Transportation headlines, Wednesday, June 5

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.

Metro Library: Changes are coming to our Transportation Headlines — same great content in a new improved format (Primary Resources) 

20130529_paperli

The Metro Transportation Library is preparing to move the daily transortation headlines from Blogger to Paper.li. Please see the post to learn more about the new format and receiving it through RSS / Feedburner or email.

Senseless (Bicycling)

The concussion rate from bike accidents in recent years has grown faster than the sport of cycling. Why? This long and excellent magazine article by Bruce Barcott seeks the answer and comes up with some interesting conclusions. Most troubling, to me, is that federal government standards for bike helmets have not changed since 1999 despite considerable research into brain injury prevention since then. Nonetheless, some companies are making progress at creating helmets that can both prevent catastrophic injury and more routine concussions. If you’re interested in cycling, please read.

LaHood: expect big announcement from Obama on transportation funding (Governing) 

The outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation hints that perhaps the President may have an idea to replace the federal gas tax which funds many projects but has been struggling to keep pace with demand (the tax hasn’t been raised in 20 years and is also taking a hit because cars are more fuel efficient these days). Replace the gas tax with what? Governing speculates that maybe it’s a tax based on how many miles people drive, a solution backed by many transportation experts.

Assembly wants part-time carpool lanes in Southern California (L.A. Times)

A bill that would allow single occupant vehicles to use carpool lanes on parts of the 134 and 210 freeways during non-rush hours sailed through the Assembly last Thursday. Yes, I know that was almost a week ago — but overlooked this one last week and it’s certainly newsworthy. Seems like the next big regional conversation we’ll be having in future years is over management of the HOV lanes. Should they be carpool lanes all the time? Some of the time? Or congestion pricing lanes sometimes or all times?

 

Transportation headlines: Monday, April 29

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.

Transportation’s addiction to petroleum products isn’t going away, so says the above video by the group Face the Facts USA.

Obama to nominate Charlotte mayor to transportation post (New York Times) 

The President has tapped Charlotte Mayor Anthony R. Foxx to replace Ray LaHood as the next U.S. Transportation Secretary. The nomination comes after months of media gossip and uninformed speculation that was — shocker!! — basically 100 percent wrong. Foxx, 42, does not have a particular background in transportation but as mayor for nearly four years supported an extension of the Blue Line light rail project and a plan to bring streetcars back to Charlotte.

The next mayor of Los Angeles’ to-do list (The Planning Report) 

After reading this long list of suggestions from civic leaders/activists, my first suggestion for the next mayor: find some civic leaders/activists who can better articulate/write their vision for improving the City of Angels & Parking Lots. In short, here’s my suggestion: build stuff. Lots of stuff. Homes, parks, transportation projects, bike lanes, sidewalks — all the stuff that makes you wince with envy when visiting other cities. A lot of L.A. looks old and tired and needs a boost; those who fear traffic impacts may want to consider living in a region with millions less people, cars, jobs, businesses and other places to go.

Los Angeles State Historic Park to close for a year (Downtown News)

The park at the Cornfields may close next January in order to finally be built as originally envisioned — more landscaping, a pavilion, etc. If so, passengers on the Gold Line will have a front row seat to watch construction.

Subway car configurations: a matter of taste? (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker thinks agencies are asking the wrong question when they simply ask riders which seat layout they prefer. The more significant question, he says, is this: how much capacity do riders prefer on their trains? The issue, of course, is that fewer seats means more capacity.

 

 

Transportation headlines, Wed., March 6: mayoral election thoughts, subway map for pedestrians, LaHood wants new bikeway standards

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.

Garcetti and Greuel head to runoff (L.A. Times) 

As some polls had predicted, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel qualified for the runoff election in May for the job of mayor of Los Angeles — and automatic seat plus three appointments to the Metro Board of Directors. This interactive map from the Times breaks down the geography of the voting totals.

It’s pretty obvious from the map that the San Fernando Valley will be competitive. So will South Los Angeles, which mostly voted for Councilwoman Jan Perry. Traffic and transit remain big issues in both the Valley and South L.A. and there are several big projects planned for both areas — the Sepulveda Pass project in the Valley and the Crenshaw/LAX Line in South L.A. So it will be interesting to see if transportation gets a bigger role in the 10-week runoff.

Turnout was a miserable 16 percent. I blame the increasingly long presidential election cycles and the saturation media coverage they generate in the preceding year; it’s little wonder that the average person has little interest in hearing more campaign-speak by the time the city elections roll around the following winter and spring. The city of Los Angeles could move its elections to November, but I have 100 percent confidence they won’t. Why fix a long-standing problem, eh? Over at LAObserved, Mark Lacter blames candidates for not embracing an issue most people care about — traffic.

Unrelated: in the spirit of constructive criticism, may I suggest the Daily News hire a web designer?

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 9.07.51 AM

Sources: AEG’s downtown football stadium a no-go for the NFL (Yahoo Sports) 

This headline is from yesterday. The most interesting part is found in the bottom of the story — with one bidder for AEG proposing to put a baseball stadium instead next to L.A. Live. I’ve long said bringing baseball into downtown proper would be a good move for the city. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon, especially now that the Dodgers have (to their credit) pumped a lot of money into rehabbing the current ballpark.

A subway map for pedestrians (The Atlantic Cities) 

largest

Cool map from the Spanish city of Pontevedra. It looks like a subway map but is actually a map showing walking distances. I could see that being useful for some of our region’s transit hubs.

LaHood announces safety summits to shape new bikeway standards (L.A. Streetsblog) 

With cyclist deaths rising in 2011, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants experts to come up with designs that make for safer bike lanes and other bike corridors. Good move. Just because it’s a bike lane, doesn’t mean it’s safe and too many cities — I’m talking to you, Pasadena — have thrown up ‘bike route’ signs on busy streets over the years without doing one single thing otherwise to help cyclists.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Feb. 27

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 full moon hovers over the Gold Line's Lake Avenue Station in the middle of the 210 freeway in Pasadena. No, I didn't add the moon in Photoshop -- it was there and it was orange-ish. Click above to see larger. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A full moon hovers over the Gold Line’s Lake Avenue Station in the middle of the 210 freeway in Pasadena. No, I didn’t add the moon in Photoshop — it was there and it was orange-ish. I’ll try to get a shot next month of the moon closer to the horizon; my timing was off last night. Click above to see larger. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Check out the progress on the 405 project at Wilshire (LA Observed) 

Nice gallery of photos of work on the Wilshire flyover ramps that should make it easier and safer to exit and enter the 405 at Wilshire. The ramps will also hopefully ease some of the congestion at the Wilshire underpass of the 405. Carmageddon I and II — the freeway closures to demolish the Mulholland Bridge — got a lot of the media attention, but I suspect that the Wilshire ramps will be the improvement that most Westside motorists appreciate about the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project.

ExpressLanes in Southern California promise relief and opportunities for commuters and businesses (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s blog has an entry on the opening of the ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway over this past weekend. Excerpt:

The Obama Administration believes that the key is to give people choices–better transit options, more buses and bus stops, incentives for carpooling and van pooling.

In this case, the HOT lanes that FHWA supported offer a choice of free or tolled lanes to motorists. As more drivers choose the option of avoiding congestion by choosing a tolled lane, it actually reduces congestion on the free lanes at the same time.

We think it’s a very interesting solution, and across the country state departments of transportation seem to agree as the move to add HOT lanes continues.

Cars and robust cities are fundamentally incompatible (The Atlantic Cities)

Good post from earlier this month on studies that show as the number of people who drive to a downtown area increases, the number of people actually working in downtown decreases. The problem: too many parking lots taking up space that could otherwise be used for offices and buildings that contribute to the critical mass that downtown areas thrive upon. This article, me thinks, applies directly to downtown Los Angeles — which has far more parking than is actually needed.

 

Transportation headlines, Monday, Feb. 4

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 Metro Rapid bus on Broadway passes by Grand Park and Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: A Metro Rapid bus on Broadway passes by Grand Park and Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Fixes on tap for TAP at Metro (ZevWeb) 

A very good summary of work underway on TAP by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky who is, of course, also a member of the Metro Board of Directors that makes the final call on issues related to TAP. Among the news, some of which we’ve reported here in drips and drabs:

•In the last 11 months of 2012, more than 65,000 tickets were issued for fare evasion on the Metro system. That, of course, doesn’t mean that there were only 65K cases of fare evasion — those just represent the people caught and cited.

•Gate latching on the Red/Purple Line will begin this summer and eventually spread to the Green Line and parts of the Blue and Gold lines.

•Metro is working on revising the on-screen instructions at ticket machines for those buying and loading fares on TAP cards. Validators will also be moved to more convenient locations.

•Paper TAP cards with electronic chips embedded in them are being tested for Metrolink passengers so they will have a way to get through the latched gates.

Will a smooth Blue Line ride finally come to Long Beach? (L.A. Streetsblog)

After all these many years, the city of Long Beach still hasn’t given signal priority to the Blue Line. Why? It’s costly and it requires a tech upgrade are two of the big issues. The Long Beach City Council recently voted to ask Metro for funding and that could be a start. But let’s be honest here: signal priority is a rarity for mass transit in the region and the city of Los Angeles — as riders of the Expo Line, Eastside Gold Line and Orange Line likely know.

Villaraigosa says he’ll stay for the rest of his term (LA Observed) 

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Member Antonio Villaraigosa released a statement late Friday saying he plans to stay on the job until his second term ends on June 30. There had been a lot of buzz and rumors in the media about him being nominated to replace the retiring Ray LaHood as the next U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Whether he was offered the job or not is anybody’s guess — the media hasn’t verified it one way or the other.

AEG giving seed money to Pershing Square effort (Los Angeles Downtown News) 

Very short story but AEG is providing $700,000 for an effort to re-imagine the downtown park. There’s no money yet to actually revamp the park. If so, my big idea: open it up to the surrounding streets instead of walling it off. It would also help if the parking lot on the north side of the park is finally developed, as has been proposed.

Here’s the thing: there’s already significant public spaces at the first three Red/Purple Line stations: Olvera Street and the L.A. Plaza Park across from Union Station, Grand Park at the Civic Center Station and Pershing Square at Pershing Square. But Union Station doesn’t feel very connected to the L.A. Plaza Park, nor does the subway station at 5th and Hill feel very park adjacent, thanks to the steps across the street leading up to the park.

CO2 emissions down in 2010 in California, continuing a trend (U.S. Energy Information Administration) 

New data just released shows that carbon dioxide emissions in California dropped again in 2010 — both overall and in the transportation sector. CO2 is a heat trapping gas that is primarily responsible for climate change — i.e. global warming. That’s good, but the Golden State still belches more CO2 into the air as a result of transportation than any other state.

Texas, however, is the overall CO2 emitter, thanks to being an amazing energy hog (see bottom chart). I’m guessing a more temperate climate near the California coasts help keep our usage down. In the entire United States, transportation is responsible for 33.3 percent of CO2 emissions behind the leading cause, electric power generation at 39.8 percent.

It’s really a shame that it takes more than two years to collect and process the data from the states. Some type of real-time — or close to that — data might provide a greater incentive for the public to try to reduce its footprint.

As we’ve mentioned before, a great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to take transit instead of driving alone, particularly in vehicles that aren’t very fuel efficient. The top document shows California’s yearly numbers and the bottom one is a state-by-state comparison of the 2010 numbers. Click on the red type to see larger.

Transportation headlines, Thursday, 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.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I've become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

ART OF TRANSIT: Well, I’ve become what I once beheld, succumbing to the temptation to take photos of escalators in transit stations. This is the Red/Purple Lines’ Civic Center Station with the nearly completed canopy seen above. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

My apologies for the somewhat sporadic posting in the past few weeks — personal stuff.

FTA to streamline environmental review process (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that for the first time in a quarter century, the Federal Transit Administration is taking steps to speed its review of transportation projects to ensure they comply with federal law. For example, projects in existing transportation corridors will no longer require the same high level of review as projects breaking new ground.

This is welcome news. I hope it works. I’ve certainly chirped in the past about the need to cut red tape and get studies done quicker — proposing to build a busway or light rail line along an existing street should not require five years of study to determine impacts are slight or beneficial. One reason studies take so long is that the FTA, by law, must constantly review them.

Exploring the course of the future Metro Expo Line (KCET) 

Eric Brightwell has a nice write-up with plenty of photos of the stations and surrounding environs of the six-mile second phase that will extend the train from Culver City to Santa Monica. Tip of the cap to Eric for including one of my fave Mexican food joints in the area, Gilbert’s El Indio, which is in Santa Monica at Pico and 26th and is a bike ride or stroll from the future 26th/Olympic Station. Carnitas plate: I salute you!

A tale of competing Century City high-rises (Curbed LA)

JP Morgan Chase has hired a lobbyist to create a group — “Save the Westside” — to prevent a 37-story high-rise office tower from being built next to the future Century City Purple Line subway station. The issue? JP Morgan Chase trying to save its bottom line; the firm is a property owner in Century City and apparently doesn’t welcome any more competition, according to the office of Councilman Paul Koretz.

A subway’s birthday: Happy 20th, Metro Red Line! (Militant Angeleno) 

Great post by the militant one on the subway’s opening in 1993 and what it was like to ride the train back in 1993 — when it was only seven minutes from end to end. He also makes an outstanding point about how dull and lifeless downtown Los Angeles was back in ’93 — and how the subway impacted one business in Westlake:

Within a few months, thousands of Downtown workers suddenly discovered that they were just 25 cents and a couple minutes away from the best pastrami in town, and injected new life into a once-floundering Westlake delicatessen, right across the street from the subway’s western terminus.

He speaks, of course, of Langers. In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words:

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

A Ruben pastrami. Photo by Michael Saechang, via Flickr creative commons.

710 freeway coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210 (Pasadena Sun)

Interesting article looking at groups for and against filling the gap in the 710 with a tunnel. Generally speaking, southern San Gabe Valley cities support the effort while those in the north oppose it. Metro is about to launch a draft environmental study for the project that is considering five alternatives: no-build, transportation systems improvements (i.e. signals and intersections), bus rapid transit, light rail and a freeway tunnel that would directly link the two ends of the 710.

 

CTA website offers ‘why things go wrong’ explanations (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Transit Authority has a new feature on its website: a lengthy feature story trying to explain why buses and trains are sometimes delayed. But the Trib’s transportation columnist is not entirely impressed and doesn’t buy the CTA’s assertion that many service delays are entirely beyond its control.

My three cents (inflation!): Explanations are nice but never an excuse for poor service. That said, I thought the CTA page was thoughtful in trying to answer some very common questions about delays and this is something we should probably do here at Metro, where we have another equally important task: improving the speed that service alerts are communicated to riders.

Judge the CTA page for yourself. Here’s their take on bus bunching:

We know—bunching is frustrating. It frustrates us too, both as people who are charged with providing service, and people who use that same service to get around town. Bunching is the bane of bus systems around the world and there is no easy fix to it—particularly in places where there’s lots of traffic and where frequent bus service is required.

So how does it happen? Here’s a scenario:

Imagine a busy route that has buses running about every 5 minutes on a busy street, right at the morning peak, and all is right on time. Then, one bus gets delayed—let’s say a minor accident between two cars happens, and a lane is temporarily blocked while drivers exchange info, and this creates a backup that adds just two and a half minutes to the bus’s trip.

Continue reading

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Jan. 29; Ray LaHood stepping down, Leimert Park station debated, New York looks at technology to detect people on subway tracks

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.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation.

Ray LaHood stepping down as U.S. Transportation Secretary (Washington Post) 

The news became official today, with Secretary LaHood saying that he will remain on the job until a successor is nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Excerpt:

LaHood’s relentless campaign against distracted driving, his safety-first mantra and his determination to visit every state in the union gave the Peoria native a higher profile than several predecessors in the role, traditionally played out in the shadow of more glamorous Cabinet jobs.

LaHood made the announcement in a statement Tuesday: “I have let President Obama know that I will not serve a second term as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity. I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.”

As the Post article states, there has certainly been rumor mill speculation about who will be the next transportation secretary. This game, of course, has been in play for the past several months but I’ve yet to see a single media story mention a source’s name or affiliation so readers can judge whether that information is reliable. With that significant caveat, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s name has surfaced in several media reports and that’s certainly interesting given his role on the Metro Board of Directors for almost eight years and his push for expanded federal funding of local transit projects.

Here’s an excerpt from Secretary LaHood’s blog:

Our achievements are significant.  We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making.  We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows.  We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.

We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $3.1 billion in TIGER grants to 218 transportation projects across the Nation.  We have made unprecedented investments in our nation’s ports.  And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help States build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.

And to further secure our future, we have taken transportation into the 21st century with CAFE Standards, NextGen, and our investments in passenger and High-Speed Rail.  What’s more, we have provided the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the funding and leadership it needs to prepare a new generation of midshipmen to meet our country’s rapidly-evolving defense and maritime transportation needs.

Continue reading