Transportation headlines, Thursday, Oct. 23

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Going off the rails on Metro’s rail cars (L.A. Times) 

Photo: Juan Ocampo/Metro

One of the new rail cars after delivery to Metro. Photo: Juan Ocampo/Metro

This editorial says there still could be a glimmer of hope that rail-car manufacturer Kinkisharyo — contracted by Metro to build new vehicles — will build a permanent light rail car manufacturing facility in Palmdale. The firm has said it will take the facility out of state because of a union-backed lawsuit challenging the factory on environmental grounds.

The union wants to organize workers at the new facility. Kinkisharyo wants a formal vote on unionization, which would allow the firm to make its case to workers that a union is not necessary. The Times’ editorial board says that a compromise is still possible:

Both the company and the unions are wrong, and their intransigence could cost L.A. County good jobs. Political leaders, including Metro board members Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs the Metro board, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has close ties to labor, should be working overtime with their colleagues to broker a deal to keep the jobs here.

The Times would like to see Kinkisharyo fully flesh out the environmental impacts of a new facility. The newspaper also suggests that some local union leaders are working on behalf of another rail car manufacturer.

Related: here’s a post with more pics of the first new light rail car delivered to Metro.

The fundamental rule of traffic: building more roads just makes people drive more (Vox)

A new study reaches an old conclusion that has now been long-debated in transportation and activist circles. Not surprisingly perhaps, the photo accompanying this blog post features our very own 405 freeway all gummed up with traffic. Excerpt:

Turner and Duranton have also found that public transportation doesn’t really help alleviate congestion either — even if it takes some people out of cars and puts them on buses or trains, the empty road space will be quickly filled up by new vehicle-miles. Other researchers have found exceptions to this rule (say, when a transit route parallels heavy commuting corridors) but it doesn’t seem to be a large-scale traffic solution, at least given the way US cities are currently built. (Note that transit can have other beneficial effects, like making a city more affordable. But it doesn’t seem to have much effect on congestion.)

So why does traffic increase when new road capacity is added? Turner and Duranton attribute about half of the effect to people’s driving decisions. “Think of it as if you made a bunch of hamburgers and then gave them all away,” Turner says. “If you make hamburgers free, people will eat more of them.”

Again, not exactly a shocking conclusion. Those who attended last month’s Zocalo Public Square forum on can-we-fix-traffic heard UCLA’s Brian Taylor explain:

Can traffic be fixed or seriously improved? The short answer: probably not much can be done unless the region embraces drastic and politically unpopular measures such as heavier tolling across all lanes on freeways to reduce peak hour traffic, passing laws to greatly restrict driving, building many billions of dollars of new freeways (which includes the challenge of finding places to put them) or going the Detroit route by shedding jobs, residents and the local economy.

If you would like to listen to the forum, please click here.

Does that mean all road projects are pointless? Well, no. There are places where roads can be made safer, bottlenecks can be fixed and capacity added via HOV lanes. Roads can be made more complete by adding pedestrian and cycling improvements.

More headlines are after the jump!

How the Twin Cities got transit right (CNN) 

A Green Line train during testing earlier this year. Photo by Michael Green via Flickr creative commons.

A Green Line train during testing earlier this year. Photo by Michael Green via Flickr creative commons.

Praise for the new 11-mile Green Line that runs between Minneapolis and St. Paul — in particular for the development and re-development along the trains’ path, including new affordable housing and the preservation of businesses impacted by construction. Of course, not everyone thinks the new train is a success. It takes 48 minutes for the Green Line to travel 11 miles, including 23 stops — leading some to say that’s slow as syrup.

High in the Andes, Bolovia’s gondolas ease congestion (NPR)

Cool view of La Paz. It's a little dense, eh. Photo by Twiga269 Fema via Flickr creative commons.

Cool view of La Paz. It’s a little dense, eh. Photo by Twiga269 Fema via Flickr creative commons.

Ha! The previous item on road building suggests that the headline is probably wrong. The gondolas in La Paz — emulating gondolas in other South American towns — are providing another mobility option and probably not fixing traffic in a city with steep hills and thousands of mini-buses already on the street.

Quasi-transit related: From a remote wildlife camera in the San Gabriel Mountains above Glendora — despite all the traffic and sprawl here, this kind of thing persists — four mountain lions seen traveling together:

9 replies

  1. In my opinion and that of other pro-public transit citizens, the UCLA transportation think tank has been and remains pro-highway and anti-rapid transit. It was home to the late George Hilton who, whilst a rail hobby-buff, was also in league with the former Southern Pacific Railroad in its desire to rid itself of passenger trains including those of subsidiary Pacific Electric which operated rail rapid transit through out the
    LA Basin. The very symbol of the UCLA group is an international symbol for freeways, autobahns and motorways, etc. However, it is right that changing modes of transport in LA is a political hot-button issue, but so was gay-marriage! Yet, we as a people, have changed that and we can change our traffic habits as well.

  2. “The fundamental rule of traffic: building more roads just makes people drive more”

    DUH!? What’s next, eating fast food and no exercise makes you fat? Who comes up with these studies that deal with the obvious? Do people actually get paid to do studies like this?

      • Creators of all studies tend to accept or weigh information heaver that information that supports their predetermined beliefs while disregarding that information that is contrary to their predetermined beliefs.

  3. Concerning the light rail facility in Palmdale. If the union is so weak that it must use challenges to zone issues instead of traditional organizing methods perhaps that is not the union if any that those future employees need.

    The union wants to organize workers at the new facility. Kinkisharyo wants a formal vote on unionization, which would allow the firm to make its case to workers that a union is not necessary.

  4. “The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more”

    A qualifier to the statement: The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building FREE roads just makes people drive more given ALL OTHER VARIABLES FOR ROAD TRANSPORTATION REMAIN THE SAME. Do toll roads encourage more driving? Maybe in a parallel earth like Superman’s Bizarro World.

    The Cars aren’t free, the gas isn’t free. Free roads encourage cars being used which means more car sales and more gasoline consumption. But if the price were to suddenly go up to $15 a gallon….? Other than political turmoil…

  5. The new lanes on the 405, and the extra drivers those lanes have attracted, is a perfect illustration of induced demand. Build it and they will come.

    • I don’t believe there are any stats available yet on the number of cars using the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass. The only numbers that I’ve seen were the ones released a few weeks ago that showed the time it took to drive between the 10 and the 101. Obviously there may be more vehicles on the 405, but until there’s good, comprehensive data we don’t really know.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source