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:


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:


•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?


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….

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 29

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Talking headways podcast: rail to LAX? (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The Streetsblog podcast discusses connecting LAX to the Metro Rail system — and last week’s Board discussion about whether rail should go all the way to the terminals or to a people mover. The people mover gets some love, btw. The airport segment is the first one on the podcast and there is also talk about trains and airports in general that’s interesting.

The revival and future of public transit in Los Angeles, part one and part two (transport blog NZ)

This New Zealand-based blog takes a nice look at the recent history of rail expansion in Los Angeles County — and all the distances are in kilometers, a nice tactic I may borrow to make everything sound even more grandiose.

My favorite part of the post is this reader comment:

Dave B

Very interesting to read this, having made a recent trip to Los Angeles myself, and made a point of using the rail system as far as possible. The trip from LAX to Union Station required four stages/three changes: Free shuttle bus, Green line, blue line, then red line, so it was not the fastest transit. However what impressed me was the cheapness of travel. US$1.00 to purchase a TAP-card which could then be loaded with credit. $1.50 per single ride anywhere within the metro area (bus or train), or $5.00 for day-pass.
Auckland and Wellington overpriced PT fare-setters please take note!!

And clearly visible was the proposed branch-off point for the spur to LAX airport on the Green Line. Unfortunately this line does not go to the city centre (or allow for through-running onto the Blue line which does), so unless something changes, the city will still not be accessible from the airport without a change of trains. The system is clearly still a work-in-progress, but an exciting and inspirational one, given how it had to claw its way back into existence from nothing just a couple of decades ago.

DOT chief: Obama transportation funding proposal ‘bold’ (The Hill)

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx praises his boss’ proposals in the State of the Union speech to close tax loopholes and use the money to pay for infrastructure improvements. President Obama also briefly urged Congress to approve a multi-year transportation funding bill in 2014 — the current one expires later this year. Others say the President largely skirted the issue and didn’t address the need to raise the federal gas tax in order to keep up with federal transpo expenses.

New ranking of best U.S. cities for public transit (WalkScore)

Los Angeles ranks ninth, one notch below Baltimore and slightly ahead of Portland, Oregon. The ratings are based on the average resident’s accessibility to transit. Empty calories, IMO, but fun to ponder in combination with the walkability ratings.

Who’s to blame for Santa Monica’s traffic hell? Readers weigh in (L.A. Times)

Somewhat mixed views from readers on the impact of bike lanes and some downright negative views on new residential developments in Santa Monica and Pasadena.

And this laugher: one reader says she visits Old Town in Pasadena less often because of traffic on Colorado and lack of parking. Hint: there are several other east-west streets that can easily be taken into and out of downtown Pasadena, such as Walnut, Union, Cordova and Del Mar. As for parking, there are almost always meters available on Raymond and Fair Oaks next to Central Park, a five-minute walk to Colorado.

And not speaking of transit….could KISS have been any more terrible the other night at the Kings-Ducks game? Too bad because I was quite fond of them back in the days of yore, by which I mean the 1970s. Here’s a fun piece of nostalgia for those who need a work break:

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, January 28

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Rest in Peace, Pete Seeger….

Rail alone can’t reinvent L.A. (L.A. Times)

Ethan N. Elkind is pleased to see that three rail transit projects are simultaneously under construction in Los Angeles County. But…and it’s a big ‘but’…here’s the excerpt:

But these billions risk being wasted if city leaders do not promote, and residents do not allow, new growth around rail stations and corridors. Why? Rail is expensive to build, operate and maintain compared with other forms of transit. It only becomes cost-effective with high ridership. And the best way to boost ridership is to locate new jobs, housing and retail near stations.

Focusing development around rail provides multiple benefits. It allows the region to accommodate new residents and natural population growth without building endless subdivisions on open space and worsening traffic and air pollution. It can reduce the high cost of housing by boosting in-town supply, making it easier for businesses to attract and retain talented employees. Finally, rail-accessible development can create convenient, walkable neighborhoods that meet the growing demand among millennials, childless professionals and empty nesters to move “back to the city” — as many recent urban success stories attest.

Couldn’t agree more. Which leads to the next story…,0,6436265.story#ixzz2riZNuJjl

We’ll be fine (Santa Monica Next)

Gary Kavanaugh takes a look at the Bergamot Transit Village proposal that goes before the Santa Monica City Council tonight for approval. I included an op-ed against the project in yesterday’s headlines (traffic was the big gripe) and Gary’s piece largely finds the project favorable. Excerpt:

My own stance on urbanism and environmentalism that has evolved in recent years . Conserving nature requires a certain amount of letting cities be cities, keeping what development we do inward, and kept away from pushing out edges expanding the total footprint of industrial civilization upon the landscape. Lowering our dependency upon voracious rates of oil consumption and high transportation CO2 emissions requires planning new housing and workplaces around our most energy efficient transportation investments, such as the developing light rail system.

As the data emerging from the truncated Expo Line Phase I has shown, rates of driving do in fact drop off quite significantly for many with car access, but the effect is strongest in that immediate walking radius of the stations.

Also informing my view is an expectation that the completed Expo Line to Santa Monica will exceed expectations. Phase 1 has already hit its 2020 ridership projection. Traffic studies, such as the ones on the impact of the Hines development, are often loaded with assumptions that are already eroding, and that I believe will erode further as we progress through the 21st century.

The long-standing criticism against development in Santa Monica is that it will cause traffic to get worse. But here’s the thing: Santa Monica’s population has barely budged since 1960 — from a little more than 83,000 to about 92,000 in 2012, according to the Census Bureau. I think it’s fair to ask if keeping population growth in Santa Monica artificially down (the rest of the region has grown at a much larger rate) has also ensured bad traffic because of all the people drive into and out of Santa Monica who work or visit there frequently.

One semi-related thought: I think ridership on Expo should be healthy with a caveat: people boarding on the far western side of the line and riding to downtown L.A. will get frustrated if the run times are not more consistent between Crenshaw and downtown L.A.

Broadway traffic lanes to be slashed (Downtown News) 

As part of the Bringing Back Broadway effort, a city proposal seeks to reduce traffic lanes from six to three while widening one of the sidewalks and adding pedestrian seating and bump outs. If the streetcar gets built, it would share a lane with traffic.

Councilman proposes DASH trolleys to make transit more fun (Curbed LA)

L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge wants a couple of DASH buses to look like open-air streetcars to encourage more ridership. Not a bad idea. Maybe start with a route on weekend nights running between the Art District and Little Tokyo to LA Live via the revived Spring Street corridor?

Time-based transfers are key to transit’s success (Global Toronto)

The Toronto area is considering allowing those who purchase fares on buses and trains to ride an unlimited amount in a 90-minute time period — instead of allowing a transfer only in one direction. Proponents say that’s good for folks who want to run round-trip errands for a single fare — and that will increase ridership. Metro is proposing the same thing here — a higher base fare but unlimited transfers for 90 minutes, including round-trip rides.

Transportation headlines, Monday, January 27

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When is a fare hike really a fare cut (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker gives a brief review of Metro’s proposed fare restructuring/increases and likes what he sees. In particular, he’s pleased that the agency is proposing to get rid of the transfer penalty, which requires passengers to pay full fare whenever they transfer buses and/or trains.


The vast dense core of Los Angeles is one of North America’s great grid systems, designed to allow easy travel between any point A and any point B via a single connection.   Unfortunately, their current fare structure charges for a connection.  This makes as much sense as a road tolling system that charges only for turns.

It’s nonsense.  Connections are an inconvenience to passengers that is required by the structure of an efficient network.   Charging for connections encourages riders to demand wildly inefficient services like the late and famous 305, which zigzag diagonally across the grid, increasing complexity without adding much useful service.  It amounts to punishing customers for helping Metro run an efficient and attractive service pattern.

Like other fees, fare penalties for connections arise in part because journalists and activists over-react to the base fare figure, creating more political heat for raising that number.  So like money-losing airlines, the agencies have to look for other things to charge for to hit their fare recovery targets.  But charging for connections is counterproductive, because connections are the foundation of the network.  Airlines don’t do it.  In fact, airfares via a connection are often cheaper than the nonstop.  That’s because the connecting itinerary lets the airline run a more efficient service pattern.

Walker acknowledges that under the pair of Metro staff proposals, fares would overall increase. It depends on what the Metro Board ultimately approves but under the proposals some people would end up paying more — in particular those who use passes — while some passengers may find that they are paying a lower fare because transfers would be free.

The public hearing on the fare proposals is at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles (next to Union Station). Here is an earlier Source post looking at the proposals.

Gold Line extension gets low priority from SanBag (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin) 

The San Bernardino Associated Governments subcommittee that deals with transportation funding has recommended first providing funding a pair of Metrolink projects over extending the Gold Line to Montclair and eventually to the airport in Ontario.

SanBAG officials say at this time there’s only so much money to go around and the Metrolink projects — extending tracks to Redlands and double-tracking some sections of the San Bernardino Line — have more countywide appeal at this time. That said, officials are generally supportive of the Gold Line projects but say that it’s a moot point until the Azusa-to-Montclair segment secures funding. If the project stays within L.A. County and ends at Claremont, then San Bernardino funds for construction and operating costs wouldn’t be needed.

In the meantime, the Board of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority last week approved issuing a RFP to find a firm to conduct an Alternatives Analysis of a Gold Line segment between Montclair and Ontario airport. The study is expected to take a couple years to complete.

My write: High noon at Bergamot Transit Village (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The proposed development near the future Expo Line station in Santa Monica would have five buildings, 765,095 square feet of development, 473 apartments (93 affordable/workforce units) and 25 artist live/work spaces in three buildings. The tallest building would be 85 feet — taller than surrounding buildings. In this op-ed, Bill Bauer writes that the City Council should reject the development for being too tall, too large and too much of a traffic generator.

Santa Monica’s traffic woes in recent years are legendary; the question is what, if anything, can be done about it? The second phase of the Expo Line will at least offer an alternative for some east-west commuters. I suppose the ultra-hypothetical question is what if Santa Monica was served by Expo, the Purple Line Extension (which is funded only as far as Westwood) and a Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project that connected with Expo, the subway and traveled south along the 405? They key word there is ‘hypothetical,’ btw.

Are streetcars really part of a city’s transit network? (The Atlantic Cities)

Yes and no, writes Eric Jaffe. On the one hand, they are often run by regional transit agencies and allow transfers to their buses and trains. On the other hand, they usually carry a very small portion of overall ridership, raising the question whether streetcars are the best use of local and federal funds.

Satellite photos show how dire snow conditions are at Yosemite and in the Sierra range (National Parks Traveler) 

Not a transportation story, but since drought is in the news — and we will all be impacted — the visuals here are pretty striking. If the mosquitos aren’t too bad, looks like 2014 will be an early backpacking year. Maybe this will be the summer I finally haul my ever-widening backside up to Honeymoon Lake and Granite Park.

Transportation headlines, Friday, January 24

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ART OF TRANSIT: The abandoned section of Highway 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains as seen from Mt. Waterman. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: The abandoned section of Highway 39 in the San Gabriel Mountains as seen from Mt. Waterman. Click above to see larger! Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro shelves directly rail line to LAX (L.A. Times) 

Laura Nelson sifts through yesterday’s marathon discussion by the Metro Board on the Airport Metro Connector project. As the story notes, it’s probably an uphill battle for two project alternatives that would run rail directly into and under the LAX terminals — an expensive and pricey proposition. While that will sure disappoint some, others say the other alternatives that would link the terminals to the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line would be more passenger-friendly and cost far less to build.

Metro considering fare hikes (Daily News)

The story includes some of the public testimony from yesterday’s Board meeting — in which the Board approved scheduling a hearing for the two fare restructuring proposals by Metro staff. No surprise here: the Bus Riders Union is against any kind of fare increases and accuses Metro of spending too much money on rail and highway projects while ignoring bus riders. If the point is that bus riders are more apt to be poor, the average annual household income for Metro bus riders in 2013 was $16,250 versus $20,770 for those who rode Metro rail, according to the agency’s latest customer survey.

CicLAvia announces 2014 schedule (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The Wilshire route returns on April 6 and the “Heart of L.A.” downtown route in October. New is a route for South L.A. on Dec. 7 that will link Leimert Park to the historic Central Avenue business district — a great idea! All three events should be easily accessible by Metro Rail.

In-N-Out Burger: we’re not coming to DTLA without a drive-thru location (DTLA Rising)

Good post by Brigham Yen who got In-N-Out to explain why they won’t consider putting a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles: they want an acre of land, at least 45 parking spaces and room for a drive-thru that can accommodate 15 cars. In other words, In-N-Out only wants to pursue suburban, car-centric locations.

Of course, it’s amazingly short-sighted and a bit stupid, as parking spaces don’t produce revenue and idling cars in drive-thrus are just kind of an out-dated (but perfectly legal) idea in a metropolis with some of the worst air in the nation, not to mention the whole climate change thing.

The worst part about it: an In-N-Out in a growing and transit-centric downtown L.A. would probably do just fine without parking or a drive-thru (imagine if In-N-Out was in Union Station). As Brigham notes, In-N-Outs in two urban locations — downtown Glendale and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco — are apparently doing just fine.\

BTW, about six million people who live in inland parts of Southern California — i.e. the ‘burbs that In-N-Out prefers — are breathing air that still does not meet federal clean-air standards, according to the L.A. Times.

Leimert Park, take II: 1992 (KCET)

An interesting look at Leimert Park Village, which Erin Aubrey Kaplan says remains a bright spot for the African American community but challenges remain in terms of keeping local businesses viable. As she notes, getting Metro to add a Leimert Park Village station for the Crenshaw/LAX Line was a victory for the community.

Mountain lion kitten killed by car (Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Facebook page) 

Sad news; the kitten was killed on Kanan Road, which runs north-south in the Santa Monica Mountains between Malibu and Agoura Hills. However, rangers don’t believe the kitten was the offspring of one of the lions the park is tracking — the implicating being there may be additional lion(s) in the Santa Monica range.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 23

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Record numbers riding easy on Expo Line (ZevWeb)

The Expo Line has already surpassed Metro’s ridership estimates (which tend to be on the low side) but there often remains plenty of room on trains. That may not last long — the second phase, when complete, is expected to substantially increase the number of people on board and trains may struggle to keep up. Riders interviewed said they like the convenience of the line and having the spare time to do something besides staring at the tail lights stopped in traffic ahead of them.

Airlines likely to balk at transit link (Daily Breeze) 

When LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey said that airlines weren’t thrilled about a people mover, reporter Brian Summers decided to ask for himself. And guess what: the carriers referred him to their trade group. Excerpt:

Still, Katie Connell, a spokeswoman for Airlines 4 America, a trade group representing eight of the nation’s largest carriers — including United, American, Delta and Southwest — confirmed that airlines generally do not support large-scale ground transportation hubs.

“In order to continue providing our customers with affordable air travel, airlines must evaluate the best use of their financial resources,” Connell said in an email. “Transit links are capital intensive and divert revenues away from necessary airport projects.”

For his part, Garcetti says he wants to move forward with plans for improved mass transportation across Los Angeles, including LAX.

“I’m committed to building a transit network across our city and I strongly support rail for LAX,” he said in a statement. “In October, I met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Washington, D.C., to discuss this important project and seek funding for it, and am continuing to work to make it happen.”

Call me dumb, but I’m not sure I understand why the airlines have any say in this — nor do I understand why we care when the airlines have shown little evidence they can run their own business. Yes, the airlines are the airport’s clients, but the airport also has another important set of clients: you, the passenger, taxpayer and voter.

Don’t scrap the bullet train for the hyperloop — yet (L.A. Times)

Op-ed writer Kerry Cavanaugh says a possible state ballot measure that would block funding for the state’s high-speed rail project in favor of Elon Musk’s hyperloop proposal is misguided. Excerpt:

Look, California’s bullet train project has its problems. The cost has doubled since voters approved spending nearly $10 billion on the project in 2008, and it’s likely to take at least a decade longer to build. If it gets built. The High-Speed Rail Authority has yet to spell out how it intends to fund the first phase of the line from Merced to the San Fernando Valley.

But stopping one ambitious project for a new, more ambitious project doesn’t make sense, particularly when the new idea is half-baked. As neat as Hyperloop and ET3’s idea may be, they are just concepts. We don’t know the cost, safety or time needed to build these projects. They may not even be possible.


The ballot measure is being pursued by Rep. Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo)

The U.S. keeps predicting that we’re driving more than we actually do (Washington Post) 

Smart piece showing that government projections have been consistently wrong since the late 1990s. Why does it matter? Such predictions may drive (pun intended) policy decisions about how to spend money on transportation.

Light rail linking Twin Cities goes green in June (Star Tribune)

The line will run between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The 11-mile line with 18 stations cost $957 million with federal funds covering half the cost. If you’ve never visited the Twin Cities, here’s a route animation: