Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tesla confirms Reno as possible Gigafactory site, 35,000 S's this year, and 100k/yr rate by end of 2015

Today Tesla Motors released quarterly results for Q2 2014, said they're on track to exceed the goal of 35,000 Model S sales during 2014, verified that they'd broken ground on a potential Gigafactory location in Reno Nevada, and several other things.  Let's take a look.

To start with the news from Reno, last week we reported a rumor that the Taho-Reno Industrial Center was going to be the site of the Tesla Gigafactory.  That hope was dashed the next day when it was learned work had stopped on the site in question.  But the shareholders letter confirmed the Reno location is a potential Gigafactory site, and did not confirm any site selection had been finished.
In June, we broke ground just outside Reno, Nevada on a site that could potentially be the location for the Gigafactory. Consistent with our strategy to identify and break ground on multiple sites, we continue to evaluate other locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The final site for the first Gigafactory will be determined in the next few months, once we have full visibility and agreement on the relevant incentives and processes for enabling the Gigafactory to be fully operational to meet the timing for Model 3. We see these concurrent efforts as prudent. This vehicle will be our third-generation product and will substantially broaden the addressable market for Tesla, helping to accelerate the transition towards sustainable transportation. Any potentially duplicative investments are minor compared to the revenue that could be lost if the launch of Model 3 were affected by any delays at our primary Gigafactory site.
While it's nice to receive validation for going out on a limb to report a rumor, it doesn't tell us the final confirmation.

As reported earlier today, Tesla and Panasonic have reached an agreement on how the Gigafactory will be managed, and the joint relation between the two companies and other companies yet to be named.

The Fremont factory is now running at 800 Model S's produced per week, and they produced 8,763 Model S's during Q2.  That's up 16% from Q1, and is the result of production efficiencies and increasing demand.  Customer deliveries were 7,579 in Q2 - worldwide (North America, Europe, Asia).

Panasonic has increased cell production rate in Japan, reducing the constraint on production that's held Tesla back a little.

Tesla Motors just held a factory shutdown so they could reconfigure the production lines to increase the production rate and to begin producing the Model X next year.

Tesla Motors expects to be producing cars (Model S and Model X) at a 100,000 car per year rate by the end of 2015.

They have begun deliveries in China and "right hand drive markets" (England, Hong Kong, for now, Australia may come soon).

Production in Q3 is expected to be 9,000 vehicles.

To summarize - Tesla Motors is continuing to knock it out of the park, and expects to rase its production level tremendously for just the luxury cars (S and X) ahead of launching large scale Model III production.

Tesla & Panasonic announce Gigafactory operating agreement and plan

Tesla Motors and Panasonic today announced the expected agreement for joint operation of the Gigafactory.  Under the agreement, Tesla will own the facility and Panasonic will be the primary partner occupying about half the space.  Several companies will be on site manufacturing precursor materials, that Panasonic puts together to make cylindrical lithium-ion cells, that Tesla puts together into battery packs.

I posted a longer explanation on examiner.com.

Here's the press release.  Later today Tesla Motors will hold its quarterly financial results conference call.  I'm sure the Q&A section will be highly interesting.

PANASONIC AND TESLA SIGN AGREEMENT FOR THE GIGAFACTORY

THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2014
OSAKA, Japan / PALO ALTO, USA, July 31, 2014 – Panasonic Corporation and Tesla Motors, Inc. have signed an agreement that lays out their cooperation on the construction of a large-scale battery manufacturing plant in the United States, known as the Gigafactory.
According to the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the land, buildings and utilities. Panasonic will manufacture and supply cylindrical lithium-ion cells and invest in the associated equipment, machinery, and other manufacturing tools based on their mutual approval. A network of supplier partners is planned to produce the required precursor materials. Tesla will take the cells and other components to assemble battery modules and packs. To meet the projected demand for cells, Tesla will continue to purchase battery cells produced in Panasonic's factories in Japan. Tesla and Panasonic will continue to discuss the details of implementation including sales, operations and investment.
The Gigafactory is being created to enable a continuous reduction in the cost of long range battery packs in parallel with manufacturing at the volumes required to enable Tesla to meet its goal of advancing mass market electric vehicles. The Gigafactory will be managed by Tesla with Panasonic joining as the principle partner responsible for lithium-ion battery cells and occupying approximately half of the planned manufacturing space; key suppliers combined with Tesla's module and pack assembly will comprise the other half of this fully integrated industrial complex.
JB Straubel, Chief Technical Officer and Co-founder of Tesla Motors said: "the Gigafactory represents a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized. Not only does the Gigafactory enable capacity needed for the Model 3 but it sets the path for a dramatic reduction in the cost of energy storage across a broad range of applications."
Yoshihiko Yamada, Executive Vice President of Panasonic, added, "We have already engaged in various collaborative projects with Tesla toward the popularization of electric vehicles. Panasonic's lithium-ion battery cells combine the required features for electric vehicles such as high capacity, durability and cost performance. And I believe that once we are able to manufacture lithium-ion battery cells at the Gigafactory, we will be able to accelerate the expansion of the electric vehicle market."
Cost reductions will be achieved through optimized manufacturing processes driven by economies of scale previously unobtainable in battery cell and pack production. Further price reductions are achieved by manufacturing cells that have been optimized for electric vehicle design, both in size and function, by co-locating suppliers on-site to eliminate packaging, transportation & duty costs and inventory carrying costs, and by manufacturing at a location with lower utility and operating expenses.
The Gigafactory will produce cells, modules and packs for Tesla's electric vehicles and for the stationary storage market. The Gigafactory is planned to produce 35GWh of cells and 50GWh of packs per year by 2020. Tesla projects that the Gigafactory will employ about 6,500 people by 2020.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What electric car would I buy? - EV test drives at PlugIn 2014

The PlugIn2014 Conference has come to San Jose, and I managed to snag a press pass, so expect to see a few reports over the next couple days about conference sessions.   The activity today was getting to do test drives with a few electric vehicles.  I got to drive several electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles today, so let's do some capsule summaries of my thoughts.

First - they're all so much better than my car, a 1971 Karmann Ghia conversion.  While my car looks really cool, it is a movable historical marker.  No animations on the dashboard, no air bags, no regenerative braking, and on and on.  Basically all these cars were, well, about 43 years more refined than my car.

In other words, most of the vehicles I test drove today are very good, well refined, electric vehicles made by major manufacturers.  The state of electric vehicles is moving forward rapidly and the number of choices is growing every year.

It's good to remember that it wasn't that long ago - five years - that those of us who wanted to drive electric could only do so by building our own EV conversion.  Those of us who did so, we wanted electric vehicles really badly.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV:  This vehicle was delayed while Mitsubishi, and their battery supplier, were sorting out a few issues.  The PHEV is on sale in Japan, and a version for the American market will go on sale here in 2015.

It's a large SUV, that happens to be a plug-in hybrid.  It has twin electric motors, one in the front driving the front axle, and another for the rear axle.  This makes it a four-wheel drive electric SUV, where the only other such vehicle is the Tesla Motors Model X.  I imagine the Model X will be quite a bit more refined than the Outlander, but then the Outlander will be a lot more affordable (ahem) than the Model X.

What I mean by "refined" is that while this car is nicely modern and well built, it's not in the same league as the luxury cars from Tesla Motors.  That said, the driving experience was very good, and responsive.  I had some confusion in adjusting the seat position, but once the levers were explained that made sense.  The foward/reverse selector however was a bit on the odd side.

Unlike the gasoline powered Outlander, the PHEV model only supports two rows of seats.  Why?  It has something to do with the electric motor compartment in the rear.

ALTe PHEV Ford F-150:  I said above that "most of the vehicles" were far more refined than my Karmann Ghia.  The exception to that statement is this truck.  ALTe is a manufacturer of alternate drive trains which they've developed to fit into a variety of vehicles, including the Ford F-150 they had on display at the show.  Essentially they're an electric vehicle conversion shop that's focusing on bigger trucks.  The F-150 on display was not a fully refined vehicle they might provide to customers, but one of their test vehicles.

It's a truck, drives like a truck, and is targeted at commercial deployment in fleets with many trucks.  In other words, they're not focusing on the family car segment, but on more utilitarian needs.  For example, this truck is very powerful but that power is meant for hauling stuff, not for speed.

ALTe's product line covers vehicles from the F-150 pickup, to the E-350/E-450 van, to larger trucks and buses.  You can find out more about them at altetechnologies.com

Cadillac ELR:  This is the supposedly luxury twin brother to the Chevy Volt.  I really don't understand why this car exists.  It's very expensive, and is not any kind of improvement over the Volt unless you like leather seats.  Maybe that's why GM hasn't been able to sell any ELR's?

It drives well, the dashboard is informative, etc.  But I wasn't all that impressed.

The back seat didn't look very comfortable - and I think the roofline is pretty strange, especially in how it treats the rear seat area.

To me this car looks like a bad caricature of a comic book supercar, in a way that completely turns me off.  Normally I don't car about the styling of a car, they're all boxes on four wheels to me.  Occasionally a car will look pretty to me - such as my Karmann Ghia.  The ELR just looks horrible.

Chevy Spark EV:  At the other end of the GM elecrtrified car spectrum is the Spark EV.  This compliance car (built in tiny quantities and sold only in California) is a straight conversion of the Chevy Spark to electric drive.  That makes it a very small car - it's basically a two seater, with back seats which for my purposes would be treated more as a cargo area than for passengers.  The rear seat looked more comfortable than did the ones on the ELR.

The Spark EV has 400 ft-lb's of torque, and yes indeed it accelerated very well.  Unfortunately the test drive route was in downtown San Jose city traffic and didn't give much opportunity to really let 'er rip.

The control system is as it is for the gas powered Spark, with everything is adapted to control the EV system.  For example if you want a stiffer regenerative braking setup, set the gear selector to "L".  That's unlike other EV's where there's a "Mode" button (or two) to adjust regen.

BMW i3:  BMW had two i3's on site, and there was still an actual line of people waiting to give it a go.  By comparison all the other cars had no line.  In other words, the i3 was generating a lot of interest and plenty of grins as people got out of the car after their test drive.

From the outside the i3 looks very small, but looks can be deceiving.  I've both driven this car, and been in the back seat, and both are comfortable and roomy.  What BMW did is create as much interior space as possible, a feat made possible by the flexibility of electric drive trains.  Because all that stuff is in the floorboards, BMW's engineers didn't have to waste space in the passenger area for an engine compartment.

Acceleration is great (0-60 in 7 secs) and the regenerative braking can be adjusted to be stiff enough that you drive with one pedal and you can even stop the car using just regen.  Handling is excellent, as you'd expect from a BMW.

What would I get?  I'm actually pondering selling my Karmann Ghia and getting a modern electric car.  In my mind during these test drives was, which of these would I get?

The BMW i3 is an interesting choice, but beyond the price range I can afford.

Until I drove it, the Spark EV was attractive because it has fast charge capability, good performance, and is very affordable.  Now I'm not so sure.  I want to see what they deliver for the 2015 model first.  I might be happy with it in the same way I was happy with the 1999 Chevy Tracker I owned for over 10 years.  That car was fun, and no bigger than I needed.  I'm sure the Spark EV would be lots of fun, and is obviously no bigger than I need.

The Outlander PHEV is interesting but is probably going to be pricier than I can afford, and in any case is much larger than I need.  But it'll fit the bill for many people with big needs.

The Cadillac ELR was, as I said, very underwhelming and I really don't understand what in consternation GM had in mind with this thing.

There was a Nissan Leaf in the test drive area, but I didn't bother taking a drive with it since I've driven several Leaf's in the past.  I'm strongly leaning towards the Leaf because it's got the combination of size, utility and price that fits my needs and budget.  The 2015 model is supposed to have an improved battery pack and a few tweaks and improvements over the 2014 model.   I might instead opt for a used 2013 to save a few bucks.

The overriding concern in my mind is that the car I buy has to have fast charging.  At the moment California's EV infrastructure favors the CHAdeMO fast charging system, and therefore the Leaf is the default choice.  But this may change now that CCS compatible cars are coming on the market.

BMW shows smallest, and lowest cost, DC Fast Charging station at PlugIn 2014

BMW today joined the ranks of automakers demonstrating seriosity about electric vehicles.  The way I measure this is if the company is not just building an electric car in significant quantity, but is working to support build-out of electric car charging infrastructure.  We have a "chicken and egg" situation between prospective EV buyers and the automakers, and the overall project of adopting electric vehicles will work more smoothly if the automakers directly invest in charging infrastructure.  That's what BMW did today, they have developed an affordable DC Fast Charging unit and will be supporting its installation across the U.S.

The BMW i DC Fast Charger is on display this week at the PlugIn 2014 conference, in San Jose.  BMW had it installed curbside and was using it to keep a pair of BMW i3's charged up for test rides.

It is a small unit, the smallest DC Fast Charger on the market, measuring 31”H x 19”W x 12”D and weighing approximately 100 pounds.   All the other DC Fast Chargers on the market are much bigger, similar in size to large refrigerators, and heavier.  The BMW unit also utilizes a more normal 240 volt power supply, versus the hard-to-provision 480 volt three phase AC supply required for the larger DC Fast Charging stations.  On the other hand the BMW unit only runs at 24 kilowatts while the larger DC Fast Charging stations run at 50 kilowatts, or in the case of the Tesla Supercharger, at 120 kilowatts.  Finally, the BMW DC Fast Charger is the lowest cost unit on the market, costing $6,548 for authorized BMW partners.

In other words, the advantages BMW offers is - low cost - easier-to-provision power requirements - small size.  These points should make it attractive to potential host sites.  The disadvantage is that it runs at a lower power rate, 24 kilowatts versus 50 kilowatts, but that's not much of a disadvantage, and is even an advantage for host sites.  It's the charging time which counts, not the peak charging rate.  Turns out that even at 24 kilowatts the total charging time is maybe five minutes longer - 30 minutes versus 25 minutes, say.  This is because the charging rate quickly tapers off from 50 kilowatts, and therefore a 24 kilowatt charger will taper off more slowly.  

Host sites will like the lower peak charging rate because the utility companies won't invoke demand charges while they often do so for the 50 kilowatt charging stations.

“This is a milestone in the development of the DC fast charging infrastructure. With more than five years of real world experience, we understand that a robust network of publicly available DC Combo Fast Chargers is a key part of the mobility of tomorrow,” said Robert Healey, EV Infrastructure Manager, at BMW of North America. “BMW is offering the BMW i DC Fast Charger at an appealing price point, and more manageable size, to make the convenience of DC fast charging more accessible for BMW i3 owners.”

Until now only two of the automakers, Nissan and Tesla Motors, have been directly investing in charging infrastructure.  The chicken-and-egg scenario is that prospective EV owners are reluctant to buy EV's until they see that there's charging stations in the public.  Both Nissan and Tesla have been investing in deployments of fast charging stations.  For Nissan that means CHAdeMO stations, while for Tesla Motors it means the build-out of the Supercharger network.

BMW's DC Fast Charging station is compatible with the third fast charging protocol - the SAE Combined Charging System (CCS).  

This means each of the three fast charging protocols - CHAdeMO, Supercharger, and CCS - have at least one automaker backing the deployment of compatible charging stations.  This is more than a little crazy-making because at the macroeconomics level we have three parallel systems being installed and a limited amount of cross-use between automakers.  

A couple years ago Nissan developed and then began deploying a less expensive lower power CHAdeMO station across the U.S.  BMW's unit is both smaller and cheaper than Nissan's.

But lets get back to the charging station.  I managed to make it over to the PlugIn 2014 conference and take a look at it today.

AC Power cable was behind the unit,
taped to a street light pole,
and ran into the convention center
It is, as billed, very small, the smallest of the DC Fast Charging stations.  BMW had it running on the sidewalk, and powered by a heavy-duty AC power cable strung from inside the convention center.  Yes, it's a heavy duty cable, but it's a cable that's much easier to deploy than what's needed for the larger fast charging stations.

BMW will begin making the charging station available to BMW i Centers across the U.S. starting in August.

eVgo will deploy at least 100 of these charging stations at Freedom Stations in California.

The units are compatible with the ChargePoint network, allowing ChargePoint members to authenticate against the stations.  BMW's press release doesn't convey a commitment from ChargePoint on how many of these charging stations will be deployed.

A question is whether BMW will limit use of the BMW-branded CCS stations to owners of BMW vehicles.  BMW's press release doesn't explicitly address that question.  However, it does talk about how the CCS standard is being promoted by several automakers, and is an automotive industry standard.  It's a safe assumption BMW isn't going to pull a dirty trick like that, but will play well with the industry standard story.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Are Fracking bans a legal Taking of land use rights? What's the most legal/effective way to stop fracking?

It's clear to me that hydraulic fracking, or acidizing, or any of the similar techniques to break up shale deposits, extract oil and natural gas, continuing the age of oil, all that's a bad idea and we collectively need to stop the practice and instead, as a society, embrace renewable energy resources.  Solar and wind and other technologies are ever so close to the break-even point where they can naturally be the best choice, we don't have to keep up with fossil fuels.  But, there are strong forces pushing to continue burning this stuff, and one tool they're using is to challenge the legality of a "Fracking Ban".

I've had a discussion about this with a fellow electric vehicle advocate/fan who is also a lawyer.  He asked me whether a "Fracking Ban" would be an unconstitutional Taking.  It took me awhile to understand the question, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Browsing the news today, I see a piece in the Santa Barbara Independent talking about how the Board of Supervisors in Santa Barbara County will have to develop a process for considering exemptions to a hydraulic fracking ban on the ballot in that county.  The ballot measure would ban all new hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, and cyclic steaming operations in the unincorporated regions of Santa Barbara County, and it would require the county to set up an exemption process.

As we see on this map, Santa Barbara is in the middle of the Monterey Shale area which is slated to be the next fracking boom area, if the oil companies get their way.  Except, according to the Energy Information Administration, the Monterey Shale is nowhere near the bonanza that's predicted.

According to the article, County Counsel Mike Ghizzoni wrote a legal analysis saying county supervisors would have to establish a set of rules to deal with potential complaints related to "takings, vested rights, and constitutional violations of state and federal laws".

There's my friends issue - "Takings" - plus two other sorts of legal rights which would have to be considered in any application of a fracking ban.  In other words, just winning a fracking ban doesn't mean all fracking will stop within the jurisdiction, because the lawyers will argue on these kinds of legal rights.

So... what is a "Taking" then?  I'm not a lawyer and barely know how to read lawyerese, but I did come up with this phrase: "Private property shall not be taken for a public use, without just compensation." Jason explained to me in an email that "it is an argument that the government, through passing a law, has economically injured the landowner's otherwise rightful use of his land."

He went on to explain that it's similar to "Condemnation" where the government take some land for a public benefit - such as building a highway - and in the process of doing so must compensate the landowner for their land.  Which just makes me think of this Jethro Tull song.


Applying this idea to hydraulic fracking - a government which enacts a fracking ban is preventing the land owner from exploiting their land in the way they see fit.  Hence, the government is Taking away something of value from the land owner, and their lawyers could use that theory to fight the fracking ban.

It's a legal theory which could be, and apparently is, be used by the "right wing" to fight what they think of as onerous government regulations like zoning regulations.

That line of thinking says that to be "business friendly" the government has to just get out of the way, and let the businesses and capitalists do whatever they want.  But this image I found on Facebook sums up what I think about that.




This concept of unconstitutional Taking was a central piece of arguments in a case in New York which sought to overturn the fracking ban in that state.  Unfortunately most of the article is now hidden behind a paywall, but a few months ago when I read the full article towards the end it said the government had a big trump card it can play against this Taking argument.  Namely, the government can declare Fracking is a public nuisance so bad that it warrants taking away land use rights.

In June, an appeals court ruled on the New York case affirming the right of cities and counties to enact fracking bans.  According to the Climate Progress blog, the oil companies argued that oil & mining laws took precedence over zoning ordinances, and that therefore fracking should be allowed to proceed.  Rulings by both the lower court, and the appeals court, overturned that claim.

The Court made it clear they were not ruling on whether hydraulic fracturing is beneficial or harmful, but solely on the policy question of "whether the State Legislature eliminated the home rule capacity of municipalities to pass zoning laws that exclude oil, gas and hydrofracking activities in order to preserve the existing character of their communities.”

You can read the ruling over on Scribd.

While in New York the local fracking ban was upheld, a Colorado court just ruled the opposite way regarding a fracking ban in Longmont, CO. According to the Bloomberg Businessweek article, "Judge Dolores Mallard yesterday granted a request by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association to overturn a voter-approved ban on the use of fracking. Mallard rejected Longmont’s argument that the ban is legitimate because the fracking amounts to a purely local matter."

Anti-fracking activists plan to appeal the ruling, plus organize "the citizens of Colorado to get out and support the Environmental Bill of Rights ballot measure this fall,” according to a statement from Bruce Baizel, director of Earthworks Energy Program, a group that supported the ban.

Getting back to the question at the top - there appear to be real legal grounds under which corporations can challenge fracking bans.  Therefore, if we want to really and truly stop fracking some additional tools will be required.

My friend has an interesting idea - require the oil companies to post a significantly huge bond in case there is some negative side effect from a fracking operation.  Say, $1 billion per well?  These companies contend there's no risk from fracking - ignoring the epidemic of fracking-induced earthquakes in Oklahoma - so if there's no risk, then they should be willing to post a bond, right?

I really don't know much about this, but did my best above to present the issues.  Let me know what you think below, especially if I got something wrong in the legal mumbo-jumbo.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vauxhall Ampera (Volt's twin) isn't being canceled in Europe - hiatus for redesign instead

Recent news has claimed the European version of the Chevy Volt, the Opel/Vauhall Ampera, is being canceled due to poor sales.  As I've noted before, the Chevy Volt isn't selling too well in the U.S. itself, and I imagine the European version isn't doing very well against the Leaf.  The Leaf is a fair bit cheaper than the Volt in the U.S., has a cleaner story, and seats five people.  While the Volt is pragmatically the best plug-in hybrid on the market - the BMW i3 REx is up-and-coming in that category - it's price is pretty durn high.

The chorus of people who want to slander the Obama Administration with the Volt are apparently using the Ampera's cancelation as a symptom of Another Obama Failure.  Hurmph.  I think the lackluster Volt/Ampera sales is more due to GM's failure to understand how to market the thing.

In any case, GM has shown a repeated determination to keep working on the Volt concept, rather than canceling it as the naysayers have demanded, GM is moving forward with a second generation of the vehicle.

And, it turns out the Ampera isn't actually being canceled.  It wouldn't be anything new for those right winger Obama naysayers to be lying, and this is yet another case.

According to a Reuters report on Wednesday, the Ampera is going on hiatus while it is being redesigned.   A hiatus is not the same as a cancellation, right?

As a Doctor Who fan, I certainly understand the difference.  The dark years between Sylvester McCoy and Peter Eccleston turned out to be a hiatus, not a cancellation.  If only we'd known that, it wouldn't have been so painful at the time.

Reuters quotes an Opel/Vauhall spokesperson saying "We will definitely introduce a successor product in the electric vehicle segment and continue to defend our position as an innovation leader. We see electric mobility as an important part of mobility and we will continue to drive down costs and deliver affordability."

As for "when" - look for the Ampera v2.0 sometime between 2014 and 2018.  There's a next generation Volt due in a couple years as well.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Orange County Biz Council applauds CALTRANS effort to preserve sprawl

The Los Angeles area is infamous for sprawl, huge giga-highways, bad air conditions, and people stuck in gridlocked cars for hours at a time.  The success of the automobile as a transportation method has led to, in the U.S., a massive system of highways, cities designed for the benefit of car drivers, poor walkability conditions, and an obesity epidemic that may be because we cannot walk around our cities because they're so unwalkable.

According to a press release issued by the Orange County Business Council, CALTRANS (California's Transportation agency) announced a decision today to move forward with I-405 traffic improvement plan "Alternative 3", adding new general purposes lanes promised under Orange County voter-approved Measure M, as well as new express lanes.

Their press release -below- talks about relieving congestion, and traffic speed improvements.

I wish to disagree.

There was a time when those roads weren't as crowded as they are today - where those roads were sufficient for the traffic of that time.  There's two problems going on:  a) population increases, b) sprawl, a.k.a. a development pattern that discourages mass transit systems and encourages people to drive.

Because of increasing population there is naturally more people in the LA Area.  If the system continues encouraging cars as the primary transportation choice, then the LA Area will simply continue having bad traffic congestion problems.

Why is that?  It's because cars are an inefficient use of road surface.  Because cars have to be so spread out to maintain safe following distance, you have one person every 50-100 feet of road surface.  A bus, on the other hand, would carry about 50 people on 50ish feet of road surface.  Trains carry even more people per unit of surface area.

It's a land use problem - how many square miles of surface area have to be devoted to transporting people and objects around?  Cars on modern highways are an inefficient solution.

And CALTRANS is about to invest more in the inefficient system, build more roads, keeping people in their cars.

This money could instead have been used to build regional rail systems to connect Orange County residents with mass transit systems at the other end of the I-405 corridor.  Instead of beefing up the I-405, beef up the train system serving the same area.


OCBC AND LABOR COMMEND CALTRANS PLAN TO IMPROVE I-405

     ALTERNATIVE 3 KEEPS PROMISES TO OC VOTERS UNDER MEASURE M

IRVINE, Calif., (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Orange County
Business Council (OCBC) and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building
and Construction Trades Council (LA/OC BCTC) jointly commend the
decision made by Caltrans today to move forward with I-405 traffic
improvement plan "Alternative 3", adding new general purposes lanes
promised under Orange County voter-approved Measure M, as well as new
express lanes, on one of America's busiest corridors. Alternative 3
reduces congestion by moving the most people and the most cars through
the corridor than any other plan. The express lanes would be built in
the future after funding is identified by Caltrans, but not with
Measure M funds. This decision authorizes OCTA to begin construction of
the general purpose lanes in 2015.

"As a longtime advocate for a Southern California express lane system,
OCBC commends the decision made by Caltrans today and encourages
continued coordination with OCTA and TCA to ensure efficiency of scarce
resources and tax dollars," said Lucy Dunn, President and CEO, OCBC.
"We welcome a thoughtful express lane system that connects with
surrounding counties, including I-110, I-10 and SR-91 express lanes, as
well as South Orange County's toll road system SR-261, 241 and 73. The
county's future depends on a robust transportation network that
accommodates a growing population, a recovering economy, and a thriving
tourism industry."

"Speaking for tens of thousands of skilled construction workers living
in Orange County, we welcome this forward-looking decision," said Jim
Adams, Orange County Representative for the LA/OC BCTC. "This will
generate thousands of career-track jobs for the Building Trades; it
will also improve the quality of life for our families and neighbors by
streamlining transportation and adding new options."

OCTA's own comprehensive study evaluating options to alleviate
congestion on the freeway recognized Alternative 3 as the fastest, most
cost-efficient option. Adding express lanes, in addition to free lanes,
is projected to allow about 2,300 more vehicles an hour than if just
adding one free lane in each direction. Travel times through the
corridor are also expected to be reduced by up to 28 minutes in general
lanes, and estimated 13 minutes in the express lanes. The project has
the potential to generate upwards of 27,000 California jobs, while
potentially adding a self-sustaining funding source for future mobility
improvements benefiting Orange County and the I-405 corridor.

About OCBC:

Orange County Business Council is the leading voice of business in
Orange County, California. OCBC represents and promotes the business
community, working with government and academia, to enhance Orange
County's economic development and prosperity in order to preserve a
high quality of life. OCBC serves member and investor businesses with
nearly 250,000 employees and 2,000,000 worldwide. In providing a
proactive forum for business and supporting organizations, OCBC helps
assure the financial growth of America's sixth largest county. For more
information, visit www.ocbc.org.

About the LA/OC BCTC:

The Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades
Council represents 140,000 skilled construction workers in 48 local
unions and district councils. The Council's locals offer lifelong
careers, with competitive pay, good benefits and secure retirement, for
those who want a bright future without attending college. The Building
Trades apprenticeships serve thousands of diverse Orange County
residents in fields such as electrical work, roofing, sheet metal,
heavy equipment operating, plumbing, pipe fitting, iron work, cement
masonry, plastering, insulation, demolition, painting, floor laying,
glazing and elevator construction.