Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.
L.A.’s broken civic promise (L.A. Times)
With elections in the city of Los Angeles on Tuesday, the Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne looks at five urban planning issues in the city that represent failures or issues that need to be addressed by the next mayor. They are: LAX (with an emphasis on transit to LAX), Pershing Square, Grand Avenue, the Westside Subway Extension and the Los Angeles River. This is a outstanding article.
Excerpt on LAX:
But the truth is that the airport’s biggest liability is not simply architectural. Somehow Los Angeles built a major rail route, the Green Line, past LAX 20 years ago without adding a stop at the airport.
And guess what? We are about to build another light-rail route — this time the $1.7-billion Crenshaw Line — near the airport and make precisely the same mistake again.
Why? In part it’s because squeezing a station beneath the existing airport complex would be expensive and complicated. And in part because the operator of LAX, Los Angeles World Airports, has not always seen eye to eye with transit planners at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Plans are underway to build a “people mover” automated train that would take passengers to the airport from a Crenshaw Line station at Century and Aviation boulevards, a mile east of the terminals.
The people mover would be a sadly inefficient compromise. The worst-case scenario, which can typically be counted on at LAX, is that passengers on the Crenshaw Line would have to drag their suitcases over a pedestrian bridge before getting on the people mover.
Hawthorne believes a rail station needs to actually be located at the airport.
Excerpt on the Westside Subway Extension:
As the backbone of a thriving new mass-transit system, the subway is worth its admittedly sky-high cost. The subway we build now will be a bargain compared with the one we try to build several decades from now.
And the truth is that opposition in places such as Beverly Hills is not just about safety. (Tunneling of this kind has become routine for subway builders around the world.) It is also driven by fears of the changes a subway line through the city might bring.
The same anxieties kept Bay Area’s BART system out of Marin County and the Washington, D.C., Metro out of Georgetown decades ago. (And the subway out of Beverly Hills in the 1980s, for that matter.) If they were patently offensive then, they are indefensible now.
Hawthorne’s point: get the subway built ASAP. Read the entire article please. Los Angeles has long struggled to create vital public spaces commonly found in other cities. These ideas haven’t generated much conversation in the mayoral campaign thus far, thanks in part to an endless series of debates seemingly designed to generate little more than scripted sound bites.
In the most recent poll reported on by the Times, voters’ top priority was the city budget, job creation and schools. Interesting. I tend to associate local government most with public safety and land use decisions — while voters (at least in this poll) go for broader subjects.
Working from home vs. working from the office (New York Times)
This editorial comes on the heels of Yahoo’s CEO ordering the troops back to the office in hopes of greater creativity and productivity. The Times tepidly suggests that such decisions shouldn’t be made so quick as there are benefits to work-at-home — one of those being that it helps traffic congestion. In Los Angeles County, 4.7 percent of workers work at home — imagine putting 72 percent of time alone in cars and sending them on the freeways at rush hour! Some parts of the county have even higher percentages: in Santa Monica, home of the screenwriter-who-sits-at-Coffee-Bean-all-day, about 10 percent of the workforce does their job from home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Hands across America (The New Yorker, March 4 edition)
A very entertaining recent history of the hand sanitizer industry, which may interest those who sped a lot of time in public spaces. The article begins with a long anecdote about Purell, which took 10 years of losses on its sanitizer product until public appetite exploded, catching on first with health-care workers and then with the masses. The article is behind the New Yorker’s pay wall, but an abstract is available for free.