Transportation headlines, Friday, January 10

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ART OF TRANSIT: The photo is by Bob Wick, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management California employee and was taken in Wyoming. The BLM is all over social media, including great Tumblr and Instagram streams.

Jerry Brown defends funding for bullet train (Sacramento Bee) 

Governor Brown defends his budget plan to spend $300 million of the state’s cap-and-trade money on the state high-speed rail project and the California Department of Transportation, saying the project could help tie the state together and reduce greenhouse gases in the future. Critics say the money is being used to prop up “expensive boondoggle.”

Brown also said the budget will increase funding for the mapping of earthquake faults, a response to an ongoing series of articles in the L.A. Times about development plans being approved based on old or nonexistent maps. The latest, as you have probably heard, is that a new map of the Hollywood Fault shows that the proposed Millennium project would be on top of the fault, although developers say they have no evidence of that. Metro ran headlong into this issue when planning the Purple Line Extension and the agency did considerable work to locate fault zones in the Century City area, resulting in the subway route being adjusted to avoid running parallel to a fault zone.

Report calls L.A. a city in decline (L.A. Times)

A report commissioned by City Council President Herb Wesson lists many familiar complaints about L.A. — mostly along the lines that it takes too long to get anything done. As the Times notes, some of the complaints involved clients of those who wrote the report.

As for transportation, the big complaint is this: The Measure R projects will do little to impact traffic except perhaps keep it from getting worse.

This is one of those issues involving language and politics. I don’t think any intelligent person presumed that Los Angeles — or any big city — can fix its traffic problems as long as automobiles remain affordable and convenient. Of course, it doesn’t help when people say that traffic can be fixed, and people certainly like to say such things.

But many of the Measure R projects will provide an alternative to traffic and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

My own three cents about Los Angeles: I think it’s a far better city today than it was in 1994, when I moved here from New York. Downtown, Venice, NoHo, Studio City, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock, Highland Park — to name only a few — have shown considerable improvement since then. New transit projects are underway. The L.A. River is going to see improvements. Staples Center and L.A. Live opened. The Getty Center opened.

That said, considerable parts of the city feel old, tired and in terrible need of any kind of investment. One of the most glaring issues, to me, is the condition of the city’s commercial corridors, many of which are treated as mini-freeways and cater only to auto-oriented businesses. In many quarters, L.A. has a big decision to make: does it want to be a City of Parking Lots or a real city?

Cuiaba light rail won’t be ready for World Cup in Brazil (Sports Illustrated) 

The 13-mile light rail line in the city near the Brazil/Bolivia border won’t be complete until December, five months after the soccer tournament takes place across Brazil. Officials say the transit and other projects are in the “completion phase” while also acknowledging that trains haven’t yet been laid yet. Well, okay.

U.S. streetcar boom takes off in 2014 (Greater Greater Washington)

Four new projects are expected to open this year in Washington D.C., Tucson, Atlanta and Seattle and another dozen are under construction or in the pipeline (L.A.’s project isn’t included as it’s not yet fully funded). Here’s a simulation of the Tucson line:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGOHmRGojaI]

10 replies

  1. Well said on the state of LA. It is a far better city than the mid-90s when I moved in. Downtown is night and day as are many neighborhoods. As far as the City, they do need to get their fiscal house in order including employee pensions and overall compensation so they can begin addressing the poor condition of the roads and sidewalks like virtually every other city in America does.

    • Hi Matt;

      Thank you. Sounds like we moved here about the same time. Like you, I certainly think the city has challenges — but I also think the report’s criticisms could just as easily been directed at many other large American cities.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. All those neighborhoods that you mentioned Steve, “Downtown, Venice, NoHo, Studio City, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock, Highland Park” have seen vast improvements.

    But at what cost?

    These places used to be neighborhoods of the working class. Now because of gentrification, rich yuppies come in shoving off the poor to struggle to survive due to higher costs of living. And these working class people are not making the money as they used to because this city has lost so many companies and jobs to other places.

    There is a stark contrast between the blaring city night life in LA Live to just a few blocks away west of the 110 where poor Hispanic families struggle to make a living by selling their meager belongings on the street.

    The LA2020 report faces the stark reality of LA today: you’re either extremely rich who can afford $3,000 a month rents, or extremely poor who struggle with an income of less than $20,000 a year, with a vastly shrinking middle class.

    • Hi Taylor;

      I think you raise a good and fair issue about affordable housing. I think that’s perhaps the greatest challenge going forward for a city — creating new jobs and investment while preserving places for people to live. The hardest part is if you do nothing but preserve old neighborhoods, then you have affordable housing with no jobs. If you go all-out gentrifying, then you certainly squeeze out people. Finding that balance is very difficult and I hope that L.A. manages to do it.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. The congestion charge for central London has had excellent results to adress traffic but of course it is very controversial and I don’t see it happening anytime soon in Los Angeles.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_congestion_charge

    The HOT lanes seem to be working well and may expand soon to other freeways. The proceeds are funding expanded transit in the corridors and other laudible measures.

    The new Reason Foundation report upon how transit impacts congestion doesn’t seem to take latent demand into account. Also lower fares have problems as excess transit demand can be difficult to meet (look how long it took for Metro to find somewhere to put the new bus yard being built near Union Station).

    http://reason.org/news/show/transit-utilization-and-congestion

  4. Hi Steve, One Thing for sure that has improved in L.A. is the mass transit,Compared to cities like New Yawk(my home town).It used to be a long diesel fueled ordeal to go from the San Gabriel valley to the south bay,but no more in 2014. Things are looking up, and in the next five years it will only get better.

  5. Taylor did make an excellent point about gentrification and highlighting the poor housing situation for Los Angeles. Many economists and urban experts call it a “housing donut” effect: a city that’s solely for the rich and the poor, but nothing left for the middle class.

    You see all these new apartments and condos being built in these gentrified neighborhoods. The young, talented, gifted, rich hipster and artisan urbanites come to live at these places. These young kids with tattoos and piercings all over, walking their Chihuahuas, buying $7 cup lattes and going out to eat at the new expensive restaurants. It looks nice and it looks like a revival of old blighted neighborhoods. Property owners love them because through the simple economics based on supply and demand, they can jack up the rents to whatever they please or as they call it “based on market value.” The neighborhood is safer, cleaner, and a lot lively.

    But behind this were also sheds of silent tears by the poor and the working class families, those who have lived in the same neighborhoods for years or even generations who have lost their working class jobs, do not earn the pay that they used to, who can’t keep up with the rising cost of rent and the cost of living, those that could never afford home of their own, and were forced out into the streets or move elsewhere.

    How many here can actually live in LA’s housing prices today? It’s not like there’s any large-scale high density public housing projects either these days to help the poor who have no choice but to be shoved out into the street in the name of gentrification.

    And many of these new apartments and condos that are being built in these neighborhoods look nice, but how many people in LA can realistically afford $2000 to $3000 a month price range rents or have the down payment, let alone pay off a mortgage of a $500,000 to a $1 million dollar condo?

    Even at the low end, a mortgage on a $500,000 condo or townhome requires a 20% down payment of $100,000, amortized at a 30 year loan at 5% comes to about $1,200 a month in mortgage payments.

    Even the middle class can’t afford this, and this is bad because a strong middle class is what the key to the economic success of this city.

    If nothing is done to ease the housing situation, LA will become a city solely for the rich and the politically connected, with lots of poor people struggling day by day, and nothing else left for the middle and working class.

  6. “LA will become a city solely for the rich and the politically connected, with lots of poor people struggling day by day, and nothing else left for the middle and working class.” Just like New York ! Ironically, almost everyone in the neighborhoods that Steve mentions are East Coast transplants.

    Part of the problem is that the new crop of hipster/yuppies refuse to consider living in the ring of older suburbs, where housing is still relatively affordable. When everyone wants to live in a few “hip” neighborhoods, the price goes up. Even worse, it’s the same areas getting all the attention from the city, while other parts of town continue to deteriorate, widening that gap between the rich and poor.

  7. “Part of the problem is that the new crop of hipster/yuppies refuse to consider living in the ring of older suburbs, where housing is still relatively affordable.”

    That’s exactly the core problem. The suburbs aren’t “hip” enough for the new millennials.

    Why spend hours on the freeway? Why buy a car? Why do you need to pay for gas or insurance? Everything “fun” and the cool jobs are in the city, within walking, bicycle, or public transit distance.

    To millennials, living in the city where all the action is is more appealing than buying affordable homes way out in the suburbs which was the case with the generations before them. But this leads to clashes with older residents who become victims of gentrification.

    There has to be a solution to this. How do other countries cope with this?

  8. LA housing sucks,

    Other countries were smart enough to build their cities compact and dense from the start instead of the ugly sprawl route that we took.