Transportation headlines, Wednesday, August 27

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ART OF TRANSIT: An Expo Line train leaving 7th/Metro Station last week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: An Expo Line train at 7th/Metro Station last week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

City nears purchase of key parcel for L.A. River revitalization (Streetsblog LA)

The city of Los Angeles is moving along the purchase of a 41-acre piece of property that sits between Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the Los Angeles River, reports Joe Linton. The site of former railroad yards, the property has been in limbo for years and has some soil contamination issues. Still, it’s a key acquisition as the federal Army Corps of Engineers likely would not do river restoration work on privately-owned land. This really helpful post includes aerial views, maps and renderings.

This is really great news — this is a big chunk of land along the river and it’s great to see the city moving forward on acquiring such parcels. Although this isn’t directly a transit-related story, I can also imagine a future for the area — perhaps a couple decades off — with a partially restored river between downtown L.A. and Glendale lined with parks and perhaps some new residential units. The area could be connected to DTLA via bike paths, Metrolink (Glendale Station) and the Gold Line’s existing Chinatown and Lincoln/Cypress stations.

BART discusses ending free lifetime travel perk for Board Members (MassTransit)

Actually, the headline is a little inaccurate: the family members of Board Members get free travel for life, too! The Board is going to consider ending that perk at its meeting Thursday. Some say it’s a little over the top, others say it gives them the chance to ride the system and see how it’s performing.

Obama pursuing climate accord in lieu of treaty (New York Times)

In an effort to steer around Congressional approval of a treaty — which has proven nearly impossible — President Obama is trying to forge an “agreement” between nations to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. It’s uncertain how much an agreement would be legally binding and how much would be voluntary. In the U.S., the transportation sector is responsible for about 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. As we’ve noted before walking, biking and taking transit instead of driving alone are good ways to lower your carbon footprint.

Eyes on the street: ‘Mad Men’ writer Tom Smuts bikes to the Emmys (StreetsblogLA)

The best part: he did it to raise awareness of the need for better bike infrastructure and to promote cycling. And he did it in a suit.

BBB benches not coming back (Santa Monica Daily Press)

The old aluminum benches won’t be returning says the bus agency — as they encourage loitering. The new bus stops that Big Blue Bus has been rolling out in Santa Monica have inspired some complaints. The agency says they’ll be refining the design.

Grizzlies gain ground (High Country News)

America has been sliced and diced by roads and development and the grizzly bear that graces California’s state flag is pretty much relegated to the areas around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. A small population is also still present in the northern Cascade Mountains of Washington State and the federal government is beginning a process of deciding whether to boost populations by possibly transplanting bears from elsewhere.

Earlier this year, the group The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition asking the feds to consider that viable bear habitat remains throughout the West, including California. I can’t imagine grizzlies ever being reintroduced to populous California — grizzlies are far more aggressive than the black bears living here now. Nonetheless, this is an interesting story raising questions. As our urban areas continue to grow in the Western U.S., the question remains how much room will there be for native wildlife in the sections of the West that are owned by the federal government (National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state parks).

I doubt the folks who regularly comment on this blog could care less, but I suspect there’s a much larger readership here that likes to mull the big picture.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, August 26

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Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t the only person attending the Emmy Awards on Monday who took Metro to the Nokia Theatre. The above photos were taken at the Pico Station shared by the Blue Line and Expo Line and located one block from Staples Center and L.A. Live. Photos by Josh Southwick/Metro.

Jimmy Kimmel takes the subway to Emmy Awards in downtown L.A. (L.A. Times)

Pretty amazing to see the social media hoo-ha that breaks out when a celeb steps onto mass transit, particularly in a city that (undeservedly, IMO) is not exactly known for its local rail system. That said, it’s a nice shot of free PR for Metro and if Jimmy Kimmel can be an urban pioneer and figure out how to get a TAP card from the ticket machines, so can many others! See our post with his tweets and some reaction from riders.

BART’s early warning earthquake system could have broader applications (San Francisco Appeal)

The system that has been in testing since 2012 provides a 10-second warning that a temblor will occur, which agency officials say is enough time to significantly slow trains to help prevent derailments. Funding a broader system could also help slow motorists, warn surgeons and give just enough time to others to make a difference, say supporters of the system. Seems to me that any kind of warning is better than none.

Reworked projects to bring 320 apartments to the Arts District (Downtown News) 

The development was actually downsized after community members protested that it was too large for the Arts District. If the project near the intersection of Santa Fe Avenue and 7th Street gets built, it’s another big boost in the number of people living in the Arts District — particularly with the large One Santa Fe development nearing completion. Reporter and transit activist Roger Rudick responded to the news on Facebook with this: “If we don’t get that subway station in the Division 20 Yards and 6th Street we’re going to be trapped back here.”

As some folks know, Metro’s subway maintenance yards are along the Los Angeles River in the Arts District — that’s where the trains go when they’re out of service at Union Station. There has been occasional talk over the years about building a platform for the subway in the yards to serve the Arts District. Nothing has happened yet but as the neighborhood grows, I’m guessing there will be more demand for subway service — it could be an easy ride through Union Station to the rest of downtown and beyond — along with some inevitable concerns about the subway bringing too many people into the neighborhood. We’ll see… :)

L.A.’s demand-based parking moving in exactly the right direction (KCET)

City of Los Angeles officials say that their ExpressPark Program in DTLA is resulting in slightly lower average prices and more parking spaces being occupied. There’s some doubt as to whether that’s because of the demand-based system that adjusts meter prices or a reflection of an improving local economy and more people driving downtown. Nonetheless, the system will soon expand to Westwood and it’s the kind of thing that academics such as UCLA’s Donald Shoup have long been advocating.

Lost in America (New York Times)

Columnist Frank Bruni riffs on recent survey results showing that Americans have record low views when it comes to the federal government. More troubling, Bruni writes, is that Americans no longer believe that their children’s generation will fare better than their own, a reversal of a long-held American dream. Excerpt:

And it suggests that this isn’t just about the economy. It’s about fear. It’s about impotence. We can’t calm the world in the way we’d like to, can’t find common ground and peace at home, can’t pass needed laws, can’t build necessary infrastructure, can’t, can’t, can’t.

In the Journal/NBC poll, 60 percent of Americans said that we were a nation in decline. How sad. Sadder still was this: Nowhere in the survey was there any indication that they saw a method or a messenger poised to arrest it.

It’s a tough one. I’m 48 and feels to me that the world has been in some type of turmoil at very regular intervals throughout my life. On the home front, feels to me that most people I know have very little interest or enthusiasm when it comes to Washington D.C.

Transportation headlines, Monday, August 25

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ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gold Line Eastside project environmental document released (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the release on Friday of the Eastside Gold Line Phase 2 environmental study.  As the article notes, the two light rail alternatives would extend the Eastside Gold Line from East L.A. to either South El Monte or Whittier. Metro staff at this time has not selected a preferred alternative — that will happen in November. Under Measure R, the project is not scheduled to be complete until 2035, but Metro is trying to accelerate funding for the project, including possibly through a sales tax ballot measure in 2016. Here’s our post about the study, with links to the document.

L.A. County Supervisor’s alternate bullet train route gaining traction (L.A. Times)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority seems to be considering a tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains on equal footing with two earlier proposed routes along the 14 freeway — neither of which is very popular with communities such as Action, Agua Ducle and Santa Clarita. Bullet train officials say the tunnel-only option advocated by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — which would require 18 to 20 miles — of tunnels may actually prove cheaper than the 14 freeway routes, which also require extensive tunneling anyway. If you want to dream about traveling from Palmdale to Burbank in 15 minutes, read the article. The usual bullet train caveat: securing funding for the project — which aims to eventually connect L.A. and San Francisco — remains a huge hurdle.

Fault lines in L.A. over new subway construction (Breitbart News) 

The city and school district in Beverly Hills are touting a new study from their consultants that claims that there are not any earthquake faults that would prohibit a subway station under Santa Monica Boulevard. Metro is sticking by its stance that active faults make building a station under Santa Monica Boulevard unsafe and it’s better from a safety and planning viewpoint to put the Purple Line Extension station in the center of Century City, under the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation boulevard. Beverly Hills officials want the station under Santa Monica Boulevard because it would not require tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. As you likely know, Beverly Hills has challenged the project’s environmental studies with a pair of state and federal lawsuits. The Superior Courts ruled in favor of Metro in the state case and Beverly Hills appealed. The federal suit is ongoing.

After earthquake near Napa, up to 100 homes labeled as unfit to enter (L.A. Times) 

The 6.0-magnitude temblor that struck early Sunday didn’t do much damage to major transportation infrastructure throughout the Bay Area — although there was certainly damage to homes and businesses and other key infrastructure.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Have Americans really fallen out of love with driving? (Fortune)

Consumer spending has risen steadily over most of the last decade — with a brief dip due to the Great Recession. But the number of miles driven by Americans has remained flat since late 2007 — even as the number of those with jobs has increased in recent years. What gives? The independent research firm Behind the Numbers suggests that driving less is a trend here to stay and is a combination of several factors including high gas prices, baby boomers growing older, millennials gaining in numbers (millennials are less interested in driving), more interest in transit and more desire by many to live in urban settings. Fortune is a little skeptical, saying that gas prices adjusted for inflation are not outrageous and millennials still don’t play much of a role in the overall economy.

My three cents: I’m certainly not a millennial (I’m 48) but I certainly don’t want to drive more or purchase more gasoline than is absolutely necessary. Nor do I like spending money on cars, which notoriously lose value very quickly. I think with good transit, biking and housing options in cities with good public spaces, driving will remain flat in America as along as it remains relatively expensive.

Here’s how easy it is to hack a traffic light with a laptop (Vox)

With permission from local authorities, hackers in Michigan were able to disrupt timing of traffic lights in an un-named city rather easily. Vox suggests that this is a security concern — and it is certainly illegal to tamper with lights. That said, in my neck of the woods (Pasadena), I’m not sure that the timing of traffic lights could be much worse, the reason other computer hacker targets inspire a little more fear.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 21

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Hello, Source readers. I was away for a few days doing the active transportation thing: backpacking into the Hoover Wilderness of the Eastern Sierra. It’s one of the great bargains in California: wilderness permits are free, as are the campsites. Okay, not entirely active transportation as getting to the trailhead requires a long, CO2-emitting drive from L.A., but such are the tradeoffs in life. Interesting factoid: California has 14.9 million acres of designated wilderness (14 percent of the state’s land area) where the only way of getting around is walking or by horse. That’s mighty cool, IMO. Quick Source contest: any Source reader who correctly identifies the lake in the photo below will be hailed as the Most Geographically Adept Source Reader of All-Time in tomorrow’s headlines and on Metro’s social media.

Hint: the lake shares the name of a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Hint: the lake shares the name of a former resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Guest editorial: dreaming big about rail lines, grand boulevards, bus rapid transit and Measure R2 (StreetsblogLA)

The activist group MoveLA’s Denny Zane and Gloria Ohland opine in favor of a new half-cent transportation sales tax increase being put to Los Angeles County voters in 2016 to fund transportation improvements. While they say that rail expansion should be the centerpiece of any such ballot measure, they also propose that five to 10 percent of the funds be used for a grand boulevards program “to invest in reviving and reinventing several-mile, multi-community-long stretches of maybe 15-20 arterials around L.A. County as transit-oriented boulevards that promote economic development as they pass through more than one community.”

Zane and Ohland also propose that some of the grand boulevards money be used as a competitive grant program for cities that want to build housing along these streets. The idea, in short, is to bump up bus service on these streets while also adding housing and potential transit riders. Obviously not as sexy as a rail line, but an intriguing idea because it’s a way to bring better transit into more corners of the county — including neighborhoods and communities that may be beyond the reach of rail.

As regular readers know, Metro staff is exploring the possibility of a 2016 ballot measure that could possibly extend the half-cent Measure R sales tax (which expires in mid-2039) or another half-cent sales tax that would help fund new projects. Metro has also asked cities in L.A. County for a wish list of projects they would want funded by such a ballot measure. As Metro CEO Art Leahy has already said publicly, the list of projects is a long one and not everything could be funded. It will be very extremely super interesting to see how this evolves.

An underwhelming sidewalk repair day at L.A. City Hall (StreetsblogLA)

Joe Linton’s take on the sidewalk summit held at City Hall can be boiled down to one word: “yawn.” The gist of it: city staff is working to figure out how to spend $27 million in this year’s budget to fix bad sidewalks around the city of Los Angeles while also exploring long-term options for sidewalk repair.

UCLA’s Donald Shoup also penned an op-ed in the L.A. Times arguing that a point-of-sale program that requires homeowners to fix sidewalks at the time they sell their properties would be a good way to get thousands of miles of L.A. sidewalks fixed. The reason: properties tend to turn over on average once every dozen years, meaning that such a program could result in quicker gains than waiting for the city to have funding available.

Road and sidewalk repair has been an ongoing issue at L.A. City Hall for years. I recall writing a very short sidewalk repair story for the Times back seven or eight years ago that got buried even deeper in the print edition than most of my articles and I still got more readers response than most other stories. So it’s a big issue — and another item that could surface in discussions about Measure R2.

The 10 commandments of transit (transitcommandments.com)

These are great. My favorite: “thy shall keep their shoes on.” There are also helpful suggestions about giving up a seat for those in need and about the appropriate place to break bread (or some drippy mess from Carls Jr.). That place, in case you haven’t guessed, is at home and not the bus or train.

Supporters of closing Santa Monica Airport lose round in court (L.A. Times)

A Superior Court judge upheld a ballot measure that would require voter approval to close the controversial airport. But is this really a loss? I suspect a vote in Santa Monica on closing the airport would be close. I suspect that anyone who lives near the airport would rather it be gone (disclosure: I lived under the flight path for seven years and really disliked the frequent jet noise), but I also could see people voting to keep the airport out of fear that closing it would result in more commercial and/or residential development taking the airport’s place. FYI: the airport is about one mile south of the future Expo Line station at Exposition Boulevard and Bundy Drive. The Expo Line extension, funded by Measure R, is scheduled to open in early 2016.

Why your LA-to-Vegas commute just got slower (vegas seven)

A Caltrans project is underway to improve the 15-215 interchange at the base of the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County. It includes widening the 15 and a truck bypass. But until the project is done, expect delays. Of course, some of you may have no interest in taking the 15 to Unlucky Town, but may have their sights set on other joys further up the 15, such as Zion National Park.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, August 12

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ART OF TRANSIT: The Eastside Gold Line headed to downtown L.A. last week. For the photographically curious, I processed the pic with Silver Efex Pro's pinhole present and shot it with my Nikon DSLR in color in RAW and converted to B&W. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Eastside Gold Line headed to downtown L.A. last week. For the photographically curious, I processed the pic with Silver Efex Pro’s pinhole present and shot it with my Nikon DSLR in color in RAW and converted to B&W. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Charging for connections is insane (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker praises Metro for changing its fare system to allow free transfers after several years of making riders pay for each segment of their ride. Excerpt:

Once more with feeling;  Charging passengers extra for the inconvenience of connections is insane.  It discourages exactly the customer behavior that efficient and liberating networks depend on.  It undermines the whole notion of a transit network.   It also gives customers a reason to object to network redesigns that deliver both greater efficiency and greater liberty, because by imposing a connection on their trip it has also raised their fare.

For that reason, actual businesses don’t do it.  When supposedly business minded bureaucrats tell us we should charge for connections, they are revealing that they have never stopped to think about the geometry of the transit product, but are just assuming it’s like soap or restaurants.  Tell them to think about airlines:   Airfares that require a connection are frequently cheaper than nonstops.   That’s because the connection is something you endure for the sake of an efficient airline network, not an added service that you should pay extra for.

I couldn’t agree more and I think the new Metro fare system will benefit a lot of people who already ride the system and those who were deterred by having to pay twice to get from Point A to Point B.

12 reasons why L.A.’s public transit system is actually awesome (Thrillist) 

Alissa Walker has a very nice and funny post detailing why she likes Metro. Yes, there are the often discussed benefits such as saving money, but there are also a few others — such as the ability to hit the bars without worrying (too much) about the consequences afterward. We don’t publicize that very much and perhaps should do so more often.

#StreetsR4Families — Back to school advice for walking biking (Streetsblog L.A.)

Nice piece by editor Damien Newton and taking his kids to their first day of school, along with some advice on getting your child there and back safely whether on foot, bike or transit.

Making the case for high-speed rail (New York Times) 

The NYT recently wrote about the very slow progress of President Obama’s high-speed rail initiative newspaper’s. But the paper’s editorial board makes the case that high-speed rail is a worthy goal and a lot of the hurdles thus far involve a reluctant Congress to invest in it.

Transportation headlines, Monday, August 11

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ART OF TRANSIT: The One Santa Fe development in downtown L.A.'s Arts District as seen from an inbound Eastside Gold Line train crossing the L.A. River. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The One Santa Fe development in downtown L.A.’s Arts District as seen from an inbound Eastside Gold Line train crossing the L.A. River. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

And there’s this:

Copenhagen’s new sky bikeway makes commuting look like fun (Wired) 

bridge-4

The 721-foot bridge takes cyclists over the city’s harbor instead of around it. Nice. The notoriously bike-friendly city has more than 221 miles of bike lanes — including many that are protected from traffic — and the city says that 52 percent of workers or students commute by bike each day.

eHighway system coming to Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach (Daily News)

The idea is to power trucks with electricity, which means no tailpipe emissions from the trucks (although possible emissions from trucks, depending on how the electricity was generated). A one-mile test system will be built next year to be used by four test trucks outfitted with pantographs and alternative power sources when not running under wires. Very interesting and not as pie-in-the-sky as it sounds, given that cities such as San Francisco still use overhead wires to supply electricity to many buses. In fact, such a system has been looked at as part of Metro’s ongoing 710 Corridor studies.

Wi-fi on rails is a headache for riders and the UTA (Salt Lake City Tribune)

As other agencies have found, railroad cars are proving to be a harsh setting for wi-fi equipment coupled with high demand that consumes the wi-fi that is available. Wi-fi is proving somewhat reliable for things such as email, but not big tasks such as watching video and uploading and downloading big files.

Baltimore gets a giant bus stop shaped like the word ‘bus’ (CityLab) 

Don’t believe the headline? Check out the photo.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, August 8

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

ART OF TRANSIT: The Orange Line crossing the L.A. River in the Sepulveda Basin earlier this week. More Orange Line stock photos free for anyone that needs them on our Flickr site. Just click above. I'll be out shooting some pics along the Eastside Gold Line later today--wave is you're riding by! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Orange Line crossing the L.A. River in the Sepulveda Basin earlier this week. More Orange Line stock photos free for anyone that needs them on our Flickr site. Just click above. I’ll be out shooting some pics along the Eastside Gold Line later today–wave is you’re riding by! Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Eyes on the street: faulty ped detour for Expo Phase 2 construction (Streetsblog LA)

As the photos show, a pedestrian detour sign instructs walkers to cross busy Venice Boulevard at a spot also signed as a no ped crossing zone.

Give your input at upcoming high-speed rail meetings (Streetsblog LA)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority held community meetings earlier this week in Burbank and Palmdale and has four more meetings scheduled this month around the area to discuss the environmental studies underway for the segment of the bullet train to run between Palmdale and Los Angeles Union Station. For purposes of the study, the agency is doing a review of the Burbank-to-Palmdale section and then the Burbank-to-Union Station section. Both have their challenges.

Here’s a link to the meeting flyer and here’s a link to a PowerPoint on the two segments in our region under study. As I understand it, the High-Speed Rail Authority is planning to open bullet train service between L.A. and San Francisco in three phases: Merced to the San Fernando Valley, then Merced to San Jose and then both San Jose to S.F. and Burbank to Union Station. One hurdle, of course, is closing the gap between Palmdale and Bakersfield over/under the Tehachapi Mountains.

A test ride through Denver area’s light rail transit (High Country News)

Jonathan Thompson has heard good things about Denver’s big transit push in the last decade and decides to give the train a spin during a recent trip. The verdict:

Over the next couple of days I continue my test of the trains. My conclusion? If the goal of public transit is to transform the greater metro area into a walkable place where residents will want to abandon their cars, then Denver proper gets a B+, while the greater metro area is more like a C — it will take far more than a handful of light rail lines to rejigger the post-World War II, auto-centric suburbs of the West, as my morning walk to the station demonstrates. But if the idea is to give all those poor car-commuting souls non-vehicular options for getting around the greater metro area, then Denver’s system earns a B. As light rail lines out to the airport and other suburbs go on line in 2016, they may even move into A territory. After all, 82,000 daily trips on light rail are 82,000 trips people aren’t taking in their cars. And that’s a good thing.

Lfyt’s new carpooling service beginning of the end for public buses (Vox)

Dumb headline, dumb story. It’s great that Lyft is making it easier for passengers to split fares, but can Lfyt or any other car-sharing service really absorb (for example) the 1.1 million daily boardings on Metro buses? And are all bus riders — many using discounted monthly passes — really ready to pay the cost of using Lyft? Answer: no. There’s a much more realistic take on what Lyft and Uber are doing over at Streetsblog.