Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 21

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 Chicago Transit Authority is contemplating selling naming rights for some of its trains. Photo by Zol87, via Flickr creative commons.

CTA seeks to sell some naming rights (Chicago Tribune)

The CTA runs the Chicago area’s bus and train system. Here’s the story’s lead:

In its second effort this week to drum up money beyond the fare box, the CTA on Friday said it is seeking bids for corporate naming rights to assets including the Bus Tracker and Train Tracker, the Holiday Train and New Year’s Eve penny rides.

The CTA Board earlier this week voted to end a 15-year ban on alcohol advertising, clearing the way for liquor ads to appear on rail cars and at rail stations. Like many other transit agencies, the CTA has struggled to produce enough funds to operate, maintain and expand its bus and rail system.

Mica: talks underway on another transportation bill extension (Washington Post)

The last multi-year federal transportation bill was approved by Congress in 2005 and expired in 2009. It has since been extended eight times by Congress, often at the last minute to avoid cuts to transportation funding. The U.S. Senate this month approved a two-year bill, which House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Florida) said Tuesday was not going to be passed in the House. Instead, Mica said, another extension of the 2005 bill would be sought. In other words, reforms and funding levels that would benefit transit agencies in the Senate bill will have to wait.

The Senate’s version of the bill includes parts of the America Fast Forward legislation sought by Metro that would increase a federal loan program that would help local transit agencies build transit projects. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — who came up with the AFF program — is holding a media event this morning to push the House to adopt a long-term bill.

U.S. poised for passenger rail boom (Forbes)

Transit officials who gathered in Chicago recently say the nation’s highway and air systems are pretty much at capacity. Rail, on the other hand, has plenty of room to grow as metro areas around the nation add light rail systems and Amtrak’s ridership continues to soar. Here’s a good list on Wikipedia showing light rail systems in the U.S. — notice how many began in the past 25 years, particularly in the Western U.S.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 20

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.

Subway makes tracks toward Westwood (ZevWeb)

The article provides a detailed look at the routing of the subway through Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s district, which includes Beverly Hills and Century City. The piece also looks at the seismic issues involved and considers the controversy over a Century City station at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars — a location opposed by some Beverly Hills officials as it would require tunneling under Beverly Hills High School. Excerpt:

But last year, a panel of high-profile scientific experts convened by Metro said that active earthquake faults make the Santa Monica Boulevard location too dangerous for a subway station. These experts, including Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey and Caltech, found instead that a station could be safely built at the Constellation site, which has no evidence of active faults. In addition, they said that tunneling under the high school property could be accomplished safely with state-of-the-art equipment and techniques even through earthquake zones and ground with large concentrations of methane gas.

Beverly Hills hired experts of its own to review Metro’s scientific conclusions. Those experts argue that more research is needed, particularly around the Constellation site and on the high school campus. (The city’s website has links to those reports, as well as other information on Beverly Hills’ position on the subway.) In addition, the Beverly Hills school board recently commissioned widespread trenching studies on the high school campus to determine whether seismic hazards are present; a report on that is expected soon.

Metro officials say the final environmental documents released today make it clear that it will be safe to build a subway station at Constellation, but said they will be studying the Beverly Hills reports carefully. (Updated: The Beverly Hills School District’s attorney, Kevin Brogan, issued a statement criticizing Metro for releasing the final environmental documents before receiving the results of the trenching studies. His statement is here.)


Batik-influenced designs cover the side of Kereta Api's executive-class Argo Gede train line at Bandung, Indonesia's main station. (Photo credit: Jakarta Globe)

Plans to build Indonesia’s first high-speed rail line gather steam (Jakarta Globe)

Indonesia has moved closer to building its first bullet train with a pledge by the Japanese government to pay part of the $6.5-billion construction bill. Japan is also funding a feasibility study that could take two years to complete. This would push the railway’s completion date to 2017 or 2018. The Indonesian government plans to build two high-speed trains, one connecting Jakarta and Bandung, and a second route connecting Jakarta and Surabaya.

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How do they do that? Remove graffiti from the buses

Andre Williams peels off film being tested to protect bus windows from graffiti. Photo by Jose Cordova/Metro

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How do they do that? Remove graffiti from the buses

How much does graffiti removal cost Metro each year? In fiscal year 2011, bus and facilities maintenance spent $8.23 million to clean up graffiti. And that doesn’t include the cost of the Sheriff’s deputies needed to protect the buses and property and pursue graffiti vandals.

Every evening and into the night, about 160 Metro employees over two shifts work to remove graffiti from the buses because that’s when the buses are free for clean up.

Although we tend to think of graffiti vandalism as something that occurs in the dark of night, on buses the vandals often work during the day when the bus operators are busy driving and assisting passengers.

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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.