Transportation headlines, Friday, March 14

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On Expo and Gold Line projects, light rail cars could be in short supply (KPCC)

Media coverage of the story posted on ZevWeb about the possibility of there not being enough light rail cars at Metro once the Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extensions are complete. Excerpt:

Metro is in this bind because of a deal gone bad with AnsaldoBreda, the Italian contractor originally hired to make its rail cars.  That deal fell through in October of 2009, and the agency spent two more years settling on and signing a deal with a new contractor — Kinki Sharyo of Japan. Metro spokesman Marc Littman said Kinki Sharyo is essentially playing catch-up, setting a very aggressive schedule to make sure rail cars begin to arrive in the middle of 2015.

“They have a great reputation for being on time,” Littman said “They’re doing everything they can to get us the cars as quickly as they can.”

Littman said Metro expects to have 24 new rail cars by the end of 2015, with four more arriving each month after that.  He adds that once construction on the Expo and Gold Line extensions is complete, Metro must spend months testing each for safety and training operators before opening them to passengers.   Metro expects to open phase two of the Expo line in January of 2016 and the Gold Line’s Foothill Extension two months later.

Still, Metro is considering options for dealing with a potential railcar shortfall when the two new extensions open.

“One of things that we could do is shift all of our maintenance work to night so that we can squeeze more capacity out of our existing fleet during the day,” Littman said.  “It’s possible we might have to run shorter trains, or we might have to truncate service.”

I also offered a little history of this issue in yesterday’s headlines.

How many people get to work without a car in your neighborhood? (Better Institutions)

Nice series of maps by Shane Phillips that break it down by census tract in Los Angeles County. The results aren’t exactly a shocker: the tracts with the highest transit use tend to be close to downtown and the ones with fewest transit users tend to be on the county’s fringes (Malibu, Palos Verdes). Interestingly, some of the areas with low transit use will soon be getting new transit options — such as a very nice Gold Line station. I’m talking to you, Arcadia! :)

Paris offers free public transport to reduce severe smog (BBC)

A lack of wind and unseasonably warm days for late winter have conspired to produce Beijing-like smog in Paris, at times obscuring views of the Eiffel Tower. In response, officials have offered three days of free rides on transit from today through Sunday and also made bike sharing free.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 13

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Looming train shortage at Metro (ZevWeb) 

Metro is in a race against time. Literally. The big question tackled by this story on Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website: will there be enough rail cars to operate enough train service on two projects under construction — Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension — and more than halfway complete?

Excerpt:

So, with a likely initial shortfall of about 50 train cars, the issue presents some tough decisions for Metro, all of which are likely to be unpopular with the traveling public. It could delay the new lines’ openings, operate them with shorter, more crowded trains, offer less frequent service, or redeploy cars from elsewhere in the system, thus spreading the pain more broadly.

The shortage is expected to be most severe in the first months of operation for the two new extensions, with steady improvements coming as new rail cars arrive throughout 2016. But even the prospect of a relatively short-lived disruption has been enough to strain the relationship between Metro, which will operate the lines, and the two construction authorities charged with successfully completing the projects.

Samantha Bricker, chief operating officer for the Exposition Light Rail Construction Authority, expects Expo Phase 2 to be ready for testing in the summer of 2015, which would make it possible for the line—running from Culver City to Santa Monica— to serve the public as early as December, 2015. But she’s worried that the train car shortage could impede that schedule and disappoint passengers looking forward to jumping aboard the westernmost phase of a light rail line that’s already attracting large numbers of riders.

“If these projects are done on time and there are no trains there, the public is going to go nuts,” Bricker predicted.

Metro’s Gold Line Foothill Extension, running from Pasadena to Azusa, is expected to open just two months later.  Habib Balian, chief executive officer of the Foothill Construction Authority, said he, too, is worried that his line’s opening will be delayed or marred by diminished service in the early months.

“It’s going to sit there and cobwebs are going to grow until Metro starts service, or they are going to put wimpy service on all the rail lines,” Balian said, referring to the possibility of importing rail cars from elsewhere in the system.

The problem dates back to November 2009 when negotiations between Metro and  rail car manufacturer AnsaldoBreda on a deal for new rail cars finally collapsed. Metro staff and some Metro Board members were never happy with the firm (including Yaroslavsky and Supervisor Mike Antonovich, perhaps most prominently) which had previously delivered flawed rail cars to Metro under an earlier contract. Despite this poor track record with Metro, the city of L.A. delegation of the Metro Board were hoping that the firm would build a manufacturing facility in downtown Los Angeles to provide much needed jobs during the Great Recession. That, of course, would have been a significant political victory.

The rail car contract then had to be re-bid and it wasn’t until April 2012 that the Metro Board — with great urging from Metro staff — finally approved a contract for 78 new rail cars with Kinkisharyo. That firm is presently building an assembly facility for the rail cars in Palmdale and company officials say that it will be very difficult to accelerate delivery of the vehicles.

In the meantime, Metro is sending a delegation to the company’s headquarters in Japan later this month to see if there is any way to get more vehicles quicker. Deliveries are currently scheduled to begin in September 2015 and continue through 2017. As for the Expo Line Phase 2 and the Gold Line Foothill Extension, Metro has been forecasting that both will open in early 2016. The projects together add 17 miles of track to the Metro system, meaning more trains are needed to cover that turf and maintain existing schedules.

Bottom line: this is really a story about politics and the awarding of big contracts.

UPDATE: Metro officials say they do not believe that the agency will be 50 rail cars short assuming the projects open on time — which, of course, remains to be seen. Officials also say they may be able to shift maintenance schedules around so that more rail cars will be available to operate at any given time.

Southern California Transit Advocates takes position on fare increases (SO.CA.TA website) 

The group isn’t large but they do pay close attention to transit in our region and, in particular, serve as watchdogs over Metro and other agencies. The group says it generally supports the fare increases proposed by Metro but would like to see some changes.

In particular, SO.CA.TA wants to see the free transfer period extended from 90 minutes to two hours and for TAP cards to be sold for single rides on buses for the same price as they’re sold from ticket machines at rail stations ($1). The group also declined to support the second option for fare increases that focuses on separate fares for peak and off-peak times. That, the group said, is a poor idea that would only make taking transit more confusing.

Fossils unearthed by Metro reveals L.A.’s watery past (KPCC)

A nice look at the reasons why that marine fossils are being found in the exploratory shaft for the Purple Line Extension project. The main reason: the beach wasn’t always located at its present location in L.A. :)

Becoming a biker in L.A.: buying a bike (KCRW)

A rookie cyclist dives into the world of bikes and bike gear to try to determine what she really needs. The gist of it: the proliferation of bike gear and fancy bikes has made things a lot more difficult than when Old Goats such as me bought bikes in decades past.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 12

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Attorney convicted in stealing nearly $2 million in MTA money (L.A. Times) 

James Vincent Reiss defended Metro as a contract attorney in injury cases. Reiss had pleaded no contest to two felony counts of grand theft. Excerpt:

Karen Gorman, acting inspector general for Metro, said a State Bar of California investigation into problems with Reiss’ other clients in 2012 tipped off the agency to the potential for trouble, and officials immediately began auditing his cases.

“We aggressively began to investigate … and working with the district attorney’s office we were able to bring Mr. Reiss to justice for his crimes.”

According to a Metro lawsuit filed against Reiss’ law firm in January for suspected malpractice, forgery and negligence, Reiss cost the agency as much as $2.5 million.

In 2011, Reiss allegedly told the MTA that it had negotiated a $2.5-million jury award down to $1.765 million. But when the Metro board authorized the settlement and ordered that two checks totaling $1.765 million be written, Reiss kept the money, according to the suit.

 

Sentencing is scheduled for March 26. The Times reports that he is expected to receive 10 years in state prison.

Los Angeles to launch nation’s largest interactive trail network (Gizmodo) 

The app will help tie together the many walking paths and trails that criss-cross the city — and many of which are not commonly known to the masses. Even more interesting is that key content about the trails on the app (scheduled to debut next month) won’t be unlocked unless the user is actually on the trail. The app is being produced by the Interpretive Media Library, a collaboration between UCLA and California State Parks — and it’s novel enough to get the attention of U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, who was in town yesterday for a media event.

What yesterday’s Supreme Court decision means for rails-trails (Streetsblog Network)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 on Tuesday that land granted the U.S. government granted to railroads doesn’t necessarily revert back to government property after railroads abandon their tracks. The ruling has implications toward rail-to-trail projects planned for government land — the problem being the land may instead belong to someone else. The post is an interesting interview with Kevin Mills, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s senior vice president of policy and trail development.

As he says, the ruling may have a deeper impact in the Western U.S., where railroad land grants were more common than in the east. Pretty interesting stuff. I personally want to see as many rail-trail projects as possible; on the other hand, the original government land grants dating back to the mid 1800s were often seen as blatant taxpayer giveaways to privately run railroads.

Wharf extension push surfaces as Central Subway crews dig on (San Francisco Chronicle) 

Transit advocates, neighborhood groups and others are starting to advocate for the Central Subway project in San Francisco to be extended to Fisherman’s Wharf. The project is extending the city’s light rail system (partially via a subway tunnel) from the Caltrain commuter rail station to the intersection of Stockton and Washington in Chinatown — about a mile shy of the popular and heavily visited Fisherman’s Wharf.

There are no plans on the books to extend the tracks any further — nor are there funds (at least not yet). I think it will be very interesting to see if there is any kind of similar push here on the Purple Line Extension project, which will eventually have a terminus in Westwood in front of the VA Hospital, just west of the 405 freeway (as far as Measure R funded the project). I imagine there will be some people in Brentwood and eastern Santa Monica who will want the subway closer to their homes, just as I expect there will be people in Brentwood and eastern Santa Monica who will not :)

Four designs to cleverly re-invent the suburban parking lot (Co.exist) 

With enough large lots on Long Island to cover an area the size of Central Park several times over, four architectural firms were asked to imagine a way to keep some parking but also make better uses of the land. Here’s one of the drawings:

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 11

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Good afternoon, Source readers! I’m back from a few days off and in catch-up mode, so please forgive if some of this news isn’t so new….

Mass transit ridership grows from pathetically low to just low (Grist) 

Analyst Ben Adler takes a look at the latest APTA numbers that boast that Americans took 10.7 billion transit trips in 2013, the most since 1956. Ben’s point:

But the [New York] Times neglects to point out the larger relative term: Compared to 60 years ago (when mass transit systems were actually less comfortable; the New York City subway wasn’t even air-conditioned), transit ridership is way down. The important number, after all, isn’t total transit trips taken, it’s total transit trips divided by population. Since our population has nearly doubled since 1956, that means our transit use has been cut in half.

Americans made a series of disastrous decisions in the 1950s through roughly 2005, moving us heavily toward suburban sprawl and driving. And we kept on making them even in the face of gathering evidence that they were contributing to the environmental catastrophe of climate change. A shift back toward a better system is worth celebrating, but keep the champagne corked until we’ve actually increased the percentage of Americans taking mass transit, not just improved slightly from a terrible low point.

 

I agree with Ben — it’s good to see ridership on the rise in many places and I think it’s smart to build more transit. But I don’t think the latest numbers show anything has fundamentally changed in how Americans get around. In case you’re wondering, the latest numbers from the Census Bureau shows that 7.1 percent of commuters in Los Angeles County use public transit. About 72.2 percent drove alone and 10.9 percent carpooled while 2.9 percent walked and 2.1 percent reached work by other means. Almost five percent of people worked at home.

I think the big question for everyone in the public transit world and for elected officials is this: what does it take to keep nudging that 7.1 percent number upward?

Blind man survives being run over by a Metro train (L.A. Times)

A blind man apparently walked off the edge of the platform at the Wilshire/Vermont subway station as a train was approaching on Thursday afternoon — and survived and is thankfully expected to make a full recovery. As way of background, the yellow pylons on Metro Rail platforms were installed as a way to prevent visually-challenged people from walking off platforms and falling between rail cars (which unfortunately happened on the Blue Line in early 2009).

Dodgers to increase parking fees (KPCC)

The fee is back to the Frank McCourt-era $15 unless fans go online and buy a parking ticket in advance for $10. Team officials say the move is intended to alleviate traffic congestion at the gates, where money transactions take longer than simply handing a ticket to the attendant. Sounds reasonable enough to me. On a related note, we’ll have more info soon about Dodger Stadium Express service for the 2014 season, which will surely be the year for my Cincinnati Reds :)

As downtown L.A. grows, big money investors rush in (Downtown News) 

DTLA seems to be attracting a wider variety of developers these days — beyond the usual flow of money from Asia, the Downtown News reports. The article also has this interesting observation: it’s seemingly easier for developers from elsewhere to see the potential of DTLA over long-time residents and developers, who can’t look beyond the ghost town years of the 1980s and ’90s. I’m sure part of it, too, is that developers from elsewhere must be struck by the number of old buildings waiting to be rehabbed or the number of half-filled surface parking lots just sitting there and doing little good for anyone but their owners.

The race is on for the transit ticket of tomorrow (The Atlantic Cities) 

Smart story looking at the dilemma faced by many large transit agencies when it comes to choosing a fare payment system that is accessible to all riders but uses the latest technology (such as paying with smart phones). The answer isn’t so simple but linking fare cars to smart phones seems to the answer for some agencies.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 5

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Obama’s budget is a populist wish list and an election blueprint (New York Times) 

The $3.9-trillion budget for fiscal year 2015 is designed to draw contrasts with Republicans and gets rid of comprises the President made last year, the Times reports. More than half the budget would go to mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the federal debt) and about $1.2 billion is spending directly controlled by the President and Congress. Excerpt:

Mr. Obama again proposed to overhaul the corporate tax code, by ending various business tax breaks and using the savings to reduce the maximum 35 percent tax rate for corporations. With about $150 billion in additional one-time revenues that businesses would pay in the transition from one tax system to another, Mr. Obama would finance half of a $302 billion, four-year plan for work on highway, bridge, rail and mass transit projects, as he first suggested last summer.

The budget, as we posted yesterday, also includes $100 million apiece in New Starts funding for the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector projects.

And some Twitter commentary from Yonah Freemark of the excellent Transport Politic blog:

Recent trends in bus and rail ridership (Transport Politic) 

Speaking of Yonah, here’s an interesting post about bus service and rail service — and which may contribute more to overall ridership gains by transit agencies around the country. As the post explains, there are limitations to the data, but some number-crunching indicates that rail seems to have a better chance of building ridership than does bus service. “Riders respond when they’re offered better service!,” writes Yonah, who also points out that we don’t know how bus rapid transit would attract more riders because there aren’t that many BRT projects in place.

I think there’s one other issue here: rail is pretty easy for new riders to figure out. Bus service in many metro areas — including ours — can be complicated with dozens of bus lines, each running on multiple streets, with different service frequencies and sometimes different fares and line names that seem to be random numbers. It’s not intuitive, yet overhauling bus service in many areas is a massive chore likely to upset as many riders as attract new ones.

Apple’s CarPlay: the smart car wars are getting serious (Washington Post)

Apple’s operating system will be running the mapping-texting-music playing systems in Volvos, Mercedes and Ferraris — and the hardware/software giant has agreements with other vehicle manufacturers. “Cars have long been pegged as the next major battleground for consumer tech companies looking to bring their smart technologies to more parts of consumers’ lives,” the Post says. Hmm. I remember the Days of Yore when I was excited to get a Subaru with a jack for my iPod.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 4

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Blue Line train strikes vehicle–at least 12 injured (L.A. Times)

Initial reports are that a mini-van ran a red light and was struck by a Blue Line train on Washington Boulevard and Maple Street in downtown Los Angeles. Metro officials said that 10 people aboard the train were injured — none life-threatening and mostly described as cuts. The Los Angeles Fire Department said that 12 people overall were hurt. The train runs down the middle of Washington Boulevard and train and car traffic are both controlled by traffic signals. Therefore, there are no crossing gates.

Earlez Grill relocates to make way for Crenshaw/LAX Line (Intersections South LA)

The popular restaurant that used to be a stone’s throw from the Expo Line’s Crenshaw station has to move south. The new address will be 3864 Crenshaw Boulevard, about a half-mile south of the Crenhaw & Exposition intersection and an easy walk.

Los Angeles redoubles its efforts to win 2024 Olympics (Daily News)

The big question among the experts: what the International Olympic Committee will ultimately want from a host city: an effort starting from scratch requiring billions of dollars in investment or a more modest effort using existing buildings and infrastructure? The latter would seemingly favor a bid from the Los Angeles area. As I’ve written before, one thing our area can boast to the IOC (if it comes to that): in 1984 there were ZERO miles of rail serving the area. By 2024, there will be 117 miles of light rail and subways (and possibly more if projects are accelerated by America Fast Forward, etc.) and another 512 miles of commuter rail provided by Metrolink.

How Buenos Aires unclogged its most famous street (The Atlantic Cities) 

The answer: Avenida 9 de Julio saw three lanes of car traffic converted to bus rapid transit lanes in the middle of the street — even with a subway that runs below. A lot of opposition surfaced before the change and apparently melted away after the world didn’t end.

Cities move to help those threatened by gentrification (New York Times)

With cities enjoying a renaisance in some parts of the U.S. and property values rising thanks to new market-priced development, cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Boston (to name a few) are changing laws to freeze or lower property taxes of long-time residents who stuck out the hard times. The property tax issue is not really an issue in California thanks to Prop 13 which greatly limits the amount that property taxes can be raised year-over-year. That said, there isn’t much in place to regulate the actual price of housing, the reason that affordable housing advocates fret (rightfully, in my view) that some parts of California cities will become off-limits to anyone but the wealthy.

Iron Maiden singer planning on circumventing the globe twice in world’s largest airship (Salon) 

Looks like a nice way to travel. Hopefully passengers don’t have to listen to Iron Maiden, a band who reminds me of a broken jackhammer.

Photos from the California drought (PolicyMic)

A little off-topic, but pretty amazing photos of two depleted reservoirs, Oroville and Folsom.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 3

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Have bike, will ride train — if only Metro will provide bike lockers (L.A. Times) 

Good opinion piece by Nicolas Goldberg. His dilemma: he wants to bike to the Wilshire/Western Purple Line Extension and take the train from there to work sans bike, which he doesn’t need to bring all the way downtown L.A. But there are only 16 bike lockers at Wilshire/Western and there’s a waiting list to get one. And thus the headline — he argues for more bike lockers at busy stations.

Obama turns to light rail to salvage transit legacy (The Hill)

Bad headline — I’m not sure any recent President has a “transit legacy” given the relative paucity of federal dollars available to build transit across the U.S. (about $2 billion a year to be shared by many different agencies). This blog post argues that Republicans have been largely successful at blocking high-speed rail projects touted by the President in his first term. As a result, his Department of Transportation may step up efforts to help fund light rail and streetcar projects around the country.

Why does downtown Los Angeles have parking minimums? (Better Institutions) 

The writer argues, in essence, that a chronic shortage of street parking in L.A. guarantees that developers in downtown will build parking. And, thus, there’s no need for zoning laws that mandate certain amounts of parking get built — instead it would be better for the markets to decide so that those who don’t need parking don’t have to pay to build it for those who do.

Google sets roadblocks to block distracted driver legislation (Reuters) 

The internet giant, Reuters reports, is lobbying against potential laws that would prohibit driving while wearing devices such as glasses embedded with small computer screens. The article doesn’t specify Google’s exact concerns with the laws, although Google already tells customers to comply with existing distracted driving laws. Will be interesting to see who prevails on this one — I’m hoping common sense, but not betting on it.

Transportation headlines, Friday, February 28

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One way to make traffic vanish: long exposures! The view late Thursday from The Source's window on the world. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

One way to make traffic vanish: long exposures! The view late Thursday from The Source’s window on the world. Click above to see larger. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The transit plaza at Union Station last night. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The transit plaza at Union Station last night. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

CicLAvia: our story

Click above to check out a very nice photo essay.

Google says $6.8 million for Muni youth passes just a start (San Francisco Chronicle) 

Wow. The tech giant donates the money to the agency that runs buses, light rail and streetcars — enough money to cover two years of free transit for low- and middle-class kids aged five to 17. The donation comes at a time when Google and other tech firms are being criticized for their free shuttles that take employees from San Francisco to offices south in Silicon Valley and the area. With real estate prices soaring in S.F., many citizens are feeling squeezed out and say the shuttles — with free wifi — make it easy for wealthy employees to live in the city and commute south.

Legislation would change composition of Metro Board (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Thoughtful post by Damien Newton on the implications and reasoning behind AB 1941, a bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden that would have the Legislature appoint two members to the Metro Board. Holden tells Streetsblog that it would help provide more equitable representation around the county and help plan projects that extend beyond the borders of Los Angeles County. Metro Board Member Ara Najarian, however, responds this way:

“The last thing we need on this already political board, is to inject two new players with no stakeholders and no constituents to answer to, only the politicos in Sacramento,” writes Ara Najarian, Glendale City Councilmember and the representative to the Metro Board from the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments. “A huge mistake and not a well thought out piece of legislation. Now, if we wanted to add directors who actually had constituents to answer to…then fine.”

I couldn’t agree more. Having two people on the Board who don’t even have to live in the region seems like a good way of asking for trouble when it comes to doling out contracts and making other decisions that could impact fund-raising for elected officials in Sacramento. Unless I’m hugely mistaken, I don’t see this bill going anywhere.

America’s 20 fastest-growing cities (Forbes)

Los Angeles didn’t make the list. But San Jose, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta and Ogden (Utah) did.

Rep. Bill Shuster on federal role in transportation

The Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Transportation Committee talks to highway officials in Washington D.C. Rep. Shuster will play a critical role when it comes to passing the next multi-year transportation spending bill. President Obama’s bill proposal includes the America Fast Forward initiative. The most interesting remarks — embracing the federal role in mobility for goods and people — is after the introductory remarks.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, February 27

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That’s right, I don’t drive in Los Angeles (Zocalo Public Square) 

A lot of good stuff in this first-person account by Nicolei Gupit, whose family has relied on Metro and mass transit since moving here from the Phillipines in 1998. One nice graph:

I enjoyed observing Los Angeles in its different faces, like cities within the city, from MacArthur Park to Park La Brea, Downtown L.A. to West L.A. I was able to travel as far west as Santa Monica and as far south as Long Beach on public transportation for $1.25. I could catch any one of the dozen buses heading every cardinal direction away from my busy home-base intersection of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. I learned by heart the cadence of passing streets as I rode the buses plying Vermont: Sunset, Fountain, Santa Monica, Melrose, Beverly, First, Third, Sixth, Wilshire. I created my own map of L.A. by surveying who got on and off the bus at which stops. While I heard mostly Spanish and Armenian spoken around East Hollywood, I would hear mostly Korean, Chinese, or Tagalog when passing neighboring areas heading south and west from home.

Not everything in the post is flattering to Metro or transit. Long waits at bus stops are mentioned, as are no-show buses.

New high-rise building on Broadway would be one of the tallest in Southern California (L.A. Times) 

The 34-story residential building is proposed for the corner of 4th and Broadway — it would be the first skyscraper built on Broadway in decades. It still needs city of Los Angeles approval and will likely need variances from existing zoning codes (like many other projects in L.A.). Still, exciting to see more big developments proposed in downtown L.A. which IMHO could use more big buildings and more residents. The location is along many Metro bus lines and is a short walk to the Pershing Square station for the Red/Purple Line and not far from the future 2nd/Broadway station for the Regional Connector.

On a related note, here’s a nice time-lapse of the 32-story building rising at Olive and 9th at Brigham Yen’s DTLA Rising blog.

Boxer: ‘We have to save the highway trust fund’ (The Hill)

Good article on the pending insolvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund that is used to help fund transportation projects around the country. The issue is that the federal gas tax hasn’t risen from 18.3 cents since 1993 and vehicles are getting much better mileage. Senator Boxer says there’s no political support for raising the tax — remember this is an election year in Congress — and she believes that President Obama’s proposal for a multiple year transportation spending bill has some creative funding solutions.

The bill also contains both elements of Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative. More on that at this post.

Metro’s bicycle brain trust (ZevWeb) 

A nice look at the way that cyclists and Metro are engaging each other these days. Metro’s Bicycle Roundtable helped get things rolling (pun intended) and have led to bikes being allowed on trains at peak hours and the ‘every lane is a bike lane’ public service announcement that debuted last year. Other issues remain, such as building bike channels in stairways at transit stations — something the cycling community wants to see.

Beverly Hills Weekly attorneys receive $40,000 from the Courier (Beverly Hills Weekly)

In this legal dispute between newspapers in Beverly Hills, the Courier sued the Weekly over unfair business practices. A judge recently awarded the Weekly $40,000 in attorney fees although appeals are underway. The Weekly’s attorney says the award demonstrates that the courts believe the Courier’s accusations had no merit.

Why more U.S. cities need to embrace bus rapid transit (Atlantic Cities) 

Another article touting the benefits of bus rapid transit lines, which mimic the benefits of rail but at a lower cost. But there’s a catch: cities need to give up road space, not an easy thing politically to do. On the plus side, most BRT lines around the country have done a good job of attracting ridership — probably because they can be much quicker than traditional local bus lines that stop frequently and get held up by red lights.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 26

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Nice infographic from Fixr: L.A. has four of the top 10 steepest streets in the country, they say.

Click the image to enlarge
Top 10 US steepest streets
Via fixr structural engineering cost guide

Metro takes aim at Orange Line fare evaders (Daily News)

Coverage of yesterday’s media event as part of an effort to lower fare evasion on the Orange Line. Excerpt:

“LA Metro is one of the best buys around, with one of the lowest fares in North America,” said Art Leahy, chief executive of Metro, at a Tuesday news conference. “But we have to pay the bills … so we need people to pay their fare.”

The two-pronged plan focuses on educating riders on how to pay for their fare through added signs at stations and public service announcements on on-board televisions as well as stepped-up enforcement through hefty $75 citations at each of the 18 stations between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.

The Orange Line is particularly vulnerable to fare evasion because, unlike many underground stations in the Metro system, there are no access gates and money is not collected by drivers when riders board a bus, officials and riders said. Instead, passengers purchase or reload a reusable card at self-service kiosks and then must tap the card at a separate free-standing collection machine that deducts the amount needed for a one-way ride, a process some riders say is confusing.

Bottom line: it’s good to see enforcement stepping up. Running transit is expensive and lost revenue ultimately costs riders the service improvements they would like to see.

Cycling on the edge: dodging cars and potholes (L.A. Times) 

Smart opinion article by Paul Thornton who puts it on the record: many of the bike lanes striped by the city of Los Angeles in recent times are also riddled with potholes. That gives cyclists a not-so-fun choice: slam into a pothole and possibly wreck or veer into adjacent traffic lanes and potentially wreck. The challenge is that another city department — the Bureau of Street Services — are responsible for paving streets. My three cents: a lot of the bike lanes in the city of L.A. were done in a rush in order to reach mileage goals prior to mid-July 2013 — and that means there wasn’t always attention to detail.

A Los Angeles primer: Union Station (KCET)

Nice essay about Union Station includes this paragraph:

For all its timeless appeal and admirably vigorous upkeep, Union Station nevertheless suffers a faint but persistent underlying sense of dereliction, or at least uncleanliness. (Sometimes I visit and feel it has finally gone, but then I enter the restrooms too far between janitorial shifts.) One recently attempted solution to the most visible affliction of this or any public space — that of lingering indigent — involved removing most of the seating and cordoning off the rest for ticketed passengers, a measure desperate enough to signal a potentially unsolvable problem. But do airports do much better? Located so far from their cities’ centers and subject to such complicated entry procedures, most never have to face this sort of challenge in the first place. One trip through LAX, though, makes you realize the great advantage of Union Station and its predecessors across America, no matter how neglected: when you walk out of them, you walk straight into downtown.

I think the station is mostly clean, but I agree the restrooms could see some improvement. The issue there is there are only two sets of them, neither very large for the crowds the station sees. As for “straight into downtown,” well…sort of. It’s more straight into the edge of downtown — one reason I’d love to see more development in the northern part of downtown and especially the Civic Center area.

Also, shout out to post author Colin Marshall for his black-and-white photographs.

Two major transit projects break ground in San Bernardino (San Bernardino Sun) 

One project will extend Metrolink service to the University of Redlands, the other will construct a new transit center in San Bernardino that serves area bus lines and Metrolink. Officials say the projects are badly needed as traffic in the Inland Empire is a complete mess. In other words, officials are now trying to cope with the consequence of all those sprawling housing developments they have approved over the years.

Utah makes Google Glass app for bus riders (Salt Lake City Tribune)

The Utah Transit Authority has made a version of its bus-and-train schedule app that will work with Google Glass, although there are (thankfully) still few people wearing the geekware around. I still have a hard time believing anyone would be so amazingly stupid or addicted to the internet that they would need to have a screen on their glasses and if I have a vote, I say no Metro apps for these folks. They can check their phones like the rest of us!