How We Roll, Monday, August 3

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Some tweets that got my attention….

Whole Foods is now considered vital infrastructure?! Well, their pig bar is pretty awesome (and awesomely expensive).

This is the big environmental/sustainable news of the day whether you agree with it or not. Coal is used to generate about eight percent of California’s electricity, btw — a far lower number than many states. Natural gas is California’s largest source of power at 45 percent. About 18 percent of the state’s electricity comes from renewables. Remember: the cleaner our electricity gets, the cleaner Metro’s rail lines get.

 We’re making life too hard for millennials (NYT)

Are millennials getting hosed by older generations of Americans? Photo by Bari Bookout, via Flickr creative commons.

Are millennials getting hosed by older generations of Americans? Photo by Bari Bookout, via Flickr creative commons.

Millennials are better educated but are earning less than previous generations. And this:

They are faced with a slow economy, high unemployment, stagnant wages and student loans that constrict their ability both to maintain a reasonable lifestyle and to save for the future.

Longer term, rising federal debt payments and increased spending on Social Security and Medicare will inflict a tremendous financial burden on them, threatening their own prospect of receiving promised retirement benefits.

Who is to blame? The economy, for one — and the tolerance Americans have shown for running up the national debt. The rising cost of education. And, of course, some American industries that have been in turmoil in recent times due to the offshoring of jobs and new technologies.

But here’s my question: we’ve all seen the stories written that millennials are also driving less and have more tolerance/interest in transit, bikes and living in cities. Is that a product of millennials being more enlightened than previous generations? Or a product of millennials not having any money?

Discuss please.

I’m an Old Goat and clearly not a millennial. But I certainly see some of the things discussed in the article — I thought buying a home was a stretch for my generation and it seems even worse now, especially in many big cities, L.A. included. On the other hand, I made peanuts (actually less than peanuts) early in my career but managed to get by with cheap rent and utilities. It probably helped I didn’t have to pay a big cell phone and web connection fee every month, although I recall running up some big Ma Bell long-distance bills.

All that said, I think the biggest problem facing millennials comes down to lack of opportunity — there just aren’t the jobs there used to be and older Americans, facing economic pressures of their own, are less willing to move out of the way for them. 

Which reminds of a movie that I’m surprised hasn’t been remade as it’s reminiscent of the themes found in Hunger Games and other books/movies of that ilk: Logan’s Run, in which those who are 30 years old are “renewed” to clear the way for younger generations.

Yes, apparently speed skating uniforms are big in the 23rd century — at least according to a Hollywood costume designer on a budget 🙂

Campaign money has MTA Board Members missing votes (L.A. Times) 

Reporter David Zahniser takes a look at the reason why Board Members — in this article, mostly L.A. Mayor Eri Garcetti — must recuse themselves from some votes at Metro Board meetings. The big reason: campaign contributions from firms vying for contracts with Metro.

The Mayor’s spokesperson says the recusals are a sign that the Mayor’s office is following both the letter and spirit of the law while one political watchdog says that perhaps it’s better if elected officials didn’t take money in the first place. Another factor: sometimes firms give money to politicians and then later compete for contracts.

Alleviating traffic to L.A. may just be a few light rail lines away (Santa Clarita Valley Signal)

In this op-ed, the president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. (VICA) argues that Santa Clarita commuters would benefit from projects that VICA wants included in a potential long range plan/ballot measure that Metro is looking at. Those include a conversion of the Orange Line to light rail and a rail line down Van Nuys Boulevard that crosses under the Sepulveda Pass to reach the Westside.

All interesting projects, for sure, assuming there’s frequent and fast transit service from Santa Clarita, whether on Metrolink or via bus.

Bay Area’s disjointed transit inspires a call for harmony (New York Times) 

The lede sums it up:

One thing is not perfect, though: the daunting nature of the region’s public transportation system, a patchwork of more than 20 operators spread across nine counties and 101 municipalities that have yet to spawn a cohesive map.

As housing costs here continue to escalate, with growing numbers of people moving farther afield in search of affordability, the disjointed nature of the region’s transportation fiefs, each with its own fare structures and nomenclature, has become the topic of increasingly intense debate among transportation policy experts.

This is one of those articles in which everyone agrees there’s a problem but there doesn’t seem to be any solutions in sight. Those quoted also seem to concur that more than 10 percent of commuters in the Bay Area should be taking transit.

Question: is the situation really any better here? Metro is the largest transit provider in Los Angeles County — but there are also 20 or so other muni bus providers. Along my dog walk route in Pasadena I can see buses operated by four different agencies: Metro, the city of Pasadena, Foothill Transit and LADOT. That’s in addition to Metro’s Gold Line.

In a big spread out area, this is how things evolved, for better or worse. I’m not sure what the answer is here or in the Bay Area. Would riders be better off with one giant transit agency? Or are local agencies the best way to tailor service for local residents? Of course, even if ginormous transit agency was the way to go, there are all sorts of funding and legal barriers to that ranging from labor unions to civil rights protections.

The Special Olympics were A-W-E-S-O-M-E (Zocalo Public Square) 

The athletes had a chance to duke it out during the judo finals on Friday. Photo by Steve Hymon.

The athletes had a chance to duke it out during the judo finals on Friday. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Yes they were. And I’d like to extend a congratulations and thank you to the World Games organizers, volunteers and many others who brought the Games to our region and made them a success. The Zocalo gallery is from the Department of Shameless Self Promotion and features some of the photos I shot last week at different events and a short essay.

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6 replies

  1. I always laugh at the wacky skin tight costumes that people in the future are wearing. It presupposes that we all will stop eating tasty unhealthy food or exercise an insane amount of hours a day. Average people are too fat, and too vain, to start wearing tight clothing, especially men.

    As for municipal transit providers, if you count the smaller agencies that don’t even have websites like Bell and Compton, and dial a rides open to the general public like Arcadia and Claremont, there are at least 40 different agencies. Most cities offer senior dial a ride to their residents as well. At the very least they could all accept the TAP card, but many don’t – Metro advertises the Burbank airport bus on the web site but they don’t accept TAP cards. Local control is useful, but there is a way to have locally based routes in a county framework, as San Diego does.

    • Places like Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale all had local transit systems prior to the creation of the old MTA. They were all absorbed into the mega old MTA and the RTD. But the some politicians like Tom Bradley got greedy and we saw Dash, Commuter Express and Foothill created. Now these smaller cities want a piece of the pie and have re-created their own systems which receive subsidies from the MTA. All these newly created agencies including Foothill and Commuter Express pay their bus operators about a third that MTA operators make and the reliability of service is questionable as well as the safety of their buses.

  2. “It probably helped I didn’t have to pay a big cell phone and web connection fee every month, although I recall running up some big Ma Bell long-distance bills.”

    These aren’t really big issues for Millennials. For the most part, the likelihood of Millennials not having a landline phone and cable TV in their home and are cell-phone only are high so that cuts down their monthly costs there.

    Cell phone bills aren’t that high if you shop around. For the most part, people don’t talk as much anymore so stuff like unlimited calling and texting are practically the norm; no-contract prepaid phones like MetroPCS, cricket, etc. etc. are available which if you don’t do a lot of chatting on the phone and just top up the maximum amount to let it last a year, they’re the better deal.

    Today, it’s the data that’s more important these days, but even then there are alternatives like Karma Go (https://yourkarma.com/) and FreedomPop (https://www.freedompop.com/) which are quite cheap if you manage to use them as MiFi devices.

    So a smart and savvy Millennial would do is use a smartphone with a cheap prepaid plan (i.e. $100 refill that doesn’t expire for a year, most Millennials would get by a year with only $100 of talk time anyway, using Skype or any number of free call-over-data apps) and use the smartphone in conjunction with a cheap MiFi device like Karma or FreedomPop for data.

    As for cable TV, you don’t really need that these days in the era of NetFlix, hulu, Google Play and iTunes. The smart thing to do is not to fall into those cable-phone-internet packages and just go with internet only. And luckily for us, competition is pretty cut-throat here in Los Angeles so it’s pretty easy to get the new customer cheap deal from AT&T U-Verse for a year, then before they jack up the price over to the standard customer price when the year is up, change over to Time Warner Cable or Verizon FiOS and take advantage of their new customer deals.

  3. “All that said, I think the biggest problem facing millennials comes down to lack of opportunity — there just aren’t the jobs there used to be and older Americans, facing economic pressures of their own, are less willing to move out of the way for them.”

    That and technology is moving at a record pace that the law cannot keep up. What used to be done by hand and exclusive to professionals are increasingly being taken over by computers and machines.

    And the problem? Millennials actually embrace those technologies.

    1. Millennials don’t have jobs.
    2. There are fewer jobs because with today’s technology, machine can do the same thing at better efficiency than humans.
    3. And Millennials love those technologies.

    Let me give you an example. LA County just recently passed a minimum wage raise law that would increase wages to $15/hr to 2020 and tie that to inflation the following years. You see people working at McDonald’s cheering that they’ll be able to make a living wage now. But guess what? This is what McDonald’s and every major fast food retailer is going to install in lieu of hiring cashiers at $15/hr:

    http://im.rediff.com/money/2012/dec/11mcdonalds-facts12.jpg

    You already see major banks cutting down on tellers and adding in more ATM machines with live tellers in call centers thousands of miles away, you already see supermarkets cutting down own cashiers and replacing them with self checkout lanes

    http://abcnews.go.com/Business/bank-america-tellers-picket-atm-machines/story?id=20969888
    http://www.kioskmarketplace.com/articles/supermarket-self-checkout-technology-approaching-tipping-point/

    Higher minimum wage leads to replacing people with machines, means more unemployment. More unemployment, means more people on welfare, more people on welfare means more taxes.

    Now, the problem is that for the Democrats in charge of CA politics, their main power base up to this time were labor unions. And the vast majority of Millennials lean Democrat. Yet, the Millennials who will be in power from now on are actually pro-technology; one in which technology actually leads to killing off labor.

    So that’s one tough pill to swallow for Democrats in charge here in LA and California: take sides with pro-labor or the Millennials who embrace technology that replaces labor, both of them that make up a large voter base for Democrats?

    We already see that issue with the sharing economy dilemma with threats of regulations against tech startups like Uber, Lyft, and airbnb, only to face a major backlash by the Millennials when Democrats try to take side with labor and try to over-regulate them.

    http://www.wired.com/2015/07/uber-wins-battle-nyc-mayor-now/

  4. “Would riders be better off with one giant transit agency? Or are local agencies the best way to tailor service for local residents?”

    ABSOLUTELY NOT! Giving one single government entity full monopoly in mass transit is that last thing that will be beneficial for riders. All that will accomplish is giving more power to government bureaucrats and having them do their job poorly without any repercussions. Nothing good ever comes from a state-run monopoly and that was proven with the collapse of Communism; it doesn’t work. They can set rates as they see fit, they can provide poor service, the riders will have no choice to suck it up, and no one would ever be fired for doing their job poorly. Lack of competition doesn’t even stifle innovation or the incentive to improve the system either.

    The better way to go is to open up the market to competition so that there will be both public and private operators within the city. We have partially done this by allowing some municipal transit operators to compete directly with Metro on certain routes. For example, if you’re going from Mid-Wilshire to Santa Monica, taking the SMBBB is actually $0.75 cheaper than taking Metro. This availability of choice of multiple operators allows consumers to make better transit decisions.

    But more can be done, such as opening up more routes to direct competition, loosening CPUC restrictions towards mass transit startups and allowing said prospective private operators into the same level field as public transit operators to compete directly with municipally operated transit.

    What I do agree is that there should be reasonable restrictions such as all mass transit operators should be ADA compliant, standardizing the payment system and fare structure across the region, which everyone needs to accept TAP cards as the main payment system for transit across SoCal and that all operators go to a tap-in/tap-out distance based fare system.

  5. “And, of course, some American industries that have been in turmoil in recent times due to the offshoring of jobs and new technologies.”

    Well duh. What do you expect companies to do when CA is so business unfriendly with arcane regulations, requirements and taxes that they’ve driven out all the high value and skilled engineering and manufacturing jobs away from here? If labor and overhead costs are much cheaper in other states and other countries, that’s where all the jobs move to.

    Of course, the moment anyone says the obvious, the commies and the workers of the world unite folks come back with their usual progressive arguments that haven’t proven to work.