Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 7

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MTA chief Arthur T. Leahy to step down in April (L.A. Times)

Coverage of yesterday’s announcement by Art that he will be leaving Metro on April 5 when his current contract expires. Here’s the news release from Metro.

One accomplishment not mentioned in the news release that I think deserves a few words: Art has always been extremely supportive of this blog and Metro’s social media efforts. I think both the blog and our social media have helped tremendously in getting more information to riders and taxpayers about their government.

As for Art, a few more words. I thought he deftly built on the successes of his predecessor, Roger Snoble, in carrying out the Measure R program. Art managed to get five rail projects under construction — an amazing feat, frankly — and endure in a job that by any standards is notoriously difficult with tens of thousands of daily riders, more than 9,000 employees at Metro and a 13-member Board of Directors comprised of powerful and demanding elected officials.

I wish Art nothing but the best in the years ahead and would like to thank him and congratulate him for his decades of public service. He worked his butt off and, knowing Art, will continue to do so for the next three months at Metro.

Art, at right, checking out the Gold Line Foothill Extension clearance testing last month. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Art, at right, checking out the Gold Line Foothill Extension clearance testing last month. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Congestion isn’t just a Westside problem any more (L.A. Times)

Columnist Steve Lopez says that horrible Westside traffic has spread east in the past couple of years, over-running his Silver Lake neighborhood and others around it. He blames apps that recommend short-cuts through residential streets, a better economy and higher-density neighborhoods. Or, as Steve puts it, “Build a pedestrian-friendly environment, and we drive to it.”

Excerpt:

Regionally, traffic could be eased a bit by launching a significantly larger investment in public transit while making it more expensive to use a single-occupant vehicle, but neither is likely to happen. And in fact, traffic is more likely to get worse than better.

“If the economy starts booming, you’re going to see severe congestion problems in Los Angeles,” Taylor said.

Going to see?

On the plus side, there are five Metro Rail projects under construction — projects that I think will offer a good alternative to sitting in traffic. As for the larger investment in public transit, that depends. Congress has been reluctant to greatly expand that investment. At the local level, Metro is looking into a possible ballot measure in 2016 to raise more funds for local transportation projects, although nothing has been yet decided.

Groundbreaking at Fresno for California high-speed rail (Fresno Bee) 

The groundbreaking was for the first 29-mile segment to be built between Fresno and Madera. Key excerpt:

Yet the money California has so far allocated to construction is a fraction of what’s needed to finish the project, and the Republican-controlled Congress is all but certain not to offer any more.

The California project comes decades after countries in Europe and Asia began developing their own high-speed rail systems. And passenger traffic is still years off: The rail authority does not plan to run trains on its first operational segment, from Merced to Burbank, until 2022.

“It’s been on the plate for a very long time, but the history, at least here in this country, is such that we’ve never developed it,” said Andrew Goetz, a professor at the Intermodal Transportation Institute at University of Denver. “It is kind of a perplexing thing, because usually when it comes to transportation, the United States is pretty good about it – pretty good about developing the infrastructure quickly.”

We’ll see. The funding issue is huge and many, many billions of dollars will need to be secured to get the train to Burbank and then eventually to downtown Los Angeles and the Bay Area. That said, it would be nice to leave the office, walk over to the bullet train and quickly be in Fresno, where I could board a bus or rent a car and be on my way to Yosemite.
Take me to the river, bullet train! Specifically, the Tuolumne River. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Take me to the river, bullet train! Specifically, the Tuolumne River. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Meet the man trying to fix L.A.’s zoning (CityLab) 

Very good article about Tom Rothmann, the L.A. city planner charged with simplifying the city’s zoning code. The code is notoriously complicated and not necessarily consistent, leaving both residents and developers to wade through the quagmire to figure out what can be built and where it can be built.

The irony, of course, is that despite the zoning code running 600 pages, much of the city looks unplanned or poorly planned (particularly the commercial corridors, IMO). Interesting stuff, as ultimately the zoning code and the individual community plans dictate what can and can’t be built near both the existing and expanding local transit system.

6 replies

    • Hi Donna;

      Yes, absolutely feel free to use the photos. You can credit “Photo by Metro” or use the photographer’s name/Metro if photog identified.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  1. > The irony, of course, is that despite the zoning code running 600 pages, much of the city looks
    > unplanned or poorly planned (particularly the commercial corridors, IMO).

    Is that supposed to be a bad thing?

    The most beautiful cities in the world are that way precisely because they look unplanned. And the most meticulously planned cities tend to be boring (and automobile-centric).

    > it would be nice to leave the office, walk over to the bullet train and quickly be in Fresno, where I could board a bus or rent
    > a car and be on my way to Yosemite.

    Uh, isn’t Merced a bit closer to Yosemite? You can catch a YARTS bus to Yosemite right at the Merced Amtrak station.

    • Hi James;

      1. Taking Amtrak from L.A. to Merced or Fresno is a pain at present time, as you need to take a bus to Bakersfield and then transfer to a train. Ridiculous.

      2. Many of the commercial corridors around So Cal are dreadful, whether intentional or not, messy or not, etc.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • 1. Of course it’s a pain in the fundament, and of course it’s ridiculous. When I go to Yosemite, I go as part of a Northern California vacation, taking a San Joaquin from either Emeryville or Sacramento. But I wasn’t talking about NOW. According to the alignment I’ve seen for the HSR, it should be able to get you from L.A. to Merced just as easily (and as soon) as from L.A. to Fresno, and even if it and Amtrak have separate stations in Merced (which doesn’t strike me as an especially smart idea), then presumably YARTS will serve both.

        2. True, but on the other hand, much of San Francisco’s charm comes from its utterly chaotic layout. Ditto for Boston, Philadelphai, and New York City.