Thursday, July 29, 2010

Questions Remain About Chevy Volt

I am still personally mixed on the Chevy Volt. I want to like it because it is a big leap for GM going green and boosting the American auto industry. And the fact that it goes 40 miles to a charge and that most commuters don't go above that mileage in a day is encouraging.

But what I'm concerned about -- and the EPA as well -- is those drivers who commute long distances and switch from electric to the gas generator frequently. The EPA has yet to figure out a way to test the fuel efficiency of the Volt, but some people put the estimate at around 33 mpg once the gas generator kicks in.

If Volt owners commute a hundred miles a day and don't bother to charge the vehicle overnight, well then that isn't a very fuel-efficient vehicle.

I hope that most drivers will only use EV mode in the 40 mile range. But my preference at this point is for the 100% electric Nissan Leaf, Toyota's Plug-in Prius and CODA Automotive. Those car companies are hedging their bets that people will overcome "range anxiety" and that the charging infrastructure will be more available across America.

Plus the Leaf is $33,000 before tax breaks while GM just announced the Volt will sell for $41,000 before tax breaks. That $8,000 could make a big difference with consumers who want to go electric.

Also, the Leaf has a 100-mile charging range which is more appealing than the Volt's 40 miles for eco-minded consumers who don't want to ever pump gas into their vehicle.

Here are some videos of the Volt. Again, I hope it succeeds for all the jobs and optimism it is creating. But I fear it won't be competitive with the Leaf and other EVs on the market and that it won't be as green and fuel efficient as initially advertised. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

DC and NYC Ramp Up Recycling Efforts

For decades New York City was famous for its trash. Gotham was associated with garbage for good reason as the city's streets, sidewalks and subways were literally littered with every object imaginable.

Well, a lot has changed in The Big Apple besides the reputation New Yorkers have earned since 9/11 as being genuinely nicer and respectful to each other.

New York is making a concerted effort to go green by promoting recycling as an option in subway stations, street corners and businesses. Here are a couple of pictures I snapped of recycling in NYC:

Recycling bin in Battery Park.

Recycling bin in Cortlandt St. subway station in downtown NYC.
And down in D.C. while the Senate is stalled on comprehensive climate change and clean energy legislation, at least their office buildings provide a recycling option for our lawmakers as this one in Hart demonstrates.

And not to be outdone, the House of Representatives is going green as well with recycling bins in their office buildings like this one in Rayburn.

NYC: Bike City

After a string of highly publicized bicycle fatalities in New York City, there is a noticeable effort to make cycling safer with signage and an educational campaign. The website Look NYC aims to change the behavior of both cyclists and motorists to create a culture of respect and safety.

Of course that is easier said than done in a place like New York where some people will simply play by their own rules and put theirs and other lives at risk. Since arriving in NYC I've seen multiple bikers ripping right through red lights; as well as cab drivers, bus drivers and other motorists getting incredibly aggressive near bicyclists. But at least the city is trying to do something about it.

That said, overall NYC has become a great place for bicycling. There is a wonderful new bike path in Battery Park close to the WTC site that is well-marked and well lit at night with smooth pavement. It is just one example of the efforts New York City is making to become a bike-friendly metropolis.

And of course this being New York, even biking can turn into a political statement as the picture below demonstrates. For more information on biking New York visit NYC Bike Maps, Bike New York and Ride the City.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hope Rises At Ground Zero

President Obama is in NYC for a couple of Democratic fundraisers. Justin Timberlake and Woody Harrelson are filming "Friends With Benefits" in Battery Park. But the biggest buzz in the Big Apple is at the World Trade Center site.

Since 9/11 the WTC site has been a national eyesore -- a symbol of our misplaced priorities, political paralysis and inability to move on after that tragic day in American history. The Mets, Yankees, Giants and Jets all received shiny new stadiums while Ground Zero sadly remained a graveyard. Many people wondered why we could build gleaming new sports stadiums but couldn't quickly rebuild Ground Zero.

Well, I am happy to report that excitement is building at Ground Zero. The place is a beehive of activity as the pace of construction speeds up and new structures such as the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Museum and Memorial arise from the ashes of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

Personally I wasn't prepared for the emotional impact of finally seeing the new WTC site taking shape -- especially after so many years of visiting the area and seeing little progress. While the sense of unimaginable suffering and loss is still palpable around Ground Zero, there is a new feeling of optimism and hope that we can and will rebuild not only the physical space but also the thousands of shattered lives that were forever altered on that fateful day in New York City.

Below are video and pictures I took yesterday of the amazing progress at Ground Zero.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Clean Energy Revolution At The Local Level

While the Senate is back to their usual paralysis when it comes to passing comprehensive climate change and clean energy legislation, local communities across America aren't sitting on their laurels waiting for Washington to act. Many localities are initiating renewable energy projects on their own and it is part of the quiet green revolution taking place across this great country.

For example, I'm vacationing in Eastern Long Island -- The Hamptons and Montauk -- about 90 miles east of New York City. Browsing the local newspapers revealed this headline in The East Hampton Press: "Town Board Backs Turbine in Split Vote."

They approved the installation of a 10-kilowatt wind turbine and three Republicans voted in favor of the project! The 120-foot tall turbine with 23-foot blades would be the first of its kind in East Hampton and won out over some residents' concerns over noise and aesthetics. It is estimated it will save the farm it will reside on $2,000 a year in energy costs.

These are exactly the types of projects that are being debated by town councils large and small all over America. It is comforting to know that communities aren't waiting for Washington to finally get their act together but are taking the initiative to join the global race for a clean energy future.

A Healthy Alternative to Smoking Cigarettes?

In the past few weeks I've seen electronic cigarettes for sale at The Grove in Los Angeles and Union Station in Washington, D.C. At first glance it seems this new technology satisfies the oral fixation and nicotine kick without the cancer-causing toxic tar and smoke from a traditional cigarette.

You are basically inhaling vapor instead of the lung-burning smoke. There are different flavors that can be used and everything is powered by a lithium-iron battery.

But is it a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes?

It depends who you ask.

Right now e-cigs can't be promoted as smoking cessation devices because the FDA has not approved them. During limited studies they have found diethylene glycol, one of the toxic compounds of antifreeze. But this was apparently found in a Chinese-made e-cig that isn't typical of most companies selling the product.

In my opinion caution should be applied until conclusive results are formed about this product by the FDA and other regulatory agencies. And there is still no better way to stop the nicotine habit then not using cigarettes at all. But for those people who are deeply addicted smokers, the risks of traditional cigarettes far outweigh any perceived risks associated with e-cigs.

This is an excerpt from the website

Brad Rodu, a tobacco researcher at the University of Kentucky in Louisville, considers e-cigarettes a better alternative for smokers who absolutely can't break their addiction.

"We can't say these are perfectly safe, but with everything we know about them we can certainly say they are vastly safer than continuing to light cigarette tobacco on fire and inhaling the 3,000 or 4,000 chemicals that cigarette smokers are doing right now," Rodu said.

Making Connecticut Avenue Safe For Pedestrians

In general D.C. is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the country. The Nation's Capital is almost always ranked as one of the most walkable destinations in America. And for the most part this is true. And having recently moved from Los Angeles -- one of the hardest places to be a pedestrian -- I've found walking in the Washington area to be incredibly safe and easy.

But this is not the case in all of the District, as a trip along Connecticut Avenue near Chevy Chase revealed. The traffic races along the street at high speeds and the crosswalks not placed at traffic lights are dangerous because pedestrians aren't sure if motorists will stop for them. I saw this phenomenon in L.A. but didn't expect to see it in D.C. 

These crosswalks placed in-between intersections are dangerous for both pedestrians and drivers. Neither should have to play the guessing game.

Thankfully, a community group has formed called Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action, or CAPA. Their goal is to make the street safe for pedestrians by working with the District Department of Transportation to for example increase red light times so pedestrians aren't rushed to cross the street. 

In May 2009 they applied for and were awarded a grant from the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center to perform a pedestrian safety audit. The preliminary results can be found at their website by clicking here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Washington, DC: Bike City

Moving from the bike-hostile environment of Los Angeles (just ask L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about his bike accident) to bike-friendly Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Virginia has been pure pleasure.

While L.A. is set to start moving forward with its 2010 Bike Plan, the D.C. area has been working hard for years to put in place a bicycle infrastructure and a bike-friendly culture. After nine years in car-crazy Southern California I've been exploring D.C. on my bike and here are some initial observations.

As always Arlington -- the urban county across the Potomac River from the Nation's Capital -- is a paradise for bike riders. There are bicycle lanes, bike sharrows, bike shops and bicycle signage all over the county. The website BikeArlington provides a wealth of resources for Arlington bike commuters.

And Arlington will be participating in phase two of D.C.'s bike sharing program. Capital Bikeshare will be launched in September of this year with plans for more than 100 bikesharing stations and more than 1,000 bikes.

Across the Potomac River, D.C. has been holding its own in terms of being as bike-friendly as possible. The website Bike Washington provides information on topics such as bike trails and upcoming events.

Two new projects are helping put D.C. on the map when it comes to national bike-friendly communities. The Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes officially opened on June 22 with much fanfare. D.C. Mayor Adrien Fenty and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were on hand to dedicate the new lanes.

According to the Washington Post story, the District has more than 50 miles of bike lanes with a goal of increasing that number to 80. Also, the Census Bureau reports that the number of Washington area bike commuters doubled from 2000-2008, exceeding 2 percent of all commuters.

The Bikestation at Union Station is one of the most striking architectural designs in the city. Shaped like a bicycle wheel, the facility provides indoor bicycle parking and rents out bikes through Bike and Roll. It is a potent and stunning visual reminder that D.C. is serious about transforming into one of the top bike-friendly places not only in the United States but indeed the entire world.

The 1,600 sq. ft. facility houses over 100 bicycles and is the first of its kind on the East Coast. The facility also provides a changing room, lockers, bike repairs and retail items for sale. Its location at Union Station offers a seamless connection from the Metro Red Line or Circulator Bus to your securely stored bicycle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

East Coast Heat Wave Silences Climate Change Deniers

Remember how all the climate change deniers came out of the woodwork during last winter's Snowpocalypse? Well, in case you forgot here is a refresher on how they manipulated this weather-related event to turn it into an attack on the science of climate change.

Sean Hannity: "It’s the most severe winter storm in years, which would seem to contradict Al Gore’s hysterical global warming theories."

Newt Gingrich: "Historic snow storm in Washington – third this year – where is Al Gore to explain it snows this heavily as a sign global warming is imminent."

Fast forward to this summer's record-breaking East Coast Heat Wave and where are the climate change deniers now? In their minds if the epic snow storm last winter disproves global warming, wouldn't this unprecedented heat prove it? Of course the real science says that these are mostly weather-related events, not climate events. But that climate change is producing more extreme weather events and that we should get used to more unusually hot summers and cold winters and weird weather in general.

For some perspective on how hot it is, I took these pictures at the bank by my mom's house in North Arlington. It was 92 degrees fahrenheit at 10 p.m.

And when I arrived in New York City yesterday they were in the middle of one of their worst heat waves on record. From the Associated Press:

"In New York City, temperatures in July have averaged 5.5 degrees above normal, according to the private weather service AccuWeather.

The stifling heat this summer seems to be part of a global trend. So far, 2010 is on track to overtake 2005 as the warmest year recorded for the planet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

And today I took the Long Island Railroad Express Train from Manhattan to the Hamptons and found out that there were reports of a waterspout, which is a tornado that develops over water. This is what scientists would call "global weirding" -- strange weather phenomena due to climate change. From the Long Island Press:

"Call it the summer of unusual weather. For Long Islanders on the East End, severe thunderstorms caused power outages and widespread damage Wednesday evening.

East Hampton took the brunt of the beating from the storm, according to National Weather Service forecasters in Upton, which reported that there was also a waterspout sighting. A waterspout is a tornado that occurs over the water. Downed power lines and uprooted trees were also reported."

But I'll let the climate change deniers speak for themselves. This is video of ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl confronting Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is a famous climate change denier.

In the interview Inhofe says the planet is going through a "cooling period" and that is what all the scientists say. Sorry Mr. Inhofe but you are wrong. From Wikipedia:

"In contrast to the global cooling conjecture, the current scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth has not durably cooled, but undergone global warming throughout the twentieth century."

And this is an excerpt from a story by an AP Science Reporter on titled "Statistics rejects global cooling."

"An analysis of global temperatures by independent statisticians shows the Earth is still warming and not cooling as some global warming skeptics are claiming.

The analysis was conducted at the request of The Associated Press to investigate the legitimacy of talk of a cooling trend that has been spreading on the Internet, fueled by some news reports, a new book and temperatures that have been cooler in a few recent years.

In short, it is not true, according to the statisticians who contributed to the AP analysis.

The statisticians, reviewing two sets of temperature data, found no trend of falling temperatures over time."

But the climate change deniers seem to be unperturbed by actual facts. And when someone at the level of Mr. Inhofe spouts out these spurious claims it has real consequences for the planet as Senator Harry Reid found out recently when he didn't have enough votes to move forward with comprehensive climate change and clean energy legislation.

But thankfully there are sane Senators such as Bernie Sanders who are not afraid to stand up for the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and the need for urgent action.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

News Headlines: Whitman Against High-Speed Rail

Whitman, Brown on opposite sides of high-speed rail tracks (San Mateo County Times)
California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has come out against high-speed rail in California because of the state's fiscal crisis. Democratic candidate Jerry Brown is in favor of high-speed rail because he says it would create jobs, relieve transportation congestion and protect the environment.

Mayor Villarigosa breaks elbow in bicycle accident (LA Times)
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa broke his elbow in a bicycle accident Saturday evening, a spokesman said. The mayor was riding in the bicycle lane on Venice Boulevard in Mid-City at about 6:50 p.m. when a taxi abruptly pulled in front of him. The mayor hit his brakes and fell off the bike.

Mayor Villaraigosa, the Need To Take Action for Safer Streets in Los Angeles is Now Painfully Clear (LACBC Blog)
LACBC is saddened to hear about Mayor Villaraigosa’s recent bicycle crash. First and foremost, we wish Mayor Villaraigosa a quick recovery. However, many local bicyclists can relate to the mayor’s experience all too well. The injury suffered by Mayor Villaraigosa on Venice Boulevard makes clear the need for safer streets for all road users in Los Angeles.

Southern California gets 1 million smart meters (
Southern California Edison (SCE) has installed one-fifth of the 5 million smart meters that it plans to swap in for customers by 2012.

Stephen H. Schneider dies at 65; Stanford expert on climate change (LA Times)
Stephen H. Schneider, a Stanford University biologist on the vanguard of climate-change research for four decades, who argued eloquently on human culpability in global warming and willingly threw himself into the political fray to explain and defend the scientific evidence, has died. He was 65.

SeaWorld group funds wildlife work (SD Union-Tribune)
The non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund said Thursday that it would spread more than $1 million across 95 wildlife protection programs worldwide.

$122 million to turn sunlight into fuel (OC Register)
A group of California universities that includes UC Irvine landed a $122 million grant Thursday to attempt a scientific breakthrough: converting sunlight directly into fuel.

Happy 20th birthday, Metro Rail! (The Source)
Metro today runs 79 miles of rail mass transit on four different lines in Los Angeles County.

Video: Take a partial tour of the Expo Line's route between Culver City and Santa Monica (LAist)
Since last week, this fun video featuring a portion of the right-of-way for the Expo Line's second phase has been making the rounds.

The Department of Energy has posted an informative video about Concentrating Solar Power, or CSP. This form of renewable energy could be more prevalent in the Southwest United States in the next few years and will increasingly contribute to the power grid in the future.

Lance Loves The Leaf

While Lance Armstrong's new Nissan Leaf commercial has been airing constantly during the Tour de France on Versus, here is a longer video in which Armstrong explains the excitement surrounding the soon-to-be launched all-electric, zero emissions car. He calls the no tailpipe concept "the next level" and a "tipping point" in technological innovation.

Here are a couple more videos to salivate over until the Leaf hits the highway.

The Nissan Leaf Apple iAd:

CNET previews the Nissan Leaf:

Congress, Obama Put Climate Bill on Back Burner

In a potentially fatal blow to comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, the Democratic leadership in the Senate has abandoned a major climate bill in favor of scaled back legislation because there are not enough votes.

This news is incredibly disappointing to those who believed President Obama and the Democrats in Congress would push a renewable energy and climate change bill with the same vigor and urgency that they did for the Recovery Act, Health Care Reform and Wall Street Reform.

If the Democrats wait until the next Congress to push a comprehensive climate bill, it will be much harder because the Republicans are expected to at least grab a few more seats if not more. Obama and the Senate leadership had their chance but chose to use all their energy on Health Care and Financial Reform. What a pity. A clean energy policy for America is urgent and necessary for a healthy economy and a healthy environment.

Why isn't Obama summoning the Republican and Democratic leadership to the White House like he did for the Health Care Reform bill? The fact that Obama is not championing clean energy legislation with the same sense of urgency that he did for Health Care Reform is a failure of leadership and is one of the most disappointing developments so far in Obama's presidency. He could have gotten the Republicans on board easier than he did with Health Care Reform because this is about America staying competitive with countries like China and Germany that have poured massive amounts of money into clean energy research and development and production.

A comprehensive climate and clean energy bill should have been on equal footing with Health Care Reform and Financial Reform. This bill would have been the number one job creator and perhaps within a few years we could have had wind farms and tidal power farms off the coast of Louisiana in addition to oil.

We are not only talking about keeping America competitive in the global marketplace by creating clean energy manufacturing jobs, but more importantly fighting rapid climate change so there is a future for our children and grandchildren. Americans consume more energy per capita than any other country and emit more carbon into the atmosphere than any other country so we have a special responsibility to protect the planet for future generations.

After today's devastating news, I'm not so sure this country has the ability anymore to do big things. While the Gulf Coast soaks in oil and we keep buying gas-guzzling SUVs and consuming like there is no tomorrow, we will continue to hemorrhage clean energy jobs to China and Europe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lance Armstrong's New Nissan Leaf Commercial

I was watching the Tour de France on Versus today and saw this new Nissan Leaf spot starring Lance Armstrong. The Nissan Leaf is a zero emissions, no tailpipe electric car that will be on the market at the end of this year.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Green SoCal Visits Venice Eco Fest

Venice Beach is known for the green that gets you high. And of course there was plenty of that type of green in the air. But last Saturday there was another type of green in the air (along with some surprise rain). The third annual Venice Eco Fest -- presented by the Venice Chamber of Commerce and Earth Day LA -- was fun for the whole family with clean energy vendors, healthy sustainable food and a solar-powered stage with great musicians.

"I think it's great because it generates community, people come together," said Sun Air Skylights sales associate Marissa. "They are all here for one cause -- supporting products that are good for the earth."

Marissa was in Venice promoting environmentally friendly products like Solatube, above, which provides natural sunlight into rooms during the day -- saving on energy and reducing dependence on the power grid.

Toyota was out in full force promoting their Prius plug-in hybrid concept car that should be on the market in 2013. The 2010 Prius was also on display. The hybrid gets 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.

Winner for best sign goes to Gas 2 Electric Inc. They had a gas-to-electric converted truck on display with the below message. Brilliant.

The solar-powered music stage was rocking all day and was the scene of a couple of celebrity sightings.

Former Laker players Rick Fox and John Salley were seen around the stage area. Salley chatted up Tree Man as the picture below shows. Tree Man is an iconic figure on the Venice boardwalk. His dance moves were amazing.

Invest Green founder Paul Mosier was at the event promoting environmentally-friendly investing.

"The reason I'm in the Venice Eco Fest is because the kinds of people that come to this are the kinds of people that have concern for the environment and are excited about things like solar power or the high speed train," said Mosier. "Anywhere I can find people that have a concern for the environment, human rights or the other social criteria are the kinds of people I want to be around so I can preach to the choir."

Here is video of the music at the festival. Enjoy!

Sinai Temple Goes Green

The fight against climate change is not a political issue to be debated between the right and the left. It is a moral and religious issue about what type of planet we are going to leave future generations. That is why I was encouraged to see a large religious institution like Sinai Temple -- a conservative synagogue in West L.A. -- go green.

The synagogue with Newsweek's number one pulpit rabbi in America -- David Wolpe -- has set up a Green Committee. Here is the mission statement: "It is the mission of the Green Committee of Sinai Temple to research, develop and institute positive environmental initiatives for Sinai Temple and to educate and promote these programs within Sinai Temple and to its congregants."

At the popular Friday Night Live shabbat service for young professionals I noticed that Sinai has installed waterfree urinals in all their bathrooms to reduce their carbon footprint. Kudos to Sinai Temple for going green!

How to Offset Your Carbon Footprint

Recently I've offset my carbon from a cross-country flight and a train trip from Los Angeles to San Diego. It is really easy to do. Airlines such as Virgin America and national train operator Amtrak provide a link to Carbon Fund after you purchase your tickets.

And you even get a brand new e-certificate to show off to all your friends on Facebook that you donated to help fight global warming by offsetting your carbon footprint.

Click here for the link to Carbon Fund to find out more information.

Green News Headlines: Monday, July 12

Interview With MTA CEO Art Leahy (Los Angeles Magazine)
Summary:  Art Leahy, boss of the MTA, says getting around should be no problem: Just leave your car at home

L.A.'s River Clears Hurdle (L.A. Times)
Summary:  U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday declared the entire concrete-lined Los Angeles River channel "traditional navigable waters," a designation crucial to applying Clean Water Act protections throughout its 834-square-mile urban watershed.

LEEDing the Way in the Office Market (Los Angeles Downtown News)
Summary:  City National Plaza -- the twin 51-story towers in the Financial District -- notched LEED Gold status from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Broadway Streetcar Loses Out on Federal Funding (Los Angeles Downtown News)
Summary:  The effort to open a $100 million streetcar on Broadway was dealt a setback today, when Los Angeles lost out on an attempt for a major federal grant.

Sunshine and Tap Water? Finding a Fuel for the Future (Brand X Daily)
Summary:  Imagine a world where all it took to power a car was sunshine and tap water. That isn't a pipe dream but, rather, the reality of emerging technology that someday could turn your house into a personal, zero-emission gas station.

Telecommuting Saves $10K Per Employee Yearly (
Summary: Businesses that let 100 employees work half of their time from home can save more than $1 million a year according to Telework Research Network's (TRN) latest study of telework programs and their benefits.

Scientists Revisit Power from Potatoes (Alternative Energy)
Summary:  This could very well be the magic formula for future power generation. Yes, scientists are busy crafting what is now called as “solid organic electric battery based upon treated potatoes.” These are absolutely eco-friendly batteries – based on the hidden powers of potatoes – which will be an economical answer to the growing power needs of developing and developed countries.

US Bicycle Route System Begins Connecting America (USDOT Fast Lane Blog)
Summary:  America has a national interstate network of bicycle routes in a state of initial development.

Why West L.A. Needs a Subway

I snapped this photo with my camera phone at around 10:40 p.m. last Friday night aboard Metro Rapid bus 720 heading east on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile area.

As you can see the bus is so crammed with riders that the driver let people onto the bus from the back doors without paying the fare because there was no room in the front of the bus. This activity happened at the Wilshire/Robertson, Wilshire/La Cienega, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Brea stops.

Sometimes I've been on the bus when it just blows by a stop because there is no room. This usually occurs after 10 p.m. on any given night because that is when the restaurant help in Beverly Hills goes back home to the Eastside after their shift.

This picture is a vivid reminder of the desperate need for the Westside Subway Extension along the Wilshire corridor. The ridership long ago surpassed what the buses are able to accomodate and the only solution is heavy rail.

While Metro is adding bus-only lanes during rush hour along Wilshire, what in my opinion would really help relieve bus crowding would be to run two buses in tandem down Wilshire. Right now it is common knowledge among many regular riders that there will always be another Rapid 720 bus within five minutes of the lead bus. And the second bus is usually much less crowded than the first bus that many people rush to board because they don't know there is another bus coming up soon.

If Metro timed the buses better so they arrive at each stop at around the same time, the driver wouldn't have to try to dangerously cram too many people onto one bus like I witnessed last Friday night.

There are two other suggestions for Metro that I believe would help make the experience of riding buses easier.

One is to institute transfers within the Metro bus system. Right now passengers are only able to purchase transfers from Metro to other transit agencies such as the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Culver CityBus.

It just doesn't make any sense that you aren't able to buy a transfer within the Metro system. For example, I took the 212 bus down La Brea Avenue to Venice Boulevard to board the new Metro Rapid 733 line which runs all the way from downtown L.A. to Venice Beach and then to Santa Monica via Venice Boulevard. But I had to pay full fare for both buses because of the transfer rule.

Another idea is for Metro to open up the TAP (Transit Access Pass) Cards to as much or as little money as a person wants to put on the card. Right now you can only buy a $5 day pass or a $62 monthly pass. Making these cards reloadable instead of fixed by day or month would increase ridership and make it easier for existing riders who use Metro a few times a week or just on the weekends.

But with all the initiatives Metro is undertaking or will be undertaking soon, dealing with bad behavior among some riders is impossible for Metro to completely control. Uncivilized behavior I've seen includes playing loud music, taking up two seats when passengers are standing, and defacing windows and walls. I've even waited for the bus next to a guy in nothing but a hospital gown as he stripped off his bloodied bandages and threw them on the sidewalk.

But the most outrageous behavior was what I saw last Sunday morning. At around 6:15 I was waiting to catch the 720 bus at Wilshire and La Brea and a man started urinating into a cup and then threw the cup into a trash can. This happened in broad daylight right in the heart of one of the main intersections in Los Angeles. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought I had seen it all in L.A. but this makes it near the top of the list. And this man then boarded the bus aftering pissing in the cup. So last word of advice for those riding Metro -- always clean your hands with soap or a sanitizer after riding because there are a lot more riders like the neanderthal I witnessed on Sunday morning.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

L.A. Holocaust Museum's Green Roof

The new Los Angeles Holocaust Museum at Pan Pacific Park is taking shape as a recent visit to the site revealed.

One of the most interesting aspects to the building will be the grass-covered roof which is meant to symbolize hope and life after visitors witness the depravity of the Shoah inside the museum. The green roof also fits in with the rest of the grassy areas in Pan Pacific Park.

The grand opening of LAMOTH will take place with a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring local dignitaries at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 14, 2010.

Car Sharing in SoCal Part 2

It was pointed out to me by a respected source that I didn't fully explain the benefits of a Zipcar membership.

The source pointed out that Zipcars are available for short amounts of time for an inexpensive hourly rate. For example, the Honda Insight Hybrid I took out the other day would have cost $8 an hour so a 4 hour reservation would have totaled only $32.

Secondly, the cars are available around the clock and can be reserved as little as a half-hour ahead of time and the reservation time can be extended by a half-hour or an hour or more depending on if someone else has the car reserved. Extending the reservation can be accomplished by a simple text message.

Lastly, Zip cars are conveniently located in population centers of major cities as opposed to regular rental car agencies which tend to be located at airports or industrial zones. For example, I picked up both my cars in Westwood and the UCLA campus. There are also Zip cars at the University of Southern California.

Best Buy Goes Green

Electronics superstore Best Buy has made a concerted effort to go green. But as a recent trip revealed, each store is different in terms of their knowledge and implementation of company policy.

The other day I visited the Westwood store to recycle my electronic waste, but I was told they could only take two items because they are charged for each electronics item they recycle.

I was however able to recycle all my used batteries and used CDs, DVDs and jewel cases in designated receptacles near the entrance.

But I still had two bags filled with used electronics so I visited the store at Pico and Sawtelle in West L.A. and after I was given recycling stickers to place on my bags the customer service representative took everything but my light bulbs. So one store would only take two items and the other store took everything. One of these stores was right and I hope it is the second store. Either way, I'm glad I was able to recycle all my e-waste.

For more information on Best Buy's "e-cycling" program visit

Best Buy is also promoting electric vehicles. I picked up a pamphlet that featured electric scooters, electric bicycles and electric motorcycles for sale. For more information visit

Rep. Waxman Supports 30/10 Initiative

Los Angeles is lucky to have a clean energy and mass transit ally like Rep. Henry Waxman. He is fighting the battle in Washington to reduce smog and congestion in this city and I thought I'd share this email I received recently from the congressman explaining his positions on Measure R and the 30/10 Initiative.

Dear Mr. Marks:

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the expansion of the LA County transit rail system to the Westside of Los Angeles.  I am glad we agree on this important issue and appreciate the opportunity to update you on the latest developments.

As a long-time advocate of public transportation, I strongly believe that a robust mass transit system is essential for high-density areas like Los Angeles.  Well designed transit options offer cost-effective and convenient solutions for commuters and dramatically reduce pollution and traffic by taking cars off the road.  I strongly supported the passage of Measure R, a ballot initiative to increase sales tax revenue for transportation projects, the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is now proceeding with the most ambitious expansion of transit options in the system's history.

As you may know, on October 22, 2009, the MTA Board voted unanimously to adopt a 30-year Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that details each of the projects.  And, on April 22, 2010, the MTA Board voted to endorse the "30/10 Initiative," an aggressive plan to leverage projected Measure R revenues and accelerate construction of the transit projects within 10 years. Among the key components for the Westside are the extension of the Exposition Boulevard (Expo) light rail system to Santa Monica and the extension of the Red Line Subway to Westwood. Detailed information is available at  You can count on me to continue to work for vigorous federal funding to implement the MTA's vision and strategy to enhance transportation accessibility, safety, and efficiency across the region.

For more about my work in Congress, or to sign up for periodic e-mail updates, please visit my website at and

Thank you for contacting me and please be in touch on all matters of concern.

With kind regards, I am


                                                                                      HENRY A. WAXMAN
                                                                                      Member of Congress

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Body Ecology Diet

We clean our homes and cars and want to take care of the environment. But many of us neglect our most important resource -- our inner ecology.

That is where The Body Ecology Diet comes into play. Nutrition expert Donna Gates has written a book about B.E.D. that provides a guide to restoring health and vitality. The book explains that there are three simple dietary transitions people can partake in to clean their systems and strengthen their immunity.

The three are as follows: Adding cultured foods to your diet, changing the quality of fats and oil consumed, and reducing intake of carbohydrates and sugars.

What struck me about the book was how simple the advice is. And yet as a society we've gotten away from medicinal foods to instead put toxic elements into our bodies. So it isn't as easy to follow as it seems with all the unhealthy temptations out there.

For me one of the most interesting parts of the book was the recommendation to avoid antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary. The reason being because antibiotics can cause the yeast or fungus Candida albicans, which in turn can weaken the immune system and cause the body to be more susceptible to cancer, diabetes and other dreaded diseases.

One of the solutions proposed by the book is to take more probiotics -- which are the good kind of bacteria that our body needs. Probiotics should be taken after an antibiotics treatment to balance things out.

Another important point the book makes is how the colon not only produces bowel movements but also provides important vitamins and nutrients to the rest of the body. So the colon is considered the root of the body, similar to the roots of trees. So therefore it is really important to cleanse the colon.

Watch this video for more information about The Body Ecology Diet:

Monday, July 5, 2010

LACMA Goes Green

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been going green since 2007 thanks in part to a $25 million donation from British Petroleum to install solar panels atop the entrance to the renowned art museum along Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile.

It is the ultimate irony that a company that will forever be known as being responsible for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history is also responsible for powering LACMA's Light Installation exhibit with clean, renewable energy from the solar panels on the roof of the entrance.

But that's not the only place there are solar panels on Museum Row. There are solar panels like this one below powering the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum.

Another sustainability-focused project next to LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits is something called "The Food Pyramid" which is according to the informational sign "a recirculating aquaponic garden that grows all of the ingredients for fish tacos with zero waste, no soil and no fertilizer. It produces cleaner air and water, and an endless source food for humans, local insects, and birds."

Lastly, LACMA provides a public space for Angelenos to enjoy great music like the Afro-Caribbean band that was playing last Saturday in front of hundreds of people laying on the lawn, drinking fine wine and beer and soaking in the SoCal sun.

Many in the crowd bicycled to the event and as you can see below LACMA has plenty of bike parking.

These free public concerts are one of the few places in L.A. where people can get out of their cars and socialize and look into the faces of the diverse residents of this great city. It provides the human interaction and public gathering space that people in this town are so desperately craving.

Here is a sampling of some of the Latin beats that got some in the audience on their feet and dancing.

Car Sharing in SoCal

After my first Zipcar experience I am completely sold on the car sharing concept as a green alternative to owning a vehicle or renting a gas-guzzler.

First I made my reservation online in about 5 minutes. There were three cars available during the time slot I wanted so I chose the Toyota Prius. I reserved the Honda Insight Hybrid for some errands I'm running tomorrow.

I then took the bus to Westwood and picked up my wheels at a public parking lot on Hilgard Avenue. The Prius was waiting for me at one of Zipcar's designated spaces.

I placed my Zipcar plastic card over the sensor on the upper right of the windshield and the doors unlocked and I was in. No key is required for the Prius. You just press down on the brake pad and push the power button and you are good to go. 

There was a half-tank of gas already and I ran the car in eco mode instead of power mode which uses mostly the battery instead of gas so I had no problem returning the car on the minimum 1/4 tank of fuel.

Inside of the driver's side sun visor was a parking pass which I didn't need and a free gas card which of course I also didn't need. 

The first 180 miles driven per day are free so I came way under that limit after running my errands, The only issue I encountered was not being able to get an extension past my deadline because someone else had reserved the car. You have to pay a penalty of $50 for a late return. 

The total cost for the day was $72 which is reasonable. 

All in all I'd recommend a Zipcar to anyone wants a cheaper and greener alternative to owning a car or truck.

The Lonely Hollywood/Vine Metro Stop

What if you had a clean, efficient subway station in the heart of a major city's nightlife district and nobody used it?

Welcome to Los Angeles and the Hollywood/Vine Red Line stop. I took a ride on the Red Line to visit a friend last Saturday night and as I exited the station directly underneath the new W Hotel I was struck by the beehive of activity in this buzzing center of a revitalized Hollywood.

There was the long line to the W Hotel's nightclub filled with attractive young women and guys hoping to get past the velvet rope and into Hollywood's newest hot spot. And across Hollywood Boulevard there were hundreds of theatergoers exiting the Pantages Theater after seeing the popular Broadway musical "In The Heights." And of course there were the usual picture-snapping star-struck tourists from every destination around the globe.

But dig a little deeper and you will see where the theater crowd, the tourists and the clubbers were arriving and departing Hollywood from and it wasn't the Hollywood/Vine Red Line subway stop. The majority of people were walking towards or away from the giant parking lot across the street from the W Hotel to drive their cars out of Hollywood.

What a shame. I realize some folks travel to Hollywood from places like Simi Valley or San Bernardino and don't have the option of taking public transit, but many of these people live in transit-accessible areas but for whatever reason don't consider public transit.

Perhaps the W Hotel and Pantages need to do a better job integrating with the subway station and advertising public transit as an option.  Or maybe Angelenos need to open their minds more to consider other options besides driving all the time.

But right now the majority of public transit users in Los Angeles seem to be from every other country but the United States of America. But what could be more patriotic on the 4th of July weekend then to declare freedom from oil and ride mass transit?

How To Report Leaf Blower Pollution

Leaf blowers are dangerous.

They endanger our health by kicking up all kinds of particulate matter into the air. Plus they are incredibly noisy. For those reasons Los Angeles has banned polluting gas blowers within 500 feet of a residence.

The bottom line is that the health risks to gardeners and the general public far outweigh any benefits. There is nothing leaf blowers can do that an old-fashioned rake and broom can't take care of.

Just this morning I witnessed a landscaper with a leaf blower literally blowing leaves and dirt from one end of the sidewalk to the other. This wasteful activity of simply redistributing leaves, dirt and grass from one property to another needs to end.

Te report an illegal leaf blowing in progress call 213-485-3711. For more information watch this educational video from the organization Zero Air Pollution Los Angeles:

Leaf Blower Pollution from Zero Air Pollution, LA on Vimeo.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Will Beverly Hills Residents Block Subway?

Predictably there are hints of a lawsuit from Beverly Hills homeowners over the Westside Subway Extension.

The reason? Because a new option for a station closer to the center of Century City will run under 30 residential properties. The reason Metro has proposed this option is because ridership would increase significantly at this major office hub and there is also a better chance at federal funding.

But in stereotypical fashion according to an report from a recent community meeting, some citizens of Beverly Hills have concerns about a subway running underneath their property despite the fact that subways run under private property in just about every major city in the world. And according to Metro there have been no complaints from property owners about L.A.'s Red Line.

These wealthy Westsiders are taking the wrong approach by worrying about lowering their property values instead of looking at this as a golden opportunity to actually increase property values by making Beverly Hills more transit-friendly. It has proven time and again that subway stops spur economic development and raise property values.

I suggest these elitist B.H. residents take a trip to the place I'm about to move to -- Arlington, Virginia -- and see firsthand what Washington's Metro Orange Line undergound subway has done to this urban county across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Arlington is the opposite of Beverly Hills in that it is one of the most public transit-friendly places in the country and also one of the most affluent with high-end residential, retail and office space centered around each Metro station.

This lawsuit will fail. The Beverly Hills NIMBYs will lose this time because the Westside Subway is going to roll through the heart of Beverly Hills and make a stop in the heart of Century City whether they like it or not.

And hopefully when there is a world-class transportation system in West L.A. these Beverly Hills residents will learn to love riding the rails.

Free 'Fuel' on Hulu!

Online video portal Hulu is currently screening the 2008 documentary "Fuel," about our transition to renewable energy with an emphasis on algae-based biodiesel.

Director Josh Tickell has made a moving film about his personal journey into the destructive legacy of our addiction to oil and the green light at the end of the tunnel that will help save our planet for future generations.

"Fuel" won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and having just watched it I give it a big green thumbs up.

Perhaps the most touching part of the film to me was its profile of New York City's efforts to produce clean homegrown energy in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Many reasonable people were unsure if NYC could ever recover from such a devastating blow. But the Big Apple is reinventing itself with renewable energy and in doing so is renewing the spirit of this great city and in turn this great country.

So it is my pleasure to present to you "Fuel."

Enter Agent ID # 1003 on the Buy Page for 1 Free Quart.