How We Roll, Nov. 24: is California a model or cautionary tale when it comes to climate change?

Art of Transit: 


California, a climate model for the rest of the world, has work to do at home (Cal Matters)


A good article spurred by the upcoming climate change summit in Paris. Excerpt:

California has perhaps the most comprehensive cap-and-trade program in the world, setting a limit and a price for pollution from factories, utilities and transportation fuels. The state’s 2030 goals of getting half of its electricity from renewable sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels are also among the most ambitious anywhere. [snip]

While the state is a global model for climate policy, however, it also produces more greenhouse gas emissions per person than almost anywhere else in the world, due partly to its heavy reliance on cars. Among the eight largest economies, California is second only to the U.S. in emissions per capita.

As you might have guessed, the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gases in California (at 37 percent perhaps owing to the fact that much of our state enjoys a mild climate). If this concerns you, walking, biking and taking transit instead of driving alone are generally speaking a good way to lower your own carbon footprint.

At the very least, I think the above chart is a good argument for expanding our transpo options so people don’t feel they have to drive everywhere all the time.

Quit studying the 710 freeway extension and start building (LAT)

In this op-ed about the SR 710 North Study, USC transportation engineering professor James Moore argues that none of the alternatives would accomplish what closing the freeway gap would: shift traffic from neighborhood streets back to the freeway and help improve traffic flow on other area freeways. He argues, too, that the latest 710 environmental study considered options that were not good to begin with and that alternative plans pushed by 710 extension opponents would fail to accomplish as much as closing the 710 gap between Alhambra/El Sereno and Pasadena.

The SR 710 North draft environmental study was released by Caltrans and Metro in March. It proposes five alternatives: the legally required no-build option, intersection and traffic signal improvements, light rail, bus rapid transit (both between East L.A. and Pasadena) and a freeway tunnel. The public comment period closed over the summer and Metro is now working on responses to the comments. In the meantime, some local officials have said the potential ballot measure that Metro is considering for next year should not have money in it for any 710 project.

What’s behind a bid to shift dollars from bullet train to water projects (LAT)

Voters may be asked to shift money from the bullet train to farm irrigation in 2016. Photo: Steve Hymon.

Columnist George Skelton dives into a proposed state ballot measure that would take money from the bullet train project and — although less sexy and headline-generating — make agricultural use the top priority for water use in the state. That could undercut environmental protections that keeps minimum flows in our native streams and rivers.

Skelton suggests that the train and water are two separate issues that perhaps should be decided separately.

A car dealers won’t sell: it’s electric (NYT)

Consumers seem to be more keen on electric cars than dealers, who are not-so-keen that people who buy them tend not to get them repaired and maintained at dealerships as much as gas-burning cars. Repairs = Profits at many dealerships.

Heated phrase on the subway: sick passenger (NYT)


Sick passengers have accounted for about 3,000 train delays each month this year in New York City, a figure that has grown drastically in recent years, up from about 1,800 each month in 2012, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The authority alerts riders to the incidents on Twitter, and some have responded by voicing frustration over the disruptions.

Yet despite the frequency of these delays, they remain a persistent riddle for many riders who have no idea what exactly the phrase “sick passenger” means.

Officials at the authority say the incidents often involve riders who have fainted or vomited. Other passengers might have had a heart attack or a seizure, or could be unconscious or even dead. A sick customer is not, as some surmise, a suicide on the tracks, which workers are instructed to announce as a “police investigation.”

Of course, Metro also has sick passenger delays although nowhere close as many as New York. Then again, Metro Rail had about 334,000 estimated average weekday boardings in October (the most recent numbers) compared to the six million in Gotham.

The article says that in New York, sick riders are encouraged to get off transit and seek help when possible. Interestingly, the issue was big enough that until 2008 the New York MTA actually stationed nurses in some stations, although that effort ended because of budget cuts.

The best way to learn about delays on our system is to follow our regular Twitter feed or the feed dedicated to only service alerts. Metro typically uses the phrase “medical emergency” to inform riders there’s a sick passenger.

Activists seek ballot measure for mega-projects in L.A. (LAT)

Missed this one, which published earlier this month. A group is considering a ballot measure in Nov. 2016 that would trigger delays to big projects, including ones designed to put more housing near transit. The projects impacted would be ones that require City Council votes to allow more units on a site than the current zoning plans allow.


The stakes for such a referendum would be high. Mayor Eric Garcetti, in an attempt to address the rising cost of rents, has promised to add 100,000 housing units by 2021 in Los Angeles, considered one of the least affordable rental markets in the country. By putting housing near rail and bus lines, city officials also hope to get more Angelenos out of their cars.

It’s important to understand that although the city of L.A. has extensive zoning codes in its community plans, most projects seek exemptions to those plans. The City Council member repping that district often ends up negotiating the changes and getting her/his Council colleagues to approve them.

If this strikes you as a slightly backward way of determing what-gets-built-where, well…yes. The problem is that even updating the community plans in L.A. has proven to be very contentious and slow. Ideally, a city and its residents would figure out what they want and have it reflected in the community plans so voters don’t have to zone at the ballot box.

The interesting thing is that this potential ballot measure could be joined on the ballot in the city of L.A. by a potential sales tax increase ballot measure intended to raise money to build more transit projects. Stay tuned!

Vintage Disneyland PeopleMover cars fetch $471,500 (KPCC)

Tomorrowland on the People Mover 1970

The ride operated until 1995. The anonymous buyer purchased from an anonymous seller. One man’s junk…

Recent HWRs: 

Nov. 23: Will the LAX people mover be up and running by 2023?

Nov. 20: how to address all the short trips county residents, more reaction to Reason Foundation’s traffic plan.

Nov. 19: the Reason Foundation’s $714-billion plan to fix traffic in Southern California.

Nov. 18: A new mobile fare app in S.F., scramble crosswalks and aerial tram (using airplane bodies) proposed between Vegas and L.A.

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

You can also follow me on Twitter for my non-transpo thoughts and I have a photography blog, too.



5 replies

  1. Of course we’re a cautionary tale, especially Southern California.

    We had, between the Pacific Electric and the Los Angeles Railway, a public transit network that was as good as any in the world. And we threw it away in favor of becoming the freeway capital of the world.

    San Francisco did somewhat better, in part because of Friedel Klussman’s campaign to save the Cable Cars, in part because of the compact, eminently walkable nature of the whole “North of the Slot” area the remaining cable lines serve, and in part because the most heavily used bus routes are fully electrified, but even there, you have large areas where the only viable mechanized transportation choices are automobiles and diesel buses (and I’ve met San Francisco residents from those outlying areas who don’t realize that there really are still locals who ride the Cable Cars regularly). But New York City, Chicago, and Boston all did a far better job of keeping their urban rail networks running.

  2. “If this concerns you, walking, biking and taking transit instead of driving alone are generally speaking a good way to lower your own carbon footprint.”

    Sounds like Metro doesn’t care about any of this either as you still build freeways, give away free parking lots, fail to lead by example, and still encourage sprawling with a transit fare policy that encourages people to live farther away than living densely.

  3. California has too much of an impulse to jump in, start up, and go. Everyone can’t drive at the same time, yet in the cities, we either have to, or by accident fall into an area of demand that creates traffic. The beach is a great example. Parking and traffic are terrible in the summers down by Venice. Do people think they will find parking? Not really, but the reward of being down there is worth the wait, so they do it; otherwise they could never visit the beach except for by bus. Not ideal for a family say. Expo will change this dramatically.

    In Los Angeles County we have Hollywood Blvd, L.A. Live, LAX, StubHub Center, The Coliseum, USC, UCLA, Large Commercial and Recreational areas that create demand, and with that demand bottle necks, which lead to idling. That doesn’t include commercial polluters like Airlines, Trucking, Freight, Burn offs, Shipping Traffic, etc… These also create pollution and bad air. Not to mention the areas of sprawl where Johnny Trustfund has smoked his last stogie and decides to drive a mile and a half to 7-11 to get a fresh pack.

    While much of it is unavoidable, many people just don’t care enough. Much of the time, they don’t have to because getting to work is a necessity. Smog and poor air are the a “cost of doing business”. If you live in Rancho Cucamonga but work in Muscoy, what alternative do you have? If you live in Torrance but work in Santa Monica, what realistic alternative do you have? If I live in Bakersfield, and have an appointment in Santa Clarita, what alternatives do I have (today)?

    I can’t even catch a train in the morning to do 9 .a.m. business in Palm Springs if need be. Why is the only Amtrak to Palm Springs at 10 .p.m? Why do I only have a handful of choices to San Diego via Amtrak? When will we be able to take a train to San Francisco directly and not have it take 15 hours? To add insult, if one does decide “I should check and see if I can take a train to Palm Springs” When I do, the roundtrip fare is about $65.

    What this means is that it is not a priority to move masses around the state efficiently. In California, whomever pays the most get their the fastest, and until we can get a top notch, comprehensive transit system in our state, the skies will be filled, roads packed, air dirty, and sunsets beautiful red.

    • A different perspective is that you listed places where people don’t go there alone. Unless you’re a loner, you’re not going to the beach, concerts, or a game at Staples center alone; you’re likely going there with friends and family.

      Going there by transit by a group of 3 or four can be costly when taking mass transit. Even if it’s $1.75 per ride per person, a family of four could end up paying $14 bucks roundtrip just to go somewhere and $14 can be considered expensive if it’s only a few miles away. It is highly unlikely that a family of four or a group of 4 friends living in Culver City is going to the beach in Santa Monica when it comes down to $14 total roundtrip, when the maximum daily rate at beach parking rates is usually much cheaper than that ( or likely hailing Uber is cheaper when the cost is split up for a relatively short distance trip and you can haul more stuff like a beach umbrella and other stuff into a car’s trunk.

      Cost and distance matters to people over air quality. You can’t just tell people to care about the environment when costs do not make any sense. And people usually do not think in terms like “oh but you have to factor in the environmental cost for the future, the melting glaciers, climate change, blah-blah-blah.” That’s not how people think. Sure people may say that, but deep down, the cold hard reality is “yeah, I’d like to care about the environment, but what’s it going to cost me today? You want us to pay $14 just to get from Culver City to Santa Monica roundtrip? And I have to haul my butt to the station with my family, wait for it to come, and share the ride with total strangers? Ehhh….I’ll just get an Uber.”

      We’re not going to get to the point of higher transit usage on “save the trees” factor alone. You can be idealistic and pretend that’s not true. But you all know that what I said is true.

  4. Close the 710/210 Gap! The only concern with the tunnel is the cost and time to build it will most likely take longer than what is expected. When thinking about this project I think about the “Big Dig” in Boston along, the problems that Seattle is having with its
    “Big Dig” project. Between this project and the other project to widen the 710 from the north to somewhere south will be an ambitious project for Metro….