Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 3

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.

A single day on the Moscow subway … in 2 minutes (The Atlantic Cities)

And we complain about crowding? Russian cinematographer Sasha Aleksandrov captures a day on the Moscow subway … to the music of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Norwegian (not Russian) composer Edvard Grieg.

Gov. Brown looks to global warming fees to pay for high-speed rail (Silicon Valley Mercury News)

As reported yesterday on The Source, the price tag for the new high-speed rail plan has been pared back from $98 billion to a mere $68 billion. But what to do about the $55 billion or so for which no source has been identified? Bullet train backers are suggesting the shortfall could be patched with money from California’s new cap-and-trade program — a pollution auction established by the state’s landmark global warming law.

The program would force polluters to buy credits in electronic auctions to offset greenhouse gas emissions, with the revenue going to programs that reduce greenhouse gasses. Under that definition, high-speed rail could certainly be a candidate for some of the money — a guesstimated $2 billion to $14 billion a year — but it remains unclear whether it would get it, how much it would get and if any of that money actually will show up. A massive showdown between the state and business leaders on the legality of cap-and-trade is expected and it will not be a quiet one, since billions of dollars are at stake.

How did downtown transform itself to a great place to live? (KCET)

To say downtown L.A. has been transformed from a dark and (in some areas) scary sci-fi set to a bright and sometimes beautiful city center is an understatement. An obvious reason for this is the arrival of new apartments and condos. During an almost 30-year period beginning in 1970, downtown Los Angeles gained a grand total of 4,300 units of housing. Then between 1999 and 2008 downtown gained at least 7,300 housing units just from long-term vacant buildings. What accounts for that tremendous uptick? Many factors, of course, including a growing transit system to attract new residents to downtown. But at least in the policy realm, arguably no reasons are as significant as a single ordinance passed by the L.A. City Council in 1999.

California gas prices soar as consumption falls (Sacramento Bee)

Gasoline prices soared by an average of 23 percent statewide last year, and in-state consumption of gas declined nearly 2 percent, according to 2011 statistics released Friday by the California Board of Equalization. We knew that and we don’t like it. But what’s to be done about it?

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 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.

All the details on the proposed Orange Line-Red Line link in NoHo (Curbed LA)

Check out the schematic of the proposed tunnel under Lankershim Boulevard that would connect the subway’s mezzanine level and the Orange Line street level platforms in North Hollywood. Metro is applying for a federal grant to pay for most of the cost; if it comes through, the project could be done by 2014.

California set to release $68.4-billion high-speed rail plan to appease critics (San Francisco Chronicle)

Nice possible scoop. The Chronicle reported over the weekend that the latest business plan by the California High-Speed Rail Authority will drop the price of the project from $98 billion to about $68 billion. How? Excerpt:

While the updated strategy still calls for construction to start in the Central Valley, it abandons plans to build only a 130-mile stretch from Chowchilla (Madera County) to Bakersfield. Instead, it extends the initial line north to Merced and south across the Tehachapi Mountains to Palmdale and the San Fernando Valley, probably Burbank, and calls for it to carry high-speed trains along the 300-mile stretch. It relies heavily on what officials have called a “blended approach” that uses existing commuter rail lines – including Caltrain – in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

That shift, authority board members said Saturday, is largely responsible for the cost savings because it eliminates the need to build separate tracks for high-speed rail through dense metropolitan areas.

We’ll see today if the Chronicle got it right. The Authority is holding a news conference this morning to explain the new business plan. I’ll post the news release and any other materials provided later today.

A good overview of the positive train control system that Metrolink is installing. The system uses GPS and digital communications to track trains to ensure they are on the proper track and abiding by signals. Metrolink officials say it could have prevented — or at least lessened the severity — of the crash in Chatsworth between a Metrolink train and freight train in 2008 that killed 25. Here’s a video that Metrolink made about PTC:

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, March 30

A Pacific Electric Red Car passes over Motor Avenue. Photo by Alan Weeks courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library.

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.

Rail returns to the Westside: The Expo Line’s historical precursors (KCET)

With modern light rail a month from opening along Exposition Boulevard, KCET’s Nathan Masters takes a trip back through time to review all the past iterations of rail service along this corridor. It all started in 1875 with steam trains plying between downtown L.A. and the infant city of Santa Monica. It’s a great read — replete with historic photos like the one above — if you want to get a sense of how Los Angeles is rediscovering its transit roots and to get excited about the latest iteration. When you’re done boning up on Expo history, you can stake out some good places to eat and other places worth visiting along the Expo Line thanks to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website.

Expo takes trees, gives back double (Santa Monica Daily Press)

Looking ahead to Expo Phase 2: A little over a hundred trees in Santa Monica will have to be relocated or permanently removed to make way for the line. But worry not shade-lovers, the Exposition Authority will replace all those trees and even add additional trees to create a buffer along the line.

Editorial: Don’t let the South Figueroa Corridor Project get lost in the CRA shuffle (L.A. Streetsblog)

With the dissolution of redevelopment agencies statewide, a lot of great projects were left in the lurch. Streetsblog calls on local policy-makers to make sure that the South Figueroa Corridor isn’t kicked to the curb. That’s the project that would transform Figueroa Boulevard between USC and LA Live from an auto thoroughfare into a complete street with wider sidewalks, more trees and dedicated space to bicycles and transit. To this blogger it seems like a key project for better tying the LA Live campus into the South Park neighborhood and increasing the safety and comfort of those not traveling by car.

Google Maps now includes real-time traffic data (Mashable)

Remember how Google Maps driving directions used to have info on how long your trip might take if you hit traffic? But then Google pulled the feature to tweak it? Well it’s now back, and instead of providing a worst-case-scenario estimate based on historic trends, the prediction it now gives is based on real-time traffic conditions. This should be a welcome feature for those who want to know if, say, taking the Metro Red Line or driving the 101 Freeway into downtown is faster — the answer to that question can vary dramatically depending on the time of day. The next feature I’d like to see from Google is one that does a cost comparison between driving, taking transit, biking and walking for a given trip.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 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.

 

First Pacific Electric streetcar arrives in Van Nuys, Dec. 16, 1911 /Los Angeles Public Library

Recalling Pacific Electric’s leading role in the Valley (Daily News)

Here’s an interesting story and a bunch of cool photos looking back to the days when streetcars crisscrossed the Valley. Note that some of the photos are of rail running on what is now the popular — and soon expanding to Chatsworth — Orange Line. It’s from a book about Pacific Electric Red Cars by David Coscia, “Pacific Electric and the Growth of the San Fernando Valley.” Looks like fun.

Battling L.A. traffic … and winning. Here’s how: (UCLA Newsroom)

UCLA traffic is the lightest it’s been since the university began measuring, more than 20 years ago. Currently 52.9 percent of employees drive to work alone, compared with nearly 72 percent of Los Angeles County drivers. Only 25 percent of students drive alone. To help achieve this, UCLA offers incentives, including a 50 percent subsidy for transit passes, discounted parking for carpoolers and a partially subsidized vanpool. UCLA is dangerously close to achieving its goal of 50 percent ride sharing, which is part of the campus Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Metro sponsors a partially subsidized vanpool program. Can we interest you?

$7 billion public-private plan in Chicago aims to fix transit, schools and parks (New York Times)

Chicago is embarking on a $7 billion plan to transform the city’s infrastructure. It includes $1 billion for the Chicago Transit Authority to renovate more than 100 stations and eliminate “slow zones” that cost riders an estimated 11,000 hours of delays every day. Funding will come from the newly created Chicago infrastructure Trust, an initiative announced this month by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former President Bill Clinton — a long-time supporter of energy efficiency. The fund, a nonprofit corporation, pools outside investment and applies it to a wide range of possible projects. The city estimates the initiatives will create 30,000 jobs over the next three years, helping to put the city that works back to work. Similarly, Metro’s 30/10 Plan to accelerate construction of Measure R projects could generate tens of thousands of jobs. Could transit projects be the engine that help restart the economy?

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 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.

Bike Lane, Lower Broadway, New York (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

10 best American cities for cycling (PHOTOS) (Huffington Post)

The Huffington Post has come out with its list of the best biking cities and local, deserving favorites Long Beach and Santa Monica do not make the list — although the list focuses on far larger cities. Austin, Boston and Chicago got first, second and third place.

California high-speed rail: building a faster train faster (KPCC)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is expected to release a final business plan this week that officials say will get bullet trains in Southern California and in the Bay area running a lot sooner than originally planned. The proposed “blended approach” that has been talked about in recent months would build the middle of the system first and connect it to commuter rail systems in both the Bay Area and Southern California. It remains to be seen exactly when actual bullet trains would roll into our area. In the meantime, Metro and Metrolink are trying to secure some high-speed rail funds to speed up and allow for more Metrolink trains to the Antelope Valley and a connection with high-speed rail.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 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.

Times Square IRT Station (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

Rio + 20: what if transportation is an afterthought? (Next American City)

With the Rio 2012 Earth Summit approaching, sustainability experts are poring over a 19-page document that outlines ideas for the world’s commitment to sustainability. The document dedicates a good deal of space to the green economy and to the importance of local governance in creating sustainable communities. What it doesn’t do however, is talk much about transportation. This oversight has some in the sustainable transportation community expressing grave concern. Excerpt:

“The importance of sustainable public transportation in cities cannot be overstated. It is the backbone of any sustainable city. Without it, all of our cities are doomed to inefficiency, and to fail at their other goals of livability, economic prosperity and social justice. We need transportation to get to jobs, to schools, to access any number of opportunities within our cities.”

 

Leaving his footprints on the city (New York Times)

In a feat that would do Alfred Kazin, author of “A Walker in the City” proud, a former civil engineer, has set out to walk every street in every borough of New York City.  Thanks to a lot of couch surfing at the home of friends around the city, Matt Green, age 31, is spending only around $15 a day to make his estimated 8,000-mile trek. Green, who previously spent five months walking from Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York, to Rockaway Beach, Oregon, began December 31 on what he expects to be an over two year full-time undertaking. The article contains a nice video clip of Green doing “a really normal thing for a really long period of time.”

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Transportation headlines, Monday, March 26

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.

Opinion: Expo Line to fill a gap (L.A. Times)

Editorial staffer Dan Turner gives his early review of the Expo Line based on Friday’s media ride. The gist of it: fast in some places, slow in others, doesn’t quite reach the ‘true’ Westside yet but will probably be very useful for those seeking to avoid the Santa Monica Freeway, one of the busiest roads in the nation.

 City of Los Angeles’ signal sync program nears completion (Daily News)

The three-decade effort is almost done, say city transportation officials who have been piece-mealing the system together project-by-project. No, it won’t solve traffic and a little skepticism in this article would have been appropriate. But officials hope it will help take the edge off and reduce pollution caused by vehicles stopping and started more than they should.

A chart used by Sen. Bingaman showing that gas prices tend to fluctuate similarly across six European nations and the U.S.

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Transportation headlines, Friday, March 23

The Metro Red Line station at Hollywood and Vine. Photo by flickr user Jack Wei.

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.

Martha Welborne on balancing planning responsibilities, goals and constraints at Metro (The Planning Report)

Here’s the first of two excellent Metro-related interviews. The Planning Report sat down with Martha Welborne, Metro’s Executive Director of Countywide Planning, to discuss her work as Metro’s chief planner. The whole interview is worth a read for the insights it gives into Metro’s Union Station master planning process (Metro bought Union Station last year), planning for various rail lines and a number of other topics.

Mayor awesome: Against all odds, L.A.’s mayor stays green (Grist)

Next up: Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa discussed with Grist the initiatives his administration is undertaking to make L.A. a greener place. As a regular Source reader can imagine, transportation has featured prominently in that agenda. Give it a read for the discussion of CicLAvia, L.A.’s bike plan, Measure R and America Fast Forward.

Wilshire Boulevard subway circa 2020 (Los Angeles Magazine)

The Westside Subway station renderings have given a glimpse of what Wilshire will look like once the subway is up and running. But for those who can’t picture what’s there now — and I couldn’t off the top of my head — L.A. Magazine has some handy “before and after photos” at the link above. Enjoy!

Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 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.

Make way for the Expo Line (Blogging Los Angeles)

Here’s a video of the Expo Line test train as photographed from a bike (!) We’re sure it was a bicycle built for two because shooting from a bike would be dangerous. Or maybe the rider’s helmet contained a camera. In any case, it’s fun to see the train skating down the street and the video is pretty cool. Take a look. 

Bay area plan promotes trains that not quite high speed but quicker, at least (Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Under the heading “Maybe creativity can save high-speed rail” this news: Hoping to bring the bonanza of California high-speed rail funds to the Bay Area more quickly, local and state leaders on Wednesday unveiled a strategy to split the $1.5 billion cost to electrify the Caltrain line. The plan would pave the way for quicker commuter trains to zip between San Francisco and San Jose as early as 2018 and for statewide bullet trains to run sooner than expected.

Can travel training services save public transit agencies money? (Transportation Research Board)

In a word, yes. And why, besides money, should those of us not in need of paratransit services care? Because training for the service substitutes — in this case, mass transit — may actually promote independence and quality of life for the folks who can use them. And, need we remind everyone, it could be us one day. Here are some of the services offered by Metro. Metro also is the primary funding source for Access Services Incorporated, the federally-required ADA paratransit service that offers 24-hour-a-day curb-to-curb service to individuals with disabilities. For more information on Access Services call 800-827-0829.

Today in transit history (Primary Resources)

March 22 is an interesting day in L.A. transit history, according to Primary Resources, the Metro Library blog. In 1913 the Pacific Electric Railway extended the San Fernando Valley Line to San Fernando. In 1938 construction began on the Arroyo Parkway connecting Los Angeles to Pasadena. And, last but certainly not least, in 1984 the California Transportation Commission approved $361.2 million in state matching funds in what was an important first step in building the Metro Red Line. The subway project broke ground just two years later. (Hooray!)

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 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.

 

The Chicago Transit Authority is contemplating selling naming rights for some of its trains. Photo by Zol87, via Flickr creative commons.

CTA seeks to sell some naming rights (Chicago Tribune)

The CTA runs the Chicago area’s bus and train system. Here’s the story’s lead:

In its second effort this week to drum up money beyond the fare box, the CTA on Friday said it is seeking bids for corporate naming rights to assets including the Bus Tracker and Train Tracker, the Holiday Train and New Year’s Eve penny rides.

The CTA Board earlier this week voted to end a 15-year ban on alcohol advertising, clearing the way for liquor ads to appear on rail cars and at rail stations. Like many other transit agencies, the CTA has struggled to produce enough funds to operate, maintain and expand its bus and rail system.

Mica: talks underway on another transportation bill extension (Washington Post)

The last multi-year federal transportation bill was approved by Congress in 2005 and expired in 2009. It has since been extended eight times by Congress, often at the last minute to avoid cuts to transportation funding. The U.S. Senate this month approved a two-year bill, which House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Florida) said Tuesday was not going to be passed in the House. Instead, Mica said, another extension of the 2005 bill would be sought. In other words, reforms and funding levels that would benefit transit agencies in the Senate bill will have to wait.

The Senate’s version of the bill includes parts of the America Fast Forward legislation sought by Metro that would increase a federal loan program that would help local transit agencies build transit projects. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — who came up with the AFF program — is holding a media event this morning to push the House to adopt a long-term bill.

U.S. poised for passenger rail boom (Forbes)

Transit officials who gathered in Chicago recently say the nation’s highway and air systems are pretty much at capacity. Rail, on the other hand, has plenty of room to grow as metro areas around the nation add light rail systems and Amtrak’s ridership continues to soar. Here’s a good list on Wikipedia showing light rail systems in the U.S. — notice how many began in the past 25 years, particularly in the Western U.S.