LA Transit Failure, the Norm?

Based on most of the current research, this story about Los Angeles’ failure to entice commuters into transit from their cars from New Geography, has been a big failure, as it has been in Sacramento, see .

An excerpt from New Geography article.

Transit ridership is down in a number of markets, but LA’s declines have attracted a lot of attention – and for good reason. LA has invested billions of dollars in rail transit but has failed to grow ridership, which is still below its 1985 levels. And ridership has actually been falling in recent years, even on the existing core rail lines. (New and expanded lines saw some growth).

I don’t see a grand narrative of transit decline at the national level. I think we need to look at local markets to see what’s going on. The Bay Area has seen pretty good performance vs. LA. New York’s ridership is up substantially in the last couple of decades, with recent declines intuitively related to operational reliability problems. It’s probably the same in other legacy cities like DC, whose Metro system has been problem plagued. Chicago’s rail declines have been tagged as resulting from cannibalization of off-peak trips by Uber and Lyft.

What about LA? A new study attributes the transit declines there to sharply higher vehicle access among the transit dependent population.

The study notes that a relatively small number of people and neighborhoods disproportionately fuel transit ridership. The median number of rides in LA is zero. The authors investigate several potential causes of transit decline – falling gas prices, Uber/Lyft, and neighborhood demographic change – but alight on rising access to vehicles as the most likely culprit.

A defining attribute of regular transit riders is their relative lack of private vehicle access. But between 2000 and 2015, households in the SCAG region, and especially lower-income households, dramatically increased their levels of vehicle ownership. Census data show that from 1990 to 2000 the region added 1.8 million people but only 456,000 household vehicles (or 0.25 vehicles per new resident). From 2000 to 2015, the SCAG region added 2.3 million people and 2.1 million household vehicles (or 0.95 vehicles per new resident).

The growth in vehicle access has been especially dramatic among subsets of the population that are among the heaviest users of transit. Between 2000 and 2015, the share of households in the region with no vehicles fell by 30 percent, and the share of households with fewer vehicles than adults fell 14 percent. Among foreign-born residents, zero-vehicle households were down 42 percent, and those with fewer vehicles than adults were down 22 percent. Finally, among foreign-born households from Mexico, the share of households without vehicles declined an astonishing 66 percent, while households with more adults than vehicles dropped 27 percent. Living in a household without a vehicle is perhaps the strongest single predictor of transit use; the decline of these households has powerful implications for transit in Southern California.

Public transportation is unlikely to fare well when Southern California is flooded with additional vehicles, especially when those vehicles are owned disproportionately by transit’s traditional riders. Much of the region’s built environment is designed to accommodate the presence of private vehicles and to punish their absence. Extensive street and freeway networks link free parking spaces at the origin and destination of most trips. Driving is relatively easy, while moving around by means other than driving is not. These circumstances give people strong economic and social incentives to acquire cars, and —once they have cars —to drive more and ride transit less.

The advantages of automobile access, which are particularly large for low-income people with limited mobility, suggest that transit agencies should not respond to falling ridership by trying to win back former riders who now travel by auto. A better approach may be to convince the vast majority of people who rarely or never use transit to begin riding occasionally instead of driving.

Retrieved February 14, 2018 from


Posted in Transportation

Haven for Hope, Model Homeless Facility

In our area, a strategy helping the homeless (and local residents and business) needs to be developed—capable of sheltering up to 2 or 3 thousand homeless a night—and we suggest basing it on San Antonio’s Haven for Hope program  especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers, see our news release of September 28, 2015 on our News Page

Here is a recent article in the Los Angeles Times about a field trip folks from Los Angeles took to look at Haven for Hope.

An excerpt.

As Orange County officials evacuate the encampments near Angel Stadium, one would have to be extremely callous not to feel compassion for those whose situation is so dire that they have resorted to living in a flimsy tent on a riverbed.

I’m convinced that there is a better approach to homelessness right within our grasp. If you want to get a glimpse of one solution, then I have some advice for you.

Take a trip to San Antonio, Texas.

That’s what I did in January along with a contingent of 41 Orange County officials, including city council members (from 11 cities), nonprofit providers, healthcare and business leaders and state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) to visit Haven for Hope.

That facility is a sprawling and bustling campus that offers housing and transformational, life-saving services for homeless men, women and children in Bexar County, Texas.

Our group of diverse-thinking individuals who visited this remarkable place came to a consensus that is pragmatic and cuts across political lines. That is, homelessness can best be solved in Orange County with a thoughtful, integrated regional effort. Regional and integrated are the key words here.

Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Tustin or any city, including my own Costa Mesa, should not have to go it alone. There is strength in numbers, and we need to integrate the efforts of city, county and state with nonprofits and the private sector. Let’s not forget the faith-based community, which brings the power of the Gospel and a spirit of compassion to the mission.

Now more than ever, we need champions from the private sector with deep pockets and the will to get things done, as well as high-profile, courageous elected officials.

Which brings me back to the story of Haven for Hope. City officials in San Antonio realized that homelessness was more than just a social blight, it was also damaging the local economy. They decided it was high time to fix it.

Luckily, that word reached a well-connected philanthropist Bill Greehey, Valero Energy’s CEO, who committed himself to solving the problem. Greehey put up $10.5 million of his own money and Haven for Hope was born in 2010.

Haven for Hope epitomizes the effectiveness of integration. Nearly every nonprofit in San Antonio that serves the homeless is present on the campus. That adds up to 142 partners providing over 300 services.

The results have been fantastic.

In January 2010, the point-in-time count found 738 homeless on the streets of downtown San Antonio. By January 2017, that dropped 80% to 148.

More than 3,835 people have moved from the transformational campus to permanent housing, with 90% of those not returning to homelessness.

In its first year, there were 3,300 fewer jail bookings in San Antonio. More than 50,000 people have received services since the campus opened.

Remarkably, city and county jails and emergency rooms avoided about $97 million in costs because of Haven for Hope. Each year, about 40,000 medical, dental and vision care services are administered to homeless men, women and children who would otherwise go without.

So, you may ask, who’s paying for all this?

As part of his commitment to Haven for Hope, Greehey searched for private donors outside of San Antonio to finance the project, and 61% percent of the $100.5 million it cost to build the campus came from the private sector.

That’s right, the private sector. Corporations invested in a project that is producing amazing dividends in human capital that you can’t measure on any financial statement.

Retrieved February 1, 2018 from

Posted in Homelessness

Seniors Love the Suburbs

Which is common sense as one gets wiser with age. I know I’m a heck of a lot smarter at 75 than I was at 35.

Today fully 87% of seniors live in the suburbs (as do we) or exurbs, as this article from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

The percentage of the population 65 or over is increasing rapidly both in the United States and in other countries, principally due to declining fertility rates and longer lifespans. Census Bureau projections indicate that the share of the population 65 or over will increase more than one quarter from 2010 to 2020. The Census Bureau population pyramid indicates that the age cohorts reaching 65 over the next 15 years are increasingly large (See photograph above).

The distribution of senior population in the major metropolitan areas is similar to that of the overall population, though seniors tend to be more congregated outside the urban core than people of all ages (Figure 2). Overall, 13.0 percent of the senior population lives in the two Urban Core classifications (CBD or Central Business District and Inner Ring), while 87.0 percent lives in the three classifications outside the Urban Core (Earlier Suburban, Later Suburban and Exurban classifications). This is similar to the distribution of the population of all ages, which is 14.5 percent in the urban core and 85.5 percent in the suburbs and exurbs.

The reality is that senior citizens are predominantly staying in their predominantly suburban or exurban communities. In 2000, 15.5 percent of seniors lived in the urban cores of the major metropolitan areas. By 2010, the share of seniors living in urban cores had declined to 13.7 percent. This included 1.4 percent in the Urban Core: CBD (Central Business District) and 12.3 percent in the Urban Core: Inner Ring. By 2012/2016 the share of senior population living in the urban cores dropped to 13.0 percent, 1.3 percent in the CBDs and 11.7 percent in the Inner Rings. Less than 10 percent of the senior growth (9.4 percent) from 2010 was in the Urban Core.

The overwhelming majority of the senior population growth was in the suburbs and exurbs. In 2010, 86.3 percent of the senior population was suburban or exurban. By 2012/2016, this figure had edged up to 87.0 percent. More than 90 percent of the senior population growth was in the suburbs and exurbs.

These results are counter to the periodic anecdote-based press reports of seniors moving to the urban core. (for example, a Business Insider story “Millions of Seniors Are Moving Back to the Big Cities”). However, anecdotes reveal trends only when they add up, and in this case they do not. The reality is that, since 2000, the net increase in the urban core senior population has been nearly 85 percent short of a single million (only 156,000). In contrast, the senior increase in the suburbs and exurbs has been nearly six times a million (5,900,000). Seniors, like other age groups, increasingly live in the suburbs and exurbs.

In numeric terms, the Later Suburbs (generally outer suburbs) gained approximately 1.25 million seniors. The Earlier Suburbs (generally inner suburbs) gained nearly 1.1 million, while the exurbs gained 700,000. These more automobile oriented components of metropolitan areas gained considerably more than the Urban Core components. The Urban Core: Inner Ring added nearly 250,000, while the Urban Core: CBD added 30,000.

With the increasing share that seniors represent of the overall population, the growth rates are substantial in each of the City Sector Model categories. Senior population has been growing at 3.6 percent annually in the major metropolitan areas. This is approximately five times the recent rate for the total population in the United States.

Retrieved February 7, 2018 from


Posted in demographics

North Sacramento Homeless Facility Increasing Homeless

North Sacramento, which is ground zero in the large-scale and long-term illegal camping by the homeless in the Parkway, warned the city that placing a homeless center in their already over-burdened neighborhood, would increase the problem.

It has.

This story from the Sacramento Bee reports and note the final four paragraphs of the excerpt.

An excerpt.

The city’s new winter “triage” shelter in North Sacramento was supposed to be a place where homeless campers would spend a few weeks or months before moving into stable housing with the help of a team of service providers.

But so far, the promise of relocating chronically homeless people into apartments and houses has mostly gone unfulfilled.

As of last week, 252 people had spent time at the shelter since its opening on Dec. 8, said Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator. Forty-eight people voluntarily left the facility, she said. Only eight had moved into housing units.

Halcon and others said a lack of affordable housing in the capital city, particularly for people who suffer from mental health and addiction problems, has been the biggest obstacle.

“The availability of housing at an affordable rate is very limited,” Halcon said, as evidenced by the fact that tens of thousands of people recently have applied to join a waiting list for 7,000 subsidized housing slots in Sacramento. “If you’re one of our guests and you’re lining up behind people who have a job and transportation, your odds are not great.”

Still the shelter, which operates around the clock and offers meals, restroom facilities, pet care and “wrap-around” services designed to put guests on a path toward housing and stability, has had some successes, Halcon said.

“We are seeing people coming off of the river for the first time in 30 years, so that in itself can be viewed as a success,” she said. “For many of them, connecting with a case manager, getting an ID or going to the doctor are huge successes. Are they all going to get housing? Maybe not. But we are working with them and will continue to engage with them,” even after the shelter closes at the end of March.

Among the guests at the winter facility are three people who, collectively, “have been homeless for 120 years,” said Christie Holderegger of Volunteers of America, which is contracting with the city to operate the shelter. “Between them, they have made about 400 visits to emergency rooms and have been in jail 39 times. Now they’re sheltered.”

Many guests have untreated mental illnesses and severe addictions, and service providers are helping people take the first steps toward addressing them, Holderegger said.

With three social service case managers from Volunteers of America, and three more from the city’s new Whole Person Care program, the converted warehouse on Railroad Drive near Del Paso Boulevard “is the most service rich shelter for single adults currently in operation,” Halcon said. But some guests need more complicated treatment than the shelter can offer, and the community lacks enough services for people with little or no income.

“The community needs more mental health dollars,” said Halcon. “Without access to enriched substance abuse and mental health services, the people we serve will be getting only part of what they need.”

The winter shelter, part of a broad plan that Mayor Darrell Steinberg has outlined to deal with Sacramento’s burgeoning homeless crisis, costs the city approximately $1.3 million to operate. It gives priority to men and women who live in encampments in and around North Sacramento, officials have said….

Some North Sacramento residents complain that the shelter has brought more problems to their neighborhood, which already has high crime and poverty rates.

“The city told us that their priority would be sheltering people camping in this area,” said Woodlake resident Elaine Jackson. But instead, Jackson said, “people are coming from all over” in hopes of entering the facility. “There are more homeless people here than ever.”

Halcon pointed out that North Sacramento has long had many homeless encampments. But the issue “is more visible now,” she said, because of the public attention on the shelter. “People are now looking at this area, and they’re seeing the encampments.”

Shane Curry, president of the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Jackson that the more homeless people have arrived in the neighborhood since the shelter opened.

“There definitely is an increase of homeless people along the boulevard,” said Curry, who owns a business near Del Paso and Arden Way. “I see the impact on a daily basis. I see faces that I recognize, but I also see new faces.”

Retrieved February 5, 2018 from

Posted in Homelessness

Government Confusion Around Homelessness

This article from the Sacramento News & Review portrays the confusion government exhibits when it tries to deal with the issue and lays at the root of why neighborhoods don’t trust its actions when trying to place homeless facilities nearby.

An excerpt.

On a bleak afternoon, a group of men and women stand at the gates of the city’s new winter triage center, a gray, cavernous warehouse anchored almost directly under the levee that many were just camping on. Beyond its fence, a few soiled tents still straddle the bike path up on the earthen wall, where a mammoth encampment was once visible from a bridge on Arden Way.

While the line of canvas dwellings is mostly gone, the wind moves over another sight across the water—long piles of garbage strewn throughout the brush and trees. A few campers still hold out here, surrounded by mounds of plastic bags, rusted gear, aluminum clutter, empty syringes and stray propane tanks.

As the gale grows colder, Ramona Jasper huddles near the gate to the triage shelter. She and her husband Anthony Moss are relieved to be out of the frigid temperatures. Last spring, the couple was rousted numerous times while camping along Steelhead Creek. They were hopeful about Councilman Allen Warren’s proposed tent city. When Mayor Darrel Steinberg tabled the idea, the threat of another winter darkened. But the temporary triage center Steinberg championed does offer some of the promises of Warren’s concept, including safety, hot meals, toilets, sinks, showers and a place for pets.

“I’m very grateful,” Jasper said. “I have no complaints.”

Other people staying inside the shelter were equally positive about its services. However, the temporary shelter is just that—temporary. City officials acknowledge that their next move when the center closes March 31 is an open question mark.

Now, the negative publicity the shelter garnered during its launch, and its rough opening weeks of operation, have some advocates worried about the political minefield the city will have to traverse while planning its future strategy. Also dogging the mission, even for some shelter supporters, is the failure of city and county leaders to do something practical about camping-related pollution in Sacramento’s creeks and rivers.

Critics and homeless advocates alike noticed that it took a week longer than Steinberg promised to open the shelter in December. Even now, the shelter isn’t accepting as many guests as advertised.

The city’s strategy for admitting people through its police impact team and outreach navigators also hurt the endeavor’s image, as the process left dozens still camping—almost right in front of the facility—for several weeks after it opened. Making matters worse, rumors swirled that homeless individuals could only get in if they had contact with police officers. A history of losing camping supplies to the department made some reluctant to seek access.

Nikki Jones, a single mother currently experiencing homelessness, tried to inquire about getting into the shelter. Jones says she called Sacramento Steps Forward for information, but was told the agency’s system wasn’t updated, and was then advised to call 211 for details on the center.

“I called 211 for a referral, but they knew nothing about it,” Jones recalled.

One person monitoring the shelter confusion was Eye On Sacramento member Nancy Kitz. While Kitz agrees with taking lifesaving action during winter, she thinks the triage center has been mismanaged.

“It lacked public participation,” Kitz said. “There was never an effort to engage the community in the beginning, and that’s really continuing to haunt this project.”

But officials stress the center has now brought 244 people out of the cold since opening. The city’s homeless services coordinator, Emily Halcon, said people staying in the center have access to health services and outreach workers trying to find them housing options. When the shelter closes, Halcon added, the city will look to leverage its Whole Person Care grant for homeless relief.

“We’re actively looking for other sites for another shelter,” Halcon said. “Adding additional shelter capacity is on the wish list, but we have to do it in consultation with the community.”

Referencing criticisms that the city put too much emphasis on mustering shelter resources in north Sacramento, Halcon acknowledged, “We’re open to all different ways. There’s a need everywhere in the city.”

Steinberg announced last week during his state of the city address that he plans to bring 1,000 “tiny home” living units to Sacramento in the next two years.

Yet, as the city looks for community buy-in on new shelter sites and the tiny homes push, it’s also running into anger from residents who think it, along with county leaders, are ignoring an environmental emergency tied to the scope of homelessness.

Jane Macaulay, a member of the Woodlake Creating Transparency Neighborhood Association, has produced videos and slide shows on the extent of camp-related garbage strewn across and into north Sacramento’s waterways. Members of the American River Parkway Preservation Society are also voicing concern, demanding more clean-up and sanitary action.

“Allen Warren should not give one bloody dime to anymore nonprofits, he should spend it on dumpsters, so there’s a place to put the trash,” Macaulay said.

The Board of Supervisors increased its budget this year for parkway cleanup, though the money was earmarked for the razing of camps rather than adding dumpsters for homeless people to use.

District 6 Councilman Eric Guerra said an expanded dumpster program will probably only happen if there is greater cooperation between the city, county, local businesses, sanitation districts and the American River Parkway joint-powers authority.

“There are all these agencies trying to tackle the problem from different directions, but we haven’t come up with a countywide strategy,” Guerra told SN&R. “If we had a more thoughtful approach on how to pool our resources, we could free up money for something like commercial dumpsters. … Right now we’re playing whack-a-mole.”

Retrieved February 1, 2018 from





Posted in Government, Homelessness

Very Good News About Salmon

This story from the Fresno Bee is wonderful news.

An excerpt.

As work to restore the San Joaquin River continues, scientists are seeing promising signs that salmon can thrive in the river as hatchery fish reach new milestones.

A recent breakthrough came in fall 2017, when spring-run Chinook salmon created their nests, called redds, in the deeper and colder parts of the river below Friant Dam. The fish successfully spawned, laying eggs that incubated and hatched into tiny fry as the sexually mature fish died, part of the species’ unusual life cycle.

Biologists working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s San Joaquin River Restoration Project began catching the juvenile fish in traps in November and December.

It was the first time in 60 years that spring-run Chinook successfully reproduced in the embattled San Joaquin, which for years has remained one of the nation’s most endangered rivers.

“Having these spring-run spawn in the river really starts to build scientific evidence that yes, spawning is possible,” said Alicia Forsythe, the restoration program manager. “One year doesn’t prove that this is going to work in the future and everything is great … We definitely need to see a number of years of data to help us come to those conclusions. But, it’s promising.”

Spring-run Chinook essentially disappeared from the San Joaquin after the Friant Dam was completed in the 1940s, drying out a 60-mile stretch of the river for more than half a century. Salmon couldn’t complete their journey back from the ocean to the river where they reproduce.

Federal officials, farmers and conservationists in 2006 ended an 18-year lawsuit with a settlement to reconnect the river with the ocean and revive long-dead salmon runs. Experimental flows began in 2009. The settlement’s two goals are to restore the river and fish populations while continuing to honor water rights and provide irrigation supplies to farmers.

Retrieved January 31, 2018 from

Posted in Hatcheries

Water Storage Ideas

Some very good ideas from Water Deeply, though nothing beats a big dam for addressing all three water storage benefits—flood control, storage, hydroelectric power.

An excerpt.

One of the persistent myths about California water policy is that we haven’t built new water storage facilities since the 1970s. But a careful examination reveals that water agencies have built hundreds of storage projects over the past four decades. Those projects reflect a wide range of new approaches to meet 21st century water needs. Recognizing this progress can help develop more sustainable water policies.

Three factors explain why storage is central to meeting California’s water needs. Our state is remarkably dry for half of the year, with the greatest water demand coming during the dry summer. Roughly 75 percent of water demand is in the south, while 70 percent of the precipitation is in the north. Finally, year-to-year, California’s climate is among the most variable in the world. Conservation and other strategies can reduce reliance on storage, but it will remain a key water management tool.

Prior to 1978, the dominant storage strategy was a simple one: find a river and build a dam. In 1923, the first large dam in the state was completed, forming Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. And in 1978, construction was completed on New Melones Dam, the last large water supply dam on a major California river. During the intervening 55 years, water agencies built 800 dams – more than a dam a month for half a century.

However, after 1978, water agencies changed direction, discovering creative ways to store water. These new strategies differ dramatically from the approach used from 1923 to 1978.

Instead of focusing on damming rivers, new strategies include off-stream reservoirs and groundwater storage – often at a fraction of the cost. Water managers realized that improved management can provide more storage without expensive new infrastructure. For example, water managers have built, or are planning, new storage by restoring wet mountain meadows, expanding floodplains and by jointly operating reservoirs and groundwater aquifers.

Instead of relying on rivers as the sole source of water for storage, some new projects tap into nontraditional sources, such as urban stormwater and recycled water. The amount of new water available is impressive. The State Water Resources Control Board has a goal of developing 3 million acre-feet of supply from stormwater and recycled water, compared with 2002 levels. That’s far more than the average deliveries of the State Water Project. These new supplies show up in surprising places. For example, the largest untapped “river” in Southern California is a sewage treatment facility – the Los Angeles Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant – with its outfall nearly equal to the Santa Ana River flow, the biggest natural Southern California river.

Traditional storage projects maximize average water deliveries. In recent decades, however, conservation has flattened the growth of urban demand. As a result, water managers have focused more on projects to ensure reliable dry year supplies.

Instead of large reservoirs hundreds of miles from cities and farms, new storage projects are decentralized and closer to demand centers, with a wide range of benefits.

Finally, traditional dams have severely harmed the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, rivers, fish and wildlife, and the fishing economy. Today, water managers have found ways to store water without environmental damage and, in some cases, with significant fish and wildlife benefits.

Two proposed storage projects illustrate many of these new strategies.

The Contra Costa Water District is planning to expand its Los Vaqueros Reservoir. Water from the project would largely be dedicated to two uses. First, it would provide drought year supplies to help Bay Area communities – potentially including the East Bay, Silicon Valley and San Francisco – to better withstand the droughts that may become more severe and frequent as the impacts of climate change grow. By building storage close to these cities, water managers are increasing local control, reducing uncertainty and better ensuring that dry year supplies will be available when the next drought comes.

Second, Contra Costa Water District proposes to dedicate up to half of the project’s water – if funded by the California Water Commission – to managed wetlands south of the Delta. This would represent the largest single block of new water for California waterbird habitats since a federal law was passed a quarter century ago to improve wetland supplies. This project would reverse the impacts of past traditional dams on the most important wintering waterfowl habitat in the West.

In another example, a Southern California project shows more characteristics of new storage strategies. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power plans to clean up contaminated San Fernando Valley groundwater to allow the department to store recycled water, urban stormwater and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water in wet years. Thus, instead of one water source, like traditional dams, this project would have three sources. Because recycled water is relatively unaffected by drought, this new storage can be more reliable during dry years. Recycled water projects were not previously considered to be storage projects – yet they clearly are.

Retrieved January 30, 2018 from

Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam, Water