Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 24

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 


Today’s rider profile by Zocalo Public Square: What does building character even mean?, Riverside Drive to Orange Drive

MTA’s toll lanes project may be a victim of its own success (L.A. Times) 

Good story looks at the increasing traffic in the northbound ExpressLanes on the 110 freeway in the morning. Traffic has become heavy enough that single motorists are often not allowed to use the lanes for about 30 minutes during the peak commute in an effort to keep speeds up.

The article looks at some options for dealing with it — and all have challenges. Perhaps the most viable is raising tolls from their $1.40 per mile maximum, which Metro officials say they may ask the agency’s Board to consider in the fall. That’s, of course, politically challenging and it also appears there are some motorists who will pay no matter the cost because they can pass along the cost to clients.

Read the entire article, which also offers a good explanation of the difference between hybrid congestion pricing models such as the ExpressLanes and congestion pricing as it’s used in places like London.

Eagle Rock’s freeway revolt (Walk Eagle Rock) 

Once upon a time — the 1950s — there was a gap in the 134 freeway between Burbank and Pasadena. State highway officials wanted to close that gap by building a freeway through the heart of Eagle Rock south of Colorado Boulevard, a plan that would require the demolition of hundreds of homes.

The community said “no thanks” and ultimately the 134 was built on the hillside above Eagle Rock. While this cut off most recreational access to the hills, the post also considers the other side of the coin:

Perhaps without the freeway going through Eagle Rock, Colorado Boulevard would be like Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, where a freeway was planned but  never built. The two cities seem[ingly] are doing well but there is no denying they feel the squeeze on their streets during rush hour. In this sense, the freeway has allowed Eagle Rock’s main street to be somewhat preserved for local traffic and created opportunities to have a more pedestrian-oriented boulevard.

I know there are readers who will say this is analogous to the situation with the gap in the 710 freeway between Pasadena and Alhambra/El Sereno. Seems to me there are some similarities and differences; it’s hard to compare the east-west freeway network to the north-south one.

Big Blue Bus seeks 25 cent fare hike (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The BBB wants to increase service 11 percent when the Expo Line’s second phase opens in order to offer better connections to rail riders. Thus, the agency is seeking to increase regular fares from $1 to $1.25 in January; senior and disabled fares wouldn’t change. As for new service, the BBB wants to expand north-south service from the east-west rail line and put an emphasis on first-mile, last-mile connections.

It currently costs 50 cents to transfer from Metro to the BBB (or vice-versa). Transfers within the Metro system are free for two hours. There are no transfers for those switching from one BBB to another BBB. This is part of the conundrum facing bus service in L.A. County that often overlaps: a somewhat confusing fare system that varies from operator to operator and service that maybe is, or is not, complimentary.

As we posted on the blog yesterday, bus ridership for Metro (and other cities) has been flat or fallen in recent times while countywide service has increased.

Does Seattle offer the path forward for the national streetcar movement? (Transport Politic) 

Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar has seen declining ridership, perhaps because the thing only moves at an average of eight miles per hour as it shares lanes with motor vehicles (and often gets stuck behind them). In fact, most streetcar projects in the U.S. share lanes. Thus, they’re slow. Then again, they’re often sold to the public as economic development tools as much as they are transit projects.

That might be changing. Seattle is putting a new streetcar project in dedicated lanes to speed it up and is even considering giving the South Lake Union its own lanes. Here are Yonak Freemark’s money graphs:

It’s worth noting that streetcar service often fails to offer adequate reliability and speed for reasons other than dedicated lanes—and these problems are shared with many light rail and bus rapid transit lines too. Indeed, too many of the new transit lines put into service in the U.S. recently lack adequate frequencies, particularly off-peak. A wait of fifteen minutes for the next streetcar on a 1.3-mile line could last longer than a brisk walk along the entire route. Many of the streetcar systems as designed have too many stops—the short South Lake Union line has seven stops, each of which require the vehicle to slow down, dwell as passengers alight and board, and accelerate. Meanwhile, traffic signal priority—an essential feature for transit lines that run with traffic—is too often avoided, even for light rail.

Providing exclusive lanes won’t fix any of those problems, which isn’t to say that they’re not important, just that they’re one piece of an overall equation for better transit service.

Traffic signal priority remains an issue in many regions, including ours — where the Gold Line, Expo Line and Blue Line all have significant amounts of street-running segments.

Parking Madness 2015: Fort Worth versus Boise (Streetsblog)

This is part of the annual tournament hosted by Streetsblog to show which American city has most surrendered its downtown to parking. Judging by the photos, either Fort Worth or Boise have an excellent chance at cutting down the net (or parking meter) in a few times. Downtown Fort Worth, in fact, doesn’t seem to even exist — it’s just one big parking lot. Or, as they like to say in Texas, “he’s all hat and no cattle.”

Still hoping for future Kodak moments (NYT)

If you have headphones, this is a video well worth watching during your transit ride. The video has nothing directly to do with transit. Rather, it’s about efforts underway to keep Kodak afloat and relevant as a business in the 21st century even when parts of its campus in Rochester, N.Y., are now being used to make spaghetti sauce and salsa (the parts of the campus that remain, that is — some 40 buildings have been demolished rather than sit empty).

An empty Kodak office in Rochester. Photo by Paul Braverman, courtesy Flickr creative commons.

An empty Kodak office in Rochester. Photo by Paul Braverman, courtesy Flickr creative commons.

Quick recap: Kodak was once America’s foremost manufacturer of cameras and film. In the 1970s, it was a pioneer of digital cameras. But other companies moved more swiftly and more deftly into the digital realm as Kodak began a long slide toward bankruptcy.

What happened? The folks interviewed in the video hint at it: company leadership that failed to see very far into the future. Hubris. Overconfidence. My advice: if you’re working in the public or private sector, get to know your younger colleagues. They may have no power, no real salary or no real say. But I’ll bet they have this: knowledge and enthusiasm for your products. And I bet they’ve got ideas. Fresh, interesting, perhaps profitable ideas.

As for Kodak, they don’t even make software that allows digital photographers to make their photos look more like Kodak’s famous film stocks. It’s probably not a huge business opportunity. But still.

A photo from CicLAvia on Sunday that was processed using presets downloaded for free meant to mimic Kodachrome. Why isn't Kodak making such software? They know the characteristics of the film better than anyone, right? Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A photo from CicLAvia on Sunday that was processed using presets downloaded for free meant to mimic Kodachrome. Why isn’t Kodak making such software? They know the characteristics of the film better than anyone, right? Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.