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.
It’s now Dec. 2017 for the first 130 miles of track between Madera and Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. An earlier schedule had the segment completed in 2016, a date that seemed very optimistic, IMO.
Federal lawsuit filed against Westside Subway Extension (Beverly Hills Courier)
The Beverly Hills Unified School District filed the suit against the Federal Transit Administration, alleging the agency should not have approved the environmental studies for the subway project. This suit is in addition to the lawsuits filed in state courts against Metro by the BHUSD and the city of Beverly Hills. All the suits are aiming to force Metro to re-open the environmental study and relocate the Century City station so that tunnels don’t go under parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus.
Measure J got 57 percent of the vote in Beverly Hills last week; Measure J sought to accelerate construction of the subway to Westwood. I have no idea if all the voters also endorse the route approved by Metro and the FTA for the subway, but the number suggests that perhaps a healthy slice of voters in Beverly Hills may not be in lockstep with the BHUSD, the City Council or the Courier, which has taken a hardline stance in news stories against the subway’s route and any elected official who doesn’t fight it.
In separate news, the BHUSD voted 3-2 this week to put a parcel tax up to $499 per parcel on the March 5 ballot to help address a $3.5-million shortfall. The BHUSD is also exploring greatly raising the tax rate on Measure E, the voter-approved bond to fund improvements at Beverly Hills schools.
Freakanomics Hucksters: ‘Save the Earth, Drive Your Car’ (D.C. Streetsblog)
The line about transit isn’t green because it’s empty (Human Transit)
The recent post on the Freakanomics blog by Eric Morris has predictably freaked out transit supporters, who call Morris’ post misleading and dishonest. Recap: Using government numbers, Morris concludes that buses are sometimes not as efficient as cars when it comes to energy consumed and emissions produced — and that perhaps some cities should reconsider where they put transit in light of the fact.
This has prompted a couple of good responses. At Human Transit, transportation planner Jarrett Walker points to the fact that empty buses are usually the result of transit agencies trying to supply service in outer areas of cities and often to residents who need transit. This is a good thing, Walker writes, and trying to eliminate such service in the name of efficiency would be a bad idea and not politically viable anyway.
Over at D.C. Streetsblog, a seething Angie Schmitt argues that it’s ridiculous to discourage cities from adding transit. Rather, she thinks that low use of light rail in some cities is more likely the result of lousy pedestrian access and planning that has isolated the rail lines.
And my take? I admired the Freakanomics post for taking on a politically incorrect subject: that empty buses and trains are capable of consuming a lot of energy. Fair enough. Here’s what I don’t understand: Why is an empty bus more of a public problem than the Soccer Dad tooling around the ‘burbs in a Lincoln Navigator, a vehicle far larger than most people actually need?
I also take issue with the idea that each car has an average load of 1.6 people. Not in Los Angeles County, where 82 percent of those who drive to work are driving alone to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Assuming most carpoolers have two people per car, that’s a load of about 1.1 people per vehicle in L.A. County.
The gist of it: more often than not, you’re ride on transit is probably a good thing if you’re worried about your carbon footprint. And rail powered by electricity will likely be getting more efficient over time as more clean sources of energy are used to produce the electricity.
A California Rail Map (California Rail Map)
A team of artists has produced the above map showing all the places it’s possible to reach by rail in the Golden State, whether it be by Amtrak, commuter rail or local transit. The artists are selling the map as a poster on Zazzle for those who want to remind themselves that not everyone always has to drive here.
A proposed streetcar project in K.C. isn’t fully funded. So proponents are going to try an interesting strategy: ask for donations through Neighborly, an online crowdfunding tool. Interesting idea but the big question is whether such efforts can make a dent in multi-million dollar projects?