Transportation headlines, Wed., Feb. 20; amazing bike grill, candidate ‘clarifies’ subway position, fare free transit spreading?

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: The scene on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles last night. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The scene on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles last night. Click above to see larger. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Millenium Hollywood plan clears first hurdle (L.A. Times) 

The city of L.A.’s planning department approved plans for two towers — a block from the Hollywood & Vine Red Line station — that would house apartments, offices and retails. Some residents are upset, saying the towers, which would be at least 485 and 585 feet tall, respectively, would block views and add to traffic in the area. I’ll offer up the opposing view: it’s nice to see Hollywood getting some much needed new development, homes, jobs and commerce — the things that make a city function like a city. The towers still must be approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

The mayoral interview candidate series: Kevin James (L.A. Streetsblog)

Part two of the five-part series includes a video interview with Kevin James.

Kevin James clarifies views on subway station (Century City News) 

“Clarifies” is not the word I would have chosen for the headline — James doesn’t say in this short piece whether he supports the location of the Century City station and whether it’s appropriate for the subway tunnels to go under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. James, however, says that if Beverly Hills prevails in court and the approvals for the Westside Subway Extension are overturned, he would then sit down with both Beverly Hills and Metro and work through the issues.

Fare-free transit spreading in Europe? (Human Transit) 

The city of Tallin (pop. 425,000) in Estonia is, by Jarrett Walker’s reckoning, now the largest city in the world to offer free transit for its residents — although residents still need to purchase a fare card. Tourists and visitors still have to pay fares. Interestingness excerpt:

Indeed, smart farecards make it possible for anyone to subsidize fares without much complexity, opening up a huge range of subsidy possibilities for any entity that sees an advantage in doing so.  Yet another reason that city governments are not as helpless about transit as they often think, even if they don’t control their transit system.

Like to eat sausages while biking? Then this bike grill is for you (The Atlantic Cities) 

Check out this awesome invention — instead of a bike rack behind the seat there’s a grill capable of holding four large sausages. The inventor is from L.A. and says he will target German audiences because of their high per capita consumption of bratwurst.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Feb. 19; another Beverly Hills lawsuit against subway, Najarian and Metro Board,

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

City of Beverly Hills files lawsuit to block federal funding for Westside Subway Extension (City of Beverly Hills) 

The news release from the city is unclear whose decision it was to file a second lawsuit over the project. The only person quoted in the release is the city attorney. This suit names the Federal Transit Administration as the defendant and alleges that the environmental studies for the subway were flawed; the city doesn’t want the subway to tunnel under parts of its high school campus en route to Century City.

However, the news release notes that Mayor Willie Brien and the four members of the Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously this month to set aside an extra $250,000 of city funds for legal bills related to fighting Metro’s plans.

The lawsuit comes less than three weeks before Council elections on March 5 and the subway is obviously an issue — well, at least for some. It’s worth noting that Beverly Hills Mayor Willie Brien attended and spoke at a Metro event for the beginning of utility relocations for the subway back in November and said then that he supports the project. Support or not, the city filed this suit against the FTA, the federal agency that approves environmental documents and oversees the flow of federal money to the project.

The city of Beverly Hills last June sued Metro, also alleging environmental studies were flawed. The Beverly Hills Unified School District last year also filed a pair of suits, one against Metro and one against the FTA.

Beverly Hills’ subway spat (Los Angeles Times) 

Excerpt from this editorial:

Beverly Hills’ embarrassing battle against the Westside subway extension, which emerged as a major political issue last year, is becoming one of the key issues in the March 5 city elections. With the lines hardening between those determined to take legal action to stop the construction of a tunnel under the local high school, which they fear will endanger students, and those who see that route as the safest alternative, we urge residents to consider the scientific and engineering reality rather than merely relying on emotion. In other words: Stop gumming up the rails, Beverly Hills, for your own sake and L.A.’s.

The editorial says that Mayor Brien has tried to avoid a costly legal fight. But, as noted above, it’s unclear exactly who on the City Council approved the new suit against the FTA. According to the Beverly Hills Courier — a sometimes accuracy-challenged newspaper — Brien has said he will support the project even if it tunnels under part of the campus.

Jim Newton: an MTA power play (L.A. Times) 

Editorial chief Jim Newton looks at Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian’s battle to keep his seat on the Metro Board of Directors. Some on the Board oppose him, some support him. At the root of the battle is Najarian’s opposition to a possible tunnel for the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. That project is currently under study along with other alternatives including no-build, traffic signal and intersection improvements, bus rapid transit and light rail.

The mayoral candidate interview series (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Streetsblog on Monday debuted the first of five short video interviews with the five leading candidates for mayor of Los Angeles. The first is with Emanuel Pleitez. The mayor of Los Angeles has an automatic seat on the Metro Board and also gets to appoint members to three other seats.

Transportation headlines, Friday, Feb. 15; art of transit, speed bumps — should they stay or go?, solar trees for big parking lots

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice photo of a streetcar taken in Toronto last week. Photo by Chung Ho Leung, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice photo of a streetcar taken in Toronto last week. Photo by Chung Ho Leung, via Flickr creative commons.

Blast from the past? Report from new LADOT looks at benefits of removing speed bumps (L.A. Streetsblog)

Editor Damien Newton takes strong exception to the new report that sees speed bumps — intended as traffic calming measures — as an impediment to emergency service vehicles. One bike advocate quoted takes exception, saying the 24-7 safety improvements on the bumps far outweighs the few seconds in delays that they may occasionally cause. Damien suggests that the city suggests that before the City Council acts to either ban future humps (the program is currently in limbo due to budget issues), the city should first investigate traffic calming measures that slows cars but allows emergency vehicles to proceed at full speed.

In the meantime, the city of L.A. is adding another 20 miles of sharrows to help cyclists from getting clocked by car doors swinging open and to help them find their way on better cycling routes. With all due respect, I’m not a sharrows fan: I feel like they’re a poor substitute for real bike improvements. Speed bumps at least slow competing car traffic down.

Your thoughts on speed bumps? As an occasional cyclist, I like that they certainly keep traffic of some streets I frequently use in Pasadena and adjacent San Marino. On the other hand, the bumps tend to traverse the entire street, meaning I usually have to slow down, too.

City of Beverly Hills spends less on case against Metro than school district in final quarter of 2012 (page 4 of current issue) (Beverly Hills Weekly)

The city paid $13,526 in the fourth quarter of 2012 to two firms to handle its lawsuit against Metro alleging that the environmental studies for the Westside Subway Extension were flawed — the city and the Beverly Hills Unified School District is trying to prevent tunnels from going under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. By comparison, the Beverly Hills Unified School District, which has launched both state and federal lawsuits against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration, spent $439,000 in same period. The District says that much of that money was spent on geotechnical work at the school, but the Weekly points out the District still spent about fives times as much on lawyers as the city.

Meanwhile, the rival Beverly Hills Courier is trying to encourage — to put it politely — the city and Mayor Willie Brien to also file a federal lawsuit against the FTA in the subway matter. The Courier is using the subway fight as one of its criteria in choosing who to endorse in the March 4 Council elections. Brien is running for reelection to the Council and has made it clear that he supports the subway project while opposing the route under the school.

When L.A. was empty — wide open SoCal landscapes (KCET)

Another fine blog post from Nathan Masters on development and growth in Southern California, with some great photos. Excerpt:

Los Angeles kept growing. It did so in part by expanding outward from its historic core, rolling west toward the sea, but it also sprouted offshoots. First along the steam railroads, then the interurban lines of the Pacific Electric and finally the freeways, suburbs sprang up amid the countryside. Many of the most dramatic photos of an emptier Los Angeles show new settlements like Hollywood or Beverly Hills — now familiar to much of the world through popular culture — as rustic country towns. Eventually, the surrounding countryside disappeared as the suburbs and city merged into one metropolitan agglomeration.

The process reached a fevered pitch in the years immediately following World War II. From 1945 through 1957, subdividers carved 462,593 separate lots out of agricultural land in Los Angeles County. By the end of those thirteen years, nearly all of the San Fernando Valley had become urbanized, and the master-planned city of Lakewood had risen from the bean fields north of Long Beach — an event D. J. Waldie chronicled in his classic memoir, “Holy Land.”

Growing a solar forest in a South Carolina parking lot (GOOD) 

Check out the photo of this solar tree soon to be planted in South Carolina; the San Diego firm Envision Solar created it. It provides shade for vehicles parked under it, creates electricity and can be rotated to follow the path of the sun. Perhaps some big box stores and their accompanying parking lots can go this route.

Photo: Envision Solar.

Photo: Envision Solar.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Feb. 14; subway romance, Burbank’s monorail, Surfliner Express woes, $50 cup of Starbucks video

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: Happy Second Thursday in February, People. Photo is from Boston earlier this month by Craig Cloutier , via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: Happy Second Thursday in February, People. Photo is from Boston earlier this month by Craig Cloutier , via Flickr creative commons.

TIFIA loans likely skewed toward new road projects (The Transport Politic)

Good post by Yonah Freemark that notes that most of the applications for the expanded federal loan program known as TIFIA — i.e. America Fast Forward — have been for road projects. The problem, Freemark writes, is that federal legislation is working at cross purposes. On the one hand, America Fast Forward says the loans should pay for innovative transportation projects. On the other hand, the overall transportation spending bill that included AFF basically doles out TIFIA loans based on factors that most road projects can easily meet.

Dump the Surfliner Express? Report says ridership is dismal (L.A. Streetsblog)

The morning Amtrak express train between San Diego and L.A. Union Station is faring poorly and officials blame losing riders from stations that are now bypassed (San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana and Fullerton are among them). The express train requires two hours and 28 minutes to get from San Diego to Union Station, with the train leaving San Diego at 7:07 a.m. That’s competitive with driving during rush hour but let’s face it: 148 minutes — if the train is on time — to go 120 miles is kind of sad in the year 2013.

Before it’s time: Burbank’s experimental monorail (Los Angeles Magazine) 

I missed this one in yesterday’s library round-up and I’ll toss it out there to get some clicks from the monorail obsessives around town. It’s the story of a short and experimental monorail that existed from 1910 to 1912 in a Burbank orchard in hopes of persuading the powers-that-be that monorails could be the future of mass transit in So Cal. As you might have guessed, the powers-that-be were not persuaded. Cool historical photo with the post.

The world’s most expensive Starbucks drink (Chevassus Studios) 

Commuters like coffee, thus this qualifies for today’s transpo headlines! Who wouldn’t pay $50 for a drink with 48 shots of espesso? The only thing wrong with the video is the lack of a sequel to see what this guy was like after drinking this monstrosity.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Feb. 13; Transpo & State of the Union, Aspen law would allow cyclists to yield at stop signs

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: A cyclist on the beach bike path in Santa Monica this past weekend. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: A cyclist on the beach bike path in Santa Monica this past weekend. Photo by Steve Hymon.

If approved, the law would be similar to one adopted in Idaho 30 years ago and would allow cyclists to roll through stop signs in the same way that motorists can proceed at ‘yield’ signs. A survey found that 90 percent of cyclists in Aspen are running stop signs anyway, a study found that Idaho’s law has improved safety and advocates for the law say cyclists will no longer have to slam on the brakes, which can lead to loss of control. They also say that it will lead to better interactions with motorists who are never sure what a cyclist may do at a stop sign.
BART considers rebuilding two stations (San Francisco Chronicle) 
The two busy stations in downtown San Francisco would get a $900-million revamp in order to add platforms, staircases and elevators. The platforms would also have sliding glass doors that would open when trains arrive to prevent people from falling onto the tracks. The stations were designed in the late 1960s and BART’s ridership has grown to more than 393,000 average boardings on weekdays.
A rendering of BART's proposed station revisions. Image: BART.

A rendering of BART’s proposed station revisions. Image: BART.

Wendy Greuel attacks Eric Garcetti on Hollywood development (Daily News) 

Interesting story from the L.A. mayoral campaign that sort of involves transit. Greuel says Hollywood now has too much traffic and development, Garcetti says Hollywood’s turnaround is a success story. As reporter Dakota Smith notes, no skyscrapers have actually been built on Garcetti’s watch. She also writes that the dispute involves the city’s new zoning plan for Hollywood that would promote more development near housing. Some residents are suing over the plan, alleging it will allow too much development. Garcetti supports the plan, Greuel hasn’t taken a stance.

The State of the Union Speech (WhiteHouse.gov)

A few excerpts from President Obama’s speech last night that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.  (Applause.)  Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.  (Applause.)

[snip]
In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.
[snip]
America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire — a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America — a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina — said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.  And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.  And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district.  I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter.)
So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. (Applause.)  And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most:  modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.  (Applause.)  Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away.  We can get this done.
My three cents: Not much overall on transportation or mass transit but certainly encouraging (in my view) to hear the President say “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” It’s interesting to hear the President talk about more natural gas drilling on public lands to help the U.S. become more energy independent while also talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to stave off climate change. On the surface, those goals do not seem compatible, but the President argues that natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels we would use otherwise.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s speech does not include the words “climate change,” “transportation” or infrastructure, although he did say, “When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he [the President] accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.”
He did talk about energy:
One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.
If approved, the law would be similar to one adopted in Idaho 30 years ago and would allow cyclists to roll through stop signs in the same way that motorists can proceed at ‘yield’ signs. A survey found that 90 percent of cyclists in Aspen are running stop signs anyway, a study found that Idaho’s law has improved safety and advocates for the law say cyclists will no longer have to slam on the brakes, which can lead to loss of control. They also say that it will lead to better interactions with motorists who are never sure what a cyclist may do at a stop sign.
Good issue. I live in Pasadena, where the safest place to ride are quiet residential streets that also have frequent stop signs and little cross traffic. In fact, the city encourages cyclists to use those streets, seemingly unaware that frequent stop signs are a deterrent for cyclists. So, either get rid of some of the stop signs in some directions or discuss such a law here! Your thoughts?

Transportation headlines, Monday, Feb. 11; Santa Monica’s complete street, CEQA reform!, would you give up your car for Lent?

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

The new Ocean Boulevard "Green Street" in Santa Monica between Neilson Way and Lincoln Boulevard. Sidewalks were widened, bike lanes painted, trees were planted, among other things. Click above to see a fact sheet on the project. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The new Ocean Boulevard “Green Street” in Santa Monica between Neilson Way and Lincoln Boulevard. Sidewalks were widened, bike lanes painted, trees were planted, among other things. Click above to see a fact sheet on the project. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Monrovia officials to weigh settling lawsuit over TOD at future Gold Line station (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

The lawsuit was brought by a developer who alleged the city of Monrovia and its former redevelopment agency for violating a development agreement to build new residences and retail on 80 acres of land near the station. The city is weighing giving two acres plus about $600,000 to the developer, clearing the way for about 200 apartments to be built.

What would ideal CEQA reform look like (California High-Speed Rail blog)

Smart post about efforts to change California environmental law — which many see as getting in the way of good projects that could ultimately help the environment. While long studies and lawsuits play out, financial backers of projects have to absorb the large cost of sitting and waiting. Making changes will be tough. Many environmental advocates fear changing the law will lead to abuses while others say that something must be done to make it easier to build in cities.

Car fasting for Lent? (Copenhagenize.com)

Some members of the Catholic and Protestant clergy in Austria are urging following to give up or significantly reduce their car usage during the upcoming Lent. It’s part of a push to improve public health and increase park land and, yes, it means walking to church.

Transportation headlines, Friday, Feb. 8; Bev Hills legal fees, Gold Line work in Azusa, transit’s impact on traffic

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

BHUSD pays law firm $439,000 for three months work (pdf, page 10) (Beverly Hills Weekly) 

The payments approved by the elected Board of the Beverly Hills Unified School District were to the firm Hill, Farrer and Burrill, LLP, for their work on the district’s lawsuit against Metro. The suit alleges that environmental studies for the Westside Subway Extension did not comply with the law; the Board is trying to prevent tunneling for the project to go under a part of the Beverly Hills High School campus.

Overall, the Board spent nearly $2.58 million on legal and lobbying fees in 2012 to seven different firms. Some of that money, the Board says, went to cover the costs of geotechnical investigations, with payments being made to engineering firms by the law firms. Board of Education President Jake Manaster said that the District may be able to recover its legal fees from Metro should the District prevail in litigation. If the District loses, however, Manaster said Metro could not be made to pay the District’s fees.

Korean Air’s office-hotel will be tallest building in L.A. (Bloomberg) 

The tower at Wilshire and Figueroa in downtown L.A. will be 73 stories and 1,100 feet tall; the U.S. Bank building is 72 stories and 1,018 feet tall. The skyscraper will be built on the site of the old Wilshire Grand hotel and will be conveniently across the street from the entrance to the 7th/Metro Center station that serves the Red/Purple Lines, Blue Line and Expo Lines — and will be the future home of the Regional Connector tying together the Blue, Expo and Gold lines.

According to this list on Wikipedia, the new Korean Air building will be the 10th tallest in the United States and the tallest building west of Chicago. The Stratosphere in Las Vegas is actually a taller structure, but not considered a skyscraper because much of its structure is unoccupied.

Public transit saved 865 million hours of delays (Texas Transportation Institute) 

Chart

To put it another way, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s calculations, not having mass transit would dump a lot more vehicles on the roads of major metro areas, leading to even worse traffic. Let’s think about it another way: what if a fraction of the 158,000 or so boardings on the Red/Purple Line stopped taking the train and instead drove? Do you think that would improve travel times on Wilshire Boulevard and the Hollywood Freeway? (Correct answer is: No!!!!!)

Azusa officials get preview of Gold Line Foothill Extension work (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Work is underway on the eastern portion of the 11.5-mile line that will extend the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border. Work on the grade crossing at Dalton Avenue begins later this month. There’s also a photo gallery with the article, but more pics of officials than construction work — and some annoying ads, too.