Transportation headlines, Monday, Cinco de Mayo

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! 

Jennifer Keith. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Jennifer Keith of the Jennifer Keith Quintet performing in the Fred Harvey Room on Saturday during the Union Station 75th Anniversary celebration. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Union Station’s complexity grows 75 years down the line (L.A. Times) 

A super interesting essay by architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne on the history of Union Station and its future. As he points out, by the time that Union Station opened in 1939 — after several legal battles — rail travel already had taken a big hit and it was clear that auto and plane travel were the way that most people were going to be moving around the region and country, respectively.


As a piece of urban design, however, Union Station was ruthlessly modern, a powerful engine for an urban-renewal plan that displaced hundreds of residents of L.A.’s original Chinatown and served as a precursor to later “slum clearance” efforts in Chavez Ravine and on Bunker Hill. In facing almost due west, the station not only announced the end of the line for American territorial expansion but helped the city turn its back on the Los Angeles River.

It didn’t seek to undermine the growing car culture. It actively supported it. The 200-foot gap between Alameda Street and the station’s front doors was a suburban distance, not an urban one, leaving plenty of room for parking.

More to the point, by going up when and where it did, Union Station influenced the location of key highway interchanges in and around downtown. As Matthew W. Roth writes in “Los Angeles Union Station,” a new book published by the Getty Research Institute, which has also organized an anniversary exhibition on the station at the Central Library, “the consolidation of track operations at Union Station set in motion the process of bridging the Los Angeles River with a freeway — and, in turn, the routing of the freeway network.”

As Christopher points out, Union Station is already far busier now than it was when built owing to the steady stream of Amtrak, Metrolink and Metro trains and buses (among others) that enter and leave the station each day. He praises Metro’s stewardship of the station (the agency purchased the station in 2011 from a private holder) and says crowds are likely to increase as the Metro system expands — not to mention the possible arrival of high-speed rail in the future.

Here is the Los Angeles Newspaper Group’s story on the 75th anniversary on Saturday.

Struck on the street: four survivors (New York Times) 

The harrowing tale of four New York Times staffers — including Executive Editor Jill Abramson — who have been hit by vehicles in the New York area. Excerpt:

We are the lucky ones and we know it. We all lived. We enjoyed the support of family, friends, colleagues and countless talented doctors, nurses and physical therapists. We had good health insurance. The first cop who stopped to help me said: “Lady, if the truck had rolled over you two inches higher, all of your major organs would have been crushed. You wouldn’t be here.”

Our stories share certain similarities: We looked up at faces looking down, asking if we were O.K. None of the drivers who hit us were charged by the police with any misdoing — significant because part of Mr. de Blasio’s plan is stricter enforcement of traffic laws. Passers-by, belying the reputation of our area, rushed to help. And we were all deeply moved by the support of our friends and co-workers.

Still, though we have all mostly recovered, we travel around our city with a sense of permanent vulnerability. Nearly four years after she was hit, Denise Fuhs, a news design editor, put it this way in an email account of her accident: “I still cannot cross very many streets without looking both ways about four times and looking over my shoulder a dozen times while crossing. If a car gets too close, or if I think a driver turning my way doesn’t see me, I panic, sometimes freeze.”

I’ll repeat what I have written many times in the past. I don’t think anyone could argue that enough is being done in our region — or any other — to protect people in crosswalks. Of course, many people struck by cars are not in crosswalks and that is a serious problem. But the crosswalk is the one place where we know that pedestrians will constantly appear and it must be treated as a sacred space given the thousands of pounds of difference between a vulnerable human being and a steel vehicle. I see far too many vehicles turning right through crosswalks with people in them and I see too many cars rolling across the white line. That should be a heavy fine — the kind of heavy fine that ensures that most people will not risk it or violate crosswalk laws more than once.

Environmental study on 710 freeway extension will be released in 2015 (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

A very short article that notes that the study will be released in February and that the public comment period has been doubled from 45 days to 90 days. Here’s Metro’s statement that was released on Friday.

New details on Los Angeles region’s 2024 Olympics bid (Inside the Games) 

As much detail as I’ve seen on the emerging bid for L.A. to host the 2024 Summer Games. The region must first win the right to be the bid city representing the United States and is up against six other regions, including San Diego, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas and Boston.

The big news is that the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games is proposing to use Exposition Park and a revamped Coliseum as the main Olympic Village. There would also be a cluster of activities on the Westside and along the L.A. River — a lot of venues are already, will be under current plans or could be transit adjacent depending on whether projects are accelerated. Check it out:


The Expo Line already serves Exposition Park and the segment to downtown Santa Monica is forecast to open in early 2016 and the Regional Connector in 2020. The Red Line already goes to Hollywood, the LA Live is already served by the Blue and Expo lines and will be linked to the Gold Line by the Connector. The Blue Line already goes to downtown Long Beach. Perhaps the big questions involve the Purple Line Extension; the third segment to Westwood isn’t scheduled to arrive until 2036 unless the project is accelerated. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is scheduled to open in 2019 but the Airport Metro Connector not until the late 2020s unless it, too, is accelerated.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, December 11

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: Sunset this past Saturday at Eaton Canyon in Altadena. There’s a nice one-mile hike along the Eaton Wash that connects to the Mt. Wilson Fire Road. And it’s transit accessible. From the Gold Line’s Sierra Madre Villa station, take the 264 Bus to the stop at Altadena and Washington and then walk one block north and turn right into the entrance of the Eaton Canyon Natural Area. The trail begins at the end of the parking lot. The 264 Bus runs about once an hour, so plan accordingly. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Advisory: seating area in Union Station now open only to Amtrak and Metrolink passengers (The Source) 

As expected, this item posted yesterday is getting a lot of eyeballs. Excerpt:

Union Station is owned by Metro and agency officials say the change was prompted by an increased number of homeless individuals who have been using Union Station as shelter — an average of 135 per night in recent weeks (numbers were higher over the summer). That, in turn, has at times created extremely unpleasant sanitary issues in the seating area that in some cases posed a health threat to passengers using the station.

A lot of interesting comments from readers on this one.

O.C. officials vote to widen 405 freeway without toll lanes (L.A. Times)

Missed this one earlier in the week. On Monday the OCTA Board voted 11 to 4 to widen a 14-mile stretch of the 405 freeway by one lane in each direction, thereby avoiding an alternative that would have put two toll lanes in each direction. The state could override the decision in an attempt to speed up traffic in the existing carpool lanes. One official says that congestion pricing lanes could be added in the future. Construction is expected to begin in 2015.

I-5 widening will connect L.A. to Orange County in a bigger way (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) 

A good look at the construction work underway to add two lanes in each direction to the 5 freeway between the 605 and the Orange County line. The current freeway only has three lanes in each direction, the reason why speeds are often 25 mph or lower, according to Caltrans. Metro is using some Measure R funds to help pay for the project, which is expected to be complete in late 2017 or early 2018. Will it help traffic? I think so — this section of the freeway is old and outdated.

Two options for the new Arts District park design (Curbed LA)

That parking lot immediately south of Urth Cafe in downtown Los Angeles? It’s going to be a half-acre park! Great idea! L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar’s office shares two potential designs; I like them both. I think the Arts and Industrial districts are going to be very different places in 50 years — more like the Pearl District in Portland than the existing setup here in L.A. So it’s good to see parks on the way. The other big question involves transit — I still think a case could be made in the future for building a streetcar on the eastern half of downtown.

Semi-related: Curbed also has an item on a new one-third acre park in Highland Park at York Boulevard and Avenue 50. The 83 Bus, btw, runs down York Boulevard on its extremely circuitous route between Eagle Rock and downtown Los Angeles.

One more Curbed item: love the idea for the duck boat tours of the Los Angeles River from Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell.

How the Big One would destroy Southern California’s infrastructure (Daily News)

This editorial was triggered by a recent speech that USGS seismologist Lucy Jones gave titled “Imagine America Without Los Angeles.” The gist of it: a big earthquake here may not  kill as many people or knock down as many buildings in the past. But it could, Jones says, still absolutely cripple all sorts of older infrastructure not built to withstand big temblors. The Daily News says that’s a message we should be heeding while rebuilding the building blocks of our region. Hard to argue with that.


Report gives America’s infrastructure a scathing D+ but applauds Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative for transit projects

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has released its report card on America’s infrastructure and it’s not one we’d be proud to show Mom. “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” awarded our nation a dismal D+ and was particularly critical of the state of our nation’s roads, transit and aviation facilities. That segment earned a D.

Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, responded by criticizing plans to reduce the federal government’s committee for transportation programs and projects. “It is high time that we move beyond just rhetoric when it comes to the state of our infrastructure and recognize that it is about the money,” Rahall said.

One positive note was applause for Metro’s America Fast Forward initiative. “Los Angeles County’s move from car capital of the world to transit capital of the United States is being driven by $15 billion in transit funds approved by county voters and with the assistance of America Fast Forward, the innovative finance section of MAP-21, America’s new surface transportation law,” the report said.

“America Fast Forward offers over $20 billion in new federal lending power over the next two years. By helping communities leverage their transportation resources and stretch federal dollars further than they have been stretched before, America Fast Forward will reshape our nation’s infrastructure while employing tens of thousands of workers to build a stronger and more mobile America.

“Implementing America Fast Forward in Los Angeles County alone will create over 160,000 highway and transit construction-related jobs, increase ridership by an estimated 77 million trips per year, reduce emissions from vehicles and save an estimated 10.3 million gallons of gasoline annually.”

“Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” released every four years, was compiled by a committee of about 30 engineers from around the nation, including Metro Deputy CEO Paul Taylor.

Check out the report and let us know what you think. Here’s the link.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Feb. 13; Transpo & State of the Union, Aspen law would allow cyclists to yield at stop signs

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: A cyclist on the beach bike path in Santa Monica this past weekend. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: A cyclist on the beach bike path in Santa Monica this past weekend. Photo by Steve Hymon.

If approved, the law would be similar to one adopted in Idaho 30 years ago and would allow cyclists to roll through stop signs in the same way that motorists can proceed at ‘yield’ signs. A survey found that 90 percent of cyclists in Aspen are running stop signs anyway, a study found that Idaho’s law has improved safety and advocates for the law say cyclists will no longer have to slam on the brakes, which can lead to loss of control. They also say that it will lead to better interactions with motorists who are never sure what a cyclist may do at a stop sign.
BART considers rebuilding two stations (San Francisco Chronicle) 
The two busy stations in downtown San Francisco would get a $900-million revamp in order to add platforms, staircases and elevators. The platforms would also have sliding glass doors that would open when trains arrive to prevent people from falling onto the tracks. The stations were designed in the late 1960s and BART’s ridership has grown to more than 393,000 average boardings on weekdays.
A rendering of BART's proposed station revisions. Image: BART.

A rendering of BART’s proposed station revisions. Image: BART.

Wendy Greuel attacks Eric Garcetti on Hollywood development (Daily News) 

Interesting story from the L.A. mayoral campaign that sort of involves transit. Greuel says Hollywood now has too much traffic and development, Garcetti says Hollywood’s turnaround is a success story. As reporter Dakota Smith notes, no skyscrapers have actually been built on Garcetti’s watch. She also writes that the dispute involves the city’s new zoning plan for Hollywood that would promote more development near housing. Some residents are suing over the plan, alleging it will allow too much development. Garcetti supports the plan, Greuel hasn’t taken a stance.

The State of the Union Speech (

A few excerpts from President Obama’s speech last night that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.  (Applause.)  Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.  (Applause.)

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.
America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire — a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America — a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina — said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.  And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.  And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district.  I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter.)
So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. (Applause.)  And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most:  modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.  (Applause.)  Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away.  We can get this done.
My three cents: Not much overall on transportation or mass transit but certainly encouraging (in my view) to hear the President say “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” It’s interesting to hear the President talk about more natural gas drilling on public lands to help the U.S. become more energy independent while also talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to stave off climate change. On the surface, those goals do not seem compatible, but the President argues that natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels we would use otherwise.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s speech does not include the words “climate change,” “transportation” or infrastructure, although he did say, “When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he [the President] accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air.”
He did talk about energy:
One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.
If approved, the law would be similar to one adopted in Idaho 30 years ago and would allow cyclists to roll through stop signs in the same way that motorists can proceed at ‘yield’ signs. A survey found that 90 percent of cyclists in Aspen are running stop signs anyway, a study found that Idaho’s law has improved safety and advocates for the law say cyclists will no longer have to slam on the brakes, which can lead to loss of control. They also say that it will lead to better interactions with motorists who are never sure what a cyclist may do at a stop sign.
Good issue. I live in Pasadena, where the safest place to ride are quiet residential streets that also have frequent stop signs and little cross traffic. In fact, the city encourages cyclists to use those streets, seemingly unaware that frequent stop signs are a deterrent for cyclists. So, either get rid of some of the stop signs in some directions or discuss such a law here! Your thoughts?

Transportation headlines, Monday, Dec. 10

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.

Happy property tax day, Source readers!

ART OF TRANSIT: does the sign make it clear enough? Photo by Martin Deutsch, via Flickr creative commons.

The cracks in the nation’s foundation (N.Y. Times) 

This strong editorial pleas with Congress to get off its duff and fix the nation’s ailing infrastructure. Excerpts:

The need for investment in public works, never more urgent, has become a casualty of Washington’s ideological wars. Republicans were once reliable partners in this kind of necessary spending. But since President Obama spent about 12 percent of the 2009 stimulus on transportation, energy and other infrastructure programs, Republicans have made it a policy to demonize these kinds of investments.

When the president asked recently for a modest $50 billion for transportation improvements in the “fiscal cliff” talks, Republicans literally laughed out loud. There will be no stimulus in any deal, said Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the incoming chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. (snip)

The president’s $50 billion proposal for highways, rail, mass transit and aviation, hard as it will be to achieve, is only a slim down payment on the real job. (He proposed the same package last year as part of the American Jobs Act, which Republicans ignored.) Most estimates put the cost of basic repairs at more than $2 trillion, and that does not even include long-range upgrades to the electrical grid, storm protection and mass transit.

Around the country, ridership on transit has grown significantly since the 1990s, but federal investments have fallen far short. The Transportation Department says that if $18 billion were spent every year — 40 percent more than is being spent now — transit systems might get to a state of good repair by 2028. But that does not include spending to improve service or keep up with growth, or to protect systems like New York’s from storm damage. (The city’s subway system needs $4.8 billion just to recover from Hurricane Sandy.)

House transportation chair: build light rail to LAX or else! (KPCC) 

Outgoing House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Florida) says he’ll try to torpedo some L.A. transit projects unless light rail is extended to LAX — sooner rather than later. The project is currently under study and scheduled to be complete in 2028 under Metro’s long-range plan. It would have been accelerated under Measure J, which fell .56 percentage points short at the polls. Of course, getting the project done will require help from Los Angeles World Airports, a city of Los Angeles agency that needs to environmentally clear the project and make a financial contribution.


Program dissects new federal transportation bill


Metro hosted a session this morning titled “Everything You Wanted to Know About the New Federal Surface Transportation Bill.” I'll try to distill the nearly three-hour session to a few nuggets for everyday people not versed in the, uh, fascinating universe of transportation funding. *

•At the top of the session, Metro Board Member Richard Katz said “we can't fix L.A. one project at a time…you'll never catch up.” He said that's one reason that Metro is pursuing the extension of Measure R — to build a network of transit and road projects.

•The expanded TIFIA loan program in the new bill is the largest infrastructure loan program in U.S. history, said David Kim, the Associate Administrator for Policy and Governmental Affairs for the Federal Highway Administration. He ticked off the long list of reforms to the program, which will allow Metro to pursue a loan for multiple projects — and for the loan to cover more of a project's cost (up to 49 percent from 33 percent).

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Monday, July 23

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.

MTA unveils digital art at Bleeker Street station (New York 1)

Check it out — there’s a video (sorry, couldn’t embed here). Interesting.

Seeing the train as a mobile office (The Atlantic Cities)

The article summarizes a new academic study that finds — no surprise here — that commuter and long-distance trains are a good place to get some work done, especially when there’s an Internet connection available. The bigger point this post strives to make is that while travel time is important, the ability to have high-quality time to travel and work simultaneously is something we should invest in.

Newton: Getting L.A. growing again (L.A. Times)

The paper’s editorial editor interviews a number of elected officials and influential people in the private sector and asks them how to give the local economy a jolt. One common answer: invest in infrastructure (namely transportation and rebuilding LAX) to create jobs, increase mobility and maybe take a bite out of some traffic.

Culver City opens its first bike corral (Culver City Bike Coalition)

Gone is a single parking space at Washington and Jean and in its place is enough parking to accommodate 10 bikes. I like these corrals — also saw them recently on Main Street in Santa Monica, where there is often a shortage of places to lock up a bike.