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!

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 25

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Rest in Peace, Harold Ramis. Here’s a nice appreciation from the New Yorker. A scene below that Ramis directed from “Caddyshack,” including one of the great lines in the history of cinema: “I didn’t want to do it, but I owed it to them.”

Dial M for Metro wifi (ZevWeb)

An update on the project to bring cell service and potentially wifi into Metro Rail’s underground stations — and really there isn’t much new here. The contract was approved by the Metro Board in early 2013 and will likely be finished in a couple of years with perhaps some cell service coming before that, depending on how work goes. It will be up to individual cell providers to decide whether to provide an underground signal.

Do you bike in L.A.? Watch this video to see what concerns all those drivers (L.A. Times) 

Interesting video made from the point-of-view of drivers who encounter cyclists. It’s cleverly packaged with this video showing what frightens cyclists on our area roads.

2013: another year of less driving in the U.S. (Streetsblog Network)

The number of miles that Americans drove last year was more than in 2012 — but didn’t keep pace with the rate of population growth. In other words, on a per capita basis, Americans appear to be driving less, continuing a trend that has been in place for several years. Of course, it depends on what you mean by “less.” The cynical side of me tends to think that driving remains hugely popular, so perhaps rate of growth is kind of a desperate statistic to seize upon.

Inside Amtrak’s plan to give free rides to writers (The Wire) 

The railroad plans to offer residencies to writers who need time to sit and write. Hard to beat a cross-country trip on Amtrak for that — nothing like waiting for a freight train to pass to inspire Deep Thoughts.

Morgan Stanley predicts utopian society by 2026 (Slate)

The prediction is based on their bullish view that self-driving cars will give society a big happy kick in the bum. Because Morgan Stanley did so, uh, well predicting how the housing market would behave….

Historical sea ice atlas now online (Sea Atlas)

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.50.51 AM

Very cool new tool that allows you to track Arctic sea ice over the years, funded in part by the U.S. government. The whereabouts of ice was vital to the shipping industry for many years — although nowadays the ice has been retreating due to climate change. There’s an interactive feature that allows you to track the retreat, which is most pronounced in the past three decades. Reminder: taking transit is one way to help reduce your carbon footprint as transit is often more efficient than driving alone.

Transportation headlines, Monday, February 24

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It may be Monday, but maybe you’re already thinking of Friday. Take it away, Bruce Springsteen…

Beverly Hills using petty bureaucracy to hold up Purple Line work (Curbed LA)

Some excerpts:

The city council decided last August that all permit requests from Metro related to the subway extension’s first phase—which is nowhere near the disputed Century City station or the much-fretted-about Beverly Hills High School—must be passed by the full council instead of just getting a staff approval, which is the normal procedure; staff work five days a week and the city council only gathers monthly or, at most, twice a month. That move is already proving to be a problem as Metro is waiting on two permits related to pre-construction activities (like utility relocation and groundwater and gas sampling). The council refused to grant the permits in January and asked for Metro to come back and provide more explanation on traffic and parking issues related to the construction. Metro did, but by then the council’s February agenda was already too full to add a vote on the permits, so maybethey’ll grant them at their March 4 meeting.

[snip]

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence, though, that Beverly Hills ands its school district have four lawsuits pending over the placement of the Purple Line’s Century City station, which requires tunneling under Beverly Hills High. There are officials like Councilmember Nancy Krasne, who makes no bones that she’s sticking it to Metro just to be petty (she’s also the one that thought terrorists would use the subway tunnel to blow up BHHS), but you can’t heap all the blame on the politicians—they’re beholden to their constituents, many of whom read the histrionics and half-truths in the Beverly Hills Courier every day (Metro’s The Source blog has to correct them nearly every time they publish a story on the line).

[snip]

Bryan Pennington, Metro’s executive director of engineering and construction, says that even if Beverly Hills approves the permits, the process could be very bad news for Purple Line construction:

“We are continuing to work with the City of Beverly Hills to obtain these two outstanding permits. We believe that we have provided the information they are seeking while we continue working to deliver this much needed project as it has been promised to the taxpayers and commuters of greater Los Angeles. Up until last August, we were able to work with Beverly Hills city staff for the permits we needed for street work. We have cooperative agreements with the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles that allow us to handle permit requests at the staff level. If Beverly Hills continues to require review of all permits by their Council, it could extend the construction schedule.

I recommend reading the entire Curbed post. There is a lot of additional information and important context I didn’t excerpt. Also, here is a recent Source post about the construction timeline for the Wilshire/La Cienega station. And here is a post from last fall about the construction timeline for the entire project and the importance of master cooperative agreements with cities along the subway’s route.

Four key executives leaving in shakeup of Metro’s leadership (L.A. Times) 

The departures are part of a reorganization effort designed to make Metro less top-heavy and reduce the number of executives reporting to the CEO’s office. The restructuring was recommended in an outside audit of Metro obtained by the Times. As the story points out, the changes come amid a project building boom but with the agency facing a budget deficit within a couple of years.

Federal authorities give state more time to raise cash for bullet train project (L.A. Times)

The feds have given the California High-Speed Rail Authority three more months to start spending on the project, meaning the state has to find the money given that bond sales — the planned source of funding for the project — are tied up in court.

Now what? City fears flameout after the games (New York Times) 

The Rosa Khotor ski area map. Looks fun but will anyone be skiing there in the future?

The Rosa Khotor ski area map. Looks fun but will anyone be skiing there in the future?

Most of the transit lines in the above map are new. Source: Sochi2014 website.

Most of the transit lines in the above map are new. Source: Sochi2014 website.

The Russian government isn’t saying exactly what was spent on bringing the Winter Olympics to the Black Sea resort town of Sochi but one media report puts the figure at $51 billion. The rough part: there is no apparent plan on how many facilities or improvements in the area — including a new rail line and new highway to new ski resorts — will be used in the future or how Sochi will see long-term benefit from the Winter Olympics.

Hmm. My first thought: I hope the ski resort helps introduce more Russians and other people who live in the region to the skiing sports. Russia — given its climate (at least for now) — should be good at skiing. It’s not, based on Olympic and World Cup results.

My second big thought is that we’re now three-and-a-half years away from the International Olympic Committee’s decision in 2017 on where to put the 2024 Summer Olympics. Los Angeles officials have said they will seek the Summer Games, meaning L.A. first has to earn the right to be America’s bidder from the U.S. Olympic Committee. IOC President Thomas Bach told NBC’s Bob Costas that an American bid would be welcome, given that in 2024 it will have been 22 years since the Games were in the U.S. (Salt Lake City in 2002).

I would love, love, love to see L.A. go for a three-peat when it comes to hosting the Games. And I hope the bid here, if it does emerge, is a rebuttal of sorts to the IOC’s love affair with demanding that Olympic host cities build new facilities and spend billions on the Games (exactly what the IOC loved about Sochi, according to the NYT). The strength of our bid could be that ongoing improvements here are being done anyway and will make it possible, and even easy, for the region to seamlessly host the Games without breaking the bank. And, of course, setting an example for future host cities.

Transit improvements, of course, could be a big part of our region’s pitch. Transit already serves or is near many existing facilities (Staples Center, Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Honda Center, Santa Anita Park, Long Beach Marina, East L.A. College, entire list of venues here) and ongoing projects are expanding the existing transit network. The two big projects to watch are the Airport Metro Connector, which is still in the planning stages and not scheduled to be complete until the late 2020s under Measure R. Same goes with the Purple Line Extension to Westwood, which wouldn’t reach there until 2036. Serving LAX and getting the UCLA campus (with several sports facilities and potential athlete housing) connected to rail would almost certainly be important for the Olympics.

The lovely thing about are ongoing transit expansion is that we’re doing it anyway, Olympics or no Olympics. The same goes in Denver, another city that could — and probably should — look to host the Winter Olympics, given its ongoing rail expansion and proximity to the Rockies.

And let me toss one other thought out there: given that the last two Winter Olympics took place in temperate climates (Vancouver and Sochi) along the coast, why not put the Winter Games in L.A. with the alpine events in the Sierra? (I’m not sure betting on big snow at the local resorts is a good idea given what happened to Vancouver). It would be different and challenging in that the Sierra ski resorts tend not to have the kind of terrain suited to modern alpine ski courses. But could it be done….

Transportation headlines, Friday, February 21

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Metrolink to roll out collision avoidance system (L.A. Times) 

Initial runs by trains using the Positive Train Control system began this week and Metrolink plans to expand it to the rest of their system well before a December 2015 deadline. It’s important because Metrolink trains must share their tracks with freight trains and Amtrak.

Freewaves debuts “Long Live LA” on Transit TV (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Videos by Los Angeles Couty-based artists that tackle a range of health issues will be shown regularly on Transit TV on Metro buses. Damien has posted one of them — if the TVs must be there, sounds like good programming.

Portland: the citizens’ priorities for transportation (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker parses the results of what appears to be a thorough survey that asked Portland residents to prioritize their transportation needs. Number one on the list was safer pedestrian crossings. The number one transit priority: more frequent bus service.

Walker sees this as a sign of tension between Portland residents and the regional transit agency that actually runs bus service. Excerpt:

Core cities have higher per capita transit demands than their suburbs [see Chapter 10 of my book Human Transit] so they always tend to be underserved — relative to demand — by regional transit agencies that aim for some concept of “regional equity.”  In many cases, the only solution is for core city voters to step up and vote, for themselves, the additional service that only they know that they need.  This doesn’t have to mean breaking up the regional agency, but it does mean giving up on the idea that any service distribution formula that a suburb-dominated region would agree on will meet the core city’s expectations for transit, based on the core city’s economy and values.

Such tensions certainly exist in sprawling L.A. County, where Metro serves both the urban core and suburban areas — some with and some without their own city bus service. The public policy question is where is it best to put service? Bulk up in the busiest areas ridership-wise? Or try to spread it around in recognition of the fact that folks who are transit dependent live in the ‘burbs, too? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this one.

Bill would add two members to Metro Board of Directors (California bill tracker) 

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Holden, whose district includes Pasadena, Altadena and other parts of the northern San Gabriel Valley. The bill proposes adding two voting members to the Metro Board of Directors, bringing the total to 15 — and those two members would be appointed respectively by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee.

That’s a radical departure from the current practice with every Board member either being someone who was elected by voters in parts of Los Angeles County or appointed by someone who was elected by voters in our area. In other words, the bill (as written now) could allow elected officials from outside Southern California to choose who sits on the Metro Board, which is the deciding body on many countywide transportation issues.

By law, the Metro Board is comprised of each of the five County Supervisors, the Mayor of Los Angeles and his three appointees and one City Council member or Mayor from four subregions in the county.

So what’s this really about? The very same issue discussed in the above item about tensions between core urban areas and suburbs when it comes to transit service and where to build projects. An example: the proposed Gold Line extension to Montclair that is in Metro’s long-range plan and is currently unfunded (along with other projects), which some in the San Gabriel Valley have alleged is the result of the the Board being too L.A.-centric.

Is it? The city of L.A. has its four members on the Board in addition to representation from the five County Supervisors who all have part of the city of L.A. in their districts. Each of the five supervisors also have other cities in their districts, meaning they have to consider a lot of different and often competing interests.

City of Los Angeles officials have long countered that the current arrangement makes sense, given that Los Angeles tends to be the densest and the part of the county where transit is most used. Others counter back that the city has about 38.5 percent of the county’s population, meaning 62.5 percent of Los Angeles County residents are not living in the nation’s second-largest city but are helping pay for transit service there. (It’s also worth noting that existing law would take away one of Los Angeles’ appointees and give it to another city if L.A.’s population falls under 35 percent of the county’s total).

We’ll see if the bill gets any traction and whether the Metro Board takes a position on it; the issue has come up in the past. I’m guessing the bill will also attract the interest of other transit agencies who have a view one way or the other whether the Legislature should be involved in selecting their Board members. One thing to keep in mind is that transit agency boards don’t just make decisions involving what gets built transportation-wise — they also choose contractors and approve of labor contracts. Under the proposed bill, the Assembly and Senate could potentially gain a say in those matters.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, February 20.5

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ART OF TRANSIT: Mid-day traffic constipation on the 101. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Mid-day traffic constipation on the 101. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Metro to connect $670 million for downtown rail connector (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of today’s announcement that after years of negotiations, Metro and the Federal Transit Administration have signed a grant for $670 million in New Starts money and a federally-backed $160-million loan for the Regional Connector project. The Times reports that wi-fi may be available in the Connector’s stations — which is nice to hear given the project’s $1.37-billion price tag :)

Free wi-fi now available on the Sprinter, in addition to the Coaster (Mass Transit Magazine)

Speaking of wi-fi, it’s now available on trains in north San Diego County. Before you email me the Obvious Big Relevant Question: Metro is working in the next two years to install equipment that will allow our customers to get a cell phone signal in underground Metro Rail stations.

Is California’s Congestion Management Program at the end of the road? (The Planning Report) 

This is a wonky but important article. The gist of it: Metro has studied replacing the current state program — which many see as bureaucratic and ineffective — with a program that would impose fees on new development to pay for transportation improvements. Twenty-two cities in L.A. County already have the impact fees (and they’re common elsewhere in the country), but they’re controversial nonetheless, with opponents arguing that such a fee would greatly harm the local economy and are redundant. Still, the issue is likely to return to the forefront soon and Metro will be involved, as we’re the agency that would collect the fees.

Elon Musk: autonomous driving just a few years away (Bloomberg News) 

The Tesla founder says his company will be a pioneer in self-driving cars and we’re only a decade away from widespread adoption of cars that can largely (and safely, say proponents) guide themselves. In other words, Musk will be able to go online and complain about the 405 project and hype his hyperloop thingy while his Tesla drives itself blissfully through West L.A. traffic.

Houston Metro rail line ridership exceeds expectations (Metro Magazine)

The 4,200 daily boardings on the 5.3-mile extension of the Red Line are ahead of the 2,600 boardings that were expected. So here’s the lesson for any Younglings out there thinking of spending some of their parents hard-earned dollars on a degree in transportation planning: when your ridership model burps out expected ridership numbers, always choose the low one in order to earn an “exceeds expectations” article. Now, go take the $20,000 I just saved you in college tuition and spend the money instead on backpacking Europe and falling in love with a Estonian boy/girl who can’t understand a damn thing you’re saying but will provide you with free snowboarding lessons and tasty pizza.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 19

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A CyclingSavvy instructor explains her objections to bike lanes (Biking in LA)

Karen Karabell, of St. Louis, makes a thoughtful, cogent argument against bike lanes, saying that she believes it’s safer for cyclists to be in traffic lanes — where motorists see them sooner and better — than in a narrow lane that is often ignored by many motorists. I agree with her on the issue of sight lines. But I still don’t want to ride in traffic lanes unless I must — I see this as a post for bigger, wider and better designed bike lanes.

Newsom changes mind on high-speed rail (CBS) 

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom says he’s just voicing an opinion privately shared by many Democrats. Although he was ardently backed the bullet train project between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he said that too little federal or private funds have emerged to build a project with an estimated $68 billion price tag. The money, Newsom said, would be better spent on other infrastructure needs.

Obama orders new efficiencies for big rigs (New York Times) 

The President on Tuesday order the EPA to develop tougher new fuel standards for trucks, with a goal of implementing them by 2018. While trucks comprise just four percent of traffic on the nation’s roads, President Obama said they are responsible for 20 percent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 18

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! 

Jamzilla on the 405 ends ahead of schedule (L.A. Times)

The 80-hour lane closures on the northbound 405 over the President’s Day weekend turned into 79-hour closures when the 405 reopened about 5 a.m. this morning instead of the planned 6 a.m. reopening. Enough people avoided the NB 405 to keep traffic moving for most of the weekend with Monday afternoon seeing the most time-munching delays.

Riders look for love on Valentine’s Day on the speed-dating train (L.A. Times) 

The speed dating event on the Red Line subway on Friday garners both an article and video! In the latter, reporter Trishna Patel scores a nice pair of socks. I rode for a couple hours on Friday and was mildly surprised at the healthy turnout as “speed dating” sounds basically horrifying to me — unlike Ukulele Man on the train Friday, I usually need seven or eight years before summoning the courage to speak to girls.

Here are our photos and video from the speed dating event. We’ll see if the event makes a return engagement next year. In the meantime, please let us know if any of our entrants make it to The Aisle — and I don’t mean bus or train aisle.

Semi-related: the following sentence in the LAT story caught me eye:

Sometimes he’ll try and talk to people on trains, but girls act conceited, he said, adding that

he was hoping to meet someone special.

Trust me, I’m no grammarian, but I thought it’s supposed to be “try to” in writing while “try and” is accepted as common in speech. Anyone out there in busland or trainland know?

Metro’s hardest seat to get (ZevWeb)

Kudos to whoever is writing the headlines for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website. The article looks at the public safety and financial challenges of providing restrooms for transit users. As you probably guessed, the story was prompted by complaints that a public restroom is need at the Orange Line’s Pierce College station.

Excerpt:

The agency, in its report, acknowledged the unpleasant realities that confront customers at some stations.

“Metro’s custodial staff report on-going issues with public urination and defecation at several of the rail stations as well as inside many of the station elevators,” the report said, adding that “other areas of public urination include the top side of subway station entrances such as Pershing Square, where loitering is common.”

But the agency pointed to the complexities of opening new restrooms with a cautionary tale of what happened when The W Hotel, located above the Hollywood and Vine Red Line station, agreed to provide a street-level public toilet as part of their contract with Metro.

According to Metro, the facility “became a magnet for the area’s homeless population which impacted the use by Metro’s customers. While open, the hotel developer was expending an average of $250 per day on paper products and had to replace three sinks, three mirrors and five toilet seats due to damage.” The restroom was labeled a public nuisance and was shuttered less than 4 months after its opening.

And here is the staff report for those who want to learn more about the issue. The gist of it: it’s up to the Metro Board of Directors to decide if they want to invest in public restrooms on the system.

AEG: NFL stadium still a first-string idea (Daily News) 

AEG, the entertainment company, says it still wants to build a football stadium next to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The city’s approval of the plans expires in October but AEG wouldn’t commit but others say the company is likely to seek extra time to reach a deal with the National Football League. Good luck with that.

A tough wake-up call for an L.A. bike commuter (L.A. Times)

LAT data analyst Ben Poston writes a first-person account of moving to L.A. from the Midwest and his four-months of commuting to work by bike from Los Feliz. It ended badly, with Ben getting right-hooked at an intersection in Hollywood and suffering a concussion and other injuries — he was wearing a reflective vest but the lights on his bike were out.

Here’s the excerpt that has already inspired a lot of chatter on social media;

I can’t count the number of people who have told me that they used to commute by bike until they were either (A) struck by a car or (B) got in some terrible accident by encountering a giant pothole or running into an open car door.

Now that I’m among the two-thirds of commuters in the city who drive solo to work, I experience Los Angeles differently from before. I can crank up “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on KCRW, roll the windows down and let the warm breeze dry my hair. I can sip a coffee and arrive at work clean — without having to change out of sweaty bike clothes.

And while I’m in favor of more bike lanes in the city, I must confess I’m annoyed when I see traffic lanes turned over to cyclists. North Virgil Avenue in East Hollywood recently lost half its vehicle lanes, and now my evening commute is five to 10 minutes slower.

In just over a year, I’ve become the opportunistic, lane-hopping L.A. driver I once joked about. Making it through on a yellow light is expected. Speeding 50 mph on surface streets has become the norm. I despise sitting in traffic, so I take shortcuts that I think are mine alone — I call them the “Bat Cave” routes.

My official response is to tell everyone that the Red Line is an option if he doesn’t mind riding from Los Feliz to Hollywood. My unofficial response is I commend Ben for writing a brutally honest piece although I’m personally happy to see street space being handed over to bikes and transit.

NYC’s touchscreen subway maps are finally here — and they’re amazing (Gizmodo)

New touchscreen maps in the New York subway get raves from Gizmodo — and could be on the way in Los Angeles. The photo below shows a prototype that Metro web staff are testing. Staff are planning this spring to ask the Board of Directors to issue a request for proposals, the first step in identifying a contractor to supply the devices. Which, btw, are pretty cool and could be helpful for those who find the static bus and train maps at rail stations to be daunting.

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