Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 18

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Jamzilla on the 405 ends ahead of schedule (L.A. Times)

The 80-hour lane closures on the northbound 405 over the President’s Day weekend turned into 79-hour closures when the 405 reopened about 5 a.m. this morning instead of the planned 6 a.m. reopening. Enough people avoided the NB 405 to keep traffic moving for most of the weekend with Monday afternoon seeing the most time-munching delays.

Riders look for love on Valentine’s Day on the speed-dating train (L.A. Times) 

The speed dating event on the Red Line subway on Friday garners both an article and video! In the latter, reporter Trishna Patel scores a nice pair of socks. I rode for a couple hours on Friday and was mildly surprised at the healthy turnout as “speed dating” sounds basically horrifying to me — unlike Ukulele Man on the train Friday, I usually need seven or eight years before summoning the courage to speak to girls.

Here are our photos and video from the speed dating event. We’ll see if the event makes a return engagement next year. In the meantime, please let us know if any of our entrants make it to The Aisle — and I don’t mean bus or train aisle.

Semi-related: the following sentence in the LAT story caught me eye:

Sometimes he’ll try and talk to people on trains, but girls act conceited, he said, adding that

he was hoping to meet someone special.

Trust me, I’m no grammarian, but I thought it’s supposed to be “try to” in writing while “try and” is accepted as common in speech. Anyone out there in busland or trainland know?

Metro’s hardest seat to get (ZevWeb)

Kudos to whoever is writing the headlines for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website. The article looks at the public safety and financial challenges of providing restrooms for transit users. As you probably guessed, the story was prompted by complaints that a public restroom is need at the Orange Line’s Pierce College station.

Excerpt:

The agency, in its report, acknowledged the unpleasant realities that confront customers at some stations.

“Metro’s custodial staff report on-going issues with public urination and defecation at several of the rail stations as well as inside many of the station elevators,” the report said, adding that “other areas of public urination include the top side of subway station entrances such as Pershing Square, where loitering is common.”

But the agency pointed to the complexities of opening new restrooms with a cautionary tale of what happened when The W Hotel, located above the Hollywood and Vine Red Line station, agreed to provide a street-level public toilet as part of their contract with Metro.

According to Metro, the facility “became a magnet for the area’s homeless population which impacted the use by Metro’s customers. While open, the hotel developer was expending an average of $250 per day on paper products and had to replace three sinks, three mirrors and five toilet seats due to damage.” The restroom was labeled a public nuisance and was shuttered less than 4 months after its opening.

And here is the staff report for those who want to learn more about the issue. The gist of it: it’s up to the Metro Board of Directors to decide if they want to invest in public restrooms on the system.

AEG: NFL stadium still a first-string idea (Daily News) 

AEG, the entertainment company, says it still wants to build a football stadium next to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The city’s approval of the plans expires in October but AEG wouldn’t commit but others say the company is likely to seek extra time to reach a deal with the National Football League. Good luck with that.

A tough wake-up call for an L.A. bike commuter (L.A. Times)

LAT data analyst Ben Poston writes a first-person account of moving to L.A. from the Midwest and his four-months of commuting to work by bike from Los Feliz. It ended badly, with Ben getting right-hooked at an intersection in Hollywood and suffering a concussion and other injuries — he was wearing a reflective vest but the lights on his bike were out.

Here’s the excerpt that has already inspired a lot of chatter on social media;

I can’t count the number of people who have told me that they used to commute by bike until they were either (A) struck by a car or (B) got in some terrible accident by encountering a giant pothole or running into an open car door.

Now that I’m among the two-thirds of commuters in the city who drive solo to work, I experience Los Angeles differently from before. I can crank up “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on KCRW, roll the windows down and let the warm breeze dry my hair. I can sip a coffee and arrive at work clean — without having to change out of sweaty bike clothes.

And while I’m in favor of more bike lanes in the city, I must confess I’m annoyed when I see traffic lanes turned over to cyclists. North Virgil Avenue in East Hollywood recently lost half its vehicle lanes, and now my evening commute is five to 10 minutes slower.

In just over a year, I’ve become the opportunistic, lane-hopping L.A. driver I once joked about. Making it through on a yellow light is expected. Speeding 50 mph on surface streets has become the norm. I despise sitting in traffic, so I take shortcuts that I think are mine alone — I call them the “Bat Cave” routes.

My official response is to tell everyone that the Red Line is an option if he doesn’t mind riding from Los Feliz to Hollywood. My unofficial response is I commend Ben for writing a brutally honest piece although I’m personally happy to see street space being handed over to bikes and transit.

NYC’s touchscreen subway maps are finally here — and they’re amazing (Gizmodo)

New touchscreen maps in the New York subway get raves from Gizmodo — and could be on the way in Los Angeles. The photo below shows a prototype that Metro web staff are testing. Staff are planning this spring to ask the Board of Directors to issue a request for proposals, the first step in identifying a contractor to supply the devices. Which, btw, are pretty cool and could be helpful for those who find the static bus and train maps at rail stations to be daunting.

DSC_0705

13 replies

  1. The Speed Dating looked fun – hope they do it again. FYI, The LA Times grammar is fine because he is paraphrasing what someone said.

  2. Pierce College OrangeLine restrooms
    The SFValley has a little better class of people, to use the restrooms.
    Make the restrooms like the ones at the Burbank MetroLink/Bus Depot.
    The sinks & toilets are metal & steel

  3. The most interesting thing about the restroom issue is that, when hidden cameras were actually placed to catch this alleged activity, that none of it was detected for 30 days. Perhaps the homeowners don’t like the Orange Line for other reasons?

  4. Touchscreen maps are not new. They’ve been in use all over the world for over a decade.

    If you go to Hong Kong, the MTR has touchscreen device which allows you touchscreen the subway map to see how much it costs to get from point A to point B.

    This is helpful because HKMTR uses a more logical fare collection system where trip costs vary depending on which station you’re at and which station you’re going to.

    Want to go from East Tsim Sha Tsui to the Lo Wu border to mainland China? You touch East Tsim Sha Tsui Station and Lo Wu Station on the visual touchscreen map and it gives you how much it’ll cost for that trip. Since it’s a rather long distance, it’ll cost more than a shorter trip like from Mong Kok to Tsim Sha Tsui.

    For reference, this is HKMTR subway map:
    http://www.china-mike.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/hong-kong-MTR-system-map-1024×726.jpg

    Not only that, it also allows you to place your Octopus Card, their version of TAP only 100 times better, which allows you to see the balance left on the card and your past trip history.

    It’s sad how Metro makes a big deal about these things as if it’s something that is super-high tech and is out of science fiction when this has been in use for over a decade in places abroad. We used to be the leading edge in these things, now we’re falling behind.

  5. Touch screen map is neat but LA’s system is not that hard to figure out. The big problem with LA’s rail system is that the fare from point to point is not transparent. Having the interactive map tell me to transfer at 7th Street Metro Center to reach Hollywood from Culver City is one thing, but being able to buy a ticket to make that trip seamless is impossible, even with an interactive map. The fare restructuring cannot come soon enough.

  6. Irwin: What’s ‘transparent” mean? If you’re using three or fewer trains or buses, you buy a single ticket on each bus and/or at each rail station. If you’re riding four or more trains or buses, you buy a day pass. So, in your case, If you’re riding one way, you buy a ticket at each Culver City and another at 7th Street/Metro Center. If you’re riding round trip, you buy a day pass, which makes your trip “seamless.” The math is more complicated if you’re a senior or disabled because of the peak/off peak pricing but if in doubt, buy a day pass and make your life less stressful. Frankly, the fare restructuring may well make things more complicated than less.

  7. Yeah, I imagine people will realize how stupid our fare system is when they do a touchpad map to show that going from Avalon to 103rd/Watts Towers is $3.00 because it involves a transfer over shorter distances while Redondo Beach to Norwalk is $1.50 because it’s a one line ride from end-to-end.

  8. Public restrooms sound like a good idea until one looks at the on going problems that arise. I don’t care where one might think the negatives would not be the case in their neighborhood the opposite is true. As a example, the public restroom in Beverly Hills at Santa Monica and Canon Dr. has been for years a encampment for the homeless. The restroom it self stinks worse than any porta potty. The restroom in the East Portal is a mess last time I checked and it had a MTA employee cleaning it several times a day. The only reason I can see why the Burbank Station is clean is that the homeless haven’t discovered it yet. Another example is fast food restaurants like Mc Donald’s. Their restrooms in many cases have become a place of shelter and bathing facilities. One answer to the problem would be these new auto clean restrooms that sanitize themselves after each use.

  9. Public restrooms are a quintessential “tragedy of the commons” problem. I know in Germany one of the ways they’re able to get around this is by charging a nominal fee for restroom usage. This helps to pay for upkeep while keeping the restrooms from turning into a cesspool.

    Metro should consider accepting TAP payment or a small Bitcoin fee for access to restrooms.

  10. @ Bob

    How is anything you mentioned transparent to people trying to figure out how to buy a ticket to go from Culver City to Hollywood? Why is it that Metro won’t let you buy a ticket that does that exactly? You pay $3 and “tap in” the system and you ride to your destination without having to tap again. This is not rocket science. I’m not even talking about the stupid line-based fare… I’m resigned to the fact that this trip will cost $3… fine… just let me pay for it once at the start of my trip.

    Forcing people to exit the system at 7th Street to buy another ticket or tap again to continue their journey is stupid. Only a bureaucrat who never takes transit in other cities can come up with a fare system like ours.

  11. Irwin,

    If you want something really stupid, it’s the fact that going taking the Purple Line from West Koreatown (Wilshire & Western) to 7th/Metro, a paltry 3.2 miles on Google Maps costs the same fare as taking the Blue Line all the way from Long Beach to 7th/Metro, a 26 mile distance.

    Tap in and tap out and charging riders by the distance isn’t rocket science. If Metro is going spend taxpayer dollars in installing overpriced iPads, they might as well get our fare system right!

  12. Irwin
    Concerning your last sentence. You can not imagine how many decisions are made at the MTA by employees who don’t have a clue what the realities of public transit are. The introduction of the TAP Cards was almost a total disaster due to the fact not enough were ordered initially and managers that were in charge of issuing additional cards to the bus operators were not informed of the limited supply until a couple of days before implementation. This is only one example. With exemption of Art Leahy and a few others in higher management most decisions are made by those who have no practical experience but rather text book answers to situations.