Transportation headlines, Thursday, November 7

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ART OF TRANSIT: The old streetcar depot on the VA campus in West Los Angeles. It was built in 1900 — and looks like it was last painted around that time — and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is a story that ran in the L.A. Times today about a new study alleging that the VA is putting hundreds of historic properties at risk of demolition by failing to maintain them. It’s not really related, but the Purple Line Extension’s station at the VA Hospital will be near the trolley stop, but on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard.

Will Los Angeles ever get a bike share program? (Downtown News)

Metro’s Board of Directors in October voted to begin exploring a countywide bike share program — in effect, ending the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to start a program through BikeNation, a private firm. The Downtown News reports that problem with the city’s effort, and one that could plague the countywide effort, is a contract the city of L.A. has with two outdoor advertising firms that gives them exclusive rights through 2021 to the kind of ads that would presumably be used to help fund a bike share program. Other cities aren’t encumbered with these kind of deals, allowing them to seek exclusive advertisers for their programs — for example, the CitiBikes in Gotham.

What does it take to map an earthquake fault? (KPCC)

A very well-written explanation of how earthquake faults are mapped in California and the efforts underway to better map the Hollywood Fault. The issue in Hollywood involves development: two skyscrapers are proposed for a site that critics say is on top of the fault. The bigger issue is that due to state budget cuts, many fault maps need updating, the reason Metro had to perform its own set of tests to determine the location of the Santa Monica Fault and the West Beverly Hills Lineament when planning the Purple Line Extension.

Purple Line project gets Maryland approval to seek public-private partnership (Washington Post)

The $2.2-billion project would build 21 miles of light rail through the busy D.C. suburbs in Maryland, providing connections to Washington Metro rail lines and commuter rail. The deal would involve getting $900 million in federal funds and then have a private firm or firms provide up to $900 million of the cost in exchange for receiving $100 million to $200 million annually for 30 to 35 years to operate and maintain the line. It will be interesting to see if they can make it work. These deals always sound plausible on paper but often prove difficult to engineer in the real world.

Do bike lanes fuel gentrification? (Utne Reader)

A very interesting article about efforts to install protected bike lanes on Chicago’s South Side and the somewhat mixed reaction by African-American churches in the area who feared loss of parking. But the Utne Reader dives deeper and looks at the views by some that bike lanes — sometimes known as ‘white lanes’ — are the prelude to the kind of gentrification that could change their neighborhoods in profound ways, and not all of them for the better.

A really fascinating and fair piece of journalism. Read it.

Cincinnati streetcar in jeopardy as new mayor threatens to stop it (Next City)

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Photo by David Cole

The mayor-elect of the Queen City doesn’t like Cincy’s effort to build a downtown streetcar. Construction has begun and a half-mile of track may be built by the time he takes office — and the cost of stopping it may be more than building it. One of the often heard complaints about the project (one of many similar projects around the country) is that the money would be better spent on improving bus service in town.

What's happening at other transit agencies?

A Boston Green Line train crosses the Charles River into Cambridge. Photo by flickr user joseph a.

Boston Green Line extension moving ahead, though MBTA deficit looms
Despite an impending $160 million hole in this year’s budget, the Boston-area transit agency MBTA is moving forward with a $1 billlion project to improve and extend its iconic Green Line. That project won’t add to the agency’s debt, an agency spokesperson told the Boston Globe, because the funds are coming from state and federal sources. When finished, the Green Line light rail line will be extended roughly five miles from its current terminus in Cambridge to West Medford. The extention will bring 7 new stations and better service to a corridor that is presently served by an infrequent commuter rail service.

New BART cars spark outrage over cost and outsourcing — but at least BART’s getting more bike lockers!
In previous transit roundups, we’ve highlighted renderings of the sleek new trains that Bay Area Rapid Transit plans to buy to replace its aging fleet of cars, many of which date to the systems opening in the 1970s. But there’s a major downside to replacing old with new in this case. You see, many key features of the BART system were designed to non-standard specifications. Most significantly, decision-makers early on elected to use tracks that have a 5’6″ gauge (the distance between the rails) instead of the 4’8.5″ “standard gauge” used in most of North America and Europe.

Thus, not only will the new BART cars have to be built custom from scratch, but the machines that make them will need to be made from scratch too — which is unsurprisingly expensive. So much so that the Huffington Post reports that bids from prospective manufactures are coming it at four times what New York Metro paid for its latest trains.

Not all the transit news in the Bay Area is a bummer, however. BART announced via its official blog that the agency has installed over 300 new electronic bike lockers at 19 stations, roughly doubled their number system-wide.

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