How We Roll, Nov. 18: scramble crosswalks, Muni's new mobile app

Art of Progress:
And Progress for Pedestrians:

The city of L.A. opened its latest and most prominent scramble crosswalk this weekend at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland in the heart of Hollywood. It’s an area that receives a lot of foot traffic, mostly from tourists checking out the attractions (and traps) along Hollywood Boulevard.

The short clip above shows the new crosswalk in action. The idea is simple: pedestrians at all corners of the intersection get their own simultaneous walk signal, during which they can cross in any direction. That’s a huge improvement in L.A. where pedestrians often find themselves at odds (to put it politely) with impatient motorists turning right or left. Pedestrian traffic seems a relatively sparse in the video, but anyone familiar with the intersection knows that this crosswalk will see plenty of foot traffic.

Streetsblog LA has coverage of the new crosswalks and also notes two future scramble crosswalks planned for downtown L.A., one of which will be in front of Union Station.

SFMTA enters the 21st century with a mobile app (SF Business Times)

A review of SFMTA’s new mobile app Muni Mobile released by the San Francisco transit agency yesterday. The app’s key feature is the ability to pay fare using credit card or Paypal.

Exciting news for S.F. transit users, but when looking to see how this might apply to Metro, the Muni Mobile’s FAQ suggests that using the ticket is enforced via the honor system — something from which Metro is moving away:

“In the subway, activate (“use”) your purchased mobile ticket before passing through metro station fare gates. Show your active ticket to the station agent, and pass through the fare gate closest to the station agent booth. If the station agent is not present, you may still pass through the gate as long as your ticket has been activated.  Do not attempt to “tag” the gate.”

For buses, passengers need to show the operator an active ticket upon boarding. This sounds a lot like LADOT’s mobile fare payment system, and it’s no surprise that GlobeSherpa is the company behind both LADOT and SF Muni’s mobile payment systems.

Long, winding way before driverless cars become mainstream (L.A. Times)

A brief clip in the LAT summarizing the outlook for driverless vehicles after the first sessions at this year’s L.A. Auto Show. The takeaway: there’s still a loooong way to go. Driverless vehicles have yet to be proven to safely and reliably operate in a category that is sometimes easy to forget in Southern California — inclement weather.

Portland firm pitches high-speed aerial tram between Las Vegas and L.A. (The Oregonian)

Here’s a fun proposal: an aerial tram between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Who’s in? It’s kind of like flying — it’ll be 50 feet in the air and the initial passenger “cars” will be made out of retired airplane fuselages. What a great combo, right? Hope they remember to provide ample leg room in those coach seats!


The idea conceived by the Portland-based firm Sky Tram International is clearly a long-shot, but it will actually be one of three ideas presented to the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority. The project technically doesn’t meet the authority’s specifications, which requires the use of old freight tracks. To that, the founder of the firm, Ben Missler, had this to say:

“They’re using 1860 criteria for the tracks,” he said. “It’s time to move up. We need to move into the 21st Century.”

Elevated tracks, he said, would better protect the system from tampering while allowing higher speeds and negotiating terrain trains can’t.

At 100 to 250 mph, which would approach the speeds of the the fastest commercial maglev trains, the Sky Tram would make the trip from Las Vegas to Anaheim, Calif., in 1.2 hours.

Hey! The year 1860 was only 155 years ago!!!

The firm garnering much more favor for the project is XpressWest — featured in a previous How We Roll when it announced a joint venture with China Railway International USA Company, a consortium of Chinese railway companies.

The idea of using elevated tracks on its own isn’t unprecedented — see the Wuppertal Suspension Railway —  however, the scale and proposed speeds of the Sky Tram concept would be.

The uncommon resilience of Parisian street life (N.Y. Times Magazine)

Neighborhood in Paris. Photo via Flickr / La Citta Vita

Neighborhood in Paris. Photo via Flickr / La Citta Vita

A great piece that documents in photos and vivid description how the make up of Paris has evolved and changed through the years and many of the city’s neighborhoods and streetscapes — including the locations where last Friday’s attacks took place — still remain relatively unchanged.

The author believes that perhaps the city’s resiliency to change is also manifested in the everyday life and habits of Parisians, and in that way, it’s the urban fabric of the city that propels its residents to carry on living even in the face of tragedy. Perhaps. Excerpt:

These images attest to the fact that there is something essential to the experience of living in Paris that involves spending time outside on its streets, whether to shop, observe, drink, eat, dance, talk or listen. Despite all of the technological innovations since the end of the nineteenth century that give Parisians incentives to stay at home — televisions, computers, refrigerators, washing machines and even toilets — people still go out because going out is something that Paris invites us to do. And when people go out, it is to the same places — quite literally inside the same walls — as generations of Parisians before them.

Recent How We Rolls:

Nov. 19: will expanding roads fix traffic?

Nov. 17: can transit beat traffic, electric cars and total global emissions, fossil fuel programs vs. climate goals

Nov. 16: L.A. transit vs S.F. transit, a cartoon car neatly explains sprawl, traffic and parking woes and determining the environmental impact of Uber and Lyft.

Nov. 13: Readers recommend books to read while in transit, bike sharing debuts in SaMo, induced demand and Caltrans.

Nov. 12: Regional Connector cost increases and potential delays, suspect in bus slaying arrested, bike share and bike infrastructure, Missy Elliot in the subway.

Nov. 10: crime stats and Metro, the fare structure for Metro’s bike share program, a suggestion for future Metro transit projects.

Joe is on Twitter. He can also be reached by email here.

7 replies

  1. “Driverless vehicles have yet to be proven to safely and reliably operate in a category that is sometimes easy to forget in Southern California — inclement weather.”

    This upcoming El Nino we’ve been keep hearing about is a perfect timing for Google to test them out, wouldn’t you say?

    But in keeping with the same headlines, Google’s driverless car was recently pulled over by cops for speeding…because it was going too slowly. But the CA DMV permits driverless cars to go at 25 MPH so there was no ticket issued. LOL

  2. Hmm. A “scramble” crosswalk at Hollywood & Highland. Could come in handy next Bowl season, if I’m having my pre-concert dinner at Miceli’s or the Pig & Whistle. And it might ease the congestion on nights when I’m dining at Musso & Frank, or Tinhorn Flats.

  3. RE: SF mobile app

    I prefer London’s method of straightly tapping my iPhone and having fares charged through Apple Pay.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if said payments would incorporate Android Pay in the future as well.

    London uses the same Cubic system as San Francisco and LA does so it’s interesting to hear that SF didn’t go with the Apple Pay or Android Pay option, especially since Cupertino and Mountain View is a Caltrain ride away.

    Hopefully if Metro decides on how best to handle next gen transit payments, they work with a California based companies like Apple and Google so it supports California’s own industry rather than dealing with a company based in Portland, OR. If you ask me, transit payments via Apple Pay and Android Pay have far more opportunity on a global scale than GlobeSherpa.

  4. Its too bad they have not utilized the second portal at Hollywood and Highland station yet. Its obvious with the protruding mezzanine on the east side of the platform. The property above it has been vacant for as long as I can remember however. I wonder when it will be used.

    This scramble crosswalk makes it so much easier to transfer from a 217 or 780 to the Redline now. Normally I’d not bother and just get off on Sycamore, cross at that light and make the walk.

  5. Scramble crosswalks are nice, but what LA really needs in some areas are more roundabouts like Europe to make traffic flow more faster in the heavily gridlocked areas. The Mythbusters already proved that roundabouts are more efficient than 4 way intersections.

    I can tell you one place where a roundabout would work better: the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and San Vincente Blvd. near the Big 5, with side streets Sweetzer Ave. and Schumacher Dr.

  6. Yup, can’t do the mobile ticketing app (yet) because of the turnstiles without attendants in booths like MUNI has. And for this Metro sends $300k to Cubic in turnstile rent each month. Stand-alone Validators would have allowed this, but at least now the stations are “secured” (if the numbers of people sleeping in them is any indication).

    Hopefully when NFC is standard on all phones in a decade.

    • “NFC is standard on all phones in a decade.”

      All new smartphones in the market today already have NFC in them. Since iPhone has Apple Pay, competition is tough for all other smartphone manufacturers to incorporate competing features whether they call it Android Pay or Samsung Pay.

      According to Pew Reaseach Center, 64% of Americans have a smartphone (

      Unfortunately, you can’t force others the other 36% who still uses older “dumb” phones to upgrade to smartphones. But eventually, those dumbphones will break down, and the people who clinged onto them for whatever reason will realize that manufacturers aren’t making dumbphones anymore so they have no choice but to get a smartphone whether they like it or not.