Transportation headlines, Monday, March 19

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 odd link between commute direction and marital satisfaction (The Atlantic Cities)

A new study by Chinese researchers suggests that there is a “shared-direction effect” in marital satisfaction. In their upcoming paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the researchers explain their finding that couples who commute in the same direction seem to be happier together than couples who do not. The effect was even found in couples who don’t travel on the same train. The research suggests that going in the same direction is a commonality that may, in turn, increase the attraction partners feel for one another.

Where's my train? Times Square Station (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

An app for finding NYC subway art (Transportation Nation)

New York City transit riders can now use the Arts for Transit app to learn about each of the 236 permanent artworks in the New York City transit system. The new app is searchable by transit line and artist, and offers turn-by-turn directions to help users locate the piece in the station. For some of the art, the app provides video and audio podcasts detailing the work.

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Transportation headlines, Friday, March 16

The Pacific Electric Ivy Station (later Culver City) circa 1905. Photo via the Metro Transportation Library Archives.

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.

My getaway car: War reels, liquor store holdups, and my exploits on the rails (Zócalo Public Square Blog)

Much of my experience of L.A.’s streetcar history has been through poring over maps and photos from the Metro Transportation Library’s archives, so I really enjoyed this first-hand narrative account of riding the rails in another L.A. transit heyday. Manuel H. Rodriguez recounts what it meant to be able to access and experience the city as a young man, especially Hollywood — “a world away,” he says, from his home at 53rd and San Pedro.

A meter so expensive, it creates parking spots (New York Times)

A basic tenet of economics is that if the price of a good increases, demand will typically decrease. It’s an inconvenient truth that this holds true for parking spaces too, especially in the reverse: if it’s free, people will consume a lot of parking (time) and spend extra time circling the block to find a free spot. The New York Times takes a look at San Francisco’s attempt to tame the block-circler by making more parking metered spots available in popular neighborhoods through higher prices.

Developers facing new fee to fund transit projects (Santa Monica Daily Press)

Santa Monica’s planning commission has approved a new fee on real estate developments within the city that would raise a projected $60 million over 20 years. The SMDP reports that

planners estimate the fee would cover $60 million of the $119 million in raw costs of the different transit-oriented projects slated for the next 20 years, including bicycle, pedestrian, parking, public transit, auto network and other traffic demand projects.

Staffers: House won’t pass highway bill this month (Politico)

Sources in the House of Representatives are telling Politico that “the House will not take up the Senate’s transportation bill and its own version won’t hit the floor until mid-April at the earliest.” The eighth extension of the current transportation bill is set to expire on April 1, so we may be looking at a ninth extension before the House can take up its companion to the Senate’s transportation bill. The L.A. Times has coverage here of the bill that the Senate just passed and its potential implications for Los Angeles County.

What's happening at other transit agencies?

Here's an iconic piece of transit in Wellington, New Zealand, but it's the buses that do the heavy lifting. Photo by flickr user aa440.

 

This weekly post features news from other transit agencies and planners from around the world. Did we miss a good story? Let us know in the comments.

Wellington, New Zealand, transit network gets a makeover from Jarrett Walker

Friend of the blog and Human Transit writer Jarrett Walker has helped New Zealand’s capital reconfigure its bus network so that transit riders can use it more freely and spontaneously. Previously the system had a lot of lines running “from everywhere to everywhere,” but they’re weren’t frequent enough that you could free yourself from the schedule. The new approach? Service has been concentrated along a core network of very frequent lines, emphasizing connections much in the same way the Metro Rapid bus system works. The Wellingtonista blog has its take on the changes here.

Next target: Extending BART under downtown San Jose

As Joel mentioned in yesterday’s headlines, BART got the all clear to start construction on an extension towards — but not quite all the way to — San Jose. The phase that takes the train underground through downtown San Jose and out to Santa Clara looks to be a more complicated and pricey endeavor. The Mercury News reports that there’s an estimated price tag of $4 billion, with only half of that already secured.

Virginia Beach, Va., weighs options on light rail

“Public private partnerships” are all the buzz with transit agencies, but there aren’t a ton of examples of it in practice. However, Virginia Beach officials are exploring ways to make the private sector a partner in investing in the city’s planned light rail line. One proposition being considered, according to the Virginian-Pilot: Offer development rights to property developers in exchange for them building the stations and additional amenities.

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Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 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.

Senate OKs transportation bill with help for L.A. County (Los Angeles Times)

As The Source reported yesterday, the U.S. Senate — lead by California Sen. Barbara Boxer — has passed a massive transportation bill that would make needed investments in roads, bridges and mass transit. The Senate bill isn’t just a good thing for the nation. It could be a great thing for Los Angeles. The $109 billion bill would expand a federal loan program that could help Metro’s and Mayor Villaraigosa’s America Fast Forward (aka 30/10) plan to speed expansion of L.A’s bus and rail system. But one tiny hurdle remains: to get the House to agree. In the meantime the current transportation bill is set to expire March 31, which could bring highway projects to a screaming halt … which, in turn, increases pressure on the House to pass a bill quickly.

Hope for a good transportation bill (New York Times)

A New York Times editorial applauds the Senate bill saying: “Against heavy odds, Congress may yet produce a decent national transportation bill ….” But, it added, [House] Speaker John Boehner said last week that he was ready to take up the Senate measure, or something close to it. That could be a tactic to spur his colleagues to devise their own alternative. But accepting the Senate bill would be exactly the right thing to do.”

Major changes for Wilshire Grand project (Downtown News)

Korean Air is considering major changes to its $1-billion plan to replace the aged Wilshire Grand Hotel. Instead of building a 45-story tower with 560 hotel rooms and a second-phase 60-story office complex, the company instead is looking at erecting a single tower with 900 hotel rooms and a diminished office component. At 900 rooms the hotel — which does not yet have an operator — would be among downtown’s largest. It’s also within walking distance of the Metro 7th Street/Metro Station.

Trade in your car for a bicycle at bike shop in Woodland Hills (PRWeb)

In response to high gas prices, a Woodland Hills bike shop is generously offering to take cars as trade-ins against the purchase of a new bike. “I’ve heard it said that cars run on money and make you fat — and bicycles run on fat and save you money. That’s never been more true,” said David Kooi, owner of the Santa Monica Mountains Cyclery shop in Woodland Hills. But hurry! This offer expires March 25. Wonder if they’ll get any takers.

 

On transportation: March 13 column

CONNECTING METRO TO LAX: As many Source readers know, Metro is working on a study on connecting the agency’s growing rail system to LAX. This won’t be a one-seat ride from downtown — as some activists have long sought — but I think it will be a pretty useful project, whichever form it takes.

First, some background: The Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line will share a new station at the intersection of Century and Aviation, which is 1.3 miles from Terminal One at LAX. Another project, known as the “Green Line to LAX,” seeks to connect that station to the airport terminals via light rail, people mover or bus rapid transit.

The type of transit is still to be determined. It’s pretty clear at this point that some — perhaps many — travelers using Metro Rail to reach LAX will likely have to transfer somewhere. A very fast train zipping between downtown L.A. and LAX is not on the table.

Would such a train be a good investment in the region? In a perfect world, perhaps. The problem is, as these two charts below show, travelers and airport employees are coming to LAX from all over the region. So the public policy question becomes this: spend a lot of money going straight to one part of the region OR spend a lot of money tying the airport to a growing transit network that serves many parts of the region?

Connecting LAX to the Aviation and Century station ties the airport directly to two light rail lines — Crenshaw/LAX and the Green Line. The Green Line runs south to Redondo Beach and may be extended south four miles by another Measure R project that is being defined by another study. The Green Line also connects to the Blue Line, which provides access to Long Beach, South L.A. and, of course, downtown L.A.

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 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.

Senate passes bipartisan overhaul of highway, transit programs; House action uncertain (Washington Post)

As reported earlier by The Source, the Senate voted today for a bill that would overhaul transportation programs and keep aid flowing to thousands of construction projects. The unusually bipartisan vote was 74 to 22. The Senate bill’s passage puts pressure on the House for quick action to maintain the federal government’s power to collect $110 million a day in federal gasoline and diesel taxes. These revenues are the main source of money for highway and transit programs. The current transportation bill is set to expire on March 31.

Concept drawing of the proposed Downtown L.A. Streetcar. (Credit: CRA/LA)

LA Streetcar project inches forward; begins environmental review (blogdowntown)

Blogdowntown is reporting that the Downtown L.A. streetcar project is moving forward with an environmental review of two possible downtown routes; here’s a post from last week about the routes. The project, estimated to cost more than $100 million, will span four-miles and serve a cross-section of downtown neighborhoods, including Bunker Hill, South Park, Historic Broadway and L.A. Live. As planned, the streetcar would run seven days a week for 18 hours a day.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 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.

Residents want a reduce Bergamot Transit Village (Santa Monica Daily Press)

A coalition of neighborhood groups held a protest outside Santa Monica City Hall on Monday, imploring city officials to reduce the size of the planned commercial and residential development next to a future Expo Line stop. Their big complaint: traffic is bad enough in the area without adding 325 or more residential units amid a 766,000-square-foot development. As one critic says, housing in the area is in short supply — meaning many workers have to commute to their jobs in Santa Monica. Which, of course, is also a pretty good argument for building as many residential units as possible.

Transit agencies have a powerful story to tell legislators (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood uses new national transit ridership stats — 2011 was the second-highest transit ridership year since 1957 — to argue Congress needs to pass a long-term transportation spending bill. Excerpt:

The benefits of transit are enormous. Transit helps connect Americans with jobs, education, medical services, groceries, and more.  It helps us spend more time with our families, avoid the stress of driving in traffic, lighten the burden on our congested roadways, lower our dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce our carbon emissions. And, for the many Americans who don’t drive, transit provides the only way to get where they need to go.

APTA’s ridership study tells us that Americans need and want public transit. But FTA, APTA, and transit agencies across the country can’t meet the current and growing demand for transit services unless Congress passes a long-term transportation plan.

 

The above chart also makes a compelling argument that transit ridership is tied to both gas prices and employment.

Bike thief (New York Times)

Filmmaker and cyclist Casey Niestat has had his share of bikes stolen during his time living in New York City. Click above to watch his film in which Niestat steals his own bike several times to demonstrate how few people are willing to stop a bike theft in the Big Apple. He finally gets caught — after dozens of people ignore him. Great video.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 12

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 Metrolink station at Bob Hope Airport. Officials hope to improve transit access to the airport. Photo by Eric Fredericks, via Flickr creative commons.

Tough times at Burbank airport (L.A. Times)

The loss of American Airlines last month is giving Bob Hope Airport budget headaches. The airport has also seen declining parking revenues and passenger numbers. Officials think improving the airport’s connections with the region’s mass transit system will help.

Use of public transit rose in 2011, but agencies not out of the woods yet (New York Times)

Tansit ridership reached 10.4 billion boardings in 2011 — the second-most since 1957 — which the Times attributes to declining unemployment and rising gas prices. Excerpt:

Ridership rose in many parts of the country whose employment pictures brightened, including Miami, Nashville, San Francisco, San Diego and Louisville, Ky. Dallas, which opened a new light-rail line in 2010, saw a large jump in its light-rail ridership last year.

But there are big challenges ahead for transit systems. Many have had to cut service and raise fares since the downturn began, and the trouble is not over for many systems. So while Boston saw record ridership levels last year — the most since the 1940s — it also faces a big deficit in the coming year, brought on by rising operating costs, high debt and sales tax revenues that have failed to meet expectations in recent years. As a result, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has proposed significant fare increases and service reductions, which could deter riders.

 

Here’s the news release about 2011 ridership from the American Public Transportation Assn.

The go-nowhere generation (New York Times)

This provocative essay gives a kick in the hindquarters to teens and young adults for spending too much time on the Internet and not enough time on bikes, the open highway or yearning to leave their hometown for someplace better. Or at least somewhere with a job. As a result, we’re no longer a country where the young are “born to run.” Rather, we’re a country of “born to check my ex-girlfriend’s status update.” Sad, but an excellent excuse to kill time watching Bruce play his anthem in Phoenix in 1978.

Transportation headlines, Friday, March 9

The Expo Line right-of-way just south (right) of Olympic Blvd. at Cloverfield Blvd. Photo by Carter Rubin/Metro.

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.

Fifty-two trees to be moved for Expo Line in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Mirror)

Before Expo Phase 2 construction begins along the right-of-way, the city of Santa Monica will remove 52 trees from the southern edge of Olympic Boulevard between Stewart Street and Cloverfield Boulevard. Fear not, 38 of them — palms, ficuses and others — will be finding a new home nearby. The Mirror cites a Santa Monica staff report stating that the city may use some of the trees to create a “buffer” between the new Expo maintenance facility and surrounding homes. Note: The coral trees in the center median of Olympic are not the trees being moved.

U.S. Conference of Mayors report: nation’s transportation infrastructure needs to keep pace with growing exports (Progressive Railroading)

U.S. exports are on the rise and that’s good news for the local economy. After all, the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach combined handle more cargo than any other port in the country. But that also means more freight moving on our local rails and roads, and more congestion as a result. That has Antonio Villaraigosa — in his capacity as L.A Mayor, Metro Board Chair and U.S. Conference of Mayors head — championing more federal investment in the infrastructure that helps move freight from ports to local warehouses and those throughout the country.

Report from last week’s DTLA bike sting (L.A. Streetsblog)

How effective has the new bright green Spring Street bike lane been at keeping bikes and cars at a safe distance? The LAPD sought to determine that last week through an enforcement operation against rule breakers. Streetsblog writer Carlos Morales checked in on the “sting” and found some clueless drivers, obstructing film crews and the occasional confused cyclists — on top of everyone else who was getting along well enough. My thought: If the bike lanes were physically separated from traffic — a la those in Long Beach, Montreal, New York — a lot of these problems would be engineered away.

What's happening at other transit agencies?

This weekly post features news from other transit agencies and planners from around the world. Did we miss a good story? Let us know in the comments.

Credit: New York City MTA

New York aims to install interactive touch-screen tablets in subway stations

New York’s MTA is working to add ‘On the Go!’ interactive tablets to its stations that will provide users with directions, service status updates and neighborhood restaurant reviews. These ‘virtual agents’ would sit near the banks of turnstiles, where the station booth and public telephone used to be. The MTA envisions installing 47-inch interactive tablets throughout the entire 468-station subway system.

Going digital at the turnstiles and on the platforms will allow the transit agency to update information and advertising remotely, making them both a way to keep the public informed and a source of ad revenue for the MTA.  According to a spokesman for the transit system, “On the Go! goes far beyond what we can do with paper-based station information. It’s eye-catching, informative and immediate — a huge leap forward in station-based customer information.”

Do real-time updates increase transit ridership?

Continuing with the theme of digital changes aimed at improving the transit rider’s experience, in The Atlantic Cities, Eric Jaffe writes about research that considers how Google is changing the way people interact with public transit. Google Maps and Google Transit already publish schedules for more than 475 transit agencies around the world. Jaffe’s article notes how Google’s public transit activism is helping public-transit users better plan their trips and save time waiting for a bus or train. According to research due out in the June issue of Transportation Research Part C, the Chicago Transit Authority’s Bus Tracker has attracted a significant (if modest) amount of new riders to the city’s bus system. The lesson from Chicago may be that real-time transit information should be marketed to both transit riders and drivers to increase ridership.

Metro’s provides its own real time bus information for smartphones in the form of Nextrip. Other agencies are working on signage — here’s an example from Seattle on the SDOT Blog.

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