Transportation headlines, Monday, Dec. 10

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.

Happy property tax day, Source readers!

ART OF TRANSIT: does the sign make it clear enough? Photo by Martin Deutsch, via Flickr creative commons.

The cracks in the nation’s foundation (N.Y. Times) 

This strong editorial pleas with Congress to get off its duff and fix the nation’s ailing infrastructure. Excerpts:

The need for investment in public works, never more urgent, has become a casualty of Washington’s ideological wars. Republicans were once reliable partners in this kind of necessary spending. But since President Obama spent about 12 percent of the 2009 stimulus on transportation, energy and other infrastructure programs, Republicans have made it a policy to demonize these kinds of investments.

When the president asked recently for a modest $50 billion for transportation improvements in the “fiscal cliff” talks, Republicans literally laughed out loud. There will be no stimulus in any deal, said Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the incoming chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. (snip)

The president’s $50 billion proposal for highways, rail, mass transit and aviation, hard as it will be to achieve, is only a slim down payment on the real job. (He proposed the same package last year as part of the American Jobs Act, which Republicans ignored.) Most estimates put the cost of basic repairs at more than $2 trillion, and that does not even include long-range upgrades to the electrical grid, storm protection and mass transit.

Around the country, ridership on transit has grown significantly since the 1990s, but federal investments have fallen far short. The Transportation Department says that if $18 billion were spent every year — 40 percent more than is being spent now — transit systems might get to a state of good repair by 2028. But that does not include spending to improve service or keep up with growth, or to protect systems like New York’s from storm damage. (The city’s subway system needs $4.8 billion just to recover from Hurricane Sandy.)

House transportation chair: build light rail to LAX or else! (KPCC) 

Outgoing House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Florida) says he’ll try to torpedo some L.A. transit projects unless light rail is extended to LAX — sooner rather than later. The project is currently under study and scheduled to be complete in 2028 under Metro’s long-range plan. It would have been accelerated under Measure J, which fell .56 percentage points short at the polls. Of course, getting the project done will require help from Los Angeles World Airports, a city of Los Angeles agency that needs to environmentally clear the project and make a financial contribution.


Transportation headlines, Wednesday, 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 Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Assemblyman Mike Feuer recovering (KPCC) 

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now — Feuer was injured after a SUV ran a red light and struck his vehicle. Sounds like Assemblyman Feuer will be okay, which we’re all very relieved to hear. Feuer shepherded the legislation that made Measure R possible through the Legislature in 2008 and he also sponsored the legislation to get Measure J on the ballot. He has been a very good friend of public transit while representing his Westside district and we wish him a very speedy recovery.

LaHood may be sticking around (Politico) 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood tells House Transportation Chair Bill Shuster that for the time being he will remain in his current job. There had been rumors swirling that L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could be a candidate for the post if LaHood stepped aside although like most Washington rumors, it’s unclear where they’re coming from.

Downtown L.A. streetcar: next stop, Washington (blogdowntown) 

Streetcar organizers and proponents say now that downtown residents have created a new tax district, they’ll be asking the federal government to pay for the other half of the line. Nothing’s guaranteed, they say, but lobbying should be intense. As far as streetcar grants go, L.A.’s will likely be one of the larger asks of the feds.

Looking back at historic streetcars on Broadway (Primary Resources) 

Great post from Metro’s Transportation Library and Archive on the history of streetcars on Broadway — including many other fine pics such as the one above.

Controversial HOT lanes spread nationally (USA Today) 

A pretty thin story, but it points out that the ExpressLanes that opened last month in Los Angeles are just one of many similar projects that have opened or are in the planning stages across the country.

Last stop for Track 16 (KCRW Which Way L.A.?)

The well-known gallery at Bergamot Station is losing its space to make room for a future Expo Line station.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Dec. 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 Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

The Portland Street in downtown Portland. Photo by, via Flickr creative commons.

Downtown voters vote ‘yes’ for special tax to fund streetcar (blogdowntown) 

Seventy-three percent said ‘yes’ to creating a new tax district in downtown Los Angeles to raise at $62.5 million to $85 million to help fund a streetcar. The local funds are needed to attract federal grants that will be required to build the $125-million project. Proponents have argued that the streetcar will bring new development to downtown — the rails are a very visible infrastructure improvement and the streetcar is basically a pedestrian-enhancer. Some critics have said the benefits are being oversold. I don’t think a streetcar is a panacea for downtown; I do think that all things considered it will be a big plus.

It’s official, 1st Street bike lane will lose some of its buffer (L.A. Streetsblog) 

I think most reasonable people can agree there’s no shortage of parking for police vehicles near the stil relatively new LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. But police cars have persistently parked in the bike lane on 1st Street anyway to be closer to the building’s entrance and have now come up with a novel solution to deal with complaints from cyclists: rearrange the bike lane so that police cars get to park next to the curb and bikes have to wedge themselves between the special police parking lane and vehicle traffic on 1st Street. Really?

Will hitching posts make Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park more beautiful? (The Eastsider L.A.) 

The decorative bollards are fine. Maybe putting them on the sidewalk in front of a gas station will give the corner of Sunset and Alvarado a little more class. As far as making Sunset Boulevard shine through this area, I think a street median is what’s most needed. Oh — and lose the strip malls.

Muni plan to appease North Beach (San Francisco Chronicle) 

The Central Subway project will extend one of the Muni lines into Chinatown. Now there’s talk of extending the line further — all the way to the popular North Beach area — in order to find a better place to dig a hole to get the tunnel boring machine out of the ground. A train station near Tommaso’s sounds good to me.



Transportation headlines, Monday, Dec. 3

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Time to lower sales tax threshold for transportation (San Jose Mercury News)

Scroll down to the second reader question in this transportation column — the reader points to the narrow losses of sales tax measures in both Alameda and Los Angeles County as indicative that the super-majority needs to be lowered. One legislative observer says that the new Democratic majority in both the state Assembly and Senate could choose to put that issue to voters in 2014. In meantime, needed transportation projects are put on hold.

Voting concludes today on downtown L.A. streetcar tax (L.A. Times) 

This is the last day for downtown residents eligible to vote to mail in their ballots on whether to create a new tax district to help pay for the $125-million streetcar. Supporters say it will bring economic development to downtown, particularly along Broadway — a street certainly in need of a breath of fresh air. There is no organized opposition.
A struggling 19-year-old service worker barely earning enough to make ends meet has to pay $64 for her monthly Muni pass. A wealthy 66-year-old homeowner from Pacific Heights can purchase that same fare for $22.

Seem fair?

With debate swirling in recent months over a proposal to provide free Muni service for The City’s low-income youths, a larger regional conversation has begun about the possibility of basing some transit fares on a customer’s ability to pay.

Both Muni and the MTC — the Bay Area’s regional transit agency — are conducting studies. It’s hard to argue with the fairness part, but also seems difficult to administer and keep it fair.

Ventura County VISTA buses now offer wi-fi (Ventura County Star) 

The buses now offer free wi-fi — no password is needed — on all lines, following hte lead of a few other transit agencies around the state. Officials say cost of wi-fi has been coming down and it’s very popular with customers (shocker!).

Transportation headlines, Friday, Nov. 30

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.

Quality of life and visitor experience: public transportation and pedestrian-friendliness (Travel and Leisure)

Based on a reader survey, the magazine says Los Angeles 29th out of 35 major cities on a vote by residents while visitors scored L.A. as No. 32. Not to sound too much like a spinmeister, but I’m guessing transit in Los Angeles scored better than local sidewalk scene, which is very lacking in many parts of town. It probably didn’t help that there is no rail connections yet to Santa Monica or Disneyland, two parts of the Southland that attract a lot of tourists.

Yaroslavsky criticizes Board’s use of money, Courier’s publisher (Beverly Hills Weekly, pdf, please see page 2)

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to the Beverly Hills Rotary Club earlier this week and didn’t mince words — in other words, he was refreshingly himself, as usual — about the dispute with Metro over the route of the Purple Line Extension. Yaroslavsky, in particular, took aim at the Beverly Hills Unified School Board’s decision to keep spending money on lawsuits against Metro while it considers asking voters next spring to approve a parcel tax to help erase a budget deficit.

Yaroslavsky’s main point is that even if the lawsuits succeed, a victory would only ensure that Metro has to re-do parts of its environmental studies on the subway project. A court victory does not mean that Metro has to change the subway’s route and it remains unlikely the Metro Board would choose to do that given there is no credible scientific evidence that it’s safe to build a station under Santa Monica Boulevard, nor is there any evidence that it’s unsafe to tunnel under any parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus.

Yaroslavsky also criticized the Courier for attacking Beverly Hills Mayor Willie Brien for attending the groundbreaking event for the beginning of utility relocation of the subway’s first segment, which ends at La Cienega Boulevard, far from Century City. The Courier has used its news and editorial pages — the two are often indistinguishable — to fight the subway route and support/promote local politicians who agree with the newspaper.

Mobile ticketing expands in the Boston area (BostInno)

A new app allows commuter train riders to buy a ticket on their smartphone. Conductors on the train are trained to check tickets on a phone, saving the local transit agency the hassle of printing and dealing with paper tickets. The app is nicely designed and easy to use.

Dissent of the week: praise for NYC’s BRT (Human Transit)

Using New York City’s new bus rapid transit routes as an example, transit planner Jarrett Walker encourages transit agencies and their planners to aim high and seek serious improvements in travel times — not just slight improvements over already embarrassing travel times. Excerpt:

For example, in the original Seattle Transit Plan that I worked on in 2005, we asked not “what interventions can we make to speed up those buses a bit?” but rather “how fast (and frequent) do the buses have to be to deliver the scale of mode shift that is essential to what Seattle wants to be as a city?”  San Francisco’s Transit Effectiveness Project is a similar model.   Get influential policy people thinking about the second question, and the battlefield changes, because now each struggle to remove a parking space is part of a citywide or regionwide sustainability mission.

Boy, I’d love to hear local transit planners be more explicit about this and say something like “If we’re trying to get Jane Smith our of her car, which she can take directly from her driveway to a free parking spot near her desk, we probably need to build something that travels at X speed and runs X frequently and that will come at a great expense: X amount of dollars.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Nov. 29

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

A streetcar at Eagle Rock and Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock in 1955. Photo by Alan Weeks, via Metro Transportation Library & Archive.

Blue, Expo Line delays reflect ongoing problems at rail junction (L.A. Times)

Tuesday night’s major delays on the Blue and Expo Lines were a sign that work is still needed to improve the Washington/Flower junction of the two lines, says this blog post.

Rail plan stirs distrust among black Angelenos (New York Times) 

The article revisits the controversy over the Leimert Park station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Many African-Americans want the station funded no matter what, whereas the Metro Board decided earlier this year to build the station only if a contractor can do it within the project’s budget of nearly $1.8 billion. Bids from contractors to build the project are due soon.

Public transportation etiquitte for citizens of Los Angeles (Thought Catalog) 

A short list of suggestions for transit riders, including the stand-to-your-right rule for the escalator.

U.S. motorists on pace to spend record sum on gasoline (L.A. Times) 

The average price of a gallon never reached its all-time high of $4.114 in 2008, but persistantly high prices in 2012 saw Americans cough up $482 million at the pumps.

Shuster won’t rule out raising gas taxes (Business Week) 

New House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster says that he understands new sources of revenue are needed to pay for federal spending on roads and transit and that options looked at include raising the federal gas tax (last raised in 1993), a vehicle miles tax and tolls. See above story to understand why any of those are seen by politically difficult by politicians who believe getting reelected > good public policy.


Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Nov. 28

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Greybound bus crossing the desert. Photo by Downtowngal, via submission.

Thousands hit with toll lane violations (ZevWeb)

More than 12,000 citations have been mailed to motorists who used the ExpressLanes on the 110 without the required FasTrak transponders since the lanes opened on Nov. 10. At this point, motorists are just being asked to pay the tolls they owed; after Dec. 10, they’ll be hit with a fine. Metro is also including information with the citations on how motorists can order a transponder. In other news, the ExpressLanes are giving motorists a bang for their buck. In peak hours, average speeds are 58 mph in the southbound lanes and 63 mph in the northbound lanes.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, car companies are seeing the light (Grist)

Good story looking at some of the early work being done by American car manufacturers, who must double the fuel efficiency of their fleets by 2025. One big focus: using lighter materials to shave weight of vehicles, including the poundage of some serious pickup trucks. The improved emissions, more mass transit and a reduction in short trips because more people are walking and/or cycling in well-planned communities has the potential to seriously improve air quality in So Cal.

Villaraigosa to department heads: it’s time to work together on TOD planning (L.A. Streetsblog)

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last week issued an executive directive to create a new TOD cabinet to get city departments working together on creating more transit-oriented develops. Streetsblog Editor Damien Newton says the cabinet has the potential to be a turning point in the city’s planning history. Maybe. I think the biggest obstacle is finding developers interested in building TODs. Many rail stations — including some busy ones — have failed to attract developments that actually happen. I’m talking to you, Vermont/Beverly, Highland Park and the Blue Line!

Sharrows are not a bike plan (Systemic Failure)

This post — which I completely agree with — argues that putting sharrows on streets really doesn’t do much for cyclists. It does, however, make it look like something is being done for cyclists. Big difference.

Top Twitter feeds for 2012 (Planetizen)

Like many other top lists for 2012 now being published, this one ignores the fact that there are 12 months in the year and still two days remaining in month No. 11. Whatever. The list gives shout outs to feeds concentrating on urban issues, including transportation. And a local is included: Gary Kavanaugh, who frequently posts at L.A. Streetsblog.