Transportation headlines, Thursday, October 16

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! 

Why the 405 isn’t any faster with more lanes (KPCC Take Two)

An economist says expanding a road — 405 over the Sepulveda Pass included — will probably mean an increase in the number of vehicles that use the road. His answer to quickening commutes: congestion pricing, a la the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeway that help discourage everyone from driving at the same peak hours.

Labor dispute kills Kinkisharyo’s AV plant (San Fernando Valley Business Journal)

The rail car manufacturer under contract by Metro to produce new light rail vehicles has decided not to build a $50 million, 400,000-square-foot facility in Palmdale. The firm had said it would build the new facility as part of its contract with Metro. But a labor-supported residents group — specifically the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 — tried to hold up a needed zoning change unless Kinkisharyo agreed to be a “card check” facility. “Card check is a process by which a workplace can unionize if 50 percent or more of workers sign cards stating they want to be represented for collective bargaining,” reports the Business Journal.

Excerpt:

Agency spokesman Marc Littman said he was disappointed by the company’s decision but added it would not affect the delivery of Metro’s cars.

“This is a real loss,” Littman said. “We wanted them here to help the local economy but we cannot require Kinkisharyo do (manufacturing) here.”

IBEW Local 11 was in the news in 2013 when it got heavily involved in the campaign for mayor of Los Angeles. It didn’t work. Eric Garcetti, now the chair of the Metro Board of Directors, easily won the election without the union’s support.

Metro moving forward with flawed ‘Complete Streets’ policy (Streetsblog L.A.)

Joe Linton takes a look at the Complete Streets policy being considered this month by the Metro Board of Directors. While parts of it are commendable, he opines, other parts are vague with no assurance that the policies will be enforced to encourage roads where walking and biking are safe and desirable. While street design is usually up to local cities (or the county in unincorporated areas), Metro may have the ability to influence street design in rail corridors or with projects that involve Metro funding.

California high-speed rail wins big round in state Supreme Court (Sacramento Bee)

The California Supreme Court turns away a lawsuit challenging the issuance of state bonds needed to help pay for construction of the first segment of the high-speed rail line that is eventually planned to run between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s good news for the project but there are other remaining legal challenges that assert the project doesn’t live up to what was promised voters in Prop 1A in 2008.

The self-driving Tesla may make us love urban sprawl again (Slate)

The key graph — and something I’ve pondered in this space before:

As driving becomes less onerous and computer-controlled systems reduce traffic, some experts worry that will eliminate a powerful incentive—commuting sucks—for living near cities, where urban density makes for more efficient sharing of resources. In other words, autonomous vehicles could lead to urban sprawl.

In other words, if you can sit in your own car and not have to drive or pay much attention to the road, would your commute seem less onerous? Yes, there still could be a lot of traffic with self-driving cars. But perhaps the door-to-door attractiveness of a car coupled with technology (i.e. playing PacMan, Asteroids or Missile Command) on your tablet will trump the yuckyness of traffic.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, October 2

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! 

Metro shouldn’t play the name game (L.A. Times)

The Times’ editorial board says that it’s unseemly for the Metro Board of Directors to name transit stations after members of the Board. “Is it really necessary to name stations after sitting board members? That has the appearance of legacy-building on the public dime,” writes the editorial board.

The Board today as part of the consent calendar approved motions by Board Members Pam O’Connor and Ara Najarian to rename the North Hollywood Station the North Hollywood/Zev Yaroslavsky Station and to rename the East L.A. Civic Center Station the East L.A. Civic Center/Gloria Molina Station. The motions ask Metro staff to report back in January on how the changes will be implemented.

Here is an earlier Source post about the renaming motions.

When transit agencies run short on cash, should they sell alcohol ads to get it? (Washington Post) 

A look at the pros and cons of allowing alcohol ads on public transit — something a few large agencies have embraces. The upside: much needed revenue. The downside: unlike other forms of ads, these type of ads can be hard to tune out for a captive audience, meaning young riders are exposed to them for longer periods of time.

Metro, by the way, prohibits advertising for alcohol and tobacco products. Read Metro’s advertising guidelines here.

World’s first bullet train turns 50 (Washington Post)

The first high-speed train rolled between Tokyo and Osaka 50 years ago — and a little more than 19 years after the end of World War II. Eight other countries today have bullet trains. The United States isn’t one of them.

Intermountain states seek to keep hope alive for high-speed rail (Salt Lake City Tribune)

Officials from several Western states gathered in Salt Lake to discuss the best way to stay in the high-speed rail game. Their verdict: support California’s bullet train efforts because if things go well here, high-speed rail could spread to surrounding states. Time travel oriented readers should set their DeLoreans for the year 2114 to see if the L.A.-Las Vegas-Salt Lake line has been built along Interstate 15 along with a leg along Interstate 80 connecting to Denver. Such a train would be a great way to reach some good skiing…if, in fact, there’s still skiing to be had in a potentially far warmer world.

Marty McFly should check the status of high-speed rail in 2114.

Curious minds want Marty McFly and Professor Emmett Brown to check the status of high-speed rail in 2114.

Helsinki has plans to get people to stop owning cars (Smithsonian)

Excerpt:

The Finnish city has committed to a concept called “mobility on demand,” in which a wide range of transportation options from buses to driverless cars to bikes would be meshed together into one system that a person could use to order any trip on a smartphone. The passenger would need to enter just an origin and a destination, and the mobile app at the heart of the program would do the rest, selecting the most appropriate modes of transportation and mapping the best route based on real-time traffic data.

Everything would be covered through one payment plan, either through a monthly charge, like the taxi service Uber, or a pay-as-you-go option. Users would be able to monitor their costs and adjust how they use different means of getting around.

The plan offers door-to-door service that would eliminate the first-mile and last-mile complications of getting to and from public transit.

Now that’s thinking big! Will it work? Depends, I suppose, on how willing people are to give up their cars — something that likely depends on how convenient other options are. Please read the entire article that goes on to explain the success of a small bus that people can order on demand and use to customize their transit trips.

405 construction heck already paying off in time saved on freeway (LA Weekly) 

UPDATE: I included this story at the top of an earlier version of the headlines, not realizing that the story was originally published in June 2013. Instead of deleting, I moved the item to the bottom of the headlines. 

The data comes from Inrix, a firm that measures traffic congestion comparing May 2012 to May 2013. Excerpt:

Measuring traffic from Imperial Highway to Getty Center Drive, the company found that drive times have been reduced by 20 minutes at 3 p.m., 9 minutes at 4 p.m. and 5 minutes at 5 p.m. INRIX is comparing May, 2012 to May 2013 here. Not bad.

As you likely know, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project, added a northbound HOV lane to the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways. The lane opened this spring and most work on the project is now complete.

Inrix also found that traffic has worsened 11 percent in the L.A. area and that the commute on the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway has significantly taken a turn for the worse. Does that echo your experiences, readers?

 

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 22

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: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the "King Taco Station." Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to  the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: I believe someone on our comment board recently suggested renaming a Gold Line station the “King Taco Station.” Almost certainly not going to happen people, but the train is very close to the Maravilla Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Dear MTA: I love your trains…but (Los Angeles Register)

Columnist’s David Medzerian’s not-quite-love-letter to my employer begins:

Before I get into anything else, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love your trains. I take them several times a week. I can’t remember the last time I drove into Los Angeles from Long Beach. The last two times I flew from LAX, I took the train to the airport (well, almost to the airport).

But, I’m starting to think that – how I can put this nicely? – you have no idea what you are doing.

David levels complaints about the fare increase that took effect last Monday, the subsequent shutting down of four Blue Line stations in downtown Long Beach for refurbishment work, confusing ticket machine screens and prompts and luggage-blocking turnstiles at Willowbrook Station.

Those who follow us on Twitter have certainly seen these complaints echoed by other riders. I’ll certainly send David’s column around.

Semi-related: the Register’s future may be in doubt at the same time there are some big questions hovering over other local papers, according to L.A. Weekly. Our unwavering view here: the most newspapers covering Los Angeles and the surrounding area, the better.

If so many people support mass transit, why do so few ride? (CityLab) 

About five percent of Americans use transit frequently to commute to work. But polls and transit ballot measures over the years have indicated that many more residents are willing to tax themselves to pay for more transit even if they don’t ride it. In this excerpt, Los Angeles County is used as an example of this conundrum:

One of the clearest examples of the disparity comes from Los Angeles County. In 1980, about 7.5 percent of commuters used transit. That year, voters approved a permanent half-cent sales tax increase to pay for transportation initiatives, including lots of transit upgrades, but by 1990, the share of transit commuters had declined to 6.5 percent. That year, voters again approved a half-cent increase by a two-to-one margin, with nearly all the money going to transit. But the transit commute share was still at 7 percent come 2008, when yet another transportation ballot, Measure R, was passed by two-thirds of the vote.

So why do so many people support transit—not just with their voices but their wallets—when they have no intention of using it? The conclusion reached by Manville and Cummins largely echoes that of the Onion: people believe transit has collective benefits that don’t require their personal usage. Maybe voters think transit will reduce traffic congestion, or improve the environment, or help low-income residents, or translate into economic development. So long as someone else uses transit right now, everyone else will win in the end.

The potential problem with all this is what happens when residents tire of paying for transit they don’t use — perhaps because the perceived benefits failed to materialize? The answer: in some places, city bus riders could suffer as the money that does exist is funneled into suburban rail projects. Pretty interesting stuff.

BTW, the most recent Census Bureau American Community Survey numbers show that 6.9 percent of commuters in L.A. County commute to work by transit, down from 7.1 percent in the 2008-2012 average of the roundups. With population growth factored in, 6.9 percent today is more total people than seven percent in 1980 but here’s my question: what would it take to bump that number up? Could it ever get to 10 percent here?

On a related note, the Census Bureau’s news release on L.A. County led with this:

The Los Angeles metro area’s 2013 median household income ($58,869) decreased since 2010, the first full year after the last recession, when it was $60,409 in 2013 dollars, according to new statistics released today from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the nation’s most comprehensive data source on American households.

One Santa Fe and its 438 apartments in the Arts District (Downtown News)

Good look at the 438-apartment development in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District that will also include about 25 retail stores and restaurants and 525 parking spaces for residents — a fair amount of parking, I think, for a downtown development. All in all, I think this is a good development for downtown which should help local businesses prosper.

I also suspect it will increase the demand for building a subway platform in the adjacent maintenance yards for the Red and Purple Line — something Metro has discussed in the past. That would allow Arts District residents to take a fairly quick (albeit circuitous) ride to other downtown destinations and beyond. The new underground light rail station being built in Little Tokyo will also help connect residents to trains running to the San Gabriel Valley, East L.A., Santa Monica and Long Beach.

Reimagining Union Station (Washington Post)

Very thoughtful article on talk and preliminary plans for massive $7 billion expansion of Washington D.C.’s central train terminal — which in recent years (like our Union Station here in L.A.) has grown increasingly crowded.

The article thinks big and looks at the plans through the prism of urban revivals taking place across the United States. Excerpt:

With the era of exurban sprawl having run its course, people and jobs are moving back to more densely populated urban areas. That’s happening not just in Washington, but also in Boston, Austin, Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The only way these cities can accommodate such growth, and realize the economic efficiency that it will generate, is to dramatically improve their public transportation infrastructure and increase the density of land use around key public transportation nodes.

I agree. And the best part — as the One Santa Fe development shows — is that there is actually plenty of room in many urban areas for growth. It will be very interesting in the coming years to see what happens with Union Station here, the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, Penn Station in Gotham and Union Station in our nation’s capitol.

Titus seeks support to revive Amtrak in Las Vegas (Review-Journal)

With the latest plans to build a new rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas now pretty much dead (the Desert XPress high speed rail between Victorville and Vegas), Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) says reviving Amtrak service may be the way to go. Amtrak service between L.A. and Las Vegas and onward to Ogden, Utah, was discontinued in 1997.

I have zero interest in taking a train to Las Vegas — the unhappiest place on Earth, IMHO — but I’d take a train to St. George, Utah, if it could get me there in six to seven hours and there was a convenient shuttle bus to Springdale and Zion National Park.

Chinese city opens phone lane for texting pedestrians (Guardian) 

As far as I’m concerned this is just further proof that the apes will soon rule. And, yes, I thought “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was the best movie I’ve seen thus far this year. My only criticism: it was a little too plausible.

Hmmm, I don't think he's made because of the lines for the iPhone6. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Cesar probably has even less patience for humans who walk around while staring into their phones and bumping into things. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Transportation headlines, Monday, August 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! 

ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Blue Line headed south toward Compton. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Gold Line Eastside project environmental document released (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Coverage of the release on Friday of the Eastside Gold Line Phase 2 environmental study.  As the article notes, the two light rail alternatives would extend the Eastside Gold Line from East L.A. to either South El Monte or Whittier. Metro staff at this time has not selected a preferred alternative — that will happen in November. Under Measure R, the project is not scheduled to be complete until 2035, but Metro is trying to accelerate funding for the project, including possibly through a sales tax ballot measure in 2016. Here’s our post about the study, with links to the document.

L.A. County Supervisor’s alternate bullet train route gaining traction (L.A. Times)

The California High-Speed Rail Authority seems to be considering a tunnel under the San Gabriel Mountains on equal footing with two earlier proposed routes along the 14 freeway — neither of which is very popular with communities such as Action, Agua Ducle and Santa Clarita. Bullet train officials say the tunnel-only option advocated by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich — which would require 18 to 20 miles — of tunnels may actually prove cheaper than the 14 freeway routes, which also require extensive tunneling anyway. If you want to dream about traveling from Palmdale to Burbank in 15 minutes, read the article. The usual bullet train caveat: securing funding for the project — which aims to eventually connect L.A. and San Francisco — remains a huge hurdle.

Fault lines in L.A. over new subway construction (Breitbart News) 

The city and school district in Beverly Hills are touting a new study from their consultants that claims that there are not any earthquake faults that would prohibit a subway station under Santa Monica Boulevard. Metro is sticking by its stance that active faults make building a station under Santa Monica Boulevard unsafe and it’s better from a safety and planning viewpoint to put the Purple Line Extension station in the center of Century City, under the intersection of Avenue of the Stars and Constellation boulevard. Beverly Hills officials want the station under Santa Monica Boulevard because it would not require tunneling under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus. As you likely know, Beverly Hills has challenged the project’s environmental studies with a pair of state and federal lawsuits. The Superior Courts ruled in favor of Metro in the state case and Beverly Hills appealed. The federal suit is ongoing.

After earthquake near Napa, up to 100 homes labeled as unfit to enter (L.A. Times) 

The 6.0-magnitude temblor that struck early Sunday didn’t do much damage to major transportation infrastructure throughout the Bay Area — although there was certainly damage to homes and businesses and other key infrastructure.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Damage at the Lucero store in Napa. Photo by Matthew Keys via Flickr creative commons.

Have Americans really fallen out of love with driving? (Fortune)

Consumer spending has risen steadily over most of the last decade — with a brief dip due to the Great Recession. But the number of miles driven by Americans has remained flat since late 2007 — even as the number of those with jobs has increased in recent years. What gives? The independent research firm Behind the Numbers suggests that driving less is a trend here to stay and is a combination of several factors including high gas prices, baby boomers growing older, millennials gaining in numbers (millennials are less interested in driving), more interest in transit and more desire by many to live in urban settings. Fortune is a little skeptical, saying that gas prices adjusted for inflation are not outrageous and millennials still don’t play much of a role in the overall economy.

My three cents: I’m certainly not a millennial (I’m 48) but I certainly don’t want to drive more or purchase more gasoline than is absolutely necessary. Nor do I like spending money on cars, which notoriously lose value very quickly. I think with good transit, biking and housing options in cities with good public spaces, driving will remain flat in America as along as it remains relatively expensive.

Here’s how easy it is to hack a traffic light with a laptop (Vox)

With permission from local authorities, hackers in Michigan were able to disrupt timing of traffic lights in an un-named city rather easily. Vox suggests that this is a security concern — and it is certainly illegal to tamper with lights. That said, in my neck of the woods (Pasadena), I’m not sure that the timing of traffic lights could be much worse, the reason other computer hacker targets inspire a little more fear.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, August 7

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ART OF TRANSIT: A cyclist on the bike path adjacent to the Orange Line -- this is the stretch just east of Hazeltine. More Orange Line stock photos free for anyone that needs them on our Flickr site. Just click above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A cyclist on the bike path adjacent to the Orange Line — this is the stretch just east of Hazeltine. More Orange Line stock photos free for anyone that needs them on our Flickr site. Just click above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

$11 billion later, high-speed rail is inching along (New York Times) 

The top of the story:

WASHINGTON — High-speed rail was supposed to be President Obama’s signature transportation project, but despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere and the United States still lags far behind Europe and China.

The article goes on to explain that most of the money was spent on building or planning to increase train speeds on relatively short sections of track around the country. It would still take $15 billion and 26 years to bring the northeast corridor tracks between New York and Washington up to Japanese bullet train speeds, the Times reports. The article also notes that California’s high-speed rail project recently won a key legal ruling but has been controversial.

Bedbugs found on at least three N Line subway trains (New York Daily News) 

Three trains in New York City were yanked out of service and sent to maintenance yards for immediate fumigation. This 2008 article in the New York Times discusses whether bedbugs can survive in transit stations. Short (and unfortunate) answer: yes.

Time to tie pay to Muni’s on-time performance (San Francisco Examiner) 

Fares are soon increasing a quarter on Muni trains and buses to $2.25 and this Examiner editorial proposes two responses: 1) tie the salaries of Muni executives to Muni’s ability to meet a goal of having buses and trains on time 85 percent of the time (it was 57.2 percent in 2013), and; 2) Enforce a 1993 ballot measure that required politicians who oversee Muni to ride it twice a week.

California’s slow ride to transit (San Francisco Chronicle) 

In this op-ed, Ethan Elkind complains that transit projects across the state are taking far too long to plan, bid and build — and he proposes some solutions. Metro’s Regional Connector is one of the examples he uses, comparing it to the time and expense of building a streetcar tunnel in downtown in 1925. Hard not to agree that the environmental review process in California and elsewhere takes far longer than necessary.

Passengers help free man trapped between train and platform (ABC News)

Watch the video from Australia. And let it serve as a reminder that being around things such as train platforms and busy streets — in L.A. and around the globe — demands your full attention. Put down your phones for a moment, people!

*****

And a little mid-day music courtesy of Spoon, which is playing the Hollywood Forever cemetery on Friday night. For those who want to take the bus to the show, use the Metro 4 Line that runs along Santa Monica Boulevard. The stops at Santa Monica/Gower and Santa Monica/Bronson are both close to the cemetery’s entrance. Red Line riders can transfer to the 4 at the Vermont/Santa Monica Station.

 

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 10

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ART OF TRANSIT: Nice colors in DTLA. As for the movie ad, I know who I'm rooting for. #ApesTogetherStrong

ART OF TRANSIT: Nice colors in DTLA. As for the movie ad, I know who I’m rooting for. #ApesTogetherStrong

Dueling highway funding plans moving ahead in Congress (Bloomberg) 

Both the House and Senate plans would shore up the Highway Trust Fund through next May; the Senate plan includes some changes to the tax code that could generate revenue for the plan. It doesn’t appear that any kind of long-term plan is on the horizon and House Speaker Rep. John Boehner said as much today. In other words, we can probably look forward to more “woe the withering Highway Trust Fund” stories next spring. Bon appetit!

More here on why the Highway Trust Fund is important to Metro and other transit agencies.

Voices of public transit systems (Not Of It) 

Nice post revealing the voices being train, station and public service announcements at some large transit systems and airports in the U.S. The post includes video snippets from various media about the voices.

And what about the voice you hear on Metro trains and buses? Stephen Tu, in Metro operations, answers:

The announcements are pre-recorded and automated based on vehicle progress. Back in 2004, as the article notes, there was a hodgepodge of automated and manual announcements, are some of our trains had the capability and others did not.

It mentions the Gold and Green Lines in 2004 and that is because those were the newest (at the time) Siemens P2000 vehicles. We did not have the Breda P2550’s (Gold Line stainless steel cars) until 2009. The old Nippon Sharyo (Blue Line) and Breda A650 (Red Line) were from the early 1990s and never had automated announcements, until Rail Fleet Services engineered an in-house automated system that queues announcements by distance.

There is literally a sensor that detects wheel revolutions to determine when to play “Next Stop” and “Now Arriving” station announcements. They are all now standardized with the same voice from a professional studio we send the script to. It’s the same voice you hear when you’re placed on hold on the Metro telephone network or PSA announcements in stations. However, this voice is not used on bus announcements — there is a different person for that.

However as you can see, while the voice is now standardized, each announcement package is slightly different because of the limitations/nuances each vehicle has.  For example, P2000 can only make an eight second announcement. So we have to be very quick in calling out stations and transfer connections, whereas we have much more time on our in-house system. The P2550s can only make a “Now Arriving” station announcement when the doors actually open at the station, which means we have replaced it with “This is… (South Pasadena Station)” because you are already there.

LACMA, Metro discussing new tower across from LACMA (L.A. Times) 

LACMA is exploring building a new high-rise adjacent to the Purple Line Extension’s future station entrance at Wilshire and Orange Grove. It might include galleries, condos and a hotel, according to museum officials. In a statement, Metro’s chief planner Martha Welborne said: “We are continuing to negotiate with the individual property owners to acquire or lease property needed for the Fairfax subway station, and we are also exploring, with the property owners, the possibility of a large mixed-use project above the station.”

Excerpt:

[LACMA Director Michael] Govan declined to say how tall the tower might be, admitting that any talk of high-rise development in the area might worry nearby residents who are already girding themselves for a decade of construction as the subway is extended west along Wilshire and LACMA builds the 410,000-square-foot Zumthor building.

The question of height, he said, “is where you get neighbors all charged up. So I don’t go out there and say I want the biggest, tallest skyscraper. But we know that density is the key to urban living and to the maximization of mass transit — and key to the environment. And so for all the right reasons, this is the right place” for a high-rise.

Big Blue Bus fixing the fancy stops that riders hated (Curbed LA)

The headline may be a little strong, but it looks like Big Blue Bus may be adjusting the new stop designs it recently rolled out to provide more comfortable seats and more shade at some stops. Curbed has renderings and photos. I was in SaMo over the weekend and it struck me that the shade shields (for lack of better term) would work best if either the sun, Earth or both stopped moving.

The California High-Speed Rail debate: kicking things off (The Atlantic) 

This is the first in a series of posts by James Fallow in which he will argue that California should — and needs to — build the bullet train as planned to secure a better economic future. In this post, Fallows takes a look at some historic infrastructure upgrades that he thinks proved to be good investments, including the Panama Canal, the transcontinental railroad, the interstate highway system and the U.S. aviation system.

I think there are a lot of people, including me, who agree the bullet train can do great things for the state. The skepticism tends to come from those (including me) who are troubled by the lack of a dedicated funding source that can cover the expense of what is currently estimated to be a $68-billion project for the L.A.-to-S.F. leg.

Transportation projects don’t need to take as long as they do (Atlantic CityLab) 

The post asks a perfectly good question but doesn’t really provide an answer about ways to speed up the really big transpo projects (the post includes some persuasive arguments about dealing with smaller but important projects such as bus routing).

As I tell folks often, one issue with big transit projects is the long ramp up time. It usually takes three to five years to complete the necessary environmental studies and another year in procurement to vet and select contractor. Construction, too, often has to be staggered for both logistical, safety and practical reasons, not to mention financial ones — for example, federal funds for construction are granted on a yearly basis and don’t all flow to agencies such as Metro at the beginning of construction.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 2

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! 

Photo: Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Photo: Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti’s anniversary spin (on Metro) includes World Cup stop (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recognized his first anniversary in office by tooling around L.A. on Metro Rail on Tuesday, including a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in the Crenshaw District to watch the USA-Belgium match. Excerpt:

On the trip, Garcetti lamented getting “stuck in City Hall,” saying quick, unplanned encounters with people help him gauge people’s concerns and can build trust with residents, particularly in his early years as mayor. “Most people don’t want a half-hour meeting with the mayor,” he said.

The mayor will also serve as the Chair of the Metro Board for the next year (the Board Members take turns). It will be interesting to see what kind of agenda he pushes at Metro — and think a good starting place is to talk to folks who ride the system and pay the bills here. Semi-related: a great way to gauge people’s concerns about Metro is to also read our general Twitter feed, including tweets from riders.

Metro commits to deal ensuring subway won’t hurt Disney Hall acoustics (L.A. Times) 

The agency and Disney Hall agree to several mitigations to ensure that the Regional Connector — running 135 deep underground and adjacent the concert venue — won’t cause vibrations that could impact acoustics. Tests last year established the ambient noise in Disney Hall and Metro has agreed to limit vibrations to well under those standards.

Burbank-Palmdale segment added to bullet train timetable (L.A. Times) 

In response to criticism and doubts from state lawmakers, the California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to accelerate construction of a Burbank to Palmdale segment of the bullet train project. Such a segment could reduce travel time for trains from more than an hour to 14 to 16 minutes.

That said, there remains considerable challenges. The first is finding the funding — the L.A. to Palmdale segment is estimated to cost more than $13 billion and that could rise if a more direct tunnel to the Antelope Valley is built under the San Gabriel Mountains. The segment would presumably later connect to Union Station and Bakersfield and the segment being planned between there and Madera.

My three cents: I think there are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical about the ability to build a $68-billion project between San Francisco and Los Angeles with the major funding source a $10-billion voter-approved bond. That said, if funding is limited, it sure would be great to see commuter rail get a boost in populated and taxpayer-heavy Southern California, an area where commuters are already riding trains on a daily basis.

Contractor for 405 sues MTA over cost overruns, delays (Daily News) 

Kiewet filed the lawsuit in May, seeking $400 million in costs, according to the Daily News. Excerpt:

In a statement, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said that “Metro does not believe this claim complies with those contract requirements. However, Metro continues to negotiate in good faith with Kiewit to resolve specific outstanding claims under terms of its contract.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents this portion of Los Angeles and has publicly blamed Kiewit for the project’s delays, declined to comment Tuesday.

 

Jenna Hornstock shares refinements to Union Station’s Master Plan (The Planning Report) 

Jenna is heading up Metro’s team of planners working on the Union Station Master Plan. In this interview, she talks about the many details of the emerging plan that were released last month (Here’s a Source post about the plans).

The Planning Report saved perhaps one of the juiciest questions for last, asking Jenna how the Master Plan would be funded and if there could be money available from a potential Measure R 2 sales tax. As Jenna wisely pointed out, the key word with Measure R 2 is “potential” and that it’s impossible at this time to say what will or will not be funded by it. As if often the case at Metro, projects are planned before all the funding is secured — the agency often needs to have firm plans in in order to get money to build them.

Donald Shoup, parking guru, on how L.A. should manage its meters (L.A. Times) 

Interesting interview with the UCLA professor who literally wrote the book on big cities and parking policies (a book highly critical of big cities, that is). There’s nothing fantastically new in the interview but it’s always fun to revisit the question of whether developers should be required to build parking or not (they almost always are for both residential or commercial properties). Parking is very expensive to build and maintain and folks such as Shoup believe it results in a lot of expensive, free and unnecessary parking that consumes a lot of space that could be better used for other purposes.

In other words, if someone in a city wants a car badly enough, they’ll find a parking place and the money to pay for it. Agree or disagree, Angelenos?