Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 14

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ART OF TRANSIT: That's the 770 Rapid as seen from Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. Yeah, a little creepy although the cemetery provides a glimpse into our area's rich history. Also accessible from the Local 30 and 68 buses and the Gold Line's Indiana Station. There's a nice walking path around the outside perimeter of the cemetery that is very popular, especially in the mornings and evenings. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: That’s the 770 Rapid as seen from Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights. Yeah, a little creepy although the cemetery provides a glimpse into our area’s rich history for those who have never visited. Also accessible from the Local 30 and 68 buses and the Gold Line’s Indiana Station. There’s a nice walking path around the outside perimeter of the cemetery that is very popular, especially in the mornings and evenings. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Coalition calls for 10 percent of future L.A. sales tax measure go to walk-bike (Streetsblog LA)

More than 30 groups say that the potential 2016 ballot measure under consideration by Metro should set aside 10 percent of its funding to walk-bike projects with several groups leading the way, including Investing in Place and the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition. The groups also want 20 percent of any local return money in a ballot measure to be set aside for walk, bike and Safe Routes to Schools programs.

Very interesting development. Under Measure R’s expenditure plan, 15 percent of sales tax revenues are returned to the 88 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County on a per capita basis. The cities or county can then use that money for a variety of transportation projects, including pedestrian and bike ones. But it’s no guarantee that the money gets used for such projects.

The standard reminder: Metro staff have been studying and doing surveys for a potential ballot measure — which may include a new half-cent sales tax and/or an extension of Measure R. But the Metro Board of Directors has not made a decision to go forward. This is certainly an interesting development.

Technology that could prevent accident was absent (New York Times) 

The top of the story sums it up:

For the second time in two years, a passenger train traveling well above its speed limit has derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries. And for the second time, existing technology that might have prevented the accident was missing.

Amtrak has installed the technology, known as positive train control, on parts of its rail network in the Northeast Corridor. But the technology, designed to automatically slow or stop a train to prevent accidents, was not available on a critical stretch of track in Philadelphia where Train No. 188 derailed on Tuesday night, killing at least seven and injuring more than 200.

A National Transportation Safety Board official makes it pretty clear that he believes that PTC would have slowed the train, which was traveling more than 100 mph in a section of track where the speed limit is 50 mph.

As many of you know, Metrolink has been installing PTC, a direct response to the 2008 head-on collision with a freight train in Chatsworth that killed 25. Congress has imposed a national deadline of 2015 but is considering pushing that to 2020 at the request of many railroads who say time and money are an issue.

Separately, in what amounts to partisan bickering, a House committee yesterday denied expanding funding for Amtrak, reports the Times. For a lot of reasons, Amtrak remains a tough sell to many parts of the country, among them rural areas where the railroad doesn’t provide much service, thereby making Amtrak an easy target for lawmakers wanting to target government spending. Hmm.

BikeSnob: the problem with Bike to Work Week (Time) 

A guest post from the BikeSnob can be summed up with this graph:

If anything, cyclists are cynical about Bike to Work Week because we want bicycle commuting to be more inclusive. We don’t want it to be something people do once a year out of a sense of obligation, like paying your taxes or calling grandma on Mother’s Day. We want people to discover the joy and practicality of cycling, and for riding a bicycle to become a default mode of transport for lots and lots of people in cities and towns all over America.

I’m not huge on anniversaries or weeks commemorating this or that either although I don’t think there’s any harm that comes from them. I do tend to think that in terms of bicycle awareness, the CicLAvia events may serve the masses better (they’re designed to be big events) and perhaps get people to dust off their bikes and ride them more often.

There are a lot of nice people on the train (Zocalo Public Square) 

Candice Byers. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Candice Byers. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

The latest in Zocalo’s ongoing series of profiles of Metro riders.

Why it’s a bad idea to tax people every mile they drive (Grist) 

Ben Adler doesn’t like the idea of replacing the gas tax with a per mile tax — something many people want as a way to increase transportation tax revenues. The gist of his argument:

A VMT tax makes all users pay equally for their usage if you define usage in the narrow sense of miles traveled. But drivers of gas guzzlers are using, and abusing, public goods such as roads and air far more than drivers of efficient cars are. Bigger, heavier cars take up more road space, damage roads more, and cause more harm to other drivers in accidents. And road repair is a minor cost and inconvenience compared to the effects of catastrophic climate change.

There’s probably a lot of people who feel the same way — that the biggest problem with the gas tax is simply that it hasn’t been raised in more than two decades and that it’s not indexed to inflation. The other thing about the gas tax that may be a plus: it provides an incentive of sorts to purchase a fuel efficient vehicle.

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11 replies

  1. “The other thing about the gas tax that may be a plus: it provides an incentive of sorts to purchase a fuel efficient vehicle.”

    Correct.

    And how does government supposed to collect gas tax when Toyota will be launching the Mirai soon (the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle) and has opted to make the technology royalty free for other automakers to use?

    http://www.toyota.com/mirai/fcv.html
    http://www.popsci.com/how-hydrogen-vehicles-work
    http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/toyota-release-5680-fuel-cell-patents/

    You can’t collect gas taxes from cars that don’t run on gas. It’s basic grade school math: 0 times 18 cents or 50 cents per gallon is still zero.

    Gas taxes are outdated, I’m all for replacing it with a mileage tax. Trouble is, it has to be nationwide, not statewide. You can’t have CA doing mileage tax but not NV or AZ. Should mileage be charged to a CA registered vehicle on trips that involve road use in Nevada when going to Vegas or in Arizona when going to the Grand Canyon? Not an easy answer. And I doubt “all CA cars must now have GPS devices” will be a popular idea either: people do not like government tracking people where they go (hint: NSA spying).

    • Pretty simple. They can tax hydrogen just like gasoline. That is like asking how can diesel be taxed.

      • Pretty tough to tax something that makes up 75% of the universe. Fossil fuels are rare, has to be dug out, has refinery costs and cause environmental damage and pollution. Hydrogen is plentiful and the only byproduct of hydrogen fuel cells is water.

        http://mail.colonial.net/~hkaiter/1AAAImages/periodictablebigbang.png

        Taxing hydrogen will be like taxing the air you breathe. If we get to that point, the government has gone too far.

  2. What truly amazes me about Amtrak being “a tough sell” in “rural areas where the railroad doesn’t provide much service” is that a lot of those areas are areas where the scheduled airlines provide no service whatsoever.

    Then again, there really is, to quote an old Amtrak jingle, “something about a train that’s magic.” It’s easy for those in the big cities, and those in “flyover states,” to dehumanize each other when they’re either not brought together at all, or the “city slickers” pass through the “hick towns” encased in ambulatory tin cans, stopping only for gas and food, and it’s also easy for strangers on an airliner, even when they share common origins and destinations, but have been put on the defensive by being searched in minute detail, then packed into a somewhat larger tin can with no elbow room, to go out of their way to ignore each other. It’s not so easy when you’re spending many hours with a constant parade of strangers, in comfortable, relaxing surroundings, many of them either coming from or going to places you’ve never been, especially when you’re sharing a meal with as many as three of those strangers.

    Air and highway travel divide people; rail travel unites them. And there are a lot of politicians who would like to keep people divided.

    • “What truly amazes me about Amtrak being “a tough sell” in “rural areas where the railroad doesn’t provide much service” is that a lot of those areas are areas where the scheduled airlines provide no service whatsoever.”

      If they don’t want it, why should we pay taxes to run services to them? We don’t force “city life” to them, neither do they force “rural life” to us.

      If they want to live a life of driving Ford F150s, horseback riding in the sunset, enjoying the Great American outdoors, fishing and hunting and not force that lifestyle to us, that’s good for them. And I respect that.

      And inversely, it should be the same way the other way around that we want to live a life of driving hailing Uber and Lyft, taking mass transit, sipping on lattes, and picking up a copy of Japan Up! magazine for the latest foodie trends and crazes here and not force that lifestyle to them either. And that life is respected by them also.

      If the GOP red states, mainly rural states, say they do not want Amtrak or put more funding to them, all fine with me. We need to respect that that’s what they want. Instead, Amtrak can just as easily downsize to places where they work like CA and the NE Corridor.

      If they don’t want it because they see no need for it and we rather want to see it focused to where it should be (for intra-city travel in densely populated corridors), what’s the problem? Why should we force “our way of life” to them when they don’t want it?

      This whole notion of the keeping the “Great American train experience” is nothing more than 1950s nostalgia and refusal to accept that times have changed. A far better use and more profitable business for Amtrak will be cut long haul routes that the red states do not want and instead increase Pacific Surfliner frequencies between LA and San Diego instead.

      With the way the CAHSR project keeps falling behind and likelihood of federal funding being cutback, that’s a better and more realistic solution to get trains and frequencies running between LA and San Diego, generate lots of revenue that stays right here in CA to upgrade the CA’s own train tracks and build the HSR train to San Francisco and Sacramento using revenues generated from Amtrak revenues coming from Amtrak running within CA.

  3. http://i.imgur.com/mb8tC8V.jpg

    “Then again, there really is, to quote an old Amtrak jingle, “something about a train that’s magic.”

    Amtrak isn’t the Hogwart Express and neither is there a Hogsmeade either. A train is a train, nothing more, nothing less.

    “It’s easy for those in the big cities, and those in “flyover states,” to dehumanize each other” ”

    I find it disturbing that you believe that way. Maybe you’re the intolerant “city slicker” yourself who thinks you’re better than “hick town” people and that you should be deciding what’s best for them and forcing that they should have Amtrak service when they do not want it.

    “It’s not so easy when you’re spending many hours with a constant parade of strangers, in comfortable, relaxing surroundings, many of them either coming from or going to places you’ve never been, especially when you’re sharing a meal with as many as three of those strangers.” ”

    And do you represent the people who thinks that way? It seems the representatives in Congress elected by their constituents do not see any benefit of Amtrak at all, even in places where Amtrak serves them and wish that less funding goes to them and they could careless that Amtrak serves their community or not.

    Who made you the ultimate decider that you think that that’s what people living in rural areas want? We’re you elected by ruralites?

    In this imaginary world that you believe that that’s really what people want today, we would still have steamships carrying prospective immigrants from all over the world and spending months at sea instead of flying on jumbo jets that whisks immigrants from all over the world and landing at LAX in mere hours.

    Travel is just a means to get from point A to point B, in the most cheapest and most efficient way possible and always has been. Meeting “new” people is far low the priority and was just a residual effect that was provided in times when transportation wasn’t as fast back then.

    Furthermore, if you want to meet lots of new people, feel free to experience rail travel in India. Nothing is stopping you to book a plane ticket (or go by steamship if you want the “get to know people” experience) to Delhi and travel around in trains like these:

    http://www.apnaahangout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/indiantrainovercrowded.jpg

    I’m sure you’ll have PLENTY of people to get to know of on a personal level.

  4. When people say stuff like train travel is “magical” and it’s a great way to “meet new people” and while enjoying the beautiful landscape, they envision this:
    http://i.imgur.com/ecS1xmX.jpg

    Reality hits them hard when this is what it’s more like:

    Truth is, no one cares. The Seoul Metro isn’t anything remotely “magical” nor a place to “meet new people.” It’s just a train that is able to hold lots of passengers and transport them efficiently from one place to another.

  5. Trains are “magical” and a place to “meet new people” huh?

    Try Tokyo during morning rush hour:

    https://youtu.be/WnkVuyuosQ4

    Trains filled to 193% of capacity in morning rush hour, despite rail cars 10 cars long and frequencies coming less than a minute apart, the last thing the do is talk to other and meet new friends. They’re all quiet, not talking to each other, staring at their cell phones, doing their routine everyday for the rest of their life as commuters.

    But note the manners. No yelling, no loud talking, people standing to the side when the train comes to let passengers off.

    https://youtu.be/WnkVuyuosQ4

    • So many people, but so quiet that I can hear birds chirping! With everyone shutting up not babbling about useless stuff, announcements are heard loud and clear!

  6. More Japan rush hour videos.

    This is what you want, right? Everyone taking transit in a mass transit oriented society, all happy, being friendly with each other, making new friends, something special in the air?

    https://youtu.be/FE1ELxzmUic
    https://youtu.be/XwNaagHY6kk
    https://youtu.be/1-Er1ouBwWU
    https://youtu.be/vKP_nYDc9zQ
    https://youtu.be/Bkglp6TtaaM

    Your utopia crushed and not what you’ve expected, huh?

    BTW, this is why it’s stupid to build rail at-grade. When you get to Tokyo levels, the railroad crossing bars never open!
    https://youtu.be/9D28UOcUdBU
    https://youtu.be/Os4DInrh8rs

    And rail operators have to deal with this too
    https://youtu.be/N7pxmsuuD0E
    https://youtu.be/5n2ozPRfrkE
    https://youtu.be/rg34WKHxjuU

  7. I hate to be the train operator in the last video who had to witness the final moments of someone taking his own life. Must be why they have suicide barriers.