes people sick.  Are you one of the 2.5 million Southern Californians already living in the pollution zone?

We need to consider how the Bullet Train (http://www.hsr.ca.gov/) will impact this problem . It is the system now under construction that will connect San Francisco to Los Angeles with a future option to connect to San Diego through the Inland Empire. By design, the Bullet Train will have infrequent stops and would connect only major cities on its route. Otherwise, it wouldn't be capable of reaching the intended speed and travel time of 220 miles per hour. It will reduce travel time between Northern California and Southern California, supplementing air travel. Because of its high speed and infrequent stops, the Bullet Train cannot be considered a regional commuter train.  

A Commuter Train is a Necessity in the Inland Empire

A commuter train system would ideally serve each city from Riverside to San Diego and would need to operate frequently between early in the morning to late in the evening. 

Benefits:

It would stimulate economic development within the corridor. It would reduce the use of Interstate 15/215 by single commuters.  It would link to the existing commuter train services both in San Diego and Los Angeles counties.  It would improve air quality within the region by removing a large number of commuter cars from the highways. It would improve the safety and quality of life for commuters.


S70 Norfolk, Virginia

Many cities already have opted to provide a mass transit system to commuters. Rapid electric commuter trains are common in many major cities in the world and some of our own major cities.  What does it take to create such a system operating between Riverside and San Diego?  

We must demand that our elected local and the state government officials start planning, designing and constructing an electric commuter train system connecting East Ontario/Riverside to San Diego. 


Note: I gratefully acknowledge suggestions and review of this article by Maryellen Garcia.


Maidenhair Falls Hike


Date: March 18 at 9:00 AM

From Robert Audibert

This 5.5-6 miles hike is moderately difficult with a gain or loss of about 900 feet of elevation.  At the trailhead we will travel past Sycamores, cottonwoods and Palms to Maidenhair Falls; it is a true oasis in the desert. We should have a great hike and the opportunity to observe the desert wild flowers.  We will have climb over or around some large boulders and thorny cacti.

What to bring along and wear?

Bring long 3 liters of water, your lunch and snacks.  I suggest wearing comfortable hiking shoes with soles that don't slip; it is better if it is also waterproof.    I suggest wearing layered outfit, hat, and long pants. Protect your skin by using sunscreen, sunburn is not fun.  




Direction:

Form Temecula, drive south on 79 (Temecula Pkwy) to Warner Springs.  Then turn left onto San Filipe Rd/S2.  Continue driving about 4 or 5 miles then turn left on S22 (Montezuma Valley Rd.) heading to Borrego Springs.  Continue on S22 for about 17 miles.  The trail head is on the left 0.7 miles from the stop sign at Palm Canyon Rd.  If you missed the trail head turn around at the stop sign.  The trail head is on the right 0.7 miles up the hill. 

Please register, and if you would have any question, please contact me, Bob Audibert by email:


or call me at (951)302-1059.

If it rains rain, the hike will be canceled. Passes or permits are not required for this hike. 


See you there.

Note: Bring your camera and share your pictures and comments on this blog.