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Tuesday
May172016

POLITICS/TRANSPORTATION: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, new Expo Line to Santa Monica, "sluggishness"?: Commentary (Kerry Cavanaugh), "Has the new Expo Line been doomed to slow, mediocre service before it even opens?" ....

* Los Angeles Times (Livable City - Kerry Cavanaugh):  "Has the new Expo Line been doomed to slow, mediocre service before it even opens?"  - From the LAT:

The Expo Line extension to Santa Monica starts its official roll Friday, and while there is lots of excitement over an alternative to the dreadful 10 Freeway commute, some transit advocates are pressuring the city of Los Angeles to use traffic signals to help speed up the train. The problem is that L.A.’s newest rapid transit line isn’t rapid enough. The 15-mile ride from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica will take about 46 minutes.

Advocates say Metro could shave a couple of minutes off the travel time if the Los Angeles Department of Transportation gave the trains signal preemption at more intersections. That’s when the approaching trains trigger a signal change to green so they don’t have to stop at the intersection. 

The L.A. Weekly reported last month on the Expo Line sluggishness, prompting a change.org petition urging the LADOT to give priority to trains over cars. The petition calls on city officials to give signal preemption to Expo trains in downtown Los Angeles and "give priority to a three-car train, with maybe 250 people on it, rather than sitting and waiting for vehicle traffic, which carries 1 or 2 persons per car." 

Their frustration is understandable. The new section of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica is speedier than other light rail lines because the train is grade-separated for long stretches and doesn’t have to slow for traffic. When the train is at ground-level, many of the grade intersections have signal preemption and gates installed so cars wait while the train speeds by.

The problem is the first phase of the Expo Line from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City wasn’t similarly designed. That section, for the most part, is at grade and it has many intersections without gates or preemption. Trains have to follow the same rules as cars, and often have to sit at traffic lights. As a result, the eastern section of the line can feel pretty slow.

The LADOT has worked closely with Metro to synchronize the signals so that trains running on schedule should mostly hit green lights. And the trains have signal priority – that is, they can hold a signal green for a couple of extra seconds to make it through the intersection. That helps. But the problem is the synchronization schedule doesn’t account for real-life incidents that slow the trains so they miss the green lights.

But signal preemption in and around downtown may be difficult, if not impossible. The Expo Line merges with the Blue Line and there are intersections where trains pass through about every three minutes. Preemption would mean practically shutting down those intersections, Metro and LADOT officials said.

So, are Expo Line riders doomed to slower-than-desired travel? Not necessarily .....................

Tuesday
May172016

SACRAMENTO: Housing supply/affordability?: Commentary (Dan Walters), "Californians see big housing crisis but don't agree on solutions" ....

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "Californians see big housing crisis but don't agree on solutions" - From the Bee:

Those in California media and politics understand – finally – that there is a housing crisis. However, there’s no agreement on what precisely it is or how it might be addressed.

To many, it’s homelessness – the 100,000-plus people who live in California but have no place to live, by far the largest number of any state. To others, it’s sharply rising housing costs. Our rents average more than $2,000 for a two-bedroom unit, 50 percent higher than the national average, and in high-cost regions they are double that figure. To a small band of demonstrators who showed up at the Capitol on Monday, it is that the “powerful real estate lobby buys and sells the Legislature.”

Housing experts tell us, however, that the underlying issue is a lack of housing. Recent reports indicate that over the last decade we added just three-fourths of the housing our growing population needed, and are still falling behind by about 25,000 units a year.

Our political responses are as varied as our interpretations of the problem ..................

 

Tuesday
May172016

POLITICS/BUSINESS: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, proposed rule change, banks, lawsuits: Commentary (David Lazarus), "Banks likely to sue to deny consumers the right to sue" ....

* Los Angeles Times (David Lazarus):  "Banks likely to sue to deny consumers the right to sue" - From the LAT:

Banks keep saying over and over that arbitration proceedings, as opposed to class-action lawsuits, are the best way for consumers to handle disputes. Yet faced with the prospect of no longer being able to deny consumers the right to sue them, the banking industry is expected to take the deliciously ironic step of suing the federal government.

At issue is a proposed rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would prohibit financial-services firms from placing clauses in contracts stipulating that customers can only arbitrate disagreements. The clauses prevent customers from suing on an individual basis or from joining class-action lawsuits.

“Signing up for a credit card or opening a bank account can often mean signing away your right to take the company to court if things go wrong,” Richard Cordray, director of the federal agency, said after the proposed rule was announced this month. He called mandatory arbitration a "contract gotcha" that "denies groups of consumers the right to seek justice and relief for wrongdoing.”

Arbitration still could be required for individual grievances under the rule, but that's not a very big deal because few consumers file individual suits over small amounts. The big deal here is that financial firms no longer would be able to block consumers from coming together in class-action lawsuits.

The bureau is now receiving public comment on the rule, which has been in the works for months. If finalized, it probably would take effect next year.

   ****

Law firm Morrison Foerster, which advises banks on regulatory matters, concluded in a note to clients last week that if the final rule is similar to what's now on the table, "it seems likely that the proposed rule will be challenged" in court. Other law firms have reached a similar conclusion. "Now the main event begins," said Alston & Bird after the proposed rule was issued ......................

Tuesday
May172016

POLITICS (National): 2016 elections, environmentalist Tom Steyer, super PAC, construction unions?: "Rift Between Labor and Environmentalists Threatens Democratic Turnout Plan" ....

* New York Times:  "Rift Between Labor and Environmentalists Threatens Democratic Turnout Plan" - From the NYT:

WASHINGTON — Two of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies, labor and environmentalists, are clashing over an effort to raise tens of millions of dollars for an ambitious voter turnout operation aimed at defeating Donald J. Trump in the November election.

The rift developed after some in the labor movement, whose cash flow has dwindled and whose political clout has been increasingly imperiled, announced a partnership last week with a wealthy environmentalist, Tom Steyer, to help bankroll a new fund dedicated to electing Democrats.

That joint initiative enraged members of the nation’s biggest construction unions, already on edge about the rising influence of climate-change activists. The building-trades unions view Mr. Steyer’s environmental agenda as a threat to the jobs that can be created through infrastructure projects like new gas pipelines. The dispute, laid bare in a pair of blistering letters sent on Monday to Richard L. Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., underscored the tensions between the two pillars of the Democratic coalition.

 

   ****

The friction is not just confined to the Democratic Party: The labor movement itself is changing. As manufacturing has declined, power has flowed away from the unions representing factory and construction workers and toward public- and service-sector workers. The unions that formed the alliance with Mr. Steyer included the two largest teachers’ unions and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The goal of the new voter turnout “super PAC,” announced last week with an initial goal of raising $50 million, was to ensure that liberal groups did not duplicate their efforts, as had happened in some elections. Some unions were asked to give as much as $1 million. Mr. Steyer, founder of the advocacy group NextGen Climate, announced that he would give $5 million and said it was “highly likely” other unions would participate. But Mr. Steyer has opposed oil and gas projects like the Keystone pipeline, and the construction unions assailed the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s willingness to make common cause with him as an abandonment of their members and the federation’s principles.

In one of the two letters sent on Monday, presidents of seven of the nation’s biggest construction unions threatened to boycott the new get-out-the-vote effort, called For Our Future PAC .

   ****

In a separate and even more harshly worded letter to Mr. Trumka, the president of the 500,000-member laborers union, Terry O’Sullivan, called the partnership a “politically bankrupt betrayal” of union members. “We object to the political agenda of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. being sold to a job-killing hedge fund manager with a bag of cash,” he wrote.

Both letters were provided to The New York Times by a labor official who insisted on anonymity ...................

Monday
May162016

AFTERNOON MEMOS: L.A. County Board of Supervisors, 5th District election, "Sheriff's, firefighters unions spend heavily on candidate in L.A. supervisor's race"; Bay Area, "How bees terrorized neighborhood, killed 2 dogs"; O.C., "Two Democrats likely to advance in the race to replace Sanchez"; also, "Are the Southern California surfers known as the 'Lunada Boys' really a criminal gang?" .... 

***Various items this afternoon from across the spectrum of politics and/or public policy....

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "How bees terrorized neighborhood, killed 2 dogs"

* Orange County Register:  "Two Democrats likely to advance in the race to replace Sanchez"

* Mercury News:  "Are the Southern California surfers known as the 'Lunada Boys' really a criminal gang?"

* Los Angeles Times:  "Sheriff's, firefighters unions spend heavily on candidate in L.A. supervisor's race"