Lots of ground to cover today, so let’s get going…
Art of Transit:
Certainly relevant to our readers as our area is in the midst of greatly expanding its rail transit. What a great report by Adam Frank. The gist of it: America has already reinvented its transportation infrastructure several times over. And there’s no reason, Adam argues, that America and much of the globe can’t do it again in the face of climate change.
Here’s what he’s talking about:
Rochester, New York, is sometimes called America’s first boomtown. The city’s rapid growth in the 1800s was driven by the Erie Canal, started in 1808 and finished in 1825. The canal still cuts through Rochester, and I recently found a place where a railroad bridge crosses above it. That bridge is part of the rail infrastructure that went into operation in Rochester in the mid 1800s. At this particular site, I could also see fast moving cars running along I-390, a highway built in 1960s. And, just past I-390, I could see passenger jet planes making their approach into the Rochester International Airport.
Right there in front of me, I could see four different versions of infrastructure built over the last 200 years. Without a doubt, constructing a new version of human civilization that does not rely on fossil fuels will require great effort.
But it’s not like we haven’t done this before — and it’s not like we haven’t done it quickly.
Adam is right, I think. It’s not easy to change and it’s certainly expensive these days. But should we wallow in the doom-and-gloom? I don’t see a flying car future, but I do think the transportation future of Los Angeles County will include a lot more rail transit, a lot more electric cars and both transit and electric cars pulling electricity from cleaner sources. That said, it’s probably not helping that Congress has in recent years had so much trouble passing transpo spending bills — it’s hard to execute a play if you can’t get out of the huddle, to speak.
If you set your DeLorean to Oct. 26, 2035, what do you think you would find transpo-wise?
As for all that green electricity, see below. As for one piece of our potential infrastructure future…
The article focuses on the prospect of having to tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains between Palmdale and the San Fernando Valley if the California High-Speed Rail Authority forgoes a surface route along the 14 freeway. One big complication: the San Gabriel Mountains are geologically complex and such a tunnel may have to cross the San Andreas Fault (as the 14 freeway already does).
Bullet train backers won’t like the article and many have criticized the LAT’s coverage of the project. That said, I think the LAT has raised a lot of valid questions about a completely grade-separated project to link Los Angeles and San Francisco that also involves a lot of bridges and tunnels (the project will also have to tunnel under the Tehachapi Mountains between Bakersfield and the Antelope Valley). Attentive readers know how hard and expensive it is to plan and build light rail and subway lines and the bullet train project is more complicated in many ways.
Quasi-related: Looking for something to read about local environment whilst on transit? Try John McPhee’s classic book, “The Control of Nature,” which includes a long article from the New Yorker on Los Angeles versus the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s John McPhee so it’s a great read.
Clean energy’s dirty secret (High Country News)
Uh-oh! This is a subscription only article but looks at the very real bird-kill problems associated with some wind and solar projects. Western states also rely heavily on hydropower and that, too, has very real impacts on fish migrations and river ecosystems.
I don’t think these impacts are “secret” — some have been widely discussed for years – and certainly should be discussed in the future as part of weighing the pros and cons of any energy project. Tough, tough issues but I think it’s worth remembering the enormous amount of land and other resources consumed/changed by fossil fuel drilling.
Gas and transit cross-price elasticity in Los Angeles 2013 to 2014 (Lisa Schweitzer)
The USC professor had her students take a look at what happens to transit ridership when gas prices change. Their finding: as gas prices went down in 2012 and ’13, so did Metro ridership.
There has been a lot written over the years about the relationship between the cost of gas and ridership. While others have certainly echoed the findings above — and it certainly seems intuitive — the American Public Transit Assn. has lately been making the case that the gas/ridership relationship is eroding in many cities across the U.S. where transit has been expanded (i.e. people are taking transit because they prefer it to driving).
Of course, California’s special blend of gas — intended to help reduce smog — means that gas prices here are always higher than most parts of the U.S. That said, Metro has seen a ridership dip beginning in April 2014. In the time since, gas prices have ping-ponged considerably.
My hunch is that within L.A. County there’s a wide variety of ways that people react to gas prices and I’m not sure it correlates to household income. I think many will drive no matter what whereas some people have a line in which gas prices become so unpalatable (and perhaps unaffordable) that they will switch to transit.
My dark California dream (NYT)
In this op-ed, Daniel Duane — born in 1967 in the Bay Area — mourns the California his parent had. Far fewer people. Less traffic. More free parking. And, most of all, far fewer people in the state’s protected lands, i.e. Yosemite. And, of course, real estate that was affordable. Excerpt:
Back in my 20s, I thought I’d grown up in California too late — after all the mountains had been climbed and all the good surf breaks discovered. Right on schedule, in middle age — as the state’s population reaches 40 million — I am now tempted to think that I lived through the end of a golden era.
But maybe the better way to say it is that just like every other Californian for as long as anybody can remember, I have merely witnessed a fleeting chapter in a centuries-long human story in which the lost Eden we all heard about from our parents is eternally changing into the pretty damn nice place we found — and then, much too soon for comfort, into the next bewildering mixture of good and bad that we scarcely recognize.
Good article. It’s worth remembering, too, that in the past far fewer people in our state certainly carried their impacts in ways that were either loosely regulated or not regulated at all — think of those gold miners blasting away at Sierra rivers (among other impacts). While I do think our state’s national parks have gotten a little too popular for their own good, I’m also surprised at how much elbow room is available on our public lands in California, if you know where to look.
The headline could have been “asked and politely agreed to move to a quiet car.” But it’s the Post. So that’s not the headline and that’s not all the news not fit to print. 🙂
And since it’s Monday, a lil’ Erie Canal-related music for you….
Recent How We Rolls:
Oct. 23: Social media reaction to announcement of Foothill Gold Line opening, Denver’s rail line to airport set to open in April, funny things to listen to while riding transit.
Oct. 21: Back to the future edition, i.e. what Los Angeles County transit officials of the past century got right and wrong about your transportation future.
Oct. 20: CicLAvia gives the air a good scrubbing, L.A. to legalize locking bikes to parking meters, millenials versus the driving habits of Americans.
Oct. 16: the Velotopia, closing gaps in the Valley LA river greenway, rideshare and taxis competing for business travelers.
Oct. 15: L.A. as a city of dreams, thoughts on fare structure, USC’s transit subsidy cut and potential effects on employee commuting behavior, more affordable housing and possible reasons for transit ridership decline.
Categories: Transportation Headlines