Transportation headlines, Friday, March 6

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ART OF TRANSIT: The scene yesterday in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. Brr. Photo by New York MTA, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: The scene yesterday in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. Brr. Photo by New York MTA, via Flickr creative commons.

Semi-rare Donkey Kong/transit tweet:

$1.1 billion and five years later, the 405 project is a fail (LAWeekly)

As the headline implies, the article is overall critical of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project. That said, a variety of opinions are expressed and some of those quoted say the project — which added a northbound carpool lane, new ramps, new bridges and other safety features — has made this stretch of the 405 better able to handle the crushing demand it experiences each day. 

Look, folks. Traffic at rush hour is bad in our region. It’s bad in other metro areas, too. Building our way out of the problem has proven tough — there are only so many lanes that can added to freeways. But improving and modernizing some known choke points strikes me as better than doing nothing. 

Most of all, I think it’s fascinating to see an increasing number of media articles critical of freeway spending while suggesting it would be wiser to spend that money on more transit. I can remember a time not so long ago it was the other way around! On the transit front, the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project — with $1 billion from Measure R — will eventually be built and there are studies underway to determine which options are feasible.

Reimagining the Arroyo Seco as an active transportation corridor (KCET)

Yes, please! It makes little sense that there isn’t a great bike path along the Arroyo Seco from the Rose Bowl to downtown L.A. There is a short segment of bike path in the creek’s concrete channel but it kind of goes from nowhere to nowhere — although does offer a good view of the Gold Line trestle:

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Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Traffic safety: pedestrians (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

This new fact sheet looks at pedestrian deaths in the U.S. between 2004 and 2013. A few trends to keep in mind: the majority of fatalities happen at night and not in marked intersections and crosswalks. In other words, jaywalking at night: very bad idea.

Meet one of the finalists for the one-way trip to Mars (LA Magazine) 

An East Hollywood filmmaker is one of the finalists for the pie-in-the-sky private mission to colonize Mars that’s getting a lot of media love. Asked what she would miss about L.A., her answer:

Just because it’s on my mind, I got this amazing brisket quesadilla from a food truck and it was delicious. I won’t miss the traffic, but I will miss all the great food.

Mars is an average distance of 140 million miles from Earth. That’s a long way to go for a congestion free ride in a Rover. L.A. may have traffic but Mars has an average temperature of minus 81 degrees, so the colonists may want want to pack a fleece pullover.

Downtown Seattle drivers steer away from driving solo (Seattle Times) 

The number of motorists driving alone to work in downtown Seattle dropped from 35 percent in 2010 to 31 percent in 2014 while more people are walking, biking and using transit to reach work, according to a new survey. Downtown traffic remains bad — and the Seattle metro area can rival our region when it comes to traffic jams — but mobility options have grown and that appears to have helped.

More Seattle traffic news! In this High Country News article headlined ‘Big Dig, Big Disgrace,’ writer Ben Goldfarb argues that there’s no need to build a new highway tunnel to replace the old Alaska Way Viaduct in DT Seattle because without new roads, the cars won’t come (he mentions our 405 project, too). Excerpt:

Eliminating highways could help expedite driving’s decline: According to one review, up to 25 percent of traffic simply disappears when road capacity vanishes. In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and the fatal, seismically induced collapse of the Cypress Street Viaduct, San Francisco decided to tear down two elevated highways, the Embarcadero and Central freeways, and replace them with surface boulevards. The much-feared congestion crises never materialized. As it turns out, even improving public transit has little influence. Only downsizing roads can change driving habits.

Hmm. Is it really that simple? Does traffic simply vanish? What about the folks who don’t live along new transit corridors replacing freeway corridors? One thing to keep in mind: the Seattle tunnel project was controversial to begin with and then took things to the next level of public wing-flapping when the tunnel boring machine got stuck underground.

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Trying some different fonts out for the blog. Thumbs up/down on this one?

A few things to read or listen to while riding transit:

The demolition of workers’ comp (ProPublic) — bottom line: try not to hurt while working.

Rarely seen photographs of the Selma march (New Yorker) — pretty amazing black-and-white images.

Jon Stewart interview (Employee of the Month) — funny interview with the departing Daily Show host. Warning: Adult language/NSFW.

It’s Friday afternoon, time for a little music. Haven’t heard this one in a while…

5 replies

  1. It’s what I and a wealth of other folks have been saying for 50 years, the estimated $5-$30 billion dollars (take your pick) for a 710 Toll Tunnel would be much better spent on rapid transit. Apparently, LA Weekly doesn’t trust what METRO did with only $1 billion dollars on the 405 widening, why should we think that Metro and CalTrans will do any better with the 710 Tunnel? Doing the same thing over and over again–building freeways–while expecting less traffic and smog is the very definition of insanity!

  2. For over thirty years I worked for the RTD/MTA. I started as a Bus Operator and retired as a Transit Operations Supervisor qualified in all bus functions. Primarily I worked in the field supervisor bus operations. As a Bus Operator I worked the 4 Line most of time.

    The 405 widening project has been done more than once. It seemed the concrete was barely dry when a new project was started and in some instances said near new concrete was torn out. Traffic was never as bad as it is today. While it was somewhat heavy during rush hour Santa Monica Bl. was never backed up to Centinela like it is now. I realize there are more vehicles on the street than there were in the 1980’s but it appears traffic lanes were reconfigured that have increased back ups. After passing the 405 eastbound traffic opens up until one reaches Santa Monica and Century Park East. From there , there is little change from years ago. Any idea about further upgrades will just be useless.

    So much money has been poured into the 405 year after year. Yet we look at some of the oldest freeways in Los Angles have had no major upgrades. Those who depend on the 405 have the attitude ‘ so what, it doesn’t effect me.’

    It’s my opinion that those who live in other parts of the Los Angles region should get some relief before the SFV gets any further upgrades. Jerry Brown put a stop to the 2 Freeway that was supposed to extend to the Westside when he was previously Governor. Century City and much of the Westside development were envisioned and built with said freeway in mind. Since there will be no freeway a light rail line along Santa Monica Bl. is the next best alternative. Much of the old P. E. right of way exists and most likely owned by the MTA similar to the right of way the MTA has held since it’s inception that the Expo Line is being built on. It’s not a case of buying it back, I know from my TOS experience with said right of way that it has been the agencies property dating back to 1958 when the old MTA was created.

    Let’s get it together and build a light rail line where there is grid lock instead of open country to the suburbs where grid lock is only experienced by watching the news.

  3. Steve, you’re being a bit unfair in your comment about Mars temperatures. Yes, nighttime temperatures are low: it can get down to the minus 200’s Fahrenheit. But on a summer day at the equator, it’s typically in the 70s.

    You may think that Mars is cold, but the people in your Sheepshead Bay photo above might feel otherwise.

    • Hey Allon;

      You got me — I cherry picked that one. Good clarification. That said, I’ll still talk a day in the 70s in the 91106 over a day in the 70s in equatorial Mars 🙂

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • There’s that little problem of not enough oxygen, too. But hey, if you want to launch yourself into a glass bubble permanently, go ahead.