Transportation headlines, Tuesday, December 10

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ART OF TRANSIT: A nice wintery scene, courtesy of Amtrak’s Instagram feed.

Rail to River: a Vision (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas website)

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is proposing to take 8.3 miles of the old Harbor Subdivision railroad right-of-way and turn it into a greenway and park connecting South Los Angeles to the Los Angeles River. Metro is currently studying what might be done with the right-of-way, which runs from 26 miles from south of downtown Los Angeles to Wilmington near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles; a few miles of the right-of-the-way is being used for the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

The greenway idea is certainly interesting — although, of course, a major challenge that would involve securing funding and real estate. Check out the video about the proposal on Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ website that shows some other rail corridors converted to parks, most notably the High Line elevated tracks in lower Manhattan.

CurbedLA has also posted about the proposal. The comments are interesting, with several readers saying that transit may be the best use of the Harbor Subdivision.

Report: 21st Century transportation (U.S. Public Interest Research Group)

The new study offers a more detailed look at the decline in vehicle miles driven in the U.S. in recent years. These bullet points offer a good quick summary:

Transportation trends are changing in America’s biggest urbanized areas.

  • The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle – either alone or in a carpool – declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.[i]

  • The proportion of residents working from home has increased in 100 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas since 2000.

  • The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.

  • The proportion of households with two cars or more decreased in 86 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.

There is additional evidence of declining driving in those urbanized areas with standardized data on vehicle-miles traveled.

  • The average number of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita declined in 54 out of the 74large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2006 and 2011.[ii]

  • New Orleans has seen the largest drop in per-capita VMT – 22 percent – since 2006, possibly a result of Hurricane Katrina. The urbanized areas containing two Wisconsin cities, Milwaukee and Madison, saw the second and third biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 21 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Two Pennsylvania urbanized areas, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, saw the fourth and fifth biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Based on the data, U.S. PIRG has a number of recommendations including — and not surprisingly — more investments in transit and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.

Cincinnati streetcar supporters announce ballot initiative to continue project (WCPO)

The plot continues to thicken in the Queen City, where the new mayor and several new council members last week voted to suspend a downtown streetcar project that was under construction. In turn, the Federal Transit Administration has given Cincinnati officials until Dec. 19 to decide to continue the project or forfeit a $44.9-million federal grant to help build the line.

Five project supporters now say they aim to collect the thousands of signatures needed to call an election within the next 60 to 120 days that would ask voters to approve the project — thereby possibly over-riding a threatened mayoral veto of the streetcar. It remains unclear if such an election could salvage the federal grant if it is lost.

As I wrote last week, this is a pretty crazy story — and not just because it’s unfolding in my hometown. The story basically concerns one set of elected officials trying to undo the work of previous officials who began the streetcar project. The story is relevant because transportation infrastructure takes many years to plan and build, meaning projects almost always span multiple sets of elected officials and even voters.

In other words, are we going to make decisions via elections and then stick with them? Or continually vote for something, then vote against it, then vote back for it and so on — resulting in nothing ever getting done? Stay tuned, people.

3 replies

  1. “In other words, are we going to make decisions via elections and then stick with them? Or continually vote for something, then vote against it, then vote back for it and so on — resulting in nothing ever getting done?”

    That describes the whole El Toro airport battle in Orange County. Which due to lies, the recession etc. resulted in the fiasco Great Park and Larry Agran’s Irvine political machine losing its mojo. YIKES!

  2. No we need all the rail right-of-ways we can get for LRT.

    Then we just need freeway tolls to pay for construction.