Transportation headlines, Tuesday, August 5

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 Orange Line crosses the Sepulveda Basin. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: The Orange Line crosses the Sepulveda Basin. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Does hosting the Olympics actually pay off? (New York Times)

Probably not, says writer Binyamin Appelbaum. Host cities end up spending far too much on new stadiums and venues that are often under-used once the torch moves on. The 1984 games in Los Angeles, however, are cited as an example of a lean Olympics effort that turned a profit. It’s a relevant topic, given the interest show by L.A., San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Boston in possibly hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. My prediction: there is a -100 percent chance that D.C. will get the Games based on world politics + humidity.

Is that all they want? Millennials and bike lanes (National Journal) 

Some cities view bike lanes for millennials as an economic development tool as millennials are more likely to live in cities and want alternative means to travel to work. The blogger says “interesting,” but not a substitute for other economic tools that cities should supply businesses.

Porn out, real estate in as Sunset Boulevard is reborn (Bloomberg) 

Looks like more luxury hotels are coming to the venerable Sunset Strip. Traffic concerns by neighbors are only briefly mentioned, perhaps a sign that it’s hard to get too anxious about traffic in a part of town that has seen heavy traffic congestion for 50-plus years.

A sky-high view of the Figueroa-Riverside bridge demolition (Eastsider L.A.)

Cool pics taken with a camera mounted on a quadcopter. These things are great for some really unique vantage points photo-wise. In case you’re thinking how these might capture images of the natural world, perhaps think again — the National Park Service (wisely, IMO) banned the drones earlier this year citing existing federal law.

BLM, local law enforcement tensions near breaking point in the West (L.A. Times) 

As is often the case in local-federal conflicts in the West, one of the disputes involves the right to drive on roads that had previously been closed to protect the environment.

Broadway is reined in by a lower speed limit (New York Times)

The new limit from 59th Street to 220th Street is lowered from 30 mph to 25 mph. As a former resident of Gotham and based on several long ago cab rides, I had no idea that there was any speed limit on Broadway.

Transportation headlines, Friday, May 30

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! 

Have fun this evening and thanks for riding, L.A. Kings fans!

Beverly Hills appeals ruling that lets Metro tunnel under high school (L.A. Times) 

The city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District are appealing a Superior Court ruling earlier this year that upheld the environmental studies for the Purple Line Extension. The city and school district are unhappy that the subway’s route will tunnel under a part of the Beverly Hills High School campus and have also filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration that challenges the federal environmental documents for the project.

Judges in both lawsuits are only deciding whether Metro has to redo the environmental studies (or part of them) for the project. The judges are not deciding the route for the subway. Metro staff recommended and the Metro Board of Directors adopted a route under the high school campus to avoid earthquake fault zones along Santa Monica Boulevard and to reach a station in the heart of Century City that will be easier for more workers and residents to reach.

Readers react: make driver pay for HOV lane access (L.A. Times) 

A trio of letters about the opening last week of the northbound HOV lane on the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways. One calls for making the lane a toll lane, one says authorities need to do a better job of keeping vehicles with single motorists out of the lane and the other calls for monorails spanning the pass to provide transit.

 

In expansion of No. 7 line, one problem: an elevator (New York Times)

The project is expected to open later this year and will extend the 7 Line from Times Square to 11th and 34th on the far western side of Manhattan. The project would have opened last year if not for problems involving a diagonal elevator designed to be more convenient for wheelchair users than a traditional elevator. The article does a nice job of dissecting the decisions and the contracting that have led to delays in the project, which was originally expected to open while Michael Bloomberg was still mayor.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, December 10

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: A nice wintery scene, courtesy of Amtrak’s Instagram feed.

Rail to River: a Vision (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas website)

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is proposing to take 8.3 miles of the old Harbor Subdivision railroad right-of-way and turn it into a greenway and park connecting South Los Angeles to the Los Angeles River. Metro is currently studying what might be done with the right-of-way, which runs from 26 miles from south of downtown Los Angeles to Wilmington near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles; a few miles of the right-of-the-way is being used for the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

The greenway idea is certainly interesting — although, of course, a major challenge that would involve securing funding and real estate. Check out the video about the proposal on Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ website that shows some other rail corridors converted to parks, most notably the High Line elevated tracks in lower Manhattan.

CurbedLA has also posted about the proposal. The comments are interesting, with several readers saying that transit may be the best use of the Harbor Subdivision.

Report: 21st Century transportation (U.S. Public Interest Research Group)

The new study offers a more detailed look at the decline in vehicle miles driven in the U.S. in recent years. These bullet points offer a good quick summary:

Transportation trends are changing in America’s biggest urbanized areas.

  • The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle – either alone or in a carpool – declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.[i]

  • The proportion of residents working from home has increased in 100 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas since 2000.

  • The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.

  • The proportion of households with two cars or more decreased in 86 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011.

There is additional evidence of declining driving in those urbanized areas with standardized data on vehicle-miles traveled.

  • The average number of vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita declined in 54 out of the 74large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2006 and 2011.[ii]

  • New Orleans has seen the largest drop in per-capita VMT – 22 percent – since 2006, possibly a result of Hurricane Katrina. The urbanized areas containing two Wisconsin cities, Milwaukee and Madison, saw the second and third biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 21 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Two Pennsylvania urbanized areas, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, saw the fourth and fifth biggest drops in per-capita VMT – 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Based on the data, U.S. PIRG has a number of recommendations including — and not surprisingly — more investments in transit and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.

Cincinnati streetcar supporters announce ballot initiative to continue project (WCPO)

The plot continues to thicken in the Queen City, where the new mayor and several new council members last week voted to suspend a downtown streetcar project that was under construction. In turn, the Federal Transit Administration has given Cincinnati officials until Dec. 19 to decide to continue the project or forfeit a $44.9-million federal grant to help build the line.

Five project supporters now say they aim to collect the thousands of signatures needed to call an election within the next 60 to 120 days that would ask voters to approve the project — thereby possibly over-riding a threatened mayoral veto of the streetcar. It remains unclear if such an election could salvage the federal grant if it is lost.

As I wrote last week, this is a pretty crazy story — and not just because it’s unfolding in my hometown. The story basically concerns one set of elected officials trying to undo the work of previous officials who began the streetcar project. The story is relevant because transportation infrastructure takes many years to plan and build, meaning projects almost always span multiple sets of elected officials and even voters.

In other words, are we going to make decisions via elections and then stick with them? Or continually vote for something, then vote against it, then vote back for it and so on — resulting in nothing ever getting done? Stay tuned, people.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 28

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.

Out for a spin: New York City’s bike sharing program begins (New York Times)

A bike sharing station on (I think) Eighth Avenue in Manhattan in my old 'hood. Photo by ccho, via Flickr creative commons.

A bike sharing station on (I think) Eighth Avenue in Manhattan in my old ‘hood. Photo by ccho, via Flickr creative commons.

Monday was Day One after a lot of talk, arguing and delays getting the program on two wheels. Take it away, NYT:

By midafternoon, the passing flickers of blue were already ubiquitous — negotiating light taxi traffic in the West Village, hurtling through the protected lanes of Midtown, drifting toward the Brooklyn waterfront.

For the first time, under cooperatively clear skies, New Yorkers sat astride the city’s first new wide-scale public transportation in more than 75 years: a fleet of 6,000 bicycles, part of a system known as Citi Bike, scattered across more than 300 stations in Manhattan below 59th Street and parts of Brooklyn.

Here’s an article that the Times ran the day before the program launched, speculating on whether the gamble by Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be worth it. Of course, bike sharing is coming to Los Angeles with one of the stations at Union Station. What’cha think, Source readers? Will it work here? Will it work in New York?

In L.A., polishing up the pedways (L.A. Times) 

This editorial calls for cleaning up the elevated pedways in downtown L.A. that were built with the intention of keeping pedestrians off city streets where they may annoy/mix/get-in-the-way of auto traffic. Graffiti has become a problem on the pedways and security cameras may be one way to help solve the problem.

Lines in the sand (New Yorker) 

Climate change specialist Elizabeth Kolbert comments on President Obama’s upcoming decision whether to allow the Keystone Pipeline to be built to carry oil from Canada’s tar sands fields to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an enormously controversial issue, pitting those who believe that oil is a better source for oil for the U.S. against those who believe the pipeline would only further our dependence on the fossil fuels that are also fueling climate change.

Kolbert and the New Yorker come out against; Mauna Loa is where the readings were taken showing that carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere have reached levels that are believed to be a high for the past three million years. Excerpt:

Were we to burn through all known fossil-fuel reserves, the results would be unimaginably bleak: major cities would be flooded out, a large portion of the world’s arable land would be transformed into deserts, and the oceans would be turned into liquid dead zones. If we take the future at all seriously, which is to say as a time period that someone is going to have to live in, then we need to leave a big percentage of the planet’s coal and oil and natural gas in the ground. These basic facts have been established for decades, and every President since George Bush senior has vowed to do something to avert catastrophe. The numbers from Mauna Loa show that they have failed.

In rejecting Keystone, President Obama would not solve the underlying problem, which, as pipeline proponents correctly point out, is consumption. Nor would he halt exploitation of the tar sands. But he would put a brake on the process. After all, if getting tar-sands oil to China were easy, the Canadians wouldn’t be applying so much pressure on the White House. Once Keystone is built, there will be no putting the tar back in the sands. The pipeline isn’t inevitable, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just another step on the march to disaster.

I include these articles in our headlines because while they may not be directly related to transit, there is a growing body of work that shows that taking transit is often an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. To the best of my knowledge, there are no transit agencies that really promote this — at least directly. If I was the king, they would.

 

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, April 3

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.

L.A. 2050 — some of the best ideas for the city’s livability (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The GOOD and the Goldhirsh Foundation are awarding 10 grants of $100,000 apiece to people, organizations and nonprofits that have an idea to make Los Angeles a better place. And there are a lot of ideas out there — 279 applications were received. Damien Newton looks briefly at some of his favorite suggestions. The two that caught my eye were creating bike-friendly business districts and a plan to install electronic signs that count how many cyclists are using particular streets/bike lanes.

As for the bike district idea, I think it’s great. I live in Pasadena where existing bike routes are pretty lame and completely break down when you get to either Old Town or the South Lake business districts. I see a lot of cyclists riding on sidewalks on Lake because the sharrows (a good way for making it look like you’re doing something when you’re doing nothing) are roundly ignored by motorists and it’s not a pleasant street to ride on.

I also love the bike counter idea, but good luck: I’m not sure any city wants to publicly advertise the effectiveness of its bike lanes. Don’t get me wrong. I love bike lanes — but they have to be done right to succeed. And by ‘done right’ I mean they need to offer some type of separation from car traffic and they need to be plugged into a bigger network instead of just ending and dumping the cyclist into vehicular traffic. (See: Cordova Avenue, Pasadena, California).

Quick question to no one in particular: where the heck is the media on this? If the region was building miles of new roads or transit lines, the media would likely be doing stories. Yet there are miles upon miles of bike lanes being installed across our region with little media scrutiny of their design and ability to serve those they intend to help — cyclists!

Okay, got that out of my system….

Cincy proposes eliminating parking requirements to save buildings and neighborhoods (Cincinnati Post) 

My hometown is as car-centric as most places in the Midwest. Yet there’s a proposal now in some parts of town get rid of parking requirements that mandate how many parking spaces each residential building must have. The problem is that many buildings in downtown’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood were constructed in the later half of the 1800s and have no parking spaces. That means that some building owners either have to find parking for tenants, demolish the building or let it languish because redevelopment is too expensive. I’m guessing many residents of old buildings will want cars anyway — there’s certainly no shortage of downtown garages or parking lots where they can store them, just like car owners do in other large cities.

The great Red Car conspiracy of Los Angeles — is it real? (KPCC/99% Invisible)

This podcast takes a look at the alleged conspiracy that car interests dismantled the old streetcar lines in order to force people into cars. Sorry, but the reporters here don’t buy it, nor do I. What happened? A lot of things. Low fares kept streetcars unprofitable and poorly maintained, streetcars were slow and unable to serve the sprawl they helped create and many people enjoyed the newfound freedom of having a car.

A streetcar on Brand Boulevard in Glendale in the mid 1950s. Photo by Alan Weeks via Metro Transportation Library and Archive's Flickr collection.

A streetcar on Brand Boulevard in Glendale in the mid 1950s. Photo by Alan Weeks via Metro Transportation Library and Archive’s Flickr collection.

Crosswalks in New York are not havens, study finds (New York Times) 

The new study looks at injuries suffered by pedestrians and cyclists brought to Bellevue Hospital Center. The major findings: of those pedestrians struck by cars, most were in the crosswalk and had the crossing signal in their favor and cyclists tend to be disproportionately injured by taxis. The study also found that many of those injured were using electronic devices. Overall traffic-related deaths in New York have plummeted in recent years and officials hope that the new data may help with future safety initiatives.

New York City’s transportation boss offers a few lessons on making the big changes actually happen

Janette Sadik-Khan at last night's event. Photo by Juan Matute/UCLA.

Janette Sadik-Khan at last night’s event talking about closing parts of Times Square to traffic in favor of pedestrian plazas. Photo by Juan Matute/UCLA.

I had the good fortune of attending a forum last night with Janette Sadik-Khan, the innovative Transportation Commissioner for New York City. She was the featured speaker at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs Complete Streets Initiative, an effort to make local streets more user-friendly for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists.

New York has taken a number of bold steps since Sadik-Khan began working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007: building new public plazas in places that were once streets (including parts of Times Square), creating new bus rapid transit lines with the New York MTA, adding 300 miles of bike lanes and implementing traffic calming measures to reduce fatalities and injuries caused by motor vehicles in New York City’s five boroughs. The New York MTA is also building a new subway line and extending another.

In other words, New York City made a lot of significant changes quickly, not letting distractors or controversy get in the way even when things didn’t break their way (such as a plan to implement congestion pricing in Manhattan). I think most of what she discussed is highly relevant here, given that some big changes are underway in L.A. County courtesy of Metro’s Measure R program along with many other local initiatives and projects that are either being discussed, studied or implemented across the county.

I few things I heard that I really liked:

•”Just remember the headlines don’t always translate into the opinions of actual people,” said Sadik-Khan. Couldn’t agree more. It’s difficult in some media reports to gauge the degree of opposition or support for a particular projects and many media outlets either don’t offer the context or disclosed they rely on the same people for years for quotes.

•”Safety and sustainability go hand in hand,” she said. “You won’t get more people walking or biking if they don’t feel safe.” Several cities in L.A. County are quickly putting in new bikes but I haven’t seen a lot of data about which are being used and which are not — and why not. For example, there are new bike lanes directly next to three lanes of freeway-like traffic on Huntington Boulevard in El Sereno. It’s great to have the lanes, but I have seen very few people actually using them and non-productive lanes could harm the overall program. 

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Transportation headlines, Friday, Oct. 26

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.

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A Pasadena-bound Gold Line train crosses the Arroyo Seco earlier this week. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

This date in history: Metrolink begins! (Primary Resources)

On Metrolink’s 20th anniversary, an excellent post explaining how commuter rail returned to Los Angeles County after a long absence. It started with the purchase of track and the rights to use Union Station from the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, respectively. Check out the 10-minute video from 1992 included in the post.

Metro, AEG agree to expand Pico Station for Farmer’s Field (Daily News)

Good to see one daily newspaper in town will still attend Metro Board meetings! The article looks at the Metro Board’s approval yesterday of a funding agreement with AEG to add capacity to the Blue and Expo line’s Pico Station that is a short walk from the proposed site of the Farmers Field football stadium. Under the deal, AEG will pay for a second platform on the southbound tracks, the makeover of the existing platform and staff Metro needs to help with crowds at Pico Station and other downtown Metro stations.

South Pasadena Council resolves to support Measure J (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Despite protests from those opposed to a possible tunnel to close the 710 gap, South Pasadena joins councils in Glendale and La Canada-Flintridge in supporting the extension of the Measure R half-cent sales tax. The mayor of South Pasadena said he hopes J money will be steered to more transit projects.

Transit initiatives are giving a boost to businesses, report says (New York Times)

The study by New York City’s transportation department finds that its efforts to add pedestrian plazas, bike lanes and bus lanes has given a pronounced bump at nearby businesses. Critics of the city’s policies have complained that such initiatives make traffic worse and get in the way of access to local firms, but the city says it has data while such gripes are based only on anecdotal evidence.

And I belatedly catch up with this cool video about a cardboard bike that could be used to enhance mobility in places where bikes and money are in short supply.

Izhar cardboard bike project from Giora Kariv on Vimeo.