Five things I’m thinking about transportation, Jan. 25 edition

HIGH-SPEED RAIL: If you’re in school and studying to be a transportation planner and have to do a thesis or dissertation, please consider studying different ways that California could improve it’s inter-city rail network and at what cost.

Here are the key excerpts from the State Auditor’s summary report on high-speed rail issued yesterday:

In the meantime, the state’s high-speed rail program got another ruler-on-the-knuckles from the State Auditor. Here’s the key part of the audit summary:

The high-speed rail network’s (program) overall financial situation has become increasingly risky.

The cost estimates for phase one increased to between $98.1 billion and $117.6 billion—of which approximately $12.5 billion has been secured.

Although the Authority identifies the federal government as its largest potential funding source, the plan provides few details about how it expects to secure this money.

The cost estimates do not include phase one’s operating and maintenance costs, yet based on data in the plan these costs could total approximately $96.8 billion from 2025 through 2060.

We have some very successful Amtrak lines operating in the Golden State. With high-speed rail in constant turmoil — rightly or wrongly — it would be great if someone knew what could be done to speed up Amtrak and at what cost. It’s great to have a Plan A, and it would be equally great to have a Plan B and C.

DODGER STADIUM: Bids to purchase the team have been submitted and it will be interesting to see if any of the potential new owners is willing to unleash the team from it’s hilltop, car-centric location. Or if any local leaders lobby for a new stadium at a time when there’s a mayor’s race underway and everyone’s looking for new infrastructure projects.

As I’ve said time and time and time again, I think the smart move for the team and the region over the long haul would be to bring the stadium to downtown Los Angeles where it will better blend with the city and be closer to transit. I don’t see the point of the current ballpark — unless you really dig parking lots and 1950s era urban planning. 

Tiger Stadium, Comiskey Park, Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds all fell to the wrecking ball. And the game lived on. 

SUBWAY SEISMOLOGY: As usual, getting the facts straight on the Westside Subway Extension remains a challenge for some local media. The latest informational setbacks come from reporting on the trenching being done by the Beverly Hills Unified School District on the Beverly Hills High campus.

Just to be clear:

•The team of experts hired by Metro to do geotechnical and engineering studies in the Westwood, Century City and Beverly Hills area concluded that there is evidence that the West Beverly Hills Lineament is beneath parts of the school campus.

•Metro’s experts also concluded that the Lineament is a northward extension of the Newport-Inglewood Fault and that it should be considered an active fault zone.

•In the reports issued, Metro’s experts did not conclude that the subway would prohibit expansion or renovations of the schools — just the opposite, in fact. The studies concluded that it would be safe to tunnel under parts of the campus for the subway and that the school would not be impacted by subway noise or vibration.

•Metro is pleased that the Beverly Hills school district is doing its own seismic testing. Those studies have not yet been finished and it remains to be seen whether the work confirms or takes issue with Metro’s own studies.

STREET PARKING: It’s obviously hard to provide vast amounts of parking at all transit stations. Many are in places that are constrained or where there’s no room, money or desire to build parking lots or garages.

That said, I’m often surprised in my travels around the region how many cities go out of their way to limit street parking near transit. In some cases, cities are protecting street parking for businesses and/or business districts — a worthy policy goal, in my view. And I can understand preserving parking for residents.

But there are often cases in which cities are limiting parking for no discernible reason other than preventing people from parking on residential streets that are, after all, public streets in which most of the homes have big driveways. I see this a lot in my neck of the woods in Pasadena and South Pasadena and that likely means discouraging people from taking the Gold Line who otherwise would.

Your thoughts on this one?

LISTENING AND READING ON TRANSIT: I never intend to be a snoop, but I’m always curious about books others are reading on transit. “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach is my current choice and it’s basically the best novel I’ve read in a long while. It’s about the intersection of college baseball and life — mostly life — and is both funny and poignant.

As for music, I highly recommend the new Jessie Baylin album “Sparks” — she’s been compared favorably to Dusty Springfield. And I’ve also been hitting the new Bruce Springsteen single “We Take Care of Our Own” pretty hard. I don’t think the Boss means his song title to be taken literally.

Springsteen, btw, is playing the Sports Arena — in his words, “the dump that jumps” — on April 26. I know what some of are you are going to ask. Answer: No decision has yet been made on when the Expo Line will open.



6 replies

  1. We need more commuter rail in Southern California. So much freight comes through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which is great for our economy, that there isn’t enough track left over to provide adequate commuter and passenger rail service to places like Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

    I’d like to see double tracking our commuter rail lines as a higher priority than it is currently.

  2. RE: street parking – Yes, I park and ride. No, I don’t consider it to be an affront against proper transit usage. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

    I could not agree more with this post! I find it absurd that directly behind the Vermont/Sunset Red line station there is a preferential parking district (no parking after 6pm), and much of the curb for this district doesn’t even front residences – it is behind the service entrance to the hospital! The district seems to have been created solely to stymie customers of the nearby bikini bar, since after 6pm there are but 3 or 4 vehicles on the street. The street is a public place – not territory to be arbitrarily co-opted by adjoining property owners. I can almost understand preferential parking for neighborhoods crammed with older apartment buildings that have no off-street parking. But far too many of these districts are fronted by houses with alleys, garages, and long driveways. And finally, if noise or nightclub patron nuisances is the issue that these districts are being created to solve, then why the 6pm cutoff? I would think that 10 or 11 pm is a much more reasonable curfew.

    Jackie Goldberg, when she was a council member, earned my love forever with her policy of voting against preferential parking districts.

  3. RE: high speed rail. Once again, I am in complete agreement!

    The most obvious missing link that should be addressed in our state Amtrak rail network is the missing connection from Los Angeles to Bakersfield. This is where the already secured $12.5 billion should be going, not to duplicate trackage in the central valley.

    And I also agree with Dan, double tracking of commuter rail should be the priority. It amazed me that in the recent upgrade of the 10 freeway busway, there was no (visible?) provision made for double tracking the adjacent tracks.

  4. Re: High Speed Rail – The biggest mistake I thought was made in California’s high speed rail plan was developing a new line. California should have focused an upgrading existing successful lines to high speed rail. Pacific Surfliner would have been the safest option for this. Much of the line is receiving funds for grade and seperation of rail lines from automobile traffic. It is the highest volumne line in California and would have served weekday and weekend travellers. Other lines that similary could have been upgraded are Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin. These lines could have laid the foundation for a more comprehensive high speed rail plan taking shape in the state. Upgrading Northeast Corridor to high speed rail is what made Acela such a success. It used existing lines that were upgraded over time which kep the overhead down until the revenue could come. Northeast Corridor and Acela, I believe, are the only two profitable lines in Amtrak’s inventory.

  5. Free park and ride should be abolished and should be converted to a paid park-and-ride lot so Metro could earn extra revenue.

    At the same time, some of parking spaces should be converted to free parking spaces for bicycles, and smaller alternative vehicles like motorcycles and scooters. By doing so, it encourages people to ditch their cars to bicycles and other two wheeled motorized vehicles which take up less parking space. You can fit a lot more bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters in a single space that it takes to park a car.

  6. Free park and ride is still necessary to help maximize the use of the system. However, it doesn’t have to be adjacent to the station. Put transit oriented development next to the station and the parking a quarter mile away and people will still walk from the free parking. The spots closer in can then be charged for. I don’t have a problem with residential parking permits but there has to be a real problem, and they have to be easy to understand. 2 hour zones are OK but if I want to visit my friend living near a Gold Line station in North Pasadena I can’t do that. West Hollywood is infamous for the all too confusing parking restrictions.