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.



Source taking an extended coffee break…

…for up to the next couple of hours to work on the server issues that have been impacting the website this week. The blog should be back up for the weekend.

Thanks for reading and your patience!,

Steve Hymon
Editor, The Source

Transportation headlines, Friday, Dec. 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 blog.

Before we get started, a couple of quick notes: we’re having some issues involving the servers that host the Source. That’s why the blog has crashed a few times recently or may be slow. Please bear with us.

On another note, I’ve been through some Santa Anas while out in the desert, but the winds that swept through my Pasadena neighborhood between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday were pretty unreal. I have no idea how many tons of wood came down across the Southland yesterday, but it sure seemed like my neighorhood was a little brighter today with a little less shade, owing to so many branches and tree tops toppling. (Here’s a few photos I posted to Flickr after a bike ride through parts of Pasadena yesterday).

And for you Sierra-philes out there (I’m one), here’s a little something plucked from the National Weather Service website yesterday:


How Americans react to high gas prices (The Atlantic)

They react this way: with every 10 percent increase in gas prices, four percent more people shift to bus ridership and eight percent to taking trains, according to a new study in the Journal of Transport Geography. The study looked at a couple dozen or so American cities, including Los Angeles. Excerpt from the Atlantic’s interview with the study’s author, Bradley Lane, of the University of Texas at El Paso:


“Despite this being one of the most driving-oriented societies in the world, despite the fact that we have a lower national priority for transit than just about every developed society in the world, despite the fact driving is essentially free in our minds compared to any other mode, in some cities you still see some pretty large responses to gasoline prices,” says Lane. “So despite the game being tilted totally in favor of auto use, gasoline price fluctuation in the past 7 or 8 years actually appears to have a pretty significant, consistent effect on limiting how much people drive.”


The upshot of this analysis is a recognition that automobile use does not occur in isolation. It’s strongly tied to both gasoline prices and the quality of the public transit system. Increase the first and improve the second, says Lane, and you may well find that America’s love for the road is founded less on hard concrete than on an artificially soft market.

Check out the maps with this post showing the relationship between gas prices and transit use in cities across the U.S. The Los Angeles region looks like it’s middle-of-the-pack in terms of people switching to transit when gas prices go up. Interesting.

Re-thinking streets in Northeast Los Angeles (L.A. Streetsblog)

Good post about James Rojas leading Occidental students in a simple exercise: asking them what streets such as York Boulevard in Highland Park and Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock would look like in 50 years. Talk about two streets with so much potential and so much gap between the reality and the potential. Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, in particular, over the decades has been transformed into a six-lane road that resembles a mini-highway (before the 210 freeway came along, that’s how it was used) that moves voluminous auto traffic through a business district that has seen a revival of sorts. Excerpt:

They also seemed to create streets that were destinations where you could patronize local businesses, take advantage of a community garden or places to hang out with friends to sit, rest, or linger. Moving quickly through the streets was not a goal of the students, which would be for a transportation planner.  The student’s ideas expressed a longing for a sense of community.

Well said, James.

DASH and Commuter Express now on Google Maps (KCET)

The city of Los Angeles’ bus service went live on Google Maps on Thursday. As Zach Behrens writes, the city’s website had good information about its buses. “…The power of this integration helps commuters best choose routes across a region where numerous transit agencies operate,” writes Zach Behrens. “Without a central data hub, planning a trip from, let’s say, a far flung area of Orange County to downtown L.A. could mean visiting a number of transit websites to check schedules. With Google, a lot of that work is already done.”

Transportation headlines, Thursday, December 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 blog.

How federal funding fails to match demand for transit in the U.S. (DC Streetsblog)

Streetsblog’s Washington bureau points us to a handy compendium of the nation’s transit projects complied by advocacy group Reconnecting America. The group found, unsurprisingly, “strong demand for transit projects around the country but a dearth of federal support for such projects,” reports Tanya Snyder. In fact, the organization deduced that just those projects in the that are “late stages of engineering and construction alone would ‘connect 3.5 million more jobs to transit [nationwide], an increase of 25 percent.’” I’ve got to think a good chunk of those jobs are along the Westside Subway corridor, right? Here’s the direct link to Reconnecting America’s list, which prominently features forty-some transit projects throughout the Southern California region.

L.A. rolls out clean bus fleet (L.A. Times)

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation – which operates the Commuter Express bus service – has begun to roll out 95 new compressed natural gas buses, reports the Times’ Ari Bloomekatz. The new fleet will replace some buses that are apparently older than I am, including one that’s logged 1.2 million miles – enough to travel to New York and back almost 200 times. New features like reclining seats and triple bike racks should help keep loyal riders and attract new ones.

Amtrak: Record breaking thanksgiving ridership (

We’re always hearing about how busy Thanksgiving air travel is, so it’s nice to see that Amtrak is seeing ridership gains as well. The national railway saw an 2.2% ridership increase over last year’s Thanksgiving week, requiring the agency to put every train in its fleet into service.

California lawmakers say goodbye to their state-purchased cars (Sacramento Bee)

State lawmakers auto perks have come to an end after several decades, a casualty of the state budget crunch. However, the Bee notes that if legislators simply shift to the typical $.55 cents-per-mile reimbursement rate for state employees on work-related trips, the benefits might actually cost taxpayers more.