Transportation headlines, Thursday, Oct. 9

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Art of Transit: My colleague Anna Chen collecting footage on the Expo Line for a video to promote ride sharing. Click above for recent posts on Rideshare Week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Art of Transit: My colleague Anna Chen collecting footage on the Expo Line for a video to promote ride sharing. Click above for recent posts on Rideshare Week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Eliminate some parking requirements to spur use of transit (Miami Herald) 

A couple of self-professed millennials penned this op-ed supporting a new zoning rule in Miami that would eliminate parking requirements for buildings of 10,000 square feet and under that are near transit. Excerpt:

What baffles us most is why housing targeted to our generation should be required to have parking at all. Our grandparents’ love affair with the car is outdated. We don’t want to spend all our money buying and maintaining a car. We don’t want the guilt of contributing to air pollution and energy consumption. We don’t want to worry about having a designated driver. And we definitely don’t want to grow old waiting in traffic.

Look at the cities that are attracting young, brilliant minds: New York, San Francisco, Chicago. None require owning a car. With such limited parking requirements, the hip neighborhoods of these cities are typified by brownstones and compact apartment buildings. The results of such density are quiet streets with gardens, cafes and cyclists riding past. Meanwhile, the street views of Brickell and downtown are dominated by faceless parking garages immersed in a sea of angry drivers. Who would pay extra for that?

Pretty forceful argument that, I think, reflects the sea change going on in some cities, parts of L.A. included. I think the real public policy question here is whether building parking lots/garages near transit stops is a good use of space or not — given that most planners agree that the best place to bump up density is near transit.

As trains move oil bonanza, delays increase for passengers and other goods (New York Times) 

Amazing stat: in 2008 there were 8,500 rail cars that rolled through America carrying crude oil. That number was 415,000 in 2013, the reason that delays have increased substantially on some Amtrak long-distance lines. Excerpt:

On the long-distance routes, aging tracks and a shortage of train cars, locomotives and crews have also caused delays, rail officials said. In addition, an improving economy has meant more goods shipped by rail over all. Rail accounts for 40 percent of all goods moved in the country as measured in ton-miles, derived by multiplying a cargo’s weight by the distance shipped. Trucks are second at 28 percent. [snip]

The problems are only expected to get worse. American coal exports to countries like China, which are picking up as domestic demand falls, will also compete for space on trains, as new coal export terminals are planned at several ports in the Pacific Northwest. (Increased Asian demand for coal reached record levels in 2012 and continues to be high.) In the United States, a record harvest of corn, soybeans and wheat is expected this year, adding to the stress on the nation’s rail network.

“It’s like having a fire hydrant hooked up to a garden hose,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soybean Transportation Coalition in Iowa.

In other words, the country is using a lot of fossil fuels to move around a lot more fossil fuels as the oil boom continues in places such as North Dakota, Montana and the tar sands fields in Alberta in Canada. If there’s a plus side, our reliance on foreign oil has decreased since 2005 according the the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

petro_other_liquids_line

According to the latest statistics (from 2012), the U.S. imports about 40 percent of the petroleum products and crude oil that it consumes. Click here for more stats from the EIA. Those looking to reduce their own oil needs do have options: even if you can’t or don’t want to buy a more fuel-efficient car, you can walk, bike and take transit (even occasionally) to reduce your oil needs. And if you’re from the East Coast and such, the fact that you live here now means your heating needs are probably drastically reduced.

More headlines and commentary after the jump! 

‘Man spread’ a widening blight on public transit, says riders (am New York) 

Men taking up two or three seats because they like to sit with legs sprawled every which way — known as ‘man spread’ — triggers small battles every day on the New York system, according to this fun article. Women riders interviewed are peeved, complaining their requests for a seat are generally not greeted well by male riders. Excerpt:

Chivalry isn’t just dead — it’s extinct, fumed Cordelia Fossett, 59, of Harlem. When she asks an offender, “Excuse me, could you please close your legs a little bit so I could have some room?” her request is complied with grudgingly, often with a sigh or shrug. “They really don’t want to,” make room for other passengers, she said.

No, they don’t, confirmed David Givens, an anthropologist who heads up the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington. Humans generally dislike being in close physical proximity with strangers, prompting some men to indulge in “guarding behavior” by extending their appendages “like a buffer” to claim extra space while simultaneously warding away others, Givens explained. (The land rush is worst in individualistic cultures; people in collectivist cultures, such as Japan, know how to finesse close quarters.)

 

Sounds about right. On our Twitter account, I asked riders if ‘man spread’ was also a West Coast phenomenon:

Teen who brought killer pit bull onto Portland streetcar banned for 90 days (KGW.com)

One of those sad stories that reminds that where there is a vacuum, stupidity will thrive. Although the Portland streetcar only allows animals in crates or service animals on board, it seems many dog owners bring their dogs aboard anyway. One night that included a homeless teen with a pit bull and another dog owner with a much smaller Pomeranian. The dogs got into a fight and the Pomeranian was killed.

As a result, the homeless teen received a 90-day banishment from the streetcar (which is presumably unenforceable), the pit bull is in an animal shelter to be evaluated and someone else’s dog is dead. Transit officials in Portland say that ADA rules prohibit them from asking for papers that show whether a dog is, indeed, a service animal, which suggests that their rules governing dogs are basically as unenforceable as the teen’s banishment. Sigh.

Of course, pit bulls (I own one, btw) aren’t the only aggressive dogs around. A lot of different breeds — including the supposedly nice ones — can be reactive toward other dogs and/or people and that’s exacerbated by being in a confined space. That’s one good reason why Metro and most agencies don’t allow them on board unless they are a trained service animal or in a carrier (here is Metro’s Code of Conduct for passengers). Those who really need a ride with their pet should call a cab. I know that’s a harsh reality for some riders, but it’s also in the best interest of everyone’s safety.

Quasi-related: with the price tag for the Los Angeles streetcar thought to now range between $240 million and $274 million, supporters are thinking about ways to fund the project with or without a federal grant, according to the Daily News.

Self-driving cars: 20 years out, still (Los Angeles Daily Journal) 

One key question is whether a self-driving car — something that has been talked about since the early 20th century — will ever be able to best the reflexes of a human being behind the wheel. A self-driving race car designed by Stanford wasn’t able to beat the best time by human drivers even though finding the best line around a race track is basically a math problem. As writer and attorney Jonathan Michaels deftly explains it, self-driving cars will surely correct many human errors when driving. But not all of them and sorting out the probabilities, engineering and the legalities of that will likely take at least 20 years, he argues.

Good article. I’m always interested in this topic as the relationship between self-driving cars and transit and transit ridership is a question only the future can answer.

1 reply

  1. Sorry to bust everyone’s bubble but mass transit doesn’t work for everyone. I’m retired from the MTA. I’ve seen it deteriorate since it was created from the former RTD and LACTC. On rare occasions instead of using my car I used the MTA riding a bus to the Red Line and the Red Line to Union Station. The difference in commute times is astounding. In my car after work I could stop at the market, do a lot of shopping and still get home sooner than if I used the MTA. And one of the reasons is there is no longer a bus going from the Hollywood / Highland Red Line station to where I live near Santa Monica and La Cienega. Yes, I could alight the Red Line at Santa Monica and Vermont bus then late at night there is no Rapid Buses. so Instead it means two buses just from the station. I realize the MTA does not provide door to door service but many lines and routes of lines have been discontinued under the MTA. A case in point. The One Line fallowed almost the same route from Downtown L. A. to Beverly Hills via Hollywood Bl. that was established by the Pacific Electric in the early 1900’s That line was discontinued leaving a quarter mile gap on Hollywood Bl. from Hillhurst to Vermont Ave. and no direct service to Century City from Hollywood. Poor planning utilizing screwy alternate routes has made bus travel very inconvenient. In addition the discontinued availability of transfers has increased the cost of traveling via the MTA. Lastly, the building of light rail lines that don’t interconnect to form a meaningful rail network where alternate third and fourth lines could be created from just two lines are a sure sign of the total incompetence of those designing our new rail system. Using their philosophy each MTA bus line should run out of it’s own division and no support would be expected from another division.