I’ve been away for a couple of days while it’s raining news. So let’s dive in…
Measure M election update: the L.A. County registrar continues to count votes and released an update Tuesday afternoon with the results barely changing. There are still hundreds of thousands of ballots to be tabulated, but to repeat: we think it’s extremely unlikely that the results will change much.
Art of Transit: I had to fly back to Ohio for a couple days and was lucky to get a window seat on Saturday heading from LAX to CVG. It was pretty clear out and a nice way to end the week — to be reminded of the vastness and breadth and diversity of the American landscape. From west to east…
Unfortunately, the return trip was another story. I got stuck in an aisle seat. In the middle seat: a guy dressed in Confederate soldier garb (plus sunglasses) who smelled like garlic and who spent the better part of the CVG to SLC leg performing a tonsillectomy on his girlfriend, who started the trip in the window seat but progressively migrated toward the middle seat. Ick.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has been Metro’s sole provider of law enforcement for its buses, trains and facilities. But the Metro Board of Directors will this week begin considering a Metro staff proposal to split law enforcement among the LASD, the LAPD and the Long Beach Police Department.
According to staff, this will:
•Increases law enforcement personnel from a range from 140 to 200 to a consistent 240 over each 24-hr operating period.
•Improves response times by slightly more than half.
•Assures greater contract compliance through clear performance metrics and accountability measures.
•These benefits are provided at a reduced amount on an average up to $20million a year as compared to a single agency model.
As LAT reporter Laura Nelson writes, Metro staff said this approach would greatly improve the visibility of police on the Metro system — yes, even buses — and the new contracts would shift responsibility for fare checks and monitoring video footage to Metro staff.
— Laura J. Nelson (@laura_nelson) November 14, 2016
Earlier this fall the Metro Board voted to expand the presence of security guards at Metro facilities.
Related: here are the latest crime stats on Metro from the LASD, which reports that part one crimes (the most serious offenses) are down 14 percent from January through September of this year compared to 2015.
I missed this one last week, written in the wake of the passage (although some votes are still being counted) of Measure M. I honed in on this excerpt about some single family homeowners trying to stop density from being added to the region:
This emerging city — which I have referred to as the Third Los Angeles, following the prewar First L.A. of the streetcar and the bungalow court and the Second L.A. of the freeway, the concrete-lined river and the glamorous detachment of the single-family house — will continue to be challenged and even attacked by supporters of what for many powerful people in Los Angeles has been a remarkably generous status quo.
The residents who have benefited for the longest period of time and most directly from the largesse of Second L.A.-era policies have much to protect and will use their significant resources to protect it. They have been aided not only by low property taxes and the mortgage-interest deduction but various caps on the supply of new housing in L.A. County, which has caused residential property values in some neighborhoods to leap 30- or 40-fold or even higher since the 1970s.
It’s a good point, the reason so many people feel that buying real estate in So Cal is now out of the question (along with stagnant wages). It is also worth considering that real estate prices in many revitalizing cities across the U.S. have soared — you can even spend a million bucks on a new place in downtown Cincy, an unheard of sum in Days of Yore.
One correction in the LAT story: Measure M is expected to generate $860 million annually in sales tax revenues — not all that goes directly to transit. Rather, that sum goes to transit, road and highway projects, active transportation and local return.
Read beyond the headline and you find out the gentleman chosen is a lobbyist, attorney and also worked at the U.S. DOT. More interesting will be who is chosen to be the next Secretary of Transportation. Rep. John Mica from Florida has been talking himself up as a good candidate for the job; he has been chair of the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and calls himself a proponent of high-speed rail.
As for the issue of someone with a background in roads working on the transition…why does that surprise anyone? The vast majority of Americans commute by car and get around primarily by car. This is not a secret. Check out these Census Bureau charts:
There has been some progress in reducing the number of people who commute by car, as the charts show. These regions in particular have done well:
Question: what do you think it will take for L.A. to join the above list?
Going forward, the biggest thing to keep an eye on is whether the Trump Administration maintains, increases or decreases federal investments in transit. It’s interesting, too, that Trump is a big city guy — New York is his home — but his strongest support tended to come from rural areas. Stay tuned.
One other thing: the NYT’s Dealbook looks at infrastructure in America. Some more good charts.
And if you’re into spreadsheets, here’s one from the Federal Transit Administration that shows in FY 2016 the FTA allocated about $11.4 billion across the country on its largest programs. It’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on that number. Seems to me that more investments in transit with programs to help put more fuel efficient cars on the road could help reduce overall emissions and help give more people an option other than driving.
With Trump, coal wins and planet loses (New Yorker)
At the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert — perhaps the finest journalist in America on the subject of climate change impacts — writes:
Meanwhile, Trump could undermine the agreement simply by saying that the U.S. isn’t going to live up to its pledge. If America, the world’s second-largest emitter, isn’t going to bother to fulfill its commitment, why should any other nation?
An argument can be made that the fate of the planet will be decided by global economic forces more than by any particular treaty or set of regulations. An argument can also be made that the Paris accord was never worth all that much, as all it did was slow down the race toward planetary disaster. Both of these arguments are probably, to a certain extent, true. Still, there’s an awful lot of damage that a Trump Presidency can, and likely will, do.
At Forbes, contributor Tim Warstall opines on the prospect of more coal production: it’s likely not going to happen, he says, because natural gas is cheaper to produce.
I think it’s worth remembering that in America, individuals always have — and still can — play a role in terms of fossil fuel use. You have enormous power as a consumer! One example: As I’ve written before, generally speaking taking transit results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions than driving alone.
Other things you can do? Here are some recommendations from the Canadian government.
As for our old friend coal…not as big an issue in California, which gets most of its electricity from burning natural gas, hydroelectric or nuclear. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal.
Things to read whilst transiting: I got through half of “Hillbilly Elegy” on the plane last night. Good book by J.D. Vance on Appalachia, coal country, Rust Belt poverty, culture and the aftermath good and bad of one of the great migrations you don’t hear much about — hillbillies moving to the cities of the Midwest after World War II. The book is not about the recent election but it certainly helps inform it.
Categories: Transportation Headlines