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. 

Continue reading

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.

DSC_0219

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.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Dec. 7

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 blog.

The future of transit: it’s frequency (Halifax Magazine)

Reporter Tom Mason looks at transit around Halifax, a city that has sprawled into suburbs in recent times. Relying heavily on an interview with transit planner and writer Jarrett Walker, the article concludes that simplifying the bus system and concentrating on frequent service on fewer lines would probably make transit a more reliable option for many more people. Good article.

Gingrich on climate — the 2007 version (New York Times Dot Earth blog)

Former House speaker and Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has a long record of talking about climate change — and many criticize his shifting positions from supporting a bill to clamp down on greenhouse gases (1989) to saying he’s not sure global warming is occurring (2011). The Dot Earth blog has a video interview from 2007 in which Gingrich talks about global warming and the environment in a nuanced way, something missing from presidential campaigns these days.

LaHood defends high-speed rail program (D.C. Streetsblog)

Interesting back-and-forth between U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and fellow Republicans on the House’s Transportation Committee. The gist of it is that LaHood says that many states want high-speed rail while House Republicans say it’s not really all that high-speed, it’s too expensive and should be confined to the Northeast Corridor of the U.S., where there is demand. I would call the pseudo-debate a draw.

Untangling New York City traffic (MSNBC)

A good and short video segment on Janette Sadik-Khan, the well-known transportation chief in New York City who hasn’t been shy about giving preference to pedestrians and cyclists in parts of the Big Apple. And not without some controversy. Of course, to watch the video I first had to sit through a 15-second ad for Chevrolet.

Fred's transit notes from New York City

Brooklyn Bridge - City Hall NYC subway station.

If you read my previous post, you know I’m now living in New York City and no longer a regular contributor to The Source.

I will chime in from time to time with a guest post though, and my first such post is simply a collection of observations of New York City transit in comparison to Los Angeles from the perspective of a new resident. You can read Carter’s review of the NYC transit system from the perspective of a tourist here.

  • Buses. For the most part, the buses I’ve ridden have incredible frequency during the weekday. I’m talking service every three minutes. Off peak or during the weekends I’ve definitely found myself waiting a while. Bus service is also not immune to special events. A few weeks ago the New York Marathon put bus service in disarray and there was no good information posted at bus stops. I ended up giving up on my planned bus outing since the bus I was waiting for never showed up.
  • Nextrip? Not so much. NYC MTA is currently testing real time bus arrivals for three lines, two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. Aside from the fact that so few lines offer real time information, the information that is provided is not so great. Bus stops do have QR codes, but they lead to a web pages that list every stop unlike Metro’s system which leads to a page specifically for the stop that was scanned. Also, the real time information provided is not given in terms of how many minutes away a bus is but instead how many stops away a bus is. I much prefer Metro’s method. Note: I’ve only tested the real time system on the Brooklyn B63 bus line.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Sept. 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 blog.

Bicyclists may be inhaling twice as much soot as pedestrians (L.A. Times)

Cycling is a healthy activity, but it’s not without its risks. Most know about the potential to get in a deadly crash (wear a helmet!) but the L.A. Times reports on a less obvious danger: inhaling lung blackening soot. A recent European study shows that cyclists inhale 2.3 times more soot than pedestrians, a fact that just slight offsets some of the health benefits of cycling. Ironically, it seems the major health risks involved with cycling both stem from the cars that cyclists share the road with.

Human Transit (the book): Introduction (Human Transit)

One of our favorite transit bloggers, Jarrett Walker, has written a book that delves in to the ideas he explores on his blog. The book, entitled Human Transit: How clearer thinking about public transit can enrich our communities and our lives will be released later this year. In the meantime, Jarrett has offered up the full introduction from his book for all the read – and it’s a great read. Here’s a snippet:

…this book aims to give you a grasp of how transit works as an urban mobility tool and how it fits into the larger challenge of urban transportation. This is not a course designed to make you a qualified transit planner, though some professionals will benefit from it. My goal is simply to give you the confidence to form and advocate clear opinions about what kind of transit you want and how that can help create the kind of city you want.

New York gets mobile phone coverage underground (BBC)

A new pilot program in New York City is bringing cellular coverage to subway stations. But as BBC reports, the advent of this technology is a double edged sword for many transit rides. On the one hand, you can finally use your cell phone underground! On the other hand, it means one of the few remaining places where one can “disconnect” is disappearing. Plus, is there anything more annoying than hearing someone else talk on the phone?

Transportation headlines, Friday, August 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 blog.

Drivers, want more space on the roads? Push for bike lanes (The Globe and Mail)

It seems counter intuitive: give up a precious road lane for bikes, transit or pedestrians and driving gets easier? Conventional car-centered transportation planning says that more lanes for cars means less traffic and congestion – but history tells us this is a fallacy. Toronto’s Globe and Mail proposes that they key to easing congestion for those who have no choice to drive is to offer alternatives to those who do – even if it means taking some space away from cars. The logic? Cars require the most space per person, while alternatives can move a lot more people in a lot less space.

Should a ‘Walker’s Paradise’ Save Plenty of Room for Parking? (The New York Times)

This story focuses on Denver, but it hits close to home as L.A. continues to build more transit oriented development (TOD). In Denver, the city is making efforts to become more walkable, bikeable and transit oriented – in other words, more urban – but its TOD’s feature an inordinate amount of parking for such a mission. One 41-story condo in the middle of downtown Denver actually devotes its first eight floors solely to parking. The article explores this disconnect.

Before Hurricane Irene hits, New York planning to shut down transportation system (NY Daily News)

Earlier this week New Yorkers felt the effects of an earthquake and now they face the possibility of being struck by a hurricane. New York City officials are preparing for Hurricane Irene’s impact and planning on a complete shutdown of the city’s expansive transit system. It will take no less than 8 hours to shut down the system and move transit equipment away from flooding areas. To our friends on the east coast: stay safe!


Video: multimodal chaos in NYC

Roads that are safe for all modes of transport – automobiles, bikes and pedestrians – can prove to be a real challenge. While it’s common to blame whatever mode you’re not using for transgressions in safety, the above video proves that all mode users are guilty of breaking the rules in attempt to save a little time.

Aside from its clever use of graphics, this video serves as a reminder of how we each need to take responsibility for our safety on the streets, and that the rules are there to be followed. Is it really worth endangering your life and the lives of others just to shave a few seconds from your commute?