Transportation headlines, Tuesday, January 27

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Today’s Zocalo Public Square rider profile: Exposition Avenue to Garfield Avenue

And today’s Art of Transit:

🎶 lonely I'm so lonely 🎶 photo by @kisdevil #MetroExpoLine #trains #GoMetro

A photo posted by Metro Los Angeles (@metrolosangeles) on

basics: should I vote for a transit tax? (Human Transit) 

Transit planner Jarrett Walker pens a superbly interesting post about ballot measures that raise taxes to pay for more transit. He reviews many of the familiar arguments for and against and comes to this conclusion: voting ‘yes’ will likely improve transit in your city more than voting ‘no.’

Of course, this is a provocative stance, especially for readers of The Source. Metro already benefits from three half-cent sales tax increases approved by voters (Prop A in 1980, Prop C in 1990 and Measure R in 2008) and the agency is contemplating some type of ballot measure in 2016. The contents of that one are still to be determined but the agency and its Board are contemplating something that could either accelerate projects already in line to be built and/or raise money for new projects.

My advice: pay attention as the debate about a ballot measure unfolds. Kick the tires, read the details. Make an informed decision.

There are a ton of interesting excerpts, but I’ll include this about Walker’s view that transit needs growing faster than tax revenues:

However, existing revenue sources are usually growing, on average, no faster than population.  The various tax streams that support transit have a range of differences, but they are not going to grow massively faster than the population is growing.

So if the city is growing denser, transit needs are growing faster than transit revenues.  This is nobody’s fault.  It’s a mathematical fact about the geometry of transit and density.

If transit and roads were thought about together, you would not see this exponential growth in total transportation spending, because as populations grow denser, they need fewer highway lanes per capita — precisely because they’re using transit, walking, and cycling so much more.  But we usually don’t think about those things together, unfortunately.

Millennials like cars more than social media and texting, study says (UPI)

First, I had no idea that United Press International still existed. So that’s a positive. As for the study, it’s from MTV and posed the question about cars versus tech in a silly way: which would you rather give up? That’s not exactly a real world scenario.

That’s not to say MTV is completely barking up the wrong tree. Younger people are driving less and getting their licenses later — but what does that mean for the future? Would they rather have one car in their households (when they have households) or one car for every adult? How do they really feel about transit? And biking and walking? And at what point would they get a car and how would they use it? Would they rather live in an urban environment or do they eventually see themselves bound for the ‘burbs when the Stork arrives? And will they give up transit as soon as an affordable self-driving car comes along?

My own view: I don’t see cars going anywhere. I do think, however, they’ll be much cleaner (and probably more expensive) in the future and perhaps not used quite as much.

Obama proposes expanding oil-drilling ban in Arctic wildlife refuge (L.A. Times) 

The controversial proposal would set aside 1.4 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as designated wilderness, meaning it’s off limits to many mechanical devices, including oil wells. About seven million acres of the refuge’s 19.8 million acres is already wilderness and there has been vigorous debate in Congress for years about whether to allow drilling in other parts of the refuge, in particular areas along the coast and east of the oil fields in Prudhoe Bay.

Drilling wasn’t imminent here and development really isn’t much of an issue due to the area’s extreme remoteness. But as discussed in this excellent NYT Magazine story on drilling in the Arctic, oil companies are thinking very long-term about where they will and will not be able to drill. About 33 percent of petroleum consumed in the U.S. came from imports in 2013 and 50 percent of the crude oil processed in U.S. refineries was imported, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Generally speaking, dependence on imports has been falling — but we still consume a lot of oil from other nations.

New York is spared worst of snowstorm (New York Times) 

City officials took the unprecedented step of shutting down the New York Subway on Monday in advance of expected deep snows, mostly to prevent damage. The storm, however, apparently didn’t check the National Weather Service website and instead veered off toward New England, leaving Gotham with train service resuming at 9 a.m. today and running on a Sunday schedule (today is Tuesday, I think).

Let the second-guessing begin! The New York Posts’s front page headline: De Blasio: I was frozen out of decision to shut down subway

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Who says government never gave you anything? Above is Jose Escobar, a Metro rider who took me up on my offer of a free book: The Martian by Andy Weir. The only condition of the freebie: Jose must read some of the book on transit and when he’s done give it to another transit rider.

There were several folks interested who I had to turn down. But don’t despair. I’m in the midst of de-cluttering a very cluttered house and there will be more book giveaways soon. Like right now.

Next up: Command and Control by Eric Schlosser, who previously wrote Fast Food Nation. In this book, Schlosser documents some of the scary accidents involving America’s arsenal of atomic weapons. The good news: no weapon has ever detonated that wasn’t supposed to detonate. The bad news: bombs ended up in some surprising places. Yikes. Double yikes!

Want the book? Email me. Same conditions apply: you have to read some of it on transit and you have to take a solemn oath that you’ll give the book to another transit rider when you finish it. Also, you need to pick up the freebie from me at Union Station and endure having your photo on this blog 🙂

7 replies

    • At my local commuter station 20 miles north of London, there’s a small book-case of books people are encouraged to take or contribute to. There’s a donations box.

    • Hi Daniel. Was wondering if you would be interested in reading the book next? I just finished it. Let me know.

  1. I love the book giveaway idea! Wouldn’t it be cool to have a transit library for riders to pick up and drop off books? Maybe at Union Station?

    • Hey Jas;

      Glad you like the idea. I agree about the transit library and we’ve kicked around a few ideas here. The challenge is twofold (predictably but understandably) twofold: security and upkeep. Stay tuned and we’ll see what unfolds. In the meantime, I’ll continue to try to give away some books cluttering up my crib!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Regarding “Millennials like cars more than social media and texting”

    Interestingly subtitled “The results were released on Friday at the National Automobile Dealers Association conference in San Francisco, Calif.”

    “A new study from MTV finds millennials like cars more than texting or social media, which contradicts what many previously thought.”

    A little checking into ” contradicts what many previously thought” finds interesting results. Further down the article is the term ” interesting perspectives” which contains a link to another article on the same study by Detroit Free Press writer Greg Gardner that gives a very different take on the “study”.

    Greg Gardner, Detroit Free Press wrote on this “study”:

    “The findings contrast with other recent studies. Last October the U.S. Public Interest Research Group released a study showing, among other findings, that the generation born after 1980 is less focused that older Americans on owning cars and trucks.

    PIRG found that between 2001 and 2009, the average number of miles driven by 16 to 34 year-olds declined by 23%. Census data show that the share of 16 to 24-year-olds driving to work dropped 1.5 percentage points from 2006 to 2013, while the percentage commuting to work by public transportation, walking or bicycling increased.

    A 2013 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reported that adults between 55 and 64 were 15 times more likely than those between the ages of 18 and 24 to buy a new vehicle.

    In a separate study UMTRI found that the percentage of 19-year-olds with a driver’s license had fallen to 75% in 2008 from 87% in 1983.”

    MTV did a strange survey that the auto industry took and ran with.