Transportation headlines, Thursday, Jan. 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 blog.

One of the entrances to the now-gone Broadway tunnel in downtown L.A. Photo by Metro Library and Transportation Archive.

The lost tunnels of L.A. (KCET SoCal Focus)

Great article on the many tunnels that once (and still) burrowed under hills around downtown L.A. Example: Broadway between Temple and Sunset once traveled in a tunnel under Fort Moore Hill. But construction of the 101 freeway reduced the Hill to a stump and that section of Broadway is now a freeway overpass. There’s also some intererestingness involving the old Pacific Electric tunnel.

Is it time for Metro Rail to get a facelift? (L.A. Streetsblog)

Not if it’s going to look like this, IMO. Click above to see fine example of Photoshop horribleness.

After three decades, federal tax credit for ethanol expires (New York Times)

Perhaps the headline should read “after three decades and $20 billion dollars…” About 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop is used to produce ethanol and growers didn’t put up much of a fuss, some saying they’ll still make plenty of money without the subsidy. Ethanol’s chief advantage is it comes from a renewable source but enviros have long complained that producing it requires more fuel than it saves.

Development at Universal City is shelved (Daily News)

The giant studio and office complex that NBC wanted to build atop the Universal City Red Line station has been put aside due to the sour economy. The developer, Thomas Properties, and NBC blame market conditions. It would have been a lot of jobs right on top of the region’s heaviest used transit line.

Ideas for downtown: redesign 888 International Tower Plaza into a pedestrian-friendly open space (Brigham Yen)

Brigham uses his camera to document a rather dreary plaza and how it could be spruced up into something that might actually attract human beings.


Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 4

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.

The problem with naming transit stations (The Atlantic Cities)

As transit agency budgets have been squeezed by the recession, many have considered selling transit station naming rights to corporations in exchange for infusions of cash. Eric Jaffe notes that the most frequent objection to this tack centers on its “crass commercialism,” but there are bigger reasons not to like it, he says. Namely, transit station names serve a core navigational function: telling riders where they are, and “AT&T Station” in Philadelphia, for example, fails to do that.

Cycle like the Danes to cut carbon emissions, says study (The Guardian)

The European Cycling Federation has finished Europe’s first comprehensive study of the environmental benefits of cycling and the results are a big feather in the cap of the Danish. If all Europeans were to cycle the amount of the average Dane — that’s 600 miles per year — the continent could achieve as much as a quarter of the carbon reductions its seeking from the transportation sector.

Rust Belt cities: to avoid more shrinkage, protect & strengthen the core (NRDC Switchboard)

Writer Kaid Benfield digs into an interesting study [PDF] from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland that considers the importance of “a dense urban core…to the overall strength of a metro region.” Their findings? Regions that continued to grow over the last decade maintained strong downtowns, even as their suburbs grew — think Chicago and Boston. In contrast, those regions that declined overall — think Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo — saw their central city populations decline concurrent with the rise of their hinterlands.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 3

The Tournament of Roses parade on Monday brought big crowds, as usual, to Pasadena and the Metro Gold Line. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Wisconsin fans used the Gold Line to reach the big game Monday. Photo by Fernando Andres Di Zitti/Metro.


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.

Pretax commuter benefits slashed by Congress (San Francisco Chronicle)

Congress went home for the holidays and couldn’t be bothered to extend a tax benefit that allowed commuters to take $230 from their paychecks tax-free each month to pay for transit passes. That amount now drops to $125 per month, the amount it was prior to 2009 when it was raised as part of the federal stimulus bill. Meanwhile, Congress allowed the tax benefit for commuters paying to park to rise slightly to $240 per month.

The recession squeeze on buses and trains (New York Times)

This opinion piece neatly sums up the conundrum facing transit agencies across the country: even as ridership has risen in recent years, funding has been in short supply — forcing agencies to cut service and/or raise fares. Excerpt:

The problem is, financing for mass transit has not kept pace as cash-strapped state and local governments limit their support. The federal government, which provides only about 17 percent of financing for transit systems, should be doing a lot more, particularly since nearly 60 percent of rides are related to work, with commuters from every income level.

Of the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax, only 2.86 cents goes to public transit and almost all of the rest is reserved for highways. Although Congress has increased transit support in recent years, it is still too stingy to maintain stable services in many areas. The Federal Transit Administration has estimated that to bring all of the nation’s networks up to good repair — not expanding them, but mostly fixing what’s already there — would take more than $78 billion.

Check out the accompanying chart that shows transit trips have outpaced the number of miles that Americans are driving.

Dry weather allows Yosemite to re-open Tioga Pass (Examiner)

The weather is just plain freaky as of late. The last two winters in the Sierra brought big snows. But December 2011 was abnormally dry and Yosemite National Park took the rare step of re-opening Tioga Pass Road on Dec. 19. That has brought ice skaters to beautiful Tenaya Lake, which is usually off-limits until the road opens in late spring or early summer. Check out the video:



Transportation headlines, Thursday, Dec. 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 blog.

Gas prices fall for 41st consecutive day (Daily News)

The average price of a gallon is now $3.54 in the Southland, the lowest it’s been since February. If prices keep falling in 2012, it will certainly be interesting to see how consumers react. Will they buy hybrids or return to larger vehicles? And will those who have cars ride transit? Stay tuned.

Shell oil spill off Nigerian coast likely worst in a decade (Associated Press)

A reminder that oil and gas comes from somewhere and there are serious impacts. Shell estimates that the spill is less than 1.68 million gallons. It happened while oil was being loaded into a tanker. The oil company is posting updates on the spill on its website, along with photos. Shell says much of the oil has evaporated. Others aren’t so sure.

The best releases of city data (Atlantic)

Cities are putting more raw data online for people to view or use in apps. Among the faves listed in this post are San Francisco parking meter data, towed car data in Chicago, mosquito trap data in Edmonton and electricity use by zip code in New York City. I’d love to see that in the L.A. area, given the variety of weather we can have across the region in any given day.

Five candidates; five statements on climate change (Grist)

Read it for yourself. The official stance of the U.S. government, at least for now, is that global warming is worthy of concern.

Click above to visit the Department of Interior's climate change page.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, December 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 blog.

The Best CityReads of 2011 (The Atlantic Cities)

Looking to tuck in over the holidays with some long-form urban writing? Nate Berg breaks down his best reads from 2011. I’m particularly looking forward to a National Geographic piece that argues that “cities are the best cure for our planet’s growing pains.”

Human Transit: The Book! (Human Transit)

But the read I’m most excited for this winter is Jarrett Walker’s new book, Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking About Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives. You can read the book’s introduction at the link above and find it for sale at Island Press‘ website. I know on good authority that Walker discusses L.A. transit in the book in a number of places. And you can see Walker discuss the book in Los Angeles at UCLA on January 19th — details here.

Riding high-speed rail to a U.S. recovery: John Rosenthal (Bloomberg)

A lot of criticism has been levied at California’s HSR proposal of late — some fair, some not — so I find this op-ed by John Rosenthal to be a helpful reminder that high-speed rail is a still a much-needed investment in mobility for many regions across the U.S. In particular, Rosenthal emphasizes the need to better connect city centers through transport that can be powered by renewable energy — a sustainable alternative to driving and flying.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Dec. 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.

First Street Bridge opens today. Finally! (The Eastsider LA)

We all love progress and the opening of the First Street Bridge today is a reminder that all good construction projects must come to an end … eventually. Portions of the 82-year-old bridge were closed to traffic in 2007 to allow the bridge to be widened 26 feet to accommodate the Metro Gold Line tracks to the Eastside. Unexpected discoveries, including large boulders and unknown utility lines, delayed the work. But it’s finally over, the integrity of the bridge’s original design has been maintained and those of us who use that bridge could not be happier.

Invasion of the giant earth-eating highway machines, circa 1958 (Smithsonian)

After President Eisenhower pushed legislation in 1956 that would radically expand the U.S. highway system, artists began to imagine which technologies might shape our highway-rich future. Smithsonian mag shows us examples of highways built for self-driving cars, highways stretching from Alaska to Russia, highways running through the bottom of the sea and machines that chew up the ground, leaving pavement in their tracks.

Future city slowdown (Salon)

For generations, velocity has defined the urban experience: screeching subways, maniacal taxis, hustling crowds. But look around (if you have a second) and you might notice that a lot of the new ideas seeping into cities are aimed not at making them faster, but at slowing them down. Bikes, walkable cities, sit-down pedestrian plazas. What’s happening to our Type A culture?

Will Rahm Emanuel show America what a BRT (and Chicago) can do? (Streetsblog DC)

With impressive urgency, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has spent his first months in office retooling and reconfiguring how the City That Works works. But perhaps his most tangible efforts can be seen in his ambitious transportation agenda. Emanuel already has implemented the city’s first protected bike lanes, announced a $1 billion upgrade to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red line and passed a $2 congestion fee on downtown parking garages that will go toward creation of a CTA Green Line stop at McCormick Place, the nation’s largest convention center. And — of particular interest to the Wilshire BRT fans among us – it includes a downtown circulator bus route being billed as a bus rapid transit. The circulator could be an interesting harbinger of Emanuel’s bus policy and how far he will go with BRT. But it has yet to be seen whether Chicago will commit to high-performance BRT that sets a precedent for other American cities. L.A. is watching.

Transportation headlines, Monday, Dec. 19

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.

Seismic study begins on Beverly Hills High campus (Beverly Hills Patch)

The Beverly Hills Unified School District has hired a firm to evaluate seismic issues on the Beverly Hills High School campus. The district wants a second opinion after Metro released studies in October that more clearly identified earthquake fault zone activity in the Century City and Beverly Hills areas. Those studies, done for the Westside Subway Extension, concluded that the subway station in Century City should be built under Constellation Boulevard and that tunneling under part of the campus could be safely done. Here’s a link to our post about the studies on The Source and here’s a link to the reports.

The usual reminder: No decision about the subway’s route has been made. That will likely come early next year after the project’s final environmental study is released and then voted on by the Metro Board of Directors.

Dramatic changes in demand for housing in Golden State, study says (P.R. Newswire/Sacramento Bee)

In the next couple of decades, demand for single-family homes in subdivisions will continue to be soft while consumers — driven by Generation Y — will seek more multi-family housing on small lots will increase. Especially for units near transit, says a new study by the Urban Land Institute. Of course, no one really knows what the future holds and there have been similar forecasts in the past that the distant ‘burbs would go belly up. We’ll see. A lot of people still call those ‘burbs home and it’s pretty obvious to yours truly that low home prices trump a lot of other considerations for many folks.

A streetcar in Zurich. Photo by Dantc, via Flickr creative commons.

Zurich, the world’s best transit city (Planetizen)

The author of this post recently moved to Zurich for work. He knew the transit system was good — and he’s come to realize it’s world class. He really likes that not every trip between outlying areas involves going through the center of town. Plus it’s affordable — averaging less than $3 a day for unlimited bus and train rides. Zurich has been eagerly expanding its system since the 1970s and the impact on the city has been great, with reduced traffic and more room devoted to public space, not car parking.

State to motorists: don’t change your oil – yet! (L.A. Times)

The majority of auto owners believe they should change the oil in their vehicles every 3,000 miles — just as the Quickie Lube Industry wants them to believe. State officials in California say that’s nonsense and wastes a lot of oil. In response, they plan to push an educational campaign to inform motorists that every 7,500 to 10,000 miles is more appropriate.

Ballpark seats in play at Indy bus stops (Urbanophile)

Seats from a shuttered minor league baseball stadium are being used at bus stops around Indianapolis. It appears to be a win-win. The seats are sturdy and were designed for being outside and many bus stops in Indy don’t have much in the way of seating or other accoutrements. There’s a new proposal out to double the size of the Indy region’s transit system. I grew up 100 miles down the road in Cincy and I think Indianapolis — which will be hosting the Super Bowl this season — has done as much as anywhere to fix up its downtown and become relevant again as a city.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Dec. 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 blog.

60 freeway to be closed this weekend, as bridge is demolished (Los Angeles Times)

UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. Thursday — Caltrans just announced they will re-open the 60 freeway by Friday evening commute.

The 60 Freeway is expected to remain closed this weekend in both directions between the 605 and the 710 freeways as work crews demolish the Paramount Boulevard Bridge, following a Wednesday fuel tanker fire that ignited as the tanker was heading east on the freeway. The vehicle, which was carrying 8,800 gallons of gasoline, eventually came to a stop under the bridge, where it burned for several hours. The bridge sustained significant damage and will need to be rebuilt. Thankfully, the driver and a passenger were able to exit the truck without injury. About 220,000 motorists use the freeway daily, according to state transportation officials.

Chandler Boulevard bike lanes rolling our way soonest (LADOT Bike Blog)

Excellent news for Valley bike riders. Chandler Boulevard will soon be getting bike lanes to fill the gap between Leghorn Street and Woodman Avenue … possibly this weekend. The project will extend the existing Chandler Boulevard Orange Line bike lanes for about one mile, creating a continuous 4.8 mile east-west lane between Van Nuys Boulevard and Vineland Avenue. (2.7 miles from Vineland to Leghorn and 1.2 miles from Van Nuys Blvd. to Woodman.) As anyone who bikes in the Valley knows, tree-lined Chandler Boulevard is a beautiful place to ride and this new lane is going to make the experience safer and better.

TriMet says crackdown on fare cheaters is a success, even if it hasn’t quite paid for itself (Oregonian)

The problem is universal: How to get everyone who rides transit to pay for that ride. In Portland,OR the transit agency’s four-month crackdown on fare cheaters has been a success, even though it isn’t quite covering the cost of the crackdown, according to TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. 

Downtowns where parking lots thrive (Skyscraper Page)

This quirky collection of aerial photographs of U.S. cities shows how much of some urban centers are dedicated to parking. Alas, Los Angeles isn’t in there but assuming the little red squares pointing out the parking lots and empty spaces in other cities are accurate, it’s pretty interesting to compare, say, Boston, which is known for embracing mass transit, with Houston, which tends to rank toward the top on the Texas Transportation Institute “worst traffic” list. The page doesn’t say which came first – lots or transit — but ongoing studies indicate that cities with limited and expensive parking encourage mass transit commuting, while cities with an abundance of low-cost parking tend to encourage driving.

Transit researchers have a brand new tool (Metro Transportation Library Primary Resources Blog)

Times change and so does technology.  After 11 years on the previous system, the Metro Library has rolled out a new online public access catalog tool. So now transit junkies (like us) can more easily research questions about L.A. transit and transportation projects and programs, as well as a wide array of historical information on transit. Check it out.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Dec. 14

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.

Bakersfield Council to consider opposing high-speed rail line (L.A. Times)

It’s only a symbolic resolution — but it’s the kind that would get a lot of media attention considering that Bakersfield is the second-largest city in the San Joaquin Valley the project would serve. The city manager is recommending opposing the project for several reasons, including an alignment that would come close to a high school and also require the removal of some businesses and homes. The Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution at tonight’s meeting.

FTA’s compliance review of Metro (L.A. Streetsblog)

Blog editor Damien Newton has a detailed post looking at the FTA’s Civil Rights Compliance Review of Metro that was released on Monday.

Endearing but useless transit (Human Transit)

This post is an outtake from transit planning consultant Jarrett Walker’s new book, “Human Transit.” In the post, he lists seven values that good transit should have:

1.    “It takes me where I want to go.”

2.    “It takes me when I want to go.”

3.    “It’s a good use of my time.”

4.    “It’s a good use of my money.”

5.    “It respects me.”

6.    “I can trust it.”

7.    “It gives me freedom to change my plans.”

And, in addition, Jarrett also offers a good example from California on transit that’s endearing but basically useless to the locals. If you haven’t guessed — hint: Rice-a-Roni — read the post for much more.

Removal of tracks from Alameda (Downtown News)

Looks like some of the old train tracks running down the middle of Alameda are going to be pulled out in an effort to help smooth the ride for motorists on the road. It’s been years since the tracks were used — does anyone in ReaderLand know when they were last used and for what? I’m curious. Comment please.

Adjustable parking rates in S.F. not changing behavior — yet (Greater Greater Washington)

San Francisco has been using the laws of supply-and-demand to adjust parking meter rates. The idea is to use high prices to discourage motorists from all trying to park along popular city streets and blocks while using low rates to encourage motorists to use under-utilized parking rates. Well, despite some seriously different per-hour rates, motorists thus far are following their old habits — popular parking meters remain popular, despite the cost. Hmm.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Dec. 13

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.

Has the sun set on suburban sprawl in California? (Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard Blog)

A new study by the Urban Land Institute confirms what many of us already know — that city sprawl is passe. The study finds that Generations X and Y, which will dominate market demand in the coming decades, don’t want to live in far flung housing developments that require a car and long commutes to work. Where do they want to live? Near transit. (We like this study.) For personal thoughts on this very topic, take a look at the newest Metro Motion. It contains interviews with twentysomethings who have abandoned their cars in favor of what they consider to be a more interesting urban lifestyle … without a car and with mass transit. 

Driving frequency is dropping. But why? (New Republic)

Americans have sustained annualized driving drops for six consecutive months, the longest sustained drop since 2008 when gas prices first launched over $4 a gallon. This also comes at a time when the country is showing some positive economic growth — two percent annualized growth in the third quarter — and a string of positive, private sector job reports. Can consistently high oil prices be blamed, or is something more systemic and complex at work?

How is driving rewarded over taking the bus? (New York Times)

Due to a fear of making anything permanent or convenient in the tax code, a parking vs. taking mass transit parity of the last couple of years is scheduled to evaporate Dec. 31. After that, unless legislators manage to patch the rules once more, parkers will get to set aside $240 a month in 2012, while mass transit riders will be allowed just $125. Need we point out that this would not be very supportive of efforts to discourage use of fossil fuels for the good of the environment. Nor does it discourage our country’s dependence on foreign oil.