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

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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.

DSC_0705

Extra tasty new aerial photos of Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension construction as project surpasses 50 percent complete milestone!

The 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension is now 50 percent complete, according to the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, which is building the Pasadena-to-Azusa/Glendora border project.

Below are an awesome collection of aerial photos taken in recent days by the Construction Authority. The news release — with a lot of good info — follows the photographs.

We’ll go from west to east with the pics, starting in eastern Pasadena — click on any of the photos to see them larger:

210_Freeway_-_Tie-In_Area_Near_Sierra_Madre_Villa_Stations

Photos: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Above is the work being done to extend the Gold Line’s tracks beyond the current terminus at Sierra Madre Villa in Pasadena.

Aerial_Shot_looking_east_from_Gold_Line_Bridge

A view looking east and south of the Gold Line’s right-of-way leaving the median of the 210 freeway and headed toward downtown Arcadia via the new Basket Bridge over the 210′s eastbound lanes.

Santa_Anita_Bridge_-_aerial

The new bridge carrying the Gold Line tracks over busy Santa Anita Avenue. The old tracks were at street level.

Arcadia_Station,_Parking_and_Transit_Plaza_-_aerial

The Arcadia station and parking lot taking shape. The station is right behind the popular REI store with the rest of downtown Arcadia a short walk south on First Street, which runs along the bottom of this photo.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 12

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How to pass time on the train (Imgur) 

576974541

By turning people in Ewoks if you’re Twitter user October Jones. And Spiderman. And Waldo. Check out the entire series at the link above.

LADOT announces first demonstration of mobile ticketing in Southern California (LADOT news release)

Riders on DASH and Commuter Express buses will be able to purchase fares — including single rides — directly from their mobile phones with the new app made by GlobeSherpa. The demonstration program is scheduled to begin this summer.

Metrolink to Bob Hope Airport gains steam (Santa Clarita Signal)

A station on the Antelope Valley Line broke ground last year and heavy construction is expected to start “within the next few months,” according to the Signal. The new platform is expected to make its service debut next year, with buses shuttling rail passengers to the airport terminals.

The end of snow? (New York Times) 

A good look at the impact of climate change on alpine sports, specifically skiing. Excerpt:

The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere. Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s, and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100.

The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters. As far for the Western part of the country, it will lose an estimated 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed — reducing the snowpack in Park City, Utah, to zero and relegating skiing to the top quarter of Ajax Mountain in Aspen.

The facts are straightforward: The planet is getting hotter. Snow melts above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The Alps are warming two to three times faster than the worldwide average, possibly because of global circulation patterns. Since 1970, the rate of winter warming per decade in the United States has been triple the rate of the previous 75 years, with the strongest trends in the Northern regions of the country. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, and this winter is already looking to be one of the driest on record — with California at just 12 percent of its average snowpack in January, and the Pacific Northwest at around 50 percent.

A storm this weekend brought three to five feet of snow to Mammoth Mountain and the resorts at Lake Tahoe, all of which had been lacking snow big-time. It was a reprieve of sorts, as President’s Day is usually one of the busiest ski weekends of the year.

Concerned about climate change? You can help reduce your carbon footprint by walking, biking, taking transit, using less electricity at home and encouraging your local utility to use more renewable sources of power, in particular solar and wind.

Here’s a look at Half Dome at 7:51 a.m. thanks to one of Yosemite’s webcams:

sentinel

Ice blankets south as thousands lose power (New York Times)

About 2,200 canceled flights at Atlanta’s airport thus far, the most in recent memory, says a spokesperson. A rough winter continues in the Eastern U.S., while the Western U.S. is still dealing with drought, even with recent snow in the Sierra and Rockies.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 11

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First look at Broad Museum’s public plaza and new restaurant (Curbed LA)

Very interesting look at the plaza and eating space that the Broad Museum is building along the Hope Street side of the museum, which is next to Disney Concert Hall on Grand Street. This is significant because Metro is building the Regional Connector underground station on the Hope side of the building in what is a bit of an awkward spot. The plaza, however, should help better tie the Connector’s station to Grand Street.

The end of LOS in California? State wants input on a new planning metric (L.A. Streetsblog)

Smart article by Melanie Curry on a wonky subject. As part of proposed reform of environmental law in California, the state has proposed getting rid of the requirement that “level of service”  – known as LOS — be analyzed on roads near new developments.

LOS is usually measured at intersections and opponents of a development almost always point to LOS as a reason that a development should be rejected or downsized. This has had a perverse effect. A really good transit-oriented development near a transit stop still will likely impact traffic at nearby intersections, even if it’s good for the city as a whole (more people living near transit, more people walking, etc.) The LOS scores don’t capture that.

Or, as Melanie puts it:

The irony of LOS is that CEQA requires mitigation when projects cause delay to automobile traffic—even if the projects create better conditions for other road users, such as transit riders, bicyclists, or pedestrians. Thus the San Francisco Bike Plan was held up for years because of a lawsuit claiming the city did not take into account the negative effects bike infrastructure would have on LOS.

Governor Jerry’s Brown is now asking the public for input on a better metric to measure traffic congestion from projects. As flawed as LOS may be, the question becomes what might work better, especially in the era of climate change?

Wilshire BRT project has a Facebook page! (Facebook) 

Photo: city of Los Angeles.

Photo: city of Los Angeles.

The city of Los Angeles’ Public Works Department has set up a Facebook page for construction of the Wilshire bus lane. This is first I’ve seen of it — looks like almost daily updates and photos on work on the peak hours lane, which is scheduled to open next year.

Transportation headlines, Monday, February 10

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Even Bruce Springsteen is singing about the 405 and this coming weekend’s Jamzilla, when the northbound lanes of the 405 will be closed or mostly closed for 80 hours. Above video from Springsteen’s show Saturday night in Perth, on the west coast of the AC/DC continent.

43 years ago Sunday: Sylmar quake topples freeway and prompts seismic retrofitting plan (Primary Resources) 

The Metro Library’s blog takes a good look back at the 6.6-quake in San Fernando on Feb. 9, 1974, that brought down freeway bridges, killed 49 in the VA Hospital in San Fernando and compromised many other structures. As a result, a new state law prohibited new development in earthquake fault zones. But 43 years hence, the state is still mapping those zones — the reason that Metro did extensive mapping work of its own when planning the Purple Line Extension in the Century City area.

A new OCTA video promoting the 91 Express Lanes that run between the 55 freeway and the Riverside County Line. The big news these days is that Riverside County is getting on board and adding the toll lanes between the county line and Riverside, a project scheduled to be complete in 2017. By most accounts, the aforementioned AC/DC song aptly describes this commute.

Bullet train ridership estimates up, cost estimates down in new business plan (L.A. Times)

The cost drops by $800 million to $67.6 billion to build the completely grade-separated line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, ridership projections are up by 25 percent to 35 million in 2040. The state is appealing a Superior Court ruling last year that prohibited the sale of state bonds to help fund the project — without the state bonds, the project can’t receive federal funds. Meanwhile, the project hopes to break ground this summer on the initial 29-mile segment of track near Fresno.

Sochi got the gold, bypassed village got the dust (New York Times)

The new road and railroad between Sochi and the Winter Olympics ski resort don’t include an exit or station, respectively, at a tiny mountain village of 200 that also took the brunt of highway and railroad construction. Residents hope that some of the Games’ money and excitement will trickle down to them, but that appears unlikely for now.