Transportation headlines, Monday, August 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 21

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! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 commandments of transit (transitcommandments.com)

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, August 12

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

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

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

Charging for connections is insane (Human Transit) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation headlines, Monday, August 11

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

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

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

And there’s this:

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

bridge-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


Transportation headlines, Friday, August 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 7

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

ART OF TRANSIT: A cyclist on the bike path adjacent to the Orange Line -- this is the stretch just east of Hazeltine. More Orange Line stock photos free for anyone that needs them on our Flickr site. Just click above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A cyclist on the bike path adjacent to the Orange Line — this is the stretch just east of Hazeltine. More Orange Line stock photos free for anyone that needs them on our Flickr site. Just click above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

$11 billion later, high-speed rail is inching along (New York Times) 

The top of the story:

WASHINGTON — High-speed rail was supposed to be President Obama’s signature transportation project, but despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere and the United States still lags far behind Europe and China.

The article goes on to explain that most of the money was spent on building or planning to increase train speeds on relatively short sections of track around the country. It would still take $15 billion and 26 years to bring the northeast corridor tracks between New York and Washington up to Japanese bullet train speeds, the Times reports. The article also notes that California’s high-speed rail project recently won a key legal ruling but has been controversial.

Bedbugs found on at least three N Line subway trains (New York Daily News) 

Three trains in New York City were yanked out of service and sent to maintenance yards for immediate fumigation. This 2008 article in the New York Times discusses whether bedbugs can survive in transit stations. Short (and unfortunate) answer: yes.

Time to tie pay to Muni’s on-time performance (San Francisco Examiner) 

Fares are soon increasing a quarter on Muni trains and buses to $2.25 and this Examiner editorial proposes two responses: 1) tie the salaries of Muni executives to Muni’s ability to meet a goal of having buses and trains on time 85 percent of the time (it was 57.2 percent in 2013), and; 2) Enforce a 1993 ballot measure that required politicians who oversee Muni to ride it twice a week.

California’s slow ride to transit (San Francisco Chronicle) 

In this op-ed, Ethan Elkind complains that transit projects across the state are taking far too long to plan, bid and build — and he proposes some solutions. Metro’s Regional Connector is one of the examples he uses, comparing it to the time and expense of building a streetcar tunnel in downtown in 1925. Hard not to agree that the environmental review process in California and elsewhere takes far longer than necessary.

Passengers help free man trapped between train and platform (ABC News)

Watch the video from Australia. And let it serve as a reminder that being around things such as train platforms and busy streets — in L.A. and around the globe — demands your full attention. Put down your phones for a moment, people!

*****

And a little mid-day music courtesy of Spoon, which is playing the Hollywood Forever cemetery on Friday night. For those who want to take the bus to the show, use the Metro 4 Line that runs along Santa Monica Boulevard. The stops at Santa Monica/Gower and Santa Monica/Bronson are both close to the cemetery’s entrance. Red Line riders can transfer to the 4 at the Vermont/Santa Monica Station.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, August 5

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

ART OF TRANSIT: The Orange Line crosses the Sepulveda Basin. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Orange Line crosses the Sepulveda Basin. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Does hosting the Olympics actually pay off? (New York Times)

Probably not, says writer Binyamin Appelbaum. Host cities end up spending far too much on new stadiums and venues that are often under-used once the torch moves on. The 1984 games in Los Angeles, however, are cited as an example of a lean Olympics effort that turned a profit. It’s a relevant topic, given the interest show by L.A., San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Boston in possibly hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. My prediction: there is a -100 percent chance that D.C. will get the Games based on world politics + humidity.

Is that all they want? Millennials and bike lanes (National Journal) 

Some cities view bike lanes for millennials as an economic development tool as millennials are more likely to live in cities and want alternative means to travel to work. The blogger says “interesting,” but not a substitute for other economic tools that cities should supply businesses.

Porn out, real estate in as Sunset Boulevard is reborn (Bloomberg) 

Looks like more luxury hotels are coming to the venerable Sunset Strip. Traffic concerns by neighbors are only briefly mentioned, perhaps a sign that it’s hard to get too anxious about traffic in a part of town that has seen heavy traffic congestion for 50-plus years.

A sky-high view of the Figueroa-Riverside bridge demolition (Eastsider L.A.)

Cool pics taken with a camera mounted on a quadcopter. These things are great for some really unique vantage points photo-wise. In case you’re thinking how these might capture images of the natural world, perhaps think again — the National Park Service (wisely, IMO) banned the drones earlier this year citing existing federal law.

BLM, local law enforcement tensions near breaking point in the West (L.A. Times) 

As is often the case in local-federal conflicts in the West, one of the disputes involves the right to drive on roads that had previously been closed to protect the environment.

Broadway is reined in by a lower speed limit (New York Times)

The new limit from 59th Street to 220th Street is lowered from 30 mph to 25 mph. As a former resident of Gotham and based on several long ago cab rides, I had no idea that there was any speed limit on Broadway.