How We Roll, Sept. 29: endorsements, NJ Transit budget woes, self-driving bus in France

Things to read whilst transiting: a very funny article in the New Yorker about a smartphone game called “Don’t Get Fired” about working in an office. Excerpt:

On this subject, the game takes a particularly nihilistic position. If you take on too much work and your health drops to zero before you’ve racked up thirty experience points, you lose your job. If you preserve your health rating by working less, you will likely be fired for lack of productivity. This juggling of well-being against work ethic is the toughest, and most futile, aspect of the game; in the world of Don’t Get Fired!, it is all but impossible to fulfill one’s ambitions while staying sane and healthy at the same time. In this respect, as pre-professional training goes, high-school kids could do worse.

Art of Transit: 

Dusk in Highland Park. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Dusk in Highland Park. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ICYMI: I finally posted my take on Metro and L.A.’s 2024 Summer Olympics bid. Spoiler (not really): I support the bid!

Editorial: L.A. County residents need alternatives to sitting in soul-crushing traffic (LAT)

The editorial board of the largest media outlet in Los Angeles County backs Measure M, Metro’s sales tax ballot measure going to voters as part of the Nov. 8 election.

The editorial emphasizes the “transit as traffic alternative” argument, saying that “Los Angeles County residents crave fast, convenient and affordable transportation options” and “the region cannot continue to prosper without investing in a modern, efficient transportation system.” Also praised is the set aside of two percent of Measure M to keep Metro buses and trains in a state of good repair. 

The editorial does raise some concerns — namely the Measure M sales tax would continue until voters decide to end it. “With an unending stream of money and no termination date, there is less incentive for Metro and its political leaders to be especially careful with the public’s money,” writes the LAT. 

The editorial does not give as much weight to parochial concerns by some cities, saying that to wait for another ballot measure in the future with a different set of projects and timelines would only mean that everyone has to wait longer for projects.

Related: The Hermosa Beach City Council approved a resolution in favor of Measure M earlier this week by a vote of 3 to 2. The discussion among Council Members involved local return and a likely wait of at least four years for a different ballot measure. Watch here. The item begins about the 8 hour, 10 minute mark — meaning it was at the tail end of an eight-hour-plus meeting and past 2 a.m. The Hermosa Beach mayor also says that the South Bay Council of Governments will be holder a hearing on Oct. 22 to reconsider its previous stance against Measure M. One other note: one of the Council Members said erroneously that every member of the Board of Supervisors supported Measure M. At the June 23 Metro Board meeting, Supervisor Don Knabe was one of two votes against putting Measure M to voters.

Related 2: Here’s the Measure M page on metro.net. I highly recommend looking at the project and program list and timeline (scroll down) before deciding how to vote.

Related 3: YouTube user nandert recently posted this video that uses an animated map to show projects to be funded by Measure M. One clarification from yours truly: I’m not comfortable with the characterization that dates in the Measure M project list are “worst case scenarios” — meaning that those dates will only hold if projects are not further accelerated. It’s important to understand: A) sales tax measures under M would flow in over time, meaning only so many projects can’t be built simultaneously, and; B) while Metro is definitely pursuing public-private partnerships to speed up projects, those deals are very complicated and, to date, have been relatively rare around the U.S. I think it’s great that Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation has found a new way to look at these deals (through unsolicited proposals) but it’s still too early to say definitely whether these deals will go forward and how many — if any — projects will be accelerated.

Quasi-related: editorials for/against items on the ballot are appearing as early as ever this year due to the increasing number of people who vote by mail. In L.A. County, vote-by-mail/absentee ballots are sent to voters on Oct. 10 (29 days before the election). Interestingly, some parts of the U.S. are already eligible to begin voting — Iowa, for example.

Hoboken train crash leaves at least one dead and dozens injured (NYT)

The New Jersey Transit commuter train failed to stop at the end of the tracks in Hoboken Station, roaring through the track bumper. “The train went ‘over the bumper block, through the depot,’ and came to rest at the wall right before the station’s waiting area, [NJ Transit employee] Mr. Larson told reporters during a segment that was broadcast on CNN.

As we know, crashes involving trains, buses and planes remain relatively rare, but nonetheless are horrifying because of the number of people often involved and the safety systems that are in place. This accident happened at 8:45 a.m. during the morning peak. More details are likely to emerge as the day continues.

Hoboken is across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. Many people either work there or take NJ Transit from the Jersey ‘burbs to Hoboken and then transfer to the PATH subway under the Hudson to complete their trips into lower Manhattan and the financial district.

Here is New Jersey Transit’s Twitter feed.

Editorial: Why did transportation experts warn of a crash at NJ Transit? (Star Ledger) 

As the first sentence notes, no one yet knows what caused the horrific crash. But the editorial points out that many experts had become alarmed that New Jersey Transit’s budget had shrunk recently by 21 percent and that there had been no public board meeting since early June. Excerpt:

Earlier this week, Martin Robins of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers – the éminence grise for transit matters in our state – said that he was startled that 222 NJ Transit projects remain on the shelf, suspended by Gov. Christie back in June.

Robins’ prescience was almost chilling: “Maybe nothing catastrophic has happened, but maintenance cannot be deferred,” he said. “It’s absolutely wrong, when you’re operating something as potentially dangerous as a rail system. So this lack of transparency is alarming.”

Autonomous first-mile/last-mile electric bus in Lyon, France

Navy

From the project’s web page:

The NAVLY project Lyon Confluence, developed in partnership with Navya companies and KEOLIS and with the support of the Metropolis of Lyon and SYTRAL, consists in the establishment of the first feeder transport carried out by a fully autonomous electric vehicle .

This experimentation of a first period of one year during which an operator is in the vehicle, should allow eventually operate the fleet in total autonomy.

The objective is to provide, with autonomous vehicles, additional mobility solution and adapted to the first and last kilometers.

Two shuttles Navya ARMA operates regularly over a distance of 1350 meters, are planned for the service with free access. The Navya ARMA vehicles, equipped with a multitude of sensors and an onboard computer capacity enabling them to interact with their environment, are 100% autonomous, driverless electric.

And from transit expert Yonah Freemark on Twitter:

I can tell you that Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation has been spending a fair amount of time studying the self-driving vehicle issue in order to understand how/if they may fit into the agency in the future.

Attentive Source readers also know that I’m somewhat skeptical of the self-driving thing. The NAVY bus above is neat and probably a good first-last mile option, but I think the route served is probably more important than it being driver-less. Unless drivers are so ungodly expensive or refuse to run this route, the advantage of a robot is…what? Help me, readers.

Dept of Heads Up: The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is in Los Angeles from Oct. 5 through 8. There are a number of tours planned, including many that involve transit and urban planning. Check out the list:  https://greenbuildexpo.com/GreenBuildingTours . There are three buttons for the three days of tours — Monday, Friday and Saturday.

To attend the tours without attending the conference, visit http://greenbuildexpo.com/Attendee/RegForm?discount=HOSTCITY16 and select “Register Now” on the left-hand side. Provide first/last name, zip code and email address, plus your code HOSTCITY16 (free Greenbuild base/Expo registration) then select “Start New Registration.”  Complete the personal info and demographic pages. You will only have to pay for the tours.

3 replies

  1. Steve – Please note that the City of Hermosa Beach, by vote of its City Council at the regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, has voted to endorse Measure M. And this is in the “parochial” South Bay.

    Mayor Garcetti, at two meetings before the South Bay Cities Council of Governments, has vowed to use his influence to make Measure M work for the South Bay and Hermosa Beach, and Hermosa Beach has chosen to taken him up on this commitment.

    We’ll see whether, if (when?) Measure M passes, we’ll see an accelerated Green Line extension to Torrance, service via the Crenshaw / LAX line down to the South Bay, and perhaps increased LADOT Commuter Express bus service to the South Bay.

  2. I can understand Metro’s motivation to go for the “golden ticket” of large, permanent revenue increases. I also get their marketing tactic of: if you don’t vote for this measure it could be years before another funding proposal for your favorite {insert pet project here} to get on the ballot and I still see Measure M as a huge mistake doomed to fail. The majority of voters will see the use a group of disparate, discrete projects to substantiate permanent tax increases primarily as a money grab attempt by a bunch of bureaucrats. Look at the comments on the referenced LA Times article. Opponents of this measure will have a field day; 2 cents of every dollar spent in LA County going to Metro, whoa. Simply referencing what sales tax rates will be permanently raised to will be enough to turn off a large percentage of voters. (IMO) The Measure R approach of a tax increase with a set expiration date would have been the smarter approach. What’s Metro’s “Plan B” when Measure M fails?