Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 26

ART OF TRANSIT: Taxpayers get to see what they paid for Saturday at the open house for the newly completed Foothill Gold Line Operations Campus in Monrovia. Click the pic to see many more photos!

ART OF TRANSIT: Taxpayers get to see what they paid for Saturday at the open house for the newly completed Foothill Gold Line Operations Campus in Monrovia. Click the pic to see many more photos!

Donald Shoup interview, part one (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A view of some of DTLA and its plentiful parking lots via Google Maps.

Although some DTLA parking has certainly been developed in recent months, a lot of surface parking lots remain as seen here via Google Maps.

A really interesting interview with UCLA’s soon-to-be retiring parking expert. The most interesting stuff, I think, involves downtown Los Angeles and something I’ve never understood — the ridiculous amount of space taken up by parking lots offering relatively cheap parking compared to other big cities. Shoup’s explanation:

I think many of the small parking lots in downtown aren’t developed for the same reason that these historic office buildings hadn’t been converted to housing – because of the parking requirements.

Most of the downtowns that people want to visit – like in San Francisco, New York, Vancouver, Seattle or Chicago – don’t have any off-street parking requirements. If L.A. follows these cities, our downtown will begin to look less like Phoenix, Houston, or Detroit, which do require off-street parking in their downtowns.

I think that’s why – in cities that don’t have off-street parking requirements like New York and Seattle – parking lots and small parking garages are just asking to be redeveloped, if the land values are high.

In Downtown L.A. you can’t do it. It’s very hard to redevelop a parking lot or a parking garage because the first thing the city planner is going to say: “where’s the required parking?”

The parking lots are often small so you can’t get a good building and the required parking on the same site. So the small surface lots that pockmark the city are pretty much frozen in place until we remove the parking requirements. [snip]

Downtown L.A. has more parking spaces per square mile than any other city on earth, yet many people think it’s not enough. But if we, or when we, remove the off-street parking requirements downtown, I think you’ll see a building boom that will make the current one look small.

There’s a lot more I could have excerpted, but please click over to Streetsblog to read. The quote that makes my heart sink involved Disney Hall having so much parking that many patrons may visit but never set foot outside the building. Sigh. Of course it doesn’t help that Disney Hall sits in a relatively quiet corner of downtown mostly occupied by the Civic Center and government buildings. The proposed Grand Avenue development never got built although it’s officially still alive.

On the transit front, DTLA already has a high level of bus service. I was in Grand Park yesterday watching one Metro bus after another roll by — even when Metro was running a holiday schedule. As for rail service, I think more people will travel to DTLA as the Purple Line Extension (the first section to Wilshire/La Cienega is scheduled to open in 2023) is built to the west and after the Regional Connector makes it easier for Blue, Expo and Gold Line riders to reach and travel through DTLA.

Part of the Connector project will be a new station at 2nd and Hope that will connect to Grand Avenue via a new elevated plaza and elevators. That should make it pretty easy to reach Disney Hall and other nearby attractions (such as the Broad Museum) via the subway or light rail. The Connector, like the subway project, is under construction and scheduled to open in 2020.

A community rises in a once barren Cypress Park rail yard (KCET)

A good look at the Taylor Yard Transit Village, which will include a new Metro Rapid Bus stop and may include a pedestrian bridge across the adjacent L.A. River to connect to the river’s bike path which one day should connect better to DTLA. As the article notes, the new apartment buildings are being built as a partnership between Metro and the developer McCormack Baron Salazar (click to see more pics of the project).

‘Staggering’ overtime found in LADOT’s sign and paint unit (L.A. Times)

The OT payments to a few workers look pretty high, according to a new audit by the city although no fraud was found. Read beyond the audit department’s news release and there is this pertinent detail mentioned by the LAT: some OT may have been the result of relatively few workers pressured to quickly install new bike lanes.

I thought Pasadena was in the middle of nowhere (Zocalo Public Square) 

Macella Landers. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Macella Landers. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

The latest in Zocalo’s ongoing series of Metro rider profiles. Macella takes the Gold Line to PCC — and so can you. Use the Allen Station. PCC runs a shuttle between the station and campus. Or you can walk (10 minutes) or ride your bike (five minutes).

To fly and die (NYT)

Good column and read-while-on-transit on the dumb activity known as BASE jumping. Two jumpers were recently killed after leaping into the Yosemite Valley and trying to fly through a notch in the rock.

Is BASE jumping the same as others who risked their lives when taking flight — such as Wright Brothers and Neil Armstrong?

No, the flaw was not in the system, but in the cultural celebration of sport-assisted suicide. I love Potter’s spirit, but not his actions. The kind of cliff-diving that Potter did is considered the riskiest sport in the world. But to call it a sport is charitable. It’s death-courting. Odds are with death.

Dean Potter thought he was flying. He was just falling. And last Saturday, he fell to his death, his final act a cautionary tale as old as the one that the ancient Greeks told about Icarus.

Concur.

***

•In re Memorial Day, please see this photo gallery by the New York Times headlined “When Every Day is Memorial Day.” The photo of the lipstick on the grave of a soldier killed in Iraq is devastating.

Not to stray off-topic, but it’s also a reminder why we try to publish the transportation headlines on a frequent basis: while it’s great that government tells taxpayers what’s going on, we also don’t believe you should get all your news and views about government from government.

Memorial Day addendum:

Categories: Transportation News

21 replies

  1. “But if we, or when we, remove the off-street parking requirements downtown, I think you’ll see a building boom that will make the current one look small.”

    Then repeal this BS regulation that requires parking requirements. You all know there weren’t any “parking requirements” when this city was incorporated! And zoning laws aren’t even 100 years old either (1st zoning law in the US was in 1926, in Ohio!). There were no cars back then, there were no zoning laws back then either!

    What, are you saying that when the City of LA was founded back in 1850, some oracle of a politician imagined that 58 years later Henry Ford is going to mass produce the Ford Model T and that we’ll need a law to have dedicated parking spaces for buildings?! That some oracle of a politician back when this city was incorporated imagined that the SCOTUS will rule in favor of some village in Ohio 76 years later to bring in zoning laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Village_of_Euclid_v._Ambler_Realty_Co.)?

    Every single regulation that hinders LA development needs to be repealed and they can do so today if elected officials did their job!

    We need every inch of space in LA today now that everyone realizes the reality that LA County surpassed 10 million in population and our realistic developable land space is only 2500 square miles (not 4500 square miles) and our population density is reaching London levels!

  2. RE: NY Times article on BASE jumping

    Something tells me that the NY Times again is trying to push a liberal agenda of wanting to ban something again.

    I agree it’s stupid, but if people want to risk their lives doing something they believe is a sport, they should be allowed to and it’s clearly not something that government should interfere with. If they die, they die, they understand the risks so they paid the consequences. Nothing more, nothing less. If they survive and “conquered” the BASE jump, the likelihood is that cops will be there to immediately arrest them and face time in jail or pay the fine so they understand those consequences too.

    Let’s not get this into “let’s ban so-and-so because it’s dangerous” or “if it can help save one life…” type of discussions. The last thing we need is more nanny state laws telling people what they can or cannot do; there’s already too many stupid laws as it is today, parking space requirements being one of them.

    If they want to do BASE jumping, they think it’s a sport (and clearly not ours to decide whether it’s a sport or not; to some, ballroom dancing and curling is a sport worthy of the Olympics) and want to risk their lives doing so, all good for them. All sports are dangerous one way or the other anyway, should we ban basketball because it can cause a broken leg, ban bicycles because it can cause death when hit by a car, or ban trap shooting at the Olympics because shotguns can be used as weapons?

    If we outlaw this, what’s next? Making it illegal to jump down a flight of stairs? Start re-writing laws that people can’t jump out of anything more than 1 feet? Need licensing to do so? Start regulating parachutes?

    • It’s already banned in the national parks and other places — so there’s no agenda. And this is the work of a single op-ed writer — not exactly a well orchestrated attempt at banning something already illegal. One reason it has been banned is to protect public safety so that innocent people don’t get squashed by those who think they can fly.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • “One reason it has been banned is to protect public safety so that innocent people don’t get squashed by those who think they can fly.”

        Unfortunately, you can’t regulate away “stupid.” Stupid people will always exist, they will do stupid things that could endanger others regardless of what stupid law there is.

        A great example is how the federal government bans marijuana in the name of “public safety.” Hey, it’s an “illegal” substance that is used by many to make them think they can fly or have some “trip.”

        People still smoke pot regardless of what federal law says, they put risk toward themselves or others nearby (try driving in LA, you’ll find drivers taking a hit from a bong while driving, I kid you not), but pot is decriminalized in many states and some states have begun pushing toward full legalization, if not legal already.

  3. Concerning the parking lots in downtown L.A. It’s true, parking spaces were not required when many of the buildings were built. But street parking was allowed then and many cases is not allowed now. It’s a trade off in modern society that we must accept. San Francisco is a nightmare trying to find parking in addition to their screwy “No left turn”, “No right turn” restrictions.

    Concerning the Taylor Yard redevelopment. Housing being built right up against San Fernando Rd. with next to zero set backs is not only ridiculas but is a real safety hazard. There is no safe place for children to play out front and the risk of a vehicle accident and intrusion into a residence seems very high. What were the planners thinking? A green space between San Fernando Rd. and the homes seems like a more prudent approach. Time will tell!

    • “It’s a trade off in modern society that we must accept.”

      A trade off of repealing parking requirements is something many Millennials today can live with, as many of them shun car ownership to begin with and are more open to traveling around using alternative means like public transit, Uber, Lyft, bicycles, motorcycles and scooters.

      1. Parking isn’t needed at all if more people take public transit or shared ride services like Uber and Lyft
      2. Parking can be kept to a minimum and even lowered for small vehicles like bicycles, scooters and motorcycles which can fit four of them in a single car space.

      https://ukfrance.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/barcelona-parking2.jpg

      Besides, parking in Downtown LA itself is a nightmare with prices going up to $50 at high demand times. Many people are beginning to take public transit or go into DTLA using two wheeled vehicles (pedaled or motorized) in that area anyway.

      Parking lots in DTLA can be get rid of. There are far better uses of those spaces like erecting a high rise condo instead.

      • I find it interesting that the MTA and it’s supporters advocated public transit and the removal of parking lots when in fact there is a huge parking structure under the MTA headquarters that extends under Vignas St.to the east.

        • The original Union Station has an underground parking facility that is still in use — mostly for employee parking. A large underground parking garage was built under the bus plaza and Metro HQ. Both of these are underground — they don’t take up space on the surface and they both have buildings above them. The issue with surface parking lots is they take up space where buildings could be. The more buildings, the more people and the more residential units and businesses and transit to see them. In short, buildings bring about a critical mass that helps cities thrive.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

      • I think many feel the hypocrisy of Metro HQ having a parking lot for themselves. Some of the parking lots at One Gateway Plaza are reserved for Metro Board members (it says so right on the concrete to their parking spaces) like they’re too good to take transit with the common folk.

        Clearly, Metro can easily convert those underground parking lots into something more useful and more profitable like an underground shopping mall or even a big supermarket, you know, something that directly contributes to Metro’s own revenue stream, perhaps?

        If Metro employees can’t fathom a life without a car themselves, how do you expect everyone else to follow? If they want us to believe that LA is accessible by public transit anywhere, it’s time they start using transit themselves also.

        Of course, let me guess. Metro employees themselves would rather live farther out in the suburbs (their mortgages and property taxes paid with our tax dollars) and drive 20 miles to work rather than live somewhere near Metro rail stations, perhaps?

        • Spaces are reserved not entire lots. The parking lot at Union Station is used in large part by the public who happen to be traveling somewhere by rail (Metro, Metrolink and Amtrak) or by bus (Metro, munis and intercity buses).

          Many Metro employees at Metro headquarters use transit. You can see them walking back and forth between the Metro building and Union Station.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

          • Correct. Those are vehicles used to reach different parts of the bus and rail network, including during emergencies. Many are low emission vehicles.

            Steve Hymon
            Editor, The Source

          • Steve, those on call to reach bus and rail accidents are few. I was one of them. The majority are used by Department Heads to go to and from work each day. I never observed anyone above me respond to a accident, even a fatality.

    • “San Francisco is a nightmare trying to find parking in addition to their screwy “No left turn”, “No right turn” restrictions.”

      So what? Big deal. You’re making a big issue from a whole lot of nothing.

      Seoul is just like that too and you don’t see many Seoulites complaining about it. That’s just like any other older, culturally rich metropolis in the world where car ownership is more of a hassle than a convenience. Many San Franciscans, New Yorkers, Bostonites, Londoners, Tokyoites, Hong Kongers, Vancouverites don’t own cars either and they somehow manage to live day in and day out and enjoy a great metropolitan culture full of activity.

      And they seem to get by perfectly fine so if they can, so can we. So what if you can’t find parking. It encourages people to live closer in more densely populated areas, get rid of the car and get by more healthy by biking, walking, and taking transit around.

      Minor inconvenience, hardly an issue, and the only ones who make a big deal out of this are older people who are deathly afraid of imagining a different way of life can be done without cars. Do away with parking and build more instead, perfectly fine with me, I won’t miss it a bit.

      I’m willing to accept the change. How about you?

      • I’m a highly mobile individual who does not care to be restricted by where public transit goes and the extended time it takes to get to my destination. I worked for the RTD/MTA for 31 years and am very familiar with the system and it’s drawbacks. I refuse to ride my bike within the city, it’s unsafe.

        Downtown L. A. was mainly developed when we had a excellent, the best transit system in the United States and a auto was not needed. Were now in the 21st Century and a motor vehicle is essential in getting around in a convenient and timely manner. I live in a safe neighborhood and few venders are within walking distance and those I use are not next to or close to one another. San Francisco is a smaller city and has a more comprehensive transit system. They didn’t abandon light rail when it appeared old but instead upgraded it. And the most utilized line use streetcars from the 1930’s and 40’s.

        Believe it or not, most of the rails are still in the street thru out Los Angeles including the suburbs in the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley. With little effort it could all be returned to service, Instead we have a transit provider that takes years to complete a line that in the past took only six months to construct.

  4. Downtown LA needs to get rid of its off – street parking requirements. Developers already know how much parking the have to build for their projects to be financially viable. Off-street parking requirements raise the cost of housing and increase traffic and pollution in the very place (Downtown) where the City is supposedly trying to promote walking and transit. The City has had amazing success with the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance that did this for changes of use in existing historic buildings. Now we need to expand on that momentum and unleash the market for new housing.

    Let Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Huizar know that you’re ready to cut through red tape Downtown.

    • Problem is that the City of LA can’t cherry pick that parking lot restrictions will be repealed in one part of City of LA (i.e. DTLA) while not in others (SFV). A city ordinance is a city ordinance and it has to apply everywhere within the City of LA limits.

      So you can’t say parking lot requirements are rescinded for DTLA but it stays the same in the SFV. A repeal of the parking lot requirements for City of LA will mean it’ll affect everywhere within the City of LA, whether it be Koreatown, DTLA, Harbor Gateway, or the San Fernando Valley.

      This is a complete map of the City of Los Angeles:
      http://www.graphatlas.com/los_angeles_map_city_communities.png

      Do you think city councilmembers representing areas like Bel-Air, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Sylmar, and Porter Ranch are going to be for repealing parking lot requirements? They still cling on to the suburban “get around by car” lifestyle and they lead much different lives from those who live in Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire, Venice, and Boyle Heights. Push them too far, and they’ll start voting for secession from the City of LA as SFV once almost did.

      And City of LA parking lot requirement ordinances only apply to City of LA jurisdiction only, so it won’t apply to neighboring cities and enclaves like Culver City, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, Beverly Hills, Universal City, San Fernando, etc. etc. The geopolitics of LA is a complete mess. Things are a lot simpler in SF where they have a merged/consolidated city-county system, whereas we have multiple independently run charter cities all trying to do things their own way.

      You want something done, start looking at LA city-county mergers. We almost did so in 1916:
      http://www.kcet.org/updaily/socal_focus/history/unraveling-the-history-of-socals-patchwork-of-local-government-30267.html

      • One more reason to have a stable of rock-solid community plans that provide the different kinds of zoning both needed and acceptable in different parts of the city.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

      • The City of LA can and already does have different parking requirements Downtown. While I would ultimately like to see the City get rid of minimum parking requirements citywide, politically, that would be very difficult in certain neighborhoods. The City should get rid of parking requirements Downtown first because it is already urban and well served by transit. It can act as a case study for expanding the policy to other neighborhoods working from the most urban to the more suburban, where the fight will be harder.