HIGH-SPEED RAIL: If you’re in school and studying to be a transportation planner and have to do a thesis or dissertation, please consider studying different ways that California could improve it’s inter-city rail network and at what cost.
Here are the key excerpts from the State Auditor’s summary report on high-speed rail issued yesterday:
In the meantime, the state’s high-speed rail program got another ruler-on-the-knuckles from the State Auditor. Here’s the key part of the audit summary:
The high-speed rail network’s (program) overall financial situation has become increasingly risky.
The cost estimates for phase one increased to between $98.1 billion and $117.6 billion—of which approximately $12.5 billion has been secured.
Although the Authority identifies the federal government as its largest potential funding source, the plan provides few details about how it expects to secure this money.
The cost estimates do not include phase one’s operating and maintenance costs, yet based on data in the plan these costs could total approximately $96.8 billion from 2025 through 2060.
We have some very successful Amtrak lines operating in the Golden State. With high-speed rail in constant turmoil — rightly or wrongly — it would be great if someone knew what could be done to speed up Amtrak and at what cost. It’s great to have a Plan A, and it would be equally great to have a Plan B and C.
L.A. mobility meetings coming to a neighborhood near you this spring.
We announced back in November that the city of Los Angeles has launched an online forum called LA/2B to help citizens create a vision for the future of mobility in L.A.
In a nutshell: The city is updating its “Mobility Element” — formerly known as the Transportation Element – which will serve as a framework for further development of the city’s various transportation systems. In other words, what goes into this document will lay the groundwork for the future of the city’s pedestrian networks, transit systems, local roads, bike networks and highways.
Since the forum’s launch, participants have been able to propose a litany of ideas, comment on them and vote their favorites to the top. Some of the most-liked ideas were those that advocate for more bus-only lanes on major streets, wider sidewalks and more car-sharing services. In this writers humble opinion, popular and sensible are going hand in hand!
The Metro Board of Directors meets tomorrow at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station.
The big item on the agenda – posted below – is consideration of a Project Labor Agreement that sets hiring targets for many Metro transit and highway projects to ensure that 40 percent of the work hours are performed by workers who would be hired from economically disadvantaged areas from this region and around the nation. Ten percent of those work hours also would be targeted to individuals who are struggling with poverty, chronic unemployment and other hardships. The agreement also seeks to provide entry-level jobs to help workers launch careers in the construction industry.
Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges; a power grid that wastes too much energy; an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.
In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.
There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones who were hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline. And while government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.
There was no specific talk about transportation, nor did that word appear in the speech. In the coming weeks, the Obama Administration will be releasing its proposal budget for the next fiscal year, including proposed levels of New Starts funding — the program that pays for large transit projects.
Buenos Aires Metro Linea A (Photo Credit: parabuenosaires.com — El Noticiero de la Ciudad)
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a representative from Metro had a “very preliminary” discussion with Chinese officials about the possibility of China making an investment in transit in Los Angeles. I considered this idea in a piece back in July 2010 in the Huffington Post.
With Congress seemingly stuck in a different gear on the America Fast Forward concept that grew out of the homegrown 30/10 Initiative, the Mayor said that he feels it is important to leave no funding option unexplored, including looking beyond Washington to the Chinese, to fund the critical transit projects that he hopes to get built in the years, rather than the decades to come.
My 2010 piece cited a post by Yonah Freemark in his Transport Politic blog explaining that “the Chinese government has agreed to a $10 billion commitment to upgrade a series of intercity rail lines in Argentina and improve urban transit systems in Buenos Aires and Cordoba.”
The 2010 Transport Politic article also noted that not only is China willing and able to contribute its national funds to foreign projects, but also that it intends to structure its investments as an alternative to the World Bank. In March 2010 China had announced a series of investments in high-speed rail throughout Asia and Europe.
The mass transit industry in the U.S. has been an up-and-down affair the past few years. Ridership hit record levels in 2008, then fell as the American economy foundered. Driving by Americans is down, many agencies have suffered through cuts, yet ridership appears to have stabilized.
The following is a news release from the American Public Transportation Assn. on their annual state-of-the-industry report. One paragraph not in the news release but in the full report that I especially like:
A growing population and increased congestion are not the only long term trends that are driving future demand for public transportation. One trend is that more and more people—of all ages—are moving back to urban areas. Transit-oriented development is revitalizing our communities, as residents in urban areas seek a lifestyle with easy public transit access. Some of the biggest supporters of public transportation are young people (Generations X and Y) who not only like public transportation, but are also concerned about the environment and take a bus or train to reduce their carbon footprint. Amazingly, driving a car is no longer a must do for younger people. Some recent statistics show that in 1978, 86 percent of 18-year-olds had driving licenses, but in 2008, only 68 percent of 18-year-olds had driving licenses.
REGIONAL CONNECTOR: I think it was nice to see the final environmental study for the Regional Connector be released the other day. Although public review and approval from the Board of Directors is still required, it’s the fourth major environmental study of a Measure R project to be completed since the public voted for the half-cent sales tax increase in 2008 — the others are the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the Expo Line’s second phase.
The Westside Subway Extension’s final study is also due to be released soon. Yes, construction is sexier, but these exhaustive and furniture-sized studies are required by law and must be done first.
As for the Connector, I recommend taking a look at the study. When all is said and done in the coming years, Metro will have spent more than $3 billion on building the Expo Line to Santa Monica, the Gold Line to Azusa and the Blue Line to Long Beach.
The Connector ties those lines together in downtown Los Angeles and by greatly reducing the need for transfers and allowing more frequent service, the Connector will shave time off the commute of anyone traveling into downtown Los Angeles or through it.