photo by Brendan Loy, via Flickr
More on tar, oil, pipelines and Presidents (New York Times)
At some point soon, President Obama will have to decide whether to approve a pipeline to import oil from the massive tar sands in the Canadian forest to the United States. Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin solicits the views of a number of people and the answers are mixed. Some say it’s just a path to more and more greenhouse gas emissions while others say that oil from the tar sands will be burned somewhere, whether it’s the U.S. or somewhere else — until other energy sources are online. Want to reduce your own oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions? Give mass transit a whirl!
7th Street open for cycling (L.A. Streetsblog)
Los Angeles Councilman Ed Reyes on Thursday put the finishing touches on the first stretch of bike lanes on 7th Street extending from Figueora in downtown L.A. to MacArthur Park. The lanes are among the first to be constructed as part of the city of Los Angeles’ ambitious master bike plan. And check out these pics of new bike lanes recently striped on 1st Street over at the LADOT Bike Blog.
L.A. traffic pain not so bad compared to… (New York Times)
A new IBM survey of commuter pain ranks L.A. as 12th in the world behind cities such as Buenos Aires, Singapore, Moscow, Johannesburg and Mexico City, which came in worst. The city with the least amount of cumulative angst over traffic: Montreal. It’s interesting that many statistics reveal traffic in L.A. to be bad — but rather ordinary for major cities. Yet, the media narrative for L.A., at least in the U.S., is that we’re all about traffic.
President’s jobs speech mostly gets transpo wonk seal of approval (Streetsblog Network)
A nice roundup of reviews of President Obama’s jobs speech to Congress on Thursday. Most reviewers think the money aimed at transportation projects is a good idea, although there is some skepticism that Congress will actually fund it.
A good look at the ongoing battle between Texas Gov. Rick Perry — a candidate for President — and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Perry, of course, is a climate change skeptic and believes that the state of Texas knows better how to clean its air than the federal government. Depending on how you look at it, the air has either grown a lot cleaner under Perry or still ranks as some of the dirtiest air in the nation.
As some of you undoubtedly have noticed, there’s an increased security presence along Metro rail, including highly visible uniformed personnel and those charming (but very capable) K-9 dog teams. It’s a precautionary measure, in light of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 Sunday.
While there have been no specific threats against the transit system, the Sheriff’s Department and Metro are remaining vigilant, which is good news for those of us who ride the rails daily.
Along with a more visible presence, the Sheriffs are conducting random baggage searches and additional plain clothes personnel are keeping watch. Real-time monitoring of the rail system is ongoing through Metro’s Emergency Operations Center. The goal is to enhance our safety and confidence as 9/11 approaches.
Subway stations should have attendants (Daily News)
After the recent fatal stabbing in Hollywood, David Murphy writes in this op-ed that while he believes the Red and Purple Line subway in Los Angeles is safe, it would be helpful to have attendants in each station to keep an eye on things. He also adds that his mother rides the Rapid Bus each day, but still doesn’t like to ride it alone. Readers, what do you think?
Going green but getting nowhere (New York Times)
Op-Ed contributor Gernot Wagner argues that individual action to help the environment — recycling, driving less, etc. — isn’t making a difference, especially when it comes to global warming. The problem is everyone needs to take action and that won’t happen, Wagner writes, until everyone actually has to pay for the true cost of their actions, whether it be a carbon tax or some type of cap-and-trade agreement.
Scientists left speechless as vast glacier turns to water (Wales Online)
Check out the photos of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland. In 2009 it looked like, well, a glacier. Scientists went back this year and it looked like, well, water. The cumulative toll of global warming is believed to be accelerating the ice melt in Greenland.
Delays to Gold Line potentially ‘devastating’ (Monrovia Patch)
The city of Monrovia’s efforts to purchase land for a Gold Line Foothill Extension maintenance yard were complicated by a recent court ruling. Gold Line officials say that potential delays to getting the land, in turn, could make it difficult for the Foothill Extension Construction Authority to get needed funds from Metro to build the project. Construction of the main part of the Foothill Extension is still a year away, giving officials time to find ways to obtain the land.
First things first: Check out this incredible video of Los Angeles circa 1917. Keep an eye out for clips of streetcars and Angels Flight.
California State Assembly joins Senate and says: Give Me 3 (L.A. Streetsblog)
By a 41-20 vote, the California State Assembly approved S.B. 910, a bill that would require drivers to pass bicyclists by at least three feet. The bill was sponsored by Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), but L.A. should get a helping of credit too, says Streetsblog editor Damien Newton. After all, “it was a joint campaign of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Midnight Ridazz and LAPD that adopted the ‘Give Me 3′ postering campaign that became the slogan for S.B. 910 supporters.”
Bill pushes gas levy for congestion relief projects (Riverside Press-Enterprise)
More news from the Capitol: Thanks to existing state laws, raising taxes requires approval from two-thirds of the voters. That’s why Measure R needed, and got, at least 67% “yay” votes to pass in 2008. A new bill, however, proposes allowing regional planning agencies to ask local voters to approve new taxes for specific projects by a 50% margin. The hope is that this would give regions more control over the types of mobility projects they want to do, be they road repairs, bike paths, transit expansion — or anything else. Part of the assumption behind the bill is that citizens tend to be more supportive of taxes when they believe they’ll see immediate benefits.
Gold Line agency poses questions (Inland Empire Daily Bulletin)
The Gold Line Foothill Extension is presently funded only to its Phase 2A terminus in Azusa, though one day it could reach as far as Ontario Airport. If funding ever comes along for that latter segment, the Gold Line Construction Authority wants to have a plan in place and it’s asking Foothill cities to chip in on the planning costs. So far Rancho Cucamonga and Upland have balked, citing the concern that they won’t actually end up with stations in their respective cities — although determining where to put stations would be part of that very planning process.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was pegged as the lunchtime keynote speaker at Mobility 21 — for good reason. These days, Rendell is one of the leading voices for increased infrastructure investment, serving as one of three co-chairs of the Building America’s Future coalition along with former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
As attendees nourished themselves on catered lunches, Rendell provided some food for thought on the state of America’s highways, trains, schools and waterworks — and it didn’t go down easy.
Here’s a taste of the statistics and analysis that Rendell offered. They paint a bleak picture of the state of American infrastructure, and according to Rendell, require urgent action by Congress:
- As recently as 2005, the U.S. topped international rankings for transportation infrastructure quality, but we’ve slipped fast. Today, the World Economic Forum ranks us 15th overall, with lowlights including 32nd place for air transit, 22nd for seaports and 18th for rail infrastructure.
- Since 1980, the number of cars on the nation’s roads has increased by 104 percent, while total lane-miles have increased by only four percent.
We’re blogging this morning live from the Mobility 21 Conference in downtown Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 public and private sector people in the transportation industry have gathered.
Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa took center stage during the morning’s events with a speech and subsequent news conference calling on President Obama and Congress to invest in the nation’s infrastructure and, specifically, to enact the America Fast Forward legislation to accelerate the construction of Measure R projects through federal loans and other financing.
“Let’s make this as clear as we possibly can,” Villaraigosa said. “Transportation investment equals jobs. It’s a sad commentary on our public debate that such an obvious fact is met with skepticism in Congress.”
The full text of Villaraigosa’s speech is available here [PDF] and following are some highlights:
- Villaraigosa was pleased to see the expansion of the TIFIA loan program — a pillar of America Fast Forward — make it into both the House and Senate transportation bills. But he didn’t mince words in his support for Senator Barbara Boxer’s bill. Her Senate bill would maintain current levels of funding, whereas the House bill would cut grants by nearly one-third. Above all, it’s imperative that Congress not let the gas tax expire with the current transportation bill on September 30th — millions of jobs are at stake.
- The mayor emphasized America’s trillions of dollars in unmet infrastructure needs that must be addressed to keep the U.S. competitive on the world economic stage. He noted that China and other developing countries are spending a far greater percentage of GDP on infrastructure than the U.S., which has been coasting along on investments made by our grandparents’ and parents’ generations. Continue reading
One Path to Better Jobs: More Density in Cities (New York Times)
Get this: the more crowded the city you live in, the more likely you’ll make better money and be more productive. Decades of research shows that density equals jobs, productivity, innovation and wealthy. Why?
Density simply facilitates interaction. Interactions translate into wealth when a population is educated and local institutions support private enterprise and entrepreneurship.
A new report shows that a lack of good public transit access makes it harder for cities to lower unemployment numbers. Low-income groups suffer the most – since families without cars will face difficulty finding and keeping new jobs. This may be a reason that cities with good transit are faring better in the ongoing recesion.
A new bike sharing program in Boston is celebrating incredible success at the end of its first month. The program – which features 600 bikes, 53 stations and a yearly subscription fee of $85 – has already attracted over 2,000 annual subscribers and logged 36,612 station-to-station trips. Could Boston’s success be repeated in Los Angeles?
Is a car battery subsidy just a sprawl subsidy? (Infrastructurist)
Infrastructurist writer Eric Jaffe checks in on the debate over the Obama Administration’s support for car battery research. The New York Times Magazine emphasized in a long piece the huge potential market for electric vehicles. From that they concluded that the government was sage to invest $2.5 billion in battery research as part of the stimulus. However, urban planning bloggers argued that subsidizing the auto industry — via this investment — would only perpetuate an inefficient road-based transportation system. What about battery-powered buses?
Spurring jobs through infrastructure? (Transport Politic)
The President is set to announce a jobs plan in the coming days that many expect will include capital investments in the transit system. Yonah Freemark, however, contends that doing so wouldn’t pay dividends for many years, given how long it takes to plan, design and construct transit lines. Rather, Freemark supports an approach that includes robust support for transit operations as a means to expand employment. The other benefit of federal support for operations in general is that the feds could borrow funds to keep services at a constant level, meaning agencies wouldn’t have to cut services in lean times — like, say, during a major national recession.
Tiny parks are on a roll in San Francisco (L.A. Times)
If it’s in the street, it’s transportation! And how we use our streets says a lot about our community’s priorities. New bike lanes are starting to pop up in L.A., New York is turning car lanes into pedestrian plazas and San Francisco is turning parking spaces into movable mini-parks. Columnist Maria L. La Ganga’s take on S.F.’s effort: It depends on the context. Plop them down on a quiet street and they sit unused. Add them to an already busy sidewalk and their splash of greenery is heartily embraced.
The current federal transportation bill expires Sept. 30. If it goes, so does the gas tax that funds federal spending on transportation. Now Rep. John Mica (R-Florida) is saying he would support yet another short-term expansion to keep money coming into the feds and going out — i.e. to jobs. President Obama on Wednesday said not extending the bill is “inexcusable.” Of course, a long-term spending bill was supposed to have been approved by Congress in 2009. And now it’s — hang on, lemme check my calendar — now it’s 2011!! How’d that happen?
Big score for Denver rail project to airport (Welcome to the Fast Lane)
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday inked a funding deal that will provide $1 billion in federal funds for a commuter rail line between Denver and its sprawling airport on the prairie east (way east!) of the city. Some of the money is also going toward a light rail expansion. Both projects are part of the Denver FasTracks program — their version of Measure R.
Sharrows count as bike lanes in L.A. (L.A. Streetsblog)
In response to some pointed questions from Streetsblog editor Damien Newton, the city’s transportation agency has said that — at least for now, perhaps until more studies can be done — a mile of street with sharrows counts the same as a mile of street with a new bike lane toward implementing the city’s new bike plan. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had earlier this year said the city will try to build 40 new miles of bike infrastructure a year.