Transportation headlines, Monday, June 2

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If you’re a hockey fan and lucky enough to be attending the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, the Pico Station shared by the Blue and Expo Lines is one block from Staples Center. Maps and timetables here.

L.A. is still car crazy and we shouldn’t apologize for that (LA Weekly) 

The essay and reality check by Dennis Romero is in response to a statement in the L.A. Times that L.A.’s love affair with the car is over — a statement that slipped out in response to the Purple Line Extension securing $2 billion from a federal grant and loan. If you consider that more than 80 percent of L.A.’s commuters use vehicles to reach work and the fact that L.A. remains a significant hub of auto imports and design, Dennis has a point :) This is not an anti-transit article, by the way. I like these two graphs:

You needn’t be a Luddite or pig to embrace our love affair with cars, either. Vehicles are evolving at an amazing pace, and you can still be a “car guy” (or girl) and environmentally conscious at the same time.

Don’t get us started on all the rich Westsiders with power-sucking McMansions who think they’re doing their part by driving Priuses. You don’t have to be this kind of hypocrite to dig cars nowadays.

I just took a few days off and drove to the Eastern Sierra and back in my car. So I have about zero moral authority to argue with Dennis. That said, I left my car parked in Pasadena this morning and took the Gold Line to work. Yes, I still drive. But I drive less than I used to :)

Speaking of the Eastern Sierra, here's a place served only by foot. Let's see if any readers can name that lake. Bonus points for naming the peak behind it. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Speaking of the Eastern Sierra, here’s a place served only by foot. Let’s see if any readers can name that lake. Bonus points for naming the peak behind it. Photo by Steve Hymon.

When will the Las Vegas monorail expand to the airport? (Las Vegas Review Journal) 

There has been some very preliminary talk about connecting the monorail — which serves the Strip — to the busy airport. But nothing firm yet, although officials say the cab industry won’t hold up an airport monorail if it should come to pass. Because, you know, Las Vegas is such a virtuous place politically speaking :)

Fil-Am appointed as L.A. Board of Transportation commissioner (Asian Journal) 

Metro’s Cris B. Liban, executive officer for the Environmental Compliance and Services Department was appointed by Mayor Garcetti as one of the commissioners for the L.A. Board of Transportation. Cris, btw, is someone who most definitely practices what he preaches.

Legal challenge seeks to stop L.A. from demolishing historic bridge (L.A. Times) 

Cycling and open space advocates are seeking to stop the city of Los Angeles from demolishing the old Riverside Drive bridge, which is being replaced with a new structure. They want the bridge to be used as park space and to help provide a cycling connection between the east and west sides of the Los Angeles River. City officials says that keeping the old bridge would require retrofitting and would add to the cost and timeline for completing the new one.

Boxer: transportation bill ‘unworkable’ (The Hill) 

A new proposal from House Republicans to pay for a short-term transportation bill with cuts to the Postal Service is not earning rave reviews from California Senator Barbara Boxer. The current multi-year transportation funding bill expires this year and Congress has been struggling — to say it politely — to come up with a new bill that governs federal transpo spending in the coming years.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 30

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Have fun this evening and thanks for riding, L.A. Kings fans!

Beverly Hills appeals ruling that lets Metro tunnel under high school (L.A. Times) 

The city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District are appealing a Superior Court ruling earlier this year that upheld the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension. The city and school district are unhappy that the subway’s route will tunnel under a part of the Beverly Hills High School campus and have also filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration that challenges the federal environmental documents for the project.

Judges in both lawsuits are only deciding whether Metro has to redo the environmental studies (or part of them) for the project. The judges are not deciding the route for the subway. Metro staff recommended and the Metro Board of Directors adopted a route under the high school campus to avoid earthquake fault zones along Santa Monica Boulevard and to reach a station in the heart of Century City that will be easier for more workers and residents to reach.

Readers react: make driver pay for HOV lane access (L.A. Times) 

A trio of letters about the opening last week of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways. One calls for making the lane a toll lane, one says authorities need to do a better job of keeping vehicles with single motorists out of the lane and the other calls for monorails spanning the pass to provide transit.

 

In expansion of No. 7 line, one problem: an elevator (New York Times)

The project is expected to open later this year and will extend the 7 Line from Times Square to 11th and 34th on the far western side of Manhattan. The project would have opened last year if not for problems involving a diagonal elevator designed to be more convenient for wheelchair users than a traditional elevator. The article does a nice job of dissecting the decisions and the contracting that have led to delays in the project, which was originally expected to open while Michael Bloomberg was still mayor.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 28

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Editor’s note: Hello Source readers. I’m traveling this week and will be mostly away from the blog — but wanted to catch up to the news of late. Regular programming resumes next Monday!

Metro fares will increase despite protests of low-income riders (L.A. Times)

Good story covers all the bases in last Thursday’s vote by the Board of Directors to raise the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75 this fall while including two hours of free transfers — meaning some riders may see a fare decrease. Many others, of course, will not. Excerpt:

Riders’ advocates said the increase will disproportionately hurt minority passengers, who make up about 80% of bus ridership. More than 90% of Metro riders are low-income, with an average household earning less than $20,000, according to agency data.

“Do you even understand how much we’re struggling day by day?” said Hee Pok Kim, a 92-year-old woman who could barely see over the public comment lectern. She spoke in Korean through a translator. “When we reach out to you for help, you shouldn’t push us away. You should grab our hands.”

We received a lot of comments and questions on the fare increases on The Source. I’ve answered the inquiries that I could. Metro officials are preparing answers to other questions and we will have all the information on the blog soon.

Northbound car-pool lane opens on the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass (Daily News) 

Coverage of the opening of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 on Friday. Excerpt:

As many as 300,000 cars and trucks pass over the 405 Freeway each day — a number that may rise by 50 percent to 447,000 by 2025, federal transit officials say.

The car-pool lanes have become the primary tool for adding capacity to such aging freeways with little room to grow, according to Caltrans. The state has 1,400 miles of car-pool lanes, or 40 percent of the nation’s total, with more than 800 miles in Southern California.

Similar car-pool lanes are being added along the 5 Freeway between Santa Clarita and downtown, with plans for continuous HOV lanes through Orange County.

In Los Angeles, each average car-pool lane can ferry 3,100 people in 1,300 vehicles per hour — nearly double the number of motorists than in a regular lane, MTA officials say. Together, some 322,000 cars containing 750,000 people car-pool across Los Angeles County each day, making it the busiest HOV lane system in the country.

Officials hope those numbers will grow as more car-pool lanes are added and more commuters opt to share rides as the legendary traffic worsens across the region. A new express bus may be in the works between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

 

We’ll be keeping tabs on the studies for the express bus. As for the numbers above about increases in traffic, it will be very interesting to see if those kind of numbers come to pass. They certainly make a good argument for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, which aims to provide transit across — or perhaps under — the Pass.

LA gets Purple Line transit money but will Angelenos leave their cars? (KPCC)

The headline doesn’t quite match the story, although there’s some of the usual skepticism about investing in transit in a city renowned for getting around by car. Elected officials from our region point out — rightfully, I think — that building an alternative to sitting in So Cal’s infamous traffic seems like the smart and kind of obvious thing to do.

I also think the last four graphs are the most important. Excerpt:

Transit construction is booming across LA County. By years’ end, there will be a record five rail lines under construction, funded in part by $3.5 billion in federal grants and loans.

The competition for future federal dollars to finish those projects will be tougher. LA got one in ten TIFIA loan dollars over the past two years. Measure R gave the region a head start, but now states and local communities across the nation are also competing for the loans. In fact, attending the Wednesday press conference was a public radio reporter from Alaska who says her state wants a shot at TIFIA money for a major bridge project.

Senator Feinstein says there’s another “boogeyman” out there that could prevent LA from getting future funding: sequestration. If Congress returns to its cost-cutting solution that mandates across the board cuts, funding for future transportation projects – including extension of the Purple Line to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Westwood – will be in jeopardy.

The Purple Line is scheduled to reach La Cienega Blvd. by 2023. It won’t reach the VA until 2035. The project is projected to cost $2.8 billion.

There is, of course, Measure R money available to complete the Purple Line Extension to Westwood. But federal loans and grants profoundly help and it won’t be good news if those things end up being in short supply.

The myth of the magic bus: the weird politics and persistently weird logic of the Orange Line (Streetsblog L.A.)

Writer Roger Rudick argues the Orange Line should have been a rail line and is not the success that some claim it to be as it’s often running at capacity. He argues that for the same cost — $324 million or $23 million per mile — the Orange Line could have been rail, citing the cost of a couple other rail projects in the U.S., including the Sprinter in northern San Diego County. Lots of interesting debate in the comments.

As far as light rail construction goes in Los Angeles County (the chosen rail technology here thus far), the cost has proven in recent times to be a lot more than $23 million a mile. The least expensive of the ongoing projects is the Gold Line Foothill Extension with a $735-million budget for 11.5 miles of rail and some of the cost of building the rail car maintenance campus in Monrovia.

Planning for Expo Line in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

Officials are planning to modify traffic signals along Colorado Avenue to give Expo trains priority and allow them to run every five minutes eventually. That’s potentially good news for those who plan on taking the train all the way to downtown Los Angeles (and beyond) and want speedier commutes and less waiting time for trains. It’s refreshing to see cities give signal priority to transit — as signal priority has proven to be an issue on the aforementioned Orange Line and the first phase of the Expo Line.

Remembering the designer who changed the way that we think about transit maps (The City Lab)

A nice tribute to graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, who died Tuesday at the age of 83. He was known for more minimalist designs and his map of the New York City Subway endured for most of the 1970s before being replaced with a more literal design.

Google’s next phase in driverless cars: no brakes or steering wheel (New York Times) 

With progress slow on cars that allow humans to take over driving from the computer, Google is exploring another strategy: smaller, slower cars that lack a steering wheel, brake and gas pedals and gear shifts. Most interesting sentence in the article: “The front of the car will be made from a foamlike material in case the computer fails and it hits a pedestrian.” Hmm.

No MetroCard needed (New York Times) 

A good story about the relationship between real estate and bicycling in New York City. Excerpt:

As the search for more affordable real estate in New York City pushes deeper into neighborhoods that were once considered out of the way, bicycle lanes are taking on new importance. Since 2007, the city has carved out more than 350 miles of bike lanes in the five boroughs, according to the Department of Transportation. As a result, the distance from the nearest subway or bus stop has become less of a drawback for the two-wheeled set, particularly in transit-challenged areas of Brooklyn like Red Hook, Greenpoint and parts of Bushwick. In a twist to the real estate catch phrase, location, location, location, brokers say, bicycling is beginning to influence some real estate decisions.

“Your housing options change when you buy a bike and use it,” said Lyon Porter, a sales and leasing director of Town Residential, who relied heavily on a fixed-gear Dutch cruiser when living in Williamsburg several years ago and continues to cycle frequently around the city. “People get so much more for their money in this tight, compressed market,” when freed from the need to be near a train line, he said. “Your definable boundaries are different on a bike.” Without one, he said, “your map changes.”

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 20

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My horrible, hopeful L.A. commute (Zocalo Public Square) 

Columnist Joe Mathews writes about his three- to four-hour daily journey that involves starting in South Pasadena, driving to Arcadia to drop the kids at pre-school and then turning around driving 30-plus miles to his office in congested Santa Monica. It’s quite terrible, Mathews writes. But there’s hope. Along the way he has been watching the progress of the Gold Line Foothill Extension (which will stop in downtown Arcadia) and the Expo Line (which will stop in downtown Santa Monica) and can foresee the day he could use those rail lines to travel between the San Gabriel Valley and the Westside. Both rail lines are forecast to open in early 2016.

He’s also a proponent of the ExpressLanes, which he uses on the 10 freeway east of downtown. They save him time, Mathews writes, and he hopes that Metro uses the toll money to make more transportation improvements in the region.

Building a better downtown Long Beach (Longbeachize) 

Among the ideas for improving Long Beach’s downtown offered here: conversion of one-way streets to two-way thoroughfare, a bike share program, selling un-used public space to the private sector, less parking and transforming part of the Terminal Freeway to park space.

The two-way street proposal is interesting — one-way streets do a better job moving traffic but some folks argue that two-way streets are safer, better for pedestrians and provide better access to businesses. Curiously, the Blue Line doesn’t get a mention even though it loops through downtown Long Beach, is Metro’s most heavily ridden light rail line and offers a direction connection to downtown Los Angeles and Metro’s growing rail system.

Candidates spar over subway route during debate (L.A. Times) 

Candidates for County Supervisor in the third district (currently occupied by Zev Yaroslavsky) discuss the route of the Purple Line Extension through Beverly Hills. Of course, it’s somewhat of a moot point. The Metro Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration approved the project’s environmental documents — including a route — in 2012. Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge upheld the validity of the documents, ruling for Metro in a state lawsuit brought by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. A federal lawsuit brought by Beverly Hills and the BHUSD is, however, pending.

Former transportation secretary to join investment firm (New York Times)

Ray LaHood is joining Meridiam, a firm that specializes in investing in public infrastructure projects. One of his new colleagues will be Jane Garvey, a former chief of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Corralitas Red Car land step closer to becoming a park (L.A. Times) 

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land is in negotiations with the landowner to buy the 10-acre strip of land in Silver Lake that once served as the right-of-way for Red Cars traveling between downtown Los Angeles, Glendale and Burbank. A purchase would end decades of controversy over the land, with neighbors repeatedly turning back attempts at development.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, May 19

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ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Riding the Metro (L.A. Register) 

A reporter with the new L.A. Register takes a few rides on Metro Rail and then compares it to the D.C. Metro before lobbing a few questions at Metro CEO Art Leahy. Some interesting observations about the difference in fare evasion on the two systems.

Fare dodging is an organized rebellion in Stockholm, and it’s winning (New York Times) 

Proof that fare evasion is a problem that many other transit agencies grapple with. In this case, an organized group in Stockholm asks members to pay a fee and then skip paying fares; the group then covers the cost of citations that members receive for fare evasion. It’s a growing problem and Stockholm Metro officials say three percent of riders aren’t paying fares, costing the agency $36 million annually.

Gas tax hits rock bottom in 10 states (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)

The purchasing power of the gas tax in 10 states is at a new all-time low. Why? The gas tax in those states hasn’t changed in many years, while inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the money collected. California isn’t on the list. The gas tax here is 18 cents per gallon and hasn’t changed since 1990. Here’s a recent L.A. Times story about mileage taxes versus gas taxes.

North Figueroa bike lanes: public safety reps against public safety project (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A proposal to install bike lanes along Figueroa in northeast Los Angeles is getting mixed reviews. The city’s transportation department included the lanes in its bike lane plan dating to 2010 but public safety officials have expressed concern the lanes could slow emergency vehicle response times. Streetsblog’s response: the bike lanes are a project to improve road safety. Interesting debate.

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 16

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Reminder: Game 7 between the Kings-Ducks begins at 6 p.m., which also brilliantly coincides with the Friday Happy Hour. If you’re considering celebrating this lovely confluence, please also consider taking transit and putting your car on the healthy scratch list.

Why it makes sense to commute by bike (KCET) 

Nice article by Krista Carlson urging people to at least give biking a try to save time on their commute, get some exercise and better learn their city. Excerpt:

Los Angeles sprawl creates unique commuting conditions; we know our freeway interchanges better than our Sunday school psalms, and an hour-long commute is par for. But those freeways will be there when El Nino comes back; there’s not reason not to bike to work today, or any other day, especially with all the Metro bus routes and train lines available to bridge the gaps. It certainly is doable, as indicated by the 7.5 percent increase in ridership in the city between 2011 and 2013, according to the latest L.A. Bike and Ped Count released by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition this week. [snip]

On one hand, biking to work offers more predictability than the unexpected nature of day to day traffic. Accidents, road construction, broke down Metro buses, and random weird debris vary from one arterial road to the next, but all those things aren’t clutch-burning obstacles when you and your bicycle can roll past every driver sweating over the minutes, belting out a top 40, or picking their nose while you pedal gingerly through the intersection into calmer waters. Car commuting times can vary, so can public transportation, but as long as your bike is in running order, there isn’t much that can hold up a cyclist.

Reminder: tonight is Bike Night at Union Station beginning at 5:30 p.m. More info here.

Mixed-use dreams for Blue Line adjacent parcels (Building LA)

A mixed-use project may be coming to the 7.5 acres of parking lots next to the Reef Building at Broadway and Washington. It’s yet another project in the southern part of downtown and would be near the Blue Line’s Grand station. It’s in the city of L.A., meaning that a zoning change must first be approved.

Utah denied claim to road in Canyonlands National Park (High Country News) 

The latest news in an ongoing legal battle. The state of Utah and 22 Utah counties have for some time have been trying to reclaim jurisdiction over closed roads on federal lands, with the goal of reopening them. They’ve mostly lost thus far.

Nothing to do with transit but interesting: a good blog post on defunct and long gone amusement parks in So Cal.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 15

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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

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! 

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.