Transportation headlines, Wednesday, December 11

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EatonCanyonDec7-6519-3

 

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 I think so — this section of the freeway is old and outdated.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 (WhiteHouse.gov)

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.)

[snip]
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.
[snip]
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).

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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.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 12

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 orRSS feed.

Internet sales tax could help solve transportation issues (Boston Globe)

Here’s a well thought out opinion piece from the Boston Globe suggesting that Massachusetts urge Congress to approve national legislation enabling internet sales tax collection and then earmark the revenue for infrastructure spending … including transportation. It’s a great idea and California should consider joining in since, like Massachusetts, we have an internet tax that applies only to online sellers with a connection to our state. As the piece says, “this creates a tax advantage for online and other out-of-state vendors and penalizes local businesses, especially retailers, who not only face price competition from online giants, but also have to charge their customers sales taxes.”

L.A. light-rail junction poses risk (Los Angeles Times)

Today’s L.A Times says, incorrectly and without substantiation, that ongoing work on the junction where the Blue and Expo lines meet is presenting a risk of train derailment. Metro is assuring riders that this is not the case, that there is no derailment issue and that trains are traveling at less than 10 mph through the juncture to ensure that travel is safe.  Metro is concerned about long-term maintenance issues, specifically excessive wear on its vehicles through the sharp curve. The track section in question has been modified to combat wear. Metro and the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees certain rail operations in the state, are closely monitoring the track and also checking rail cars for excessive wear. Neither Metro nor the CPUC would allow trains to operate in an unsafe manner.

New operator takes over Van Nuys FlyAway (San Fernando Valley Business Journal)

A new operator is running the FlyAway shuttle between Van Nuys and LAX. Bauer Transportation Inc. began service July 11 between Van Nuys and LAX. Bauer will operate 117 trips per day and provide an additional 30 trips during holidays and other peak travel times. Why should travelers care? Bauer says it plans to introduce new buses that run on a biodiesel fuel mix and have amenities such as free Wi-Fi, cable TV, power outlets and leatherette seating. No date for the new buses has been set.

Transportation headlines, Monday, June 18

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.

Google maps versus Apple maps (Gizmodo)

A side-by-side comparison of Google maps as seen presently on iPhones versus a beta version of Apple maps that will take Google’s place on iPhones. And the winner? Apple maps tend to look cleaner but Gizmodo finds that in most cases they lack all the fine grain information that makes Google maps useful — and Gizmodo says that transit directions are an absolute must before Apple launches. Users will still be able to get at Google maps on their iPhones, but they’ll have to go through their browsers first.

Failing U.S. transportation infrastructure: a graphic (Time)

Nice graphic on the state of the country’s infrastructure. The best item: 66 percent of American voters say they want improved infrastructure but the majority oppose a variety of ways to pay for it — higher gas taxes, tolls or a mileage tax. Hmm.

Separated bike lanes on Figueroa? Maybe (L.A. Streetsblog)

The project to make Figueroa Street more multi-modal between 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is still underway and it appears that a separated bike lane buffered from traffic is still a possibility on parts of the three-mile route. That would be awesomeness.

Zipcar comes to downtown L.A. (Brigham Yen)

The car-sharing firm has put three cars in downtown in the PacMutual building at 6th & Grand. That’s handy for downtown residents who don’t have a car or visitors to L.A. who don’t want to rent a car for their entire time trip here.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 2

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.

Bike riders with, and without, helmets at the April 2012 CicLAvia. Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro.

Hard-headed: 4 out of 5 bike share riders don’t wear helmets (GOOD)

Maybe it is the fear of helmet hair? With urban bike share programs popping up in cities across the country (L.A. is launching it own bike share program soon), civic leaders are struggling to find ways to encourage helmet usage. Problem is, bike share users are far less likely than regular riders to be carrying a helmet when they need one. Boston’s solution is to install sidewalk helmet kiosks selling inexpensive helmets at bike docks. Another obstacle to wider usage is mixed findings from the research on the effectiveness of helmet use. With more bikes on the road, watch for more public awareness campaigns aimed at increasing helmet use.

Businesses along new Expo Line hoping to cash in (KPCC)

With Phase One of the Expo Line up and running, local businesses along the new line are hoping to attract new customers. KPCC speaks with business owner Cary Earle of Earlez Grille who says, “We need that. It’s going to be good for the community. It’s going to bring a lot of jobs… [and] it’s going to bring a lot of people to the community that don’t necessarily come to this community.” The report also cites a transportation and urban planning professor from USC who feels the next decade could be a threshold changing decade for public transit in Los Angeles.

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Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 31

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

Historical and Recreational Map of Los Angeles - Jo Mora, 1942 (Photo Credit: Los Angeles Public Library)

As the City Grew: Historical Maps of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Public Library) 

Get yourself over to the Central Library for As the City Grew: Historical Maps of Los Angeles. The exhibit, which traces the growth of Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city, features 34 historical maps from the Library’s 100-year-old map collection. The maps are on display through November 4 at the Central Library, First Floor Galleries, 630 W. Fifth Street in downtown.

House Republicans to unveil transportation bill (Washington Post)

The House Republican plan to fund the country’s transportation system will be introduced today. The bill which would shift more decision-making authority to state governments and would also reduce the time allotted for environmental scrutiny of projects and encourage the private construction of toll roads. Totaling about $260 billion over a five-year span, the House proposal would continue to fund transportation programs at close to current levels.

One Metro, Three Vastly Different Approaches to Public Transit (The Atlantic Cities)

Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington; three Texas cities with a combined population approaching 6.4 million and three different approaches to public transit. The nation’s ninth largest city, Dallas operates the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART), funded through a one percent sales tax in the 13 member cities across four counties. Thanks to the voter-approved tax referendum, DART has created the country’s largest light rail network. Fort Worth funds its single county transit program through a referendum-based half-cent sales tax while Arlington, the country’s 50th largest city, “has the honor of being the largest city in America to not support transit service.” To read the full story, go to The Atlantic Cities.

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