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, March 26

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ART OF TRANSIT: Bach outside the Civic Center/Grand Park station last Friday. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Bach outside the Civic Center/Grand Park station last Friday. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

NTSB: CTA operator dozed off, didn’t wake up until crash at O’Hare (CBS Chicago) 

The operator of the train that crashed into a platform and escalator early Monday admitted to falling asleep and that in February she had fallen asleep, resulting in her train missing a stop. Video has also surfaced from the crash, apparently from a security camera at the station. Scary.

City leaders shepherding MyFigueroa stakeholders toward consensus (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Opposition to installing protected bikeways along Figueroa between downtown L.A. and Exposition Park is beginning to melt away. That’s great news for cyclists and for Metro; the Expo Line parallels the (hopefully) future bike lanes and connecting transit and high quality bike lanes would be super awesomeness, correct?

Muni bus turned shower for the homeless to hit the road in May (SFist) 

The group Lava Mae — dedicated to providing showers and toilets for the homeless in San Francisco — has purchased for old buses in San Francisco and converted them to vehicles with showers and restrooms that homeless can use. Above is the group’s video.

Skepticism dogs Santa Ana streetcar plan (Railway Age) 

Someone should create a template for articles on streetcar projects that begins with the headline “Skepticism dogs XXXX streetcar plan” as streetcars and skepticism go hand-in-hand! In this case, OCTA Board Members are asking if there’s a fundamental difference between a bus and a streetcar besides the $238-million price tag attached to this project. Streetcar supporters usually argue that putting tracks in the road lets everyone know this is a dedicated transit route and that, in turn, encourages development and/or redevelopment.

NJ Senator wants to legalize marijuana to pay for roads (Fox) 

Excerpt: “State Sen. Nicholas Scutari announced his plan Monday, acknowledging that opposition from Gov. Chris Christie could seriously hinder it but pointing out, “He’s not going to be governor forever.” Enough said.

Speaking of roads in New Jersey, today’s musical interlude (NSFW if your boss is a Springsteen non-believer).



Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 25

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! 

An update on our unofficial Source bracket -- now ranked as 9.5 millionth best at ESPN. We'll do even better next weekend! (Go Bruins).

An update on our unofficial Source bracket — now ranked as 9.5 millionth best at ESPN. We’ll do even better next weekend! (Go Bruins).

General Motors misled grieving families on a lethal flaw (New York Times) 

The auto manufacturer in February issued a recall for 1.6 million Cobalts and other small vehicles, five years after it apparently knew about a flaw involving an ignition switch that could cause vehicles to suddenly lose power and the ability to deploy airbags, reports the Times. There have been 23 accidents involving 26 fatalities since 2009 involving those vehicles, with some of those accidents possibly tied to the faulty switch. G.M. does not directly dispute the NYT but says that it has evidence of 12 deaths tied to the switch problem, with the accidents all occurring in 2009 or earlier.

The most damning parts of the story include anecdotes about G.M. pressuring families to drop lawsuit — and, in fact, G.M.’s 2009 bankruptcy filing in court shielded it from liabilities before July 2009. Here’s the devastating kicker to the story:

In recent weeks, the parents of Benjamin Hair, the 20-year-old from Virginia killed in December 2009, received a postcard from G.M. announcing the recall. It was one of dozens of letters about their son’s car that the company has sent since the crash.

“How many times do I have to tell them?” his mother said. “We don’t have the car, and we don’t have our son.”

Focus in CTA crash focuses on operator fatigue, braking system (Chicago Tribune) 

The operator of a train that failed to stop at the end-of-the-line at O’Hare may have fallen asleep before the train jumped across the platform and climbed escalator stairs early Monday, according to officials. More than 30 were hurt in the crash, although none were life-threatening injuries. In the meantime, the airport’s rail station remains closed and passengers are taking a bus shuttle between the airport and the second-to-last stop on the CTA’s Blue Line.

City staff asks for permission to begin work on closure of Santa Monica Airport (Santa Monica NEXT) 

Staff are seeking the OK from the City Council to perform the kind of work that would accompany a closure of the airport in 2015– i.e. how to zone the land, studying what kind of environmental cleanup may be needed. Keep in mind that the city HAS NOT made a decision to close the airport and resistance from pilots, plane owners and the FAA would almost certainly follow. Nonetheless, interesting to see the city may soon begin mulling what other uses may be possible on the land, which is a little more than a mile south of the future Expo Line station at Exposition and Bundy.

Battle of the bike paths: L.A. River versus Ballona Creek (LA Weekly)

The Weekly gives the edge to Ballona Creek based on scenery, safety, destinations and other factors. I’ve ridden the path between the Expo Line’s La Cienega Station and Marina del Rey. It’s interesting, that’s for sure — and it’s very isolated from street life or anything else around it until you reach the Marina. The L.A. River path is interesting through the Glendale Narrows although it’s often freeway adjacent and it doesn’t directly connect to DTLA at its southern end. My three cents: both bike paths could use some work.

Preparing for the end of the world? Buy a bike (SF Weekly) 

A recent study partially funded by NASA made news for predicting the collapse of civilization in a resource-depleted world. That leads the Weekly to conclude that getting a bike will greatly help your personal mobility when we’ve run out of fuel and electricity to power cars. Bikes are also relatively easy to repair and may help you quickly escape roving bands of other humans that want to kill you.

Caltrans: state roads generally in good shape (Mercury News) 

The agency’s annual “state of the pavement” report finds that 84 percent of the roads it manages in the state are in healthy condition while 16 percent are in “poor” condition. In the Los Angeles region, 35 percent of freeway lanes are in poor condition.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 24

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Cool pic of March gloom.

O’Hare CTA station closed for foreseeable future because of considerable damage from crash (Chicago Tribune) 

A Chicago Transit Authority train failed to stop at the end-of-the-line station at O’Hare International Airport early Sunday morning and jumped the track and came to rest on an escalator. About 30 people aboard the train were injured and none of the injuries are life threatening, officials said. Excerpt:

The cause of the accident remains under investigation. The train was traveling at a high rate of speed while pulling into the station and officials are trying to determine why, Steele said.

“We don’t know yet what led to this incident,” Steele said. “We will be looking at everything — equipment, signals, the human factor, any extenuating circumstances.”

The National Transportation Safety Board also will investigate the crash.

The train operator suffered an injury to a leg. She is being tested for drugs and alcohol as is standard procedure after such an incident. Thankfully the crash happened at 3 a.m. when there were very few people around the platform.

Miracle Mile freaking out over possible 24-hour subway work (Curbed LA)

Some residents aren’t too pleased with the prospect of round-the-clock work on the Purple Line Extension, but Curbed LA says that Metro’s proposals thus far only involve 24-hour work for parts of 2015 and again in parts of 2021 — not nine continuous years of work.

Maybe transit isn’t surging after all (The Atlantic Cities) 

More pushback against the American Public Transportation Association’s recent press release touting that transit ridership was at its highest point since 1956. As several outlets have noted, the U.S. has almost doubled its population since 1956, meaning that far fewer people overall are using mass transit in America. As the Atlantic Cities notes, since the early 1970s, there is less than one transit trip per week per person in the country.

Of course, APTA does advocate for the transportation industry, including both public agencies and private firms that operate transit and manufacture equipment. With Congress considering a new multi-year transportation funding bill, APTA needs to make the case that transit ridership is up. If looked like in a silo, it is. And that’s good. But, like others, I’d rather see the big view of things in order to figure out the best way to build transit systems that will give people a choice outside of driving.

The death knelling over Citi Bike (Next City)

Reports of the bike rental/sharing program in New York are probably over-stated, says the blog — blaming recent problems on Gotham’s harsh winter and some system software issues that plagued the program when it first started.

I heart M15 (Vimeo)

Fun video from the express bus in New York.

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 30

em>Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

ART OF TRANSIT: It’s the last day of Rail Safety Month, but this is a 24-7-365 message, people.

33 people taken to hospital after trains collide in Chicago (Chicago Tribune)

An out-of-service train collided head-on with a train parked in the Chicago Transit Authority’s Forest Park station this morning. None of the injuries appear to be serious. The investigation is underway as to why the out-of-service train was on the same track as the train with passengers. CTA trains are heavy rail and run underground, at street level and on elevated structures, thus their nickname — the ‘El.’

Grand Avenue project at a turning point (L.A. Times)

A city-county panel — the Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority — voted 3-0 last week to reject the latest plans for the residential-commercial project that would fill the empty space around Disney Hall in DTLA. Supervisor Gloria Molina said that the latest plans offered little for pedestrians and only contributed to the box-like architecture of the area. A midnight deadline looms to get the developer, Related, and local government on the same page for a project that most people agree is needed to revive the northern part of downtown L.A. Transit-wise, the area is ready with many bus lines, the Red Line’s Civic Center station two blocks away and a future Regional Connector station at 2nd and Flower streets.

Montreal to get more reserved bus lanes (The Gazette)

With traffic in Quebec not getting better, the regional transit agency wants to build 184 kilometers of bus lanes at an expense of $84 million (Canadian dollars, that is.) “I will never convince a guy alone in his car to take the bus if he sees the bus stuck in traffic,” said [Michael] Labreque [head of the Société de Transport de Montréal]. “To convince him, I need to show him efficiency and predictability.” Side note: in L.A., we have to convince her and him!

Why not bus lanes here in So Cal? They’ve never proven very popular among elected officials and some constituents. About 1.8 miles of the Wilshire peak hour bus lanes opened here in the spring — there will eventually be 7.7 miles of the peak hour bus lanes at a cost of about $30 million because of costs involving street widening and street reconstruction.

Fun excerpt from Montreal story:

The announcement was made Sunday afternoon by four PQ Ministers. In addition to Gaudreault, the heavy-duty lineup included Jean-Francois Lisée, the minister responsible for Montreal; Marie Malavoy, minister responsible for the Montérégie region; and Nicole Léger, minister responsible for Laval.

“Traffic congestion is not just a psychological problem,” Lisée said.

“Sometimes it puts us in a bad mood and a bad mood is certainly not the default position for Quebecers. So we have to create the conditions to put people in a good mood. But it’s also an economic problem and an environmental problem.”

Winning a Stanley Cup would probably put folks in Quebec in a good mood again. But that hasn’t happened since the 1970s and the Nordiques are now playing in Denver, Colorado, United States of America. Meanwhile, while traffic here has turned Southern Californians into a bunch of collective sourpusses at times, our mood has certainly been improved by championships by the Kings, Ducks and Puckalolos in recent times.

52 percent want bullet train stopped, poll finds (L.A. Times)

But you should read the fine print! The latest poll of 1,500 people has a maximum sampling error of plus/minus 2.9 percentage points, meaning it’s possible that a majority of those who took the poll could actually support the project.

Of course, the story fails to mention that the project has always been somewhat controversial. Prop 1A, the bond measure that would provide $10 billion for the project, only passed with 52.7 percent of the vote in 2008. The story also quotes former high-speed rail board chief Quentin Kopp criticizing the current effort as nothing but public relations, although he often said the exact same type of things.

Perhaps the more damning number in the poll is that 43 percent of those responded said they don’t want the project to go forward and 70 percent want it placed back on the ballot. I think the bigger point here is that nearly five years after Prop 1A the project doesn’t appear to have gained any real support among the public.

Changing price tags probably hasn’t helped — the cost went from $33 billion to $98 billion back down to $68 billion with some stops in between. That’s a tough nut to overcome. You know how I feel: high-speed rail could certainly work in California, but I’m not entirely persuaded the state needed to go for the most expensive — i.e. 200 mile per hour plus — version of it that ensures it will be very expensive. If someone could put me on an Amtrak train and get me to San Francisco in six hours (the time it takes to drive from L.A.), I’d take the train.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, Jan. 31

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I've become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I’ve become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines’ Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

My apologies for the somewhat sporadic posting in the past few weeks — personal stuff.

FTA to streamline environmental review process (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that for the first time in a quarter century, the Federal Transit Administration is taking steps to speed its review of transportation projects to ensure they comply with federal law. For example, projects in existing transportation corridors will no longer require the same high level of review as projects breaking new ground.

This is welcome news. I hope it works. I’ve certainly chirped in the past about the need to cut red tape and get studies done quicker — proposing to build a busway or light rail line along an existing street should not require five years of study to determine impacts are slight or beneficial. One reason studies take so long is that the FTA, by law, must constantly review them.

Exploring the course of the future Metro Expo Line (KCET) 

Eric Brightwell has a nice write-up with plenty of photos of the stations and surrounding environs of the six-mile second phase that will extend the train from Culver City to Santa Monica. Tip of the cap to Eric for including one of my fave Mexican food joints in the area, Gilbert’s El Indio, which is in Santa Monica at Pico and 26th and is a bike ride or stroll from the future 26th/Olympic Station. Carnitas plate: I salute you!

A tale of competing Century City high-rises (Curbed LA)

JP Morgan Chase has hired a lobbyist to create a group — “Save the Westside” — to prevent a 37-story high-rise office tower from being built next to the future Century City Purple Line subway station. The issue? JP Morgan Chase trying to save its bottom line; the firm is a property owner in Century City and apparently doesn’t welcome any more competition, according to the office of Councilman Paul Koretz.

A subway’s birthday: Happy 20th, Metro Red Line! (Militant Angeleno) 

Great post by the militant one on the subway’s opening in 1993 and what it was like to ride the train back in 1993 — when it was only seven minutes from end to end. He also makes an outstanding point about how dull and lifeless downtown Los Angeles was back in ’93 — and how the subway impacted one business in Westlake:

Within a few months, thousands of Downtown workers suddenly discovered that they were just 25 cents and a couple minutes away from the best pastrami in town, and injected new life into a once-floundering Westlake delicatessen, right across the street from the subway’s western terminus.

He speaks, of course, of Langers. In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words:

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

710 freeway coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210 (Pasadena Sun)

Interesting article looking at groups for and against filling the gap in the 710 with a tunnel. Generally speaking, southern San Gabe Valley cities support the effort while those in the north oppose it. Metro is about to launch a draft environmental study for the project that is considering five alternatives: no-build, transportation systems improvements (i.e. signals and intersections), bus rapid transit, light rail and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the two ends of the 710.


CTA website offers ‘why things go wrong’ explanations (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Transit Authority has a new feature on its website: a lengthy feature story trying to explain why buses and trains are sometimes delayed. But the Trib’s transportation columnist is not entirely impressed and doesn’t buy the CTA’s assertion that many service delays are entirely beyond its control.

My three cents (inflation!): Explanations are nice but never an excuse for poor service. That said, I thought the CTA page was thoughtful in trying to answer some very common questions about delays and this is something we should probably do here at Metro, where we have another equally important task: improving the speed that service alerts are communicated to riders.

Judge the CTA page for yourself. Here’s their take on bus bunching:

We know—bunching is frustrating. It frustrates us too, both as people who are charged with providing service, and people who use that same service to get around town. Bunching is the bane of bus systems around the world and there is no easy fix to it—particularly in places where there’s lots of traffic and where frequent bus service is required.

So how does it happen? Here’s a scenario:

Imagine a busy route that has buses running about every 5 minutes on a busy street, right at the morning peak, and all is right on time. Then, one bus gets delayed—let’s say a minor accident between two cars happens, and a lane is temporarily blocked while drivers exchange info, and this creates a backup that adds just two and a half minutes to the bus’s trip.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 15

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Fares increase in Chicago (Chicago Tribune)

Excerpt: “A CTA 30-day pass will cost $100, up from $86, and a seven-day pass will increase to $28 from $23. Three-day passes will cost $20, up from $14, and one-day passes will increase to $10 from $5.75.” The base fare remains $2.25.

By comparison, the Metro base fare is $1.50, a 30-day pass is $75, a seven-day pass is $20 and a day pass is $5. Those are the regular fares; there are deeply discounted passes for students, the disabled, Medicare recipients and senior citizens.

BART struggling to meet surging demand (San Francisco Chronicle) 

The heavy rail system in the San Francisco Bay area is serving about 390,000 average weekday riders and ridership is expected to keep rising after some recent improvements. As a result, many passengers have to stand on trains for longer amounts of time and the agency’s infrastructure at times is having a difficult time handling the load. Officials are mulling several improvements — including a signal upgrade that would allow more trains to run through tunnels under San Francisco Bay. BART is also in dire need of new rail cars.

Another TOD planned for Gold Line in Pasadena (Curbed LA)

A developer just purchased a plot of land adjacent to the Sierra Madre station in eastern Pasadena and is planning a 212-unit apartment complex — next to the existing Stuart Apartments. Pasadena, to its credit, has pushed for more housing near rail stations and hundreds of units have been built near the Del Mar and Lake stations, in particular.


The Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal in New York. Photo by Brigham Yen.

Using NYC’s Grand Central Terminal as a model for Los Angeles Union Station (DTLA Rising)

Blogger Brigham Yen just returned from a visit to the Big Apple and thinks that Grand Central Station should inspire the Union Station Master Plan. Brigham believes that Union Station needs to serve as a destination — not just a transfer point — and he believes that will happen when many more stores are added to the Union Station complex. GCT is home to 68 businesses, including an Apple store. As many of you know, a master plan is being developed for Union Station — more info here.