How do they do that? Make roads smarter

Photo by Carl Greenlund/Metro

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How do they do that? Make roads smarter

In their future form, smart roads could be the automated highways of tomorrow — the roadways we cruise, possibly in self-driving cars, hooked to a group of other cars headed in the same direction. By traveling together cars can move faster and distances between them can be decreased, since the group accelerates and brakes simultaneously. This maximizes road capacity while it minimizes the chance of accidents, which slow down traffic.

Obviously we’re not there yet. But there are a variety of smart road technologies being used in Los Angeles County and Metro is participating — primarily by helping to fund them — in programs to squeeze more capacity out of streets and freeways. They may not be smart roads of the future, but they are promising advances.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s going on:

•Caltrans and Metro are in talks to mirror a program already running in Orange County on the northbound I-5 freeway. By offering real-time travel comparisons between the freeway and Metrolink, electronic message signs let commuters know when it would be faster to take Metrolink than to stay on the freeway. Comparative travel times would work the same way in L.A. County comparing, say, commute times on the 210 Freeway with the Gold Line speed to Pasadena. The intent is to encourage drivers to consider transit as an option.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 1

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.

It’s been a busy past few days at Metro and we’ve skipped some good headlines. So let’s play catch up…

L.A.’s transit dreams coming true? (The Architect’s Newspaper)

This review of the Expo Line praises the unified design of the stations all the way down the line and the views. Reviewer Alissa Walker says the new line, however, deserves better looking rail cars than what is currently being used.

Scenes from Expo Line, day one (Curbed LA)

Nice photo essay from Saturday.

A low-cost way of improving transit (Grist)

How? Make it fun and whimsical, says this blog post — citing a new e-book titled Making Transit Fun. Among some ideas: putting singers on transit (in Portland in the video below), making bus shelters look giant pieces of fruit, putting slides in subway stations for those who don’t want to take the stairs.

Cars, trains and partisan posturing (New York Times)

This editorial castigates the House of Representatives for refusing to put forth a transportation bill that would continue funding at present levels and help sustain 2.9 million jobs. Instead, the Republican-led House is bent on using the bill to advance other parts of their agenda, such as securing an approval for the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.

Here comes Expo: Photos from the dedication

Transportation headlines, Friday, April 27

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.

Expo Line’s opening launches rail service push to Westside (L.A. Times)

The Times’ Dan Weikel and Ari Bloomekatz provide a good recap of the significance of the opening of the first phase of the Expo Line. The piece highlights in particular the benefits to USC students, and, I think, gives a fair assessment of what Expo will mean to Los Angeles. Be sure to check out this cool time-lapse video of the Expo Line by Bryan Chan.

Expo’s backstage safety patrol (Zev Web)

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s official blog details the numerous measures Metro has undertaken to ensure that the public knows how to navigate the new Expo Line safely. The story focuses in particular on the efforts of Vijay Khawani, Metro’s Executive Officer of Corporate Safety, and Barbara Burns, manager of Metro’s Transit Safety Education Programs. As the blog notes, Metro has been very proactive in its community outreach on safety issues:

To educate the public about what’s headed their way, Burns’ team has conducted dozens of training sessions at schools, senior centers and libraries and with neighborhood watch and community groups, sent out hundreds of notices about train testing, put up 4,000 safety posters and handed out 60,000 flyers door to door.

The most beautiful train stations in the world (Flavorpill)

Is Los Angeles Union Station one of the 10 most beautiful train stations in the world? Culture blog Flavorpill thinks so and your humble Metro blogger agrees completely. I’m particularly fond of Union Station’s mix of Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco architectural elements — two of my favorites styles, both of which you can see across L.A. Hat tip to LA Observed for the link.

Walk Score’s best cities in America for public transportation (NRDC Switchboard)

Everyone’s favorite mapping tool, Walk Score, has launched a new service called Transit Score and used it to determine what it believes are the best American cities for public transit. The Switchboard blog has a recap and analysis. Los Angeles clocks in at 11, just behind Portland, Ore., and ahead of Denver, Colo. — respectable enough company, I suppose. That said, I do have some constructive criticisms of Transit Score’s methodology.

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In case you missed it: recapping our Expo Line coverage

An Expo train at La Cienega/Jefferson station with the downtown L.A. skyline in the distance. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

First, a plug: If you’re planning to attend this weekend’s Expo Line festivities, go ahead and subscribe to Metro on Twitter at @MetroLosAngeles, so you can follow our coverage in real time and share with us all your Expo thoughts and photos.

Now, business: We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve published a whole bunch of posts about the Expo Line lately — about how Expo will work, its history, who was instrumental in making it a reality. So much so that a couple of great stories got pushed off the front page before many folks probably had a chance to read them.

So, without further ado here’s a recap of our Expo Line stories from the past month or so:


Beyond phase one: making connections to the Expo Line

More info on parking, biking and bus connections to the Expo Line

Expo Line timetable is here!

Riding safely on new Expo Line bike lanes

Expo Line map, destinations guide and art guide

Go Expo this weekend

Free rides on new Expo light-rail line during opening weekend celebration, April 28-29

Expo opening day celebrations

Go Expo to Everychild Playground Play Day


Photos of the Expo Line through history

The Expo Line’s earlier days: recalled by the men who worked it

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 25

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.

Workers in Mao suits at the Summer Palace, Beijing, 2008. Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro

Carmakers In China rev up as industry shifts east (NPR)

NPR visits the Beijing auto show, which is now the world’s largest car market and a crucial one for Detroit. Ford has just announced plans to open its fourth Chinese assembly plant and General Motors is planning to open 600 more dealerships in China. Ford now sells more cars in China than it does in the U.S. “Shanghai is the new Detroit. They make a lot more cars here than in Detroit,” notes a Port Huron, Michigan, native who runs a parts plant in China.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 24

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.

Union Station and downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro.

A win-win scenario for Farmers Field (Los Angeles Times)

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup writes that AEG should bundle their event tickets for Farmers Field with free Metro day passes (and, in fact, AEG has proposed to sell transit tickets with game tickets as part of their draft environmental study). In support of his proposal, Shoup cites the experience of Seattle’s 72,000-seat Husky Stadium where the team contracts with Seattle Metro to allow tickets to serve as transit passes on game days. Public transit ridership among fans jumped from four percent the year before the program began in 1987 to 20 percent in 2008.

New York City finalizing maps of bike share stations (Transportation Nation)

Bike share in New York is inching closer to becoming a reality as the city finalizes its bike station locations. Large bike docks are planned for important transit stops including the Port Authority, Penn Station, Columbus Circle and Astor Place. The placement of bikes at subway stations and major bus stops should help New York address its first mile/last mile problem, or how commuters travel between the subway or bus to their nearby destination. Continue reading

The art of transit

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Here’s a particularly powerful photo of President Obama sitting on the bus in which civil rights activist Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat. It’s hard to imagine President Obama would be where he is today without the courage and determination of Parks and the thousands of men and women like her who fought against racial injustice.

To submit a photo for the Art of Transit, post it to Metro’s Flickr group, email it to or Tweet it to @metrolosangeles with an #artoftransit hashtag. Many of the photos we’ve featured can be seen in these galleries on Flickr.