Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 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.

Switching to a Connection (KCET)

The writer D.J. Waldie ponders the Regional Connector project, which he views as the linchpin for the county’s emerging rail network. But is it enough?

House brass adding to gridlock on transpo bills (Politico)

Two key federal spending bills — a multi-year transportation bill and legislation involving the FAA — have been held up in the committee process in the House of Representatives. Why? Increasing meddling from political party leadership trying to take a stand on particular issues.

Earth to Toronto mayor: subways are expensive! (Human Transit)

Blogger and transportation planner Jarrett Walker lights up a plan by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to build a subway to the ‘burbs in order to get trains out of the way of cars. The problem: in Walker’s view undergrounding the line is needlessly expensive and would waste money that could actually be used to improve mobility in the area.

Check out this great video unearthed by the Metro Library — it’s General Motors’ take on solving traffic in cities in the 1950s. There’s a lot of great footage and some fretting about saving downtown business districts.

Transportation headlines, Monday, Jan. 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 blog.

Gingrich and Romney on climate change (Grist)

A brief and almost-funny look at the two candidates’ changing views on climate change and what, if anything, should be done about it — if it’s happening that is. Gingrich story and Romney story. Let’s just say both candidates have, um, refined their views in recent times.

Two more weather disasters top $1 billion in damages (New York Times)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration added two more weather disasters to its tally of weather events that caused $1 billion or more in damage in 2011. That list is now 14 — the most ever. Tropical Storm Lee and a wind and hail storm in Colorado and Wyoming are the latest additions.


The Athabasca oil sands field in Canada. Photo by NASA Earth Observatory, via Wikipedia Commons.

Blocking Keystone pipeline won’t stop oil sands production (NPR)

Smart story. Many conservationists want to stop the proposed Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas to discourage the production of oil from tar sands in Canada — a particularly dirty way to recover oil from the Earth. Yet, even if Keystone is stopped, the oil will likely flow south in an existing pipeline to Vancouver, where it is shipped south to the U.S.

Main Street bike lane extended into Venice (Daily Breeze)

For years, the bike lane on Main Street in Santa Monica came to an abrupt end at the city of Los Angeles border. The city is now in the process of removing a car lane in each direction on Main Street and extending the bike lane about .9 miles south to Windward Circle in Venice. Good news for this popular bike riding area.

New federal courthouse for downtown L.A. (L.A. Times)

The embarrassing hole in the ground between 1st, 2nd, Broadway and Hill in downtown Los Angeles will finally get the federal courthouse planned for the site. Funding from Congress has been a problem. That means more jobs at a major transit hub. Many bus lanes stop in the area, as well as the Red and Purple line subway — and there will also be a Regional Connector station at 2nd and Broadway. Of course, there remains the embarrassing field of parking lots just up the hill from the site, as well as the embarrassing empty lot on 1st Street across from both City Hall and the Times building. Sigh. This building will replace an old courthouse a few blocks away — what will happen with that site is to be determined.

Transportation headlines, Friday, Jan. 20

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 blog.

Eric Garcetti discusses Wilshire Bus Lane project at Studio City Neighborhood Council (The City Maven)

Los Angeles City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti aired some concerns with the Wilshire BRT plan — a joint project of Metro and the city — at a community meeting in Studio City. The City Maven article doesn’t offer much context for the quote, but one can infer that Garcetti thinks the line won’t be as effective as it could be because some stretches of the line will not have bus-only lanes, namely in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and a stretch of Westwood.

L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa discusses transit funding with China (L.A. Times)

With the U.S. Congress slow to move on its next long-range transportation bill, L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa has been looking at other avenues for making the 30-10 plan a reality. The most recent iteration: Villaraigosa engaged a national Chinese investment group about financing 30-10 during a trade mission through the Pacific Rim. This move comes on the heals of a proposed law by California Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) that would allow L.A. County voters to extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax past its 30-year sunset — another move that could potentially speed up delivery of Measure R’s 12 transit projects.

What’s the best way to get users to embrace mass transit? (Slate)

Is there tension between empathy — that is, fun and amusement — and efficiency in public transit? That’s how author Tom Vanderbilt sets up his review of Jarrett Walker’s new book Human Transit. It’s an interesting conceit, given that the thrust of Walker’s book, after all, is that efficiency is key. In short: when you provide transit efficiently, you can provide it more abundantly, and abundant transit means more freedom to travel. Keep an eye on Walker’s blog for his response to the Slate review in the coming days.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Jan. 18

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 blog.

Age of U.S. Cars Hits Record High 10.8 Years  (Marketplace — American Public Media)

Photo by Joel Epstein

In either a sign of the times or an indication that more of us are biking, walking and riding public transit, the average age of the U.S. car has hit a record 10.8 years. While Detroit and Tokyo are probably not welcoming the news, it might also be argued that the statistic speaks to improved performance in the quality assurance department.  Without a doubt, the auto industry is making a more reliable product, less prone to obsolescence, than it has in the past. And perhaps cars are lasting longer because people don’t use them quite as much and instead seeking alternative transportation. Read the article and listen to the podcast at Marketplace.

Gov. Brown’s tricky balancing act (L.A. Times)

At the same time that Gov. Brown is trying to balance the state’s budget — meaning cuts must be made — he will also use his State of the State speech today to advocate for big and costly projects, such as high-speed rail. Aides say it’s a smart approach and needed to build the infrastructure that California will need in the 21st century.

Mass Transit Brings Freedom (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Transportation is more than a dollars-and-cents proposition. It’s more than a statistic on a graph. It is mobility — this fifth freedom — a social concept for which the benefits cannot be measured with numbers. They must be personally evaluated, by people.” That is the opinion of former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, writing in Tuesday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Massell trotted out the language he first used back in 1971 as mayor to express his support for a transportation tax referendum that will be on the July ballot in Atlanta.

Among the important projects the penny sales tax would benefit is the Clifton Corridor Transit Project (MARTA rail service between Buckhead’s Lindbergh Station and Emory University/the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), at a total funding commitment of $700 million. Rail transportation between these two destinations is predicted to reach 2.6 million within a couple of years.  Read Massell’s piece for more on the benefits of Atlanta’s version of L.A’s Measure R.

Laws That Shaped L.A.: Why is the Los Angeles Skyline So Bland? (KCET)

KCET’s Jeremy Rosenberg brings us this interesting piece on why the global creative capitol of Los Angeles has “such a flat, drab and stunted skyline.”  Blame it on the fire marshall, and a well-intentioned 1974 change to the Los Angeles Municipal Code.

Sec. 57.118.12 of the Code entitled, “Emergency Helicopter Landing Facility” states that “Each building shall have a rooftop emergency helicopter landing facility in a location approved by the [Fire] Chief.”  The results of this provision are evident in the LA skyline, though this may change under the proposed Hollywood Community Plan, which permits the construction of skyscrapers along the route taken by the Metro Red Line. Whether the proposed change will be in the final version of the Community Plan remains to be seen.  At least some transit-oriented development enthusiasts are hoping it will.

Tracking the Old Trains — Remembering the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s Role in Downtown (L.A. Downtown News)

La Grande Station. Loyola Marymount University Library / Werner von Boltenstern Postcard Collection

Before Union Station opened in 1939, there were separate terminals for each of the rail lines that served Los Angeles. According to amateur historian Greg Fischer, the County’s first rail line, the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad, ran down Alameda Street to a terminal where the freeway now passes. The Southern Pacific Railroad boasted several stations but mostly used Alameda Street for arrivals and departures. Fourth and San Pedro Streets in downtown L.A. was the terminal for the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad while the Union Pacific Railroad, née the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad had its terminal on Mission Road, south of the First Street Bridge on the east side of the river.

To learn more about L.A. early rail lines, including the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, read Fischer’s fun piece in the L.A. Downtown News.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 17

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 blog.

A bullet train in Spain. Credit: AVE.

Doubts cast on high-speed rail alternatives (L.A. Times)

The state’s high-speed rail authority says that without a bullet train, California will have to spend $171 billion in new roads and airport upgrades to keep pace with transportation demand. Not so fast. Several experts say that figure is, at best, a distortion. Excerpt:

“There is some dishonesty in the methodology,” said Samer Madanat, director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies, the top research center of its type in the nation. “I don’t trust an estimate like this.”

Until November, California High-Speed Rail Authority officials were asserting that the alternative cost of highway and airport construction would be $100 billion. Earlier predictions were billions lower. When the estimate for the bullet train project recently hit $98.5 billion, the authority ratcheted the highway and airport cost up to $171 billion.

Hmmm. BTW, here’s a basic look at the high-speed rail system in Spain by the Sacramento Bee. The Spainards are watching California’s system closely – they would like to help build it.

Expo Line bike lane review redeux (L.A. Streetsblog)

Some repaving has left the bike lane along the first phase of the Expo Line in better shape than it was in October when he first rode it, reports Damien Newton. But some concrete sections of the road that were not repaved coupled with some gutter lane action leave Damien to conclude the lanes still don’t feel complete yet. Check out the pics.

Why railroads care about coal exports (Sightline Daily)

Interesting I-didn’t-know-that post with charts that shows that about 45 percent of the freight rail cars in the U.S. are hauling car. That far overshadows any other commodity — agricultural products is the second-most hauled at 14 percent. However, for a number of reasons the amount of coal being shipped by trains is on a downward trajectory.

How to stop global warming: stop breathing (Clinton Foundation)

Transportation headlines, Friday, Jan. 13

Long Beach: bike town. Photo by flickr user Waltarrrrr

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 blog.

Cycles and cents: One city sets out to prove that bikes are good for business (Grist)

Long Beach’s energetic embrace of bicycling infrastructure has earned plaudits from bike and safety advocates, and it has been a boon to everyone who has wanted to dust off the old Schwinn but didn’t feel comfortable riding in mixed traffic. But how has the business community responded? This article suggests that early skepticism has given way to embrace, thanks to the city’s and bike advocates’ success at explaining the bottom line benefits of supporting bikes. For one, you can park 12 bikes in the space taken up by just one car.

Chief executive of high-speed rail project steps down (L.A. Times)

As we mentioned yesterday, California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Roelof van Ark has resigned as head of the agency, citing the desire to spend more time with his family. One member of the California Transportation Commission suggested that van Ark was a good engineer, but didn’t “have his finger on the political pulse of the state.” While some will surely see the shakeup as a sign of further tumult, a number of legislators were quoted as saying that this was a much-needed fresh start for the project.

Metropolis II at LACMA: Will a sculpture made of 1,100 Hot Wheels predict L.A.’s future? (L.A. Weekly)

Here’s my plan for the weekend: Check out the Metropolis II sculpture at LACMA. Though sculpture isn’t quite the right word, because there’s over a thousand toy cars whizzing through this model city on elevated tracks. The project’s creator, Chris Burden, envisions an L.A. of the future with auto-pilot cars criss-crossing the city at over 200 mph. Maybe the distant future. My thought: We don’t need to wait for glitzy technology to improve mobility in L.A.; some more bus-only lanes would go a long way for starters.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Jan. 12

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 blog.

10 bicycling myths de-bunked (Grist)

Kind of fun post tackles the myth that cycling will make men unattractive to the ladies (among other myths). As proof, Grist cites the fact that even Kate Spade sells bikes. The thing is most women I know can find plenty wrong with me without ever considering my biking habits. Grist — a little paranoid are we?

Invest in inter-regional rail (San Bernardino Sun)

In an opinion piece, the chief of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) argues against beginning the under-funded high-speed rail project and that it would be wiser to spend $1 billion this decade expanding capacity and speeding up commuter trains in Southern California.

Restoring the ‘water’ freeway (American Planning Assn.)

A very good overview of the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to restore its namesake river. The plan is rather simple: build several regional parks along the river, which in turn could attract private residential and commercial development. My two cents: it’s worked elsewhere, it could work here and there’s plenty of room for development. The river is already a rail corridor and to some degree a bike corridor. The ingredients are there. Someone just has to figure out how to bake the pie.

Retrofitting the suburbs to increase walking (Access)

This study by UC Irvine is a dense read but its conclusions are interesting: that the single-biggest factor in getting people to walk to South Bay commercial centers was the number of businesses per acre. That’s not exactly shocking, but the study also suggests that this kind of business density needs a lot of economic support — more than the number of walkers can spend. In other words, these kind of business districts need to be accessible to motorists in order to survive — or they need to be highly-accessible to transit and other transpo modes people will actually use.

In plain English: before blokes like me suggest ripping out all the parking along South Lake Avenue in Pasadena — my local commercial district — I should consider that without the parking, many of the businesses along Lake may vanish.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Jan. 11

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 blog.

R 2 Me Too (City Watch)

Public transit supporters in Los Angeles County are excited about Assemblyman Mike Feuer’s proposal to fast-track the transit, and freeway, projects made possible by Measure R by extending the tax past its 2039 expiration date. Feuer, who carried Measure R through Sacramento, before helping win county voter support for R in 2008, realizes that Washington and Sacramento may not be ready or able to offer the loans needed to make 30/10 (America Fast Forward) happen.

BART Gets Help Coming to the Silicon Valley (San Francisco Examiner)

BART, the Bay Area’s ever expanding regional transit system, is on track to bring passengers to the Silicon Valley by 2016 following the Federal Transit Administration’s recommendation yesterday that $900 million in funding be made available for a further extension of BART. The new money would add two stations and extend the tracks 10 miles through Milpitas and down to the northern outskirts of San Jose. Congress must approve the plan, but with the Silicon Valley still the country’s leading economic and intellectual property engine backers say that will happen. The added funds will allow construction on the $2.3-billion project to begin in the spring.

Even New York’s Subways Needs to Shut Down Sometime (New York Times)

In August. in advance of a powerful tropical storm, New York shuttered its entire subway system for the first since its opening in 1904. This week, lightning stuck again when New York shut down service on the city’s workhorse Lexington Avenue train lines from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for overdue repairs on the tracks. For late night and early morning commuters and partygoers this means finding alternative routes between midtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn for four nights in an effort by the transit agency to make up for years of deferred maintenance and repairs.

DC Metro’s Planned Fare Hikes Not Popular With Riders (Washington Post)

Washington Metro customers are grumbling about planned fare increases intended to help fill a $116-million shortfall in Metro’s $1.6 billion budget and would also let the agency hire an additional 1,000 workers. The unpopular fare hikes would impact almost all areas, including bus and rail fares, parking rates and the transit agency’s service for the disabled.


Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 10

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 blog. 
Bullet train should not take Grapevine route (Mountain Enterprise)  
California High-Speed Rail Authority staff are recommending that the bullet train follow a route through the Antelope Valley instead of trying to scale (or descend) a route along the Grapevine parallel to the 5 freeway. This isn’t a huge shock — in Los Angeles County, there’s more support for the Antelope Valley route. That includes an endorsement from the Metro Board of Directors.  
One Santa Fe set for groundbreaking (Downtown News)  
After years of planning, the 438-unit residential building adjacent to Metro’s Red/Purple Line yards in downtown L.A. is finally set to break ground. The obstacle was securing financing. The project sits on land leased from Metro and could be a boon for the eastern part of the Arts District, which IMO could use a few more pedestrians wandering about.  
Why downtown L.A. isn’t a beach town (KCET)  
Fun post that holds that Spanish law from the 1500s dictated that new settlements be located 20 miles inland near fresh water and a labor source (i.e. Native Americans). Many more details about how downtown Los Angeles came to be located where it is — not where it should have been (Long Beach!).  

Transportation headlines, Monday, Jan. 9

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 blog.

Hit the brakes on high-speed rail (L.A. Times)

Columnist George Skelton criticizes Gov. Jerry Brown for proposing to cut services while putting aside some money to continue with the state’s bullet train project — he thinks a time-out is needed to reassess the project. Skelton also notes that Brown’s office is still analyzing the latest business plan from the California High-Speed Rail Authority before deciding whether to sell $2.7 billion in bonds to help fund the building 130 miles of track in the San Joaquin Valley.

Subversive bicycle photos from Los Angeles (Cophenhagenize)

Nice gallery of historic photos showing that bikes played a prominent role in the L.A. transportation scene in the city’s early days.

Public support for climate and energy policies (Yale)

Interesting poll by Yale on American’s attitudes toward climate change and doing something about it. Bottom line: 70 percent of Americans believe global warming should be a “high” or “medium” concern for the President and Congress. There appears to be support for clean energy policy from both major political parties. Yet, Andrew Revkin notes in the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog that denying global warming appears to now be a litmus test in the Republican party.

Why is Twitter so popular with transportation communicators (Talking Transit)

Facebook has more users, but a recent survey found that Twitter is preferred by transportation agencies trying to reach the public. Why? The blog guesses that Twitter is popular with cell phones who like to tweet and read tweets when out and about and moving around — making them naturally interested in transportation.