Transportation headlines, Monday, March 5

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.

Manhattan, as seen in this 2005 photo. Photo by Jens Karlsson, via Flickr creative commons.

How many people can Manhattan hold? (New York Times)

Great story that attempts to find a very evasive answer to a big question: just how many people can Manhattan hold? Excerpt:

As much as determining Manhattan’s maximum capacity is about the art and science of urban planning, the question is in some sense much more about psychology. Given all the tradeoffs and rewards of living in this staggeringly complex, gloriously maddening city, there is no final accounting or projection. When it makes sense for our lives, we make do with less space. Like most things that are a matter of compromise and desire, it comes down to another simple question: Just how badly do you want what you want?

Manhattan’s current population of about 1.6 million is about 700,000 fewer people than lived on the island in 1910. The population, of course, more than doubles on weekdays with commuters going to work and other destinations. One expert is quoted saying that the transit system is running at capacity during the day in Manhattan and that transit needs to be expanded or trains need to be run closer together.

I’ve heard occasional talk over the years from people — mostly not-in-my-backyarders — that L.A.’s population needs to be capped. That’s crazy talk, of course, because the population density in many parts of the metro area is pretty thin compared to other metro areas around the world. When people talk like this, they pretend they’re talking about people but they really mean cars.

Baldwin Avenue to go under rail tracks (Pasadena Star News)

As part of the Alameda Corridor East project (ACE), Baldwin Avenue in El Monte will be placed in an underpass beneath busy freight and Metrolink tracks. The project just received a chunk of state funding last month. The ACE project aims to build 20 new grade separations in the San Gabriel Valley and improve safety at many others — resulting in more safety for cars and trains.

Personal car sharing comes to L.A. (L.A. Times)

A firm allows motorists to rent their cars to others by the hour or the day. The car owner and firm divvy up the rental fees, which begin at a reasonable $5 per hour. Neat idea — we’ll see if it sticks.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, March 2

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.

Sorry you have to watch a car ad before KABC feature starts!

Gas sends Angelenos flocking to mass transit (KABC)

With the price of a gallon of gas rapidly closing in on the cost of a Metro day pass — just $5 for unlimited rides — more Angelenos are finding the latter a good bargain. Longtime riders tell KABC that they’re seeing trains and buses busier than ever. The Sacramento Bee intriguingly notes that gas usage was down across the state even before the spike in prices, likely due to more fuel efficient cars hitting the road combined with the down economy. And the Washington Post reminds us that, nope, more drilling in the U.S. won’t actually reduce the price of gas. The amount the U.S. could produce by tapping every well is still only a blip on the global oil market, where fuel prices are set.

Ride along with Metro CEO Art Leahy (KPCC)

Venerable radio host Patt Morrison sat down with Metro CEO Art Leahy to talk about the state of transit in So Cal. Regular readers of The Source will recognize many of the topics covered: new late night service on the subway, transit projects in the works and federal funding.

An interview with the man responsible for L.A.’s bus shelters (LA Streetsblog)

Have you noticed some new green bus bunches around L.A.? Streetsblog’s Dana Gabbard sat down with the City of Los Angeles administrator who is coordinating their installation with the firm that has the bus bench contract with the city. One of the program’s primary objectives is to get more bus benches into the neighborhoods that currently have the fewest.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 1

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.

Florence-Firestone kids scared to ride bikes because of gangs (StreetsBlog LA)

Not even the best bike lanes in the world are enough to entice kids onto some L.A. streets. This heartbreaking piece tells the story of a couple of kids in the Florence-Firestone neighborhood where bike jacking is as common as the violent retribution that follows, should the victim try to retrieve the bike. The tale reminds us of the real need to try and figure out ways to make our communities safer places to get around — whether in buses or on bikes. It also points out a few community-based programs that have had some success in addressing the issue.

Rising gas prices mean transit riders save money while car drivers empty tanks and wallets (American Public Transportation Association)

Another unpleasant reminder of rocketing gas prices comes from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the international group representing bus, rapid transit and commuter rail systems: Car commuters in Los Angeles are spending on average about $907 per month on gas. Alas, that number is based on national average gas prices of $3.57 per gallon from nine days ago. What a difference a week makes.

There’s a road closure coming. But no, we don’t mean the 405 (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Does your commute take you through El Monte? Be forewarned that a portion of the busy thoroughfare Baldwin Avenue is scheduled for closure late this summer as a project is launched aimed at improving traffic congestion and safety at a major railroad crossing. Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority (ACE) last week secured funding to build a four-lane railroad underpass and bridge on Baldwin Avenue, which accommodates 28,000 vehicles a day, according to ACE figures.The project is expected to take 18 to 24 months, with detours lasting as long.

High-speed rail construction likely delayed until 2013 (Orange County Register)

At its meeting today in Sacramento, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will learn about an updated schedule for the $6 billion construction project. Construction in the central San Joaquin Valley was supposed to start this September. But the start date now looks more like early 2013, even if state legislators approve billions in bond money this spring. The problem appears to be revisions to environmental reports for the 120-mile Fresno-to-Bakersfield section, which is the result of a “slew of objections,” including opposition to a route that would take trains through farmland. If the route cannot easily be agreed upon for flat, uninhabited farmland what will happen when it hits urban areas like San Francisco and L.A.?

Metro’s fare-evader crackdown long overdue (L.A. Daily News)

An editorial in today’s Daily News supports the Metro Board’s decision last week to begin locking gates at Metro Rail stations within the next six months. “When it comes to public transportation, there is no such thing as a free ride,” the editorial says.” People who abuse the honor system on MTA buses and rail lines may save themselves big bucks. But they pass on the cost of their ill-gotten gain to many others.”

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Feb. 29

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.

Which city’s heavy rail system has the best Walk Score? Los Angeles! (Greater Greater Washington)

The blog compared the subway in L.A. to other heavy rail systems (light rail doesn’t count) and L.A. edged New York City for the best Walk Score. For those unfamiliar, Walk Score is a computation — sometimes accurate, sometimes not — of a location’s proximity to amenities such as stores, schools and other amenities. I’m guessing the L.A. subway did well because it serves downtown and other dense neighborhoods such as Westlake and Hollywood.

 

L.A. County approves new bike plan (Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website)

It’s the first update to the plan in 37 years and would add 832 miles of bikeways in unincorporated parts of the county at an estimated cost of about $331 million. The plan would create about 23 miles of new bike boulevards as well as 274 miles of bike lanes and nearly 72 miles of dedicated bike paths. Funding still needs to be secured, but at least the county now has a blueprint at the same time many of the cities in L.A. County have also been updating their bike plans. Here’s the county’s bike plan website.

Making a more bikeable UCLA (UCLA Today)

A noon event on campus today will discuss ways to improve cycling around the Westwood campus. There are already 1,750 UCLA employees who bike to work, not to mention many students who use bikes to get around the sprawling campus and Westwood area. Some improvements include more bike racks and bike channels in stairways to help students get up and down UCLA’s hills. For more info on today’s event, click here.

Need a guiding light? (FastCodeDesign)

Need help finding your way indoors? Check out the video above. How necessary is it? You be the judge.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Feb. 28

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.

Colorful Pakistani Bus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The American bus revival (BBC News Magazine)

Since voters, Congress and state legislatures can’t seem to get behind high-speed rail, someone has to pick up the demand for long distance and regional transportation. Into the void has stepped Greyhound and low-cost startups like Bolt Bus, which runs buses with fares starting at $1 between New York and Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. In September, when traveling between New York and Philadelphia, I opted for Bolt, which offers free wifi, over Amtrak’s Acela. The trip cost me $13 while Amtrak would have been $105. It didn’t take me long to do the math.

Looks like all systems go for Central subway (San Francisco Chronicle)

If all goes as planned, San Francisco will have a major new piece of transit infrastructure when the Central Subway is completed in 2018. The 1.7-mile project will link San Francisco’s commuter rail station to Chinatown, with key transfers to both the muni rail and BART that run under Market Street in downtown. The project is expected to cost $1.6 billion and earlier this month the Obama Administration recommended it receive $150 million in federal funds from the New Starts program — the project is expected to receive $942.2 million in funds overall in the coming years. The agency was also recently approved by the feds to buy two tunnel-boring machines and to build the starting point for the tunneling scheduled to begin in January. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is a major backer of the project, which will bring a rail project into the heart of San Francisco and Chinatown. The subway will also connect with San Francisco’s new T-Third Line which runs at grade south to Bayview and Candlestick Park.

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Transportation headlines, Monday, Feb. 27

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 305 bus: to be or not to be? (L.A. Times)

Passengers complain at the impending loss of the 305 line, which zigzags across town between Willowbrook and Westwood. Metro plans to cut the line after the Expo Line opens, in part because of the new east-west rail service, low ridership and budget issues. Other lines have been beefed up and there are other ways to get from Willowbrook to Westwood in about the same time as the 305 — but most require one or more transfers. The New York Times looked at the prospective cut last July.

A HOT lane in the Seattle area. Photo by Washington State DOT.

A decent overview of the trend toward converting carpool lanes to high occupancy toll lanes in which most carpoolers still travel for free but single motorists can buy their way into the lanes by paying a toll via electronic transponder. The story focuses on Atlanta’s newest lanes, which have been controversial. Evidence points to the carpool lanes still moving faster than the general lanes but many vocal critics say the entire freeway is slower than before. Metro is set to launch its ExpressLanes project on the 110 freeway’s carpool lanes in the fall.

Westside rises up against Bergamot project (Santa Monica Daily Press)

Plans to build 325 residential units and 495,000 square feet of creative space at Stewart and Olympic in Santa Monica is drawing criticism from as far as Brentwood, with one restauranteur saying it will impact his business there. The development will be next to a station on Expo Line phase 2.

Arroyo Seco Bike Path, a pictorial (KCET)

Nice look at the two-mile bike lane along the Arroyo Seco from York Boulevard to Montecito Heights. It’s really a shame there isn’t a bike path all the way from JPL to Cypress Park, where the Arroyo Seco flows into the L.A. River. If there’s a will, there’s a way, people.

Transportation headlines, Friday, Feb. 24

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.

Photo credit: KCET

L.A. State Historic Park: a deserted railroad yard is transformed yet unfinished (KCET)

In its Departures column, KCET features an article on the unfinished work of creating Los Angeles State Historic Park. The piece tells the story of the battle to preserve as a park a former abandoned 32 acre rail yard in downtown L.A. The park is between Chinatown on the west and the L.A. River on the east and is within walking distance of City Hall and Union Station. The Cornfields, as it has become known, is also served by the Chinatown Gold Line station.

Moving sustainably (Google)

In addition to public transit, part of the transportation solution is going to be businesses stepping up to help their employees get to work. Not every company can afford to do what Google is doing to reduce its transportation carbon footprint but then, lots of companies that can afford to do more to promote alternatives to the lone driver car commuter, are not doing enough. In this video, Google’s Transportation Operations Manager talks about the various transportation solutions Google is promoting. You can learn more at Google. Now if I can only convince my wife to ride the bus or bike to her job at Google in Venice.

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Transportation headlines, Thursday, Feb. 23

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.

L.A. mobility meetings coming to a neighborhood near you this weekend and next.

Los Angeles Mobility Element community meetings start this weekend (The Source)

Just a quick reminder that there are two community meetings this Saturday — and two more next Saturday — at which the public can help the city of L.A. shape its transportation policies. More details at the link above.

9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Van Nuys City Hall
14410 Sylvan St.
Van Nuys, CA 91401
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
LACMA West
6067 W Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Google Transit: How (and why) the search giant is remapping public transportation (Xconomy)

Xconomy, a news website covering “business, life sciences, and technology news,” has this invaluable piece about how Google transformed the way transit information is used and shared with the public. The key part seems to be that Google was able to use its clout to establish a standardized format with which transit agencies could disseminate information about bus schedules and transit stop locations. This spurred agencies to share more information with app developers and led to a wave of useful digital tools for commuters.

Why I ride the bus (KCRW UnFictional)

This 30 minute radio feature delves into the life of one unique L.A. transit rider. Host Bob Carlson tells the story of a man who gave up his car and took up commuting via the Metro Local 180, thanks to a decade-long bout of narcolepsy that left him prone to nod off at any moment — including once behind the wheel at a red light. Unfortunately, I think the storytelling leans a bit too heavily on some well-worn cliches about the relationship between those irrevocably car-lovin’ Angelenos and their transit system. But it’s well worth a listen all the same.

Architectural sites that define our community (Mark Ridley-Thomas)

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ staff has produced a web feature that highlights some of the architectural gems in the county’s second district. Two of the landmarks featured — Watts Towers and Exposition Park — jump out at me as being accessible via the Metro Rail Blue Line and soon-to-open Expo Line, respectively. Click the link and let us know in the comments if you think any of the other places mentioned are worth a trip via Metro.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Feb. 22

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.

Southland gas prices reach highest amount since late May (CBS Los Angeles)

The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County has increased 15 consecutive days and 27 times in 28 days and is 19.4 cents more than one week ago, 34.3 cents higher than a month ago and 51.6 cents greater than a year ago, according to figures from AAA and Oil Price Information Service. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County rose Tuesday, increasing 1.2 cents to $4.08. With gas up to its highest amount since May 27, does it make sense to look for options? Find the nearest Metro station or stop and hop aboard. Here’s the Metro Trip Planner to help or call 323-GOMETRO (323-466-3876) and tell them where you need to go.

Villaraigosa for transportation secretary (NBC Los Angeles)

If President Obama wins re-election, Mayor Villaraigosa would be a natural for the cabinet — particularly the transportation secretary post — suggests NBC Los Angeles. They point out that this could be great for L.A., since the mayor’s transportation plans — particularly his 30/10 plan to accelerate the building of Measure R projects –  make sense and could “help him deliver a full rail system for LA — on an accelerated time schedule.” What they don’t mention is that 30/10 would also be a template for transportation funding that could be used by other U.S. cities, which, of course, could positively affect the quality of our precious air.

Private sector reinventing our expressways, one lane at a time (Reason)

Why does congestion keep getting worse? While there is no single answer, a principal reason for ever worsening congestion is that the demand for road space — particularly on urban freeways — greatly exceeds the supply. What can be done about it? Here are a few thoughts on what could work from Reason.

Saving money the old-fashioned way, by not spending it (Grist)

And a final thought on economics: We work 3.84 minutes per day to pay for our bicycles and 2 hours a day to pay for a car, according to James D. Schwartz of The Urban Country. And he’s being conservative, assuming we’re dropping $1,500 on a new commuter bike every five years. My bike didn’t cost that much. Did yours?

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Feb. 21

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.

High-speed rail plan would electrify Caltrain tracks (San Francisco Chronicle)

The state’s high-speed rail plans continue to be modified to make the bullet train more affordable and practical to build. The latest plan would have the high-speed rail trains running on the tracks that commuter rail currently uses in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas.

In San Francisco, the plan would electrify the tracks that Caltrain uses between San Jose and San Francisco. That would allow electric-powered high-speed rail trains to use the existing tracks on the San Francisco Peninsula rather than building a whole new set of tracks.

In Southern California, the Chronicle reports that a series of improvements would be made to Metrolink tracks to eliminate or improve crossings and add extra track. The plans at this point don’t include electrifying Metrolink’s lines — a very big undertaking as Metrolink covers vastly more territory than Caltrain.

L.A.’s new bus benches look better but don’t serve riders (L.A. Weekly)

The new green benches appearing around the city of L.A. are an improvement on the old brown ones, opines writer Alissa Walker. But many of the benches sit out in the sun with no shade — which means people waiting for the bus are often standing nearby in any shade that can be found. The benches, by the way, are provided by firms that sell outdoor advertising on them as a way to make money.

SGV Board backs completion of Highway 39 to Wrightwood (Whittier Daily News)

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted to oppose Caltrans’ effort to permanently abandon the 4.4 miles of Highway 39 between Crystal Lake and the Angeles Crest Highway. That stretch has been closed since 1978 due to mudslides. My two cents: If 39 was open, it would be used by commuters between the high desert and the San Gabriel Valley and that, I fear, would be chaos and unsafe. This is a narrow, twisty road through the Angeles National Forest and the last thing it needs is more traffic.