Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Nov. 5

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How transit measures fared on 2014 midterm ballots (CityLab)

A recap of city and county level transportation initiatives on the ballots this year shows that 17 were passed and nine were defeated. Some of those defeats occurred in areas that aren’t really known for their support of public transit (sorry Florida). The biggest win, according to the article, was in Atlanta, where suburban Clayton County approved a one-cent sales tax to join the regional transit agency, MARTA. In California, the victories occurred in the Bay Area, as San Francisco passed Measure A, a $500-million transit bond, and two counties passed transit measures, including a one-cent sales tax.

Victory assured, G.O.P. to act fast in promoting agenda in Congress (New York Times)

With Republicans now holding majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House, the NYT speculates how their agenda may unfold in the next couple of years. There is no direct mention of transportation although I think it’s worth noting that a multi-year transportation spending bill will be up for debate in 2015 when the current bill expires. That bill strongly shapes federal transportation funding. Regular Source readers know that Metro is certainly a consumer of federal grants and loans for a variety of projects — including the Regional Connector, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Purple Line Extension, the Wilshire bus lanes and others. It’s really impossible to say at this time what, if any, impact there will be in the new Congress — particularly with another big election looming in 2016. In other words, the time for actual governing may be pretty small.

Kuehl appears to beat Shriver for Board of Supervisors seat (L.A. Times)

With 100 percent of precincts reporting this morning, Sheila Kuehl has a significant lead in the race to replace outgoing Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in the county’s third district. Both Kuehl and Hilda Solis (who is replacing the termed-out Gloria Molina in the 1st district) will officially be seated as County Supervisors next month, meaning they will also be joining the 13-member Metro Board of Directors, who oversee policy and spending at Metro.

There are, of course, major Metro projects being studied or underway in both supervisors’ districts. In the 1st district, the SR-710 North project is scheduled to release a draft environmental impact study in early 2015 and the Eastside Gold Line Phase 2 Transit Corridor is under study and contemplating a Gold Line extension to South El Monte or Whittier (the Board could choose to pursue both but will need to finding funding to do so).

In the 3rd district, both the Expo Line Phase 2 and the Purple Line Extension projects are underway and other projects will touch on the San Fernando Valley portion of the district, including the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor and Orange Line improvements that the Board is discussing.

No, autonomous cars will not “abolish transit” in dense cities (Human Transit)

Transit planner Jarrett Walker responds to a recent Fortune article that showed how the emerging future potential of autonomous (“driverless”) vehicles was being used as an argument against a referendum for a comprehensive transit plan in Florida. The referendum, which was ultimately rejected by voters yesterday, would have increased bus service and added a new light rail line in the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area.

It’s an argument I wouldn’t be surprised to see pop up elsewhere in the country. Walker has this response:

Technology never changes facts of geometry. However successful driverless cars become, transit will remain crucial for dense cities because cities are defined by a shortage of space per person.  Mass transit, where densities are high enough to support it, is an immensely efficient use of space.

All over the world, people are moving into dense cities w[h]ere even autonomous cars can’t replace a bus full of 60 people or a train full of hundreds.  There simply isn’t enough space to put walls between every pair of travellers as the car model of transportation requires.  Nor will driverless taxis ever be there whenever you need them as great transit lines will.  Like bikeshare systems they will experience surges where all the vehicles are in the wrong place.

It seems to me that it would be a mistake to look at autonomous vehicles as the end-all in transportation and relegate other modes to obsolescence — especially when they can be used to supplement each other. It already happened with the advent of garden-variety human-controlled vehicles, so let’s hope we can learn from our previous blunders.

By the way, autonomous cars and how they might be integrated with modern transit systems will be up for discussion at the “Metro and the Digital Future” event at Metro headquarters this Friday. If you weren’t able to reserve a spot, make sure to follow on social media using #MetroTechLA.

2 replies

  1. The 2014 election in LA County can be summed in one word: pathetic.

    Again, record low voter turnout rates. Man, the people of LA County are lazy they don’t even vote, participate in the democratic process, let alone even do it by mail in ballot in the easiest state to do mail in ballots. And you wonder why nothing changes in CA, for the worse.

  2. County of Los Angeles was 25.2pc MEH! turnout in NYC County 4,232,923 ( 27.5pc) and slightly better in SF county 440,037 128,937 29.30pc – there was crap on the ballot – and we are a republic not a democracy!