Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 15

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! 

Metro outlines light rail extension plans for Eastside Gold Line (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

The draft environmental study for the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 project is due to be released this summer and Metro this week provided some updates on two of the light rail alternatives under study. Excerpt:

The Washington Boulevard route, which would go through Montebello and Pico Rivera, ending in Whittier, would be 9 1/2 miles long, carry an average of 19,900 passengers a day, with a travel time of 17 to 22 minutes from East Los Angeles.

The other proposed option that parallels the 60 Freeway, would be 6.9 miles long, carry an average of 16,700 passengers a day, with a travel time of 13 minutes.

 

This is a Measure R-funded project that isn’t scheduled to open until the mid-2030s under the current expenditure plan. There is a possibility the project could be accelerated if funding is found to advance the schedule for this project and other Measure R projects — a big task.

Nonetheless, elected officials and stakeholders along both routes are pushing for a route that would serve their communities.

Here’s the current project map:

Eastside_Phase2_Project_Map

 

And here’s an interactive map that allows you to see what is near the proposed station locations.

Standoff on roadway repairs becoming highway cliff (L.A. Times) 

The Highway Trust Fund is on the verge of running dry while lawmakers in D.C. continue to battle along partisan lines over a multi-year transportation funding bill. “Failure to agree on new funding sources will put at risk more than 112,000 highway projects, 5,600 transit programs and nearly 700,000 jobs, the White House warned,” the Times reports. One proposal in the Senate would be for a six-year bill that continues to keep funding at current levels — below increases proposed by President Obama.

Three things I like about Bike Week and two things I don’t (Streetsblog LA)

Joe Linton likes new facilities that have opened recently, events and photos of politicians riding bikes. But he also thinks L.A.’s Bike Week should take place in fall or winter for better weather. And he wishes it lasted more than a week, fearing the marginalization that sometimes goes with celebrating something for a short period of time each year.

Muni axes seats on SF trains to create more space (SFBay)

Some seats have been removed on light rail trains in San Francisco to create more room for riders to stand. Muni has a light rail car shortage and needs to create more capacity on its heavily-used trains.

It’s not always a bad thing if rents rise with transit growth (The Atlantic Cities) 

A follow-up to a previous article on Atlantic Cities about what happens when new transit projects lead to gentrification. That, in turn, can push people out of neighborhoods they can no longer afford.

Writer and transit blogger Yonah Freemark points out that new transit doesn’t necessarily mean relocation. And it can impact neighborhoods in good ways. Excerpt:

The desirability of living near transit reflects, in part, the fact that better transit options allow households to reduce transportation costs by replacing car trips with cheaper public transportation trips. Sometimes residents can eliminate car use entirely. So if families redistribute their costs from transportation to housing, they should be able to afford more expensive rents or mortgages. The average car owner spends about $9,000 a year on the vehicle, versus roughly $900 to $1,300 for an annual unlimited transit pass. A complete switch from private automobile to transit could leave a family up to $700 for additional monthly housing spending.

Higher housing values around transit also usually translate into more development in those areas. That’s a good thing for locals. Regions that emphasize growth around public transportation lines produce more livable communities. The more growth that is concentrated in areas near transit, the less it will be shuffled out to exurban, car-dependent communities — where commute times and transportation expenses are high, public services are expensive to provide, and ecological impacts are considerable.

In particular, he points to proactive efforts in Minneapolis to keep affordable housing intact near a future light rail project. The key word there is ‘proactive’ — with Freemark urging cities to think about preserving affordability well before the ribbon is cut on new transit lines.

Using incentives and insight to end rush hour (The Atlantic Cities) 

More on efforts to use data from fare card swipes to learn more about how people actually use transit systems — and how that information can be used to incentivize people to travel outside rush hour to avoid system crowding.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 14

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Hines repealed (Santa Monica Daily Press)

The development approvals for a massive residential and commercial project near the future Expo Line were rescinded by the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday — just three months after narrowly approving the plan. Excerpt:

Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who criticized the vitriolic nature of the public discourse, opted to abstain, as did Mayor Pam O’Connor. Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day cast the lone vote in opposition to the project’s repeal, lauding the residents’ referendum drive but noting that he believes in the policy of the plan.

The Hines project consists of five roughly 80-foot-tall building and 765,000 square feet of office, housing, retail, and restaurants.

Opponents point first to the estimated 7,000 daily car trips that the project could add to an already congested area. They say, among many other things, the project was ill conceived and needs more housing.

Advocates point to the $32 million in community benefits over 55 years and the city’s current shortage of creative office space. They note that the land is private and that the developer could simply choose to reoccupy the space. The proposed project, they say, is better for the city.

It will be interesting to see what happens as there is certainly room for development in Santa Monica and, in particular, near the second phase of the Expo Line that will have three stations in the city (the project is current forecast to open in early 2016). The city surely could use more housing — the big westbound traffic jams on the Santa Monica Freeway each morning are due, in part, to a big workforce descending on the city that has built relatively few residential units over the past several decades and has seen rents for new units and home prices skyrocket.

5 things to know about cash-free toll roads (OC Register) 

Goodbye cash payments on The Toll Roads in Orange County. As of this week, all vehicles using the toll roads need a FasTrak transponder. If you have a transponder issued through Metro’s ExpressLanes account, it will work on the Toll Roads in the OC.

Biking to work increases 60 percent over last decade, Census Bureau reports (U.S. Census Bureau news release) 

In raw numbers, the number of people riding bikes to work has gone from 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2012. Some highlights from the Census Bureau:

  • The West had the highest rate of biking to work at 1.1 percent, and the South had the lowest rate at 0.3 percent.
  • Among large cities, Portland, Ore., had the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent.
  • The median commute time for those who bike to work was about 19.3 minutes.
  • Men were more likely to bike to work than women were. The rate of bicycle commuting for men was more than double that of women, 0.8 percent compared with 0.3 percent.
  • Those with a graduate or professional degree or higher and those with less than a high school degree had the highest rates of biking to work, at 0.9 and 0.7 percent, respectively.
  • 1.5 percent of those with an income of $10,000 or less commuted to work by bicycle, the highest rate of bicycle commuting by any income category.
  • African-Americans had the lowest rate of biking to work at 0.3 percent, compared with some other race or two or more races who had the highest rate at 0.8 percent.

LAX Transit Plan Part 2 — people mover and ground access (Let’s Go L.A.)

This blog post looks at the ongoing studies by Los Angeles World Airports for the people mover at the airport and how it will connect with the future Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will have a station at the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards. The blog doesn’t believe the connection problem has yet been solved and is particularly critical of one alternative that would build an addition to the Crenshaw/LAX Line that would connect with the people mover at a planned transit hub. The complaints: it would slow trains, dead-end the Green Line at the transit hub, split the Crenshaw/LAX Line between two routes and require expensive modifications to the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction.

Obviously, not everyone agrees. Proponents say the transit hub would offer an easier and more seamless connection to Metro Rail. While LAWA continues to study people mover routes, Metro and LAWA continue to work together on studies for the ongoing Airport Metro Connector project, which will determine the best way to connect Metro Rail to the LAX terminals.

Houston: transit, reimagined (Human Transit)

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker writes about a plan that he helped produce. Without adding operating costs, it would dramatically increase the number of bus lines that have frequent service. It would also cut down on bus lines that are duplicative and routes that are expensive to run but serve few people. In other words, Walker suggests, transit planners in the Houston region have been willing to make some hard choices.

Excerpt:

The huge no-cost expansion of useful service may remind you of a plan I worked on two years ago for Auckland, New Zealand, where it was also possible to massively expand the frequent network by redeploying duplicative services.   Not all  transit agencies have this much waste, so your city’s mileage may vary.  But if you suspect that transit could be doing more in your city, read all about the Houston plan.  You’ll be amazed, as we were, about how much is sometimes possible.

 

Metro CEO Art Leahy has certainly spoken about the issue of better integrating the rail and bus system to create a more efficient and useful system for customers. Click here to read his message to riders from this past January.

To stave off transit cuts, Seattle plans to go at it alone (Streetsblog Network) 

And the battle between cities and the ‘burbs continues. A recent regional transit measure failed at the polls. It received enough support to pass in Seattle, but lost in the suburbs. City officials in Seattle are now prepping another measure that would only go to city voters to spare cuts from happening in Seattle while starting a fund to help preserve routes that cross city lines.

Free metro travel spreads the peak load (Railway Gazette) 

Travelers who exit the transit system in Singapore ride for free, which has encouraged seven percent of riders to shift their commutes to an earlier hour. That has reduced crowds during the peak morning rush after 8 a.m.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 13

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Date set for 405 carpool lane opening (ZevWeb)

The new 10-mile northbound HOV lane on the 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways will open on Friday, May 23, reports Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website. The lane, bridge and ramp improvements are the centerpiece of a five-year project to improve the 405. The new HOV lane means that both sides of the 405 will have HOV lanes from the northern San Fernando Valley to the Orange County line.

L.A. looking to spend billions improving traffic to and from the Valley (L.A. Register)

The article offers a very good synopsis of several projects that are either nearing completion (the northbound 405 HOV lane over the Sepulveda Pass) or others that are in the planning stages. The list includes the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, which is contemplating a tolled road tunnel and rail tunnel under the Santa Monica Mountains and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, which is looking at a rail line or bus rapid transit along parts of Van Nuys Boulevard. Another interesting option under study is an express bus line that would travel over the Sepulveda Pass using the HOV lanes on the 405. A topic near and dear to many readers here — conversion of the Orange Line to a light rail line — is given appropriately short treatment in the article given that it’s unfunded and not a project listed in Metro’s long-range plan.

L.A. Bike Week: is biking getting any safer? (KPCC Take Two)

Los Angeles Councilman and Metro Board Member Mike Bonin is interviewed to talk about the city’s bike plan and how motorists and cyclists can better get along.

In related news, L.A. Councilman Joe Buscaino made the video below which explores the issue of whether driving on Westmont Drive in San Pedro takes longer that the city has added bike lanes and traffic lanes have been reduced from four to two. The answer is ‘yes’ it does take about three minutes longer to drive between Gaffey and Western Avenue, but Buscaino says that he believes it’s a much safer environment for cyclists and that he’s looking into ways to keep traffic moving.

Does new mass transit always have to mean rising rents (The Atlantic Cities)

The nut graphs:

Anxiety over new transit projects in established neighborhoods is nothing new, although historically it was more often felt in wealthy areas, where people worried about rising crime and falling property values. Today gentrification is the more likely scenario, with dense urban living becoming desirable again. A 2010 study out of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University looked at demographic shifts in neighborhoods across the country after new light rail or subway stations opened. Compared to the rest of their metro areas, 60 percent of the neighborhoods saw an increase in the proportion of households making more than $100,000, and 74 percent saw rents rising faster. Ironically, as incomes rose in these transit-centric neighborhoods, car ownership also became more common.

The researchers traced the same pattern in cities as different as Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Houston, and it will likely be replicated along many of the 737 miles of transit currently under construction across the United States and Canada. In Somerville, the trend could affect thousands of low- and moderate-income residents, forcing those who need transit the most to relocate to car-dependent suburbs. That worries not just renters, but anyone who cares about sustaining a diverse city and building efficient mobility networks.

“Opposing new transit is like cutting off your nose to spite your face,” says Danny LeBlanc, chief executive of the Somerville Community Corporation, known as the SCC, a nonprofit that is leading the effort to find solutions to the looming housing crisis. “But the fear among longtime residents is that they and their kids just won’t be able to afford to enjoy it.”

Very good article. As reporter Amy Crawford points out, denying transit to an area is one kind of injustice. On the other hand, the fear that people will be squeezed out if transit expands into their neighborhoods is not unfounded and represents something that isn’t quite an injustice but impacts many people in a very real way.

And solutions? As the story points out, several transit agencies have taken to buying some parcels near future transit stations to ensure that at least some affordable housing is built. Metro is not mentioned although Metro has also sold development rights on properties acquired to build transit stations — and affordable housing will be part the mix at developments along the Red Line and Eastside Gold Line.

Transportation headlines, Monday, May 12

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Growing ranks of bicyclists still just one percent of L.A. commuters (City News Service)

The article is based on the new report from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition released today. Excerpt:

Motorized, solo commutes — via car, truck or van — is still easily the most common way to get to work in Los Angeles, with 77.3 percent of the 1.7 million local workers traveling an average of 29.2 minutes to get to work, according to survey results announced last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Just 1 percent of all commuters in Los Angeles city commute to work on bikes, which is above the national average of 0.6 percent, according to data collected from the census’s 2008-2012 American Community Survey.

This is compared with 11.1 percent of workers who use public transportation and the 3.7 percent who walk to work.

But bicycling is on the rise, according to the census’s report, “Modes Less Traveled — Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008- 2012.” The report notes that the national rate of bicycle commuting has seen “a larger increase than that of any other commuting mode.”

The Census numbers are certainly interesting and the reporter was smart to include them for context. One thing I find interesting is that even in the big bike towns such as Portland, the Census Bureau shows no more than 3.3 percent about six percent of commuters as riding bikes to work.

While commuting is important, I think it overlooks the power of bicycling to affect change. While many people may not bike to work for a variety of reasons, they can still bike to other destinations instead of driving. Bikes can be perfect for running short errands and other types of trips (going to the gym!) that add a lot of miles to peoples cars while chewing up a lot of fuel.

In other words, what matters most is getting out of your car occasionally and walking, taking transit and biking — all good ways to help ease traffic, lower greenhouse gas emissions and get your backside in motion. :)

Related: here is coverage of this morning’s Bike Week L.A. Kick-off at Union Station.

Build the Sepulveda Pass train tunnel (L.A. Times letters) 

VICA Board Chairman Coby King writes the Times, saying the $20-billion price tag for the Sepulveda Pass tunnel is for a project that would run from LAX to the northern San Fernando Valley. A simple rail tunnel under the pass to connect Westwood and the San Fernando Valley would cost $5 billion to $7 billion based on Metro information, King writes. The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project — which is set to receive $1 billion in Measure R funds — has been discussed as part of the race to replace termed-out Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

L.A Designer: Michael Lejeune, making Metro ‘cool’ (KCRW)

A nice interview with Metro’s creative director, whose group created the marketing campaign that got a lot of people (including me) noticing Metro. Excerpt:

ML: So at my interview for the job 12 years ago I asked what is the goal for Metro and they said, Metro is not on anybody’s radar, or if it is, it’s a negative story in the local press. Our goal is really simple, we need to make Metro cool.

And that is the perfect creative reason for this job. It’s not about false cool. LA is cool, it is the place you can come and be your best, coolest self, it is that place and it has always been that place.

Now Metro is reinventing itself. We are into bikes and sponsoring cicLAvia and helping to bring Bikeshare to LA; we’ve opened up to really fulfill our destiny about being all mobility, buses and highways and bikes and walking.

But our philosophy has been that you can’t make Metro cool if you can’t get Metro to be noticed. We thought, we are not going to simply show a photo of a bus or train, but rather present a more colorful version of getting around LA that’s focused on people and possibility.

 

End of the line for Metro North’s bar car (New York Times) 

The bar car — where commuters could buy drinks — on Metro North trains was retired on Friday. While some riders mourn the loss of a Happy Hour on rails, agency officials say the tradition’s time has passed, citing DWI laws and changing norms.

City eyes BRT to speed up MTA rides (New York Daily News) 

The New York MTA is studying the idea of full-time bus lanes in Brooklyn and Queens to shave about 25 percent off bus travel times. New York has six bus lines with BRT-like aspects (off-bus boarding), but buses still often find themselves stuck in regular traffic. Los Angeles, btw, is listed as one of the places with BRT, a reference to Metro’s Orange Line.

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 9

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LAX takes steps to alleviate traffic in what could be a record-setting year (Los Angeles Newspaper Group) 

The airport is on track to break its record of 67.3 million passengers in a year, set in 2000. The article looks at discussions by the Board of Airport Commissioners earlier this week on numerous future improvements that are being studied, including the automated people mover and a consolidated rental car facility that would be a mile east of the airport. The people mover would also stop at a transit hub where passengers could be picked up and dropped off — and would also connect to Metro light rail (precisely where is under study as part of the Airport Metro Connector project). The hub would reduce the number of private vehicles entering the Central Terminal Area horseshoe while the rental car facility would eliminate the need for the bus shuttles chronically circling the airport.

As reporter Brian Sumers notes, there are still environmental reviews to be done and it could be years before construction begins on anything. If you don’t feel like fighting traffic to the airport, I strongly recommend trying the LAX Flyaway bus that runs from four locations — Union Station, the Expo Line’s La Brea station, Westwood and Van Nuys — to the LAX terminals for one-way fares between $8 and $10.

Beverly Hill Unified’s legal fight against Metro against Purple Line paid for with school construction bonds (L.A. Register)

The school district has spent between $3.1 million and $4.1 million in its lawsuits against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration challenging the environmental documents and route for the Purple Line Extension project, which will go under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. District officials say it was necessary to spend the money from Measure E bond school improvement program to preserve the ability to build underground on the campus, whereas Metro has said that the subway tunnels won’t be in the way of any planned structures.

Beverly Hills Councilman Willie Brien says it’s time to drop the fight against the subway route and focus on mitigations and protections for the campus. A Superior Court judge in March ruled in favor of Metro in the BHUSD and city of Beverly Hills’ state lawsuit against Metro. A lawsuit by both the district and city against the Federal Transit Administration is pending.

Next section of high-speed rail route approved while state waits for bond sale appeal (Associated Press) 

The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve the 20,000-page environmental document detailing the route and mitigations for 114 miles of track between Fresno and Bakersfield. The Board had previously selected the route for a much shorter stretch between Fresno and Madera. Excerpt:

The environmental document includes plans to address air quality during construction, add green space to compensate for damaged habitat and prevent the spread of the highly contagious fungal disease known as Valley fever. The complex review is required to comply with state and federal environmental laws and has been in the works since 2011.

Disturbing native soils is thought to be one way to spread the fungus that causes Valley fever, thus the reason it was studied. The route approval is a big step for the project, although the sale of state bonds to fund construction is on hold due to a lawsuit challenging whether the project as approved matches promises made to voters in 2008.

The Authority still must approve the environmental studies that outline how the train would travel between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. The route under study would involve tunneling under Tehachapi Pass and then would roughly follow the tracks that parallel the 14 freeway through the Antelope Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains before reaching the San Fernando Valley.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 8

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New contract guarantees a series of raises for some Metro workers (L.A. Times) 

Metro and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 127 have approved a new contract that will provide three percent annual raises for about 2,300 maintenance workers for the next four years. The new contract will cost Metro roughly $36 million with agency officials saying that it’s important to retain and fairly pay the skilled workers who keep buses and trains moving each day. Union officials say the contract is fair but that workers are still paid less than their counterparts in New York and Chicago.

Sexual harassment makes nearly 20 percent of riders feel unsafe (L.A. Times) 

The story concerns a question asked in Metro’s annual Customer Survey that was released this week. Excerpt:

The sexual harassment question was prompted, in part, by a national discussion about safety on public transit that followed a fatal gang rape on a New Delhi bus in 2012, Boberg said. A study by London’s transit agency the following year found that 15% of women riding transit there had experienced “unwanted sexual behavior,” but 90% of them had not reported it, according to the Guardian

Metro staff members who read stories online about such data realized they had very little comparable information, Boberg said, and decided to add the question to the most recent passenger survey. He added that Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his transportation staff also indicated they were interested.

One of the biggest surprises in the data was that men reported feeling unsafe because of sexual behavior nearly as often as women, Boberg said About 18% of women felt unsafe, as opposed to 16% of men.

Obviously, Metro takes this issue seriously and, as a Metro spokesman notes in the article, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has increased patrols on Metro buses in addition to deputies that patrol Metro Rail trains and stations. Metro asked the question on the survey to better discern the number of actual incidents versus perception of the problem.

Here are some key statistics. According to the LASD, there were 103 sex crimes including one rape on Metro buses and trains that was reported in 2013. Metro Customer Relations has received seven sexual harassment complaints in the past three years. Metro had 478.1 million boardings on its buses and trains in 2013.

Agency officials stressed this to me today: Metro takes seriously the perception that people feel unsafe for any reason. Sexual harassment is obviously a societal issue that also exists beyond the bounds of transit and Metro wants to stay ahead of the curve. The agency encourages anyone to let the bus operator, LASD deputies or any Metro personnel know if they feel harassed or threatened. On trains, passengers can use emergency intercoms located on rail cars and in rail stations. All bus and rail passengers can report problems via the TransitWatchLA app for smart phones or contact Metro Customer Relations by calling 323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876), emailing customerrelations@metro.net or filling out the online form.

As we noted, harassment is certainly an issue beyond transit in Los Angeles County. For some helpful context, sexual harassment on transit received some attention a few years ago in New York when a survey by the then Manhattan borough president at the time suggested that harassment on the New York subway system was extremely widespread. Here’s a New York Times article about a New York City Council meeting on the issue in 2009 with some statistics and anecdotal quotes.

Breathing uneasy: living along the 710 freeway corridor (KCET)

The article looks at a project being studied by Caltrans and Metro to improve traffic along the southern stretch of the 710 freeway between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the 60 freeway (where much of the freight traffic begins to head east). As noted in this news release, alternatives include widening the 710 freeway up to 10 lanes (five in each direction), modernizing and reconfiguring the I-405, SR-91 and a portion of the I-5 interchanges with the I-710; modernizing and reconfiguring most local arterial interchanges along the I-710 and looking at a provision of a separate four-lane freight corridor to be used by conventional or zero-emission trucks. Some nearby community members want to see more traffic diverted from the freeway, better transit and bike paths along the 710 corridor and the zero emission corridor come to fruition. Click here to visit the study’s home page.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the train (The Poston Report)

Writing on his personal blog, L.A. Times reporter Ben Poston reports on the evolution of his commute over the past couple of years. He used to bike to work in DTLA, but got tired of being hit by cars. He then went back to driving — and wrote about it — but took a lot of heat from readers who said he should either stick with biking or try something else.

And the something else? Excerpt:

Since I started riding the Metro two months ago, I haven’t looked back. It’s now my preferred mode of travel and I only drive when my job requires it.

With gas prices typically at more than $4 a gallon, I know that I’m saving serious cash every month, not to mention the wear and tear on my car.

Though I have to leave earlier than before, I’m enjoying the slower pace of transit commuting. During my 20-minute morning walk from my apartment to the Red Line stop I usually stream National Public Radio or listen to music on my smart phone.

I read magazines and newspapers on the train, which is relaxing. It’s also nice to walk among my fellow Angelenos instead of being isolated in my car bubble. The best part is the ride home: I don’t have to sit in traffic or deal with it at all, which is much less stressful.

So that’s it. My LA commuting sage is over. I’m taking the train as often as possible and enjoying it. I’d encourage anyone else to give it a try.

Metro tweets trash Ducks: is this the start of a new hockey tradition? (L.A. Register) 

The new L.A. Register asks whether it’s appropriate for government agencies to support the home team and tweet about sports, using Metro’s tweets (read: my tweets) about the Kings and the Stanley Cup Playoffs as an example. One attorney interviewed says that a pre-Game 7 tweet I wrote about the Sharks that included a chart on the Heimlich Maneuver may not have been appropriate. I obviously disagree. The Sharks’ lousy playoff record speaks for itself and the Kings, in fact, overcame a three games to zero deficit to win the series. As for the bigger question about why tweet about sports? Well, the Kings have had a Destinations Discount deal with Metro in the past, many Kings fans take Metro to games at Staples Center (using Pico Station shared by the Blue and Expo lines) and who says that everything government says has to be boring?

Mileage tax for California drivers proposed in State Senate (Mercury News) 

The article — picked up from the Los Angeles Newspaper Group — looks at SB 1077 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) that would allow a pilot program for a device to be used to track mileage in cars and then tax the motorist based on miles driven. Motorists are currently taxed in California by paying 5.9 cents per gallon for fuel. Proponents of a by-the-mile tax say it would more accurately tax motorists for the true cost of driving by taxing those who use road space the most. 

 

 

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 7

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Just a reminder, there’s a reason they haven’t begun digging the 710 tunnel (Streetsblog L.A.) 

The foremost reasons are that the environmental review process is still far from complete and the more expensive alternatives under study for the SR-710 project — in particular a tunnel or light rail line — are not fully funded. But Streetsblog editor Damien Newton says the real reason is lack of any kind of broad-based support for such a project. He also takes another shot at tonight’s Zocalo Public Square forum on the 710, intimating that it will be a Metro-sponsored rally for 710 expansion although conceding that “it’s possible that tonight’s discussion will take a different turn.” One correction: The event at MOCA in downtown L.A. is free and is near the Red/Purple Line’s Civic Center station and numerous Metro bus lines. It’s only $9 for those who choose to drive and to park at Disney Hall.

MTA may have tough time getting federal rail money past House GOP (L.A. Times) 

Republicans in the U.S. House are proposing spending cuts to the federal New Starts program that helps local agencies pay for large transit projects. That could impact $200 million in next year’s federal budget for Metro’s Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension projects. Excerpt:

Raffi Hamparian, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority director of federal affairs, said county officials would work to increase the amount when the House committee acts on the bill in coming weeks or to win approval for a higher amount from the Senate, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sits on the Appropriations Committee.

“It may be that the Senate is going to come in with a solid number that fully funds the program, and we don’t have a problem,” Hamparian said. “But the bottom line is, a low number adds uncertainty, and we don’t like uncertainty.” [snip]

“We’re determined to get these projects built, on time and on budget,” Hamparian said. “Los Angeles County voters have repeatedly stepped up to fund these projects, and we look forward to Congress meeting us halfway to get these great American infrastructure projects built.”

L.A.’s plan to make Figueroa a ‘complete street’ makes sense (L.A. Times)

The editorial backs the city of Los Angeles’ plans to put four miles of Figueroa on a road diet between downtown L.A. and Exposition Park, meaning that two traffic lanes could be lost and replaced, in part, with protected bike lanes and other improvements to help pedestrians and bus riders. Businesses, including USC, have pushed back. The Times says that’s a bad idea and that transferring some of the improvements over to Flower Street (which runs parallel to Figueroa) would be a bad idea.

How tolls could prevent a U.S. transportation crisis (The Atlantic Cities) 

With the federal Highway Trust Fund in perpetual crisis mode, Eric Jaffe writes that it’s encouraging that President Obama is proposing to allow states set tolls on their portion of the interstate system to pay for maintenance. The proposal would also allow some toll money to be used for public transit. My three cents: the interstates have been toll-free for so long that it’s going to be a mighty tough sell to get this past Congress and to get states to go for it, even if they have the permission to set tolls.