SANTA MONICA BIKE PLAN: Congrats to Santa Monica, where the City Council last week approved a new bike plan for the already very bike-friendly Republic. The best part, I think, are bike lanes for the city’s downtown area where cyclists currently get stuck in some pretty serious car traffic.
It will be interesting to see the combined impact of the bike improvements and the coming Expo Line, which is scheduled to arrive in 2015. From the bike plan:
“Much of Santa Monica is within a 10-minute walk of the stations, but all of Santa Monica is within a 10-minute bicycle ride. Bicycle access to Expo is essential, as are strong and legible bicycle connections throughout the areas surrounding the stations.”
If all goes as planned, it should be far easier to reach the Expo Line by bike in Santa Monica than it is to get to rail in many other parts of the county.
I can tell you for a fact that the north-south bike access to the three Gold Line stations in the 210 freeway median in Pasadena — where I live — could be much improved. For now, providing free street parking for cars trumps bike lanes in those areas.
The gist of it: Supervisor Knabe wants Metro to ask contractors bidding to build the project to include a street-level station east of Aviation and Manchester as well as a possible Leimert Park station within the project’s $1.7-billion budget.
In both cases, it’s a smart move — instead of going over the project’s budget, it’s an attempt to use the marketplace to get what Metro wants. It remains to be seen whether any contractor can get the stations to pencil out. But it never hurts to ask.
On a related note, some of you may have heard the news that Measure R receipts are down due to the sour economy — projections are now that the sales tax will bring in $34 billion to $36 billion during its 30-year lifespan that is due to expire in 2039.
The key word in the above sentence is “projections.” Certainly it’s not good that receipts are down, but it’s also really hard to say what the future holds, right?
SANTA MONICA AIRPORT: As someone who used to live under the flight path of Santa Monica Airport — as in under the path of very noisy planes taking off — I read with great interest the L.A. Times story on how the city wants to get rid of the airport. The Federal Aviation Administration, however, says its mission is to preserve as much access to the skies as possible, no matter the location of current airports.
I don’t live in Santa Monica any longer and I can’t really afford to move back (not to mention my Sacred Oath to avoid the Santa Monica Freeway whenever possible).
So I have no stake in this battle. But I think that land can be put to a lot better uses than an airport that serves private planes. Santa Monica has been slow to build housing in recent years even as the number of jobs in the city has greatly increased. And the airport isn’t far from key transit corridors such as Venice Boulevard, Olympic Boulevard, Pico Boulevard and the future Expo Line.
Plus, there’s also the usual safety concerns with the airport, which are very real. No one wants a plane dropping on their house.
Of course, this is a bigger battle. If the city manages to close its urban airport, I imagine there are many other people in California and elsewhere that would like to close small airports that were built in once rural areas that are now surrounded by humanity and suburbia.
BULLET TRAIN TO VEGAS?: If you read one story on the proposed DesertXpress bullet train between Victorville and Las Vegas, read the Business Week article headlined “Betting tax dollars on a bullet train to Vegas.”
The project has been in the news this year, having recently received a key environmental clearance to build tracks along the 15 freeway from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to get built.
At this point, the project doesn’t have anywhere close to the money it needs. Instead, the developers are applying for a $4.9-billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration. It is by far the largest such request ever made of the FRA’s loan program but it’s also a project that federal officials seem to think has merit.
What’s unknown is how much influence the White House — which has been pushing high-speed rail — has on the FRA. Certainly the loan program would be one way to fund a bullet train project and circumvent the Republican-led House of Representatives that denied funding to President Obama’s high-speed rail program in next year’s budget.
As for ridership, I tend to think the DesertXpress could do well — people sitting on the 15 will see trains zooming by and perhaps give the train a try because it should be quicker than driving and a car isn’t really a necessity in Vegas. That said, it’s a shame that the Desert Xpress would not tie into Southern California’s transit network. By my reckoning, the nearest Metrolink station to Victorville is 40 miles away in San Bernardino.
PAYING FOR CALIFORNIA’S BULLET TRAIN: California’s high-speed rail project got some attention in the New York Times over the weekend in an article pointing out that many elected officials — such as Gov. Brown — still support the train despite its new $98.5 billion price-tag.
I think those who support the project would greatly help the chance of it actually getting built if they started talking in good ol’ plain English about some ways to to close the $85-billion or so funding gap — including user fees and taxes. I’m not saying that’s the route we should take, but it deserves to at least be discussed. Otherwise we’re talking fantasy.
Need a conversation igniter? I can google with the best of them so here’s one: More than 14 billion gallons of taxable gasoline are sold in California each year. Californians already pay 53.7 cents in state and federal taxes on each gallon of gas that they purchase. But some people — such as Times columnist George Skelton — say it’s time to raise the state portion of those taxes to pay for the infrastructure the state needs for current and future residents.
Of course, it’s easy for a newspaper columnist to be bold.