Transportation headlines, Monday, May 12

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Growing ranks of bicyclists still just one percent of L.A. commuters (City News Service)

The article is based on the new report from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition released today. Excerpt:

Motorized, solo commutes — via car, truck or van — is still easily the most common way to get to work in Los Angeles, with 77.3 percent of the 1.7 million local workers traveling an average of 29.2 minutes to get to work, according to survey results announced last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Just 1 percent of all commuters in Los Angeles city commute to work on bikes, which is above the national average of 0.6 percent, according to data collected from the census’s 2008-2012 American Community Survey.

This is compared with 11.1 percent of workers who use public transportation and the 3.7 percent who walk to work.

But bicycling is on the rise, according to the census’s report, “Modes Less Traveled — Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008- 2012.” The report notes that the national rate of bicycle commuting has seen “a larger increase than that of any other commuting mode.”

The Census numbers are certainly interesting and the reporter was smart to include them for context. One thing I find interesting is that even in the big bike towns such as Portland, the Census Bureau shows no more than 3.3 percent about six percent of commuters as riding bikes to work.

While commuting is important, I think it overlooks the power of bicycling to affect change. While many people may not bike to work for a variety of reasons, they can still bike to other destinations instead of driving. Bikes can be perfect for running short errands and other types of trips (going to the gym!) that add a lot of miles to peoples cars while chewing up a lot of fuel.

In other words, what matters most is getting out of your car occasionally and walking, taking transit and biking — all good ways to help ease traffic, lower greenhouse gas emissions and get your backside in motion. :)

Related: here is coverage of this morning’s Bike Week L.A. Kick-off at Union Station.

Build the Sepulveda Pass train tunnel (L.A. Times letters) 

VICA Board Chairman Coby King writes the Times, saying the $20-billion price tag for the Sepulveda Pass tunnel is for a project that would run from LAX to the northern San Fernando Valley. A simple rail tunnel under the pass to connect Westwood and the San Fernando Valley would cost $5 billion to $7 billion based on Metro information, King writes. The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project — which is set to receive $1 billion in Measure R funds — has been discussed as part of the race to replace termed-out Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

L.A Designer: Michael Lejeune, making Metro ‘cool’ (KCRW)

A nice interview with Metro’s creative director, whose group created the marketing campaign that got a lot of people (including me) noticing Metro. Excerpt:

ML: So at my interview for the job 12 years ago I asked what is the goal for Metro and they said, Metro is not on anybody’s radar, or if it is, it’s a negative story in the local press. Our goal is really simple, we need to make Metro cool.

And that is the perfect creative reason for this job. It’s not about false cool. LA is cool, it is the place you can come and be your best, coolest self, it is that place and it has always been that place.

Now Metro is reinventing itself. We are into bikes and sponsoring cicLAvia and helping to bring Bikeshare to LA; we’ve opened up to really fulfill our destiny about being all mobility, buses and highways and bikes and walking.

But our philosophy has been that you can’t make Metro cool if you can’t get Metro to be noticed. We thought, we are not going to simply show a photo of a bus or train, but rather present a more colorful version of getting around LA that’s focused on people and possibility.

 

End of the line for Metro North’s bar car (New York Times) 

The bar car — where commuters could buy drinks — on Metro North trains was retired on Friday. While some riders mourn the loss of a Happy Hour on rails, agency officials say the tradition’s time has passed, citing DWI laws and changing norms.

City eyes BRT to speed up MTA rides (New York Daily News) 

The New York MTA is studying the idea of full-time bus lanes in Brooklyn and Queens to shave about 25 percent off bus travel times. New York has six bus lines with BRT-like aspects (off-bus boarding), but buses still often find themselves stuck in regular traffic. Los Angeles, btw, is listed as one of the places with BRT, a reference to Metro’s Orange Line.

 

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 9

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

LAX takes steps to alleviate traffic in what could be a record-setting year (Los Angeles Newspaper Group) 

The airport is on track to break its record of 67.3 million passengers in a year, set in 2000. The article looks at discussions by the Board of Airport Commissioners earlier this week on numerous future improvements that are being studied, including the automated people mover and a consolidated rental car facility that would be a mile east of the airport. The people mover would also stop at a transit hub where passengers could be picked up and dropped off — and would also connect to Metro light rail (precisely where is under study as part of the Airport Metro Connector project). The hub would reduce the number of private vehicles entering the Central Terminal Area horseshoe while the rental car facility would eliminate the need for the bus shuttles chronically circling the airport.

As reporter Brian Sumers notes, there are still environmental reviews to be done and it could be years before construction begins on anything. If you don’t feel like fighting traffic to the airport, I strongly recommend trying the LAX Flyaway bus that runs from four locations — Union Station, the Expo Line’s La Brea station, Westwood and Van Nuys — to the LAX terminals for one-way fares between $8 and $10.

Beverly Hill Unified’s legal fight against Metro against Purple Line paid for with school construction bonds (L.A. Register)

The school district has spent between $3.1 million and $4.1 million in its lawsuits against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration challenging the environmental documents and route for the Purple Line Extension project, which will go under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. District officials say it was necessary to spend the money from Measure E bond school improvement program to preserve the ability to build underground on the campus, whereas Metro has said that the subway tunnels won’t be in the way of any planned structures.

Beverly Hills Councilman Willie Brien says it’s time to drop the fight against the subway route and focus on mitigations and protections for the campus. A Superior Court judge in March ruled in favor of Metro in the BHUSD and city of Beverly Hills’ state lawsuit against Metro. A lawsuit by both the district and city against the Federal Transit Administration is pending.

Next section of high-speed rail route approved while state waits for bond sale appeal (Associated Press) 

The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve the 20,000-page environmental document detailing the route and mitigations for 114 miles of track between Fresno and Bakersfield. The Board had previously selected the route for a much shorter stretch between Fresno and Madera. Excerpt:

The environmental document includes plans to address air quality during construction, add green space to compensate for damaged habitat and prevent the spread of the highly contagious fungal disease known as Valley fever. The complex review is required to comply with state and federal environmental laws and has been in the works since 2011.

Disturbing native soils is thought to be one way to spread the fungus that causes Valley fever, thus the reason it was studied. The route approval is a big step for the project, although the sale of state bonds to fund construction is on hold due to a lawsuit challenging whether the project as approved matches promises made to voters in 2008.

The Authority still must approve the environmental studies that outline how the train would travel between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. The route under study would involve tunneling under Tehachapi Pass and then would roughly follow the tracks that parallel the 14 freeway through the Antelope Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains before reaching the San Fernando Valley.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 8

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

New contract guarantees a series of raises for some Metro workers (L.A. Times) 

Metro and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 127 have approved a new contract that will provide three percent annual raises for about 2,300 maintenance workers for the next four years. The new contract will cost Metro roughly $36 million with agency officials saying that it’s important to retain and fairly pay the skilled workers who keep buses and trains moving each day. Union officials say the contract is fair but that workers are still paid less than their counterparts in New York and Chicago.

Sexual harassment makes nearly 20 percent of riders feel unsafe (L.A. Times) 

The story concerns a question asked in Metro’s annual Customer Survey that was released this week. Excerpt:

The sexual harassment question was prompted, in part, by a national discussion about safety on public transit that followed a fatal gang rape on a New Delhi bus in 2012, Boberg said. A study by London’s transit agency the following year found that 15% of women riding transit there had experienced “unwanted sexual behavior,” but 90% of them had not reported it, according to the Guardian

Metro staff members who read stories online about such data realized they had very little comparable information, Boberg said, and decided to add the question to the most recent passenger survey. He added that Los Angles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his transportation staff also indicated they were interested.

One of the biggest surprises in the data was that men reported feeling unsafe because of sexual behavior nearly as often as women, Boberg said About 18% of women felt unsafe, as opposed to 16% of men.

Obviously, Metro takes this issue seriously and, as a Metro spokesman notes in the article, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has increased patrols on Metro buses in addition to deputies that patrol Metro Rail trains and stations. Metro asked the question on the survey to better discern the number of actual incidents versus perception of the problem.

Here are some key statistics. According to the LASD, there were 103 sex crimes including one rape on Metro buses and trains that was reported in 2013. Metro Customer Relations has received seven sexual harassment complaints in the past three years. Metro had 478.1 million boardings on its buses and trains in 2013.

Agency officials stressed this to me today: Metro takes seriously the perception that people feel unsafe for any reason. Sexual harassment is obviously a societal issue that also exists beyond the bounds of transit and Metro wants to stay ahead of the curve. The agency encourages anyone to let the bus operator, LASD deputies or any Metro personnel know if they feel harassed or threatened. On trains, passengers can use emergency intercoms located on rail cars and in rail stations. All bus and rail passengers can report problems via the TransitWatchLA app for smart phones or contact Metro Customer Relations by calling 323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876), emailing customerrelations@metro.net or filling out the online form.

As we noted, harassment is certainly an issue beyond transit in Los Angeles County. For some helpful context, sexual harassment on transit received some attention a few years ago in New York when a survey by the then Manhattan borough president at the time suggested that harassment on the New York subway system was extremely widespread. Here’s a New York Times article about a New York City Council meeting on the issue in 2009 with some statistics and anecdotal quotes.

Breathing uneasy: living along the 710 freeway corridor (KCET)

The article looks at a project being studied by Caltrans and Metro to improve traffic along the southern stretch of the 710 freeway between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the 60 freeway (where much of the freight traffic begins to head east). As noted in this news release, alternatives include widening the 710 freeway up to 10 lanes (five in each direction), modernizing and reconfiguring the I-405, SR-91 and a portion of the I-5 interchanges with the I-710; modernizing and reconfiguring most local arterial interchanges along the I-710 and looking at a provision of a separate four-lane freight corridor to be used by conventional or zero-emission trucks. Some nearby community members want to see more traffic diverted from the freeway, better transit and bike paths along the 710 corridor and the zero emission corridor come to fruition. Click here to visit the study’s home page.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the train (The Poston Report)

Writing on his personal blog, L.A. Times reporter Ben Poston reports on the evolution of his commute over the past couple of years. He used to bike to work in DTLA, but got tired of being hit by cars. He then went back to driving — and wrote about it — but took a lot of heat from readers who said he should either stick with biking or try something else.

And the something else? Excerpt:

Since I started riding the Metro two months ago, I haven’t looked back. It’s now my preferred mode of travel and I only drive when my job requires it.

With gas prices typically at more than $4 a gallon, I know that I’m saving serious cash every month, not to mention the wear and tear on my car.

Though I have to leave earlier than before, I’m enjoying the slower pace of transit commuting. During my 20-minute morning walk from my apartment to the Red Line stop I usually stream National Public Radio or listen to music on my smart phone.

I read magazines and newspapers on the train, which is relaxing. It’s also nice to walk among my fellow Angelenos instead of being isolated in my car bubble. The best part is the ride home: I don’t have to sit in traffic or deal with it at all, which is much less stressful.

So that’s it. My LA commuting sage is over. I’m taking the train as often as possible and enjoying it. I’d encourage anyone else to give it a try.

Metro tweets trash Ducks: is this the start of a new hockey tradition? (L.A. Register) 

The new L.A. Register asks whether it’s appropriate for government agencies to support the home team and tweet about sports, using Metro’s tweets (read: my tweets) about the Kings and the Stanley Cup Playoffs as an example. One attorney interviewed says that a pre-Game 7 tweet I wrote about the Sharks that included a chart on the Heimlich Maneuver may not have been appropriate. I obviously disagree. The Sharks’ lousy playoff record speaks for itself and the Kings, in fact, overcame a three games to zero deficit to win the series. As for the bigger question about why tweet about sports? Well, the Kings have had a Destinations Discount deal with Metro in the past, many Kings fans take Metro to games at Staples Center (using Pico Station shared by the Blue and Expo lines) and who says that everything government says has to be boring?

Mileage tax for California drivers proposed in State Senate (Mercury News) 

The article — picked up from the Los Angeles Newspaper Group — looks at SB 1077 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) that would allow a pilot program for a device to be used to track mileage in cars and then tax the motorist based on miles driven. Motorists are currently taxed in California by paying 5.9 cents per gallon for fuel. Proponents of a by-the-mile tax say it would more accurately tax motorists for the true cost of driving by taxing those who use road space the most. 

 

 

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 7

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Just a reminder, there’s a reason they haven’t begun digging the 710 tunnel (Streetsblog L.A.) 

The foremost reasons are that the environmental review process is still far from complete and the more expensive alternatives under study for the SR-710 project — in particular a tunnel or light rail line — are not fully funded. But Streetsblog editor Damien Newton says the real reason is lack of any kind of broad-based support for such a project. He also takes another shot at tonight’s Zocalo Public Square forum on the 710, intimating that it will be a Metro-sponsored rally for 710 expansion although conceding that “it’s possible that tonight’s discussion will take a different turn.” One correction: The event at MOCA in downtown L.A. is free and is near the Red/Purple Line’s Civic Center station and numerous Metro bus lines. It’s only $9 for those who choose to drive and to park at Disney Hall.

MTA may have tough time getting federal rail money past House GOP (L.A. Times) 

Republicans in the U.S. House are proposing spending cuts to the federal New Starts program that helps local agencies pay for large transit projects. That could impact $200 million in next year’s federal budget for Metro’s Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension projects. Excerpt:

Raffi Hamparian, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority director of federal affairs, said county officials would work to increase the amount when the House committee acts on the bill in coming weeks or to win approval for a higher amount from the Senate, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sits on the Appropriations Committee.

“It may be that the Senate is going to come in with a solid number that fully funds the program, and we don’t have a problem,” Hamparian said. “But the bottom line is, a low number adds uncertainty, and we don’t like uncertainty.” [snip]

“We’re determined to get these projects built, on time and on budget,” Hamparian said. “Los Angeles County voters have repeatedly stepped up to fund these projects, and we look forward to Congress meeting us halfway to get these great American infrastructure projects built.”

L.A.’s plan to make Figueroa a ‘complete street’ makes sense (L.A. Times)

The editorial backs the city of Los Angeles’ plans to put four miles of Figueroa on a road diet between downtown L.A. and Exposition Park, meaning that two traffic lanes could be lost and replaced, in part, with protected bike lanes and other improvements to help pedestrians and bus riders. Businesses, including USC, have pushed back. The Times says that’s a bad idea and that transferring some of the improvements over to Flower Street (which runs parallel to Figueroa) would be a bad idea.

How tolls could prevent a U.S. transportation crisis (The Atlantic Cities) 

With the federal Highway Trust Fund in perpetual crisis mode, Eric Jaffe writes that it’s encouraging that President Obama is proposing to allow states set tolls on their portion of the interstate system to pay for maintenance. The proposal would also allow some toll money to be used for public transit. My three cents: the interstates have been toll-free for so long that it’s going to be a mighty tough sell to get this past Congress and to get states to go for it, even if they have the permission to set tolls.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 6

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Here are two plans for an airport people mover (Curbed LA)

The Curbed post is based on tweets from L.A. Times transportation reporter Laura Nelson, who attended the Los Angeles World Airports Board meeting (if you’re not following Laura on Twitter, you should be). As Laura’s tweets show, it appears that LAWA is looking at two alternatives for getting an automated people mover into the terminal area and neither would be a loop.

As many of you know, Metro’s Airport Metro Connector study is also underway and Metro is working with LAX to identify the best way to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line with the airport’s people mover and the location for a possible connection between light rail and a people mover. There are several possibilities, including a connection at the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century station or the new transportation hub proposed by the airport that is west of the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Metro staff are expected to give their latest report to the Metro Board of Directors in June.

The L.A. Airspace blog by Brian Sumers that is published by the Los Angeles News Group also has an item on the LAWA Board discussion, as well as the full LAWA report with visuals on everything that is on the table including the people mover, future roadway changes and a consolidated rental car facility.

WeHo to consider efforts to lure a Metro line stop (WEHOville) 

The city of West Hollywood is considering hiring a lobbyist to help secure a Metro Rail line that would stop in West Hollywood. As CurbedLA notes, the timing is obvious as Metro considers pursuing a possible ballot measure in 2016 to raise money to accelerate the construction of transportation projects or perhaps secure funding for projects beyond the Measure R expenditure list.

The Purple Line Extension project did study a subway segment running from Hollywood through WeHo to Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. With funding limited, the Metro Board decided to pursue a subway alignment mostly under Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood that performed better in terms of expected ridership. A northward extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line is in Metro’s long-range plan as an unfunded project and some activists have proposed that line run all the way to WeHo, Hollywood or both. Metro has not yet drawn up any firm plans for such a project.

Meanwhile, two Los Angeles City Council members — Joe Buscaino and Tom LaBonge — are urging that a light rail line be built that that connects Wilmington and San Pedro to the Blue Line, perhaps via the Harbor Subdivision right-of-way that is owned by Metro, according to Build Los Angeles. That project has been talked up by Move LA, the activist group urging Metro to pursue a “Measure R 2″ in 2016.

The bigger story here — and it’s a good one, reporters — is that with the possibility that Metro will go to the ballot in 2016, many cities and other stakeholders across the region are starting to push for their projects to be included. There is certainly no shortage of projects that have been talked about for years that are not funded. Look at the funded and unfunded list in Metro’s long-range plan (pages 30 and 31). The interesting part, of course, is that the Metro Board has not made any decision yet whether to go forward with a measure, nor do we know what the Board may even pursue or whether there would be any money for projects outside Measure R.

Climate change study finds U.S. is already widely affected (New York Times) 

A wide range of scientists overseen by the federal government developed the report, including representatives from two oil companies. Here’s the first graph:

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects. [snip]

And, more notably, here are the last two graphs — which perhaps are two of the most important graphs in the story:

Historically, the United States — with its large cars, large houses and high per capita consumption of energy — was responsible for more emissions than any other country. Lately, China has become the largest emitter over all, though its emissions per person are still far below those of the United States.

The report pointed out that while the country as a whole still has no comprehensive climate legislation, many states and cities have begun to take steps to limit emissions and to adapt to climatic changes that can no longer be avoided. But the report found that these efforts are inadequate compared with the magnitude of the problems that are coming.

Of course, you don’t have to wait around for the government to do something if this is an issue you care about. Walking and biking are emissions free! And taking transit has been shown as a way to reduce your carbon footprint when compared to driving alone or even with passengers. Please see this UCLA study on how the Gold Line and Orange Line both produce fewer greenhouse gases in the near- and far-term than driving, especially driving alone.

The Federal Transit Administration also published this report in 2010 on public transit’s role in how the country responds to climate change. To quote the report: “National level data show significant greenhouse gas emission savings by use of public transportation, which offers a low emissions alternative to driving.” And a graphic from the report:

greenhousegas

Did Metro build a perpetual motion machine (Streetsblog L.A.) 

And on the subject of clean energy….this is a critical look at the MACE project that we posted about recently. The $600,000 test project aimed to determine if energy could be captured by placing a wind turbine in a Red Line tunnel. The idea is that wind from a passing train would turn the turbine and then create energy.

Experts interviewed by Roger Rudick on Streetsblog, however, are dubious. They say that passing trains likely meet resistance from the new turbine and thus must use more power to maintain their speed — meaning that any energy captured is canceled out by the extra energy needed to push trains down the track.

According to the test, the wind turbine could capture $6,000 in energy annually. Streetsblog says a turbine that could be switched on and off may perform better but that Metro may reap more energy by regenerative braking similar to what hybrid cars use (and this is something Metro is pursuing).

Good article and I encourage you to read. I think the question really comes down to whether the wind turbine is something worth pursuing and whether it can be improved to the point where it’s economically useful.

Transportation headlines, Monday, Cinco de Mayo

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Jennifer Keith. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Jennifer Keith of the Jennifer Keith Quintet performing in the Fred Harvey Room on Saturday during the Union Station 75th Anniversary celebration. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Union Station’s complexity grows 75 years down the line (L.A. Times) 

A super interesting essay by architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne on the history of Union Station and its future. As he points out, by the time that Union Station opened in 1939 — after several legal battles — rail travel already had taken a big hit and it was clear that auto and plane travel were the way that most people were going to be moving around the region and country, respectively.

Excerpt:

As a piece of urban design, however, Union Station was ruthlessly modern, a powerful engine for an urban-renewal plan that displaced hundreds of residents of L.A.’s original Chinatown and served as a precursor to later “slum clearance” efforts in Chavez Ravine and on Bunker Hill. In facing almost due west, the station not only announced the end of the line for American territorial expansion but helped the city turn its back on the Los Angeles River.

It didn’t seek to undermine the growing car culture. It actively supported it. The 200-foot gap between Alameda Street and the station’s front doors was a suburban distance, not an urban one, leaving plenty of room for parking.

More to the point, by going up when and where it did, Union Station influenced the location of key highway interchanges in and around downtown. As Matthew W. Roth writes in “Los Angeles Union Station,” a new book published by the Getty Research Institute, which has also organized an anniversary exhibition on the station at the Central Library, “the consolidation of track operations at Union Station set in motion the process of bridging the Los Angeles River with a freeway — and, in turn, the routing of the freeway network.”

As Christopher points out, Union Station is already far busier now than it was when built owing to the steady stream of Amtrak, Metrolink and Metro trains and buses (among others) that enter and leave the station each day. He praises Metro’s stewardship of the station (the agency purchased the station in 2011 from a private holder) and says crowds are likely to increase as the Metro system expands — not to mention the possible arrival of high-speed rail in the future.

Here is the Los Angeles Newspaper Group’s story on the 75th anniversary on Saturday.

Struck on the street: four survivors (New York Times) 

The harrowing tale of four New York Times staffers — including Executive Editor Jill Abramson — who have been hit by vehicles in the New York area. Excerpt:

We are the lucky ones and we know it. We all lived. We enjoyed the support of family, friends, colleagues and countless talented doctors, nurses and physical therapists. We had good health insurance. The first cop who stopped to help me said: “Lady, if the truck had rolled over you two inches higher, all of your major organs would have been crushed. You wouldn’t be here.”

Our stories share certain similarities: We looked up at faces looking down, asking if we were O.K. None of the drivers who hit us were charged by the police with any misdoing — significant because part of Mr. de Blasio’s plan is stricter enforcement of traffic laws. Passers-by, belying the reputation of our area, rushed to help. And we were all deeply moved by the support of our friends and co-workers.

Still, though we have all mostly recovered, we travel around our city with a sense of permanent vulnerability. Nearly four years after she was hit, Denise Fuhs, a news design editor, put it this way in an email account of her accident: “I still cannot cross very many streets without looking both ways about four times and looking over my shoulder a dozen times while crossing. If a car gets too close, or if I think a driver turning my way doesn’t see me, I panic, sometimes freeze.”

I’ll repeat what I have written many times in the past. I don’t think anyone could argue that enough is being done in our region — or any other — to protect people in crosswalks. Of course, many people struck by cars are not in crosswalks and that is a serious problem. But the crosswalk is the one place where we know that pedestrians will constantly appear and it must be treated as a sacred space given the thousands of pounds of difference between a vulnerable human being and a steel vehicle. I see far too many vehicles turning right through crosswalks with people in them and I see too many cars rolling across the white line. That should be a heavy fine — the kind of heavy fine that ensures that most people will not risk it or violate crosswalk laws more than once.

Environmental study on 710 freeway extension will be released in 2015 (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

A very short article that notes that the study will be released in February and that the public comment period has been doubled from 45 days to 90 days. Here’s Metro’s statement that was released on Friday.

New details on Los Angeles region’s 2024 Olympics bid (Inside the Games) 

As much detail as I’ve seen on the emerging bid for L.A. to host the 2024 Summer Games. The region must first win the right to be the bid city representing the United States and is up against six other regions, including San Diego, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas and Boston.

The big news is that the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games is proposing to use Exposition Park and a revamped Coliseum as the main Olympic Village. There would also be a cluster of activities on the Westside and along the L.A. River — a lot of venues are already, will be under current plans or could be transit adjacent depending on whether projects are accelerated. Check it out:

LA_2024_Map

The Expo Line already serves Exposition Park and the segment to downtown Santa Monica is forecast to open in early 2016 and the Regional Connector in 2020. The Red Line already goes to Hollywood, the LA Live is already served by the Blue and Expo lines and will be linked to the Gold Line by the Connector. The Blue Line already goes to downtown Long Beach. Perhaps the big questions involve the Purple Line Extension; the third segment to Westwood isn’t scheduled to arrive until 2036 unless the project is accelerated. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is scheduled to open in 2019 but the Airport Metro Connector not until the late 2020s unless it, too, is accelerated.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 2

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Union Station: L.A.’s nearly perfect time machine (L.A. Times) 

D.J. Waldie has a nice op-ed piece on the eve of Union Station’s 75th anniversary celebration on Saturday. Excerpt:

Those who pause will see a nearly perfect public space meant to be both monumental and deferential, and designed to reassure as much as to impress. In the station’s concrete daydream of Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission, Moorish and Art Deco styles, the city’s imagined past and hoped-for future overlay seamlessly. Those faux wood beams were given a patina to look as if they had been there a century or more. The station’s streamlined details in aluminum and bronze pointed toward a triumphant, machine-age tomorrow. When Union Station was new, everything about it reflected the longing of Los Angeles to be both modern and nostalgic.

Union Station, like few of the city’s other architectural survivals, is a place where it’s possible for the patient sojourner to slip out of now and into an earlier time like a shadow passing.

John and Donald Parkinson, the station’s supervising architects, understood shadows and how pausing in them invites reverie. The station’s shadows are there by design: to give shelter from the Los Angeles sun in the long arcades and add movement through the day to the static surface of its exterior. Inside, transient light patterns the travertine walls and contrasts with the durable patterns laid in the 75,000 square feet of cement, marble, tile and linoleum flooring, as well as on the faience wainscoting and doorway surrounds and the parquetry of the patios’ brick walkways.

In addition, KPCC’s Take Two has a nice eight-minute segment on the station’s history.

And here’s the lineup of events for Saturday’s celebration at Union Station.

Gold Line bill hurt by lack of communication: guest commentary (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

The president of the San Bernardino Associated Governments board writes that a bill that would have allowed planning of a Gold Line segment between Montclair and Ontario Airport did not provide enough protections for San Bernardino County taxpayers. At this point it’s a moot point — the bill was withdrawn last week. Construction of the Pasadena-to-Azusa phase of the project continues, as does planning and engineering work for the unfunded segment between Azusa and Montclair.

The huge Obama transportation bill you heard nothing about (Time)

The President released the details of a four-year transportation funding bill earlier this week, a follow-up to a budget released earlier this year. The $300-million, four year bill would greatly include funding for transit and other worthy infrastructure programs, but Time says it’s non-news until the time comes when Republicans may agree to such a bill. Debate over the bill is likely to continue for the remainder of this year.

Madrid’s smart parking meters charge more for most polluting cars (The Guardian)

About one in four motorists — those with the most polluting cars — will pay 20 percent more for parking. Meanwhile, those in the least polluting cars will pay 20 percent less. Great idea!

Want to be more creative? Take a walk (New York Times) 

A new Stanford study aims to show that people who walk show more signs of creative and innovating thinking. Not exactly a surprise — creative types have been singing the praises of going for a stroll for ages. No one is exactly sure the mechanism at work that boosts creativity — one idea is that walking simply puts people in a better mood and good moods translate to more expansive thought.

The train tunnel in this film is now part of PCH (Southland) 

Great footage shot in 1898 of a train rumbling through what is now the McClure Tunnel that connects the Santa Monica Freeway to Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 30

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

L.A., Central Valley have nation’s worst air (L.A. Times) 

The latest American Lung Assn. rankings show that Los Angeles leads the list of American cities with the worst air when it comes to pollution from ozone and fine particulate matter, according to data from 2010 through 2012. The triumverate of Bakersfield, Visalia and Fresno have the worst spikes in particulate matter in the country — owing to farm work and construction — with L.A. fourth behind them.

Gold Line to Ontario airport off track; bill withdrawn by its author (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

Assemblyman Fred Rodriguez withdrew a bill that would have given the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority the authority to begin studies of a third (and currently unfunded) segment running between Montclair and the airport. But officials in San Bernardino County have been lukewarm to the idea, saying there may be other ways to reach the airport via transit — and some officials there want money spent on other projects. Ontario Airport served about four million passengers in 2013 compared to 66.6 million at LAX.

The rise of protected bike lanes in America (people for bikes) 

Nice video showing what bike lanes can and should look like — protected from road traffic by something more than a thin white line of paint.

How EZ Pass lanes could make premature births less common (The Atlantic Cities) 

Transponders that enable motorists to travel through toll plazas in New Jersey and Pennsylvania without stopping may have also reduce the number of premature births according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University. The reason: less pollution from idling cars, so says the study. Hmm. I’m not crazy about idling cars — obviously — but not sure I’m buying into this study quite yet.

Semi-related to transit: Tonight we’re all Captain Quints, with the exception of that last scene. Assuming we prevail, go Metro to Game 3 and 4 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Jaws_081Pyxurz

 

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 29

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

ART OF TRANSIT: Okay, this isn't the train station we've been featuring prominently on this blog in recent weeks. Union Terminal in Cincinnati was completed in 1931 -- eight years before our Union Station opened -- and is also Art Deco but obviously very different from our station. Also different from L.A. Union Station: Cincy's station is now a museum, served only by a single Amtrak train that runs a somewhat odd route between Chicago and New York. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: Okay, this isn’t the train station we’ve been featuring prominently on this blog in recent weeks. Union Terminal in Cincinnati was completed in 1931 — eight years before our Union Station opened — and is also Art Deco but obviously very different from our station. Also different from L.A. Union Station: Our station is busier than ever in its 75-year history while Cincy’s station is now a museum, served only by a single Amtrak train that runs a somewhat odd route between Chicago and New York. Related reminder: National Train Day is Saturday with associated Union Station and train events. Click here for the rundown of events. Photo by Steve Hymon.

L.A. is a pedestrian death capital (LA weekly)

Newly released federal statistics show that Los Angeles is second only to New York City when it comes to pedestrian deaths involving motor vehicles. Excerpt:

Nationwide, pedestrian deaths comprised 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. In L.A., pedestrian deaths accounted for a whopping 41 percent of all killed in car crashes. For New York, it was 47 percent, according to the NHTSA stats.

Los Angeles’ per-100,000 pedestrian fatality rate wasn’t at all the highest, at 2.57 percent. But it beat out New York’s 1.52 percent.

Scary stuff perhaps attributable to the volumes of cars and people here. While the LAPD’s crackdown on jaywalking in downtown Los Angeles has received considerable media attention, I’m curious how much attention local police — in L.A. and elsewhere — are paying to vehicular encroachments on crosswalks. I see it happen all the time, I can’t recall ever seeing any one pulled over for it in my 20 years living in the L.A. area.

Semi-related: transportation accounts for 42 percent of worker deaths in the U.S. including road worker incidents, trucking accidents and even fishing incidents on boats.

The MTA has declared us a class-based society (CityWatchLA)

Writer Bob Gelfand despairs the Metro Board’s decision last week to extend the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 beyond next January (which also requires state legislation). He doesn’t like Lexus Lanes, saying they are more likely to be used by higher income motorists. His solution: have tolls based on the value of the car. That strikes me as fraught with problems, namely that the price of a vehicle doesn’t always correlate with a person’s income level. There has also been some evidence that transponder accounts have been opened from a variety of zip codes and census tracts representing a variety of income levels. As for the “class-based society,” it’s probably worth pointing out that Silver Line ridership has increased since the ExpressLanes opened.

Amtrak to test allowing pets on trains (Amtrak)

The pilot program in Illinois would allow pets 20 pounds or under in exchange for a $25 surcharge. Pets would have to be in carriers. Smart move, I think as Amtrak works to speed up its trains in some Midwest carriers and possibly compete with the airline and driving industries. Disclosure: I have dogs and have traveled with dogs frequently in recent years, usually by car.

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 28

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Art of Transit: Downtown Chicago, freeways and transit lines as seen from United Airline's Yoda-sized seats on Saturday morning as I made my way back to L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Art of Transit: Downtown Chicago, freeways and transit lines as seen from United Airline’s Yoda-sized seats on Saturday morning as I made my way back to L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro adds monthly fee for toll road drivers (L.A. Times)

As part of an approval to continue the ExpressLanes beyond next January — pending approval of the state Legislature — the Metro Board also approved a new $1 monthly for everyone with ExpressLanes accounts. The fee is intended to help cover the cost of maintenance, as Metro must pay its contractor $3 for every transponder put into service; it is estimated the new fee will raise $700,000 annually. As both the Times and coverage in the Los Angeles Newspaper Group notes, the Metro Board vote and passage of the state bill could potentially pave the way toward other freeways getting the ExpressLanes treatment in the future.

For whom the lane tolls (Santa Clarita Valley Signal) 

This op-ed piece argues it’s wrong to keep the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways because taxpayers have already paid taxes to build the roads — and that the tolls only exist as a new government revenue stream. Interestingly, the writer never bothers to mention the HOV-toll lanes proposed for the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley. Nor does the writer mention that taxpayers have to pay fares or entrance fees for many things built with taxpayer dollars, ranging from mass transit to national parks to publicly-financed sports venues.

York Boulevard bike lane extended (LADOT Bike Blog)

The city of Los Angeles is extending the bike lanes on York Boulevard in Northeast L.A. toward South Pasadena, including lanes on the bridge over the 110 freeway. York is a key corridor and can be used to help reach two Gold Line stations — Highland Park and South Pasadena.

The first look at how Google’s self-driving car handles city streets (The Atlantic Cities)

Eric Jaffe goes for a ride in a self-driving car and gets a look at the computer software guiding the car’s decision making while in traffic. Very interesting post with some good visuals and video.

Sky-high cost of BART Oakland airport link (San Francisco Chronicle) 

A wee bit of hype in the headline in this article about BART trying to figure out the fares for the new 3.2-mile automated rail line (you can call it a people mover) that will run to the airport terminals. Fares could run from $3 to $6 one way with a $2 discounted fare for airport workers. The fares aren’t expected to cover the entire cost of running the service; then again, fares in the U.S. almost never cover the cost of operations.