Transportation headlines, Thursday, Jan. 31

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.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I've become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I’ve become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines’ Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

My apologies for the somewhat sporadic posting in the past few weeks — personal stuff.

FTA to streamline environmental review process (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that for the first time in a quarter century, the Federal Transit Administration is taking steps to speed its review of transportation projects to ensure they comply with federal law. For example, projects in existing transportation corridors will no longer require the same high level of review as projects breaking new ground.

This is welcome news. I hope it works. I’ve certainly chirped in the past about the need to cut red tape and get studies done quicker — proposing to build a busway or light rail line along an existing street should not require five years of study to determine impacts are slight or beneficial. One reason studies take so long is that the FTA, by law, must constantly review them.

Exploring the course of the future Metro Expo Line (KCET) 

Eric Brightwell has a nice write-up with plenty of photos of the stations and surrounding environs of the six-mile second phase that will extend the train from Culver City to Santa Monica. Tip of the cap to Eric for including one of my fave Mexican food joints in the area, Gilbert’s El Indio, which is in Santa Monica at Pico and 26th and is a bike ride or stroll from the future 26th/Olympic Station. Carnitas plate: I salute you!

A tale of competing Century City high-rises (Curbed LA)

JP Morgan Chase has hired a lobbyist to create a group — “Save the Westside” — to prevent a 37-story high-rise office tower from being built next to the future Century City Purple Line subway station. The issue? JP Morgan Chase trying to save its bottom line; the firm is a property owner in Century City and apparently doesn’t welcome any more competition, according to the office of Councilman Paul Koretz.

A subway’s birthday: Happy 20th, Metro Red Line! (Militant Angeleno) 

Great post by the militant one on the subway’s opening in 1993 and what it was like to ride the train back in 1993 — when it was only seven minutes from end to end. He also makes an outstanding point about how dull and lifeless downtown Los Angeles was back in ’93 — and how the subway impacted one business in Westlake:

Within a few months, thousands of Downtown workers suddenly discovered that they were just 25 cents and a couple minutes away from the best pastrami in town, and injected new life into a once-floundering Westlake delicatessen, right across the street from the subway’s western terminus.

He speaks, of course, of Langers. In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words:

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

710 freeway coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210 (Pasadena Sun)

Interesting article looking at groups for and against filling the gap in the 710 with a tunnel. Generally speaking, southern San Gabe Valley cities support the effort while those in the north oppose it. Metro is about to launch a draft environmental study for the project that is considering five alternatives: no-build, transportation systems improvements (i.e. signals and intersections), bus rapid transit, light rail and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the two ends of the 710.

 

CTA website offers ‘why things go wrong’ explanations (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Transit Authority has a new feature on its website: a lengthy feature story trying to explain why buses and trains are sometimes delayed. But the Trib’s transportation columnist is not entirely impressed and doesn’t buy the CTA’s assertion that many service delays are entirely beyond its control.

My three cents (inflation!): Explanations are nice but never an excuse for poor service. That said, I thought the CTA page was thoughtful in trying to answer some very common questions about delays and this is something we should probably do here at Metro, where we have another equally important task: improving the speed that service alerts are communicated to riders.

Judge the CTA page for yourself. Here’s their take on bus bunching:

We know—bunching is frustrating. It frustrates us too, both as people who are charged with providing service, and people who use that same service to get around town. Bunching is the bane of bus systems around the world and there is no easy fix to it—particularly in places where there’s lots of traffic and where frequent bus service is required.

So how does it happen? Here’s a scenario:

Imagine a busy route that has buses running about every 5 minutes on a busy street, right at the morning peak, and all is right on time. Then, one bus gets delayed—let’s say a minor accident between two cars happens, and a lane is temporarily blocked while drivers exchange info, and this creates a backup that adds just two and a half minutes to the bus’s trip.

This means there’s now a 50% increase in the spacing between buses—and potentially 50% more people standing at upcoming bus stops between the delayed bus and its “leader” (the bus in front of it).

The delayed bus is now almost certainly going to stop at every stop and become crowded. This means longer dwell times at each subsequent stop, since more people are getting on and off. Even if the bus becomes completely full, there are likely people needing to exit the bus at stops along its route, so it can’t just pass up every stop—even though it can’t take anyone on. The bus just can’t move quickly enough to keep a normal pace, and falls further and further behind schedule.

Meanwhile, that bus’ “follower” (the bus scheduled behind it), is progressing along its trip in such a way that, even if it has a similar delay, it is able to make up the time. This is since fewer people are getting on or off, because the stops it is coming to were served more recently than the schedule anticipates by the bus that was delayed. So it just breezes along until it catches up. And now you have a bunch.

By that time, the first bus’s effective delay is more than the size of the usual headway. Suddenly there’s a 12-minute gap in service, and now two crowded buses are leapfrogging each other and still moving less quickly than normal, and a third catches up.

Thankfully, there’s often a terminal to “absorb” the delay since if they’re not too far behind, the scheduled layover may allow them to leave reasonably on time and the bunch goes away in the opposite direction. But, if they end up really far behind, a gap in service, and a likely bunch of buses ends up going the other way—it ripples through the entire route.

This is where our Bus Service Management department becomes crucial to minimizing the delay and inconvenience to passengers. They can use a number of techniques to restore regular service, such as directing the bus to run express or adding a “fill in” run from another route.