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.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Feb. 7: “America’s one big pothole,” Amtrak routes, Caltrain & bullet train

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.

Caltrain seeks new deal with California High-Speed Rail (San Mateo Journal)

Instead of building a completely separate set of grade-separated tracks on the San Francisco Peninsula, the new proposal seeks to share some tracks and build passing tracks for high-speed trains to get around commuter trains running between San Jose and San Francisco. It’s also far less expensive, an important consideration since the bullet train project still lacks most of the funds it will need.

Visualizing how poorly Amtrak’s routes serve most of the U.S. (The Atlantic Cities)

The post features maps showing that most of Amtrak’s ridership is in the Northeast Corridor and some other large cities — including those along the West Coast. Long cross-country routes, however, tend to attact far fewer riders. From this, the post concludes that Amtrak is missing some very opportunities to connect major cities that are in close proximity to one another — i.e. cities in Ohio and Texas, for example.

LaHood: America is one big pothole (The Hill)

In an NPR interview, the U.S. Transportation Secretary bemoaned the amount of the spending on infrastructure — and blamed his former Repubican colleagues in the House of Representatives. Excerpt:

“For all the talk within the Republican Party about helping small businesses, there are a lot of small businesses that are in the road construction business, the bridge construction business that would benefit from a bold infrastructure bill, a bold transportation bill, a five-year bill with some very bold ways to fund it,” LaHood said in an interview on “The Diane Rehm Show” on National Public Radio.


Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Feb. 6

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: Reader quick -- where's this bus stop? Hint: a key scene in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was filmed here. Photo by j@ck, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: Reader quick — where’s this bus stop? Hint: a representation of this building was in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Answer after the jump. Photo by j@ck, via Flickr creative commons.

Airport panel backs slate of projects (Daily Breeze) 

The Board of Airport Commissions on a 6 to 1 votes approved a package of modernization projects for Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday. The contentious one is moving the northern runway 260 feet to the north for safety and commerce reasons — meaning the runway would be closer to Westchester homes.

Other projects include a people mover and consolidated rental car facility. The plan still must be approved by the FAA, L.A. County and the L.A. City Council — and there’s no timetable on when the people mover would be built. That’s important because a people mover could connect with the Crenshaw/LAX Line or an extension of light rail onto the airport grounds.

What remains unclear is whether a lawsuit against the runway project — which seems likely — could also hold up the other projects that are part of the plan.

Washington tops Los Angeles in terms of traffic gridlock (Bloomberg) 

The annual report from the Texas Transportation Institute finds that D.C. motorists waste 67 hours each year stuck in traffic compared to 61 hours for Angelenos and those driving in the Bay Area. Not exactly a surprise that traffic here continues to stink, eh?

Of course, there are many ways to measure traffic and/or commuting; the average 29.1 minutes commuting time for Los Angeles County commuters (of which 83.3 percent commute by car) is pretty typical for large cities: San Francisco County (29.5 minutes), San Diego County (24.5 minutes), King County/Seattle (25.5 minutes), New York County (30.1 minutes), Miami-Dave (29.2 minutes), Cook County/Chicago (30.8 minutes), Harris County/Houston (27.7 minutes). These numbers come from the U.S. Census Bureau. To look up commuting time for a state, county or city, start here. Then pick a county or city, then click “browse data sets” on the righthand top of the screen. On the next page, click on “economic characteristics” under the American Community Survey header.

Contractor chosen to build embattled Metrolink line (Press-Enterprise) 

A $132-million contract was approved by the Riverside County Transportation Commission on Monday to build the 24-mile extension from Riverside to Perris. The project, however, is being challenged by an environmental group in court, who say the environmental studies failed to disclose all of the project’s impacts. That case is expected to be resolved in the next few months.

NBCUniversal’s studio expansion plan approved by L.A. City Council (Daily News) 

The $1.6-billion plan includes major upgrades to the company’s production facilities, new hotels, as well as a new park along the adjacent L.A. River and $100 million in transportation upgrades. Approvals are still needed from L.A. County. The project was in limbo for years until plans for 3,000 residences were dropped.

Lost train stations of Los Angeles (KCET)

Nice post with many photos of the train stations that pre-dated Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Before Union Station, the large railroads usually had their own depots – some of which were quite striking. Most were on the eastern side of downtown between Central and the the Los Angeles River.

Here’s an idea for another post: the old train stations around town still standing. Just off the top of my head, the old South Pasadena station is now in the County Aboroteum in Arcadia, the Pasadena station now hosts two restaurants adjacent to the Gold Line’s Del Mar Station and old Santa Fe depots — neither in very good shape — can be seen in Monrovia and Azusa, respectively, and will be next to the Gold Line Foothill Extension that is under construction.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Study: global warming can be slowed by working less (U.S. News)

The theory goes that if everyone followed Europe’s lead and worked a little less and vacationed a little more, overall consumption of energy would go down — meaning fewer greenhouse gases emitted and a slighter increase in global temperatures. I see no reason to doubt any of this and I’ll be back in two hours. Taking transit, btw, is another good way to lower your carbon footprint.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Feb. 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.

ART OF TRANSIT: The subway at the Civic Center/Grand Park Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The subway at the Civic Center/Grand Park Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Fare inspections are up, fare infractions are down (Buzzer blog)

The transit agency in Vancouver gave its transit security force the power to levy a $173 fine to fare evaders last fall — previously, they could only ask those who didn’t pay the fare to leave the bus or train. In between September and the end of 2012, about 11,000 tickets were issued and security officers say the pricey penalty seems to have encouraged more people to purchase bus and train fares.

Three committees reject plan to widen 710 north of Long Beach (L.A. Streetsblog)

The I-710 Corridor Project — being overseen by Metro — proposes to improve the flow of traffic between Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach and State Route 60 in East Los Angeles. Among alternatives under study is widening the freeway, an option that the Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee, Gateway Council of Governments and the Project Committee don’t back; they favor a zero or near zero emissions freight corridor. Here’s the project home page on metro.net.

The federal role in transportation funding (The Transport Politic)

Wonky but excellent post from Yonah Freemark on whether the feds should remain or vacate their role in providing money for local transportation needs. A lot of that money at present comes from the federal gas tax, which is a problem as revenues are declining as Americans drive more fuel efficient vehicles (and in some cases, drive less). This has led some to suggest that it would be better if states simply made their own decisions about how to pay for transportation. But Freemark counters that some states would simply choose not to pay for it (which would devaststate transit agencies) and perhaps it’s best if the feds found a more progressive way to help localities support transportation.

Imagining a world regulated by virtual traffic lights (The Atlantic: Cities)

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University are designing a system to get rid of all traffic lights. It works like this: As we approach an intersection, our cars transmits data, such as location and speed, to other nearby cars. The virtual system processes this information for all the cars in the area and determines our individual traffic signal. Instead of seeing a red or green light hanging in the intersection, we see it on our windshield and drive or yield  accordingly. Among the advantages: Every intersection with a car now automatically has a traffic light directing it to go or stop. But yes, some of the stops will be virtual, just like they are now.

California gas prices surge (KTLA)

Not that we need the unpleasant reminder but average California gasoline prices jumped 23 cents in the last week, passing $4 a gallon in Los Angeles. The surge follows a year in which U.S. motorists spent a greater percentage of their annual income on gasoline than at any time in the last three decades, the U.S. Energy Department says. Yes, we know there are reasons for this. (There always are.) But maybe it’s time to protest by trying out Metro or any other form of public transit.

Transportation headlines, Friday, Feb. 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.

Beijing air pollution. Photo by moemoe223/Flickr

Beijing air pollution. Photo by moemoe223/Flickr

Five trends to watch in China’s urban transportion saga (The City Fix)

China watching has become almost a competitive sport, which probably makes sense since our economies are so intertwined. Where transit issues are concerned, it’s  interesting to track (with a certain amount of jealousy) what China can get done in so little time, with fewer rules and regulations to observe. This two-part post suggests a couple of trends that just might pan out. And yes, a campaign against air pollution, involving an aggressively developing transit program, is on the list. There’s a predicted return to bikes, too — something of an irony, since until rather recently China was a nation of bicycles.

Five China trends — part 2

Biking etc.

Antonio Villaraigosa transportation cheat sheet (Streetsblog)

Will Mayor Villaraigosa get the Secretary of Transportation job? From the vantage point of L.A. news junkies, the quest looks like it could be bumpy. But you might want to check out Damian Newton’s post on Mayor V.’s transportation record. Charlie Sheen aside (and does Washington care about Charlie Sheen?), it’s pretty impressive.

Rethinking the gas tax (Transportation for America)

Suddenly the gas tax is the topic du jour in D.C. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the per-gallon federal tax is so important to mobility. Major new proposals from all over are examining the tax. Which one will get the nod? Or will it be abandoned as old-fashioned and inept. Find out what some of the options could be and let us know which you think ought to get the green light.

Pasadena‘s first bicycle boulevard opens (Pasadena Sun)

Pasadena’s bicycle boulevard — only the second in L.A.County, according to the Sun — opened this week, stretching about three-quarters of a mile along Marengo Avenue. It’s  anchored on one end at Orange Grove Boulevard and the other end at Washington Boulevard …  a lovely ride and another opportunity for a little solitude.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Jan. 31

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: Well, I've become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I’ve become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines’ Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

My apologies for the somewhat sporadic posting in the past few weeks — personal stuff.

FTA to streamline environmental review process (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that for the first time in a quarter century, the Federal Transit Administration is taking steps to speed its review of transportation projects to ensure they comply with federal law. For example, projects in existing transportation corridors will no longer require the same high level of review as projects breaking new ground.

This is welcome news. I hope it works. I’ve certainly chirped in the past about the need to cut red tape and get studies done quicker — proposing to build a busway or light rail line along an existing street should not require five years of study to determine impacts are slight or beneficial. One reason studies take so long is that the FTA, by law, must constantly review them.

Exploring the course of the future Metro Expo Line (KCET) 

Eric Brightwell has a nice write-up with plenty of photos of the stations and surrounding environs of the six-mile second phase that will extend the train from Culver City to Santa Monica. Tip of the cap to Eric for including one of my fave Mexican food joints in the area, Gilbert’s El Indio, which is in Santa Monica at Pico and 26th and is a bike ride or stroll from the future 26th/Olympic Station. Carnitas plate: I salute you!

A tale of competing Century City high-rises (Curbed LA)

JP Morgan Chase has hired a lobbyist to create a group — “Save the Westside” — to prevent a 37-story high-rise office tower from being built next to the future Century City Purple Line subway station. The issue? JP Morgan Chase trying to save its bottom line; the firm is a property owner in Century City and apparently doesn’t welcome any more competition, according to the office of Councilman Paul Koretz.

A subway’s birthday: Happy 20th, Metro Red Line! (Militant Angeleno) 

Great post by the militant one on the subway’s opening in 1993 and what it was like to ride the train back in 1993 — when it was only seven minutes from end to end. He also makes an outstanding point about how dull and lifeless downtown Los Angeles was back in ’93 — and how the subway impacted one business in Westlake:

Within a few months, thousands of Downtown workers suddenly discovered that they were just 25 cents and a couple minutes away from the best pastrami in town, and injected new life into a once-floundering Westlake delicatessen, right across the street from the subway’s western terminus.

He speaks, of course, of Langers. In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words:

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

710 freeway coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210 (Pasadena Sun)

Interesting article looking at groups for and against filling the gap in the 710 with a tunnel. Generally speaking, southern San Gabe Valley cities support the effort while those in the north oppose it. Metro is about to launch a draft environmental study for the project that is considering five alternatives: no-build, transportation systems improvements (i.e. signals and intersections), bus rapid transit, light rail and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the two ends of the 710.

 

CTA website offers ‘why things go wrong’ explanations (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Transit Authority has a new feature on its website: a lengthy feature story trying to explain why buses and trains are sometimes delayed. But the Trib’s transportation columnist is not entirely impressed and doesn’t buy the CTA’s assertion that many service delays are entirely beyond its control.

My three cents (inflation!): Explanations are nice but never an excuse for poor service. That said, I thought the CTA page was thoughtful in trying to answer some very common questions about delays and this is something we should probably do here at Metro, where we have another equally important task: improving the speed that service alerts are communicated to riders.

Judge the CTA page for yourself. Here’s their take on bus bunching:

We know—bunching is frustrating. It frustrates us too, both as people who are charged with providing service, and people who use that same service to get around town. Bunching is the bane of bus systems around the world and there is no easy fix to it—particularly in places where there’s lots of traffic and where frequent bus service is required.

So how does it happen? Here’s a scenario:

Imagine a busy route that has buses running about every 5 minutes on a busy street, right at the morning peak, and all is right on time. Then, one bus gets delayed—let’s say a minor accident between two cars happens, and a lane is temporarily blocked while drivers exchange info, and this creates a backup that adds just two and a half minutes to the bus’s trip.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 29; Ray LaHood stepping down, Leimert Park station debated, New York looks at technology to detect people on subway tracks

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.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation.

Ray LaHood stepping down as U.S. Transportation Secretary (Washington Post) 

The news became official today, with Secretary LaHood saying that he will remain on the job until a successor is nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Excerpt:

LaHood’s relentless campaign against distracted driving, his safety-first mantra and his determination to visit every state in the union gave the Peoria native a higher profile than several predecessors in the role, traditionally played out in the shadow of more glamorous Cabinet jobs.

LaHood made the announcement in a statement Tuesday: “I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.”

As the Post article states, there has certainly been rumor mill speculation about who will be the next transportation secretary. This game, of course, has been in play for the past several months but I’ve yet to see a single media story mention a source’s name or affiliation so readers can judge whether that information is reliable. With that significant caveat, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s name has surfaced in several media reports and that’s certainly interesting given his role on the Metro Board of Directors for almost eight years and his push for expanded federal funding of local transit projects.

Here’s an excerpt from Secretary LaHood’s blog:

Our achievements are significant.  We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making.  We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows.  We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.

We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $3.1 billion in TIGER grants to 218 transportation projects across the Nation.  We have made unprecedented investments in our nation’s ports.  And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help States build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.

And to further secure our future, we have taken transportation into the 21st century with CAFE Standards, NextGen, and our investments in passenger and High-Speed Rail.  What’s more, we have provided the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the funding and leadership it needs to prepare a new generation of midshipmen to meet our country’s rapidly-evolving defense and maritime transportation needs.

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