This is a new feature for The Source in which I express actual opinions while working for government. Members of the media: please take any of these ideas and run with them — we could use the coverage!
1. I’m still a little surprised that of all the media stories written about the Westside Subway Extension’s route, almost no attention was paid to the issue that there will be little or no parking provided by Metro at the stations. There will certainly be a lot of connecting bus service, bike racks and drop-off zones for subway riders, as well as some private lots for cars that are near the route. But this is still auto-centric Southern California and parking is almost always an issue when it comes to development. Readers of this blog don’t seem to think it’s much of an issue, judging from our own poll. And I personally don’t believe it’s a big deal — the current subway doesn’t have much parking from Metro. Still, I think it’s interesting that the media didn’t show much interest.
2. I think that something routinely overlooked in the debate over high-speed rail and whether it should be built at great cost in California is this: there are still large swaths of the state with little or no passenger rail service. In the year 2010, it’s not possible to take a train from Los Angeles to Bakersfield — Amtrak only offers bus service. Or from Bakersfield to Sacramento. Both of those trips require the Amtrak bus to complete them. And there are still considerable stretches of single-track in the state — meaning that service between Los Angeles and San Diego is slower than it should be, for example (it takes about 2 hours, 45 minutes each way). Don’t get me wrong. I think bullet trains would ultimately be great for California. But we’re building rail from the ground up.
3. The debate over whether to put a rush hour bus lane on Wilshire Boulevard’s Condo Canyon stretch in Wilshire, to me, is a good example of the biggest challenge facing bus lane projects in the U.S. Many transit officials, experts and advocates want to see more lanes — they’re a lot cheaper than building rail — but I think taking lanes from private vehicles and giving them to transit will be an uphill battle here and in much of the country. The idea of a lane sitting empty except for buses isn’t going to go down easy. Then again, there was a time when carpool lanes were controversial, too.
4. As for the Wilshire bus lane, the policy question I’m most interested in is the wisdom of using the righthand parking or traffic lane versus the center lane. Of course, using a center lane means saying goodbye to left turns, which undoubtedly would inconvenience some people — and possibly would require buses with left-side doors for boarding. It would almost certainly be more expensive because of the need to construct bus stops in the middle of the street. On the other hand, using the right lane means having to share with private vehicles that want to turn right and waiting for those vehicles to turn because there are pedestrians in the crosswalk. Here’s some pics of a center-lane bus lane in Eugene, OR — and yes, I know Eugene is a wee bit smaller than L.A.!
5. I just spent a week in my hometown of Cincinnati and it reaffirmed for me (once again) that for all the griping about traffic in the L.A. area, there are a lot of other places who are as equally tethered — if not more so — to the private automobile than L.A. County.
The city of Cincy is a small part of a two-million plus metro area. While there’s decent bus service in Cincy, the rest of the area in the past 20 years has sprawled outward into surrounding counties with little transit service — and a willingness to encourage the most auto-dependent forms of suburban sprawl. It’s little wonder then that the most pedestrian-oriented districts in the Cincy area are the giant suburban indoor shopping malls in the ‘burbs.
As for the stats, Hamilton County, Ohio, has about 5.3 percent of its population taking transit to work versus 7.2 percent in L.A. County, according to the Census Bureau’s most recent fact sheets (Here’s Hamilton County’s and here’s L.A. County’s).
More people carpool in L.A. County (11.5 percent to 8.3 percent), walked to work (2.9 percent to 2.7 percent), worked at home (4.3 percent to 3.3 percent) and got to work by other means — i.e. biking, etc. (2.1 percent to .8 percent). In Hamilton County, 79.7 percent of all workers drive alone to work, compared to 72.1 percent here. Hamilton County has one advantage — average commute time is 22 minutes there compared to 29 minutes here.
Think the things I’m thinking about transportation are wrong, dumb, biased and/or lack reasoning, coherent thought and good morals? Leave a comment!