Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 8

Japanese bullet train. Photo via Flickr by adam79

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 collision of visions on bullet train (Los Angeles Times)

A high-speed rail line would transform California lifestyles for the better, backers say, but opponents see a costly social-engineering folly. Among the concerns: That it would push Californians into European and Asian models of dense cities and reliance on state-provided transportation. Critics further complain that the bullet train would undermine California’s identity, which during the last half-century has revolved around single-family homes that have driven economic growth, family-oriented lifestyles and signature West Coast recreation. But what if Californians — particularly 21st century Californians — are asking for the change to denser cities with more apartment options and public transportation?

Money for nothing: Study confirms taking public transit saves, big time (Next American City)

As Southern Californians many of us tend to feel smug about living in a world-class city without snow and at (relative) bargain basement prices, particularly compared with Manhattan. Now we find out that living in the NY City suburbs may actually be pricier than living in town. While this may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, a new analysis by the Center for Neighborhood Technology finds that Manhattan residents spend a lower percentage of their incomes on housing and transportation than their counterparts in car-dependent suburbs like Westchester County, N.Y., Litchfield County, Conn. or Warren County, N.J. Whether or not the disparity is skewed by sky-high incomes of city dwellers it appears that suburbanites may be benefitting from the knowledge in that some counties surrounding Manhattan are beginning to invest in transit-oriented developments … just like L.A. County. And there’s another good reason to feel smug.

West Hollywood adopts new parking credits program (WestHollywood Patch)

With parking places at a premium in West Hollywood, businesses have been scrambling to provide the necessary 3.5 (for retail) parking places per 1,000 square feet of commercial space, as required by law. (Restaurants must provide nine places and nightclubs 15.) The upshot has been that businesses without enough parking must lease off-site spaces and some of those are not available to customers, reports the WestHollywood Patch. Further, some property owners who are leasing spaces have been accused of leasing more spots than actually are available. So this week the City Council approved a new program that puts the city in charge of supervising and selling parking places to businesses needing off-site parking credits. It’s hoped that this will end the selling of ghost parking and encourage economic development of small new businesses that have not been able to fulfill the parking rules. Has anyone suggested changing the zoning law?

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 7

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 right of way, Santa Monica (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

Nearly 200 U.S. mayors press for passage of federal transportation bill (The Sacramento Bee)

One hundred eighty eight mayors have signed a letter urging the House and Senate to pass the next federal transportation spending bill. Noting that cities generate over 90 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and more than 85 percent of the nation’s jobs, the letter expresses the mayors’ strong opposition to a pending House bill that proposes to shift gas tax revenues away from public transportation. Excerpt from letter:

“As mayors we urge adoption of final bipartisan legislation that provides adequate funding, at least at current levels with an adjustment for inflation, to help us invest in needed transportation infrastructure and preserves the fundamental elements of current law.”

The mayors also warned of the projects that would be halted and the jobs that would be lost through Congressional inaction.

The right way to fund transportation (Politico)

In an opinion piece in Politico, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell argues that failure to invest in America’s infrastructure undermines the country’s productivity, undercuts American competitiveness in the global economy and is a huge pass on the best chance the country has to expand employment by the millions. Rendell’s piece quotes New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who has written that flying from the Hong Kong airport to New York’s Kennedy Airport is “like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones.”

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Creating complete streets: It starts with a measure of equity

Pedestrians, bikes, buses and cars, all getting along on a complete street.

Urban planners, transportation experts and public health officials convened last Friday for a daylong event focusing on complete streets – that is, streets that meet the needs not just of motorists, but also of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.

The panelists at UCLA-hosted event covered a lot of bases including:

  • How to create great public spaces along our streets — places you’d want to hang out at, chat with a friend, grab a coffee or wait for a bus;
  • The political hurdles to implementing complete streets;
  • And the public health benefits of creating safe places for people to walk and bike to their destinations, among other topics.

L.A. Streetsblog’s Lindsey Miller provides a good overview of the excellent keynote talks, but I was drawn to a panel discussion on one issue in particular: how we measure traffic and the performance of our streets in general. It’s an issue that doesn’t generate a lot of ink, but one that has a profound impact our streets.

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Angels Flight Railway to increase fare; Metro passholders ride for half-price

Here’s the news release from Metro:

Beginning Monday, March 12, 2012, the one-way fare on the historic Angels Flight® Railway in Downtown Los Angeles will increase to 50 cents. However, holders of valid Metro Passes still will be able to ride for just one quarter.

“In December, Angels Flight® celebrated the 110th Anniversary of its 1901 opening,” said Railway president John H. Welborne. “When Colonel J.W. Eddy originally opened Angels Flight®, a ride cost only a penny, and the fare has been 25 cents per ride since 1996. For the past eighteen months, we have been contemplating raising the fare to 50 cents, and that increase will become effective on Monday, March 12.”

Welborne said that revenues from the fare box have never covered completely the annual operations and maintenance costs and that the nonprofit Angels Flight® Railway Foundation has made up the difference through charitable fundraising in support of the Railway.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 6

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.

Sunset Triangle Plaza (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

Los Angeles seeks pedestrians (The Atlantic Cities)

Angelenos who care about public space and making LA a more livable city had reason to celebrate on Sunday. That is when a coalition of Silver Lake residents, city agencies, public space advocates and others, welcomed to L.A. a new pedestrian plaza in Silver Lake. Advocates hope that Sunset Triangle Plaza will be the first of many such L.A. parks and public spaces.

MTA’s long-planned restoration of historic North Hollywood train depot set to begin (North Hollywood-Toluca Lake Patch)

It has been nearly 50 years since a Pacific Electric Red Car trolley left the San Fernando Valley bound for downtown L.A. Now, Metro is beginning a long-planned restoration of the historic train depot at Lankershim Blvd and Chandler Blvd in North Hollywood. The Patch looks at this significant piece of North Hollywood and L.A. history.

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Transportation headlines, Monday, March 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.

Manhattan, as seen in this 2005 photo. Photo by Jens Karlsson, via Flickr creative commons.

How many people can Manhattan hold? (New York Times)

Great story that attempts to find a very evasive answer to a big question: just how many people can Manhattan hold? Excerpt:

As much as determining Manhattan’s maximum capacity is about the art and science of urban planning, the question is in some sense much more about psychology. Given all the tradeoffs and rewards of living in this staggeringly complex, gloriously maddening city, there is no final accounting or projection. When it makes sense for our lives, we make do with less space. Like most things that are a matter of compromise and desire, it comes down to another simple question: Just how badly do you want what you want?

Manhattan’s current population of about 1.6 million is about 700,000 fewer people than lived on the island in 1910. The population, of course, more than doubles on weekdays with commuters going to work and other destinations. One expert is quoted saying that the transit system is running at capacity during the day in Manhattan and that transit needs to be expanded or trains need to be run closer together.

I’ve heard occasional talk over the years from people — mostly not-in-my-backyarders — that L.A.’s population needs to be capped. That’s crazy talk, of course, because the population density in many parts of the metro area is pretty thin compared to other metro areas around the world. When people talk like this, they pretend they’re talking about people but they really mean cars.

Baldwin Avenue to go under rail tracks (Pasadena Star News)

As part of the Alameda Corridor East project (ACE), Baldwin Avenue in El Monte will be placed in an underpass beneath busy freight and Metrolink tracks. The project just received a chunk of state funding last month. The ACE project aims to build 20 new grade separations in the San Gabriel Valley and improve safety at many others — resulting in more safety for cars and trains.

Personal car sharing comes to L.A. (L.A. Times)

A firm allows motorists to rent their cars to others by the hour or the day. The car owner and firm divvy up the rental fees, which begin at a reasonable $5 per hour. Neat idea — we’ll see if it sticks.



The Expo Line to be, at Centinela Avenue

These ‘before’ photos do not capture one of L.A.’s most beautiful locations.  Still, it is good to record for posterity what was here before a major new piece of Metro’s expanding rail network comes on board. In just a few years, this empty right of way at Centinela Avenue near W. Olympic Blvd in West L.A. will be home to the Expo Line to Santa Monica. The Expo Line will restore passenger rail service to Santa Monica for the first time in more than 50 years.

Expo right of way looking east from Centinela Avenue (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

Metro Expo Line right of way (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

Expo right of way, looking west from Centinela Avenue (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

Transportation headlines, Friday, March 2

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.

Sorry you have to watch a car ad before KABC feature starts!

Gas sends Angelenos flocking to mass transit (KABC)

With the price of a gallon of gas rapidly closing in on the cost of a Metro day pass — just $5 for unlimited rides — more Angelenos are finding the latter a good bargain. Longtime riders tell KABC that they’re seeing trains and buses busier than ever. The Sacramento Bee intriguingly notes that gas usage was down across the state even before the spike in prices, likely due to more fuel efficient cars hitting the road combined with the down economy. And the Washington Post reminds us that, nope, more drilling in the U.S. won’t actually reduce the price of gas. The amount the U.S. could produce by tapping every well is still only a blip on the global oil market, where fuel prices are set.

Ride along with Metro CEO Art Leahy (KPCC)

Venerable radio host Patt Morrison sat down with Metro CEO Art Leahy to talk about the state of transit in So Cal. Regular readers of The Source will recognize many of the topics covered: new late night service on the subway, transit projects in the works and federal funding.

An interview with the man responsible for L.A.’s bus shelters (LA Streetsblog)

Have you noticed some new green bus bunches around L.A.? Streetsblog’s Dana Gabbard sat down with the City of Los Angeles administrator who is coordinating their installation with the firm that has the bus bench contract with the city. One of the program’s primary objectives is to get more bus benches into the neighborhoods that currently have the fewest.

What's happening at other transit agencies?

A Portland MAX light rail train was here and then it was gone. Photo by Flickr user camknows.

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.

Portland, Ore. struggles to remain a leader in public transit

Ryan Holeywell of Governing Magazine takes an in-depth look at the state of transit in Portland to reveal that despite the city’s reputation as a transit mecca, it’s facing many of the same problems as other agencies around the U.S. Namely, the recession has depressed revenue sources that fund transit operations at a time of “high expectations and lots of demand for our service,” according to the general manager of TriMet, the regional transit agency. With one million new residents expected in the region by 2035, the region is pushing forward with more transit construction despite concerns about not only this year’s budget shortfall, but potential longer-term structural deficits. The whole story is worth a read for its insights into what it takes to keep a transit agency running.

Does light rail really alleviate highway congestion?

Light rail has a lot to recommend it. It can increase access to important destinations, boost capacity of the transit system, provide an alternative to sitting in traffic and it runs on electricity. But does it actually reduce traffic on adjacent roads? That’s a trickier question, says Atlantic Cities’ Eric Jaffe. Prevailing research suggests that transit tends to slow the worsening of traffic on parallel roads, and a recent case study of Denver’s light-rail system seems to support that notion.

University of Denver researchers Sutapa Bhattacharjee and Andrew Goetz conclude that “light rail kept the rate of increase of traffic lower within the influence zone despite the large amount of residential, office, and commercial developments taking place around the light rail stations.” That’s good news for those who want to make the case that transit-oriented development won’t lead to worsening traffic.

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Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 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.

Florence-Firestone kids scared to ride bikes because of gangs (StreetsBlog LA)

Not even the best bike lanes in the world are enough to entice kids onto some L.A. streets. This heartbreaking piece tells the story of a couple of kids in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood where bike jacking is as common as the violent retribution that follows, should the victim try to retrieve the bike. The tale reminds us of the real need to try and figure out ways to make our communities safer places to get around — whether in buses or on bikes. It also points out a few community-based programs that have had some success in addressing the issue.

Rising gas prices mean transit riders save money while car drivers empty tanks and wallets (American Public Transportation Association)

Another unpleasant reminder of rocketing gas prices comes from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the international group representing bus, rapid transit and commuter rail systems: Car commuters in Los Angeles are spending on average about $907 per month on gas. Alas, that number is based on national average gas prices of $3.57 per gallon from nine days ago. What a difference a week makes.

There’s a road closure coming. But no, we don’t mean the 405 (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Does your commute take you through El Monte? Be forewarned that a portion of the busy thoroughfare Baldwin Avenue is scheduled for closure late this summer as a project is launched aimed at improving traffic congestion and safety at a major railroad crossing. Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority (ACE) last week secured funding to build a four-lane railroad underpass and bridge on Baldwin Avenue, which accommodates 28,000 vehicles a day, according to ACE figures.The project is expected to take 18 to 24 months, with detours lasting as long.

High-speed rail construction likely delayed until 2013 (Orange County Register)

At its meeting today in Sacramento, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will learn about an updated schedule for the $6 billion construction project. Construction in the central San Joaquin Valley was supposed to start this September. But the start date now looks more like early 2013, even if state legislators approve billions in bond money this spring. The problem appears to be revisions to environmental reports for the 120-mile Fresno-to-Bakersfield section, which is the result of a “slew of objections,” including opposition to a route that would take trains through farmland. If the route cannot easily be agreed upon for flat, uninhabited farmland what will happen when it hits urban areas like San Francisco and L.A.?

Metro’s fare-evader crackdown long overdue (L.A. Daily News)

An editorial in today’s Daily News supports the Metro Board’s decision last week to begin locking gates at Metro Rail stations within the next six months. “When it comes to public transportation, there is no such thing as a free ride,” the editorial says.” People who abuse the honor system on MTA buses and rail lines may save themselves big bucks. But they pass on the cost of their ill-gotten gain to many others.”