Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 17

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Report urges new light rail station, circulator for LAX travel (L.A. Times)

Good coverage of the Metro staff report released yesterday recommending a new light rail station at Aviation and 96th that would connect with a people mover the airport would build to connect to LAX terminals and a few ground transportation hub. The new rail station would serve the Crenshaw/LAX Line trains and some Green Line trains. Please see our post for the staff report, maps and charts.

Valley coalition formed to advocate for rail (Post-Periodical)

The Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., a group representing business interests, has formed a group called “Valley on Track” to push for conversion of the Orange Line to light rail and using rail on two Measure R projects, the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor (bus rapid is also being considered) and the Sepulveda Pass Corridor. Of the trio, the Orange Line conversion is perhaps the toughest one. There is a pending state bill to lift the restriction on using rail in the corridor, but it’s a project with no funding presently in Metro’s long-range plans.

Bergamot Station’s tenants at odds over its future as Expo Line arrives (L.A. Times)

Many of the smaller art galleries at Bergamot Station are concerned that the three development proposals being reviewed by the city of Santa Monica — which owns the site — could lead to them being squeezed out. The most expensive of the proposals would cost $92 million and keep some of the old warehouses but also add non-art retail, a new hotel and underground parking. I like the present station but a lot of the land is under-utilized — it’s basically a series of galleries with a big parking lot in the middle. As for the Expo Line, a new station will sit on the northern part of the site next to Olympic Boulevard.

Editorial: a three-phase purple money eater (L.A. Register) 

They say the Purple Line Extension will cost too much and not fix traffic. They forget to mention the part about it serving as an alternative to traffic and that 68 percent of voters in 2008 voted for a package of transit projects, including the Purple Line Extension, as part of the Measure R sales tax increase. They also forget to mention that transit hasn’t “fixed” traffic in places such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, etc.

20 before-and-after Google Street views show downtown L.A.’s dramatic changes (LA Weekly)

Great idea for a post using a new feature on Google Maps that lets you see past street views. It’s nice to see some of the buildings that were virtually abandoned get a new lease on life.

Transportation headlines, Friday, June 13

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Metro is running longer trains than usual this evening to serve those headed downtown to attend or watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and the Rangers and the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game. If the Kings win tonight, the Stanley Cup sticks around Southern California for an extended stay. If not, the Cup catches a flight back to New York for Game 6 on Monday night. That is not a highly desirable proposition :)

Editorial: Bullet train scam is a bad budget deal (Oakland Tribune)

“Scam” is a pretty strong word, but the Trib’s editorial board doesn’t like the budget deal that would allocate 25 percent of the state’s future cap-and-trade revenues to the high-speed rail program. Their big beef: they don’t believe the bullet train would help cut California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as is the goal. Excerpt:

Even the most starry-eyed believers in the bullet train would not claim it’ll be running in six years, let alone producing cost-effective environmental gains. Using cap-and-trade revenues for this purpose is legally questionable at best. Critics from the start said the revenue would just become a slush fund, and Brown wants to prove them right.

The Legislature should set rigorous, performance-based standards for the use of cap-and-trade dollars to achieve the goal by 2020. Fortunately, there are plenty of feasible projects that would, for example, increase affordable housing near employment centers to cut long commutes and expand cities’ public transit. Both could swiftly produce gains.

The budget deal reportedly would send only 15 percent of the cap-and-trade money to local transportation projects, 20 percent to affordable housing and the remaining 40 percent to a combination of energy and natural resources projects. All of these could pay off by 2020.

Actually, even getting local transit projects that aren’t funded built by 2020 is probably a stretch given the time it takes to do environmental studies, planning and construction these days. That said, this editorial hits a good public policy question: is money better spent on connecting cities by rail or on rail projects that serve daily commuters?

New CicLAvias to hit the road (ZevWeb)

A look at Metro’s Open Streets grant program to help cities in Los Angeles County cover the expense of CicLAvia-type events. Applications have been turned into Metro and, ZevWeb reports, events in the next couple of years are planned for Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena and the San Fernando Valley.

BART sets fare at $6 for new airport connector service (KTVU.com)

The BART Board voted to impose $6 fares on the new airport train connecting BART to the airport terminals. It was the most expensive of the options considered. Officials say they may offer promotional fares. BART projects that about 3,200 people each day will use the service at about a $5 million annual loss to the agency.

The ridiculous politics that slow down America’s best BRT project (Streetsblog USA) 

The 7.1-mile Healthline in Cleveland takes about 44 minutes to cover that distance despite being called bus rapid transit. Why? Poor signal timing overseen by the city of Cleveland. It’s proven to be a popular bus route but is only marginally faster than the route it replaced.

Brazil averts transit strike on eve of World Cup (Associated Press) 

Union officials got cold feet, saying they may not be ready for a confrontation with police.

How airlines are sticking it to travelers, in six charts (Atlantic CityLab) 

No news here if you’ve been flogged by the airline industry recently. I recently paid United Airlines $25 to keep my bag at LAX while I flew to Cincinnati — after checking in curb-side 75 minutes before my flight. To United’s credit, they refunded me the 25 clams after it took 24-plus hours for my bag to catch up with me.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 12

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The future of Leimert Park (KCET)

Great video hosted by Nic Cha Kim on the future of Los Angeles’ well-known African American neighborhoods. The segment hits a significant issue head on: what will Crenshaw/LAX Line and/or gentrification mean for the African American population in the neighborhood? The visuals are great, too — and really give a sense of the community.

As for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, major construction is underway. The project is scheduled to open in 2019 and will allow trains to run from the Green Line’s current Redondo Beach station to the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw, where passengers can transfer to the east-west Expo Line.

Those interested in the issue of transit and gentrification should read these two posts that appeared recently at The Atlantic Cities:

Does new transit always have to mean rising rents?

It’s not always a bad thing for rents to rise with transit growth

Pedaling toward segregated bikeways (redqueeninla)

Excellent essay about the proliferation of bikes on our local roads — a good thing — and the inherent challenges of forcing cyclists and motorists together on the same patch of asphalt. Excerpt:

Bicycles need more segregated space on our roadways, dedicated to them. This is imperative for the safety of cyclist and motorist alike, but as well for the sake of the soul of our city. It is not appropriate to marginalize this mode of transportation which has grown so popular. And in attending to the safety we all need better addressed, this will open up a floodgate of participation among the wary. If segregated, secure bicycle roadways were as common in Los Angeles as across Europe and elsewhere in North America, cycling commutes and bicycled errands in Los Angeles would become viable for the more cautious among us.

Redqueeninla concludes by predicting that building more protected bikeways will lead to even more people riding. Completely agree.

Boston’s new “smart transit” gets you to work faster–for a price (Gizmodo)

Good post on a new startup that plans to run private buses across the Boston area in which the routes are, in part, determined by riders and the data they generate. The idea is that the routes are more flexible than that of a public transit agency, meaning riders willing to pay steeper fares can help customize their transit. Excerpt:

Privatized transit—the kind that’s not funded or maintained by the city’s transportation agency—has become a touchy issue for cities over the last few years, if only because of one specific example: The tech buses in San Francisco. As you’ll remember, protesters believe that the buses cause gentrification because the easy access to these corporate shuttles cause wealthier people to move into certain areas of San Francisco where they wouldn’t normally live, displacing longtime residents. While there isn’t really any kind of direct correlation that can prove that—desirable areas of San Francisco are getting more expensive, period—the city has responded (a little) by charging the shuttles to use its bus stops.

While it seems on the outset like Bridj is kind of the same thing—these are fancy buses targeted to tech workers, too—the biggest difference is that this is a service which is open to the public. It’s privatized transit, but not a closed system. It’s another option for getting to work, and it’s more like a high-tech carpool than an alternative transit system. And as the branding clearly states—and I’m not saying I agree with it—this is for people who don’t like touching other humans or getting sweaty on the subway.

Privately-run transit systems don’t exist in many parts of the country for a variety of reasons — including unwanted competition to public transit — although private firms contract with agencies (including Metro) to provide service on their routes. It will be interesting to see how this changes over time. I’m sure transit agencies don’t want private firms to cherry-pick the more profitable routes, leaving agencies to heavily subsidize the rest. On the other hand, if a private firm can better serve a particular route, shouldn’t the free market be allowed to prevail? We’ll see.

CTA bans e-cigarettes on all buses, trains (Chicago Tribune) 

The agency that runs the bus and train system across the Windy City follows in Metro’s footsteps and prohibits the use of e-cigarettes. Similar issue as here: the agency believe that a rule already on the books forbidding smoking on agency property likely covered e-cigarettes but decided to make the ban more explicit.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 11

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Have fun watching the game tonight, Los Angeles Kings fans — and travel home safely! If you are planning on potentially (over) celebrating a visit from Lord Stanley Cup, please consider taking transit or a taxi!

L.A. half-cent tax proposal for street, sidewalk repair is pulled (L.A. Times) 

Two Los Angeles City Councilmembers pulled their proposal to ask voters in the city to ask voters in November to raise the sales tax by a half penny to pay for $4.5 billion in repair work. Some transit advocates were concerned that voters wouldn’t approve both a city sales tax hike and then a potential countywide tax measure in 2016 to fund Metro and Caltrans transportation projects.

Group casts transit hub as L.A. River Walk destination (L.A. Register) 

The Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council is trying to get ahead of the curve by proposing a site for a future transit hub in the Valley that would also be river-adjacent. The idea is to create a place that could potentially be served by local and express buses and future rail lines, including one that could link the Valley and the Westside. Neat idea, says one Metro official — but the agency isn’t looking for parcels to acquire at this point.

The suburbs didn’t die — just short-circuited (High Country News) 

A look at recent Census data showing that the ‘burbs are still alive and growing in some places in the western U.S. while in other cities, such as Seattle, the urban areas are growing at a faster rate than the ‘burbs. In other cases, suburbs are taking on a more urban tone with more walkable areas and transit stations linking them to the rest of the metro area.

Mona Freeman, first ‘Miss Subways’ dies at 87 (New York Times) 

She was the first of many models whose images adorned posters in the New York subway system between 1941 and the mid-1970s. At the time she was chosen, Mona had never ridden the subway although she subsequently became a familiar site to millions of riders. The gig lead to movie and TV roles and a later career as a portrait painter. She passed away in Beverly Hills.

You might be able to soon watch Netflix on Amtrak (The Atlantic CityLab) 

Amtrak is talking about a serious upgrade to the free wifi it offers along Northeast Corridor routes — good enough to watch streaming shows and movies on Netflix potentially. Riders have been complaining the wifi isn’t fast enough.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 10

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There are many reasons that the Los Angeles Kings are up three games to none over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. One big reason is that the Rangers don’t know how to defensively cover the most dangerous part of the ice in terms of allowing opponents to take shots. Top photo is Jeff Carter’s first goal in last night’s game and the bottom photo is Justin Williams taking the overtime winner in Game 1. Notice any similarities?!!! Game Four is Wednesday night in New York and Game Five, if necessary, Friday afternoon at Staples Center, located conveniently near the Pico Station served by the Blue Line and Expo Line and a pleasant stroll from the Red/Purple Line station at 7th/Metro Center.

House rejects cuts to Amtrak (The Hill)

Perhaps the source of the cuts — an outgoing Georgia politician — were the issue. Still pretty amazing, given the un-love that some Congress members have heaped on Amtrak in the past.

Why Chicago’s botched privatization of parking meters is bad for the environment (Next City) 

A while back, Chicago leased its parking meters to a private firm for $1 billion for 75 years. The idea was that the city would get an instant cash shot-in-the-arm in exchange for the revenue stream from its meters. The deal has had its critics and this article certainly takes a dim view of it — including examples of how the deal is getting in the way of other goals. Example: installing bus lanes is now more difficult as it’s more difficult to remove meters.

Eric Garcetti endorses funding mass transit with cap-and-trade revenues (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the media event held at Metro’s Division 13 last week about pending state legislation to use revenue from California’s cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions to help fund mass transit. In related news, the New York Time’s Thomas Friedman published an interesting interview with President Obama about climate change, with the president saying that putting “a price on carbon” is crucially important.

More on the Westwood Boulevard bike lane issue (Biking in LA)

Some interesting background on the bike lanes that the city of Los Angeles is not going to install of Westwood Boulevard. I mention it here because two future Metro Rail projects will have stations on the street: the Expo Line will stop just south of the Westside Pavilion and the Purple Line Extension will stop at Wilshire and Westwood. Bike connections from both stations could help with first mile/last mile issues, I suppose.

No longer for punks, skateboards cater to yuppie commuters (Wall Street Journal) 

Speaking of first mile/last mile…here is how a few people are solving the problem — by riding. The private sector is responding with electrified skateboards to tackle hills, skateboards with fat tires to handle bumpy and rocky city pavement and other contraptions that are skateboard-like. I don’t see a ton of commuters on skateboards but I’ve definitely see more skateboards in bike lanes than in the past.

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, June 6

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A media event was held Friday morning at Metro's Division 13 facility to promote cap-and-trade efforts in the state and the regional benefits of reducing greenhouse gases. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is at the podium in the above photo. Behind him, from left, are Senator Kevin de Leon,  Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

A media event was held Friday morning at Metro’s Division 13 facility to promote cap-and-trade efforts in the state and the regional benefits of reducing greenhouse gases and raising money for transit and other clean energy programs. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is at the podium in the above photo. Behind him, from left, are Senator Kevin de Leon, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

Kern County votes to sue over high-speed rail review (Bakersfield Californian) 

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to file a state lawsuit alleging the environmental impact report for the bullet train project did not adequately study the impacts and mitigations on the route between Fresno and Bakersfield. The city of Bakersfield is also planning to file a similar suit. The city has taken issue with the proposed route through town for the train, alleging it’s too disruptive to existing buildings and roads. The county is also one of the plaintiffs in an ongoing suit alleging the project is not properly using voter-approved state bond money.

Gold Line Extension to Claremont left off funding list by MTA (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Officials in the San Gabriel Valley want a planned segment of the Gold Line from Azusa to Montclair to be included in the short-range plan to be considered by the Metro Board this summer. The only transit projects listed in the plan — which covers the next decade — are those that have funding from Measure R. Of course, what gets built over the next decade or so could change, depending on whether the Metro Board seeks a ballot measure in 2016 to accelerate and/or build more transit projects.

Expo adjacent mall rising quick, signing leases (Curbed LA)

The new mall — to be called The Platform — is across the street from the Culver City station on the site of old auto dealerships. One of the new tenants is Blue Bottle Coffee for you coffee nerds out there. Nice to finally see some development in Culver City near the train station. There has been a lot of talk but not much action in recent times.

Brazil Metro on strike one week before World Cup (AP)

The opening game is June 12 in Sao Paulo, perhaps the reason that transit workers in Sao Paulo went on strike Thursday. Naturally, the easiest and best way for fans to reach the game is by train. Not all workers left the job — but enough did to cripple the system, despite a judge’s orders not to strike. In related news, if you have HBO watch the segment on Real Sports about countries that build stadiums for the World Cup and Olympics and what happens to those facilities after. Short answer: white elephants.

Have fun at tomorrow afternoon’s game, Kings fans. Staples Center is easily reachable via the Pico Station shared by the Blue Line and Expo Line. As for the above photo…it’s nice to see the Rangers making a beer league mistake, leaving Kings winger Justin Forward alone in the high slot — the exact place from which you never want the other team shooting on your goal.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 5

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Congress detours from common sense on the Highway Trust Fund (Washington Post) 

The editorial takes a dim view of lack of efforts to keep the Fund funded. Excerpt:

BOTH PARTIES want to do nothing but squabble before this year’s election. Not much will stop them — except, perhaps, this dose of reality: If political point-scoring is all they accomplish over the next several weeks, work on the nation’s roads, bridges and rails will come to a halt.

The federal Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money this summer. Without a fix, federally backed transportation projects all over the country — not just highways — would be in danger of severe disruption or cancellation. That translates into high costs now to stop and restart projects once funding comes through, higher costs in the future as contractors build the risk of funding holdups into their prices, downward pressure on construction jobs and unnecessary delay for anyone who uses the infrastructure. Failing to shore up the fund in time would be plain legislative malfeasance.

The Post thinks two obvious funding sources would be a higher federal gas tax or a vehicle mileage fee. The current federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and hasn’t been raised since 1993.

America’s invisible trolley system (Newsweek) 

A look at some of the many light rail projects that have been proposed across the U.S. but never built for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most interesting paragraph in the article:

Compared with Europeans, Ross says, ”Americans have much greater interest in sorting out different people of different incomes into different neighborhoods.” When it comes to mass transit, he says, “the classic argument is that it’s gonna bring crime. The fashionable one right now is that it will gentrify our neighborhood and make poor people suffer. I’ve seen people make both of these arguments in the same paragraph.”

San Francisco transit workers call in sick for a third day (San Francisco Chronicle) 

About 70 percent of the San Francisco Muni’s bus and rail service was running Wednesday — an improvement over the previous two days. Union workers rejected a new contract last Friday that they said would result in a pay cut. At this time, the union isn’t allowed to strike but members are allowed to call in sick.