Transportation headlines, Friday, Jan. 6

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 above video is billed as two people meeting on a New York subway train — one with a ukelele, the other with drums. Whether strangers or not, they’re pretty good.

L.A. County voters may be asked to extend transit tax (L.A. Times)

As we posted yesterday, a bill has been introduced in the state Assembly that would allow L.A. County voters to go to the polls to decide to extend the half-cent Measure R sales tax increase past mid-2039. The money would be used to accelerate the construction of Measure R projects. The news arrived on the same day that Gov. Jerry Brown released his budget — it’s his plan to ask voters in November to increase the sales tax by a half-cent across the state. It will be up to the Metro Board of Directors to decide to go to voters with the Measure R extension. I’m guessing the big questions will be how long to extend the tax and what exactly it would pay for.

Paved, but still alive (New York Times)

An upcoming study looks at the amount of parking in the U.S. and the numbers are scary. In some areas, parking lots amount to a third of the land area. Houston may have 30 parking spaces per resident. As for the U.S., one estimate has the country with 500 million parking spaces — in other words, Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

What to do with all that space? Excerpt:

For big cities like New York it is high time to abandon outmoded zoning codes from the auto-boom days requiring specific ratios of parking spaces per housing unit, or per square foot of retail space.

These rules about minimum parking spaces have driven up the costs of apartments for developers and residents, damaged the environment, diverted money that could have gone to mass transit and created a government-mandated cityscape that’s largely unused. We keep adding to the glut of parking lots.

Crain’s recently reported on the largely empty garages at new buildings like Avalon Fort Greene, a 42-story luxury tower near downtown Brooklyn, and 80 DeKalb Avenue, up the block, both well occupied, both of which built hundreds of parking spaces to woo tenants. Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days.

The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

Freakanomics quorum: can Amtrak ever be profitable? (Freakanomics)

Interesting post with several writers answering the question. The prevailing view is that it Amtrak won’t be in the black any time soon; the bigger question is whether it’s such a terrible thing that the federal government continues to subsidize the rail carrier. My own two cents: 1) it’s a pretty small subsidy compared to other federal expenses, and; 2) I think there are some long-haul routes that are so slow that it’s hard to justify subsidizing them without any real talk about improving them.


3 replies

  1. Except that some of those “slow” lon-haul routes now provide the only non-auto transportation to many of the cities they serve. Greyhound is gone and not even huge “Essential Air Service” subsidies can keep an airline serving these places. Northern Montana, as an example, does not even have an Interstate highway, and for the folks who live there and must sometimes go to Minneapolis or Spokane (or even Seattle) to get medical treatment, Amtrak is a lifeline.

  2. We don’t need so many parking spaces, many cities around the world do just fine without them.

    A space used for a car can easily accommodate a mix of three to four bicycles, scooters, or motorcycles. In the city, said alternatives offer more agility getting around town compared to sitting in the traffic jams caused by “space wasting” automobile.