Jamzilla is coming: Unprecedented 80-hour paving operation planned for northbound 405 Presidents’ Day weekend

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Northbound traffic on the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass will be greatly curtailed President’s Day weekend. Avoid the area if you can. Photo by Jonathan Poh, via Flickr creative commons.

Los Angeles transportation officials are alerting I-405 and regional freeway motorists of an unprecedented 80-hour northbound I-405 freeway lane closure operation in the Sepulveda Pass this Presidents’ Day weekend, February 14 to 18, 2014.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), in conjunction with California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), and a host of law enforcement and emergency response agencies throughout L.A. County are giving the public advance notice that if they do not have a critical need to travel northbound through West Los Angeles and the Sepulveda Pass during the Presidents’ Day three-day weekend, they should eliminate unnecessary auto trips, avoid the area and/or divert to other freeways to avoid major traffic delays.

Traffic conditions on local streets and freeways within the region of Los Angeles County and beyond could become severe, with significant, hours-long delays if motorists do not cooperate with authorities and limit northbound freeway trips.

Motorists who must travel during this weekend are advised to prepare their itineraries in advance, monitor real-time traffic conditions prior to beginning their trips and follow alternate routes that are provided. Motorists will be continually informed of the closure in advance by Caltrans-operated freeway message signs.

The I-405 contractor will be paving a major segment of the future northbound I-405 High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane in the Sepulveda Pass. The work is considered key to meeting the project’s scheduled completion date of 2014.

Work over the Presidents’ Day weekend will eliminate the need for several consecutive 55-hour freeway closures from the project schedule. This closure operation will save significant time and minimize future closure impacts to the community and traveling public.

The closure operation consists of a partial day-time lane reduction and a full night-time directional freeway closure on the northbound I-405 between Getty Center Drive and Ventura Boulevard.  The closure area is approximately 5.6 miles long, or nearly two-thirds of the entire I-405 project area.

During daytime hours, two northbound lanes will remain open while the remaining three lanes will be closed.  During night-time hours, all five northbound freeway lanes in this area will be closed.

The southbound I-405 will remain fully open during the day, but some southbound lanes may be closed during night-time only paving operations.

Work is scheduled to begin Friday night, February 14 starting at 11 p.m. and will last until Tuesday, February 18 at 6 a.m.

Ramps within the project area will begin to close as early as 7 p.m. Traffic officers provided by LADOT will help guide motorists at each I-405 northbound on-ramp.

Full northbound night-time freeway closure times are as follows:

  • Friday night, February 14 – 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Saturday night, February 15 - 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Sunday night, February 16 – 12 a.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Monday night, February 17 – 12 a.m. to 5 a.m.

The designated alternative route for night-time full closures will be for motorists to take the Wilshire northbound to westbound off-ramp to northbound Sepulveda Boulevard, returning to northbound I-405 at the Greenleaf northbound on-ramp.

Sepulveda Boulevard also will be fully open with two lanes in each direction during the paving operation.  However, Sepulveda Boulevard will not have the capacity to accommodate all diverted northbound freeway traffic, and could become severely congested. Freeway motorists should instead divert to other freeway routes.

I-10 connectors to the northbound I-405 also will be closed. Motorists detouring from the closed I-10 connectors should use freeway detour routes rather than local streets.

The connector detour routes will be as follows:

  • For eastbound I-10 to northbound I-405 – use northbound I-110, northbound US 101, to northbound I-405.
  • For westbound I-10 to northbound I-405 – use northbound I-5, westbound SR 134, northbound US 101, to northbound I-405.

The construction schedule is subject to change, and paving work is dependent on favorable weather conditions. In the event of inclement weather during the 80-hour closure, the project will commence continuous 55-hour weekend closures of the northbound freeway starting the following weekend, February 21 for up to four weekends to complete the originally intended work.

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements project has now concluded most major freeway widening work between the I-10 and U.S. 101. The contractor is now building the future northbound HOV lane that will connect West Los Angeles with the San Fernando Valley.

The project will officially complete the last remaining gap in the entire I-405 lane network.  Additional project benefits include improved freeway safety through standardized lane and shoulder widths, greater ramp capacities at key locations, new sound and retaining walls, widened overpasses, widened and seismically updated bridges.

The project is a joint effort between Metro and Caltrans, and is being constructed by Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.

Transportation headlines, Monday, January 13

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Photos by Steve Hymon.

Photos by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: Those are the abutments to the former Pacific Electric streetcar bridge over the Los Angeles River, just south of the Hyperion Bridge. I took a walk along the river on Saturday afternoon and also finally saw one of the river’s infamous fish — in this case, a carp being caught by a cormorant (click to see larger). Don’t see that everyday!

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NFL pays to advertise on New York MetroCards (Village Voice)

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The New York MTA is working to retire their MetroCard fare cards that are used on the subway. In the meantime, the NFL paid 25 cents to 45 cents per card for one million commemorative Super Bowl cards to be printed and distributed through ticket machines — meaning the MTA received $250,000 to $450,000.

The Super Bowl is being played at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on Feb. 2. My pre-season pick was Bengals over 49ers. I’ve since amended to 49ers over Patriots.

U.S. energy related CO2 emissions expected to be two percent higher in 2012 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

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Keep in mind the headline is keyed to energy consumption and the increase in 2013 is tied to more use of coal power to generate electricity. Check out this chart to see where California ranks in terms of energy consumption compared to other states — we’re 47th, owing to the state’s often mild weather.

Also, if you’re concerned about climate change and lowering your own carbon footprint, taking transit can help. Click here for more info.

Maybe sprawl doesn’t cause obesity after all (The Atlantic Cities) 

It’s been fashionable in both research and media circles for the past decade to write that sprawl causes obesity. Too much driving in the ‘burbs leads to less walking and exercise and people gain weight as a result.

A new MIT study says that idea, along with food deserts in urban areas (i.e. areas with few good food choices) probably have little to do with obesity and that there’s just not enough information out there to draw any kind of good conclusions. As the study points out, lifetime expectancies have increased throughout the age of motorization and that a little extra walking or stair-climbing as a result of better urban design probably won’t supply enough exercise to impact the weight of most people.

I seem to recall writing one of those trendy “the-’burbs-are-making-you-fat” stories in my former life as a newspaper reporter. Perhaps a little more skepticism was in order, eh?

This Audi can predict when a parking space will open up (Wired) 

The computer in the new car can tap into data generated by cities that have embedded sensors in parking spots (Los Angeles and San Francisco have some). The data is available via smart phone, but Audi has figured out how to display it on a car’s NAV system screen. Supporters say it’s an environmentally-friendly way to cut down on endless circling/driving/polluting while trying to find parking. I say it’s yet another way to distract drivers.

Upcoming closures for I-5 truck lanes project

Here’s the press release from Caltrans:

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) plans to implement the closures listed below as part of a project that is constructing truck lanes on I-5 between Pico Canyon Road/Lyons Avenue and the Antelope Valley Freeway (SR-14).

Ramp closures will be nonconsecutive. Detours will be signed. No unusual levels of dust, noise or vibration are expected. Closures are subject to change.

For the safety of the construction crew and motorists, please be attentive to closures, slow for the cone zone, and move over one lane where possible.

Closure information for this and other freeway projects is available on the Caltrans website.

For real-time traffic information, visit quickmap.dot.ca.gov, go511.com, or call 5-1-1.

Closure Dates: Sunday, January 12, through Saturday, January 18, 2014

NORTHBOUND I-5

Lanes

  • Up to three lanes of northbound I-5 between the end of the existing truck lane and Lyons Ave.9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Note: At least one lane will be open at all times. The most restrictive closures (i.e., the most lanes closed) will occur between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.

SOUTHBOUND I-5

Lanes

  • Up to three lanes of southbound I-5 between Lyons Ave. and the end of the existing truck lane — 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Note: At least one lane will be open at all times. The most restrictive closures (i.e., the most lanes closed) will occur between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Connector

  • Southbound I-5 to northbound SR-14 — 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Off-Ramp

  • Calgrove Blvd. — 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

About the Project

This project is widening the freeway and bridges to add a truck lane to the outside of I-5 in both directions by paving the median area and outside shoulder, and shifting the mixed-flow lanes inward. Three median retaining walls and two short sections of outside retaining walls will be built to accommodate this widening. The southbound truck lane will extend from Pico Canyon Road/Lyons Avenue to SR-14 (3.7 miles), while the northbound lane will run from SR-14 to Gavin Canyon (1.4 miles).

The new truck lanes will ease traffic delays, improve goods movement, absorb traffic growth due to population increase (both residential and commercial), and enhance safety by separating truck traffic from passenger vehicles.

Construction began in May 2012 and will be completed in 2014. Funds administered by Metro. For more information, visit I-5info.com.

Transportation headlines, Friday, January 10

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ART OF TRANSIT: The photo is by Bob Wick, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management California employee and was taken in Wyoming. The BLM is all over social media, including great Tumblr and Instagram streams.

Jerry Brown defends funding for bullet train (Sacramento Bee) 

Governor Brown defends his budget plan to spend $300 million of the state’s cap-and-trade money on the state high-speed rail project and the California Department of Transportation, saying the project could help tie the state together and reduce greenhouse gases in the future. Critics say the money is being used to prop up “expensive boondoggle.”

Brown also said the budget will increase funding for the mapping of earthquake faults, a response to an ongoing series of articles in the L.A. Times about development plans being approved based on old or nonexistent maps. The latest, as you have probably heard, is that a new map of the Hollywood Fault shows that the proposed Millennium project would be on top of the fault, although developers say they have no evidence of that. Metro ran headlong into this issue when planning the Purple Line Extension and the agency did considerable work to locate fault zones in the Century City area, resulting in the subway route being adjusted to avoid running parallel to a fault zone.

Report calls L.A. a city in decline (L.A. Times)

A report commissioned by City Council President Herb Wesson lists many familiar complaints about L.A. — mostly along the lines that it takes too long to get anything done. As the Times notes, some of the complaints involved clients of those who wrote the report.

As for transportation, the big complaint is this: The Measure R projects will do little to impact traffic except perhaps keep it from getting worse.

This is one of those issues involving language and politics. I don’t think any intelligent person presumed that Los Angeles — or any big city — can fix its traffic problems as long as automobiles remain affordable and convenient. Of course, it doesn’t help when people say that traffic can be fixed, and people certainly like to say such things.

But many of the Measure R projects will provide an alternative to traffic and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

My own three cents about Los Angeles: I think it’s a far better city today than it was in 1994, when I moved here from New York. Downtown, Venice, NoHo, Studio City, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock, Highland Park — to name only a few — have shown considerable improvement since then. New transit projects are underway. The L.A. River is going to see improvements. Staples Center and L.A. Live opened. The Getty Center opened.

That said, considerable parts of the city feel old, tired and in terrible need of any kind of investment. One of the most glaring issues, to me, is the condition of the city’s commercial corridors, many of which are treated as mini-freeways and cater only to auto-oriented businesses. In many quarters, L.A. has a big decision to make: does it want to be a City of Parking Lots or a real city?

Cuiaba light rail won’t be ready for World Cup in Brazil (Sports Illustrated) 

The 13-mile light rail line in the city near the Brazil/Bolivia border won’t be complete until December, five months after the soccer tournament takes place across Brazil. Officials say the transit and other projects are in the “completion phase” while also acknowledging that trains haven’t yet been laid yet. Well, okay.

U.S. streetcar boom takes off in 2014 (Greater Greater Washington)

Four new projects are expected to open this year in Washington D.C., Tucson, Atlanta and Seattle and another dozen are under construction or in the pipeline (L.A.’s project isn’t included as it’s not yet fully funded). Here’s a simulation of the Tucson line:

Construction notice: full closure of California Avenue/Duarte Road intersection Monday for Gold Line Foothill Extension work

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Below is the news release from the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency building the 11.5 rail extension from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border:

WHO:  Residents / Commuters in the City of Monrovia.

WHAT:  On Monday, January 13, 2014, the intersection of California Ave and Duarte Rd will be fully closed to thru-traffic to allow crews to complete the final construction activities at this location, as part of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension light rail project.

Following this one-day closure, the grade crossing work at California Ave will be complete, and both streets will fully re-open to thru-traffic in all directions.

WHEN: Monday, January 13, 2014 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather permitting.

WHERE: Intersection of California Ave and Duarte Rd in the City of Monrovia.

WHAT TO EXPECT: During the closure of the intersection, detour routes will be in place and signage will be posted to direct motorists.

-        Following the closure, California Avenue and Duarte Road will both fully re-open to thru-traffic in all directions.

-        Motorists are advised to expect delays.

-        Surrounding businesses will remain open and accessible during the closure.

-        Although no additional full closures of the intersection of California Ave and Duarte Rd are anticipated, work in the area will continue.

Construction schedules are subject to change for various reasons, including, but not limited to, weather conditions and unforeseen delays.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.foothillextension.org

About the Construction Authority: The Construction Authority is an independent transportation planning and construction agency created in 1998 by the California State Legislature. Its purpose is to extend the Metro Gold Line light rail line from Union Station to Montclair, along the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. The Construction Authority built the initial segment from Union Station to Pasadena and is underway on the Gold Line Foothill Extension. The Foothill Extension is a $1.7 billion extension that will connect Pasadena to Montclair in two construction segments – Pasadena to Azusa and Azusa to Montclair. The 11.5-mile Pasadena to Azusa segment is fully funded by Measure R and will be completed in September 2015, when it will be turned over to Metro for testing and pre-revenue service. Metro will determine when the line will open for passenger service. Three design-build contracts, totaling more than $500 million, will be overseen by the Construction Authority to complete the Pasadena to Azusa segment. The Azusa to Montclair segment is environmentally cleared and is proceeding to advanced conceptual engineering.


Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 gets ready to make its journey east

Union Pacific Railroad is undertaking the movement and restoration of one of the world’s largest steam locomotives – the Big Boy No. 4014.

The Big Boy has called the RailGiants Train Museum at the L.A. County Fairgrounds home for the past 50 years. However, during the past few weeks the locomotive has been inching its way across the Fairgrounds parking lot to meet the tracks that will eventually take it to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it will undergo restoration.

The above video shows the Big Boy’s slow move through the parking lot. Rail fans will have a chance to see the locomotive on working train tracks at the Metrolink Covina Station on Sunday, Jan. 26.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 9

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Metro will replace and refurbish scores of aging Blue Line cars (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of yesterday’s media event to explain ongoing renovations to the Blue Line which will cost $1.2 billion. As the Times notes, the bulk of the money is being spent on new rail cars that will be shared by the Blue and Expo lines. They’re also getting a new paint job — goodbye the “mustard” stripe and hello train cars that are mostly gray with yellow fronts, a popular look in the United Kingdom. See below:

A rail car in Liverpool. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A rail car in Liverpool. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

As for Metro, the first of the new rail cars is scheduled for delivery in Aug. 2015 with all 78 rail vehicles to be received by Jan. 2017.

Washington Metro awards $184 million for futuristic fare collection system (Washington City Paper) 

Excerpt:

The new system, according to WMATA, will be equipped to accept chip-enabled credit cards, federal government IDs, and cell phones for fare payment, as well as SmarTrip cards.

“While Metro pioneered the tap and go system we currently use, by today’s standards that system is cumbersome and the technology is not sustainable,” said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles in a statement. “The new technology will provide more flexibility for accounts, better reliability for riders, and real choices for customers to use bank-issued payment cards, credit cards, ID cards, or mobile phones to pay their Metro fares.”

Washington Metro’s current fare cards are similar to TAP cards. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and several other Board members authored a motion last year calling on Metro to study other fare payment systems, including smart ticketing using cell phones.

Mountain lions in Santa Monicas need more room, experts say (L.A. Times)

As evidence grows of inbreeding among the tiny population of mountain lions in the Santa Monicas, experts say the lions need more range. The challenge relates to transportation: the lion’s range is constrained by development and, in particular, freeways on all sides. Perhaps the most troublesome barrier is the 101 freeway that serves as a barrier between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills. Excerpt:

The California Department of Transportation has twice sought federal funding for a $10-million tunnel crossing near the Liberty Canyon Road exit. The area is part of a critical wildlife corridor that connects the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Riley and others working with DOT recently proposed what they consider a superior option: a landscaped crossing over the freeway. Such overpasses have been successful in Canada and Europe and are starting to be used in the Western United States.

“I’m arguing pretty aggressively for an overpass,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which owns much of the land near the proposed crossing. “It would be more inviting for the animals.”

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will consider next month whether to provide $200,000 so the California Department of Transportation can study alternatives. The cost of an over-crossing would far exceed the $10 million that has been projected for a tunnel.

The multi-million dollar question here: will it be too late for the lions by the time a crossing is studied, possibly approved and funded? Of course, the fact that lions have survived this long in the Santa Monicas is remarkable and a testament to their ability to adapt and the fact that lions can’t be hunted in California.

Christie fires aide in bridge scandal as U.S. opens inquiry (New York Times) 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he had no knowledge that his staff and appointees ordered lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge last fall as a way to punish the mayor of Fort Lee — who happens to be a Democrat and who happened to not endorse Christie in last year’s governor’s election. Recently released emails show otherwise — that Christie’s staff was directly involved. The U.S. Attorney’s office have launched an inquiry which should presumably show whether Christie was involved in any decision making. He has already fired one of his deputies who was involved, calling her “stupid.”

Jon Stewart has coverage, too. Warning: adult language/visuals, etc.

Hey, it’s almost Friday — so why not a song from one of Gov. Christie’s favorite musicians?

Metro ready to roll hockey fans to Dodger Stadium for Ducks vs. Kings

Dodger Stadium Express Map

Outdoor hockey isn’t exactly the norm in Southern California, and getting to see an outdoor hockey game at Dodger Stadium? Could be a once-in-a-lifetime deal.

Metro is ready to help SoCal hockey fans get to the Ducks/Kings game on Saturday, Jan. 25 with the Stadium Express. The game is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. Skip parking and traffic woes and hop on the bus at Union Station for a quick and easy trip to Dodger Stadium.

  • Board the Stadium Express at Bus Bay 3 of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza at Union Station.
  • Service leaves Union Station every 10-15 minutes, starting 90 minutes before game time through the middle of the second period.
  • Your game ticket is good on game day as Stadium Express fare only; otherwise, regular Metro fares apply.
  • You’ll be dropped off inside Dodger Stadium behind Center Field. Service will run the same route in reverse after the game.
  • Return service runs until 45 minutes after the end of the game.

Connect at Union Station via Metro Bus, Rail, Amtrak or Metrolink. Parking is also available at Union Station for $6/day. Keep reading after the jump for details on Metrolink and Amtrak service.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 8

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Unfriendly skies: after years of progress are Southland skies still making us sick? (Pasadena Weekly) 

The top of the story:

The skies are clearer and cleaner now: The number of unhealthy air days in Southern California has been cut in half since 1976. And there hasn’t been a smog alert in over a decade. “We have done miraculous things through cleaner cars, better fuels, cracking down on refineries,” says Joe Lyou, who heads the nonprofit Coalition for Clean Air. The progress comes despite the region’s topography and growing population, both conducive to smog.
But — cough, cough — many of us are still breathing bad air, and changing that will require even greater efforts to clean up the way we live, commute and do business in Southern California. The metropolitan L.A./Riverside/San Bernardino area continues to have the nation’s most severe air pollution problem (tied with the San Joaquin Valley). In 2012, the region exceeded federal health standards for ozone on 111 days. The state estimates that, every year, Southland smog — primarily ozone and particulates — causes 5,000 people to die prematurely, shortening some lives by as much as a decade. The monetary cost in lost lives, hospitalizations, lost workdays, etc., is estimated at a hefty $14.6 billion.
As the article goes on to note, the big challenge is that officials here can’t directly regulate “the diesel-spewing goods-movement industry” whose trucks, ships and trains are considered one of the region’s biggest sources of pollution.
I think this is one of the best articles yet on the re-emergence of downtown Los Angeles as a place that is beginning to matter. It’s a long story that I think manages to capture the nuances — the fact that some of DTLA has come around, while other parts haven’t and some of the reasons why.
The story also eloquently makes the point that downtown L.A. pretty much has to make a comeback — that endless sprawl and the traffic/pollution it has produced has not served the region well. Curiously, however, the article makes little mention of transit and the fact that it works better in dense urban areas such as downtown. Of course, it’s also a pertinent topic because DTLA is the transit hub of Southern California.
A nice look at some big transit and water tunnels being built across the country. Metro should be joining the ranks soon when tunneling gets underway in the next few years for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector — all three projects being funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, January 7

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The sunrise in Chicago this morning. It's current -2 degrees there, according to the National Weather Service. Photo by Sarah Ji, via Flickr creative commons.

The sunrise in Chicago this morning. It’s current -2 degrees there courtesy of the Polar Vortex, according to the National Weather Service. Photo by Sarah Ji, via Flickr creative commons.

Loosely related to transpo news: First, I hope everyone who used the Gold Line to reach Pasadena for the parade and two football games in the past week had a good experience.

Second, how the heck do the officials miss the horse collar tackle on the Florida State player toward the end of last night’s national title game? If Auburn is penalized 15 yards, perhaps the Seminoles would have scored sooner, perhaps giving the Tigers a little more time to get in the range of a potential game-tying field goal as the clock wound down. Bad, bad non-call in an otherwise excellent football game. I hope players and fans from both teams are proud of their efforts and that student-athletes return heartily to their books, as most of them — as skilled as they are — will never play in the National Football League.

Jerry Brown eyes cap-and-trade money for high-speed rail (Sacramento Bee)

California’s governor has been a proponent of the state bullet train project and knows it will need billions of dollars to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. As a result, his budget — due for release Friday — may propose using millions of dollars from the state’s new carbon tax to help pay for the train, which is seen by some as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the trains may be less polluting than cars (it depends largely on type of fuels both use and, if electricity, how that power is created).

In a follow-up column to the news story, Dan Walters challenges the emissions question, pointing out that pollution from construction of the project may make it less than green for many decades. For what it’s worth, one recent UCLA study found that Metro’s Gold and Orange lines would result in lower greenhouse gas emissions even with construction factored in. Important caveat: the Gold and Orange lines were much, much smaller projects than the bullet train, which involves extensive tunneling and the building of elevated structures to completely separate the train from roads.

How to be a better Californian (Zocalo Public Square)

Great column by Joe Mathews with some suggestions on ways to improve your civic profile in 2014. Among them: using public transit and biking from time to time! As an aside, Joe also suggests everyone visits where their water comes from — a superb idea! If you live in L.A. County that’s perfect reason to visit the Sierra Nevada, which sends water into either the California Aqueduct or Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Some of the snow on Taboose Pass in the Eastern Sierra will melt and end up in the L.A. Aqueduct. Zocalo Public Square writer Joe Mathews says it's our duty to visit our water resources. If you insist! :) Photo by Steve Hymon.

Some of the snow on Taboose Pass in the Eastern Sierra will melt and end up in the L.A. Aqueduct. Zocalo Public Square writer Joe Mathews says it’s our duty to visit our water resources. If you insist! Photo by Steve Hymon.

Amtrak passengers from California trapped in Polar Vortex in Illinois (L.A. Times) 

Ice and snow from the ongoing cold snap stopped three trains, including one that originated in Los Angeles and another from San Francisco. After a night aboard the trains, passengers were rescued by buses this morning. The accompanying photo inexplicably shows a train going through the snowy Sierra near Donner Pass — 2,000 miles from the actual news. Plus, the Sierra is basically wanting for snow this year; the Southern Sierra has 27 percent of the normal amount of snow for this date, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Why getting rid of bus stops can improve bus service (Governing)

Ah, the Ivory Tower hard at work. A study by George Mason University has found that getting rid of 43 percent of the bus stops near a college campus would result in 23 percent improvement in travel times. Shocker! The study also found that losing the stops wouldn’t result in lower ridership because students are healthy and vigorous enough to walk the extra distance to the bus stops that remain.

I’m not sure the world is a smarter place as a result of the study, but it raises the age-old question for transit agencies: what is the optimal number of bus stops? Hey, maybe that’s not even the big question anymore. Perhaps we should be asking what’s the best way to speed up boarding and get buses moving on streets with frequent (and uncooperative) traffic signals.