Extra tasty new aerial photos of Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension construction as project surpasses 50 percent complete milestone!

The 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension is now 50 percent complete, according to the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, which is building the Pasadena-to-Azusa/Glendora border project.

Below are an awesome collection of aerial photos taken in recent days by the Construction Authority. The news release — with a lot of good info — follows the photographs.

We’ll go from west to east with the pics, starting in eastern Pasadena — click on any of the photos to see them larger:

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Photos: Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Above is the work being done to extend the Gold Line’s tracks beyond the current terminus at Sierra Madre Villa in Pasadena.

Aerial_Shot_looking_east_from_Gold_Line_Bridge

A view looking east and south of the Gold Line’s right-of-way leaving the median of the 210 freeway and headed toward downtown Arcadia via the new Basket Bridge over the 210′s eastbound lanes.

Santa_Anita_Bridge_-_aerial

The new bridge carrying the Gold Line tracks over busy Santa Anita Avenue. The old tracks were at street level.

Arcadia_Station,_Parking_and_Transit_Plaza_-_aerial

The Arcadia station and parking lot taking shape. The station is right behind the popular REI store with the rest of downtown Arcadia a short walk south on First Street, which runs along the bottom of this photo.

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Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 12

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How to pass time on the train (Imgur) 

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By turning people in Ewoks if you’re Twitter user October Jones. And Spiderman. And Waldo. Check out the entire series at the link above.

LADOT announces first demonstration of mobile ticketing in Southern California (LADOT news release)

Riders on DASH and Commuter Express buses will be able to purchase fares — including single rides — directly from their mobile phones with the new app made by GlobeSherpa. The demonstration program is scheduled to begin this summer.

Metrolink to Bob Hope Airport gains steam (Santa Clarita Signal)

A station on the Antelope Valley Line broke ground last year and heavy construction is expected to start “within the next few months,” according to the Signal. The new platform is expected to make its service debut next year, with buses shuttling rail passengers to the airport terminals.

The end of snow? (New York Times) 

A good look at the impact of climate change on alpine sports, specifically skiing. Excerpt:

The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere. Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s, and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100.

The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters. As far for the Western part of the country, it will lose an estimated 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed — reducing the snowpack in Park City, Utah, to zero and relegating skiing to the top quarter of Ajax Mountain in Aspen.

The facts are straightforward: The planet is getting hotter. Snow melts above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The Alps are warming two to three times faster than the worldwide average, possibly because of global circulation patterns. Since 1970, the rate of winter warming per decade in the United States has been triple the rate of the previous 75 years, with the strongest trends in the Northern regions of the country. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, and this winter is already looking to be one of the driest on record — with California at just 12 percent of its average snowpack in January, and the Pacific Northwest at around 50 percent.

A storm this weekend brought three to five feet of snow to Mammoth Mountain and the resorts at Lake Tahoe, all of which had been lacking snow big-time. It was a reprieve of sorts, as President’s Day is usually one of the busiest ski weekends of the year.

Concerned about climate change? You can help reduce your carbon footprint by walking, biking, taking transit, using less electricity at home and encouraging your local utility to use more renewable sources of power, in particular solar and wind.

Here’s a look at Half Dome at 7:51 a.m. thanks to one of Yosemite’s webcams:

sentinel

Ice blankets south as thousands lose power (New York Times)

About 2,200 canceled flights at Atlanta’s airport thus far, the most in recent memory, says a spokesperson. A rough winter continues in the Eastern U.S., while the Western U.S. is still dealing with drought, even with recent snow in the Sierra and Rockies.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 11

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First look at Broad Museum’s public plaza and new restaurant (Curbed LA)

Very interesting look at the plaza and eating space that the Broad Museum is building along the Hope Street side of the museum, which is next to Disney Concert Hall on Grand Street. This is significant because Metro is building the Regional Connector underground station on the Hope side of the building in what is a bit of an awkward spot. The plaza, however, should help better tie the Connector’s station to Grand Street.

The end of LOS in California? State wants input on a new planning metric (L.A. Streetsblog)

Smart article by Melanie Curry on a wonky subject. As part of proposed reform of environmental law in California, the state has proposed getting rid of the requirement that “level of service”  – known as LOS — be analyzed on roads near new developments.

LOS is usually measured at intersections and opponents of a development almost always point to LOS as a reason that a development should be rejected or downsized. This has had a perverse effect. A really good transit-oriented development near a transit stop still will likely impact traffic at nearby intersections, even if it’s good for the city as a whole (more people living near transit, more people walking, etc.) The LOS scores don’t capture that.

Or, as Melanie puts it:

The irony of LOS is that CEQA requires mitigation when projects cause delay to automobile traffic—even if the projects create better conditions for other road users, such as transit riders, bicyclists, or pedestrians. Thus the San Francisco Bike Plan was held up for years because of a lawsuit claiming the city did not take into account the negative effects bike infrastructure would have on LOS.

Governor Jerry’s Brown is now asking the public for input on a better metric to measure traffic congestion from projects. As flawed as LOS may be, the question becomes what might work better, especially in the era of climate change?

Wilshire BRT project has a Facebook page! (Facebook) 

Photo: city of Los Angeles.

Photo: city of Los Angeles.

The city of Los Angeles’ Public Works Department has set up a Facebook page for construction of the Wilshire bus lane. This is first I’ve seen of it — looks like almost daily updates and photos on work on the peak hours lane, which is scheduled to open next year.

Transportation headlines, Monday, February 10

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Even Bruce Springsteen is singing about the 405 and this coming weekend’s Jamzilla, when the northbound lanes of the 405 will be closed or mostly closed for 80 hours. Above video from Springsteen’s show Saturday night in Perth, on the west coast of the AC/DC continent.

43 years ago Sunday: Sylmar quake topples freeway and prompts seismic retrofitting plan (Primary Resources) 

The Metro Library’s blog takes a good look back at the 6.6-quake in San Fernando on Feb. 9, 1974, that brought down freeway bridges, killed 49 in the VA Hospital in San Fernando and compromised many other structures. As a result, a new state law prohibited new development in earthquake fault zones. But 43 years hence, the state is still mapping those zones — the reason that Metro did extensive mapping work of its own when planning the Purple Line Extension in the Century City area.

A new OCTA video promoting the 91 Express Lanes that run between the 55 freeway and the Riverside County Line. The big news these days is that Riverside County is getting on board and adding the toll lanes between the county line and Riverside, a project scheduled to be complete in 2017. By most accounts, the aforementioned AC/DC song aptly describes this commute.

Bullet train ridership estimates up, cost estimates down in new business plan (L.A. Times)

The cost drops by $800 million to $67.6 billion to build the completely grade-separated line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, ridership projections are up by 25 percent to 35 million in 2040. The state is appealing a Superior Court ruling last year that prohibited the sale of state bonds to help fund the project — without the state bonds, the project can’t receive federal funds. Meanwhile, the project hopes to break ground this summer on the initial 29-mile segment of track near Fresno.

Sochi got the gold, bypassed village got the dust (New York Times)

The new road and railroad between Sochi and the Winter Olympics ski resort don’t include an exit or station, respectively, at a tiny mountain village of 200 that also took the brunt of highway and railroad construction. Residents hope that some of the Games’ money and excitement will trickle down to them, but that appears unlikely for now.

Transportation headlines, Friday, February 7

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Trial by fire for Metro’s new top cop (ZevWeb)

Interesting profile of Michael Claus, the new commander of the Sheriff’s Department unit that patrols Metro buses, trains and facilities under an annual contract. Both Claus and Metro officials say the system is safe despite the recent murder on the Red Line, but perhaps the most intriguing part of the article concerns fare evasion:

Both Claus and Metro’s Martin are seeking to improve fare enforcement, a major priority for the agency. Currently, deputies are responsible for making sure that people pay their fares and for issuing citations to violators. But Claus believes that sworn deputies’ skills are better used elsewhere.

“From what I’ve seen so far, I think it’s a waste of a resource for a deputy sheriff to check TAP cards,” Claus said. “Deputy sheriffs should be performing law enforcement functions, not revenue functions.” He added that it’s tough to recruit good people because trained police don’t want to spend their days checking cards.

Claus envisions using Metro employees and security assistants to check fares instead, while deputies patrol for safety—a quick call away if a conflict arises. Martin agrees. “When they are on a train and they have both hands checking tickets, they aren’t looking for quality of life issues,” Martin said. With each sworn deputy costing the agency about $210,000 per year and civilian employees costing about a quarter of that amount, “you want to get the best bang for your buck.”

First time I’ve heard this discussion publicly. I’m not really sure personally I care who does fare enforcement — like many others I just want to see it done well and thoroughly. If you subscribe to the broken windows theory of law enforcement, you probably also believe that cracking down on fare evasion also would help prevent other types of crime.

Trolley-train hybrid tackles city streets then speeds to suburbs (Wired) 

The train in Sheffield in the United Kingdom can run on both commuter rail tracks and then switch to light rail tracks to take people into and out of the city core. The big benefit: it eliminates the need to transfer between light rail and commuter rail.

Sochi by rail seemed like a good idea (Toronto Star)

A first person account of the 26-hour journey by ‘express’ train between Moscow and Sochi. The express train cut four hours off the previous 30-hour trip! One fun tidbit: it cost $32 U.S. to have a porter carry a couple of suitcases from the station to the train platform but not actually on the train.

If you haven’t seen the @SochiProblems Twitter feed yet, it’s worth checking out with the usual caveat it’s heavy on bathroom humor and some adult language. And if you haven’t yet read the New York Times’ story on the poisoning of stray dogs in Sochi by local authorities and a billionaires’ attempt to save them, here’s the link.

I love the Olympics, but I’m not sure I understand the craziness of having cities around the world spend billions to host them and then later find they can’t really afford them. I tend to think it would be better to rotate the Games between cities that already have infrastructure in place and perhaps occasionally add a new city. This is one reason I’d love to see Los Angeles host a future Olympics; a lot of the facilities are already here.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, February 6

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Where traffic lights automatically give cyclists green lights (L.A. Streetsblog)

The smallish Dutch city of Assen has reversed the natural order of things on most roadways — check out the video. Can’t see that happening here anytime soon. Transit, after all, still doesn’t get priority at many signals, particularly in the city of Los Angeles, thus the red lights for the Expo Line, Orange Line and Eastside Gold Line.

Santa Monica’s former mayor sounds off on Bergamot Transit Village (Santa Monica Lookout)

The future Expo Line-adjacent commercial and residential development was approved by the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday night. Former mayor Michael Feinstein says the community failed to negotiate a better development and some residents are threatening a referendum to overturn the approval. Of course, the project also has considerable support from those who think Santa Monica needs to add housing and that the village is a good chance to add residences and commercial space next to a rail stop.

Metro makeovers for the abandoned stations of Paris (Messy Nessy)

A candidate for mayor of Paris is proposing reviving eight subway stations in the Paris Metro that are no longer in use — many have not been used for decades for various reasons. Among the ideas kicking around are swimming pools, museums, theaters and night clubs. Check out the renderings that are part of the post.

Monorails on the move (Transit Wire)

Mumbai in India just opened a 5.5-mile one and Sao Paulo in Brazil is getting one.

Death Dust (The New Yorker) 

Excellent feature article on the spread of Valley Fever in California. The soil dwelling fungus that causes valley fever — which can be fatal — is a native species in California and scientists believe that sprawling development is releasing more of the fungus into the air via dust storms. The Antelope Valley is discussed in the article, which mostly focuses on the Central Valley. Good read for those with long commutes.

Thursday timewaster: baby polar bear’s first encounter with snow at the Toronto Zoo:

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 5

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London buses to go cashless (Transit Wire) 

Transport for London says all passengers will have to pay with an Oyster Card, which is similar to a TAP card. This will speed up boarding, officials predict, and reduce delays. And what happens if someone tries to board the bus without enough money on their card to cover the fare? As long as it’s a positive balance, they will be allowed to board.

Repeal of Orange Line rail ban clears Assembly (Building Los Angeles) 

The bill, AB 577, had no problem clearing the Assembly recently and next will be considered by the state Senate. It would repeal SB 211, enacted in 1991, to prohibit light rail from being built along the Orange Line corridor. There is no money to convert the Orange Line to rail at this time, nor is the project even in Metro’s long-range plan. The advantages of rail over bus would be more capacity and perhaps some gated crossings, which hypothetically could make a train faster than a bus that stops or slows for both red and green lights controlled by the city of Los Angeles.

Commuting by bike is an L.A. adventure (L.A. Times)

Columnist Steve Lopez likes the idea of commuting by bike, if not necessarily the reality at times — which he likens to willingly swimming in a shark tank. Excerpt:

As I see it, 5% [of commuters traveling by bike] isn’t a big enough target, and the bicycle plan isn’t grand enough in a city with mostly bikeable terrain, great year-round weather and a health-conscious population.

That’s not Mowery’s fault. She’s dealing with infrastructure limitations and all the usual political realities. Too many motorists, merchants and homeowners stand in the way of a bold transformation in a city that desperately needs one, and no public official past or present has been brave enough to stand up to them for the greater good. But do they really think we can just go on adding cars to already clogged roads?

If the goal is to get more people to consider commuting by bike, we need more than painted white lines on the road and the rare buffer like the one in the tunnel. We need fully protected bikeways, so people of all ages can go for a ride without fear of getting hit by a bus.

We have dozens of major east-west and north-south thoroughfares in the San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles, so why can’t one or two become bikeways at fixed hours?

 

It’s hard to judge a bike network until it’s more complete — and cyclists truly have options to travel to far more places. I certainly see more people biking in the past few years in L.A. and elsewhere, but I also see bike lanes that are getting infrequent use. One issue: some of the bike lanes are hardly inviting with no buffer between heavy traffic and on streets in badly need of repair. Check out the lanes on Huntington Drive and Mission — not exactly ideal.

Pictures from the Super Bowl transit nightmare (Gawker)

Good pics, bad commute — especially for fans who paid a king’s ransom to travel to New York and then watch a terrible game.

A couple of thoughts:

•Super Bowl 50 in 2016 will be played at the 49ers new stadium in Santa Clara near a VTA light rail stop — and the light rail connects to both CalTrain and ACE commuter trains. So we’ll see how that works.

•If the Broncos qualify for the Super Bowl in the future, find something else to do that day — like harvest belly button lint, wash your car with a toothbrush or go to Bed, Bath & Beyond with the wife. To wit:

Super Bowl 12: Dallas 27, Denver 10

Super Bowl 21: New York 39, Denver 20

Super Bowl 22: Washington 42, Denver 10

Super Bowl 24: San Francisco 55, Denver 10

Super Bowl 32: Denver 31, Green Bay 24

Super Bowl 33: Denver 34, Atlanta 19

Super Bowl 48: Seattle 43, Denver 8

Of the seven games, the only one that was actually entertaining and close was the game against Green Bay, which went down to the wire. Otherwise, the games involving the Broncos have been total duds. As for next year, I don’t think they’ll be back in the Super Bowl — teams will figure out how to better pressure Peyton Manning, who had all day this year to throw. And I’m not sold on the Seahawks either. The reason I think the Steelers and 49ers will meet in Super Bowl 49 in Arizona next year.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 4

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ART OF TRANSIT: Metro headquarters, the Union Station train platforms and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as seen from Elysian Park on Monday evening. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Metro headquarters, the Union Station train platforms and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as seen from Elysian Park on Monday evening. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Yes to an Arts District subway stop (Downtown News) 

The editorial praises Metro CEO Art Leahy for directing Metro staff to study adding subway stations at 1st Street and 6th Street along existing Metro tracks. As some know, the tracks for the Red/Purple Line subway continue south from Union Station to a rail maintenance yard along the Los Angeles River and adjacent to the emerging Arts District.

This idea has been kicking around for years — and has been pushed in the past by L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge. Excerpt:

The neighborhood has become one of the hottest communities in Los Angeles and is seeing a blitz of development. The 438-apartment One Santa Fe is rising east of the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and Legendary Development is preparing to break ground this year on a nearby 472-unit rental complex. Other housing projects already exist throughout the area, including three buildings developed by the firm Linear City in the southern portion of the district. Being able to get these people from their homes to the center of Downtown, or other neighborhoods throughout the region, without climbing into a car has obvious benefits.

Then there is the biggest project coming to the area: In 2015, work will start on a $401 million replacement of the Sixth Street Viaduct. The project will improve connections between the Arts District and Boyle Heights, and include recreation areas on the banks of the Los Angeles River.

All of this activity means that the district could wind up in a traffic crush. That is a serious concern, considering that stakeholders have already experienced the first pangs of congestion and parking shortages. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to be in front of a problem rather than play catch-up later?

We’ll see what happens — the obvious challenge is figuring out how to get people from a presumed street level train platform safely into the Arts District. I don’t believe anything is imminent but it sounds like an exciting idea, especially with the subway extension soon to start construction along Wilshire Boulevard.

Editorial: planning for the future (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The newspaper urges the Santa Monica City Council to approve plans tonight for the Bergamot Transit Village, located near the future Expo Line 26th/Bergamot station (it’s at 26th and Olympic). Excerpt:

Growth is inevitable. Santa Monica and the rest of the region will continue to attract more people. Whether it’s the 22-year-old graduate from MIT looking to strike it big with her next smartphone application, the New Jersey native stepping off the bus with dreams of Hollywood stardom or the young couple about to start a family, population growth cannot be stopped. Therefore, we must find ways to accept it and manage it as best we can. Without building more housing or more office space, Santa Monica will be unprepared to deal with the increase in demand. Rents will skyrocket, young families will be pushed out and this city will be further strangled by gridlock and falter from a lack of diversity.

The Hines project, with its combination of office space, retail and housing, helps create the community of the future, one in which people can live, work and shop all within their own neighborhood, and without getting into their cars. It’s what innovative, visionary urban planners are calling smart growth, and we agree. We can no longer afford to be car-centric. Change must come and it will be painful for some, but you cannot have progress without some discomfort.

Hines is offering to provide affordable and market rate housing that is sorely needed, plus the creative office space to keep us competitive and attracting the high-wage jobs that make our local economy strong. There is a dedication to preservation, child care and green space. The project, if approved, would be built adjacent to public transit in the form of the Exposition Light Rail line. This is what is envisioned in the Land Use & Circulation Element, a planning document that was debated for years by the community, one that protects traditional residential neighborhoods but allows for growth along transit corridors to meet future demand.

Growth has been everything but inevitable in Santa Monica for decades — the population has barely grown in the past half-century compared to the rest of the region. A lot of that is due to lack of development. And how has that worked out? Well, real estate prices are sky high — unless a rental unit is rent controlled — and traffic is widely agreed to be terrible because of people commuting to jobs.

The Daily Press calls for tweaks to the project — mostly more green space — but opines that a better deal or development is unlikely to come along. Whatever happens, I hope something gets built because putting development near transit makes a lot of sense.

LAX expects to spend $3 million to study consolidated rental car facility (Daily News)

The study would look into building a single facility for rental cars at Manchester Square, the old residential neighborhood west of the 405 and north of Century Boulevard. The airport has bought up most of the properties there and is collecting a ticket fee to help pay for a project should it come to pass.

Train-related excerpt:

Under the plan expected to be approved Monday, Kansas City, Mo.-based TranSystems Corp. will receive about $3 million to study building the car rental facility. Many other airports, including Phoenix Sky Harbor and Chicago Midway, have centrally located rental buildings, in which many companies share one garage. Eventually, L.A.’s facility likely would be linked to the Central Terminal Area with an automated train. If built, in 20 years it might also be linked via the same automated system to Metro’s Green and LAX/Crenshaw lines.

I suppose the key phrase there is “20 years.” The automated train — i.e. the people mover — would presumably first travel from the terminals to a “Intermodal Transportation Facility” the airport hopes to build where light rail would meet the people mover

. Here’s the airport map showing how it all comes together:

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Transportation headlines, Monday, February 3

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Super long waits for a train (New York Times)


There was a single New Jersey Transit commuter train line serving the Meadowlands and Super Bowl 48 on Sunday. It worked before the game when 28,000 train-going fans had all afternoon to get there. After the game? Well, there were lines and waits of two hours or more for some. I felt just a little bit sorry for the fans — having to sit through a boring second half after paying all that money, not to mention sitting through endless commercials and then a long wait for a train.

What would the lines be like if the Super Bowl was ever again played at the Coliseum or Rose Bowl? Hard to say. The Expo Line serves the Coliseum for USC football and the Gold Line serves a bus shuttle to the Rose Bowl. But I don’t think either has ever had to serve anywhere close to 28,000 football fans at one game. I think you would need as many trains as could safely run on either line (the Regional Connector will help with number of trains that could run) plus a lot of supplemental bus service. And patience.

As for the next NFL season, I think the 49ers will knock off the ‘Hawks and Saints in the NFC — if San Francisco can overcome its turnover woes in big games. The AFC is a muddier picture but I wouldn’t be shocked if it comes down to the Steelers, Patriots, Colts or Broncos if Denver can manage to protect Peyton Manning. The Bengals have a ton of talent but I could probably find a Nepalese goat herder who could better manage a game than their coaching staff.

Speaking of the NFL, here’s the L.A. Times’ Michael Hiltzik on the news that the owner of the St. Louis Rams has purchased a 60-acre site in Inglewood adjacent to the Forum Hollywood Park. The Rams will likely threaten to move there if St. Louis taxpayers don’t agree to spruce up the Edward Jones Dome to the tune of $700 million. Hiltzik says it’s an empty threat given the NFL’s recent history with L.A. — the league really just wants the threat of teams moving here in order to leverage new stadiums or stadium improvements back in cities already with teams.

In the extremely unlikely event the Rams move there, it looks like the stadium would be a 1.2-mile walk from the future Crenshaw/LAX Line station at La Brea & Florence.

When pedestrians get mixed signals (New York Times) 

Transportation writer Tom Vanderbilt writes about Los Angeles’ recent crackdown on jaywalkers in downtown. Excerpt:

Thus a familiar pattern reasserts itself: The best way to reduce pedestrian deaths is to issue tickets to pedestrians. A similar dynamic can be seen in recent weeks after a spate of pedestrian deaths in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has endorsed more aggressive enforcement by the New York Police Department against jaywalkers.

Enforcement against jaywalking varies between states, but it is an infraction in most, even a misdemeanor in some. The international picture is mixed: Crossing the road at other than a designated spot is also an offense in Canada, Spain, Poland and Australia, among other countries. Singapore is especially harsh — jaywalking can earn a three-month prison sentence. As you might expect, Scandinavian countries are less punitive. In Britain, the term is rare, and the presumption is that crossing the road safely is a matter of personal responsibility.

But neither enforcement nor education has the effect we like to think it does on safety. Decades of graphic teenage driving safety films did not bring down teenage driving deaths; what did was limiting the age and conditions under which teenagers could begin to drive. Similarly, all the “awareness campaigns” on seatbelt usage have had a fraction of the impact of simply installing that annoying chime that impels drivers to buckle up.

If tough love will not make pedestrians safer, what will? The answer is: better walking infrastructure, slower car speeds and more pedestrians. But it’s easier to write off the problem as one of jaywalkers.

Well put, Tom.

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times’ Steve Lopez writes about pedestrians versus the city of Los Angeles’ sidewalks, which has resulted in millions of dollars of legal settlements with people who have been injured in falls due to bad sidewalks in recent years. Excerpt:

A $3-billion bond measure city officials hope to put on the November ballot would pay only for street repairs as currently conceived, though it’s possible sidewalks could be added to the proposal. Either way, the measure, which would add about $200 a year to the property tax bill of a home assessed at $500,000, wouldn’t begin to fix all the city’s streets and sidewalks. Should we be doing more?

Downtown’s huge Metropolis project could start construction next month (Curbed LA)

The project includes five buildings on 6.3 acres, with the owner — the Shanghai-based Greenland Group — wanting to begin work on the first two buildings (19 stories and 38 stories, respectively). Works for me; downtown Los Angeles needs the density and its skyline, while nice, is still on the sparse side.

Below is a photo I took Friday afternoon at sunset. I was planning on taking it from the Los Angeles City Hall observation deck, except after arriving at City Hall I learned the deck is only open on weekdays until 5 p.m. (I shot it from Grand Park instead). That means that Angelenos can’t visit the deck to watch the sunset when sunset occurs after 5 p.m., which happens to be the vast majority of the year. Hmmm. And in case you’re thinking ‘someone should tell Tom LaBonge about this, I already did :)

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 30

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ART OF DROUGHT: The Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite National Park as seen on a park webcam this morning. Snow may be on the way for the park today but the photo shows how little of the white stuff there has been to date.

ART OF DROUGHT: The Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite National Park as seen on a park webcam this morning. Snow may be on the way for the park today but the photo shows how little of the white stuff there has been to date.

Are people really going to take the train to LAX? (LA Weekly) 

Reporter Gene Maddeus takes a skeptical look at ongoing studies to connect Los Angeles International Airport to Metro Rail via a people mover. He focuses on two concerns: 1) the Crenshaw/LAX Line doesn’t serve the areas where many airport passengers are coming from to reach the airport, and; 2) therefore the trip to the airport from places such as downtown L.A., Santa Monica, Hollywood, etc., will involve many time-munching transfers.

Example: Maddeus points out it would take 38 minutes via transit to get from 7th/Metro to Aviation/Century, according to Metro. Can’t argue with him about that: it took me 24 minutes on the Expo Line last week to travel between Expo/Crenshaw and 7th/Metro thanks to many red lights courtesy of the city of Los Angeles.

The conclusion to his story:

By now, it should be clear that the Crenshaw Line was not designed with LAX passengers in mind. Instead, it was designed for people who live along Crenshaw and currently take the bus. (Crenshaw is the second-most-trafficked bus corridor in the city, after Wilshire.) Adding an airport connection will not change that fundamental fact.

Jose Ubaldo, the MTA spokesman, said that the agency is considering express service on the Crenshaw Line for LAX passengers. Good idea. Let’s hear more about that. However, if it requires design changes it may already be too late, seeing as MTA just broke ground on the Crenshaw Line.

Bottom line: Everybody wants to be able to take the train to the airport. That would be tremendously convenient, if done correctly. But don’t count on MTA and LAWA to do it correctly. In the real world, the convenient system that everybody is imagining may not be what we end up with.

I think this was a good article with a journalist asking smart questions. I would, however, like to add a couple of points to consider:

•Will the masses abandon their cars to get to LAX via train? Probably not — as evidenced at other airports in the U.S. served by trains. But LAX also serves more than 63 million passengers a year and is also a major employment center. Given traffic in the area, having a transit option for even a small percentage of passengers seems worthwhile — and at LAX, a small percentage could still be a significant number of passengers each year. Here’s the employment density map from the project’s environmental studies:

1.0_Purpose_and_Need

•The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line that is now under construction is just part of what could be a considerably longer rail line. For example, the line will allow trains to run one day from the South Bay via a Green Line extension under study and partially funded by Measure R. Extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line north of Exposition Boulevard is not funded at this time, but is in Metro’s long-range plan. Just getting the Crenshaw/LAX to the future Purple Line would certainly make it easier to reach the airport for many more people near the Metro Rail network.

Finally, I thought Maddeus’ article indirectly attacks another worthy question that will continue to be debated: how much money should be spent on the Airport Metro Connector project, considering all the factors above?

RELATED:

Four alternatives move forward for Airport Metro Connector project — with more study of two other options

Motion seeks to restore two alternatives that would bring light rail directly into LAX terminals

Connecting Metro Rail to LAX: a look at issues currently on the table

More than a fourth of Orange Line passengers may ride for free, study shows (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the two-day fare check in December by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department  that found a 22 percent fare evasion rate one day and a 16 percent rate on the second day. Metro officials say the agency is losing $1 million to $2 million annually in fare evasion on the line and two Metro Board members — Paul Krekorian and Zev Yaroslavsky — have asked for an awareness campaign to teach/remind the public to pay fares as well as a report on the feasibility and cost of adding gates to the Orange Line.

Here’s the staff report that the Times article is based on. In the meantime, please remember to tap your TAP cards at the validators on the platform. If you don’t, you could be cited for fare evasion and this report pretty much guarantees that deputies will be cracking down.

The day we lost Atlanta (Politico)

Snowpocalypse! Photo by William Brawley, via Flickr creative commons.

Snowpocalypse! Photo by William Brawley, via Flickr creative commons.

Interesting story looks at the root causes that saw two inches of snow earlier this week shut down the metro Atlanta area and strand thousands in cars, schools and other buildings. The gist of it: everyone tried to hit the road at once to get home before the snow, balkanized governance over the metro area and not enough transit in Atlanta’s ‘burbs. In other words, it was a sprawlstorm now a snowstorm that tanked Atlanta.

The New York Times also has a strong article explaining the storm, pointing out that allowing tractor trailers with no tire chains on freeways through the heart of the city was kind of dumb — and that city leaders did little because they thought the storm was going to veer south of the metro area.

I’d like to make fun of Atlanta but then I took a moment to ponder what would happen if two inches of snow fell across sprawling Los Angeles County….