Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 3

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Why losing Google Maps on the iPhone is a good thing (Atlantic Cities)

The argument here is that Google Maps were far from perfect (true enough) and that the loss of transit directions on the new Apple Maps will spur great transit apps from developers. Hope so!

In Long Beach, some lights rest unless drivers follow speed limits (L.A. Streetsblog)

If sensors sense that a motorist is going too fast on Wardlow Road, the lights will flip to red. Conversely, if motorists follow the 45 mph speed limit, they'll get a green. Sounds sensible enough. Of course, there's another way to slow down motorists: do like Pasadena does and time traffic signals so poorly that no one — cars, cyclists, buses — can go more than a few blocks without hitting a red light even when there's no cross-traffic. Everyone travels slower, bus trips are excruciatingly long, cyclists lose momentum and all those idling cars help provide more work for our friends in the oil and air pollution monitoring industries!

Gov. Brown OKs free toll lane access for clean cars (Sacramento Bee)

The bill by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfeld (D-Los Angeles) will give the next generation of clean cars — zero emission cars and plug-in hybrids — free access to carpool lanes that are converted to toll lanes. The state just phased out access to carpool lanes for single drivers of hybrid vehicles because someone realized that carpool lanes are intended to promote carpooling, not reward consumer choices. And cluttering up carpool lanes with hybrids occupied by a single person actually punishes carpoolers by depriving them of freeway space.

The entire point of HOT lanes is to try to better ration a finite amount of space on freeways. Here's how Metro's ExpressLanes will work on the 110 and 10 freeways: Carpoolers and transit get first priority to that space and travel for free. Any space remaining that allows traffic to keep moving at 45 mph is then sold — via tolls — to single motorists who otherwise would be restricted to the general traffic lanes. This has two functions: it should help better spread traffic among all the lanes. And the tolls help fund transit in the corridor, which hopefully will lure at least some people from their cars.

In this new bill, Metro fought for an exemption until March 1, 2014. Good. I absolutely believe government should provide incentives to get more people into cleaner cars — i.e. tax credits. But I also believe this undercuts the very premise of HOV or HOT lanes. Giving free rides to single motorists doesn't help raise money for transit, nor does it promote carpooling — which helps remove an entire vehicle or more from the road. And there's also a big fairness issue here. Zero emission and plug-in vehicles are very expensive. What if a consumer sells their gas guzzler and gets one of the many more affordable vehicles on the market that gets very good gas mileage? So now they have to pay to use the HOT lane while the zero emission vehicle owner doesn't?

Actually those in zero emission vehicles get a double free ride. They're not contributing to the gas tax, meaning they're not contributing to the funds that help pay for roads and transit. Hmm.

 

8 replies

  1. I don’t necessarily think giving zero carbon emitting cars a free ride is a bad thing. Promoting with financial incentives like these have a long term benefit for more people to switch to zero emission cars and move us to a cleaner environment.

    And why waste spending $40-50 every week when you can get by with $0? People get to save over $2000 a year on filling up gas. By the 5th year, people will get their return on investment on a zero emissions vehicle. If you look at it that way, an all-electric vehicle isn’t that expensive. And prices are sure to come down anyway as they increase the product lines. Remember when desktop computers cost $3000? Now you can get a good laptop for $500.00 at BestBuy.

    Besides, with regards to the gas tax, the law was created when 10-15 MPG cars were the norm. Nowadays, cars are getting better fuel economy more than ever. Even American cars which were once known for bad fuel economy are getting 25-30 MPG range.

    President Obama enacted law that cars have to set an average of 54.5 MPG by 2025.
    http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13746_7-57501855-48/obama-sets-fuel-economy-average-at-54.5-mpg/

    The more fuel economical cars get with improvements in technology, the less there will be to collect gas taxes.

    Instead, we need to look at newer laws that help fund our roads. Why not tax by vehicle weight instead? The heavier the car, the more wear it causes on the roads. Let the heavier Cadillac Escalades and GMC Yukons pay more for their share of road repairs than the lighter Smart or Harley Davidson.

  2. “And there’s also a big fairness issue here”

    That’s what we say when we have to deal with paying a $1.50 for a short ride, forking over another $1.50 for a transfer, when those who travel farther gets a better deal, or how our only options are paying $75 a month for an unlimited ride pass when we only need it for 10 miles worth of transit. Or pay $2 every three years for a TAP card and losing funds in them or paying $4.95 in bogus monthly maintenance fees for FasTrak. Metro’s response to these consumer complaints are: “Life isn’t fair, deal with it.”

    Yet when something like this happens which isn’t in favor of Metro, “it’s a fairness issue.”

    “Actually those in zero emission vehicles get a double free ride. They’re not contributing to the gas tax, meaning they’re not contributing to the funds that help pay for roads and transit. Hmm.”

    Life isn’t fair. It just means you guys need to figure out a better idea to fund mass transit. Like stop wasting $20,000 per station on artwork when you can use the same $20,000 to build a newspaper stand which will bring in long term revenue. Why make the stations just sit there and do and earn nothing when they can be big revenue earners? Seriously, the actions of Metro are simply financially stupid.

  3. Perhaps Pasadena is more concerned about pedestrians being killed and property values being lowered by turning every street into a highway like Los Angeles.

    • Hi Corner Soul;

      I don’t think any of the roads are in danger of becoming highways in Pasadena; although some carry ridiculously heavy traffic for roads their size (see California east of Lake). I think the signals have actually had the unintended effect of making motorists impatient and more likely to gun it to get through yellow lights, making intersections more dangerous. Also, the lights aren’t really timed to help pedestrians. At many intersections, a pedestrian can wait a long while to cross while at others green lights are given to cars, pedestrians and other ghosts who aren’t there.

      There are also plenty of places with heavy traffic in the Southland that have very high property prices. See: Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. “Actually those in zero emission vehicles get a double free ride. They’re not contributing to the gas tax, meaning they’re not contributing to the funds that help pay for roads and transit. Hmm. ” – The Source

    Your comment is a bit short sighted. You say in one keystroke that the cars cost more and then in the next that they are getting a free ride.

    They do cost more. Their extra expense winds up helping to pay for developement of this new tech. That is why Tesla started with their roadster. Those who have the money and are willing to be early adopters are helped to pay for the S model. They also served as a test bed for the battery pack technology.

    You are suffering from “pay the gas tax or get off my street”-itis that shows up here a lot. Different models for paying for mobility infrastructure (transit, railroads, canals, roads, airports, et al.) show up at different times and for different reasons. The gas tax works well right now, but would not have in 1881. In the future, maybe it will be part of a holistic carbon tax. That way, those that chose to power their ‘zero-emissions’ car from a coal plant, would pay more than those who do so from solar.

    Government has multiple different issues to deal with. Where 2 or more intersect, there will be groups that see it only from their own side. Free parking, tax credits, and free access to HOV lanes (that, to the best of my knowledge, are not -only- paid for from gas taxes) are part of the incentives that government uses to encourage consumers to make wiser choices that benefit the country in multiple ways. An increase of $0.02 per gallon each calendar quarter for the next 4 years would also be a subtle incentive.

  5. I like the idea of taxing more on heavier vehicles. Obviously a Hummer contributes to more wear and tear to roads than Honda Civic. California should start look at revising annual vehicle registration fees to be based on vehicle weight.

    At the same time, they should require everyone to report the odometer readings of their vehicles and pay a set rate based on distance traveled. That would the most fairest way to pay for road repairs.

    Why should a heavier 2012 Hummer that travels extensively at 20,000 miles per year pay the same registration fee as a more lighter 2012 Honda Civic that only puts in 5,000 miles to the odometer per year?

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  7. Hi Steve,

    Fair enough, I guess I was referring to LADOT’s classification of densely populated streets as “class II highways”, and than timing lights and traffic speeds to ensure cars are able to hit 35-40-45mph in dense urban neighborhoods. I live in central LA so my perspective is more focused on the city’s treatment of streets between Downtown and Hollywood.

    I think both Pasadena and Santa Monica have done a much better job of addressing density through traffic calming and pedestrian safety. As a result they tend to be much safer and more pleasant places to be on foot. But I’ve never lived in either, so my perspective might be limited to the shopping/commercial/tourist areas.

    I definitely think the removal/omission of marked crosswalks throughout LA (reducing pedestrian access within neighborhoods), and declaring urban corridors “grid-lock free zones” (removing street parking to create mini-freeways twice a day) is harmful to property values in the flats. And I imagine West LA would just be that much wealthier if the city focused on pedestrian improvements and complete streets… but I guess that’s debatable.