Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 5

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.

Metro Library: Changes are coming to our Transportation Headlines — same great content in a new improved format (Primary Resources) 

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The Metro Transportation Library is preparing to move the daily transortation headlines from Blogger to Paper.li. Please see the post to learn more about the new format and receiving it through RSS / Feedburner or email.

Senseless (Bicycling)

The concussion rate from bike accidents in recent years has grown faster than the sport of cycling. Why? This long and excellent magazine article by Bruce Barcott seeks the answer and comes up with some interesting conclusions. Most troubling, to me, is that federal government standards for bike helmets have not changed since 1999 despite considerable research into brain injury prevention since then. Nonetheless, some companies are making progress at creating helmets that can both prevent catastrophic injury and more routine concussions. If you’re interested in cycling, please read.

LaHood: expect big announcement from Obama on transportation funding (Governing) 

The outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation hints that perhaps the President may have an idea to replace the federal gas tax which funds many projects but has been struggling to keep pace with demand (the tax hasn’t been raised in 20 years and is also taking a hit because cars are more fuel efficient these days). Replace the gas tax with what? Governing speculates that maybe it’s a tax based on how many miles people drive, a solution backed by many transportation experts.

Assembly wants part-time carpool lanes in Southern California (L.A. Times)

A bill that would allow single occupant vehicles to use carpool lanes on parts of the 134 and 210 freeways during non-rush hours sailed through the Assembly last Thursday. Yes, I know that was almost a week ago — but overlooked this one last week and it’s certainly newsworthy. Seems like the next big regional conversation we’ll be having in future years is over management of the HOV lanes. Should they be carpool lanes all the time? Some of the time? Or congestion pricing lanes sometimes or all times?

 

Regional Connector station community meetings planned this week

The Regional Connector project plans to hold meetings this week for residents and stakeholders near the site of planned light rail stations in Downtown Los Angeles. The  team will provide a project update and discuss night-time construction activities. Here’s the meeting notices for Monday through Wednesday.

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Digging set to begin on Central Subway project in San Francisco

Clever/fun PR move by the San Francisco MTA: they’ve created Twitter accounts for both of the tunnel boring machines that will be used to dig the Central Subway project. The subway will extend one of the existing light rail lines for 1.7 miles north between the Caltrain station — Caltrain is the commuter rail serving the San Francisco Peninsula — to Chinatown and North Beach.

There was a public ceremony held on Friday in San Francisco to celebrate the tunneling, which is scheduled to begin June 10. Of course, we’re ramping up to begin work on the first segment of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega.

Here is a segment that ran last week on KCBS in the Bay Area; sorry about the commercial.

Transportation headlines, Monday, June 3

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.

11 small ideas for Mayor-elect Garcetti to make L.A. less blighty (Curbed LA) 

Many of Curbed's suggestions are aimed at improving L.A.'s streetscapes for lack of a better term. This is Lincoln & Washington on the Westside. Beautiful! Photo: Google Maps.

Many of Curbed’s suggestions are aimed at improving L.A.’s streetscapes for lack of a better term. This is Lincoln & Washington on the Westside. Beautiful! Photo: Google Maps.

I thought this post went 11-for-11 on ideas to clean up and/or better use Los Angeles’ streets. Among the proposals: more street medians, narrower driveways interrupting driveways and street parking, less awful signage and closing parts of Hollywood Boulevard on the weekend.

Dana Gabbard’s rules of transit advocacy (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The rules were first compiled 13 years ago by the long-time transit activist but I think they stand the test of time. Pay heed and bow before No. 7: “Never promise congestion relief resulting from a transit project.” I certainly try not to — the reason to build transit isn’t to solve traffic, it’s to provide an alternative to it and give everyone more mobility options.

Roger Snoble named SunLine interim general manager (Desert Sun) 

The former CEO of Metro has agreed to step in for the summer and oversee the transit agency that provides bus service for the Coachella Valley. Roger retired from Metro in 2009 and lives in the Coachella Valley area. The current g.m. at SunLine is under investigation over the agency’s finances and some recent employee dismissals.

New free bus in downtown Denver? All aboard! (Denver Post)

The editorial backs a proposal to add a second free circulator in downtown Denver despite some criticism that it will be costly and the agency can’t afford it. The Post points out that many people who will use the bus to reach jobs will be transferring from the region’s expanding rail system and would not have had to pay a fare anyway. (Transfers are free on the Denver RTD system although the RTD’s base fares are higher than Metro’s, a typical arrangement on many large metro systems in the U.S.).

On most weekdays, btw, the existing free shuttle in Denver runs every 1.5 to three minutes. I kid you not. See for yourself!

Keystone hires lobbyists with ties to John Kerry (Grist) 

The headline is somewhat misleading as this blog post serves as a good roundup of the hires by both proponents and opponents of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands fields to refineries in the U.S. Bottom line: both sides have lobbyists in their holsters. President Obama is expected to make a decision soon; Canada is pressing hard for the pipeline, the reason that Secretary of State Kerry is involved.

Self-driving cars for testing are supported by USDOT (NYT) 

Driver-less cars may not be ready for prime time but the feds see enough safety benefits to encourage firms such as Google to keep working on them. I’m mixed on this one. Lord knows our local streets are festooned with people who have no business ever being behind the wheel, but this doesn’t strike me as a problem as easy to solve as looking up “how do I make the perfect mojito.”

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 31

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.

Bike to death (Voice of OC)

The lede of this article is buried, but a review of data shows accidents involving bikes is up significantly in both Orange and Los Angeles counties over the last decade. According to Bike in LA, there has been 30 cycling deaths in Southern California so far in 2013 — at this juncture in 2012, there had been 20 deaths. These are all scary numbers and I’m not sure what’s going on exactly — and I’m not sure the data exists to draw conclusions. I do think we can all agree that we live in a climate and area very favorable to cycling, a lot of people are on bikes and bike infrastructure — although expanding — remains sorely lacking in many areas.

Rep. Schiff asks Metrolink to assess yard’s health risks (L.A. Times)

The Congressman wants Metrolink to formally study any health risks from its rail yard along the Los Angeles River just north of downtown. Nearby residents in Elysian Valley and Cypress Park have concerns about the impact about diesel emissions.

By the way, this new study finds that while deaths from driving dropped across the planet in 2012, safety for pedestrians is not increasing at a rate as fast.

Lawsuits once again challenge LAX runway and construction work (L.A. Times) 

Four local governments, a labor union and a resident’s group have filed a legal challenge to LAX’s specific amendment study that proposed moving the north runway further north, building a people mover and a consolidated rental car facility, among others. The runway seems to be the issue that sparked the suits, which are seen as the latest obstacle in modernizing the entire airport. The people mover and potential locations for light rail stations close to the airport are, of course, critical to Metro’s Airport Connector project, which seeks to link the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the LAX terminals via either light rail, people mover or bus rapid transit or some combination of those.

Can New York’s Penn Station ever be great again? (The Atlantic Cities) 

Everyone is re-imagining their train stations these days! Planning is underway to improve the extremely busy Amtrak and commuter rail station that is buried under Madison Square Garden, home to the Knicks, Rangers and many concerts. There’s no guarantee anything will come of it — and it will be hard to accomplish much of anything as long as the station remains buried under a sports arena. But there’s hope, albeit limited, that perhaps the arena and the train station can get a divorce, with perhaps one moving across the street to the site of a current postal complex. The original Pennsylvania Station — considered by many as an architectural gem — was torn down in the 1960s to make way for Madison Square Garden and the new underground train depot.

Microbes hitch a ride on the subway (NYT) 

A study of the air in the New York subway finds a lot of bacteria and other tiny life forms — and nothing that riders should worry about. About five percent of microbial species found probably come from human skin and are zapped through the air courtesy of the air pressure created by millions of feet striking pavement and pushing air around each day. One more reason to take care of your feet, people!

Science + Art = A beautiful way to learn

Artists and Nerds (respectfully and fondly) united last week at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's “From Data to Discovery” conference on the Caltech campus in Pasadena. The one day event hosted by JPL, the Arts Center and Caltech focused on using visualizations to communicate complex topics. Such visualizations are a great way to engage the uninitiated!

The speaker list of big data divas included Jeff Heer, of Stanford, who showed off innovative data visualization platforms such as D3: Data-Driven Documents, which is a robust javascript tool kit for creating data visualizations, and Data Wrangler, which appears to be nothing short of a life saver for anyone who has to clean data sets. Dr. Heer also recommended that anyone interested in data visualization should look online for his class at Stanford called CS448b.

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Visualization of migration from California 1995-2000 by Stanford InfoViz

Jeff Thor, a self-described data artist and co-founder of The Office for Creative Research discussed his “Ooooo-Ahhhh” philosophy. He stressed that a successful visual not only draws audiences in with interesting visuals (Ooooo), but then makes you think with the data that it represents (Ahhhhh). He showed one of his early projects, a visualization called Just Landed, which represents tweets where people have written “just landed” and ties them to where they are from (according to their profiles). It’s a very cool effect.

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Still from Jeff Thor's Just Landed

Attending the conference is giving metro ideas on how they might share some of the robust data within the agency. New ways to explain complex transportation issues are always helpful. Any reader requests for data visualizations? We may not have the time or the skills to fill your requests, but you can help us brainstorm!

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Jacarandas in bloom around Beckman Auditorium

The conference was hosted at the Beckman Auditorium, a beautiful mid-century modern design, (1964 Edward Durrell Stone), currently surrounded by beautiful blooming jacaranda trees. I recommend a visit before the flowers wither. The campus is accessible from several bus lines, including the Pasadena ARTS 10 bus, Metro's 177 bus or the Gold Line Lake Avenue station to the 485 bus headed south. Exit at California Avenue and walk two blocks east to reach campus.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 30

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 ceremonial Nostalgia Train crosses the South Channel Bridge on its way to Rockaway Park on Thursday, May 30, 2013, marking the return of regular subway service to the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann

ART OF TRANSIT: A ceremonial Nostalgia Train crosses the South Channel Bridge on its way to Rockaway Park on Thursday, May 30, 2013, marking the return of regular subway service to the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann

The 405 in the rear-view mirror (L.A. Times)

The editorial page looks at delays and cost over-runs on the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project and says there’s plenty of blame to spread around. The Times says that the foremost reason is the design-build process that while expediting the time it takes to deliver the project, left too little time to actually plan it before shovels were in the ground. That’s a fair enough point and, as the editorial states, Metro is already allowing more design time on the Crenshaw/LAX Line to avoid similar issues.

Does this guy make it into the subway before getting drenched by a passing car? (NYT)

Check out the photos. And I’d say that New York street officials may want to investigate drainage issues adjacent to this entrance.

Will the new Bay Bridge open on time (Contra Costa Times) 

Officials hope to open the new eastern span on Labor Day but are delaying a decision pending more repair work on bolts. The earthquake that damaged the bridge in the first place was nearly 24 years ago.

SF MTA redesigns its website (SF MTA)

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It’s a nice clean design — very uncluttered. Click above to visit the page. Here’s the news release.