Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 16

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

L.A.’s first freeways (KCET So Cal Connected)

A nice look at the earliest freeways in the Los Angeles area and the thinking that went into the planning and building of them. A four-mile section of Ramona Boulevard and a 1.5-mile segment of freeway over the Cahuenga Pass were the preludes to the 6.8-mile Arroyo Seco Parkway opening in 1940. It’s still in use today as the Pasadena Freeway, although it looks nowhere near as good as does in some of the many fine photos on this post. A recent attempt to spruce things up doesn’t really work — today the road is lined by a lot of chain-link fencing, suffers too much graffiti and has a lot of trash along its edges.


Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner in San Diego. Photo by Justin Brown, via Flickr creative commons.

Romney says he would eliminate Amtrak funding (CNNMoney)


There are three major areas I have focused on for reduction in spending. These are in many cases reductions which become larger and larger over time. So first there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs — the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to strand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.

A related post on The Hill says that zeroing out Amtrak in the budget would be difficult to do, given the popularity of its Northeast Corridor routes between Washington and New York. If Amtrak shut down those routes, commuters would fly instead, which could create bottlenecks across the country as major airports are overwhelmed trying to handle commuter flights. The federal government provided about $1.5 billion to Amtrak in fiscal year 2011; the total federal budget that year was about $3.63 trillion.

Why should we stop talking about ‘bus stigma’ (The Atlantic Cities)

Transit planner and writer Jarrett Walker takes exception to those who suggest that many people avoid the bus because of the stigma attached to it — as is the bus is only for the poor or minorities. In his view, the problem with buses is that they too often don’t offer the fast and frequent service that people want. Good bus service, he believes, attracts a good number of riders across all spectrums. Excerpt:

Mass transit, even the indispensable bus, will continue on that path to greater relevance to the degree that citizens care about it and demand that it be funded. Right now, many people who don’t use transit are making a rational choice, based on its current usefulness and their alternatives; no stigma is needed to explain that behavior. As transit improves, and especially as other options become more expensive, decisions will continue to change, person by person, family by family, and ridership will grow as a result. At some point in that process, journalists will stop talking about a stigma. But the solution to the “stigma” or “class” problem, all along, was to refuse to define it that way.


Program dissects new federal transportation bill


Metro hosted a session this morning titled “Everything You Wanted to Know About the New Federal Surface Transportation Bill.” I'll try to distill the nearly three-hour session to a few nuggets for everyday people not versed in the, uh, fascinating universe of transportation funding. *

•At the top of the session, Metro Board Member Richard Katz said “we can't fix L.A. one project at a time…you'll never catch up.” He said that's one reason that Metro is pursuing the extension of Measure R — to build a network of transit and road projects.

•The expanded TIFIA loan program in the new bill is the largest infrastructure loan program in U.S. history, said David Kim, the Associate Administrator for Policy and Governmental Affairs for the Federal Highway Administration. He ticked off the long list of reforms to the program, which will allow Metro to pursue a loan for multiple projects — and for the loan to cover more of a project's cost (up to 49 percent from 33 percent).

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, August 15

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

L.A. Council aims at changing parking requirements (L.A. Times)

The City Council voted yesterday to create special parking districts in which current parking requirements could be relaxed or increased depending on the circumstance. That means that potentially developers could get a break on building parking for some new residents and that new businesses in some cases may not have to produce as much parking as they have in the past. This is seen as an incentive that could help lure new businesses and redevelopment — particularly to areas near transit — and help ignite economic development in others. Los Angeles' strict parking requirements are widely seen as a major reason that so much of the city is covered by parking lots, especially on commercial corridors. Here's the ordinance.

For Universal City, a bridge not far enough (L.A. Streetsblog)

Some Valley residents aren't pleased that Metro is ramping up to spend $19 million to build a pedestrian bridge over Lankershim Boulevard at Universal City to connect the subway station to Universal City proper. Skeptics say the bridge — something promised years ago — isn't necessary and would rather see the money plowed into other transportation improvements.

Pasadena Council resolves to oppose three 710 alternatives (Pasadena Star News)

The Council on Monday night voted to formally oppose three alternatives under study by Metro to improve traffic in the area near the 710 gap: a tunnel between the 710 freeway in Alhambra and the 134 freeway that would go under the San Rafael Hills, a widening of Avenue 64 to accommodate more north-south traffic and another alternative that would potentially widen parts of Huntington Drive, Fair Oaks Avenue and Pasadena Avenue.

The three alternatives are part of a package of 12 alternatives that Metro is studying as part of a potential project. The agency will carry some of those alternatives forward into a draft environmental document. The idea of the current study is to evaluate everything that might improve traffic times in the area AND seek public input on those ideas.

In the northeast, travelers turn to Amtrak (New York Times)

In the late 1990s, about 33 percent of travelers between New York and Washington went by Amtrak. Today that number is 75 percent, an increase attributed to faster trains, airline delays and increased airport security.


Transportation headlines, Tuesday, August 14

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

A new, fun video from the transit activist group Move LA.

Cracking down on diesel (L.A. Times)

Carl Pope, the former chairman of the Sierra Club, pens an opinion piece in which he urges the California Air Resources Board to enforce rules requiring the retrofit of trucks to reduce particulate matter. It’s not cheap — it can cost $10,000 — but Pope says the benefits are enormous and also pushes more companies to follow the lead of Coca-Cola and clean up their fleets. Given the heavy truck traffic on California’s freeways, it seems a sensible argument.

As the presidential campaign begins in earnest, a study in contrasts (The Transport Politic)

Blogger Yonah Freemark takes a look at Rep. Paul Ryan’s voting record in the house in addition to Ryan’s larger views on the role of government in transportation. Although Ryan or presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said very little about transportation, Freemark’s take is that Ryan would likely only support transportation programs paid for with user fees. Practically speaking, Freemark speculates that could mean eliminating funding for anything not involving cars. Of course, none of us really know — both the Romney and Barack Obama campaigns have been largely silent on the issue of transportation.

Hottest month on record, by the numbers (NOAA)

The news came out last week that July 2012 was the hottest month on record in the contiguous United States since 1895, when modern records began being kept. Here’s a good chart from NOAA breaking it down state-by-state — the numbers represent years, i.e. the ’48’ on California means that July 2012 was the the 48th coolest July here since 1895.


Transportation headlines, Monday, August 13

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.


A great photo of Meb Keflezighi training near Mammoth Lakes. At age 37, he finished fourth in the men’s Olympic marathon in London on Sunday. Photo: NBC/Reuters.

So did London pass the Olympic test? (The Independent)

Most press accounts that I’ve read — including this one — praise London’s public transport system for making it easy to get around the past couple of weeks. As feared and predicted, the Tube inevitably suffered a few breakdowns, but everything seems to have gone smoothly, even the conversion of regular traffic lanes to “Olympic lanes” for use by transit and Olympic officials. As for the games’ budget, that seems to be a bit of a moving target.

Now to Rio, full of 2016 Olympic jitters (CBS News)

In addition to building new sporting venues, the city is promising a $12-billion infrastructure overhaul, including a controversial new Metro line that critics say serves the needs of lobbyists more than residents. There’s also a hotel room shortage — the plan is to offer rooms on cruise ships (yuck!) — and an equestrian venue that will need to be swept for military ordinance. The 2014 World Cup — with some games in Rio — should serve as a good warmup for the big show in 2016.

Meters to lose their heads near Port (L.A. Times)

Six hundred forty five meters will be yanked from the Earth in San Pedro and Wilmington in order to make it easier to park and help local businesses — contrary to a push in the rest of L.A. that has seen increased meter rates and ticket prices.

Temporary use of Rose Bowl for NFL would cause ‘unavoidable’ impacts (San Gabriel Valley News)

A new draft environmental study by the city of Pasadena concludes air quality and noise levels would be impacted by using the Rose Bowl as a temporary venue for an NFL team (should one magically appear in the L.A. area). Apparently, air pollution from traffic and noise from NFL games is somehow worse than air pollution and noise from UCLA games — or, to put it another way, air pollution and noise from UCLA games is okay because the pollution and noise got there first. If traffic is such a concern, why not just vastly limit the amount of parking at the Rose Bowl and increase the number of bus shuttles? The Gold Line is a mile away, people.

Transportation headlines, Friday, August 10

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Nearly 2,500 drivers hit with Olympics Lanes violations (The Independent)

The 30 miles of lanes were introduced in London to help move fans, athletes and Olympic officials around town. For the most part, other motorists have been staying out of the lanes at the times they’re restricted, but apparently not everyone can resist the temptation.

Gridlock on Avenue 64 (Pasadena Weekly)

West Pasadena residents aren’t happy with any proposals from Metro to possibly link the 210 and 710 freeways, saying even discussing it could harm real estate values. The 710 gap project is funded by Measure R and a number of alternatives for improving traffic in the gap are being studied, with the ideas ranging from a freeway tunnel to improved transit in the area.

$1 gas tax? One auto dealer says ‘yes!’ (National Journal)

Monrovia auto dealer Peter Hoffman is taking a stance unusual for his business: he would like to a see a $1 gas tax imposed in order to make the price of gasoline more predictable. In his view, a more predictable price would give increased comfort to both consumers and automakers about what type of cars to buy and produce — in this case, cars that are fuel efficient. At present, consumers are all over the place — buying fuel efficient cars when gas prices go up and gravitating to SUVs when it drops. Great article.

Olympic Rewind: How Los Angeles transported the world in 1932 and 1984

The Olympics may be coming to a close in London, but the Metro Library’s Primary Resources Blog is serving up a local double-header of Olympics history.

Back in 1932, Los Angeles welcomed the world to a much smaller affair during the Great Depression.  (Only 1,500 athletes from 37 nations took part, with the Olympic Village in Baldwin Hills).

The Metro Library’s Primary Resources blog explores in depth how the the city moved athletes and spectators around 80 years ago — when L.A. was criss-crossed by the streetcars and interurban rail lines of one of the largest transit systems on the planet.

Fast forward a half-century:  Los Angeles welcomes the world back, despite that rail system having been completely dismantled for more than two decades.

How did Los Angeles transport athletes, spectators and millions of local residents through the first Olympics staged in a city without a rapid transit system since 1960?

Primary Resources takes an extensive look at how L.A. managed to pull off a Olympic-sized feat in 1984, greatly reducing traffic and smog throughout the region thanks to a comprehensive transportation plan built entirely around a fleet of buses.


The Transit Tourist: Chicago, Ill.

The Transit Tourist takes a look at other transit systems across the globe from the first person perspective of a visitor. What can Metro learn from how these other systems treat the uninitiated – and often bumbling – tourist?

Quiet summer afternoon at Fullerton Station (Chicago, IL) Photo: Joseph Lemon/Metro

This is…The Transit Tourist – Chicago, Ill.

Chicago, Illinois
City Population: 2,695,598 Transit Agency: CTA Miles of Rail Track: 224.1
Density: 11,864 people/sq. mi. Rail Lines: 8 Bus Routes: 140
Area: 234 sq. mi. Rail Stations: 143 Op. Budget: $1.39 bil.

Source: US Census and

Airport Connection

The Chicago “L” — a heavy rail system that runs both above and below ground — runs from downtown to both of the city’s major airports, O’Hare and Midway. The train and area buses are run by the Chicago Transit Authority, the region’s equivalent to Los Angeles Metro.

The Blue Line runs to the airport and takes about 45 minutes to travel to downtown Chicago. The Orange Line runs to Midway and takes about 25 minutes to reach downtown.

There is direct access to the “L” station at O’Hare from terminals 1, 2 and 3 — although like everything at O’Hare, it can involve a long walk.

Here’s a pretty useful web page on the CTA site that explains all the basics about traveling by rail to or from the airports.

Trains at Chicago O’Hare Blue Line Station (Chicago, IL) Photo: Joseph Lemon/Metro

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The art of transit, Red Planet edition

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Maybe it’s not transit as usually portrayed on this blog, but who cares? The photo was taken yesterday by a camera on the Curiousity Rover and posted today. Here’s the description from NASA:

This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera.

Scientists will be taking a closer look at several splotches in the foreground that appear gray. These areas show the effects of the descent stage’s rocket engines blasting the ground. What appeared as a dark strip of dunes in previous, black-and-white pictures from Curiosity can also be seen along the top of this mosaic, but the color images also reveal additional shades of reddish brown around the dunes, likely indicating different textures or materials.

The images were taken late Aug. 8 PDT (Aug. 9 EDT) by the 34-millimeter Mast Camera. This panorama mosaic was made of 130 images of 144 by 144 pixels each. Selected full frames from this panorama, which are 1,200 by 1,200 pixels each, are expected to be transmitted to Earth later. The images in this panorama were brightened in the processing. Mars only receives half the sunlight Earth does and this image was taken in the late Martian afternoon.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 9

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

State Supreme Court will hear Expo Line case (L.A. Streetsblog)

The case involves the second phase of the project and a lawsuit brought by the group Neighbors for Smart Rail against the Expo Line Construction Authority. Two lower courts have already ruled in favor of the Construction Authority. The legal issue involves whether the Authority could use future traffic projections in determining how at-grade crossings would impact traffic. The Neighbors for Smart Rail group mostly consists of homeowners in the Cheviot Hills area who don’t believe the train should be built at street level in that area — with a particular focus on the crossing of Overland Avenue. In the meantime, construction of phase 2 has been underway since last year.

Worry at both ends of the Long Beach Freeway (NBC L.A.)

A quick overview of two Metro project studies underway on the 710 freeway. In the south, Metro is studying the possibility of widening the freeway to include truck-only lanes to handle traffic coming from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In the north, Metro is studying a number of possible projects to help improve traffic created the gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and the 210 freeway in Pasadena. That includes everything from a freeway tunnel to a north-south transit project — or some combination. Here’s a recent post looking at the possibilities.

What will L.A.’s future Union Station look like? (KPCC)

A brief look at the master plan process underway for Metro-owned Union Station. Passengers say they want public address announcements that they can actually understand and point to wayfinding issues. Another concern: how to handle the 1,000 passengers or so that may jump off a high-speed rail train arriving at the station — leaving questions about where to put those platforms and how to get all those people through the station.