Newsflash!: Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this week signed into law AB 726, which would authorize Metro to utilize double articulated buses on the Metro Orange Line in the future. In a legislative update to staff, Metro CEO Phil Washington wrote: “This bill will allow Metro to significantly increase capacity on the Orange Line and will continue our leadership role by utilizing new technology to provide transportation service. This bill was sponsored by Metro.:
New report: grading California’s rail transit station areas (UC Berkeley & Next 10)
The new study evaluates rail stations based on “a scorecard of 11 indicators, including factors like walkability, affordability, percentage of residents and employees who use transit, and number of jobs and households within 1/2 mile radius. We then used that information to grade 489 transit stations in 6 rail systems across the state, excluding commuter lines like Metrolink and Caltrain and Amtrak, but including L.A.’s bus rapid transit line given it’s rail-like qualities.”
The study also looked at “walkability, ridership levels, existing land-use and permitting policies, affordability and transit quality.” The Expo Line, which opened in 2012, is omitted.
I think the results are certainly interesting although not terribly surprising — visiting any of the stations in person gives you a fairly good idea how they’re performing. And let’s face it: tossing 11 factors into a blender to come up with a letter grade only gets you so far: the Gold Line’s Chinatown Station on the edge of downtown L.A. gets an A, but the 7th/Metro Station in the heart of DTLA gets an A-. The Gold Line’s Mariachi Plaza gets an A (perhaps because there is a big employer, a hospital, nearby) but the Gold Line’s South Pasadena Station gets a C-.
The South Pasadena Station is busy and has helped revitalize Mission Street. As I’ve noted in the past, it hasn’t attracted a ton of residential development, although the number of parcels available nearby are limited. The area around the station is largely residential and I don’t think anyone wants or expects serious commercial development nearby. Parking is limited. To my eye, the the station has been very successful — but gets dinged here, presumably, because it’s not near a ton of jobs.
As Cal Hollis, Metro’s Executive Officer for Countywide Planning Cal Hollis, told the LAT: “The less urban areas — Sacramento, San Diego and Santa Clara Valley — will score lower. Metro is in the middle, serving both urban and less urban areas. If you applied the same criteria to New York City transit, MUNI and BART would rank lower.”
Two other thoughts: It’s hardly news that transit-oriented development hasn’t happened in some parts of our county. It’s also not surprising that Metro’s subway (the Red/Purple Line) fared well. Unlike many of the agency’s light rail lines (such as the Blue Line), the subway doesn’t rigidly follow old rail right-of-ways — the subway, in fact goes mostly under busy streets such as Hill, 7th, Wilshire, Vermont, Hollywood and Lankershim. It’s Metro’s busiest rail line and runs under areas where there was already considerable and nearby commercial and residential development.
Ethan Elkind has some interesting thoughts on the study, namely that building it doesn’t always mean that people will show up. And he has some suggestions about what could be done in the future to beef up some station areas:
So what can be done to improve scores? First, local leaders with stations in their jurisdictions should plan for and encourage thriving, walkable neighborhoods around the stations. Second, state leaders can help underperforming areas that lack a market for new development by focusing state investment and financing programs in those areas, such as through green bonds and tax-increment financing. Finally, transit leaders should condition any rail expansion on a local commitment to transit-oriented development around the stations, and they should consider reducing service to underperforming stations in order to better serve stations with thriving neighborhoods around them.
Related Statistic: In the past decade, 2,017 housing units have been built in joint developments on Metro-owned properties; another 570 units are either under construction or in the negotiating phase. These developments typically take place on parcels that Metro purchased for transit project construction.
Another Related Statistic: Metro and cities in L.A. County will certainly have more opportunities to build better rail stations. Metro has five rail lines under construction totaling about 31 miles of track and 27 new stations. The projects: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Expo Line Phase 2, the Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector.
Here is the news release for the L.A. area:
Stop the war on drivers (L.A. Business Journal)
The veto of a bill to allow vehicles with one occupant to use the HOV lanes on the 134 and 210 and the new L.A. mobility plan — which proposes to reduce traffic lanes in some areas in favor of bike lanes — has Business Journal editor Charles Crumply fuming and wanting “better and more roads.” Excerpt:
Yeah, this is a war all right. A nasty war of attrition on drivers. The goal, of course, is to make it so uncomfortable, so expensive for you to drive that it will force you to take mass transit.
Look, I think most of us agree that it’d be nice if we could ride a bicycle to work and take a train for an evening out. Maybe someday we’ll get there. But Los Angeles today is not like Paris or Tokyo or even New York, where long-established train systems and dense cities mean mass transit makes sense right now.
Given the ubiquity of roads, parking and cars in L.A., I have a hard time taking seriously that there’s a war on driving. There are certainly some places where bike lanes and other traffic-calming measures have been implemented — but I think those areas are the exception and not the rule.
Our region pushed driving over other mobility options for a long, long time. I’m not sure that has worked out terribly well. Do you?
Reporter David Zahniser takes a good look at efforts make the 120-acre Piggyback freight rail yard into a key part of the effort to restore the adjacent Los Angeles River. The Union Pacific-owned yard is also slated — at least at this point — to serve as the Olympic Village should L.A. secure the 2024 Summer Games.
As the article notes, transforming a sprawling freight yard into a bucolic village in less than nine years is ambitious. Former County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says he thinks the project could be a “budget buster” and thinks it would be better to house athletes at UCLA and USC. Others aren’t so skeptical and say that housing, parkland and a restored river — all near Union Station, the county’s transit hub — would be a better use of the land than the freight yard.
Good article about an important slice of public policy.
Things to listen to whilst sitting/standing/waiting/stuck on transit: The Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast tackles the popular Marvel comic, Ms. Marvel (not to be confused with Captain Marvel). As per many things in pop culture, I hadn’t heard of it but am always glad to hear about something that many readers find charming. And next time you’re on the bus, look up! Maybe someone is watching out for you.
Recent How We Rolls:
Oct. 5: reading about mobility while on transit, Long Beach gets a Flyaway bus, coal vs electric buses, traffic vs delivery trucks.
Oct. 1: all about cities — gentrification, TODs vs parking, the changing DTLA skyline, Show Me a Hero, cities and transit and diversity.
Sept. 30: Can Uber and Lyft solve our first-mile-last-mile problems?, trains and cleanliness, the blessing of the infrastructure.
Sept. 29: Richard Katz weighs in on the San Fernando Valley’s transit needs, bill signed for hit-and-run alerts on electronic freeway signs, Shell exits the arctic, the N.Y. Islanders new goal horn brought to you by the NYMTA
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.
Categories: Transportation Headlines