Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 29

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Zombies attack

This begs the question: do the walking dead need to TAP? (Photo: Dan Cooke)

Don’t Believe the Headlines: Bike Boom Has Been Fantastic for Bike Safety (Streetsblog USA)

This article is in response to the Governors Highway Safety Assn. (GHSA) study released on Monday that showed bicycling fatalities on the rise within the past two years.  Among the issues the authors had with the study was its lack of perspective and resulting sensationalism, considering bike trips in the country have tripled since 1975, yet bicycling deaths — despite increasing the past few years — are still much lower than they were then.

Put those figures together, and what’s actually happening is that for an infinitesimal fraction of the cost of the nation’s transportation system, Americans are enjoying billions more bike trips every year than they were a generation ago. And because the sheer number of bikes on the street is teaching drivers to keep an eye out for bikes, every single bike trip is far, far safer than it was.

It’s worth adding that maintaining awareness of your surroundings, defensive bicycling and following simple safety precautions (like those from Metro’s Bike page) never hurt either.

L.A. area has many freeways that stayed on the drawing board (L.A. Times)

A look at the history behind Los Angeles’ freeway system and why some of those that were planned were never built. Two of the major causes of this, the author says citing UCLA urban planning professor Brian Taylor, were lack of funds, community opposition and rising costs due to the space required to build modern freeways. But 60 years ago, building highways was easy.

Initially, money for freeway building flowed. California gasoline taxes were raised in 1947 and 1953, and Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. Seizing homes for freeways was astonishingly easy after World War II; Taylor writes it took less than three weeks for the state to begin tearing down homes along the 110 Freeway route south of downtown after asking a court for permission.

The last freeway project in L.A. County, the 105 Freeway, needed nearly 20 years to do the same.

Taking a look at the supplemental map of the “forgotten freeways,” I can’t help but think we’re far better off with most of those proposed highways never being built. After all, we were able to sprawl just fine without them. It might have also taken longer to realize freeways and cars were unsustainable long-term at the expense of many more communities.

Mapping London’s “Tube Tongues” (CityLab)

A researcher at the University College London made this interactive map of the London Tube based on census data that shows which languages other than English are most spoken near each station.

The map is great. Knowing very little about London, I was able to get a sense of the geography and diversity of London’s neighborhoods in one quick look. Any takers on creating a similar map for L.A.?

29 vintage photos from 110 years of the New York subway (Time Out)

Some old-timey photos of the New York subway from the past century…

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, August 27

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ART OF TRANSIT: An Expo Line train leaving 7th/Metro Station last week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: An Expo Line train at 7th/Metro Station last week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

City nears purchase of key parcel for L.A. River revitalization (Streetsblog LA)

The city of Los Angeles is moving along the purchase of a 41-acre piece of property that sits between Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the Los Angeles River, reports Joe Linton. The site of former railroad yards, the property has been in limbo for years and has some soil contamination issues. Still, it’s a key acquisition as the federal Army Corps of Engineers likely would not do river restoration work on privately-owned land. This really helpful post includes aerial views, maps and renderings.

This is really great news — this is a big chunk of land along the river and it’s great to see the city moving forward on acquiring such parcels. Although this isn’t directly a transit-related story, I can also imagine a future for the area — perhaps a couple decades off — with a partially restored river between downtown L.A. and Glendale lined with parks and perhaps some new residential units. The area could be connected to DTLA via bike paths, Metrolink (Glendale Station) and the Gold Line’s existing Chinatown and Lincoln/Cypress stations.

BART discusses ending free lifetime travel perk for Board Members (MassTransit)

Actually, the headline is a little inaccurate: the family members of Board Members get free travel for life, too! The Board is going to consider ending that perk at its meeting Thursday. Some say it’s a little over the top, others say it gives them the chance to ride the system and see how it’s performing.

Obama pursuing climate accord in lieu of treaty (New York Times)

In an effort to steer around Congressional approval of a treaty — which has proven nearly impossible — President Obama is trying to forge an “agreement” between nations to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. It’s uncertain how much an agreement would be legally binding and how much would be voluntary. In the U.S., the transportation sector is responsible for about 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. As we’ve noted before walking, biking and taking transit instead of driving alone are good ways to lower your carbon footprint.

Eyes on the street: ‘Mad Men’ writer Tom Smuts bikes to the Emmys (StreetsblogLA)

The best part: he did it to raise awareness of the need for better bike infrastructure and to promote cycling. And he did it in a suit.

BBB benches not coming back (Santa Monica Daily Press)

The old aluminum benches won’t be returning says the bus agency — as they encourage loitering. The new bus stops that Big Blue Bus has been rolling out in Santa Monica have inspired some complaints. The agency says they’ll be refining the design.

Grizzlies gain ground (High Country News)

America has been sliced and diced by roads and development and the grizzly bear that graces California’s state flag is pretty much relegated to the areas around Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. A small population is also still present in the northern Cascade Mountains of Washington State and the federal government is beginning a process of deciding whether to boost populations by possibly transplanting bears from elsewhere.

Earlier this year, the group The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition asking the feds to consider that viable bear habitat remains throughout the West, including California. I can’t imagine grizzlies ever being reintroduced to populous California — grizzlies are far more aggressive than the black bears living here now. Nonetheless, this is an interesting story raising questions. As our urban areas continue to grow in the Western U.S., the question remains how much room will there be for native wildlife in the sections of the West that are owned by the federal government (National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state parks).

I doubt the folks who regularly comment on this blog could care less, but I suspect there’s a much larger readership here that likes to mull the big picture.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, August 12

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ART OF TRANSIT: The Eastside Gold Line headed to downtown L.A. last week. For the photographically curious, I processed the pic with Silver Efex Pro's pinhole present and shot it with my Nikon DSLR in color in RAW and converted to B&W. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Eastside Gold Line headed to downtown L.A. last week. For the photographically curious, I processed the pic with Silver Efex Pro’s pinhole present and shot it with my Nikon DSLR in color in RAW and converted to B&W. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Charging for connections is insane (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker praises Metro for changing its fare system to allow free transfers after several years of making riders pay for each segment of their ride. Excerpt:

Once more with feeling;  Charging passengers extra for the inconvenience of connections is insane.  It discourages exactly the customer behavior that efficient and liberating networks depend on.  It undermines the whole notion of a transit network.   It also gives customers a reason to object to network redesigns that deliver both greater efficiency and greater liberty, because by imposing a connection on their trip it has also raised their fare.

For that reason, actual businesses don’t do it.  When supposedly business minded bureaucrats tell us we should charge for connections, they are revealing that they have never stopped to think about the geometry of the transit product, but are just assuming it’s like soap or restaurants.  Tell them to think about airlines:   Airfares that require a connection are frequently cheaper than nonstops.   That’s because the connection is something you endure for the sake of an efficient airline network, not an added service that you should pay extra for.

I couldn’t agree more and I think the new Metro fare system will benefit a lot of people who already ride the system and those who were deterred by having to pay twice to get from Point A to Point B.

12 reasons why L.A.’s public transit system is actually awesome (Thrillist) 

Alissa Walker has a very nice and funny post detailing why she likes Metro. Yes, there are the often discussed benefits such as saving money, but there are also a few others — such as the ability to hit the bars without worrying (too much) about the consequences afterward. We don’t publicize that very much and perhaps should do so more often.

#StreetsR4Families — Back to school advice for walking biking (Streetsblog L.A.)

Nice piece by editor Damien Newton and taking his kids to their first day of school, along with some advice on getting your child there and back safely whether on foot, bike or transit.

Making the case for high-speed rail (New York Times) 

The NYT recently wrote about the very slow progress of President Obama’s high-speed rail initiative newspaper’s. But the paper’s editorial board makes the case that high-speed rail is a worthy goal and a lot of the hurdles thus far involve a reluctant Congress to invest in it.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, June 12

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The future of Leimert Park (KCET)

Great video hosted by Nic Cha Kim on the future of Los Angeles’ well-known African American neighborhoods. The segment hits a significant issue head on: what will Crenshaw/LAX Line and/or gentrification mean for the African American population in the neighborhood? The visuals are great, too — and really give a sense of the community.

As for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, major construction is underway. The project is scheduled to open in 2019 and will allow trains to run from the Green Line’s current Redondo Beach station to the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw, where passengers can transfer to the east-west Expo Line.

Those interested in the issue of transit and gentrification should read these two posts that appeared recently at The Atlantic Cities:

Does new transit always have to mean rising rents?

It’s not always a bad thing for rents to rise with transit growth

Pedaling toward segregated bikeways (redqueeninla)

Excellent essay about the proliferation of bikes on our local roads — a good thing — and the inherent challenges of forcing cyclists and motorists together on the same patch of asphalt. Excerpt:

Bicycles need more segregated space on our roadways, dedicated to them. This is imperative for the safety of cyclist and motorist alike, but as well for the sake of the soul of our city. It is not appropriate to marginalize this mode of transportation which has grown so popular. And in attending to the safety we all need better addressed, this will open up a floodgate of participation among the wary. If segregated, secure bicycle roadways were as common in Los Angeles as across Europe and elsewhere in North America, cycling commutes and bicycled errands in Los Angeles would become viable for the more cautious among us.

Redqueeninla concludes by predicting that building more protected bikeways will lead to even more people riding. Completely agree.

Boston’s new “smart transit” gets you to work faster–for a price (Gizmodo)

Good post on a new startup that plans to run private buses across the Boston area in which the routes are, in part, determined by riders and the data they generate. The idea is that the routes are more flexible than that of a public transit agency, meaning riders willing to pay steeper fares can help customize their transit. Excerpt:

Privatized transit—the kind that’s not funded or maintained by the city’s transportation agency—has become a touchy issue for cities over the last few years, if only because of one specific example: The tech buses in San Francisco. As you’ll remember, protesters believe that the buses cause gentrification because the easy access to these corporate shuttles cause wealthier people to move into certain areas of San Francisco where they wouldn’t normally live, displacing longtime residents. While there isn’t really any kind of direct correlation that can prove that—desirable areas of San Francisco are getting more expensive, period—the city has responded (a little) by charging the shuttles to use its bus stops.

While it seems on the outset like Bridj is kind of the same thing—these are fancy buses targeted to tech workers, too—the biggest difference is that this is a service which is open to the public. It’s privatized transit, but not a closed system. It’s another option for getting to work, and it’s more like a high-tech carpool than an alternative transit system. And as the branding clearly states—and I’m not saying I agree with it—this is for people who don’t like touching other humans or getting sweaty on the subway.

Privately-run transit systems don’t exist in many parts of the country for a variety of reasons — including unwanted competition to public transit — although private firms contract with agencies (including Metro) to provide service on their routes. It will be interesting to see how this changes over time. I’m sure transit agencies don’t want private firms to cherry-pick the more profitable routes, leaving agencies to heavily subsidize the rest. On the other hand, if a private firm can better serve a particular route, shouldn’t the free market be allowed to prevail? We’ll see.

CTA bans e-cigarettes on all buses, trains (Chicago Tribune) 

The agency that runs the bus and train system across the Windy City follows in Metro’s footsteps and prohibits the use of e-cigarettes. Similar issue as here: the agency believe that a rule already on the books forbidding smoking on agency property likely covered e-cigarettes but decided to make the ban more explicit.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 26

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Nice infographic from Fixr: L.A. has four of the top 10 steepest streets in the country, they say.

Click the image to enlarge
Top 10 US steepest streets
Via fixr structural engineering cost guide

Metro takes aim at Orange Line fare evaders (Daily News)

Coverage of yesterday’s media event as part of an effort to lower fare evasion on the Orange Line. Excerpt:

“LA Metro is one of the best buys around, with one of the lowest fares in North America,” said Art Leahy, chief executive of Metro, at a Tuesday news conference. “But we have to pay the bills … so we need people to pay their fare.”

The two-pronged plan focuses on educating riders on how to pay for their fare through added signs at stations and public service announcements on on-board televisions as well as stepped-up enforcement through hefty $75 citations at each of the 18 stations between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.

The Orange Line is particularly vulnerable to fare evasion because, unlike many underground stations in the Metro system, there are no access gates and money is not collected by drivers when riders board a bus, officials and riders said. Instead, passengers purchase or reload a reusable card at self-service kiosks and then must tap the card at a separate free-standing collection machine that deducts the amount needed for a one-way ride, a process some riders say is confusing.

Bottom line: it’s good to see enforcement stepping up. Running transit is expensive and lost revenue ultimately costs riders the service improvements they would like to see.

Cycling on the edge: dodging cars and potholes (L.A. Times) 

Smart opinion article by Paul Thornton who puts it on the record: many of the bike lanes striped by the city of Los Angeles in recent times are also riddled with potholes. That gives cyclists a not-so-fun choice: slam into a pothole and possibly wreck or veer into adjacent traffic lanes and potentially wreck. The challenge is that another city department — the Bureau of Street Services — are responsible for paving streets. My three cents: a lot of the bike lanes in the city of L.A. were done in a rush in order to reach mileage goals prior to mid-July 2013 — and that means there wasn’t always attention to detail.

A Los Angeles primer: Union Station (KCET)

Nice essay about Union Station includes this paragraph:

For all its timeless appeal and admirably vigorous upkeep, Union Station nevertheless suffers a faint but persistent underlying sense of dereliction, or at least uncleanliness. (Sometimes I visit and feel it has finally gone, but then I enter the restrooms too far between janitorial shifts.) One recently attempted solution to the most visible affliction of this or any public space — that of lingering indigent — involved removing most of the seating and cordoning off the rest for ticketed passengers, a measure desperate enough to signal a potentially unsolvable problem. But do airports do much better? Located so far from their cities’ centers and subject to such complicated entry procedures, most never have to face this sort of challenge in the first place. One trip through LAX, though, makes you realize the great advantage of Union Station and its predecessors across America, no matter how neglected: when you walk out of them, you walk straight into downtown.

I think the station is mostly clean, but I agree the restrooms could see some improvement. The issue there is there are only two sets of them, neither very large for the crowds the station sees. As for “straight into downtown,” well…sort of. It’s more straight into the edge of downtown — one reason I’d love to see more development in the northern part of downtown and especially the Civic Center area.

Also, shout out to post author Colin Marshall for his black-and-white photographs.

Two major transit projects break ground in San Bernardino (San Bernardino Sun) 

One project will extend Metrolink service to the University of Redlands, the other will construct a new transit center in San Bernardino that serves area bus lines and Metrolink. Officials say the projects are badly needed as traffic in the Inland Empire is a complete mess. In other words, officials are now trying to cope with the consequence of all those sprawling housing developments they have approved over the years.

Utah makes Google Glass app for bus riders (Salt Lake City Tribune)

The Utah Transit Authority has made a version of its bus-and-train schedule app that will work with Google Glass, although there are (thankfully) still few people wearing the geekware around. I still have a hard time believing anyone would be so amazingly stupid or addicted to the internet that they would need to have a screen on their glasses and if I have a vote, I say no Metro apps for these folks. They can check their phones like the rest of us!

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, February 25

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Rest in Peace, Harold Ramis. Here’s a nice appreciation from the New Yorker. A scene below that Ramis directed from “Caddyshack,” including one of the great lines in the history of cinema: “I didn’t want to do it, but I owed it to them.”

Dial M for Metro wifi (ZevWeb)

An update on the project to bring cell service and potentially wifi into Metro Rail’s underground stations — and really there isn’t much new here. The contract was approved by the Metro Board in early 2013 and will likely be finished in a couple of years with perhaps some cell service coming before that, depending on how work goes. It will be up to individual cell providers to decide whether to provide an underground signal.

Do you bike in L.A.? Watch this video to see what concerns all those drivers (L.A. Times) 

Interesting video made from the point-of-view of drivers who encounter cyclists. It’s cleverly packaged with this video showing what frightens cyclists on our area roads.

2013: another year of less driving in the U.S. (Streetsblog Network)

The number of miles that Americans drove last year was more than in 2012 — but didn’t keep pace with the rate of population growth. In other words, on a per capita basis, Americans appear to be driving less, continuing a trend that has been in place for several years. Of course, it depends on what you mean by “less.” The cynical side of me tends to think that driving remains hugely popular, so perhaps rate of growth is kind of a desperate statistic to seize upon.

Inside Amtrak’s plan to give free rides to writers (The Wire) 

The railroad plans to offer residencies to writers who need time to sit and write. Hard to beat a cross-country trip on Amtrak for that — nothing like waiting for a freight train to pass to inspire Deep Thoughts.

Morgan Stanley predicts utopian society by 2026 (Slate)

The prediction is based on their bullish view that self-driving cars will give society a big happy kick in the bum. Because Morgan Stanley did so, uh, well predicting how the housing market would behave….

Historical sea ice atlas now online (Sea Atlas)

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.50.51 AM

Very cool new tool that allows you to track Arctic sea ice over the years, funded in part by the U.S. government. The whereabouts of ice was vital to the shipping industry for many years — although nowadays the ice has been retreating due to climate change. There’s an interactive feature that allows you to track the retreat, which is most pronounced in the past three decades. Reminder: taking transit is one way to help reduce your carbon footprint as transit is often more efficient than driving alone.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 19

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A CyclingSavvy instructor explains her objections to bike lanes (Biking in LA)

Karen Karabell, of St. Louis, makes a thoughtful, cogent argument against bike lanes, saying that she believes it’s safer for cyclists to be in traffic lanes — where motorists see them sooner and better — than in a narrow lane that is often ignored by many motorists. I agree with her on the issue of sight lines. But I still don’t want to ride in traffic lanes unless I must — I see this as a post for bigger, wider and better designed bike lanes.

Newsom changes mind on high-speed rail (CBS) 

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom says he’s just voicing an opinion privately shared by many Democrats. Although he was ardently backed the bullet train project between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he said that too little federal or private funds have emerged to build a project with an estimated $68 billion price tag. The money, Newsom said, would be better spent on other infrastructure needs.

Obama orders new efficiencies for big rigs (New York Times) 

The President on Tuesday order the EPA to develop tougher new fuel standards for trucks, with a goal of implementing them by 2018. While trucks comprise just four percent of traffic on the nation’s roads, President Obama said they are responsible for 20 percent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.