Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 11

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.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Gold Line crosses the 1st Street Bridge; click to see larger. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Gold Line crosses the 1st Street Bridge; click to see larger. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Metro’s free ride may soon be over (L.A. Times)

Jon Healey looks forward to gates being latched on the subway this summer, saying it’s about time people had to pay to ride trains in Los Angeles.

Packed audience cheers and questions MyFigueroa! project (L.A. Streetsblog) 

A community meeting was held earlier this week to review plans to put Figueroa on a road diet and add bike lanes and pedestrian improvements for the stretch between Staples Center and USC. Among the predictable concerns: would losing a lane of general car traffic lead to more congestion in downtown? My three cents: is the status quo — basically having a mini-freeway cleave through downtown and South Park — really that great?

Ideas for downtown L.A.: minor tweaks to 110 overpasses will boost pedestrian activity (DTLA Rising)

Blogger Brigham Yen takes a closer look at the long, loud overpasses that carry 7th Street and Wilshire over the 110 freeway, neither of which could accurately be called pedestrian friendly. Brigham has a few suggestions, including planters and raising the railings. A lot of development has taken place on the west side of the 110 and connecting that area to downtown proper seems like a smart and humane move.

 

Alas, no rain forecast but umbrellas are up

Pershing Square Station Canopy. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro.

Pershing Square Station canopy. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

We’re talking, of course, about the canopies at the Red Line Pershing Square Station, which were just completed this week. Pershing Square is the last in the initial series of umbrellas that went up at three Red Line stations to protect the escalators (and riders) from the elements and hopefully extend the good health of the escalators that suffer from the elements. Healthy escalators are those with less down time and this is a happy thing for those of us who, during escalator repairs, must revert to the stairs. (Yes, we know the walk is healthy but in heels?) Another benefit of the canopies is that they are safer during a storm. A wet escalator can be a slippery surface.

Perhing Square view from under canopy. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

Perhing Square view from under canopy. Photo by Jose Ubaldo/Metro

So here are a couple of photos of the new canopies that are of the same design at all three stations: MacArthur Park, Civic Center and now Pershing Square. More Red Line stations will be covered but not for a bit. And, frankly, it’s a good idea to  make sure the current design is doing the best possible job of keeping rain out but allowing California sunshine in. Now all we need is a little rain.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 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.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Metro local bus on Broadway passes the entrances to Grand Park in downtown L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Metro local bus on Broadway passes the entrances to Grand Park in downtown L.A. Click above to see larger; looks better larger! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Traffic zips in toll lanes but slows in free lanes (L.A. Times)

The Times kicks the tires of the ExpressLanes project and looks at the preliminary data released last month for the project on the 110 freeway. The gist of it: speeds are up in the ExpressLanes, down in the general lanes and some motorists are happy and others are very not happy. Transportation experts continue to back the project, saying it’s the best way to potentially add capacity to the freeway and it will take time for the public to get used to the lanes.

LADOT lays the ground for functional car share with Hertz; goodbye Zipcar? (L.A. Streetsblog)

The city of L.A. is considering switching its car-share vendor to Hertz from the current Zipcar. The issue is there are very few Zipcars in L.A. — just 40 (yikes!), mostly around UCLA and USC — and Hertz is seemingly offering the city a better deal by paying for exclusive parking spots and revenue sharing. My three cents: too bad it has to be one car share firm over another; it would be great if consumers had a choice.

Semi-related: As we posted recently, there are now four Zipcars available for rental at Los Angeles Union Station. More info here.

Mayoral candidates miss the train (LAObserved) 

Bill Boyarsky attends a community meeting over a proposed apartment complex at the future Expo Line’s Sepulveda station. Residents are worried about traffic and meanwhile, Boyarsky writes, neither of the candidates to be the next mayor of Los Angeles — Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel — are saying much about transit and what it will do to the city in the future. Excerpt:

What was missing here and in other city policy discussions was an examination of what these train lines would do for—and to—the city. In the Valley, there is talk of converting the popular Orange Line express bus to light rail, better able to handle the growing patronage. A Crenshaw rail line will be built and light rail is changing East L.A. The subway extension will remake the neighborhoods in the Wilshire corridor.

It’s definitely something for Greuel and Garcetti to discuss. But the subject deals too much with Los Angeles’ future to attract attention in a campaign where both candidates are worried about a short-term gain of votes in an election less than two months away.

A Los Angeles primer: the subway (KCET)

Fun and well-written post by Colin Marshall looks at the phenomenon that many Angelenos have never set foot or tushie upon the subway here — a subway system that Colin thinks is quite pleasant albeit somewhat limited. Excerpt:

Yet on the whole, those I introduce to our subway emerge impressed. Say what you will about their limited reach; the Red and Purple Lines surely must rank among the cleanest, most comfortable, least urine-smelling systems in America. You may lose twenty minutes waiting on platforms, but you’ll have taken a subway — in Los Angeles! Some transit observers regard this town as a child who, having broken a leg on the playground, started school only after a considerable delay: perhaps he hasn’t caught up with his peers yet, but you should’ve seen how far behind he was a year ago. This sense of Los Angeles in the remedial class intersects with the notion, correct or not, that transportation just works differently here: differently when we didn’t have a subway, and a different kind of subway now that we have one.

Read the whole thing. Colin makes some very cogent points about the region and its attitudes toward transportation and, more specifically, the changing attitudes of some younger residents toward the concept of automobile ownership.

It’s Tulsa versus Milwaukee in Parking Madness title game! (D.C. Streetsblog)

The funny-but-sad tournament is trying to determine which American city did the best job of turning its downtown area into a giant parking lot, i.e. a parking crater, to serve whatever buildings were allowed to remain. Check out the photos of Tulsa, which appears to have leveled a big chunk of its downtown since the 1970s to accommodate more cars. Geesh. If you’re just turning in, L.A. surprisingly got bounced in the tourney’s first round by Dallas. Speaking of L.A.-Dallas….that was a sour third period last night, Kings. 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 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.

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice shot of an eastbound Expo Line train at Culver City station. The crane in the background is building the bridge that will take the train over Venice Boulevard. Photo by Brian Hsu, via submission.

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice shot of an eastbound Expo Line train at Culver City station. The crane in the background is building the bridge that will take the train over Venice Boulevard. Photo by Brian Hsu, via submission.

Subway kiosks will guide riders — in between the ads (New York Times) 

The new six-foot-four-inch wide touch screen displays will be installed throughout the New York subway system and are intended to replace the old print maps. They will also feature service alerts — of which there are no short supply in the vast New York system. But they will also feature ads and the Times notes that it will be hard for riders, a captive audience, to avoid them. That said, there’s already a lot of advertising in the Big Apple’s subway, just as there is in many transit systems that need the revenue.

The golden age of gondolas might be just around the corner (The Atlantic Cities) 

New urban gondola systems have popped up here and there across the globe and La Paz is planning a seven-mile system. Proponents cite their cost, saying gondolas go for $3 million to $12 million a mile compared to, say, a $400 million-a-mile-or-more subway. Skeptics (such as yours truly) point to the fact that a train holds a lot more people. That said, gondolas do seem to work well in some places — i.e. hilly areas where they can serve a direct route and not have to carry crushing commuter loads. If memory serves, I recall one was studied to connect Chinatown and Dodger Stadium; lack of capacity was seen as the issue. I think at some point there was also a Griffith Park plan that mentioned a gondola to the Observatory, an idea that made some park neighbors hopping mad.

Why Google Transit will never be enough for small- to medium-sized transit agencies (Human Transit) 

Guest blogger Nate Wessel, who makes transit maps in Cincinnati, argues that Google Transit may offer specific information about a particular trip but fails to show users an entire transit system. Excerpt:

Exploring a transit system with Google Transit is like blind men trying to understand an elephant by touch. This part is thick, this part is bumpy, we don’t know how any of the parts attach to each other, and the whole thing is constantly, inexplicably moving. A thoughtfully hand-rendered transit map tells us what the elephant really is. It doesn’t go into detail about the dimensions of it’s toenails, but tells us of it’s overall size, shape and temperament. It tells us that you might be able to ride the thing and that you probably don’t want to try poking it with a sharp stick. Once we know these basics we can begin to ask exactly what the trunk is for.

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 8

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.

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ART OF TRANSIT: A Gold Line train passes over Alameda Street in downtown L.A. on Friday. The photo was taken from the City Hall observatory deck. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Houston rising — why the next great American cities aren’t what you think (Daily Beast) 

Here is an article intended to provoke. Drawing on a variety of stats, Los Angeles-based writer Joel Kotkin argues that the fastest growing cities in the U.S. in recent years are also the kind of car-centric, sprawling suburban-dominated places that are often ridiculed in urban planning circles. Among those: Raleigh, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte and Phoenix.

Excerpt:

One common article of faith among mainstream urbanists, at least when they stop to note this growth at all, is that these cities grow mainly because they are cheap and can house the unskilled. But in reality many of these metropolitan areas are also leading the nation in growing their number of well-educated arrivals. Houston, Charlotte, Raleigh, Las Vegas, Nashville, and San Antonio, for example, experienced increases in the number of college-educated residents of nearly 40 percent or more over the decade, roughly twice the level of growth as in “brain centers” such as Boston, San Francisco, San Jose (Silicon Valley), or Chicago. Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas each have added about 300,000 college grads in the past decade, more than greater Boston’s pickup of 240,000 or San Francisco’s 211,000.

Kotkin frequently writes about density and urban planning. He has certainly needled attempts to make L.A. more dense and transit friendly, authoring a 2007 op-ed in the L.A. Times alleging that Los Angeles is turning into Manhattan. That’s of course a ludicrous thing to say — and usually only said by people who have either never been to New York or Los Angeles or believe that their readers can’t tell a tall building from a short one (L.A.’s most dense sections are less than half as dense as Manhattan’s densest sections).

That said, I think this new article is super, uber-interesting. Kotkin is on to something: The car-centric cities of the middle of America are still very popular. And they’re changing, with old neighborhoods being revived and, in some cases, downtowns being rediscovered and new park systems being built. And, of course, many are investing heavily in transit and light rail (an effort dismissed by Kotkin as “quixotic”), a list that inclues Phoenix, Houston, Charlotte, Dallas and Orlando.

What does all this have to do with Los Angeles? That’s a great question. L.A. in some ways competes with other cities and states for jobs, economic opportunities, businesses, new residents, scholars, etc. So that’s important for our local leaders and residents to keep in mind — no one wants to be Detroit, although I don’t think L.A. is remotely close to that. More importantly, perhaps, I think it points to a broader trend: America is becoming an urban nation and even some of the most dreadful cities are coming back. If the majority of Americans are going to live in cities, then perhaps it’s time for Congress to recognize that fact and start investing in those places.

Azusa gets $650,000 grant from Metro to plan for transit-oriented development (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Azusa will be home to two Gold Line Foothill Extension stations — one in downtown Azusa and the other just north of Citrus College. The grant from Metro will help the city plan transit-oriented developments and re-work its zoning code to permit more density near the stations. There is certainly room in downtown Azusa and I think the first, easy move that Azusa officials can make is an easy one: call officials from nearby Claremont, who have done a splendiferous job revitalizing their downtown.

High-speed rail a highlight of Brown’s China trip (Sacramento Bee)

Gov. Jerry Brown is visiting China and will be checking out China’s vast and relatively new (and highly government subsidized) high-speed rail system. With California’s bullet train still many billions of dollars shy of the funding it needs to complete a San Francisco-to-Los Angeles leg, Gov. Brown will also be inquiring about Chinese interest in investing in the California project.

Transportation headlines, Friday, April 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.

There’s finally light at end of Expo Line Phase 2 legal battle (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The California Supreme Court has set a May 7 hearing date to consider the long-running lawsuit filed by Neighbors for Smart Rail against the Expo Line Construction Authority. The group alleges that environmental documents for the second phase of the project are flawed because they considered future traffic conditions when analyzing rail crossings instead of current conditions. There has been conflicting rulings on similar cases in other courts, thereby earning the interest of the state Supreme Court.

The bus lane en route to Dodger Stadium. Photo: Metro.

The bus lane en route to Dodger Stadium. Photo: Metro.

Trying to beat Dodger traffic blues (ZevWeb) 

A good look at the 1.5-mile bus lane on Sunset Boulevard being used by the Dodger Stadium Express this season. The lane comes courtesy of the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which admits that traffic hasn’t been peachy in downtown on game days. LADOT also says it is considering allowing carpools of four or more to use the lane.

Critics sue over UCLA’s hotel plans (L.A. Times) 

The plan to build a 250 room hotel and conference on the site of an existing parking garage on campus results in a lawsuit from the group Save Westwood Village, a group that includes nearby homeowners. The suit alleges that UCLA should have to occupancy taxes — the school says it should be exempt — and financing for the structure is illegal due to the use of tax-exempt bonds. The suit is further proof that it’s difficult to build anything of any size in Los Angeles without it resulting in a lawsuit.