Transportation headlines, Tuesday, January 28

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!

Rest in Peace, Pete Seeger….

Rail alone can’t reinvent L.A. (L.A. Times)

Ethan N. Elkind is pleased to see that three rail transit projects are simultaneously under construction in Los Angeles County. But…and it’s a big ‘but’…here’s the excerpt:

But these billions risk being wasted if city leaders do not promote, and residents do not allow, new growth around rail stations and corridors. Why? Rail is expensive to build, operate and maintain compared with other forms of transit. It only becomes cost-effective with high ridership. And the best way to boost ridership is to locate new jobs, housing and retail near stations.

Focusing development around rail provides multiple benefits. It allows the region to accommodate new residents and natural population growth without building endless subdivisions on open space and worsening traffic and air pollution. It can reduce the high cost of housing by boosting in-town supply, making it easier for businesses to attract and retain talented employees. Finally, rail-accessible development can create convenient, walkable neighborhoods that meet the growing demand among millennials, childless professionals and empty nesters to move “back to the city” — as many recent urban success stories attest.

Couldn’t agree more. Which leads to the next story…

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-elkind-los-angeles-rail-transit-20140127,0,6436265.story#ixzz2riZNuJjl

We’ll be fine (Santa Monica Next)

Gary Kavanaugh takes a look at the Bergamot Transit Village proposal that goes before the Santa Monica City Council tonight for approval. I included an op-ed against the project in yesterday’s headlines (traffic was the big gripe) and Gary’s piece largely finds the project favorable. Excerpt:

My own stance on urbanism and environmentalism that has evolved in recent years . Conserving nature requires a certain amount of letting cities be cities, keeping what development we do inward, and kept away from pushing out edges expanding the total footprint of industrial civilization upon the landscape. Lowering our dependency upon voracious rates of oil consumption and high transportation CO2 emissions requires planning new housing and workplaces around our most energy efficient transportation investments, such as the developing light rail system.

As the data emerging from the truncated Expo Line Phase I has shown, rates of driving do in fact drop off quite significantly for many with car access, but the effect is strongest in that immediate walking radius of the stations.

Also informing my view is an expectation that the completed Expo Line to Santa Monica will exceed expectations. Phase 1 has already hit its 2020 ridership projection. Traffic studies, such as the ones on the impact of the Hines development, are often loaded with assumptions that are already eroding, and that I believe will erode further as we progress through the 21st century.

The long-standing criticism against development in Santa Monica is that it will cause traffic to get worse. But here’s the thing: Santa Monica’s population has barely budged since 1960 — from a little more than 83,000 to about 92,000 in 2012, according to the Census Bureau. I think it’s fair to ask if keeping population growth in Santa Monica artificially down (the rest of the region has grown at a much larger rate) has also ensured bad traffic because of all the people drive into and out of Santa Monica who work or visit there frequently.

One semi-related thought: I think ridership on Expo should be healthy with a caveat: people boarding on the far western side of the line and riding to downtown L.A. will get frustrated if the run times are not more consistent between Crenshaw and downtown L.A.

Broadway traffic lanes to be slashed (Downtown News) 

As part of the Bringing Back Broadway effort, a city proposal seeks to reduce traffic lanes from six to three while widening one of the sidewalks and adding pedestrian seating and bump outs. If the streetcar gets built, it would share a lane with traffic.

Councilman proposes DASH trolleys to make transit more fun (Curbed LA)

L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge wants a couple of DASH buses to look like open-air streetcars to encourage more ridership. Not a bad idea. Maybe start with a route on weekend nights running between the Art District and Little Tokyo to LA Live via the revived Spring Street corridor?

Time-based transfers are key to transit’s success (Global Toronto)

The Toronto area is considering allowing those who purchase fares on buses and trains to ride an unlimited amount in a 90-minute time period — instead of allowing a transfer only in one direction. Proponents say that’s good for folks who want to run round-trip errands for a single fare — and that will increase ridership. Metro is proposing the same thing here — a higher base fare but unlimited transfers for 90 minutes, including round-trip rides.

Proposal for restructuring Metro fares is released; fares would be raised and free transfers allowed

Option1

Click above and below to see larger views of the two options.

Option2

Metro staff released a fare restructuring proposal today that would raise fares in three phases over the next eight years while also making Metro more customer-friendly by allowing riders to board an unlimited number of buses and trains for 90 minutes in any direction for a single fare.

The proposal includes two options for restructuring fares. The first option would raise the base fare from the current $1.50 to $1.75 for the next four years and eventually to $2.25.

The second option would keep the base fare at $1.50 during off-peak hours and raise it to $2.25 during peak hours for the next four years and eventually to $2 in off-peak hours and $3.25 in peak hours. Both options with the complete set of increases are shown above.

The increases are needed to help cover the expense of running its bus and train system and to prevent a budget deficit in 2016, according to Metro staff. Metro has raised fares three times in the past 18 years, most recently in 2010 when the base fare went from $1.25 to $1.50. 

The proposal is a notable departure from the current fare system that requires passengers to pay a full fare for each individual ride on a Metro bus or train — which effectively punishes those who must transfer to reach their destinations (Metro customer surveys indicate more than half of its riders transfer to reach their destination). Metro staff say the proposed fares would be helpful to those using the Metro system to run short errands and will likely reduce the cost of riding Metro for some passengers.

For example, under the proposed fare system, a rider could ride from home to the supermarket and back for just a single fare — as long as they board their last bus or train within 90 minutes of starting their trip.

Under the proposal, the cost of daily, weekly and monthly prices would rise because pass holders tend to be the heaviest users of the system. Another significant change would be the eventual elimination of the current monthly pass in favor of the EZ pass that would allow for unlimited travel on Metro and other bus systems in Los Angeles County.

Metro staff are asking the Metro Board of Directors to schedule a public hearing on the fare proposals on Saturday, March 29 at 9 a.m. No fare changes can take effect until the Metro Board votes to approve them, which is scheduled to happen on May 22, according to the staff report. The Board has the discretion to accept, reject or request changes to the staff proposals. The current proposal calls for the new fares to take effect on September 1.

Some points to consider:

•Fares currently cover 26 percent of the cost of operating Metro buses and trains — the so-called “fare recovery” rate and the current average fare for Metro is just 70 cents. Those are both low compared to other agencies and will eventually cause a budget deficit as costs rise of running the system.

•The regular base fare for most other large transit agencies is already $2 or more. The New York City subway, for example, charges $2.50, the San Francisco Muni $2, the Chicago CTA is $2 for buses and $2.25 for trains, the Portland TriMet $2.50 and the Washington Metro charges $1.60 for buses and $2.10 for peak hour rail travel. All those agencies allow for free transfers within a 90-minute or two-hour period.

•Metro CEO Art Leahy has repeatedly said a new fare structure is needed to encourage more ridership and run a more efficient system. Riders sometimes take longer routes to avoid transfers, which Leahy has said doesn’t promote efficient use of the system and drives up operating costs. Leahy also has said that he expects next year to launch a major study of the efficiency of Metro’s route structure.

•The ability to transfer for free within 90 minutes would only be available to those with TAP cards. The reason: TAP cards will be the technology used to track how long people are riding the system.

•Metro last raised the price of the regular base fare and daily, weekly and monthly passes in July 2010. Fares for seniors, disabled and students were not raised at the time because they had been frozen by Measure R for five years.

The Metro staff report on the fare proposal is below or can be downloaded here as a pdf file. The proposal to call a public hearing is scheduled to be discussed by the Metro Board of Directors at their regular meeting on Jan. 23 at 9:30 a.m. in the Board room at Metro headquarters adjacent to Los Angeles Union Station. The meeting, as always, is open to the public. You can listen to the meeting by phoning 213-922-6045.

Reminder: free rides on New Year’s Eve and all-night service in effect!

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

As you plan your holiday, here’s what Metro is up to so you can factor us into your celebrations. In keeping with tradition, Metro will offer free rides on New Year’s Eve, with the goal of reducing traffic congestion and providing safe transportation for those staying out extra late.

No fare will be charged on Metro Rail and Bus lines from 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31, until 2 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1. Please note: free fares will only apply until 2 a.m. Those boarding buses and trains after 2 a.m. will need to TAP to ride. Fare is $1.50 per direction per line or $5.00 for a Day Pass.

As for bus and train schedules:

On Dec. 31: Metro buses and trains will follow their regular weekday schedules.

On New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31-Jan. 1): Metro will provide all-night service on the Red, Purple, Blue, Expo, Green, Gold, Orange and Silver Lines in addition to bus lines which normally operate late-night owl service. Trains will run at 20-minute intervals from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m.

On New Year’s Day: Metro buses and trains will follow Sunday/Holiday schedules.

The only exception is the Metro Gold Line, which will run longer trains at more frequent intervals between Union Station and Pasadena for those going to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl game (Here is more information on getting to the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game and to see the floats after the parade).

map-gold-line-map

Additionally, numerous Metro bus lines along the Rose Parade route will be detoured or split into two segments at Colorado Boulevard until streets are reopened.

Please refer to individual timetables for the exact hours of holiday service on our various bus lines, and note that some bus lines do not run at all during Sundays/Holidays. Also note that from 7 p.m. Dec. 31 thru 3 a.m. Jan. 1, the Downtown Long Beach Station will be closed due to a New Year’s Eve celebration on Pine Avenue.

As a result, Blue Line will operate modified service during this time: trains will run every 20 minutes between 7th Street/Metro Center and 1st Street Station, while a shuttle train will run evekry 20 minutes between Anaheim Street Station and Pacific Avenue Station. Please see this service advisory for more info.

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Long Beach Transit Mall will be closed from 7pm Dec 31st thru 3am Jan 1st due to a special event.  As a result, Blue Line will operate modified service during this time. – See more at: http://www.metro.net/service/advisories/update/special/26/#sthash.zRYmJmih.dpuf
Long Beach Transit Mall will be closed from 7pm Dec 31st thru 3am Jan 1st due to a special event.  As a result, Blue Line will operate modified service during this time. – See more at: http://www.metro.net/service/advisories/update/special/26/#sthash.zRYmJmih.dpuf

Metro thanks our customers for their patronage and patience this year, and hopes our service helps make your holiday a little brighter.

How to get to the Tournament of Roses and the Rose Bowl game on Metro

map-gold-line-map

Click above to see larger.

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Click above to see larger.

First, a warm welcome to our everyday riders, new riders and visitors from out-of-town and a Happy New Year’s to everyone!

I know that many of you will be attending the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day or the Rose Bowl game between Stanford and Michigan State. As we’ve done in the past, here are some tips for using the Metro system to reach the parade and game:

•I happen to live very close to the Rose Parade route. If you’re thinking about driving to the parade, please keep in mind that street and paid parking is somewhat limited near the parade route and traffic is usually extremely congested after the parade when tens of thousands of cars try to flee Pasadena as many thousands of cars are simultaneously entering Pasadena for the Rose Bowl game. That’s why many people take the Gold Line to the parade and game.

•Metro is running all-night service on New Year’s Eve and into New Year’s Day for those going to the Parade early; the Parade begins at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Day. All-night service will be provided on the Red, Purple, Blue, Expo, Green, Gold, Orange and Silver Lines in addition to bus lines which normally operate late-night owl service. Trains will run at 20-minute intervals from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. 

•As both maps show, there is parking available at many Metro Rail stations, including Gold Line stations. Parking at most stations is free; it’s six dollars a day to park at Los Angeles Union Station. There are also many paid parking in lots in downtown Los Angeles that are near the Red/Purple Line subway that can be used to connect with the Gold Line at Union Station. 

•The Gold Line’s Del Mar, Memorial Park, Lake and Allen stations are just a short walk from the parade route:

  • Del Mar Station (walk 2 blocks north to the Parade route)
  • Memorial Park Station (walk 2 blocks south of the Parade route)
  • Lake Station (walk 4 blocks south to Parade route)
  • Allen Station (walk 4 blocks south to Parade route)

Due to the large crowds expected to come out for the Rose Parade, oversize items such as umbrellas, chairs and coolers will not be permitted on the trains that day.

•Fares on Metro Rail are purchased on reloadable plastic TAP cards, which can be purchased from ticket machines aboard Metro Bus lines and all Metro Rail stations for $1; the ticket machines at Metro Rail stations accept cash or credit cards. Fares are $1.50 per ride on a bus or train; there are no transfers available. If you need to transfer, please purchase a $5 day pass that allows for unlimited travel that day. More fare information here.

Avoid long walks and the high cost of parking at the Rose Bowl — it’s $40 per car. Take the Metro Gold Line to Memorial Park Station in Pasadena; then take a short walk to the Parsons Parking Lot B and ride a shuttle in comfort past the traffic, right up to the gate. Shuttle service to the Rose Bowl is free and begins at 10 am on January 1. If you are riding a Metro bus after the game, please check the individual timetables for last bus times leaving Pasadena.

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

•As a side note, I would expect that both the station platform at the Allen station and the top of the parking garage at Sierra Madre Villa station would provide good views of the flyover that usually precedes the parade and game. I took the top photo from the parking garage at Pasadena City College along Bonnie Avenue; the bottom photo was taken from the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain; the trailhead is located at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena.

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Photo by Steve Hymon.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, December 17

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!

ART OF TRANSIT: We haven't had a boat pic in a while. So here's a boat pic taken from the beach in downtown Santa Barbara, easily accessible by Amtrak from Union Station, Glendale, Van Nuys and other area stops. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: We haven’t had a boat pic in a while. So here’s a boat pic taken from the beach in downtown Santa Barbara, easily accessible by Amtrak from Union Station, Glendale, Van Nuys and other area stops. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Buses are their route to a brighter future (L.A. Times) 

Really nice Steve Lopez column on a Bell Gardens family that typically makes eight bus trips spanning 15 hours away from home. The destinations include school, work and a dance class. Excerpt:

The city’s rhythms are different by bus. You move slower, but you take in more. There’s time to think, to read. You step off a bus and breathe the scent of flowers or sizzling food on a grill. You see people whose country of origin is hard to guess and hear languages you can’t identify.

[snip]

Mendoza reaches for the straps of her children’s backpacks, for safety, as they cross a street. They see people they know at stops and on buses, members of their rolling community.

Mendoza had a car until 18 months ago, when she got into an accident. She decided to get rid of her wheels altogether rather than pay for repairs, gas and maintenance. She also got hit by a cyclist while walking and needed surgery on her arm. The lingering stiffness makes driving difficult.

Traveling by bus has all the obvious challenges, she says, but there are advantages, too.

“We’re together,” she says.

On the bus, she can look her children in the eye, talk about their days, help them with their homework. If she went off to work each day while they attended neighborhood schools, they’d have too much idle time, she says.

Very thoughtful piece. Give it a read. One topic not directly broached is that many people need to take the Metro system multiple places and that often means multiple transfers in the course of a day. But the system doesn’t allow transfers except to those who have passes. That’s going to be something tackled in the fare restructuring next year.

L.A.’s over-the-line jaywalking crackdown (L.A. Times)

The editorial makes a reasonable argument: most people don’t know that it’s illegal to step off the curb into a crosswalk after the countdown begins on the pedestrian traffic signals. And, therefore, the LAPD shouldn’t be handing them $190 or $250 tickets during their current crackdown in DTLA. Sure would be nice to see that kind of enforcement on motorists who show little or no respect for crosswalks.

On a related note, I love how the LAT editorial mentions they learned of the crackdown in the Downtown News but doesn’t provide a link to the original Downtown News article. That’s just rude — but something the LAT does to try to keep readers on its site.

Streetcar funding plan a non-starter (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Cincinnati’s new mayor helped stop construction of a downtown streetcar earlier this month. And now he has rejected a plan that would involve having a regional transit agency and private partners pay for operating expenses — his big concern. The Federal Transit Administration says it will yank a $44.9-million federal grant if the city doesn’t decide to re-start the project by Dec. 19. About 2,000 feet of tracks are in the ground.

Women take the wheel in Saudi Arabia (New Yorker) 

Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world in which women are banned from driving although, as the above video shows, some are courageously defying that ridiculous law.

Semi-related: there is a terrific two-part series in the New Yorker Dec. 16 and 23rd editions called “The Lost World.” The story, by Elizabeth Kolbert, looks at historical waves of extinctions that have swept across our planet and uses that to put into context the current and expected future wave courtesy of climate change. The article is (appropriately) behind the New Yorker’s paywall — this kind of journalism should not be free — so either buy the digital edition for tablets or pick up the magazine at a library or newsstand.

Even an 85-mph toll road can’t fix Austin’s traffic tangle (NPR)

As the metro Austin area has ballooned to 1.8 million people in the past 20 years, traffic has (surprise!) grown appreciably worse. One study finds that if nothing is done, the current 45-minute, 19-mile commute from one ‘burn will take 2.5 hours in the year 2035.

A toll road was built east of town but it’s so far east that no one is using it and the speed limit was jacked up to 85 mph in hopes of luring some motorists. Thus far, many in Austin seem to agree the region has a problem and big-time behavior change is the only solution — but details on how that will be done are lacking.

Well, it’s Texas and if you’re going to have a problem, go big! Dallas, btw, responded to its traffic problem by building 85 miles of light rail in the past 17 years.

Transportation headlines, Monday, December 9

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!

ART OF TRANSIT: From our Instagram feed.

Taking the train to LAX — it’s a connection we can’t afford to miss: Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin (Daily News)

In this op-ed, Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti and Councilman Bonin — both members of the Metro Board of Directors — reiterate what both have been saying publicly in recent months. Excerpt:

On the local front, Metro and LAX have been working together. In October, we met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Washington, D.C. He and other key transportation officials understand and agree that connecting LAX to our rail system must happen.

They are watching us. They are eager to help. And that’s the reason we can’t squander the opportunity to act now.

One of the myths that we both despise about Los Angeles is that we are beholden to traffic and that we can’t build big things. Or that we can’t do them right, symbolized by the Green Line veering south of the airport.

This project is a chance to shatter that myth, move Los Angeles into the future, and to build a transit system that connects our region to the rest of the world.

As the op-ed states, Metro is currently studying six options to connect LAX to the Crenshaw/LAX Line via either light rail, a people mover or a combination of the two. Garcetti and Bonin also say that one promising alternative involves building a rail spur from the Crenshaw/LAX Line to a new transportation facility where passengers could check into flights and transfer to the people mover.

The Airport Metro Connector project has some Measure R funding but will need more to build any of the more expensive options. In related news, the Metro Board last week approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Metro and Los Angeles World Airports for changes to the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century project that could help improve connections to future airport facilities such as a consolidated rental car facility or a people mover:

screen-shot-2013-12-05-at-10-18-44-am

 

And here is the project homepage on metro.net.

Whoa! A sea change in Metro’s TAP system (CityWatch LA)

I should have posted this in late November when it was first published. The article by Matthew Hetz is a follow-up to an earlier piece in which he was critical of the TAP system — in particular the taptogo website and difficulties he encountered both purchasing a new card and adding stored value to an existing one.

But things have started to change, Matthew writes. Excerpt:

After that article was published I was very surprised that the article remained in transit cyberspace terra firma, and was read by an expanding readership. I was even more surprised when David Sutton, Deputy Executive Officer, TAP, Metro, contacted me with a list of changes he implemented on the TAP system, and he invited me, and other transit writers and bloggers, for a meeting at Metro Headquarters to discuss TAP. This was a sea change in Metro’s relationship to its riders. However, until the meetings, I was very skeptical Metro would listen or accomplish any meaningful changes.

Since then I have attended three meetings with David Sutton, and other Metro executives and managers who have been gracious and understanding in the frustrations I and others face with the current TAP system. These frustrations are shared by Metro itself. The current management, from what I understand, did not implement the TAP system, but are left is the collateral damage. Their frustrations seem evident and true. They want a system which assists transit riders, and makes their jobs less stressful in dealing with the frustrations of transit riders.

[snip]

Sutton and the managers in the meetings at Metro headquarters presented their prototypes for changes to the TAP vending machines and their ideas for a modern, functioning website. As is the case with governmental agencies, things move slowly. Metro must wait for the contract to expire before moving forward with a new website, and they must follow governmental rules and regulations in calling for bids, the submitting bids, the reviews, and then awarding the new contract. This is time consuming.

While pleased with some of the changes, Matthew says Metro is not yet completely out of the woods when it comes to TAP cards and taptogo.net. Fair enough. He also says he will be writing about some other issues he has with the system and how it could be more user-friendly. Also fair enough. Easier = Better = More Riders.

Is TriMet trying to boost revenue by pushing low-income Portland riders away from unintended round trips? (Oregonian) 

With fare restructuring on the horizon for Metro, this is an important — albeit wonky — read. The issue: the debate over whether Portland TriMet’s current fare system allows round-trips or not on a single fare.

Portland currently charges a fare of $2.50 that allows riders to use their bus and light rail system for two hours. Some people have been using that time to make round trips, but lately the agency has been saying the fare only allows transfers on a trip to a single destination. That means riders trying to make round-trips have to instead buy a $5 day pass.

The TriMet Board is about to consider a change in policy that would extend fares to cover transfers beyond two hours. It sounds like there’s resistance, given budget problems. Over at the Human Transit blog, Jarrett Walker says that extending the time would be a bad idea because it would benefit only some riders and deny the system the revenue it needs to restore good service for everyone.

My year without a car (Salon) 

 

Wayne Scott made a New Year’s resolution coming into 2013: to retire his car and bike everywhere. And despite an ambivalence about biking, he has thus far held true to his resolution. Yes, it helps that he lives and works in Portland, one of the nation’s largest bike-friendly cities. But there’s also the little matter of conquering six months of often cold rain and a job that requires a fair amount of public speaking in dry clothes.

Transportation headlines, Monday, November 25

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MTANov22Sunset (13 of 34)

ART OF TRANSIT: The sunset over Union Station and downtown Los Angeles on Friday as seen from the 25th floor of Metro headquarters. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The sunset over Union Station and downtown Los Angeles on Friday as seen from the 25th floor of Metro headquarters. Can’t decide which version I like better — the bottom one was taken about three minutes after the top image. Click above to see larger. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.

This time it really would be a restructuring (L.A. Streetsblog)

Editor Damien Newton ruminates on different on different fare structures for Metro and what they may mean for people’s commutes. Note: there is nothing on the table officially and there won’t be until next year. At a Metro Board Committee meeting last week, Metro staff said they will be presenting the Board with several options. Please see this post from last week.

Paying for L.A. County’s transit future (L.A. Times)

The Times’ editorial board says it has “serious reservations” about any new transportation sales tax that Metro may pursue in 2014 or ’16 — in particular, the editorial says that next year is too quick to properly vet any type of proposal. Key excerpt:

In considering a new sales tax proposal, Metro leaders must consider transportation needs throughout the county, but in the end they should select the projects that deliver the greatest impact, even if they are concentrated in the city.

That’s why a 2014 ballot measure should be off the table, and 2016 would be a better target.

 

Here’s a recent Source post about a Metro staff report that looks at potential ballot measure to accelerate and/or fund new projects. Measure R was approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 and staff are considering ways to either extend R past its expiration date of mid-2039 or possibly a new sales tax that could fund new transit projects.

Postcards from the West: Union Station bustles with film plots (L.A. Times)

A nice profile of Union Station and some of its considerable history by reporter Christopher Reynolds and photographer Mark Boster — check out Mark’s photos. Metro officials also say they’re still working to get restaurants into the old Harvey House and Union Bagel spaces, as well as add some other food offerings.

Auto correct (New Yorker) 

Very long and very good article on self-driving cars — this is a great read if you’re taking transit. Here’s the lead:

Human beings make terrible drivers. They talk on the phone and run red lights, signal to the left and turn to the right. They drink too much beer and plow into trees or veer into traffic as they swat at their kids. They have blind spots, leg cramps, seizures, and heart attacks. They rubberneck, hotdog, and take pity on turtles, cause fender benders, pileups, and head-on collisions. They nod off at the wheel, wrestle with maps, fiddle with knobs, have marital spats, take the curve too late, take the curve too hard, spill coffee in their laps, and flip over their cars. Of the ten million accidents that Americans are in every year, nine and a half million are their own damn fault.

A case in point: The driver in the lane to my right. He’s twisted halfway around in his seat, taking a picture of the Lexus that I’m riding in with an engineer named Anthony Levandowski. Both cars are heading south on Highway 880 in Oakland, going more than seventy miles an hour, yet the man takes his time. He holds his phone up to the window with both hands until the car is framed just so. Then he snaps the picture, checks it onscreen, and taps out a lengthy text message with his thumbs. By the time he puts his hands back on the wheel and glances up at the road, half a minute has passed.

The article goes on to explain the many different efforts underway to produce a self-driving car. Google seems to the most optimistic and is trying to develop the software and hardware it can sell to a traditional car manufacturer.

But that may not be easy. Many of the traditional car companies are also pursuing the technology but some — such as Mercedes — are concerned that drivers won’t buy it because they want to remain in control, particularly of vehicles marketed as performance oriented. In the meantime, some elements of self-driving have started to make their way into cars as safety features.

We recently ran a poll asking readers if they would still take transit even if they had a self-driving car. So far, 64 percent of those who responded said they wouldn’t be giving up their transit passes. Feel free to vote.

Urbanites flee China’s smog for blue skies (New York Times) 

This excerpt says it neatly:

More than two years ago, Ms. Lin, 34, and her husband gave up comfortable careers in the booming southern city of Guangzhou — she at a Norwegian risk management company, he at an advertising firm that he had founded — to join the growing number of urbanites who have decamped to rural China. One resident here calls them “environmental refugees” or “environmental immigrants.”

At a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese, many poor farmers, are leaving their country homesteads to find work and tap into the energy of China’s dynamic cities, a small number of urban dwellers have decided to make a reverse migration. Their change in lifestyle speaks volumes about anxieties over pollution, traffic, living costs, property values and the general stress found in China’s biggest coastal metropolises.

Take air quality: Levels of fine particulate matter in some Chinese cities reach 40 times the recommended exposure limit set by the World Health Organization. This month, an official Chinese news report said an 8-year-old girl near Shanghai was hospitalized with lung cancer, the youngest such victim in China. Her doctor blamed air pollution.

Check out the accompanying video; looks like some beautiful country. Any readers out there been to Dali?

Metro Board Committee discusses need for fare restructuring

The issue of fare restructuring — and problems with Metro’s current fare structure — were discussed today by the Metro Board of Directors’ Finance, Budget & Audit Committee. Metro staff are currently finalizing fare restructuring options that will likely be released to the public in early 2014.

Among options likely to be looked at are offering unlimited rides on a single fare for a certain time period (for example, an hour or 90 minutes), different fares for peak and off-peak hours and a simplified zone structure and/or offering flat fares for zoned buses.

Since the passage in May of the 2013-14 budget, Metro CEO Art Leahy has been telling the public and Board members alike that staff would be proposing a fare restructuring as part of next year’s budget. The big issue: Metro is seeking to avoid a budget deficit beginning in fiscal year 2017.

On Wednesday, Leahy also outlined other reasons why fare restructuring is important. In particular, Leahy said that the bus and rail route structure was designed to encourage transfers to help people reach a myriad of destinations around Los Angeles County. The average rider, in fact, has to transfer at least once to reach their destination.

On the other hand, Leahy said, the agency has a fare structure that discourages transferring by charging the full fare per transfer. As a result, riders take longer routes to avoid transfers — and that, in turn, doesn’t promote efficient use of the system, driving up operating costs and requiring riders to spend more time on transit than they should.

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Go Metro and Metrolink to Dodgers and Kings games tonight in downtown Los Angeles

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Here is the situation tonight in a nutshell: the Dodgers have a chance to clinch their National League Divisional Series against Atlanta at 6:30 p.m. at Dodger Stadium. There will easily be a 50,000-person-plus crowd.

Then, at 7:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Kings have their home opener against the New York Rangers — a game that almost certainly will attract a capacity crowd.

In other words, traffic may not be super delightful in and around downtown L.A. this afternoon and evening. There are transit alternatives.

The Blue and Expo Lines’ Pico station is on Flower Street between Pico and 12th Street. It is a five minute walk or less to Staples Center for Kings games. Blue Line timetable/map and Expo Line timetable/map.

The Dodger Stadium Express runs between Los Angeles Union Station and Dodger Stadium and is free to those holding game tickets. The details from the Dodger Stadium Express page on metro.net:

  • Board the Dodger Stadium Express at Bus Bay 3 of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza at Union Station.
  • Service leaves Union Station every 5-10 minutes, starting 90 minutes before game time through the 3rd inning for all home games. We recommend arriving early; crowds are heaviest near game time.
  • Your Dodger ticket is good on gameday for the Dodger Stadium Express fare*; otherwise, regular Metro fares apply.
  • You’ll be dropped off inside Dodger Stadium behind Center Field. Service will run the same route in reverse after the game.
  • Return service runs until 45 minutes after the final out.

As for fares, Metro charges $1.50 per individual bus or train line; there are no free transfers. A day pass for unlimited riding that day until 3 a.m. costs $5. Reloadable fare cards — called TAP cards — are available at all ticket machines at Metro Rail stations. The card costs $1. They can be used again, so don’t throw them out. Metro fare info here

Using Metrolink commuter rail? Only their San Bernardino Line has a late train leaving Union Station — at 11 p.m.