How We Roll, Tuesday, August 18

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.

That’s actually a short list of ideas for questions submitted to the LAT transpo reporter Laura Nelson. I’ll tackle a couple of the easy ones:

•An extension of the Green Line deeper into the South Bay — and possibly to Torrance — is one of the projects due to receive funding from Measure R. Environmental studies still need to be completed and the project isn’t due to be completed until 2035 under the agency’s current Long-Range Transportation Plan (see page 32).

•We ran a post earlier this year about delays in bringing cell service and wifi to underground stations and tunnels on the Metro Rail system. At the time we reported, “…the schedule has slipped due to ongoing negotiations between Metro’s contractor, InSite Wireless, and wireless carriers. InSite Wireless still must also sign a deal with a firm to supply WiFi in underground stations.” I don’t have any updates as of this time.

A couple other tweetlicious things:

Framework recommendations for Metro’s potential 2016 ballot measure (Investing in Place) 

No, this is a not a list recommending specific transpo projects. Rather, the advocacy group says the potential ballot measure should emphasize more efficient transit better serving the transit-dependent and should increase funding of active transportation — i.e. walking and biking.

Interesting. The article and letter don’t go as far as recommending that the potential ballot measure only fund transit and active transpo but certainly suggests that projects tilt that way. Mandatory cautionary note: Metro has made no decision yet whether to go forward with a long-range plan update and possible ballot measure. The agency’s Board of Directors are scheduled to consider it next spring.

Perhaps the most interesting sentence from Investing in Place:

Yet, we also note that these investments have not translated into mode split increases: from 1980 – 2012 Los Angeles transit use as the share of commute trips has remained around seven percent.

In plain English, the money spent on transit in L.A. County thus far hasn’t resulted in a greater percentage of people using transit. Seven percent of people commuting by transit is better than the national average of about five percent but, as many of you know, it’s a number below places such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc., that have expansive bus and rail systems. Metro’s 87 miles of rail is relatively new, beginning in 1990 with the opening of the Blue Line.

How do some other counties with big cities stack up when it comes to commuting by transit?:

Cook County (Chicago): 17.8 percent

New York County: 58.7 percent

San Francisco County: 32.6 percent

I think it’s worth noting those numbers but I also think comparing Los Angeles County to such places is a little apples-to-oranges. Los Angeles County, for example, is three times the size of sprawling Cook County. Our county stretches from the high desert north of Lancaster all the way south to Long Beach and from the Pacific Ocean — including Catalina Island — all the way to Claremont. A big chunk of our county includes the undeveloped Angeles National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and other open space.

We’re big and we’re sprawling. I don’t expect L.A. County to have New York County type numbers when it comes to commuting on transit.


But here’s my question. If we’re at seven percent, getting to 10 percent certainly seems feasible. What do you think that would take?

2400-series Railcar Farewell Tour

The Chicago ‘El’ totals about 103 miles with some of the oldest sections dating to the 1890s — back when the streetcars here were just starting! 

Trains are great but what L.A. needs are bus lanes (Zocalo Public Square) 

In the run-up to the forum Wednesday night with Metro CEO Phil Washington, Zocalo asks seven transpo experts what’s missing from L.A.’s transportation vision?

The answers tend toward the familiar and probably won’t knock you from your seat. But planner Steve Boland sums it up well:

If you build it, they won’t just come. More trains alone won’t lead to the transformative change L.A. is crying out for. Buses will need their own lanes, and it will have to become easier for cyclists and pedestrians to get to stops and stations. Because space is limited, this won’t be a win-win.

Yep, win-wins will be hard to find until someone discovers the Transportation Money Tree Orchard or the bounds of physical space can be collapsed to create Your Personal Traffic Lane — a lane that you and only you can use whether on foot, bike, bus, car or some heretofore unknown Mode of Transportation! I did horrible in high school physics, but I’m sure this can easily be done, assuming a few blackholes can be harnessed, towed across the galaxy and tethered to the 101 freeway corridor to create room for a few more lanes.

Your tax dollars at work: rendering of a possible black hole street widener. Credit: NASA

Your tax dollars at work: rendering of a possible black hole street widener. Credit: NASA

From NASA:

Don’t let the name fool you: a black hole is anything but empty space. Rather, it is a great amount of matter packed into a very small area – think of a star ten times more massive than the Sun squeezed into a sphere approximately the diameter of New York City.

Amazon envisions package pickups on public transit (GeekWire)

Before you laugh, an excerpt:

One scenario described in the patent is essentially an Amazon Locker on wheels, installed inside or attached to the outside of a bus, train or other form of transit. Customers who ride a particular route regularly could opt to have a package delivered to their preferred bus, to retrieve while they’re riding. Or those in a specific area could choose to pick up their package at a bus stop, receiving a text message when their item is approaching.

That latter option could be especially useful in rural villages and other areas “where carriers for delivering items are rare or prohibitively expensive,” the filing says.

In other words, let’s take two things people absolutely love — public transit and the Postal Service — and combine them! Just like a Reese’s Cup!

You got transit on my post office! You got post office on my transit!

Okay, seriously for a moment. I think the big hiccup here is security — we’ve all seen how unattended bags can literally shut down transit and I don’t know how you get around those concerns. As for delivery to rural areas — assuming this is referring to so-called Third World places — the idea seems noble but fraught with challenges.

Hey, speaking of Amazon…did you read that multi-page article in the NYT on Sunday about their work environment? To boil it down to one of the many not-so-flattering anecdotes: Amazon has a secondary email system that allows workers to file praise and complaints about their colleagues to managers. The info can then be cut-and-pasted straight into an employee’s file. How efficient!

Seriously for another moment: a quarter-century into my so-called career, I can’t imagine how anyone would get job done if there was a special “employee praise/gripe” system. Although I’m guessing some of my former newspaper colleagues would have finally had motivation to write something. Burn!

From the Dept. of Fair is Fair: Amazon chief Jeff Bezos declined an interview request with the NYT but says in an exciting new employee memo that the workplace described is unrecognizable to him. Hmm.

Quasi-related: I’ve attended two all-hands meetings by Metro CEO Phil Washington and in both meetings Phil began by saying that he expects civility in the workplace.

The bike-share boom (CityLab) 

Fun graphic that goes back to the 1960s to trace the origins of bike-share.

Quasi-related: CityLab hyphenates ‘bike-share,’ while Metro and others say it’s one word as in ‘bikeshare.’ The LAT prefers ‘bike-share’ while I saw both ‘bike share’ and ‘bike-share’ in NYT stories. Any grammarians want to weigh in? We should settle this before Metro’s bikeshare/bike-share/bike share launches in DTLA next year!

Is the drought killing the giant sequoias (Valley Public Radio) 

One of our local giant sequoias that was planted near Mt. Baldy Village. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Put aside the inaccurate clickbaitiness of the headline (the story doesn’t mention any sequoias that have died) and there’s an interesting story: researchers believe they are seeing some signs of drought-related stress in some giant sequoias and want to know more. As noted, many of the sequoias are hundreds of years old and have certainly withstood some wicked droughts before.

I think the bigger question goes beyond drought and involves how the giant sequoias and their relatives, the coastal redwoods, withstand changes in moisture that could — emphasis could — come with climate change. BTW, if climate change concerns you and you are looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint, try walking, biking and/or taking transit instead of driving alone. As mentioned in the past, I’d love to see the reduce-your-carbon-footprint be a big part of the pro transit message in the U.S., a country which is No. 2 in worldwide carbon emissions.

I’m also on Twitter, Instagram and have a photo blog where I share my non-transportationy stuff.  


13 replies

  1. Comparing LA to Chicago, San Francisco, or New York is apples and oranges due to our large population spread over a larger county size , but on the flip side, the other perspective is that if you step outside of our nation’s borders, there are places that deal with larger area than LA County and yet manages to develop an excellent mass transit system.

    Let’s stack up Los Angeles County to Tokyo Metro:

    LA County (,_California)
    pop. 10 million+
    area size: 4058 square miles (subtracting water area which cannot be developed)

    Tokyo Metro (
    pop. 35 million+
    area size: 5240 square miles

    The question then becomes, what is Tokyo doing right that LA isn’t? Clearly Tokyo didn’t wake up one night to find themselves with 35 million people in a 5000 square mile area, so they didn’t build transit when once they found themselves in that situation, at a certain point in time, Tokyo must have had LA levels of density. So what did Tokyo do then?

    • To be fair, Tokyo has it’s own mayor, it’s also the prefectural capital of Tokyo Metro, and it’s also Japan’s national capital. It’s also the economic, manufacturing and cultural capital of Japan. But then again, that’s pretty much how many of the world’s best cities work. Paris is the political, economical, manufacturing and cultural capital of France, London the same for the UK, Amsterdam for The Netherlands, Moscow for Russia, Seoul for South Korea, Taipei for Taiwan, Mexico City for Mexico, so on and so forth.

      Cities built like that where a vast majority of that nation’s power and influence is vested into that one single city or metropolis has their advantages.

      To put that into context, LA needs to somehow persuade California to move their state capital from Sacramento to LA so that all state’s financial resources are primarily focused for LA, the US to move our nation’s capital from Washington DC to LA so that our nation’s resources are primarily focused towards LA, bring in all the US corporate headquarters, media, and Wall Street over from NYC to LA, and bring in all the manufacturing jobs spread across the US to be centered here in LA so that there’s a tight knit bond between everyone from all walks of life from blue collar workers, white collar workers, manufacturers, corporations, and politicians.

      Unfortunately in America, we separate everything where politics is held in Washington DC, economy is run at NYC, culture is made in LA, and what little left of manufacturing is done somewhere in the middle.

      That being said, it’s not like we can’t do some of them. Probably not be able to move Washington over to LA, but perhaps Sacramento we can. I’ve never understood why California’s state capital is still Sacramento instead of Los Angeles. LA and the Southland has more than 25% of CA’s population, we do have the political voice to move the state capital to here willingness permitting. Certainly we could be doing more to ease regulations and taxes to bring more companies, jobs, and manufacturing to be based here in Los Angeles than having them moved to other states or other countries. Certainly we can figure something where at least our state’s agricultural crops and futures should be traded in a market exchange here locally than Kansas City or Chicago Mercantile Exchanges.

      • RE: Moving state capital to LA

        Not that this hasn’t been done before in our state’s history either.

        Interesting stuff found on Wikipedia:

        1777-1849: Monterey (under Spanish rule and California Republic era)
        1850: CA Statehood
        1850: San Jose
        1852: Vallejo
        1853: Benicia
        1854: Sacramento

        We changed our state capital 4 times before finally settling on making Sacramento our “permanent” state capital. But nothing says we can’t vote to change our state capital and move it to the largest city in California. Laws are not absolute, laws can be changed through the will of the voters and the word “permanent” is in name only.

        Or, we could just split the state into six different states as some people wanted to do

        Then when we become the new West California as the plan was, we can vote that Los Angeles be the state capital of West California. Sure would help save taxpayers a lot of money if LA County and City of LA politicians didn’t have to fly all the way to Sacramento everytime to get their point across and lobby for state funding and all they have to do is just walk few blocks to the new state capitol.

  2. One way to attract more commuters to transit would be to make what we already have more attractive, or at least less aggravating.

    For instance, there is the whole business of persuading people to stand on the right when using escalators at train stations. It seems so easy in most places around the world, but it appears to be an intractable condition in L.A.

    Another thing would be to make electronic message boards at train stations more useful. Right now, as you exit the Red and Purple Line subway platforms at Union Station, the signs you see in front of you show how many more minutes to the next Red or Purple subway trains. This is useless, really, except for passengers who for reason want to head back immediately to where they just came from. It would be far better to post how many more minutes to the next Gold Line train, so that you know whether it’s worth rushing to that platform or not. (Of course, if all escalators are blocked by people standing everywhere, rushing won’t be an easy thing.) Also, these electronic boards should always provide useful information. I don’t need to be told “Have a Nice Day!” nor today’s date; I want to see train information as soon as I look up at the board.

    And if you could do something about fellow commuters not playing loud music, that would be great, but I won’t hold my breath.

  3. The comparison of Los Angeles County to New York County (Manhattan) is absurd. New York County is Manhattan. Even comparing LA County to all of New York City, which includes the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, would be misleading. A more useful comparison would be to look at these areas as urban regions. LA County could usefully be compared to the entire New York Metro Area which includes parts of New Jersey, Connecticut and Long Island. Also known as the Tri-State Area, many would add a fourth state, namely a sliver of Northern Pennsylvania.

    • Oddly, this strange concept of being able to use public transit contactless cards for everyday normal things like paying for cab fares and buying stuff at convenience stores is the practical norm over in Asian countries.

  4. Building rail where people travel especially where constant grid lock takes place with little options for alternate routes should be addressed before rail is built fallowing freeways like along the Gold Line. In fact the MTA is now facing the delima which route the Gold Line will fallow in the future because there is not a real need what ever route is chosen next.

    But along the east / west travel corridor along both Sunset Bl. and Santa Monica Bl. which faces grid lock for hours twice a day was created by the State of California during the former term of Jerry Brown as govenor when he cancelled the proposed extension to the Route 2 Freeway that was planned after the end of World War Two. Commercial development such as Century City were planned and constructed with the assurance that the freeway was to be built. With a existing former Pacific Electric right of way still mostly in tact the reasonable answer and the most economical would be to start construction immediately. The false excuses about the Purple Line will relieve the problem is pure hogwash. The Purple Line will hopefully relieve the grid lock on Wilshire but those traveling on Sunset and Santa Monica do wish to travel out of their way, away from their homes or businesses. As one travels east on Wilshire the distance between it and Sunset becomes further and further as one travels towards downtown L.A.

    Relief is needed ASAP. The grid lock was created by Jerry Brown and the State of California. It’s time to remedy the situation now.

    • You don’t attack other rail lines in hope to gain support for the lines you need (Villaraigosa-style).

      The smart thing to do is to support others, so others will support you back in the future (Garcetti-style).

  5. RE: Amazon on public transit

    If Amazon is able to reach an agreement with Metro to provide them with millions dollars for allowing them to use Metro to deliver packages, Metro will bend over fast. Face it, you guys need the money and it’s an additional way for you to raise much needed funds.

    “I think the big hiccup here is security…”

    Puhleaze. Everything is a security and safety issue if you think hard enough, and anything can be used as “oh no, it’s a safety issue” for anything. Should we get rid of benches and garbage bins because someone might plant a pipe bomb there (i.e. Centennial Olympic Park bombing, Boston Marathon bombing)? Should we ban trains because the operator was paying more attention to his cell phone than operating the train (Chatsworth collision)?

    Heck, I can just say that the pens and pencils is a serious safety issue and should be banned because some deranged maniac can stab a person in the eye with it

    We’re already facing stupid nanny state laws where child protective services are called out for parents letting their kids walk home to over-reaching cops shutting down kids’ lemonade stands because they don’t have the right business license or health certificates.

    We’ve gone way too far with this “it’s all in the name of safety” stuff.

  6. “SF introduced proof-of-payment on all buses and it’s been very successful. Does Metro intend to do the same? If not, why not?”

    Because LA has bears no resemblance to SF, that’s why. What is it with these people who suddenly jump on the bandwagon and say “oh look this is what they are doing in SF and NY, why don’t we do that here” without analytically thinking stuff out?

    We even have an article here that says that people are dumb to even compare LA to places like SF, NYC and Chicago because LA is so different than these cities.

    This is how analytical people think:

    SF is small, it has a smaller population than LA. City and County of San Francisco’s population is only 850,000.
    32.6% of San Francisco rides public transit, that means approx. 277,000 San Franciscans ride MUNI.

    LA County on the other hand has over 10 million people and “only” 7% of LA County takes public transit.
    But here’s the kicker. Seven percent of LA County is still 700,000!! SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND!!!

    You see, even though the percentage is small, since LA County has a lot more people than San Francisco, even 7 percent of LA’s population is going to be as large as almost the entire population of San Francisco!!!

    Sheesh. You have to wonder how these people ever got through grade school math.

  7. “Amazon locker on wheels” sounds a lot like a Rail Post Office, which I seem to recall was a huge revenue source for PE when they were in use.

    Can I add a question for Phil Washington? How’s the Red/Purple line stations along the river in the Arts District coming?