Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 23

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Metro opens command center for Century Crunch (KPCC) 

The $1.2-million command center — which resembles a big RV painted black — will be parked near the intersection of Aviation and Century this weekend while the old railroad bridge is demolished. The idea is that it allows Metro and other law enforcement officials to push the latest traffic information out ASAP. More info on the Century Crunch closures is here.

Seven innovations to make L.A.’s Metro better (Neon Tommy)

Suggestions include a comprehensible intercom system, maps that show riders where the trains are located at present time, the ability to use a credit card or cell phone as a TAP card, better sealing off train tracks to prevent suicides, underground cell phone and wi-fi service (the cell phone service is on its way but no firm date when it will be completed) and more secure turnstiles.

LA’s new Olympic bid team, many rivers to cross (3 Wire Sports) 

Looks like businessman Casey Wasserman, 40, is heading up the Los Angeles bid attempt at the 2024 Summer Olympics. As the article notes, there are challenges. The first is that the U.S. Olympic Committee hasn’t decided yet to bid on the 2024 Games — they’re waiting to see how some Olympic reform attempts play out.

The other challenge is that Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. may be competing with L.A. for the right to be the American representative in the international competition. Los Angeles, of course, has already twice hosted the Games while the others would be rookies. I don’t see D.C. as being realistic — fair or not, the city is too intertwined with American politics to be appealing. But I can see Beantown and San Francisco being strong competitors. Boston has pretty good infrastructure and sports facilities at the many colleges in the region while San Francisco is, well, San Francisco. One knock on them: the nicest arena in the area is in San Jose, whereas L.A. has Staples Center, the Honda Center and other smaller areans that could easily host events (Galen Center, Pauley Pavilion, Sports Arena).

I mention all this because infrastructure always is discussed as part of bid efforts. On that front, Los Angeles is at the center of a Metro Rail and Metrolink system that did not exist in 1984 and will be growing considerably between now and 2024, with the second phase of the Expo Line and Gold Line Foothill Extension scheduled to open in 2016, the Crenshaw/LAX Line in 2019, the Regional Connector in 2020 and the first phase of the Purple Line Extension in 2023.

Just in Olympic terms, think about what that means. The Crenshaw/LAX Line gets Metro Rail closer to LAX and will include a transfer to the airport people mover that LAX is going to build. The Expo Line connects downtown Los Angeles and the USC campus to downtown Santa Monica and the Westside (where there are many hotels), the Gold Line Foothill Extension will stop next to Azusa Pacific University and Citrus College and better connect the San Gabriel Valley to the Metro Rail system, the Regional Connector makes travel on the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines faster throughout the region without as many transfers and the Purple Line Extension brings the subway to the Miracle Mile, one of the cultural centers of our region.

The above is on the current Measure R schedule and doesn’t include the possibility of project acceleration if Metro pursues another ballot measure in 2016 (the agency is contemplating it).

Some bumps in the road on the way to a bike-friendly L.A. (L.A. Times) 

The editorial builds off the recent flap over bike lanes on Figueroa in northeast L.A. and Highland Park.

Excerpt:

Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. Currently, Los Angeles has 337.62 miles of dedicated bike lanes. Cedillo is looking at alternatives to the Figueroa corridor, but the city planners chose these designated routes for specific reasons; nearby streets, they say, won’t work. The idea is to create a seamless network of bike lanes that allow cyclists to travel continuously from one point to another.

No one said it would be easy to make legions of drivers in car-obsessed Los Angeles relinquish a fraction of their lanes to bicycles. No driver wants to be slowed down by even 47 seconds. And it’s understandable that drivers are frustrated when they see congested roads and empty bike lanes.

But the more the city continues to implement its bike plan, the more extensive the network of bike lanes becomes. The hope is that over time, those lanes will begin to fill up — and maybe some drivers will get out of their cars and onto bikes.

That neatly distills what’s happening. I think you could say the same thing about the transit network. Networks are more powerful than individual lines. There are some other challenges when it comes to bikes but hopefully more people will use the lanes and the backlash will die down.

 

Bill could allow bike share users to pay with pre-tax dollars (New York Post)

A Congressman from Queens is introducing a bill that would allow bike share users to have the cost of bike sharing deducted from their paychecks on a pre-tax basis, just as is currently allowed for transit passes. The Post sounds a tad skeptical, but that is to be expected.

Connect US seeks to better link Union Station to neighborhoods via new esplanades and bike paths

As most of you likely know, Metro has been developing the Union Station Master Plan to preserve the historic train depot while also renovating it and redeveloping parts of the 40-acre campus as use of the station continues to grow.

A companion study has been looking at an equally important issue: better linking Union Station by foot and bike to surrounding neighborhoods. Union Station sits on the far northern end of downtown Los Angeles and, at present, it’s often not terribly pleasant to reach via sidewalk or bike.

The linkages study — called Connect US — seeks to remedy that by recommending 13 separate projects totaling $50 million to $60 million in costs that would create a series of corridors that walkers and cyclists could use between Union Station and the Regional Connector’s 1st/Central Station and surrounding neighborhoods. Among those communities: Chinatown, Boyle Heights, Little Tokyo, the Civic Center and the Arts District.

A PowerPoint of the study’s recommendations, presented by community members last Thursday at a City Hall event, is posted above. As you scroll through, there are a series of maps and renderings that provide an idea of the scope of the project.

Among the improvements: an esplanade between the entrance to Union Station that would reach across Alameda Street to El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Olvera Street; new esplanades with expanded sidewalks and protected bike lanes along Los Angeles Street, Alameda Street and North Broadway (which would sit on the bluff above Los Angeles State Historic Park), and; add bike lanes (some protected) and sidewalk and street improvements to other key streets such as 1st Street, 3rd Street and Santa Fe and Alpine.

Metro is helping to plan the improvements, which will largely be undertaken by the city of Los Angeles (the city oversees downtown streets). The project has been separated into a series of smaller projects, the idea being that each project can be done when funding becomes available, a nod to the realities of transportation funding.

The final speaker at last Thursday’s event was Gil Penalosa, the well-known former parks chief in Bogata, Colombia, and who now heads up 8-80 Cities, a nonprofit that advocates for parks, bike lanes, pedestrians and making cities more vibrant and sustainable — the kind of things people usually like in cities. As he made clear, the Connect US plan would not only help improve mobility in downtown but would make L.A. more like other well-known cities across the globe that are walk- and bike-friendly and that people love to visit.

Gil Penalosa speaking at last Thursday's event unveiling of the Connect US plan at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gil Penalosa speaking at last Thursday’s event unveiling of the Connect US plan at Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 17

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House passes interim fix for Highway Trust Fund (New York Times) 

The U.S. House voted on Tuesday for a short-term fix to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent and to avoid a massive cut in federal construction funding. Instead of relying on a gas tax increase (politically unpopular for the past 21 years), the House is relying on some budgetary maneuvers (“pension smoothing”) to keep the Fund going — and the Senate and President Obama are likely to go along with it. The fate of the President’s four-year, $302-billion transportation bill proposed this year remains unknown, but things aren’t looking good.

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show took on the Highway Trust Fund last night — as usual he offers a good (and funny) primer for those who don’t know much about the subject. Warning: mildly adult language. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times editorial page says that Congress should just bite the bullet and raise the gas tax.

Over at the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, President Obama gets two Pinnochios for his repeated claim that 700,000 jobs are at risk if Congress doesn’t take action on the Highway Trust Fund. The Post says the number of jobs truly at risk is far lower and that it would be more accurate to say the Highway Trust Fund helps support 700,000 jobs.

And here’s our explanation of why all this matters to agencies such as Metro.

Halted Figueroa bike lane project riles cyclists (L.A. Times) 

A plan by the city of Los Angeles to install three miles of bike lanes to Figueroa through Highland Park has hit a bump-in-the-road in the form of Councilman Gil Cedillo, who says the lanes will impact traffic and slow emergency response times. Activists counter that the lanes will make Figueroa safer (reducing the number of emergencies) and will have little impact on vehicle travel times. Making the debate more interesting: Cedillo said that he supported the lanes during his campaign and has used campaign-style tactics to get more people to public meetings to help counter views of bike activists who don’t live in the 1st district.

Beverly Hills battles Metro over Purple Line Extension (Neon Tommy) 

The article provides a basic review of Beverly Hills’ legal fight against Metro over tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. A Superior Court judge earlier this year ruled that Metro adequately studied the issue in the environmental documents for the project. The Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city of Beverly Hills have appealed.

Meet Seleta Reynolds, the new head of LADOT (Downtown News) 

A brief interview with the new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation; Reynolds was hired by Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier this summer. Reynolds talks a little about the differences between L.A. and San Francisco, where she formerly worked on a number of active transportation projects. She has never lived in L.A., but accurately notes how the politics of transportation work here (or don’t work depending on your POV) — they’re divided up between a number of agencies and elected officials.

L.A. and S.F. dogfight over transport visions (Cal WatchDog.com)

The headline doesn’t really describe the post which briefly — but interestingly — makes some comparisons and contrasts between the two cities. The focus of the piece is on the “Great Streets” initiative in L.A. versus the difficulty of getting a bus rapid transit project completed on busy, and often congested, Van Ness Street in San Francisco. I thought this description of L.A. was worth excerpting:

Los Angeles, in other words, is relatively distinct among America’s largest cities. Rather than an industrial-age city planned out block by block, constrained by geography, contemporary L.A. is a post-modern patchwork — a veritable network of villages that lacks a single core where residents routinely cluster on foot.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 10

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There are many reasons that the Los Angeles Kings are up three games to none over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. One big reason is that the Rangers don’t know how to defensively cover the most dangerous part of the ice in terms of allowing opponents to take shots. Top photo is Jeff Carter’s first goal in last night’s game and the bottom photo is Justin Williams taking the overtime winner in Game 1. Notice any similarities?!!! Game Four is Wednesday night in New York and Game Five, if necessary, Friday afternoon at Staples Center, located conveniently near the Pico Station served by the Blue Line and Expo Line and a pleasant stroll from the Red/Purple Line station at 7th/Metro Center.

House rejects cuts to Amtrak (The Hill)

Perhaps the source of the cuts — an outgoing Georgia politician — were the issue. Still pretty amazing, given the un-love that some Congress members have heaped on Amtrak in the past.

Why Chicago’s botched privatization of parking meters is bad for the environment (Next City) 

A while back, Chicago leased its parking meters to a private firm for $1 billion for 75 years. The idea was that the city would get an instant cash shot-in-the-arm in exchange for the revenue stream from its meters. The deal has had its critics and this article certainly takes a dim view of it — including examples of how the deal is getting in the way of other goals. Example: installing bus lanes is now more difficult as it’s more difficult to remove meters.

Eric Garcetti endorses funding mass transit with cap-and-trade revenues (L.A. Times)

Coverage of the media event held at Metro’s Division 13 last week about pending state legislation to use revenue from California’s cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions to help fund mass transit. In related news, the New York Time’s Thomas Friedman published an interesting interview with President Obama about climate change, with the president saying that putting “a price on carbon” is crucially important.

More on the Westwood Boulevard bike lane issue (Biking in LA)

Some interesting background on the bike lanes that the city of Los Angeles is not going to install of Westwood Boulevard. I mention it here because two future Metro Rail projects will have stations on the street: the Expo Line will stop just south of the Westside Pavilion and the Purple Line Extension will stop at Wilshire and Westwood. Bike connections from both stations could help with first mile/last mile issues, I suppose.

No longer for punks, skateboards cater to yuppie commuters (Wall Street Journal) 

Speaking of first mile/last mile…here is how a few people are solving the problem — by riding. The private sector is responding with electrified skateboards to tackle hills, skateboards with fat tires to handle bumpy and rocky city pavement and other contraptions that are skateboard-like. I don’t see a ton of commuters on skateboards but I’ve definitely see more skateboards in bike lanes than in the past.

 

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, June 3

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Metro unveils bold proposal to modernize Union Station (L.A. Times) 

Good overview of some of the details Metro released yesterday on the emerging Union Station Master Plan, which seeks to add an expanded concourse, widened rail platforms, a relocated bus plaza and new development. A community meeting will be held Thursday evening from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Metro headquarters (no RVSP required) in the Board room. Our post from yesterday also has renderings.

Downtown institutions battle over having name on Expo Line station (Downtown News)

The 23rd Street station is near both the Orthopaedic Institute for Children and the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College — and both want their names on the station. The issue will eventually land before the Metro Board of Directors.

L.A. Mayor identifies city’s ‘Great Streets’ (L.A. Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti this morning is announcing the sections of 15 streets in the city — one in each council district — that are to get an extensive makeover. The city has $800,000 budgeted for the program. Metro has busy bus lines on all the streets, btw, and some sections are near existing or future rail stations.

In related news, an appeal of the MyFigueroa plan by an auto dealer has been withdrawn, according to StreetsblogLA. That should clear the way for pedestrian and cycling improvements on the street, as well as new bus stops.

Park Mile fretting over plan for 48 little houses (Curbed LA)

Another development dispute, this time involving the Farmers Insurance campus on Wilshire Boulevard. It was purchased by the developer CIM who wants to subdivide it and build 48 homes on the site after the insurance workers move to another office. Wilshire is a busy transit corridor, of course, and it will be interesting to see how the homes are designed to fit into the fabric of the existing neighborhood of single-family homes.

Academy to pay LACMA $36 million for movie museum lease (L.A. Times) 

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will pay the money up front and then have a 108-year lease for its planned museum at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. Which is conveniently located near two busy bus corridors and the future Purple Line Extension’s station at Wilshire and Fairfax! LACMA also some big plans for the eastern side of its campus.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 28

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Editor’s note: Hello Source readers. I’m traveling this week and will be mostly away from the blog — but wanted to catch up to the news of late. Regular programming resumes next Monday!

Metro fares will increase despite protests of low-income riders (L.A. Times)

Good story covers all the bases in last Thursday’s vote by the Board of Directors to raise the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75 this fall while including two hours of free transfers — meaning some riders may see a fare decrease. Many others, of course, will not. Excerpt:

Riders’ advocates said the increase will disproportionately hurt minority passengers, who make up about 80% of bus ridership. More than 90% of Metro riders are low-income, with an average household earning less than $20,000, according to agency data.

“Do you even understand how much we’re struggling day by day?” said Hee Pok Kim, a 92-year-old woman who could barely see over the public comment lectern. She spoke in Korean through a translator. “When we reach out to you for help, you shouldn’t push us away. You should grab our hands.”

We received a lot of comments and questions on the fare increases on The Source. I’ve answered the inquiries that I could. Metro officials are preparing answers to other questions and we will have all the information on the blog soon.

Northbound car-pool lane opens on the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass (Daily News) 

Coverage of the opening of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 on Friday. Excerpt:

As many as 300,000 cars and trucks pass over the 405 Freeway each day — a number that may rise by 50 percent to 447,000 by 2025, federal transit officials say.

The car-pool lanes have become the primary tool for adding capacity to such aging freeways with little room to grow, according to Caltrans. The state has 1,400 miles of car-pool lanes, or 40 percent of the nation’s total, with more than 800 miles in Southern California.

Similar car-pool lanes are being added along the 5 Freeway between Santa Clarita and downtown, with plans for continuous HOV lanes through Orange County.

In Los Angeles, each average car-pool lane can ferry 3,100 people in 1,300 vehicles per hour — nearly double the number of motorists than in a regular lane, MTA officials say. Together, some 322,000 cars containing 750,000 people car-pool across Los Angeles County each day, making it the busiest HOV lane system in the country.

Officials hope those numbers will grow as more car-pool lanes are added and more commuters opt to share rides as the legendary traffic worsens across the region. A new express bus may be in the works between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

 

We’ll be keeping tabs on the studies for the express bus. As for the numbers above about increases in traffic, it will be very interesting to see if those kind of numbers come to pass. They certainly make a good argument for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project, which aims to provide transit across — or perhaps under — the Pass.

LA gets Purple Line transit money but will Angelenos leave their cars? (KPCC)

The headline doesn’t quite match the story, although there’s some of the usual skepticism about investing in transit in a city renowned for getting around by car. Elected officials from our region point out — rightfully, I think — that building an alternative to sitting in So Cal’s infamous traffic seems like the smart and kind of obvious thing to do.

I also think the last four graphs are the most important. Excerpt:

Transit construction is booming across LA County. By years’ end, there will be a record five rail lines under construction, funded in part by $3.5 billion in federal grants and loans.

The competition for future federal dollars to finish those projects will be tougher. LA got one in ten TIFIA loan dollars over the past two years. Measure R gave the region a head start, but now states and local communities across the nation are also competing for the loans. In fact, attending the Wednesday press conference was a public radio reporter from Alaska who says her state wants a shot at TIFIA money for a major bridge project.

Senator Feinstein says there’s another “boogeyman” out there that could prevent LA from getting future funding: sequestration. If Congress returns to its cost-cutting solution that mandates across the board cuts, funding for future transportation projects – including extension of the Purple Line to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Westwood – will be in jeopardy.

The Purple Line is scheduled to reach La Cienega Blvd. by 2023. It won’t reach the VA until 2035. The project is projected to cost $2.8 billion.

There is, of course, Measure R money available to complete the Purple Line Extension to Westwood. But federal loans and grants profoundly help and it won’t be good news if those things end up being in short supply.

The myth of the magic bus: the weird politics and persistently weird logic of the Orange Line (Streetsblog L.A.)

Writer Roger Rudick argues the Orange Line should have been a rail line and is not the success that some claim it to be as it’s often running at capacity. He argues that for the same cost — $324 million or $23 million per mile — the Orange Line could have been rail, citing the cost of a couple other rail projects in the U.S., including the Sprinter in northern San Diego County. Lots of interesting debate in the comments.

As far as light rail construction goes in Los Angeles County (the chosen rail technology here thus far), the cost has proven in recent times to be a lot more than $23 million a mile. The least expensive of the ongoing projects is the Gold Line Foothill Extension with a $735-million budget for 11.5 miles of rail and some of the cost of building the rail car maintenance campus in Monrovia.

Planning for Expo Line in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

Officials are planning to modify traffic signals along Colorado Avenue to give Expo trains priority and allow them to run every five minutes eventually. That’s potentially good news for those who plan on taking the train all the way to downtown Los Angeles (and beyond) and want speedier commutes and less waiting time for trains. It’s refreshing to see cities give signal priority to transit — as signal priority has proven to be an issue on the aforementioned Orange Line and the first phase of the Expo Line.

Remembering the designer who changed the way that we think about transit maps (The City Lab)

A nice tribute to graphic designer Massimo Vignelli, who died Tuesday at the age of 83. He was known for more minimalist designs and his map of the New York City Subway endured for most of the 1970s before being replaced with a more literal design.

Google’s next phase in driverless cars: no brakes or steering wheel (New York Times) 

With progress slow on cars that allow humans to take over driving from the computer, Google is exploring another strategy: smaller, slower cars that lack a steering wheel, brake and gas pedals and gear shifts. Most interesting sentence in the article: “The front of the car will be made from a foamlike material in case the computer fails and it hits a pedestrian.” Hmm.

No MetroCard needed (New York Times) 

A good story about the relationship between real estate and bicycling in New York City. Excerpt:

As the search for more affordable real estate in New York City pushes deeper into neighborhoods that were once considered out of the way, bicycle lanes are taking on new importance. Since 2007, the city has carved out more than 350 miles of bike lanes in the five boroughs, according to the Department of Transportation. As a result, the distance from the nearest subway or bus stop has become less of a drawback for the two-wheeled set, particularly in transit-challenged areas of Brooklyn like Red Hook, Greenpoint and parts of Bushwick. In a twist to the real estate catch phrase, location, location, location, brokers say, bicycling is beginning to influence some real estate decisions.

“Your housing options change when you buy a bike and use it,” said Lyon Porter, a sales and leasing director of Town Residential, who relied heavily on a fixed-gear Dutch cruiser when living in Williamsburg several years ago and continues to cycle frequently around the city. “People get so much more for their money in this tight, compressed market,” when freed from the need to be near a train line, he said. “Your definable boundaries are different on a bike.” Without one, he said, “your map changes.”

Metro Releases 2014 Bike Map!

Click above for a pdf version to view larger.

Click above for a pdf version to view larger.

Metro released its 2014 Bike Map just in time for Bike Week LA!

This map is small enough to fit in a backpack or pannier, yet it folds out to show Los Angeles County’s bike paths, lanes, routes, cycle tracks, path access points, Metro Rail lines, busways and Metrolink stations, including those with bicycle parking.

Metro collected and mapped information from 88 cities and LA County in order to produce the map. The updated map shows 305 miles of Class 1 bike paths, 835 miles of Class 2 bike lanes, 522 miles of Class 3 bike routes and a brand new cycle track in Temple City. This represents an increase of 17 percent or 240 total bikeway miles in just two years.

The map differentiates between LA County’s Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, and cycle track bikeways by color coding facilities. Class 1 bike paths (green) are separated from streets. Class 2 bike lanes (orange) are striped for one-way travel on streets or highways. Class 3 bike routes (pink) are shared use facilities with motor vehicles and include signage indicating a bike travel route. Cycle Tracks (purple) are on-road or raised facilities physically separated from motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Metro’s comprehensive bike maps help people make trips by bicycle by facilitating the discovery of new bikeways and connections to Metro transit. They also aid city planners, engineers and community members to collaborate and close gaps in the network by building bikeways that connect to those of neighboring jurisdictions. Find the new 2014 map online, at bicycle events throughout the year or submit an online request for a printed map.

Transportation headlines, Monday, May 19

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ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Riding the Metro (L.A. Register) 

A reporter with the new L.A. Register takes a few rides on Metro Rail and then compares it to the D.C. Metro before lobbing a few questions at Metro CEO Art Leahy. Some interesting observations about the difference in fare evasion on the two systems.

Fare dodging is an organized rebellion in Stockholm, and it’s winning (New York Times) 

Proof that fare evasion is a problem that many other transit agencies grapple with. In this case, an organized group in Stockholm asks members to pay a fee and then skip paying fares; the group then covers the cost of citations that members receive for fare evasion. It’s a growing problem and Stockholm Metro officials say three percent of riders aren’t paying fares, costing the agency $36 million annually.

Gas tax hits rock bottom in 10 states (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)

The purchasing power of the gas tax in 10 states is at a new all-time low. Why? The gas tax in those states hasn’t changed in many years, while inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the money collected. California isn’t on the list. The gas tax here is 18 cents per gallon and hasn’t changed since 1990. Here’s a recent L.A. Times story about mileage taxes versus gas taxes.

North Figueroa bike lanes: public safety reps against public safety project (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A proposal to install bike lanes along Figueroa in northeast Los Angeles is getting mixed reviews. The city’s transportation department included the lanes in its bike lane plan dating to 2010 but public safety officials have expressed concern the lanes could slow emergency vehicle response times. Streetsblog’s response: the bike lanes are a project to improve road safety. Interesting debate.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 13

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Date set for 405 carpool lane opening (ZevWeb)

The new 10-mile northbound HOV lane on the 405 freeway between the 10 and 101 freeways will open on Friday, May 23, reports Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky’s website. The lane, bridge and ramp improvements are the centerpiece of a five-year project to improve the 405. The new HOV lane means that both sides of the 405 will have HOV lanes from the northern San Fernando Valley to the Orange County line.

L.A. looking to spend billions improving traffic to and from the Valley (L.A. Register)

The article offers a very good synopsis of several projects that are either nearing completion (the northbound 405 HOV lane over the Sepulveda Pass) or others that are in the planning stages. The list includes the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, which is contemplating a tolled road tunnel and rail tunnel under the Santa Monica Mountains and the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, which is looking at a rail line or bus rapid transit along parts of Van Nuys Boulevard. Another interesting option under study is an express bus line that would travel over the Sepulveda Pass using the HOV lanes on the 405. A topic near and dear to many readers here — conversion of the Orange Line to a light rail line — is given appropriately short treatment in the article given that it’s unfunded and not a project listed in Metro’s long-range plan.

L.A. Bike Week: is biking getting any safer? (KPCC Take Two)

Los Angeles Councilman and Metro Board Member Mike Bonin is interviewed to talk about the city’s bike plan and how motorists and cyclists can better get along.

In related news, L.A. Councilman Joe Buscaino made the video below which explores the issue of whether driving on Westmont Drive in San Pedro takes longer that the city has added bike lanes and traffic lanes have been reduced from four to two. The answer is ‘yes’ it does take about three minutes longer to drive between Gaffey and Western Avenue, but Buscaino says that he believes it’s a much safer environment for cyclists and that he’s looking into ways to keep traffic moving.

Does new mass transit always have to mean rising rents (The Atlantic Cities)

The nut graphs:

Anxiety over new transit projects in established neighborhoods is nothing new, although historically it was more often felt in wealthy areas, where people worried about rising crime and falling property values. Today gentrification is the more likely scenario, with dense urban living becoming desirable again. A 2010 study out of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University looked at demographic shifts in neighborhoods across the country after new light rail or subway stations opened. Compared to the rest of their metro areas, 60 percent of the neighborhoods saw an increase in the proportion of households making more than $100,000, and 74 percent saw rents rising faster. Ironically, as incomes rose in these transit-centric neighborhoods, car ownership also became more common.

The researchers traced the same pattern in cities as different as Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Houston, and it will likely be replicated along many of the 737 miles of transit currently under construction across the United States and Canada. In Somerville, the trend could affect thousands of low- and moderate-income residents, forcing those who need transit the most to relocate to car-dependent suburbs. That worries not just renters, but anyone who cares about sustaining a diverse city and building efficient mobility networks.

“Opposing new transit is like cutting off your nose to spite your face,” says Danny LeBlanc, chief executive of the Somerville Community Corporation, known as the SCC, a nonprofit that is leading the effort to find solutions to the looming housing crisis. “But the fear among longtime residents is that they and their kids just won’t be able to afford to enjoy it.”

Very good article. As reporter Amy Crawford points out, denying transit to an area is one kind of injustice. On the other hand, the fear that people will be squeezed out if transit expands into their neighborhoods is not unfounded and represents something that isn’t quite an injustice but impacts many people in a very real way.

And solutions? As the story points out, several transit agencies have taken to buying some parcels near future transit stations to ensure that at least some affordable housing is built. Metro is not mentioned although Metro has also sold development rights on properties acquired to build transit stations — and affordable housing will be part the mix at developments along the Red Line and Eastside Gold Line.

Transportation headlines, Monday, April 21

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! 

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.

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