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SGV Connect

SGV Connect is Streetsblog Los Angeles' podcast that explores the people, places, projects and events that make up the changing face of transportation in the San Gabriel Valley. SGV Connect is hosted by Damien Newton and Kris Fortin. This feed also hosts SGV Connect's predecessor podcast, #DamienTalks.
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Jul 29, 2021

This July and August, Streetsblog California is podcasting a series introducing our Board of Directors to our readership. To check out our past podcasts with Jon Weiss, Carter Rubin and Kris Fortin, just click on their names.

Today's podcast features Terra Curtis who researches emerging mobility policy for the California Public Utilities Commission. Curtis previously worked at Nelson\Nygaard and volunteered with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition working on the Better Market Street campaign years ago.

Our interview covers both her professional career and personal advocacy. Curtis appreciates the mission of N\N and the planning firm's belief in promoting entrepreneurship amongst their staff. However, she felt called to bring the expertise she had learned about the best ways to bring new technologies to the transportation sector earlier in life and her career prepared her for a role helping to direct policy statewide.

“On the oneside there’s a chance for increased mobility and reduced dependence on the single occupancy vehicle," says Curtis in the interview on the future prospects of new mobility.

"On the other side, there’s some downsides we want to avoid...I was really attracted here to help relieve that tension and help direct California transportation in a positive direction.”

Jul 26, 2021

This summer, Streetsblog California is running a podcast series interviewing and introducing its Board of Directors to our audience. These volunteers help keep the organization running even if they don't regularly get a by-line on our website.

Today's SGV Connect features an interview where one of our co-hosts (Damien) interviews the other (Kris). In addition to his work with our San Gabriel Valley coverage, Kris is a member of our board of directors.

The San Gabriel Valley beat is actually Kris' third tour of duty with Streetsblog, having previously covered Boyle Heights and the Orange County. As you might expect, this podcast is something of a walk down memory lane of some of Kris' top stories.

Way back in 2012, Kris was one of the first reporters to introduce the world to the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade. The Ovas were a female-only bicycle collective that hosted rides and opened its own community center on Cesar Chavez Avenue. The popularity of Kris' first post broke our analytics by attracting literally hundreds of thousands of readers from over three dozen countries.

Kris also wrote about the impact the closure of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments would have had on the larger Boyle Heights community.

Before SGV Connect, Damien and Kris collaborated on a video series with Shireen Alihaji interviewing the major candidates for mayor of Los Angeles in 2013. You can catch the interview with Councilmember Garcetti, here.

After a couple of years writing for different publications, including a full-time gig at the Orange County Register, Kris returned both as a board member and as a writer covering Orange County. At a time when the Register and other Orange County publications. His work at the time included coverage of transit and OCTA but also updates on some best practices from his beloved Santa Ana.

And of course today, he's with us with SGV Connect and as a board member. You can check out all of his recent work, here.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn,iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Jul 19, 2021

During Melanie’s sabbatical, we will be running a podcast series to introduce readers to the Board of Directors of the California Streets Initiative, the non-profit that publishes Streetsblog California, Streetsblog Los Angeles and Streetsblog San Francisco. Our first interview, with Jon Weiss, can be found here.

Earlier today, Damien interviewed Carter Rubin, the current Chair of our Board of Directors and the Transportation Technical Strategist for the American Cities Climate Challenge at NRDC. Carter has had some affiliation with Streetsblog for over ll years, as intern, writer, board member, steering committee member and now board chair.

In that time he's also had an interesting career writing at Metro's The Source news/blog page, serving as a David Bohnett Fellow in Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa's office and transitioning to working on the Great Streets program with Mayor Garcetti. He's been with NRDC for almost four years now helping cities combat climate change through better transportation projects.

For more on Carter's work, check out Carter's author's page at Streetsblog Los Angeles, here or his NRDC writer's page here.

Jul 12, 2021

During Melanie's sabbatical, we thought it would be fun and interesting for our readers to have a chance to meet the Board of Directors of the California Streets Initiative, the non-profit that publishes Streetsblog California, Streetsblog Los Angeles and Streetsblog San Francisco.

Our first interview is with Jon Weiss (Streetsblog author's page, here.) Weiss, a longtime supporter of bringing rail transit to West Los Angeles and member of the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee joined our board in early 2015 and has served as chair and president of the board.

This interview covers Jon's early advocacy in Los Angeles fighting to preserve rail right of ways from the old trolley system that has become parts of Metro and Metrolink rail services today to his efforts to get the city to build (and perhaps one day soon) complete a bike trail that runs parallel to the "E Line" (or Expo Line) through West Los Angeles.

A long-time member of the city's bicycle advisory committee, Weiss believes that there are good elected officials that want to do the right thing by promoting active transportation and transit, but they don't have the support to do so.

"We're in a third boom of bicycling in my lifetime. The first was gas prices (in the 1970's). The second was Lance Armstrong...which was mostly roadies but did bring a lot of people to biking. With COVID, the numbers have jumped and they're really jumping with e-bikes. People that read Streetsblog know there's a new bill passed to fund people buying e-bikes," says Weiss.

"The more people that are out there biking, the more pressure there's going to be on politicians. There's a lot of politicians that want to do the right thing, but they don't have the votes for it."

Weiss ends the interview with a big idea. Weiss believes there should be legislation passed that taxes the automotive and oil industries to run an advertising campaign similar to the TRUTH ads warning people of the dangers of tobacco. In Weiss' view, the more people that understand concepts such as induced demand or the difference in collision survival rates between 15 miles per hour or 25 miles per hour would dramatically change how people talk about transportation.

Jun 15, 2021

In this week's podcast, Kris Fortin speaks with City of Alhambra Vice Mayor Jeff Maloney about "Advancing Alhambra" the city's plans for its roads after the 2017 decision to not move forward with extending the 710 Freeway.

While Alhambra had been one of the cities most vocal in support of extending the 710 up to the 210 for decades, the cancellation of the project has led to new opportunities for the city to invest in transit and safe street programs. Advancing Alhambra pinpoints three interchanges and the current 710 "stub" for improvements that could have a dramatic impact across the whole city.

A community meeting is planned for tomorrow night, on Zoom at 6 p.m. Register for the meeting, here.

Early in the pre-interview portion of the podcast, Damien and Kris discuss how long they've been collectively covering the 710 corridor project, and how long the project existed before Streetsblog was launched in 2008 in Los Angeles. Kris brings up the nuttiest "open streets"/block party event he ever went to in 2013, that doubled as a rally for extending the 710. He wrote about it in Streetsblog, and if you're interested you can read the story, here.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn,iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Jun 1, 2021

In this week's SGV Connect, Damien follows up on his story from last month about the ongoing efforts to transfer ownership of properties owned by Caltrans in what was the project area for the now defunct 710 project near Pasadena. Following that, Kris gets an update on some changes coming to ExpressLanes in the I-110 area.

First, Damien interviews Timothy Ivison and Angels Flores, both members of the United Caltrans Tenants Union about the history of the ongoing dispute between Caltrans and their renters. If you're interested in learning more about this story, check out "United Caltrans Tenants Oppose State Legislation That Would Guide Home Sales, Possibly Lead to Evictions" published at Streetsblog last month.

Kris talked with Metro staff about a few projects happening with the Expresslanes on the Interstate 10, including the COVID-19 service impact and recovery, the planned toll-road extension from the I-605 to the San Bernardino County Line, and what Metro is doing about people who avoid the toll by misidentifying themselves as a carpool vehicle. 

The bulk of the conversation focused on Metro's planning next year to test increasing the HOV requirement on the toll lanes. Currently, two to three occupants per vehicle can avoid paying the toll on the Expresslanes. The pilot will require three or more occupants will have to be in vehicles while traveling during off peak hours, and only registered vanpool and transit able to use the Expresslanes during on-peak times.
 
The second phase, which could happen as early as September 2022, would only allow van pools and vehicles of more than five occupants to travel on the Expresslanes. This phase would require board approval and would last until 2024, according to a Metro staff report. 

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Apr 22, 2021

Welcome to the first SGV Connect of April. This week's episode is a solo-interview with Damien and Felicia Friesema at Foothill Transit for a regular check-in about the agencies efforts to provide access to vaccinations, the rollout of its electric double-decker bus fleet and how a transit agency can celebrate poetry month.

If you want to use Foothill Transit to help plan a trip to get your vaccine, click here. And if you're looking for a moment of reflection, click here to visit the Foothill Transit and Write Girl L.A. celebration of poetry month.

Last, if you ride Foothill Transit, or were a rider before the pandemic, please take the agency's rider survey. Regardless of the last time you rode the bus, they want to hear from you.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Mar 30, 2021

This week SGV Connect checks in on the community of Alta Dena in unincorporated Los Angeles County and on how changes at the California Transportation Commission are leading to big changes in how the state funds transportation projects.

First, Kris talks with Dorothy Wong, Altadena town council member about building partnerships and using tools like UC Berkeley’s SafeTREC Street Story to advance active transportation efforts in this unincorporated part of Los Angeles County. Street Story is free web-based community engagement tool that the public can use to “collect information about transportation collisions, near-misses, general hazards and safe locations to travel.”

In our second interview, Damien talks to Melanie Curry the editor of Streetsblog California. Curry listened in on last week's CTC meeting breaking news that the Commission is planning to ask for $2 billion to fund the Active Transportation Program in next year's budget. This would be a 1000% increase over the usual allocation that is roughly $200 million.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Mar 16, 2021

On this week's SGV Connect, Kris interviews Dan Lafferty, Deputy Director and Paul Alva, Assistant Deputy Director at the L.A. County Department of Public Works about the Bassett High School Stormwater Capture Project.

Currently, DPW is reaching out to the community about the project and is encouraging residents and other stakeholders to complete a survey to help them best prioritize what the project will look like. 

In partnership with Bassett Unified School District (BUSD), the project will divert urban and stormwater runoff into infiltration galleries underneath Bassett High School athletic fields.  Other above ground improvements can be included such as low-impact-development features which will complement the Amigos de los Rios’ urban greening project.  In addition, a pocket park at the corner of the school athletic field is being proposed as a joint use feature with the community.

In our second interview, Damien talks with Diane Velez with Active SGV about Metro's fareless transit pilot program. In 2022, Metro will be offering fare-free transit to seniors, students and people with lesser income to test the impacts of not charging people n the LA region to use transit. The program could be expanded to cover more groups of people and more agencies.
 
Quick note: during the interview we discuss whether or not Foothill Transit is doing its own study. While they are not, Doran Barnes, the CEO of Foothill Transit is on the committee that will be reviewing and studying Metro's pilot project. 

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Feb 19, 2021

Welcome to this week's SGV Connect. It's a long podcast, so let's get right into it!

The Los Angeles County Flood Control District is currently working on a plan to open up more than 138 miles of SGV waterways to bicyclists and pedestrians. With the plan expected to be completed by Fall 2021, and the environmental review process being completed by Summer 2022, the San Gabriel Valley Greenway Strategic Implementation Plan would create a roadmap toward increasing open space in SGV communities and connecting to Rio Hondo and the San Gabriel Valley River. We spoke with Dan Lafferty, deputy director at Los Angeles County Public Works, about the study of these greenways, how equity is being framed in the work, and some of the community engagement strategies that will be happening in the future.

Second, Damien speaks with Rani Narula-Woods at Metro about the new Metro Micro project in El Monte.  Metro's new ride-hailing service that offers shared rides operated by Metro employees in partnership with RideCo., Inc.. Metro Micro rides cost an introductory rate of $1 per ride (transfer not included) for the first six months. Rides must begin and end within each zone. For more information, visit these article at Metro's The Source or the Los Angeles Daily News.

You can also check out this video for information on how to get the apps on your phone and access the service.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Jan 13, 2021

Welcome to the first SGV Connect Podcast of 2021. In this week's episode, Kris speaks with Alhambra Mayor Sasha Renée Pérez before Kris and Damien give a preview of what to look forward to in 2021.

On November 3rd, 2020, Sasha Renée Pérez was elected to Alhambra’s City Council. Because she beat the incumbent Mayor, she took over her predecessor’s term as mayor making her at 28 years old the youngest female mayor in San Gabriel Valley history. In addition, she’s also the youngest woman to serve in the city’s history.

Pérez ran on a progressive platform, touting complete streets, including preventive measures to traffic safety such as bike lanes and speed bumps; pushing for renters protections and policies that prevent displacement, and establishing a climate action plan. In our conversation, we delved into the weeds of her policy platform, got her take on the defund the police movement, and how she sees community engagement as central to creating a more equitable city.

If 2020 were a year like no other, then 2021 looks to be just as unprecedented both locally and across the country. Damien and Kris stalk about some local stories that may have fallen through the cracks such as an opportunity to weigh in on projects such as the North Ave. Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Plan in Pasadena.
 
But 2021 needs to be about more than just projects and proposals; it needs to be the year that cities and government agencies look at the experiences of 2020 and react. What our cities learn from the pandemic and the unrest will determine whether or not society grows as a result of this hardship or just "returns to normal" in a way that continues to marginalize and disenfranchise many.
 
SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Dec 17, 2020

Goodbye 2020! Man, I've been waiting a long time to type that, and it felt good.

This week's SGV Connect features a look back at the best and worst of our coverage in the San Gabriel Valley in 2020. Kris gives a surprising answer to "what was your favorite story" while Damien gives a hopeful look forward to 2021.

But first, Damien interviews Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval. Sandoval is taking leadership roles with the Foothill Gold Line Board of Directors and the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments in 2021 and the discussion ranges to cover both local and regional issues.

This is our last podcast of 2020. Thank you all for listening, we've doubled our audience since last year at this time! We hope you all have a safe and happy winter holiday and New Years celebrations.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Nov 6, 2020

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Everyone is talking about the results from this week's election, and SGV Connect is no different. Our usual team brought back Streetsblog LA editor Joe Linton and Streetsblog California editor Melanie Curry for an in-depth election special that is almost twice the size of a regular episode.

First, Melanie breaks down the disappointing results of our statewide ballot initiatives with defeats for progressive measures that would funded public schools by closing a loophole on big business, expanded rent control, and allowed for affirmative action. At the same time, voters passed a measure exempting Uber/Lyft and other app-based driving services from labor laws.

The scene is brighter for Southern California and the San Gabriel Valley. Joe and Kris discuss the success of Measure J, elections that will make the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and L.A. City Council more progressive, and some mixed news in races in some smaller cities in the SGV.

Last, assuming Joe Biden holds onto his lead, what does a Biden administration mean for Southern California? And what are the odds that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti or Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia find themselves with new addresses in Washington, D.C.?

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Oct 29, 2020

If you're looking for a distraction from the deluge of election related messaging and media, this week's SGV Connect is for you. If you're looking for more news, views, and insights into the election, you should check out our last episode which covers the Streetsblog L.A. endorsements.

In our first interview this week, Kris talked with Araceli Hernandez, a program organizer with Nature For All, to talk about its leadership academy, a 5-month training program that tries to develop the next generation of environmental stewards. The program is intentional in recruiting folks that come from Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, but the program is open to all. "The goals are that you just have a real big passion for making change, for protecting our environment, for making your community better," Hernandez said. The leadership academy started in 2011 and is in its 18th cohort.

Second, Damien talks with Topher Mathers with the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition about Walktober. While it is true that Walktober is nearly over, there's still a few events remaining. The Walktober events list also provides a great resource for anyone looking to plan some socially distanced walking fun as it includes guided tours, social media driven events and some walks that are just for walkings sake.

Damien and Topher also briefly touch on Halloween and some things that can be done to stay safe and have fun on the holiday.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Oct 6, 2020

Welcome to this week's SGV Connect, a special edition where we discuss some of the state and county ballot propositions that were endorsed or opposed by Streetsblog last week. This week, Damien speaks with Joe Linton, the editor of Streetsblog Los Angeles, about the endorsement process and what ballot measures we think you should support, and another you should oppose.

You can read our endorsement piece, here. For the record we are #YesOn15, #YesOn16, #YesOn21, #YesOnJ and #NoOn22.

Afterwards, Kris speaks with Brian Wallace of the Playhouse Village Association to get an update on the Playhouse Park project which is moving towards getting final approval from the city. The Village Association, back when it was called the Pasadena Playhouse District, first began outreach for this project to the community in 2010, but it looks as though the project is finally close to being realized.

A couple of times in the podcast, we mention this story on Metro's planned expansion of the I-5 and I-605 even though it could wipe out hundreds of homes. It was published late-Friday afternoon, so if you missed it, be sure to check it out.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Sep 16, 2020

In this week's SGV Connect, we get an update on Metro projects in the SGV including the 210 traffic barrier and how faulty dog bones were causing trouble on the Gold Line. But first, Damien talks to Philip Fine with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) about how to keep your lungs safe as the Bobcat Fire rages.

Fine points out that most of the masks that people are wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19 are effective in stopping smoke and other fine particulates from getting into your lungs when you breathe. If you must go out, Fine recommends N95 masks and that you take extra time to make sure the mask fits properly and is hugging your face. 

You can also check out the air quality in your area and the expected air quality over the next 24 hours at the SCAQMD website.

After that, Kris speaks with Errol Taylor, senior executive officer, maintenance and engineering and Androush Danielians, Metro’s Executive Engineering Officer at Metro. The wide ranging interview covers both freeway and Gold Line updates in the San Gabriel Valley.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Sep 9, 2020
This week, SGV Connect looks at studies that examine how Pasadena is reimagining parking in its city and a community spurred project to upgrade and improve Parkway Drive in El Monte.
 
Pasadena has recently launched a study of its parking throughout the city. The study, which will wrap up in early 2021, is looking to create a multi-leveled policy that will address the needs of residents, businesses and the way they move and be adaptable to the areas districts and neighborhoods.

“The policies we have been designed with the assumption that one size fits all, and that’s not always the case,” said Laura Cornejo, Pasadena's Director of Transportation “We want to make sure that we are providing the services that residents need even if it is at a micro-local level.”

The study is also looking at the new COVID-19 reality on Pasadena’s streets and hope the findings could be used to support economic recovery, especially for businesses struggling during the pandemic.
 
Afterwards, Damien speaks with David Diaz, the director of Active SGV. Diaz has been working with students to advocate for a safer and better Parkway Drive in El Monte since 2015.
 
In 2015, students from Mountain View High School and community groups identified the need for improved street design for Parkway Drive that included better lighting, wayfinding signage, improved crosswalks, sidewalks, and bike lanes. Recently, Active SGV and the City of El Monte sponsored a survey to gather input on possible improvements to Parkway Drive. If you missed out and want to make your thoughts known, you can email the team at ParkwayDrive@activesgv.org.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Aug 13, 2020
Welcome to SGV Connect. In this week's episode, Kris Fortin interviews Paul Alva with the county's Department of Public Works about East L.A. Sustainable Median Stormwater Capture Project. After that, Damien talks to Streetsblog USA editor Kea Wilson about the state of transit during the ongoing pandemic.
 
L.A. County Department of Public Works is upgrading medians Unincorporated East LA to better capture water runoff. The project will include things like infiltration wells and bioswales which will divert stormwater from going into places like the LA River and replenish the local ground water supply. But it won’t be just something nice to look at, it will have benches, picnic tables, walking paths, and exercise equipment and quite a bit of vegetation, including planting more than 300 trees. This project costs, $36 million.
 
Read more about the project at the official project website, and see why some East L.A. residents are unhappy with the project in this story on L.A. Eastsider.

In the second interview, Wilson explains how national politics are delaying or even killing a second relief fund for transit projects and programs.

Wilson also discusses how agencies are responding to the crisis by focusing efforts on making service as usable as possible for essential workers and what transit will look like in our post COVID future.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Jul 13, 2020

In our first interview, Damien reconnects with Teresa Eilers and Shawn Morrissey who appeared on the podcast last fall. Morrissey works with Union Station Homeless Services, a support and housing provider based in Pasadena while Eilers is a coordinator for the Everyone In! Campaign in San Fernando Valley.

If someone wants to get involved in their community, sign up at Everyone In’s “Get Involved” page and a representative will get in touch with you. 

In the interview, the trio discuss how COVID-19 has changed the way advocates reach out to people experiencing homelessness and the special challenges the pandemic presents. Some programs such as Project Roomkey have helped as has a growing understanding of how the regional homeless crisis impacts everyone.

Second, Kris interviews Duarte City Councilmember and Metro Board Director John Fasana. Fasna has served as a Metro Board Member for 27 consecutive years dating back to the first Metro Board in 1993. The interview provides a retrospective on Fasna's career and time on the Metro Board. As you can imagine, a lot has changed.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Sign-up for our SGV Connect Newsletter, coming to your inbox on Fridays.

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Jun 15, 2020

In this week's SGV Connect, Kris Fortin marches with protestors in cities throughout the San Gabriel Valley and brings us their voices direct from the rallies and marches. Kris also discusses his experience at the protests with his broadcast partner, Damien Newton, and how activism is changing in the San Gabriel Valley.

You can read, and see, more of Kris' experiences at an article published at Streetsblog last week.

One of the protests Kris attended on June 7 was in response to police violence that occurred the weekend before. On June 4 of last week, a lawsuit was filed against El Monte police officers involved who injured protestors through necklocks and chokeholds at the end of May. Last week, on June 9, the city announced that it was suspending the use of the "carotid choke hold" more commonly known as the "sleeper hold".

If people want to get involved with the protests, Kris recommends following SGV Progressive Action, Pasadena Black Lives Matter, and Pomona Protests.

Second, Damien talks with Eric Pierce, the editor of the Greenleaf Guardian in Whittier. Eric broke the news of a small-business-led effort to close a portion of Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier's downtown to car traffic to claim the space for retail and restaurant expansion during the COVID-19 crisis. After our interview, the plan was temporarily put on hold as the city is purchasing bollards and other devices to place around the expanded pedestrian/shopping/dining areas for safety.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

May 19, 2020

This week, SGV Connect talks to government executives that are overseeing some of L.A. County's largest departments as they respond to COVID-19 and do long-term planning for the future.

First, Kris talks to Norma Garcia, the Acting Director of the L.A. County Department of Parks. Fortin and Garcia discuss the county's plans to continue to re-open public space, should the numbers support greater openings, and the experience inside of the re-opened parks and trails last weekend. So far, things seem to be going pretty well. Fingers crossed that the numbers stay low.

Next, Damien talks to Kome Ajise, the executive director of the mammoth Southern California Association of Governments, the regional planning organization for the nine county Southern California region. A little under two weeks ago, SCAG approved it's long-term plan for the region, a document that helps guide development in large cities and small municipalities throughout the region. Efforts were made to change language in the plan around density, citing how overcrowding is partially responsible for the spread of COVID-19 in some cities. However, Ajise and the SCAG staff resisted, and he eloquently describes the difference between density and overcrowding in the interview. That section of the plan remains unchanged from the draft in the fall.

During what is usually a short between-interview segment, Damien asked Kris his take on the SCAG plan. Kris had been engaged with SCAG on behalf of Santa Ana Active Streets, and he surprised Damien with a nearly ten-minute detailed answer. It's as though we had three interviews this week.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

May 9, 2020

This week, SGV Connect goes macro and micro with a look at the just started public process on the county's water plan and studies why Pasadena is resisting the call to eliminate pedestrian crossing buttons before allowing people to legally cross the street at most intersections.

Kris spoke with Matt Frary, Acting Principal Engieneer at Los Angeles County Public Works, about the County Water Plan. The board of supervisors decided at last week’s meeting to hire a consultant to develop the plan by 2021.

This plan would try to create a regional approach to water resource management. It would be a practical, policy document, that would help to articulate a shared vision with the more than 200+ water agencies in the County. Frary said.

For folks in the SGV who want to get involved with the development of the County Water Plan, or actions taken as part of the Safe Clean Water Program, there are 3 dedicated Steering Committees focused on this topic.  Each committee is comprised of 17 committee members, five of which are community stakeholders and at least one watershed coordinator to help facilitate additional involvement.  The three committees are as follow:

  1. Upper San Gabriel River Watershed Area Steering Committee
  2. Lower San Gabriel Watershed Area Steering Committee
  3. Rio Hondo Watershed Area Steering Committee

Second, Damien speaks with Misch Anderson, an advocate for safer transportation options in Pasadena. Anderson has been vocal about the city's response to COVID-19, criticizing the city in Colorado Boulevard (not once, but twice) for not turning off the "Beg Buttons" that need pressing before one crosses the street.

Damien and Misch discuss Pasadena's login in not following the example of Los Angeles and other peer cities and make the case that once the buttons are turned off, they should never be turned back on.

Last, we have a programming note on the expanded SGV Connect we announced in last week's podcast. Future podcasts and articles that are written as part of our agreement with Foothill Transit will have a place to signup for the new SGV Connect Newsletter. We're going to launch the newsletter in two weeks, May 22, and we hope to have hundreds of you joining us.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Apr 28, 2020

A new BRT line connecting San Bernadino County to a series of cities in the San Gabriel Valley is expected to be approved at the May 6 meeting of San Bernadino County's regional transit agency's Board of Directors. Phase 1 of the BRT line, known as the "Miliken Alignment" of the West Valley Connector BRT will reach from the Pomona Downtown Metrolink station to Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga.

For more information on the board meeting, and directions on how to participate, click here.

This week, Kris speaks with Victor Lopez, San Bernardino County Transportation Authority's Chief of Transit and Rail Programs. Lopez gives Fortin an overview of the project, which would be the second BRT project in the San Gabriel Valley. The first one is the E Street BRT, which started in 2014 and is a 16-mile route with 16 stations.

For more information, visit the project website, here.

Instead of a second interview, Damien and Kris discuss an expanded SGV Connect that will be ramping up in May. Thanks to reader support and the ongoing support of Foothill Transit, we will start seeing regular written articles by Fortin, a weekly e-newsletter on issues related to transportation, public health, equity and planning by Damien and the launch of an SGV Connect Instagram. Stay tuned for more details on all of these, and we hope you enjoy the expanded #SGVConnect.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Apr 17, 2020

This week's SGV Connect focuses on how the Coronavirus is impacting planning and transit throughout not just San Gabriel Valley, but all of Southern California.

First up, Kris speaks with Demi Espinoza of the Safe Routes Partnership about the upcoming approval of SCAG's Connect SoCal document.

Connect SoCal is a long-range plan that seeks to balance future mobility and housing needs with economic, environmental and public health goals. SCAG is the regional planning organization for a mammoth six-country region that includes Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.

Before their interview, Damien and Kris discuss whether or not it even makes sense to push such a plan right now. Damien references a recent statement and action put out by The Untokening that urges governments to stop planning processes that will not be able to reach many populations during COVID-19. Kris also mentioned, and it comes up again in the interview, that things have changed so much since the outreach began for this process that does the plan still make sense? 
 

Second, our hosts talk about the impact COVID 19 is having on the transit agencies that serve the San Gabriel Valley. This week L.A. Metro announced another round of service cuts while revealing sharp declines in ridership: Bus Ridership Down 65 Percent, Rail Down 75 Percent. For more on Metro's cuts, read this article by Joe Linton, published on Wednesday.

Three agencies have suspended regular service: Carson, Montebello and Monterey Park. Other agencies are scaling service back as agencies see steep ridership declines and loss of other income that bolsters transit budgets such as sales taxes and parking fees.

While many agencies are still providing on-demand micro transit or ride-hailing services for residents in-need of transit, there is no doubt that both the present and future of many transit agencies is uncertain. If you're planning a transit trip, we recommend double-checking the relevant websites in advance and immediately before your trip to see if there are any changes.

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

Apr 6, 2020

For anyone who lives in the SGV, and frankly throughout Los Angeles County,  coyotes are a regular reality. Whether hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or walking down Valley Boulevard, hearing a coyote’s yelp or spotting its thin frame crossing a street is common. But how we should interact with these wildlife neighbors isn’t always clear.

On part two of this week’s SGV Connect, we spoke with Natalya Romo, the program manager of the Neighborhood Coyote Program, and Alexander Fung, a management analyst with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, about how this program is engaging and educating residents to become better stewards to the coyote population. The program has been sharing with residents information about how they should act when coming across a coyote, how to report a sighting, and how residents can deter coyotes in a nonlethal way from making themselves at home in a neighborhood --- leaving pet food and water out would be a no-no.

People can find this info on the SGV COG website or by calling their hotline at (626)278-8039. Residents who also want to report a coyote sighting can call the number; calls are documented and reported to the University of California Cooperative Extension’s Coyote Cacher program.

The Coyote program is a pilot of 10 SGV cities which include:

  • City of Arcadia
  • City of Alhambra
  • City of Azusa
  • City of Covina
  • City of Irwindale
  • City of Montebello
  • City of Rosemead
  • City of San Gabriel
  • City of San Marino
  • City of Temple City

Residents outside of these cities can call and will be referred to their local animal control agency or their respective government agency.

Neighborhood Coyote Program

Hotline: (626)278-8039, 8:00 a.m.-6:00p.m., Monday-Thursday

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

Catch past episodes of SGV Connect and #DamienTalks on LibSyn, iTunesGoogle Play, or Overcast.

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