Transportation headlines, Monday, March 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: workers in the Chicago subway. Photo by Chicago Transit Authority, via Flickr creative commons.

ART OF TRANSIT: workers in the Chicago subway. Photo by Chicago Transit Authority, via Flickr creative commons.

L.A.’s broken civic promise (L.A. Times) 

With elections in the city of Los Angeles on Tuesday, the Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne looks at five urban planning issues in the city that represent failures or issues that need to be addressed by the next mayor. They are: LAX (with an emphasis on transit to LAX), Pershing Square, Grand Avenue, the Westside Subway Extension and the Los Angeles River. This is a outstanding article.

Excerpt on LAX:

But the truth is that the airport’s biggest liability is not simply architectural. Somehow Los Angeles built a major rail route, the Green Line, past LAX 20 years ago without adding a stop at the airport.

And guess what? We are about to build another light-rail route — this time the $1.7-billion Crenshaw Line — near the airport and make precisely the same mistake again.

Why? In part it’s because squeezing a station beneath the existing airport complex would be expensive and complicated. And in part because the operator of LAX, Los Angeles World Airports, has not always seen eye to eye with transit planners at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Plans are underway to build a “people mover” automated train that would take passengers to the airport from a Crenshaw Line station at Century and Aviation boulevards, a mile east of the terminals.

The people mover would be a sadly inefficient compromise. The worst-case scenario, which can typically be counted on at LAX, is that passengers on the Crenshaw Line would have to drag their suitcases over a pedestrian bridge before getting on the people mover.

Hawthorne believes a rail station needs to actually be located at the airport.

Excerpt on the Westside Subway Extension:

As the backbone of a thriving new mass-transit system, the subway is worth its admittedly sky-high cost. The subway we build now will be a bargain compared with the one we try to build several decades from now.

And the truth is that opposition in places such as Beverly Hills is not just about safety. (Tunneling of this kind has become routine for subway builders around the world.) It is also driven by fears of the changes a subway line through the city might bring.

The same anxieties kept Bay Area’s BART system out of Marin County and the Washington, D.C., Metro out of Georgetown decades ago. (And the subway out of Beverly Hills in the 1980s, for that matter.) If they were patently offensive then, they are indefensible now.

Hawthorne’s point: get the subway built ASAP. Read the entire article please. Los Angeles has long struggled to create vital public spaces commonly found in other cities. These ideas haven’t generated much conversation in the mayoral campaign thus far, thanks in part to an endless series of debates seemingly designed to generate little more than scripted sound bites.

In the most recent poll reported on by the Times, voters’ top priority was the city budget, job creation and schools. Interesting. I tend to associate local government most with public safety and land use decisions — while voters (at least in this poll) go for broader subjects.

Working from home vs. working from the office (New York Times)

This editorial comes on the heels of Yahoo’s CEO ordering the troops back to the office in hopes of greater creativity and productivity. The Times tepidly suggests that such decisions shouldn’t be made so quick as there are benefits to work-at-home — one of those being that it helps traffic congestion. In Los Angeles County, 4.7 percent of workers work at home — imagine putting 72 percent of time alone in cars and sending them on the freeways at rush hour! Some parts of the county have even higher percentages: in Santa Monica, home of the screenwriter-who-sits-at-Coffee-Bean-all-day, about 10 percent of the workforce does their job from home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hands across America (The New Yorker, March 4 edition) 

A very entertaining recent history of the hand sanitizer industry, which may interest those who sped a lot of time in public spaces. The article begins with a long anecdote about Purell, which took 10 years of losses on its sanitizer product until public appetite exploded, catching on first with health-care workers and then with the masses. The article is behind the New Yorker’s pay wall, but an abstract is available for free.

5 replies

  1. I don’t see why a People Mover is a ridiculous compromise. Countless cities use them (JFK’s manages to connect to two disparate transport hubs in Queens) without any trouble, and they connect to major rail lines. Would you rather take a people mover in a little circle for free, or a long-distance train in a little circle for $1.50?

  2. Keep in mind that most people here seem more impressed with Old Pasadena than downtown LA, and express to in Pasadena more than in the Los Angeles city limit, or even prefer Santa Monica to LA. People are not drawn by anything “grand” at either Santa Monica or Pasadena because nothing “grand” exists there; It is just the opposite. “Grand” places are just so unappealing to us. We already live in a “Grand” metropolis and we seek something smaller, on the scale of a village, not a grand new park outside of downtown. Interesting, Santa Monica is the dream of so many foreigners, and yet they have no vision of anything grand being there, except the beach and ocean.

  3. Post WWII Los Angeles did not develop the same KIND of public spaces in other cities because our homes and apartments were pretty nice places with yards or good common area for renters that sometimes had swimming pools as well as pleasant landscaping, and this is IN the city. Our great public Griffith Park (the nations and possibly the world’s largest municipal park) is still used by countless each day, but it has a presence more fitting our legacy. Our domiciles, for the most part, fill that need (we even have balconies from which to grill) that there is has been simply a true lack of demand for such spaces. Yes, we are cynical, for we see such “great public spaces” as envisioned by some, to be the breeding grounds for problems, civil unrest, or just plain taken over by squatters. There are always those who come to just ruing it.
    Meanwhile people flood Central Park, or what other supposed great public space some allude to, with the purpose of escaping their 200 sq. ft. 5th floor walk-up “train” cockroach infested domicile with no A/C and no good weather no floor plan to allow for cross-breeze with a kitchen with less functionality than an extended stay hotel, which is why so many of those tenants eat out and fill the restaurants or take-home as part of the supposed “great public place” city lifestyle. Those cities have such grand public spaces because their domiciles are so hostile, they MUST escape it or suffer. Agreed, the poor, residents of MacArthur Park are those crammed into such shameful living spaces that the park there is truly an escape from living conditions, should the crime not scare them to stay inside.
    Oh, and let us not forget the one truly “great public space” that so many seem to omit that many great cites don’t have: our beaches. And they fill that need far better than another massive space when what we really need are much smaller poopy dog-parks. That is an LA problem that truly needs to be addressed, not Griffith Park II.
    Did it ever occur to anyone that LA is a city that does not necessarily like the big grand public spaces that so many transplants seem to crave. They are nice in downtown, but not in “our neighborhoods”. Most residents, especially native Angelenos, are looking for neighborhoods with a human scale and a nice compact park for occasional use or even pure aesthetics, and this is what attracted a lot of people to Los Angeles, especially transplants from New York who were born and raised there and still does today. We find Times Square a place to avoid (and so do New Yorkers) and we so detest crowds that we leave at the 7th innings of Dodger games. That’s just the way we are and prefer it.
    All this supposed “failure” or lack of “succeeding” in creating “great public spaces” just might be by design, and the lack of the great number of these supposed “great” spaces simply affirms that most people here don’t really care to have such spaces because when we demand something, we do get it, and we have much nicer living conditions than those in other major urban areas of the country. A quiet, pleasant street with good housing just ONE block from Wilshire. That’s what we like.
    Yes, more pedestrian friendly design (there was a time when that was NOT desired by residents), better public transit, etc., but let’s re-think what the city really needs or even DESIRE before too many try to recreate their home town.

  4. Santa Monica’s “Population” swells to five times the nuber of residents M-F between the hours of 7-7. Thnaks to businesses like Yahoo, Viacom, HBo, Activision, Universal Music, Red Bull, etc. There are a lot of people who work in Santa Monica from all over Southern California. Right now someone from Pasadena, Glendale or the Valley has no way to take transit to work unless thye want to sit on a bus for two plus hours. Not everyone who goes to Santa MOnica is carrying a surfboard aand sitting on the beach. There are thouseands of commuters making the trek everyday who would love to be able to sit on a train and leave their traffic woes behind.

  5. Another author who thinks that the airport connector and subway through Santa Monica are the best uses of money. I would agree if people commuted daily by airplane and worked on the sand. But those ‘sexy’ destinations will do little for our county’s transportation needs, no matter how catchy the sales pitch is.

    LA has most of North America’s most congested freeways, and those should be given priority. Build surfboard and luggage friendly trains after people can get to work without sitting in traffic. Because unless a hundred thousand people or more plan on taking the trains to the beach or airport everyday, it is poor use of time and money.