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!

photo

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)

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 10.29.58 AM

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

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 29

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.

The Natural Gas Alliance has a new video urging transit agencies to convert their bus fleets from diesel fuel to natural gas. And guess who the group uses as an example? Metro, which has converted its entire fleet of 2,000-plus buses to natural gas, which pollutes far less than diesel.

Who should join Garcetti on the Metro Board of Directors? (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Editor Damien Newton says that Mayor-Elect Garcetti should appoint Los Angeles Councilman-elect Mike Bonin, soon-to-be former Councilwoman Jan Perry and Los Angeles Department of Transportation chief Jaime de la Vegas to the Metro Board. Not exactly a radical selection, but Damien explains that politics, experience and competence were his criteria.

One nitpick: the post says that the battle over the subway route will be a “heated one.” The route for the Purple Line Extension, however, has been selected and finalized. In an attempt to change the route in the Century City area, the Beverly Hills City Council and Beverly Hills Unified School District has filed a total of four lawsuits challenging the project’s environmental studies. But a court victory for them — far from certain — would only mean that Metro may have to re-do part of the environmental document. It doesn’t mean the route would have to change.

Bullet train’s risk of cost over-runs reduced, rail chief says (L.A. Times) 

Dan Richards, the Board Chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, testifies at a hearing by long-time project critic Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Atwater). Richards says he thinks better controls are in place to keep the $68-billion project on budget but can’t guarantee that costs might go up. Meanwhile, local officials in the San Joaquin Valley say that many farmers will refuse to sell land needed to build the first 130-mile segment.

Long Beach’s Blue Line TOD comes with big parking garage (Curbed LA)

The 129-unit apartment and retail project will be five stories tall and adjacent to the Anaheim station. The building also comes with a five-story parking garage that will allow residents to park on the same level as their unit. Interesting.

Los Angeles Planning Department to hold two community workshops later this week on zoning plans for areas around Expo Line stations

Click above to visit the Los Angeles Planning Department's website detailing the ongoing process to develop zoning plans near transit stations for both the Expo and Crenshaw/LAX Lines.

Click above to visit the Los Angeles Planning Department’s website detailing the ongoing process to develop zoning plans near transit stations for both the Expo and Crenshaw/LAX Lines.

The city of Los Angeles Planning Department is holding a pair of community workshops this week on new zoning plans being written for the areas near Expo Line stations — both existing and future ones. It’s a good chance to weigh in on the kind of development you want near the rail stations.

Los Angeles has a long and rich history of developing zoning plans but in recent times many developments are decided on a case-by-case basis by the City Council. Many of the developments ask for exceptions from the current zoning plans, which is exactly the reason it’s important to have good and solid plans in place: to give the community and developers a clear understanding of the rules.

Here’s the workshop notice from the Planning Department:

Dear West Los Angeles and Expo Line Stakeholders,

You are receiving this email because you have expressed interest in the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan Project or the West LA Community Plan Update.

The Los Angeles Department of City Planning would like to invite you to attend our upcoming workshop for the Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan. The project, which kicked off last June, is focused on adopting new development regulations around existing and future Expo Line stations that will better support vibrant, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

The purpose of the upcoming workshop is to provide an opportunity for the public to give feedback on preliminary concepts for development regulations and streetscape plans that encourage an appropriate mix of jobs, housing, retail and amenities around the stations. The plans will focus on land use goals and strategies, building size and design, public amenities, streetscape elements, and pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular circulation. More information can be found on our project website: http://www.latnp.org.

Workshop Details

You are invited to attend either of the following workshops:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

6pm–8pm

Henry Medina Parking Enforcement Center

11214 W. Exposition Blvd., 2nd Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90064

Street parking available on Sepulveda Blvd.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

10am–12pm

IMAN Center

3376 Motor Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90034

Parking available onsite or on Motor Ave.

Note that these are among a series of Community Workshops that will take place over the course of this 2-year planning effort. A project timeline can be found on our website.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 28

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.

Out for a spin: New York City’s bike sharing program begins (New York Times)

A bike sharing station on (I think) Eighth Avenue in Manhattan in my old 'hood. Photo by ccho, via Flickr creative commons.

A bike sharing station on (I think) Eighth Avenue in Manhattan in my old ‘hood. Photo by ccho, via Flickr creative commons.

Monday was Day One after a lot of talk, arguing and delays getting the program on two wheels. Take it away, NYT:

By midafternoon, the passing flickers of blue were already ubiquitous — negotiating light taxi traffic in the West Village, hurtling through the protected lanes of Midtown, drifting toward the Brooklyn waterfront.

For the first time, under cooperatively clear skies, New Yorkers sat astride the city’s first new wide-scale public transportation in more than 75 years: a fleet of 6,000 bicycles, part of a system known as Citi Bike, scattered across more than 300 stations in Manhattan below 59th Street and parts of Brooklyn.

Here’s an article that the Times ran the day before the program launched, speculating on whether the gamble by Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be worth it. Of course, bike sharing is coming to Los Angeles with one of the stations at Union Station. What’cha think, Source readers? Will it work here? Will it work in New York?

In L.A., polishing up the pedways (L.A. Times) 

This editorial calls for cleaning up the elevated pedways in downtown L.A. that were built with the intention of keeping pedestrians off city streets where they may annoy/mix/get-in-the-way of auto traffic. Graffiti has become a problem on the pedways and security cameras may be one way to help solve the problem.

Lines in the sand (New Yorker) 

Climate change specialist Elizabeth Kolbert comments on President Obama’s upcoming decision whether to allow the Keystone Pipeline to be built to carry oil from Canada’s tar sands fields to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an enormously controversial issue, pitting those who believe that oil is a better source for oil for the U.S. against those who believe the pipeline would only further our dependence on the fossil fuels that are also fueling climate change.

Kolbert and the New Yorker come out against; Mauna Loa is where the readings were taken showing that carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere have reached levels that are believed to be a high for the past three million years. Excerpt:

Were we to burn through all known fossil-fuel reserves, the results would be unimaginably bleak: major cities would be flooded out, a large portion of the world’s arable land would be transformed into deserts, and the oceans would be turned into liquid dead zones. If we take the future at all seriously, which is to say as a time period that someone is going to have to live in, then we need to leave a big percentage of the planet’s coal and oil and natural gas in the ground. These basic facts have been established for decades, and every President since George Bush senior has vowed to do something to avert catastrophe. The numbers from Mauna Loa show that they have failed.

In rejecting Keystone, President Obama would not solve the underlying problem, which, as pipeline proponents correctly point out, is consumption. Nor would he halt exploitation of the tar sands. But he would put a brake on the process. After all, if getting tar-sands oil to China were easy, the Canadians wouldn’t be applying so much pressure on the White House. Once Keystone is built, there will be no putting the tar back in the sands. The pipeline isn’t inevitable, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just another step on the march to disaster.

I include these articles in our headlines because while they may not be directly related to transit, there is a growing body of work that shows that taking transit is often an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. To the best of my knowledge, there are no transit agencies that really promote this — at least directly. If I was the king, they would.

 

Ridley-Thomas tells crowds gathered at Leimert Park: ‘There’s a train a comin’

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Photos by Anna Chen/Metro

Lots of celebration this morning at Leimert Park, which the Metro Board voted yesterday to fully fund as a station on the Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line. L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Mel Wilson, all Metro Board members, joined other local dignitaries and residents of South Los Angeles to mark the occasion as singers chanted, “There’s a train a comin’. “

“It takes a village to get a train to stop in Leimert Park. We did it together and we ought to be proud of that,” Ridley-Thomas said to the gathered crowd of about 200. “And I’m delighted that the board has approved funding to make this historic community a train stop.”

As we posted yesterday the Metro Board approved a motion, co-sponsored by Ridley-Thomas, to commit $80 million for the station, which will be built in what is considered a historic enclave of black business and culture. The Board’s decision came a day after the L.A. City Council committed $40 million of the city’s share of Measure R local return funds to Leimert Park.

“This is a celebration of you,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “Of a community that is vibrant, that has always been important to this town. As I ride into the sunset for a bit, I wanted to make sure we did this right … and I think we have.”