How We Roll, Wednesday, August 26

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The link in the tweet leads to an article about a city in Romania that gave free bus rides to book readers.

Cool idea overall, but how do we know if the riders are actually reading the books they bring on board? And could a middle-aged man bring a Berenstain Bears book to claim the free ride or does the book need to be commensurate to the rider’s reading level? So many questions…so many!

Now, on to the real news…

Railroad in Japan hires its second cat stationmaster in 10 years (Mashable)

Just kidding. But the story is real. For those wondering how your feline friend can become a stationmaster, the criteria is quite strict…for a cat. Along with the ability to demonstrate “a relaxed attitude to working with people,” he or she must also display “a willingness to wear a hat.” Good luck with that one.

Newly appointed stationmaster Nitami is comfortable wearing hats. Photo: Daily Mail

Newly appointed cat stationmaster, Nitami, is comfortable wearing hats. Photo: Daily Mail

Reports of sexual harassment by Metro commuters could hinder efforts to boost ridership (L.A. Times)

Read Metro’s response to the article here.

Los Angeles lawmakers approve plan that would allow Uber and Lyft pickups at LAX (L.A. Times)

In a 9-6 vote, the L.A. City Council yesterday approved a policy that authorizes rideshare companies to pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport. The vote makes L.A. the largest city in the U.S. to allow rideshare companies to legally operate at its airport.

Before they can begin to operate legally, the companies need to show they can provide the city specific data on their airport operations and finalize their agreements with the city. If all goes well, pickups could begin in as little as a few weeks.

Councilmembers voting against the policy voiced their concerns about the thoroughness of the background checks rideshare operators perform on new drivers — a discussion, the article suggests, that was largely sparked by taxi company lobbyists.

The City Council also voted to ask the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) — the state agency that oversees the regulation of transportation network companies like Lyft and Uber — to require fingerprinting as part of the required background checks for all for-hire drivers. The Council added an amendment to research whether the city would have the authority to legally require fingerprints if the CPUC failed to follow through on the request.

In South Central Los Angeles, a better, safer ride is on its way (Transform CA)

Willowbrook/Rosa Parks renderingAs was reported last month, Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station, one of Metro’s busiest bus and rail stations, is slated for a $39 million overhaul beginning next year. This article doesn’t mince words, saying the station in its current state is far from what should be expected system’s fourth busiest station and one that serves as a “transit lifeline” for the surrounding community.

The author is optimistic that the station renovations — which include better lighting, new canopies, improved way-finding, upgraded station infrastructure such as escalators and stairs, and an increased community law enforcement presence — will make the station safer and easier to navigate.

Fundraising campaign launched for Angels Flight (L.A. Business Journal)

The latest effort to keep the troubled Angels Flight from becoming a permanent thing of the past. Adele Yellin, the owner of Grand Central Market located across street from the world’s shortest funicular, has launched a campaign to raise $10,000 for the historic railway. If that amount can be raised by the end of the month, a foundation in Beverly Hills has pledged to match that amount.

Last month a petition reinvigorated public support for Angels Flight and brought it to the attention of Mayor Garcetti and the Metro Board.

Carpools are disappearing but new apps could bring them back (KPCC) 

KPCC delves into a topic we have covered in this space before: how technology might bring carpooling back.

The number of carpoolers today is less than 10 percent of daily commuters, compared to nearly 20 percent in the 1980s. There are multiple theories on why this is, but here’s one proposed in the story:

Working conditions are also less conducive to carpooling than they used to be. The decline in manufacturing and dispersion of many large companies into smaller, more spread out employment centers makes it harder for co-workers to stay on the same route and schedule. More employees telecommute or shift their hours.

So how might carpooling make its comeback? If the popularity of UberPool and Lyft Line are any indication, people appears to be more willing than ever to share a ride with strangers. If that barrier to entry is diminished, carpool services could utilize similar ride sharing technology and cater to the more dynamic daily schedules of its passengers. There are already a few start ups trying to make it happen.

The Massachusetts Bridge that obliterates trucks (CityLab)

Quasi-transit related: if you’ve ever wondered what it looks like when trucks don’t clear bridges, look no further than the East Street Bridge in Westwood, Massachusetts. According to CityLab, the bridge has been wreaking havoc on the tops of delivery and moving trucks since the 1980s. The most recent truck hit occurred just last week.

Thanks to the power of the internet, many of the recent bridge strikes are posted on YouTube. The most recent one is below, but the article (and the YouTube autoplay feature) will show you more. Be warned: the hits are violent, but it appears no one is seriously injured.

Why this bridge hasn’t yet been redesigned and rebuilt for the sake of public safety, the article doesn’t say.

In L.A. County, Metro often provides funding to improve the safety of freight and passenger railroad crossings. However, to my knowledge, low clearances were never an issue. These projects usually involve building an entirely new bridge to eliminate the possibility of auto vs. train collisions and reduce congestion.

Joe is on Twitter @joseph_lem

6 replies

  1. The local municipality usually has the responsibility to lower the roadway, if possible. Also, they really should put up a reflective sign with the height limit as is required here on public streets.

    Another example of ‘truck drivers vs innocent railroad bridge’ is here:
    If you ‘Google drive’ the street, you can see the multiple warning signs yet the collisions continue; rental truck drivers especially are clueless.

  2. “The City Council also voted to ask the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) — the state agency that oversees the regulation of transportation network companies like Lyft and Uber — to require fingerprinting as part of the required background checks for all for-hire drivers.”

    Fingerprinting Uber and Lyft drivers? Here we go with the nanny state regulations again. Sooner or later, they’ll come up with pizza delivery guys needing a specific license because of some food safety regulation I’ll bet.

    “The Council added an amendment to research whether the city would have the authority to legally require fingerprints if the CPUC failed to follow through on the request”

    Geez, stop wasting our tax dollars and wasting time with concocting stupid laws will ya’? There’s got to be some serious taxi cab union playing dirty political games with this. They know they can’t win against Uber and Lyft, so they play dirty. Too bad, it’s called COMPETITION!!! Get over it, already! Stop being a sore loser! You taxi cab companies had all this time to come up with an app or improve your services, you never did. Now Uber and Lyft comes along, now they get upset. Boo-hoo-hoo.

  3. The people who want to keep Angel’s Flight running need to start doing these things the 21st century way via way of gofundme or Kickstarter. Have it on the web and I’ll donate $100.

  4. In other news, Uber started running “smart routes” up in San Francisco.

    The concept? They drive along a specific route and passengers can get on and off anywhere along that fixed route. Fares are charged by the distance, so some trips may actually be cheaper than the public transit option depending on travel distance.

    In other words, Uber is already starting to run bus-like fixed route system, except using a more profitable distance based fare system.

    Uber, founded in 2009, less than six years since its startup (and not even IPO yet!), they’ve figured distance based bus-like services are better for the consumer. How long has Metro been in operation?