Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 24

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The people mover at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Photo by David Wilson, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: The people mover at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Photo by David Wilson, via Flickr creative commons.

Freeway toll lanes seem to speed things along, somewhat (L.A. Times) 

Here’s the top of the story, which provides a good summary of the preliminary analysis of the ExpressLanes that was released this week:

The first comprehensive analysis of Los Angeles County’s experimental toll lanes indicates the pay-to-drive routes made some rush-hour commutes faster and less painful, both in the toll lanes and in the free lanes, but made little to no difference for many drivers battling morning traffic.

According to an independent report prepared for federal transportation officials, the toll lanes along the 110 and 10 freeways didn’t significantly change overall traffic speeds during peak periods for drivers using either the tollway or the general lanes.

But for individual drivers on the freeways at certain times, the experimental lanes may have made a significant difference: Drivers heading west on the 10 Freeway toll lanes at 7:30 a.m. may have driven up to 18 mph faster than they could have before the tollway opened, the report said. But on the northbound 110 Freeway at 8 a.m., commuters in the free lanes crept toward downtown Los Angeles at 21 mph, the same speed as before the lanes opened.

The Metro Board is scheduled to today to consider whether extending operation of the ExpressLanes beyond January 2015.

In related news, the Los Angeles Newspaper Group has an editorial saying it’s too soon to continue the ExpressLanes. Excerpt:

As it is now, the MTA has authority to run toll programs along the two freeways through January 2015. There’s a bill in the Legislature that would extend that authority and open the possibility of proposing more toll roads.

The legislation by California Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, could be a game changer for the MTA, which has previously floated the idea of a toll lane on the 405 Freeway.

It’s going before some key legislative committees next week, so there’s a push by MTA staffers to get the board to back an extension. An affirmative vote would bolster the bill, SB 1298, which has already gained the support of the board.

Also, RAND’s Martin Wachs (a senior researcher) and UCLA’s Brian Taylor (Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies) have an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Register arguing that the Metro Board should make the ExpressLanes permanent. Excerpt:

HOT lanes carry more people with less delay than other lanes, and can be added at lower cost and disruption than most alternatives. An independent consultant to the Federal Highway Administration issued a report last week showing that these lanes have improved transit service and given drivers more choices. Unlike other new highway lanes, they also raise needed revenues for transit improvements from drivers voluntarily paying tolls. Most importantly, HOT lanes increase the choices available to travelers, who can drive in regular lanes for free, pay for faster and more reliable driving during rush hours, opt for the improved express bus service financed by the tolls, or join new toll-subsidized van pools.

The FHWA study found that during the short demonstration period, in addition to those already having them, nearly 260,000 new drivers were issued transponders. While average driving speeds changed only slightly in both the express lanes and general lanes during the peak hours, travel time reliability was a principal benefit for HOT lane users.

Bait bikes ready to nab S.F. bike thieves (SFist) 

Gotta love this:

The bike theft unit of the San Francisco police department took to Craigslist on Tuesday with a post titled, “We Have Our Bait Bikes Out.” Complete with a snazzy decal of a creepy cycling skeleton, the ad warns of GPS-laden bikes that the cops will track. And if you sell a stolen bike, the po-po threaten to toss you in jail and plaster your face “all over social media.” 

The SFPD isn’t saying how many bikes actually have GPS devices installed in them. Nor does it say if clever thieves can de-activate or destroy the GPS. The idea is to instill a kernel of doubt in those who steal.

Off the bus, but pressing on (USDOT Fast Lane blog) 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says that President Obama will soon release a detailed proposal for a multiyear federal transportation spending bill. The current bill expires this year and Congress hasn’t yet agreed on the next one. Metro is certainly watching this one closely, hoping the bill includes both a loan and bond program that are key to the America Fast Forward program to expand federal funding for transportation projects.

Security cameras help transit agencies fight crime (Transit Wire) 

A short and unskeptical article but with some interesting info about efforts to use cameras to deter crime or enforce rules in both Portland and Chicago.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 23

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Transit-related note: Thanks to Kings fans for riding the Expo and Blue Lines to last night’s game. Lucky bounce, Sharks. Games four and six will be at Staples Center. 

Gold Line being challenged on possible terminus at Ontario Airport (Los Angeles Newspaper Group)

The San Bernardino Association of Governments is opposing a state bill that would give the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority permission to plan and study a third segment of the project between Claremont and Ontario Airport. SANBAG says it wants to first study other options for connecting transit to the airport, which in recent years has a seen a significant decline in air passenger travel. The airport segment lacks funding at this time. The Construction Authority is an independent agency that is building the Gold Line extension to Azusa with Measure R funds; Metro will operate the line when completed.

Pay lanes have better result on 10 freeway than 110 freeway, report says (Los Angeles Newspaper Group)

A look at the Metro staff report issued earlier this week that offered a preliminary analysis of the performance of the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways during their one-year pilot period. Excerpt:

For example, on the 11-mile stretch of the 110 Freeway between Adams Street and the 91 Freeway during the morning commute, it took on average 2 minutes longer to travel on the ExpressLanes than when the lanes were regular High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. The evening commute showed no change, the report stated.

On the 14-mile stretch of ExpressLanes installed in February 2013 on the 10 Freeway from the 605 Freeway to Alameda Street in Los Angeles, commuters got where they were going more than 2 minutes faster on average. Even the general-purpose lanes showed a near 2-minute decrease in travel time, compared to before the lanes were implemented.

The analysis, by the Federal Highway Administration, noted that the ExpressLanes have still met many of their goals — for example, ridership on the Silver Line has increased 27 percent and use of the ExpressLanes has increased since they began, resulting in increased revenues.

The Metro Board of Directors on Thursday will consider whether to keep the lanes beyond January 2015.

‘Rail to River’ project envisions greenway along rail tracks (KCET)

A look at the proposal being studied by Metro to use 8.3 miles of the Harbor Subdivision rail right-of-way for a pedestrian and bike path between the Los Angeles River and the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Here’s a recent Source post on Metro’s ongoing study. As noted in the KCET article, one big challenge is that parts of the old rail corridor are narrow and may not be able to accommodate both a future rail or BRT line (although nothing is imminent) and a walking and biking path.

A look at L.A.’s second-year bike lane implementation list (Streetsblog L.A.)

A good look at some of the bike lane projects under consideration by the city of Los Angeles. As Joe Linton notes, some of the current lanes seem more opportunistic than strategic whereas some of the second-year lanes would connect between current bike lanes and help build a true biking network. Looks like several of the projects would intersect or be near future Metro Rail lines, which is important for first- and last-mile connections.

 

Transportation headlines, Day of Earth, April 22

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Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Linking the Los Angeles airport (New York Times)

The NYT takes a look at Metro’s Airport Metro Connector project, which seeks to connect the LAX terminals to Metro Rail via a people mover or light rail. The featured photo shows the junction where a Green Line spur was supposed to turn north toward the airport — a spur, as you know, that was never built.

Excerpt:

But just how the connection is made is where the politics lie.

There are two options drawing the most consideration. One is an underground rail line that would offer more direct access to the airport, at a cost of about $2 billion more, but it would do little to ease airport congestion. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, board has placed the proposal on the back burner.

The other option, backed by Mayor Garcetti, is centered on what Mr. Bonin, the councilman, describes as building a new front door to the airport, about a mile and a half away. Ideally, it would be not only a transit hub, but also a place where cars could be parked and luggage checked before passengers took an automated people mover that circulated through the nine terminals.

“The people mover scenario makes the most sense,” said Juan Matute, the associate director of U.C.L.A.’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “There’s a lot of land available to build a world-class arrival center. Then from there, running a people mover will allow a higher capacity of people to enter the airport.”

The article concludes with a note of skepticism anything will happen. I’m not so sure — in my time here it seems there is currently more interest than ever in getting something done and certainly having the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction is part of that. The big unanswered question, as with most projects, involves funding, namely will there be funds available to build some of the more expensive options.

Riding transit is the best way to celebrate Earth Day (Huffington Post)

The president of a transit workers union — in partnership with the Sierra Club, btw — offers a collection of statistics demonstrating that transit is more sustainable than driving alone. Obviously he has skin in the game, but federal and academic studies back him up. Here’s a page from a 2010 Federal Transit Administration report:

PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange2010

Here’s how the media is getting the whole cities & millennials story wrong (Grist)  

Bed Adler writes that the New York Times and other similar media are over-stating the migration of millennials back to cities from the ‘burbs — and the media is under-stating the reason why young sprouts are coming back to cities. It’s not entirely for art and culture, says Grist. It’s for ease of transportation that cities provide.

Interesting issue and I tend to agree with Ben. I’m writing this today from Cincinnati, Ohio (family business), where gentrification of downtown’s Over the Rhine area is underway, including a new streetcar line that is under construction. I grew up here and the number of old buildings that have been rehabbed is very noticeable and it’s hard not to interpret the gentrification as a direct response to the relentless march of sprawl and suburbs to the north. Cincinnati and Dayton were once two distinct metro areas. No more as their ‘burbs have merged.

Of course, many of us equate the ‘burbs with driving and cities with other transportation choices. But it’s not quite that easy. Almost all of the rehabbed buildings of Over the Rhine included parking and those lots were filled with some pretty pricey vehicles, Range Rovers included. I suppose the counter-argument is that city life probably reduces the need for all vehicles — including the fuel hogs — to be used.

Gentrification in Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Gentrification in downtown Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 21

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Editor’s note: I’m blogging this week (again) from Cincinnati, where I’m attending to some unexpected family business. I hope to soon be back in L.A. assuming I don’t tumble into a giant pothole or drown in a four-way. 

Mayor calls delayed 710 report a significant setback (Pasadena Now) 

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard says that he believes that a tunnel to close the 710 gap is still under consideration despite the announcement last week that the draft environmental study for the project will be delayed to accommodate new computer modeling. The mayor has in the past said that he’s against a tunnel. Other alternatives under consideration include light rail, bus rapid transit, intersection and traffic signal improvements and no build.

11 simple ways to speed up your city’s buses (Streetsblog USA)

The headline could have easily been 11 common sense things to do to speed up buses. Among the suggestions: moving stops to the far sides of intersections (so buses don’t stop twice — once for passengers and again for a red light), consolidating stops, streamlining routes, using more bus lanes and using more traffic signal priority. It’s a smart post and I hope that it’s read by the many cities that are served by Metro and muni buses in Los Angeles County — as they have a big say in this.

Train nearly takes out elected official at press event promoting train safety (San Francisco Examiner) 

Bottom line: don’t stand on the yellow line at the edge of the platform, even if you’re deemed an important person.

How to travel the West on $10,000 per day (High Country News) 

One idea: the “Earthroamer” a 10-ton RV complete with its own array of solar panels that probably don’t help prevent it from being a greenhouse gas machine.

Cincinnati streetcar foes have a new target: bus lanes (Streetsblog USA)

An attempt to stop the city’s streetcar project failed. The new enemy of the public: a proposed bike lane in downtown on Central Parkway, which could rob businesses of free employee parking, so says Cincinnati’s mayor. Semi-irony: Spending money on the bike lane was previously approved and underneath Central Parkway is a subway that was partially built in the 1920s but never completed. Construction of a streetcar along the Parkway was halted and almost suspended last winter but work has resumed. Hey Cincy: try finishing what you started!

Not really related but for those who didn’t understand the above reference, below is what a “four-way” plate of Cincy chili looks like. Four way as in cheese on top of chili, onions and spaghetti. Chili John’s on Burbank Boulevard and Keystone in Burbank serves a very similar and tasty dish and Metro’s 154 bus stops right in front for the culinarily curious and adventurous.

photo (5)

 

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 16

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ART OF TRANSIT: That's Lake Powell in southern Utah as seen by yours truly yesterday afternoon. I'm in Ohio this week attending to family business that arose suddenly. I will be posting occasionally this week -- and if it seems like I'm 2,100 miles away, I am. Lake Powell, btw, is about 39 percent full -- but still is holding more than a trillion gallons of water, some of which will end up in So Cal via the Colorado Aqueduct. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: That’s Lake Powell in southern Utah as seen by yours truly Monday afternoon. I’m in Ohio this week attending to family business but I will be posting occasionally as there’s lots happening — thanks in advance for your patience. Lake Powell, btw, is about 39 percent full — but 39 percent still equals more than a trillion gallons of water, some of which will end up in So Cal via the Colorado Aqueduct. No sign of the Icarus. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro recommends $927-million contract for downtown rail project (L.A. Times) 

A good look at the staff recommendation for a design-build contractor — Skanska USA and Traylor Bros. — for the Regional Connector project. As the article notes, Metro will need to shift some funds around to meet the project’s budget and the current cost hinges on Metro getting the construction permits it needs from the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Five years since its opening, still much work ahead for the Eastside Gold Line (Boyle Heights Beat) 

Good article. The Eastside leg of the Gold Line will celebrate its five-year anniversary in November and Boyle Heights residents have mixed views on the line — some find it convenient, some think earlier bus lines were a better option. Metro officials point to community amenities that were part of the project (improved sidewalks, lighting and new trees, for example). My own three cents: the Regional Connector will especially benefit the communities along the Eastside line, allowing trains to travel directly into downtown L.A. instead of routing passengers to Union Station and a transfer to the subway.

SEPTA to restore all-night subway service (Mass Transit) 

The agency that serves the Philadelphia metro area will run all night service on two subway lines this summer for the first time since the early 1990s. Increasing night life and new residences in downtown Philly prompted officials to launch the experiment.

How did the bicycle cross the highway? (Medium) 

Here’s how the Dutch did it:

These Detroit bus benches are made from demolished homes (The Atlantic Cities) 

Specifically, doors from properties torn down — Detroit has thousands of abandoned properties — are being smartly repurposed. Very cool.

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 14

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Mayor Garcetti’s State of the City: six ‘Great Streets’ announced (Streetsblog L.A.)

Good breakdown and overview of the plans for beautifying and making six streets throughout the city more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. The six streets: Gaffey (San Pedro), Reseda and Van Nuys (San Fernando Valley), Westwood (Westside), Figueroa (downtown and South L.A.) and Crenshaw (South L.A.). As Joe Linton notes, light rail is coming to Crenshaw, the Expo Line will stop at the southern end of Westwood and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Project is planned for Van Nuys. Figueroa, of course, parallels the Expo Line.

Climate efforts falling short, U.N. panel says (New York Times) 

Officials say we can’t afford to lose another decade talking and not taking action. The top of the story:

BERLIN — Delivering the latest stark news about climate change on Sunday, a United Nations panel warned that governments are not doing enough to avert profound risks in coming decades. But the experts found a silver lining: Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.

In a report unveiled here, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal, the committee found.

Downtown L.A. goes from gritty to glitzy (Wall Street Journal) 

The story’s emphasis is on luxury real estate and, to a lesser degree, the revival of some downtown neighborhoods. Interestingly, the words “transit,” “bus” or “train” do not appear in the article.

A bike path in the L.A. River bed (KCET)

The headline should come with a question mark at the end as the issue is being explored by a cyclist and real estate developer tired of lack of access to the river in downtown L.A.

Will Angels Flight ever roll again? (Downtown News) 

A dispute between the foundation that runs the short funicular and state regulators means it could be some time before a reopening. Trains are running but without passengers, says the foundation.


Transportation headlines, Friday, April 11

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Garcetti offers back to the basics in first State of the City speech (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the new carpool lane on the northbound 405 over the Sepulveda Pass would open next month (Metro said there’s no date set yet), reiterated a pledge to build a rail connection to LAX (the project is still in the study phase) and offered more details on the city’s Great Streets Initiative, saying Reseda Boulevard, Gaffey Street and Crenshaw Boulevard would be among those on the list. Of course, work just started earlier this year on the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will run both along and under parts of Crenshaw between Exposition Boulevard and 67th Street.

Some thoughts on near roadway pollution and L.A.’s future (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Interesting post based on a forum held this week about pollution from roads that spills over into neighborhoods and cities. Streetsblog’s Joe Linton:

As I was listening to all this, I felt like there was too much emphasis on dealing with our car-centric system as a given. Car-choked freeways are just part of the way god made our cities. We, health professionals, are just doing our best to adjust to the system we find ourselves stuck in. The discussion was all about how to keep people out of the way of pollution, but not to look at reducing or eliminating that pollution at its source. It’s as if health professionals looking at the tobacco problem just assumed that smoking happens everywhere, and then spent a lot of effort studying gas-masks for non-smokers. Taking on tobacco is a great public health success – because health professionals were able to ban tobacco from many places, and to stigmatize tobacco based on its threat to health.

(I also think that an overly narrow focus on near-roadway-air-pollution makes us miss other huge health risks associated with cars. Every year, driving kills 30,000+ people in the U.S.1.5 million worldwide. There are greenhouse gases, water pollution, noise pollution, obesity, and plenty more issues.)

I was glad to hear Occidental College’s Mark Vallianatos, commenting from the floor microphone, suggest an important alternative. Instead of moving people away from roads, let’s change our roads to be safe for people. If we have schools, playgrounds, housing, etc. adjacent to a road, then, for the sake of health, let’s design and regulate that road to limit vehicle emissions to safe levels. Let’s traffic-calm and road diet our arterials, downgrade our freeways, hopefully get rid of, at least, some of them.

 

Good post, tough issue.

Have U.S. light rail lines been worth the investment? (The Atlantic Cities)

The reporter, Yonah Freemark, says the overall answer is ‘yes.’ But he also offers sobering news about five light rail systems built in the 1980s in five different cities, four of which are on the West Coast — San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Portland and Buffalo.

The bottom line: none of the systems increased transit use in their regions, although they have shifted more people from buses to trains. In addition, only San Jose saw a slight growth in its central city population. What to make of this?

Even this relatively positive outcome doesn’t compensate for the fact that regions that invested in light rail in the 1980s largely failed to increase the share of workers commuting by transit, or to increase the vitality of their center cities with respect to the surrounding regions. Does this mean we should cease investment in new light rail lines? Certainly not; in many cases, rail has provided the essential boost to reinvigorate communities, and in some cases it has also resulted in higher ridership than before: just look at Rosslyn-Ballston in the D.C. region or Kendall Square in the Boston region.

But spending on new lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period (I-990 in Buffalo, I-205 in Portland, US 50 in Sacramento, CA 54 in San Diego, and CA 237 in San Jose), and each continued to sprawl (including Portland, despite its urban growth boundary). These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail’s mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.

Paid parking fees coming to Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink lots (Daily Bulletin) 

The city wants to impose a $4.50 daily fee or monthly charge of $25 to $30 to off-set maintenance costs for the two lots. The San Bernardino Association of Governments isn’t thrilled — it worries that the move may drive people away from transit — but approved the city’s request. Others are concerned that riders will instead drive to nearby Upland and park in the free lots there.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 9

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Game changing mixed use project planned for El Pueblo (Curbed LA)

A new residential and commercial development is planned on two surface parking lots near Olvera Street and Union Station. Good news: parking lots that sit empty much of the day aren’t helping the economy or streetscape of this part of downtown L.A.

Cuomo aide urges MTA to review ads on transit (New York Daily News) 

Why the review? The provocative ads are for breast augmentation surgery. And the governor of New York isn’t convinced they’re appropriate with tens of thousands of children riding transit each day. Fun tabloid story.

Downtown S.F. traffic may seem worse, but actually getting better (San Francisco Chronicle) 

The numbers seem to indicate that the number of cars entering the city is down while more people are walking, riding bikes and taking transit. Still, traffic is no picnic, especially with some big construction projects around town.

Police probe Smart Car tipping in San Francisco (Associated Press) 

Four got tipped Monday morning in the city. Police are investigating.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, April 8

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Art of Transit: two different types of two-wheelers at the top of Stunt Road in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Art of Transit: two different types of two-wheelers at the top of Stunt Road in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro to repair cracks in Gold Line freeway overpass (L.A. Times) 

The agency found some cracks — which it calls cosmetic — in the supports for the bridge over the 101 just south of Union Station. Trains are being slowed to eight miles per hour (from the usual 15 mph) until repairs are made, which Metro says will happen very soon.

After troubling audit is leaked, Washington Metro defends reforms (WNYC) 

The FTA audit found “[Washington] Metro approved millions in no-bid contracts, broke federal contracting rules, played favorites with vendors, and overbilled the FTA for reimbursements after completing rebuilding projects.” The agency accepted the findings and executives said they have been working to reform the grant program for several years.

Afraid it was missing the boat, Arlington tries the bus (Texas Tribune) 

The famously transit averse city has started a commuter bus pilot program in hopes of providing mobility to the car weary and those who don’t have access to their own vehicles. Critics say transit would be a waste of money in a sprawling, low-density Dallas ‘burb and that most people don’t have any idea how expensive it is to run a transit system. Sounds like something Hank Hill would say.

Urban Instagram photographers you should follow (The Guardian) 

Cool stuff from around the world for shutterbug and city enthusiasts. Here’s one from S.F.:

 

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 7

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ART OF TRANSIT: Looking north to the San Gabriel Mountains from the bridge that will carry the Gold Line Foothill Extension over Foothill Boulevard in Azusa. Awesome photo by Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

ART OF TRANSIT: Looking north to the San Gabriel Mountains from the bridge that will carry the Gold Line Foothill Extension over Foothill Boulevard in Azusa. Awesome photo by Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority.

Move LA’s Measure R 2 proposal, including their rail fantasy map (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A look at the activist group’s “strawman proposal” for a half-cent sales tax increase they would like to see on the Nov. 2016 ballot; please note that Metro hasn’t decided to pursue such a tax yet although is surveying cities about their own desired projects. In any case, Move LA wants to see a 45-year sales tax increase with 30 percent of the funds dedicated to new rail and bus rapid transit projects — which they say would raise $27 billion over the life of the tax.

As Streetsblog notes, Move LA says their proposal is intended only to spur discussion and they include some projects for potential funding. Some are projects receiving seed money from the present Measure R (Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, South Bay Green Line Extension) while others are new such as converting the Orange Line to a rail line, extending the Green Line to a junction with Metrolink in Norwalk, extending the Gold Line to San Bernardino County, extending the Crenshaw/LAX Line to Wilshire Boulevard, extending the Purple Line to Santa Monica from its future terminus at the West LA VA Hospital and extending the Eastside Gold Line Extension to both South El Monte and Whittier instead of just one of those.

If such a tax goes forward it will certainly be interesting to see how much is allocated to paying for new transit projects and which projects. As Move LA’s list shows, there are certainly some worthy candidates out there that would travel through many different parts of the county. And there are certainly parts of the transit network with holes in it. Stay tuned!

The real reason that mass transit fares are rising across the U.S. (The Atlantic Cities) 

Writer Eric Jaffe points out that several large agencies in the U.S. are currently pursuing fare increases (including Metro). And that’s not surprising: using data from a new federal report, Jaffe says that most agencies have seen the cost of providing bus and rail service rise substantially since 2000 while allowing fares to lag behind — often for good reasons (affordability, mobility, etc.). A lot of the cost appears not to come from employee salaries but rather the cost of employee benefits, which I’m guessing really means health care. It’s a national problem, Jaffe writes, and there doesn’t appear to be a neat solution on the near horizon outside of fare increases.

Dan Walters: bullet train faces withering set of issues (Sacramento Bee)

The political columnist concludes his column by asking whether construction should even begin on a project this year that may never have the funds to complete a link between L.A. and San Francisco or even the San Joaquin Valley. He also neatly lays out some of the current issues on the table, many involving legal challenges as to whether the project fulfills requirements in a 2008 bill that allowed the bond measure to go to state voters. Obviously this bears watching with one interesting but little publicized side issue: if the bullet train project hits more obstacles what happens to the part of the state bonds to help local projects connect with the bullet train? Both L.A. and San Francisco are using some of that money to fund local projects (the Regional Connector, to be specific).

What the Internet thinks of the world’s subways (Mashable) 

Fun pros and cons of 10 big subway systems around the globe (Los Angeles’ is not included) as gleamed from online reviews. Warning: the language used is not always delicate.