How We Roll, Sept. 28: moon over Metro, electric bus update

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Newsflash!: Metro names Joshua L. Schank as its first Chief Innovation Officer. Here’s the news release.

Art of Transit/Art of Supermoon Eclipse: 

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One of these days I’m going to learn how to use a compass! Between the clouds last night and the moon not rising exactly where I expected (or wanted) it to, I got some half-okay pics. The first three were taken on Hill Street on the bridge over the 101 freeway and the last one was taken after I had given up and returned home to the 91106. How did the pros do? Check out the pic from D.C. below? If you have an eclipse pic that somehow includes a Metro bus, train or facility, please share it on our Instagram or Twitter streams.

How a pro photographer shoots it! Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.

How a pro photographer shoots it! Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.

What the San Fernando Valley would — and would not get — in a new transportation tax (Daily News)

The headline is a bit misleading as Metro and its Board of Directors has not yet released a breakdown of how money from a potential ballot measure would be spent. Nor has the agency’s Board decided on which projects would be included in an update to the agency’s long-range transportation plan or a potential ballot measure to help fund that plan.

To further explain and/or clarify a few other points:

•As the story notes, a new half-cent sales tax for 40 years and a continuation of the Measure R half-cent sales tax beyond its mid-2039 expiration date would result in about $120 billion of tax revenues.

•In early discussions, Metro has looked at spending half the revenues for multi-modal capital improvements and Metro has been asking the various subregions in Los Angeles County and other stakeholders on their priorities for transportation improvements in their areas.

•Also in early discussions, Metro has looked at spending half the tax revenues on local return to the 88 cities and unincorporated areas of L.A. County, transit operations, state-of-good repair and needs for regional transportation facilities.

•The type of transit has not yet been selected for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, although in very early studies Metro has looked at a rail tunnel.

As the Daily News notes, there has certainly been discussion in the San Fernando Valley about what projects it should seek and the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments has shown interest in a Sepulveda Pass rail project, a rail project on Van Nuys Boulevard between the Sylmar Metrolink Station and the Orange Line and converting the Orange Line from a busway to a rail line. But it’s far too early to say which projects may end up in a ballot measure — and how many transit projects in our county a potential ballot measure could accommodate.

Stay tuned please. The local COGs, stakeholders, Metro staff and the Board will be looking at all these issues in the coming months — with no final decision on a potential ballot measure until late next spring or early summer. As information comes in, I’ll post it on the Source so that voters and taxpayers know exactly what is being proposed.

Me and my Jetta: how Volkswagen broke my heart (NYT)

Richard Conniff purchased a diesel-powered Jetta in 2009, thinking he was doing some good for Mother Earth. Now he’s feeling a lil’ betrayed:

For the rest of us, we need to acknowledge that some of our favorite phrases — “clean diesel,” “green car” and apparently also “corporate responsibility” — are just a contradiction in terms. But that shouldn’t let us off the hook either. Every time we complacently accept some company’s green-scamming promises, we allow ourselves to become the gullible partners in crimes against one another, and the Earth. And that makes us all just a nation of willing fools.

Quasi-related: I sometimes hear people refer to the CNG on transit buses as “clean natural gas.” CNG actually means compressed natural gas. Yes, it’s certainly cleaner than diesel fuel that used to power transit buses. But it’s still a fossil fuel that results in greenhouse gases. That’s why folks are excited about the prospect of electric buses — the cleaner the electricity, the cleaner the buses.


One of the five electric buses delivered to Metro earlier this year for testing. Photo: Metro.

One of the five electric buses delivered to Metro earlier this year for testing. Photo: Metro.

A quick update on Metro’s quintet of electric buses: Testing of the buses ran from June 15 until mid-August, with about 6,700 miles driven on the buses. In mid-August, the buses were sent to the BYD factory in Lancaster for upgrades, modifications and retrofits based on the testing and the buses are expected to be returned to Metro in the next few days for more testing. One of the buses is being retrofitted with a safety barrier for the operator and closed circuit television — with the other four buses to get those upgrades.

High-Speed Rail Authority asks for permission to drill under the Angeles National Forest (SGV Tribune) 

The state agency building the bullet train is studying potential routes between Burbank and Palmdale. Area residents have already said they don’t like a surface route that would have more-or-less followed the 14 freeway through the San Gabriel Mountains so the Rail Authority is looking at three routes that would be mostly or fully underground.

The advantage of a tunnel: a more direct route. The disadvantage of a tunnel: it could be more costly. The U.S. Forest Service is asking the public whether it should grant permission to the Authority to conduct the drilling tests on existing forest service roads. Assuming that happens, a draft environmental study for this segment of the line is scheduled for release in mid-2016.

Guest editorial: a fair road tax (Streetsblog LA)

Richard Risemberg responds to LAT columnist George Skelton’s recent proposal that cyclists start paying their fair share for road repairs; Skelton was upset a road closure for a bike race prevented him enjoying a weekend getaway to Tahoe. Risemberg’s response: cyclists are already paying for road repairs with other taxes and, besides, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure is a tiny fraction of what we spend on roads. Good article.

Dodger Stadium Express and the post-season: there are no pitch limits for the bus and the DSE will be rolling in the playoffs from Harbor Gateway and Union Station.

Good luck to the Dodgers, who can clinch the NL West tonight at San Francisco. Assuming they win the division, the Dodgers will play the Mets in the divisional series beginning Friday, Oct. 9. The team with the best record will be the host for Games 1, 2 and 5. The Mets have a 1.5 game lead over the Dodgers at this point.

Things to read while sitting/standing/stuck on transit: the New Yorker published a long profile last week of Claire Boucher, who performs as Grimes and has her follow-up to 2012’s “Visions” coming out soon. Boucher lives in L.A. these days and doesn’t much like driving. I thought some of the anecdotes felt a little thin, but a good piece for Riders of a Certain Age who may not know much about Grimes but had heard and liked “Oblivion.”

Boucher’s perhaps-response on Twitter:

The great video for “Oblivion” is below. Is it just me, or does the synth line in U2’s “Invisible” — released last year — sound kind of like this one from 2012? 🙂

Some recent How We Rolls: 

Sept. 25: Regional Connector 1st/Central Station update, Gold Line beyond Azusa, mega-rents in L.A. and mega-drought impacting our native chaparral in the mountains.

Sept. 24: Metro considers bus stop ‘thinning,’ personal pod transit nonsense, things to read on transit, baseball stats and the Dodger Stadium Express.

Sept. 22: New York subway’s ‘pizza rat,’ more on China’s bid to build high-speed rail to Vegas, a motion that seeks to make college/vocational TAP cards easier and cheaper to obtain and books versus tablets on transit.

Sept. 21: L.A.’s mobility plan, things to listen to on transit, sins of two carmakers, bike riding along the L.A. River.

Sept. 18: My so long to long-time Metro flack Marc Littman, will it take China’s dollars to finally build a train between L.A. and Vegas and a horse rides light rail in Ireland.

Sept. 15: Trying to find a route for a light rail line between Union Station and Artesia, parking at Bakersfield’s bullet train station to-be and a rider revolt against the Washington Metro.

Sept. 2: the Summer Olympics 2024 and transit edition.

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13 replies

  1. “One of these days I’m going to learn how to use a compass!”

    Ever consider just downloading a stargazing app to your smartphone instead?

  2. “Me and my Jetta: how Volkswagen broke my heart”

    Oh, poor baby. And am I supposed to feel sorry for the article writer?

    The way I see it is that this whole fiasco is a classic example of Europhile liberals getting upset how they were betrayed because they blindly believed without any substance or fact checking that anything out of Europe can do no wrong, justifying driving in their precious Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, and Volkswagen for the “European cool” factor and showing off how “rich but liberal” they are and that they are stuck up their head that they are contributing to help saving the environment. Usually the hypocrisy can also extend that many of these car drivers claim to be progressively vegan or vegetarian, but prefer driving in luxury cars with leather seats.

    Of course, try and recommend something like an equally fuel efficient and eco-conscious vehicles like a Ford Focus, Chevy Volt, or a Lincoln MKZ hybrid, it’s evil because it’s an American corporation.

    Try and recommend a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic hybrid, or a Kia Optima hybrid, it’s an evil Asian corporation that steals American jobs (nevermind that they build factories and employ Americans here).

    But Europe can do no wrong. Well, let’s all wait and see how the German economy takes a massive hit from this whole issue dragging the rest of Europe down all the while how they try to handle the mass influx of Syrian refugees.

    I await my popcorn.

  3. I hope no one tried to take the LADOT Observatory shuttle on Sunday night. Packed buses crawling along with regular traffic. You could walk faster than the bus, which I did. There needs to be a bypass lane like the Dodger Shuttle for nights like this.

    • Sounds like you should bring that up with the Mayor’s office, LADOT, and Rec & Parks. Metro has little influence within Griffith Park. Most of that road is wide enough that they could cone a special center lane for the shuttle. You should have seen the parking and traffic when Endevour flew over. I parked nearly at the Greek on the grass and hiked up to Mt. Hollywood. It was packed.

      If you like the idea of the LADOT Observatory shuttle, you should also suggest an all park circulator. With Metro only serving the south edge and a little along the east, an LADOT shuttle around the park would allow patron to take the 780 and then the shuttle to get to the live steamers, Travel Town, the Zoo, the Old Zoo area, the Carousel, some of the golf courses, etc.

  4. The Valley banned rail in 91, and later tried to secede from Los Angeles as a whole (to possibly become Camelot). Now they want more rail? “If you can’t beat em, join em, 25 years later”. SFV should think about its history and realise that what they want was once illegal in that region. Gee, I wonder why? Like, get it together SFV, or you’ll always be 15 years behind the Basin.

    • To be fair, 25 years is a generational change. You can’t blame SFV residents today who want rail, whom were too young or not even born yet or haven’t even lived there yet to have voted against it 25 years ago. Same goes with the Westside.

      Blaming SFV and Westside residents today is like blaming them why they were in elementary school or in their mother’s wombs and why didn’t they vote for more transportation.

      • Mostly facts that should disarm the “weve been left out” tone. Dont feel left out when your parents banned what should already exist.

      • “Dont feel left out when your parents banned what should already exist.”

        Hence, the reason why under a democracy, we allow laws to be repealed.

        If a generational change has happened and as Millennials become majority of the population, the answer isn’t to add more laws, it’s to look back at what stupid laws and taxes were passed under their parents’ generation and start to repeal them. There’s already too many stupid laws and taxes on the books here in California and LA, we don’t need more laws and more taxes.

        One of the major stupid laws that were passed back then was the prohibition of using Measure A and C funds to build new subways. That law can be repealed if need be so that we can start building new subways once again, if need be, in the SFV.

        Straight from Metro’s own website (

        “On November 3, 1998 an initiative affecting the Proposition A and Proposition C sales taxes, in the form of the Act of 1998, was submitted and approved by the voters of Los Angeles County. Pursuant to the Act of 1998 Metro is no longer allowed to expend Proposition A or Proposition C sales tax on the costs of planning, design, construction or operation of any “New Subway.” New Subway is defined to mean any rail line in a tunnel below the earth’s surface, except for the existing segments of the Metro Red Line. The Act of 1998 does not limit in any way the collection of the Proposition A or the Proposition C sales taxes.”

        Why pass another tax measure? Why not just repeal this Act of 1998? People who voted for it back in 1998 are likely dead by now. The Millennials are the largest demographic today and the Baby Boomer generation is starting to die out.

        The Millennials have all the power today as the majority age group to repeal this stupid law.

  5. Too bad a short Red Line Extension to Burbank Airport is not being considered instead of the Orange Line rail conversion This would make Metrolink in the Valley so much more useful if it could connect to the Metro system here instead of just at Union Station. Not to mention, it is better for the Region in general to have a strong airport connection. Burbank would be a great airport for more of LA with this connection.

  6. I really hope we just foucs on separating the orange line from the grid on major intersections and focus on getting the orange line to Pasadena again with as few interactions from cross traffic as possible. It would be nice if the buses were capable of traveling 55mph down long stretches of the line so that we can finaly make this a rapid transit line. The money saved in the conversion could go towards building out rail in other parts of the valley I.E. Sepulveda pass as well as up van nuys. I know There are no plans to but Sherman way has a lot of potential for development and has plenty of room in its center divider for a rail line. I’m sure even an elevated line all the way down wouldn’t cause much of a ruckus. whatever happends I just hope we spend the money wisely… once its spent there’s no turning back! i.e. current orange line. would have been nice :-/

  7. I think money is better spent on separating the orange line from the grid on most if not all of the major intersections to increase speed on the line. The only reason I say that (i really wish it was rail too) is because money that would otherwise go towards building rail on other lines will go to converting a line that is already there and functioning. I totally agree that the orange line SUCKS as a bus line as is (ive had to stand in a bus packed like sardines far too many times even when buses are running every few minutes) but the last thing I want to hear from metro is “we spent all of the money converting the orange line so now we cant completely build out the sepulveda pass or the Van Nuys corridor” something i’m way to used to hearing from the agency. I think it sucks that the gold line is being extended as far as it is yet we have to practically beg for more rail. They did form their own lobby group though to push for the extension to be built now instead of later. I hope the group we’ve just formed does the same. It would be great to increase the orange lines speed to 50-55 on sections that are grid separate and cut the travel time end to end by at least 1/3. Our valley has a lot of potential people! we just have to demand more! even if we don’t get everything we demand; we’ll still get more than if we just sit on our arsh and twittle our thumbs

  8. also, also, also; I think Metrolink or Metro should invest in light rail size DMU’s to improve frequency along the valley line (AT LEAST TO CHATSWORTH, if possible to moorpark college) and lower fuel costs. The larger locomotives can run during rush hours and the smaller DMU’s can run on either lower traveled lines (Ventura county line) or just to increase frequency (add service in between rush hours). WE CAN DO THIS! The valley needs more rail! It would be nice to run a pilot program and rent some machines from another agency (like the coster down south) to see what the impact would be cost wise. a photo of a DMU can be found at the following link: