Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 9

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Metro rider Chris Richards. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Metro rider Chris Richards. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Today’s profile of a Metro rider by Zocalo Public Square: It’s calming to watch the city go by, Pacific Avenue to Flower Street

Private profit, public gain? (New York Times) 

Several experts debate the wisdom of public-private partnerships, also known as PPPs. The idea is to get private firms to take on the risk and cost of upgrading infrastructure with some type of profit incentive built in for doing so. A good range of opinions are expressed here, as well as this reminder: there are no free rides. One way or another, the public has to actually pay for infrastructure upgrades whether it’s increasing tolls on bridges or simply paying for the kind of accessible and affordable mass transit service that likely will never attract someone trying to turn a profit.

Garcetti unveils sustainable city plan, including transportation and livability goals (Streetsblog LA)

Coverage of Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair’s newly released plan to improve many aspects of the city. The plan seeks to shave 10 percent of the per capita vehicle miles traveled by city residents by 2035 and to double the number of trips made by walking, biking or transit by 2035.

On the transit side, the plan calls for re-routing some DASH lines to better connect to Metro Rail and Metrolink, to expand bus rapid transit lines to more corridors — including Vermont Avenue and to expand park-and-ride facilities. Another big one: ensure that 57 percent of all new residential units in the city of Los Angeles are built within 1,500 feet of transit by 2025. The current number is 43 percent. Of course, there’s a big caveat there: the transit — whether bus or train — needs to be frequent, somewhat fast and reach places where residents want to go.

L.A. just called. It says go find another dystopia (Grist) 

Haha. Clever headline. Grist’s Heather Smith takes a look at the Garcetti sustainability plan and calls it surreal. “All these years of being America’s fantasy dystopia, and Los Angeles turns out to have its own plans for the future,” she writes. She’s actually pretty complimentary of the plan and offers some helpful context:

Sustainability plans are something of the hot new dance craze in American cities — New York has one, Washington, D.C., has one, nearby Santa Monica has one. The terrible acronym for Los Angeles’s sustainability plan — pLAn — echoes the eccentric capitalization choices of New York’s plan (PlaNYC). But while many of these plans are superficially similar — more parks, more walking — there are huge regional differences.

New York is an already dense urban landscape whose main priority is protecting itself from the property damage caused by storm surges. Los Angeles was a sprawling city even in the days before private cars (the L.A.’s streetcar lines actually enabled the city’s first suburbs), and it’s less at risk from storm surge than from drought. Rising temperatures from climate change will also make temperature inversion over the city, which traps air pollution near ground level, even worse.

2015 Environmental Report Card for Los Angeles County (UCLA)

The UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability report breaks down commuting time numbers from the Census Bureau:

The mean travel time to work was 30 minutes. Only 7.5% of the public commuted less than 10 minutes a day while 22.6% of the workforce commutes over 45 minutes to work. The mean time for public transportation was 75% greater than that for driving alone, and 54.7% of mass transit commuters take over 45 minutes to get to work.

In a nutshell, there’s one challenge of luring discretionary riders to transit — it sometimes takes longer than driving, although a lot of that involves what time of day you’re traveling (at rush hour, transit may be faster or about the same–it is for me). I’d be curious to see some other data showing average commute times for bus riders versus rail riders (buses are more likely to have a stop near a home and job whereas rail generally travels faster once on it). I would also like to know the tipping point for discretionary riders, i.e. how much longer they are willing to spend commuting by transit.

New data shows Americans drove 3 trillion miles last year (Federal Highway Administration)

The news release was issued a couple weeks back but I’m just catching up to it. The gist of it: while driving in American has been steady or decreased in recent years, this was the biggest year driving-wise since 2007 and the second most miles traveled by Americans in cars in the 79 years the FHA has been collecting data. The increases, interestingly, were smallest in the western U.S.


Non-transity things….

•Good listen while on transit: me and my case involving beer league hockey on the Judge John Hodgman podcast. My apologies for the blatant, repeated attempts at self promotion. That said, it’s a pretty funny hour thanks to His Honor’s wit and willingness to crack the gavel down on slow-witted litigants.

Good read while on transit: Weather underground, the arrival of man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma in the New Yorker. Oklahoma has quietly become one of the earthquake capitals of the United States thanks to temblors that scientists have linked to the oil and gas drilling. But in Oklahoma, identifying the problem — much less doing something about it — involves some tricky politics owing to the state’s culture and lobbying from youknowwho.

•From our comment board: “Riding the bus is a much, much more pleasant experience today than it was in 1985. On the other hand, music in 1985 was WAAAY better than it is today,” writes Elson Trinidad. I can’t speak for the bus part — I was (or so I’m told) in college in 1985. As for music, I would argue the ’70s in general topped anything the ’80s had to offer, although the mid-80s belched forth some excellent, excellent music. Such as (headphones please if you’re riding):