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.

Transportation headlines, Monday, Dec. 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.

FTA audit faults Metro (Los Angeles Times)

Please see our post from late Friday for more information about this and a statement from Metro.

Landmark deal reached at climate conference (NPR)

The deal doesn’t involve new limits on greenhouse gas emissions. It does involve a framework that is supposed to get 194 nations — including big polluters such as the U.S., China and India — to one day agree to limits, as well as a funding plan to help some nations develop cleaner energy. In the meantime, might I suggest it’s best to think local?

Some see flaws in city’s bike plan (Daily News)

Bike activists say the city is making a better effort to install cycling infrastructure as part of its new bike plan — and city officials say initial efforts have produced 20 miles of streets with sharrows and 14 miles with bike lanes. Critics, however, say that sharrows — markings that show the lane is to be shared with vehicles — aren’t as helpful to cyclists as real bike lanes.

A dust storm envelops Phoenix this past July. Photo by Alan Stark, via Flickr creative commons.

Quality of the air? That’s as murky as the Western sky (New York Times)

Dust-storms seem to be on the rise in the Western U.S. — with dust causing snow to melt quicker than it should. A variety of forces are at work, including off-road vehicles and droughts that kill plants that anchor the soil. Most of the dust seems to be coming from the Colorado Plateau and some scientists believe the problem could worsen if the climate, as predicted, becomes hotter and drier across the West.


Transportation headlines, Friday, Dec. 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.

Taking transit to Farmers Field (Huffington Post)

An exec with AEG, the firm proposing the downtown NFL stadium, told an L.A. City Council committee that one day to reduce the number of people driving to games would be to sell transit tickets along with game tickets. The Blue Line and future Expo Line will share a station that is a short walk from the stadium location next to Staples Center and the Red/Purple Line station at 7th/Metro Center is also within a stroll-able distance. Not to mention the many bus lines serving the area, including the Silver Line.

LaHood pushes for national ban on texting-while-driving (USA Today)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants to see the ban in all 50 states — only 35 so far have enacted bans, many thanks to LaHood making an issue of it. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say that such bans haven’t reduced the number of crashes. LaHood says the bans would — if states enforced them. One issue is that solid data on distraction-related crashes has been hard to come by. Until recently, different states and localities tracked data in different ways. In 2010, the feds estimate that there were 3,092 distraction-related crash deaths. For the sake of comparison, there were 10,228 drunk driving deaths in the U.S. in 2010 and 32,885 traffic deaths. All sad numbers — and a reminder why so many of our readers would like to see more late night transit service.

Making your Smartcar larger (Autoweek)

Not enough room in the Smartcar for your tastes? Here’s a trailer that adds an axle and some trunk space that can hold a battery to extend the car’s range.




Transportation headlines, Thursday, December 8

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.

Track work curtails some Metrolink, Amtrak trains this weekend (L.A. Times)

First, a quick heads-up: Some Amtrak and Metrolink trains will be cancelled this weekend so that construction crews can work on adding a second track on a stretch between L.A. and San Diego.

Whatever happened to the downtown people mover? (The Atlantic Cities)

Writer Eric Jaffe delves into the history of the automated downtown people mover, which was, for a time, considered a cutting-edge approach to transportation. But like a lot of ideas from the 1970s — say, disco — it’s now hopelessly passé. So what happened? 38 cities applied for federal funds, but only three systems were ever built in Miami, Detroit and Jacksonville respectively. Check out the story to see why Miami’s has done respectably, while the other two have floundered.

California leads venture funding for electric vehicle technology (L.A. Times)

Given California’s cluster of high tech industries and its car culture bona fides, it seems natural that electric vehicle start-ups would find fertile ground in California. The Times has some figures that show just how much that’s been the case: “Businesses in the state collected $467 million in electric vehicle venture capital investment during the first half of this year, or 69% of the global total.” And don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Business Journal reports that Delorean Motor Co. — made famous by the Back to the Future series — is partnering with Epic Electric Vehicles to produce an electric version of the famous car, sans flux capacitor, I assume.

Urban retailers call for more transit, less parking (Globe St.)

As suburban big box stores wane in demand, major retailers are increasingly looking to adapt to more urban and transit-oriented locations. At a national conference of retailers, a common theme was that stores were overbuilding parking in cities, given that a large portion of their customers were arriving by transit.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Dec. 7

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 future of transit: it’s frequency (Halifax Magazine)

Reporter Tom Mason looks at transit around Halifax, a city that has sprawled into suburbs in recent times. Relying heavily on an interview with transit planner and writer Jarrett Walker, the article concludes that simplifying the bus system and concentrating on frequent service on fewer lines would probably make transit a more reliable option for many more people. Good article.

Gingrich on climate — the 2007 version (New York Times Dot Earth blog)

Former House speaker and Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has a long record of talking about climate change — and many criticize his shifting positions from supporting a bill to clamp down on greenhouse gases (1989) to saying he’s not sure global warming is occurring (2011). The Dot Earth blog has a video interview from 2007 in which Gingrich talks about global warming and the environment in a nuanced way, something missing from presidential campaigns these days.

LaHood defends high-speed rail program (D.C. Streetsblog)

Interesting back-and-forth between U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and fellow Republicans on the House’s Transportation Committee. The gist of it is that LaHood says that many states want high-speed rail while House Republicans say it’s not really all that high-speed, it’s too expensive and should be confined to the Northeast Corridor of the U.S., where there is demand. I would call the pseudo-debate a draw.

Untangling New York City traffic (MSNBC)

A good and short video segment on Janette Sadik-Khan, the well-known transportation chief in New York City who hasn’t been shy about giving preference to pedestrians and cyclists in parts of the Big Apple. And not without some controversy. Of course, to watch the video I first had to sit through a 15-second ad for Chevrolet.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, 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.

As Washington drags its feet, states take the lead on mileage fees (StreetsBlog DC)

Americans are driving less and opting for more fuel-efficient cars and that’s a good thing. But it also means revenues from state gas taxes have been on the decline. With an increase in the federal gas tax probably impossible in an election year and federal funding increasingly uncertain, states are beginning to investigate alternatives such as adopting a mileage-based system that charges drivers for the distance they travel (vehicle miles traveled or VMT) rather than the gasoline they consume. Find out which states are marching toward legislation and how.

Four cities that need congestion pricing (This Big City)

People often come to Los Angeles and shake their heads solemnly at the effect urban sprawl has had on the environment and residents. But we’re not the only ones with issues. This short comparison looks at four cities and recommends congestion pricing as a tool to help alleviate traffic. Oddly, L.A. doesn’t make the list … perhaps in part because our ExpressLanes congestion pricing demonstration project is already in the works.

Wireless internet now aboard California Amtrak trains (KCET)

Wireless internet has been a requested service on many venues for many years and last week — on Cyber Monday, no less — it arrived on three California Amtrak lines. In Southern California it means that the 350-mile Pacific Surfliner, the second busiest route in the nation and one of the most beautiful, now has email to transmit those fabulous images.

Don’t wear those earbuds or earphones around train tracks (Pittsburgh Tribune)

Parents of teens and those who think of themselves as teens: Ditch those earbuds or earphones around train tracks. It’s essential to keep your ears open to sound … particularly when walking near trains but the same is true for driving. Sound is one of the clues that tells the story of what’s occurring in your surroundings. Sadly, according to statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration, 42 people in Pennsylvania alone were killed along railroad tracks in 2010. “It’s such a preventable, preventable tragedy,” an official said.

Transportation headlines, Monday, Dec. 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.

After tolls rise, less traffic and more train riders into Manhattan (New York Times)

Tolls that motorists pay to use bridges and tunnels into Manhattan increased in September and in the two months since, according to a preliminary report, there’s been a four percent drop in car traffic. Meanwhile, ridership on PATH trains connecting New Jersey and Manhattan went up 3.7 percent and New Jersey Transit commuter trains look to have gained ridership but final numbers are pending. Of course, the New York area is in somewhat of a unique position to measure these things as Manhattan is an island and there are only so many ways in and out.

California High-Speed Rail Authority spends millions to polish its image (Sacramento Bee)

The newspaper takes a look at the 20 contracts the agency has with “regional outreach” communications consultants. These are the firms that get paid to compile mailing lists, run public meetings, send e-mail blasts and meet with elected officials — among other things. Proponents say they’re a necessary part of keeping the public informed while critics say it’s an unnecessary expenditure. There’s a somewhat unrelated but nauseating anecdote at the end about the Authority paying $240 each way for limo service to ferry an official between San Francisco and Sacramento for a hearing.

Spandex wars in Chicago (Grist)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn’t shying away from transportation issues. He’s trying to raise parking taxes, build more bus lanes and put in 100 miles of bike lanes in the next five years. He also has required city employees to use transit when in Chicago and on city business. His vision has provoked one prominent critic but many in the activist community are stepping to the mayor’s defense.