Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 17

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 Transportation Headlines online newspaper, which you can also access via email subscription (visit the newspaper site) or RSS feed.

First, let’s begin with an excerpt from the Los Angeles Newspaper Group (Daily News, etc.) editorial page, defending a recent opinion piece that cycling is not a viable transportation option in Southern California. Take it away, LANG Editorial Board:

Most of us, unfortunately, face commutes of far longer than a mile or two. It’s a mass sprawl from the desert to the sea, and some of us have either chosen or been forced into commutes that go from one to the other each morning and evening. Bicycling from Desert Hot Springs to Santa Monica and back again each day is not a convenient way to get around, watermelon in tow or not.

Is cycling here not just recreation but a real transit option? Have the creation of bicycle lanes on our roads, education programs to alert motorists or the desire to combat global warming and get some exercise at the same time convinced you to consider a cycling commute?

On the plus side, I’ve read stupider things in newspapers. On the other hand, I don’t recall ever hearing any kind of serious transportation advocate suggest that anyone should be commuting from Desert Hot Springs to Santa Monica whether it be in a car, bike, airplane, etc. So that’s just a really dumb example inserted into the editorial to make cycling advocates look extreme and unreasonable. Great journalism, eh?

Look, people. It’s fair game and it’s important that our press scrutinizes transportation projects of all types to determine whether they will be effective or not. As this blog has written before, not every bike lane is a good one. But it would be nice to see the media acknowledge the main argument for improving bike networks, sidewalks and transit: it’s a way to expand transportation options so that not everyone has to drive everywhere, thereby creating bad traffic. Yes, the same bad traffic editors love to crow about.

The problem is that it’s super easy to suggest thatSouthern California is too sprawling and too complicated for transit or bike lanes to ever work here. Never mind context about other large, sprawling regions where transit or bike networks do work — that’s not important when aiming to serve the lowest common denominator. It’s harder for the same editor to suggest a more nuanced approach, which would be a series of stories about the type of cycling infrastructure that works best and why. That’s the series of articles this region needs. And deserves.

Sermon over.

Is the California PUC foreshadowing the California Supreme Court? (L.A. Streetsblog) 

The Public Utilities Commission last week issued a ruling that, in essence, confirmed its earlier approvals of street crossings for the second phase of the Expo Line. The group Neighbors for Smart Rail has challenged that decision all the way to the California Supreme Court, with a ruling expected soon. The dispute involves the data used to study the impact of the rail crossings on traffic — in particular, whether the data must be current or can reflect future (i.e. worse) traffic decisions. Project supporters are pleased with the PUC upholding its earlier approvals and hope that’s a clue as to what the California Supreme Court will rule. Of course, the project is under construction and the Supreme Court thus far has not shown any inclination to halt work on the rail line.

Oregon to tax some motorists by the mile, not the gallon (Governing) 

Under the bill approved by the Legislature, 5,000 volunteers would pay a tax of 1.5 cents per mile driven instead of the state gas tax of 30 cents per gallon. With cars becoming more efficient, gas taxes have dipped and many advocates say that charging by the mile is a better way to raise funds needed for transportation while also taxing people for the road systems that they use — whether in a Prius or Lamborghini. This is just a pilot program in Oregon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it sticks.

Metro Transit goes high-tech to find free-loading riders (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) 

The agency that runs trains and buses in the Twin Cities says that 99 percent of its rail riders are paying fares according to fare inspections. Now they are going to more closely track fare evasion on some bus routes, asking bus operators to use a computer to track freeloaders. Operators have the option of calling police when someone jumps aboard without paying, but many operators continue driving in an attempt to stay on schedule.



7 replies

  1. Oregon’s experiment with a mileage-based taxation misses an important aspect of the cost of transportation infrastructure: a tractor-trailer puts 800 times the strain on a road that a car does (gotta find the source on that… I read it over a year ago), while a motorcycle does far less.

    Whether the system is a success for cars, it will need to factor the scale of larger and smaller vehicles. Otherwise you’re actually farther from equal contribution for use.

  2. “gas tax of 30cents per mile” made me laugh after i unsuccessfully tried to guess what it means)

  3. Ivan – how often does the bus stop as a result? If they can eliminate freeloaders without inconveniencing others, that’s great. But I know that as a paying bus customer, I care much more about getting to my destination on time than about punishing people who don’t pay.

  4. The operators of Foothill Transit are enforcing the no freeloaders and no food or drinks rules. They stop the bus when someone breaks the rules. Its operators make an example out of those violators. I wonder which transit agencies will follow Foothill’s lead to get rid of the freeloaders.

  5. Regarding the LANG editorial: These silly arguments have been made against rail/bus transit investments too. I think it’s also worth pointing out that no transportation solution — including more or bigger roads — will ever be a silver bullet. It took several decades to create the transit mess we have, and it will likely take a few more to fix it. One bike path or rail line won’t solve it, it’s true. But a comprehensive network of bike paths and transit, and a change in mentality and living patterns is a long-term solution. And we won’t ever get there if we don’t get started. That’s why we have to build the first few rail lines and bike paths, even if they don’t provide an instant fix.

  6. As Steve points out the example of commuting from Desert Hot Springs to Santa Monica is a silly example and the only viable commute is if you did it by helicopter. So if you are Ubur rich then yes a car, bike, train or bus is a silly way to commute 124 miles.