Transportation headlines, Friday, August 2

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.

ART OF TRANSIT: Golden Gate Bridge, taken earlier this month on my way back from Oregon. If  you want to see real black and white photography from a master check out the ongoing Alan Ross exhibit at the G2 Gallery in Venice, It's at Abbot Kinney & Milwood, two blocks north of the Metro 33 & 733 stop at Venice & Abbot Kinney and one block south of the Big Blue Bus stop at Abbot Kinney & Walgrove. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: Golden Gate Bridge, taken earlier this month on my way back from Oregon. If you want to see real black and white photography from a master check out the ongoing Alan Ross exhibit at the G2 Gallery in Venice, It’s at Abbot Kinney & Milwood, two blocks north of the Metro 33 & 733 stop at Venice & Abbot Kinney and one block south of the Big Blue Bus stop at Abbot Kinney & Walgrove. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Expo Line: How much does it stop now? (Steven White blog)

A regular Expo rider, Steven wanted to see how much time the train was not moving between downtown L.A. and Culver City. So he broke out his stopwatch recently and compared his new data to data he collected last year.

The result: outbound trip times have improved slightly while inbound trip times have worsened, according to his data. Steven also estimates that without any standing, the trip between downtown and Culver City could be made in about 24 minutes instead of the 29 minute average for Expo.

Phase 2 of the project — extending the line to Santa Monica — is underway. It will be interesting to see if any time can be shaved from trips, which would presumably be a way to lure future riders.

Almost all of L.A.’s car growth is in low-car households (Better Institutions) 

The top of Shane Phillips’ very interesting post:

Portland, eat your heart out. Between 2005 and 2011, ninety percent of Los Angeles’ growth was in low-car households, defined as households with fewer vehicles than working adults*. You read that right: Los Angeles, low-car. Even more incredibly, of the 20,000 households the city added over this six-year period, over 8,000 of them own zero cars. That’s over forty percent.

As Shane points out, this may have implications for parking policies, in particular relaxing them. My three cents: This is interesting, but are there fewer cars by choice or because the city is adding more low-income households that can’t afford more cars?

Skyscraper site in Hollywood may sit on an active fault, state says (L.A. Times)

The recently-approved Millennium project — with 35- and 39-story buildings — may sit atop of the Hollywood Fault, which may or may not be active and may or may not be accurately mapped, according to the newspaper. The developer says its geologists haven’t found any faults but they will do further studies. As regular readers know, Metro isn’t building a station for the Purple Line Extension on Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City because of concerns over the Santa Monica Fault and other associated faulting.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Board responds to train crash in Spain (KCRA)

Officials said that the crash in Spain — which did not occur on a high-speed line — could not happen here because the California bullet train would have automated systems that would over-ride any attempt by a train engineer to go too fast through a curve.

In related bullet train news, Delta Airlines has announced hourly service between LAX and San Francisco beginning Sept. 3, according to the Daily Breeze. The LAX-SFO route is already one of the busiest in the world and officials have said the bullet train needs to make the L.A. to S.F. connection in about 2.5 hours in order to compete with the airlines. That’s one reason the bullet train project is so expensive. The public policy question, as I’ve written before, is how much would it cost to build a slower train (say five to six hours from L.A. to S.F.) and could such a train lure enough passengers to pay for itself?

I don’t know. I’m just asking because I’m a curious bloke.

12 replies

  1. California HSR is a no-brainer loser. Too costly. Too slow. Too many political jurisdictions to run through, which will all have their say. Not enough $$ for investment or long-term maintenance. Pay for itself? Nada. I can drive to Frisco in the same time. I can fly to and from in the same time. I can do both for much less.

  2. As for the Expo Line it is too slow and shouldn’t have to stop so often between Culver City Station and 7th St Station terminus in Downtown LA if it is stopped for 5 mins on the 29 minute trip thats about 15% of the time the train is stopped going nowhere… The service must improve on the Metro Expo Line!! The trains are CLEAN, Comfortable and FAST here in JAPAN!! LA needs to learn from the Japanese…

  3. I’m in Japan now where they have the Shinkansen bullet trains, which are extremely comfortable, clean, fast, and On-Time, if only we had the Shinkansen in California between LA and SF by 2020!!

  4. Just to address your question, Steve, about whether the growth in low-car households is due to choice or necessity, I had also looked at the income demographics of the city, and they seem pretty encouraging. Between 2005 and 2011, the share of households earning less than 35k declined from 42.3% to 39.7%. Mean and median income both increased, as well. That obviously doesn’t capture the whole picture, but it does seem to indicate that the city is growing more affluent, not less. (There’ll be plenty of people to complain about that, too, I’m sure.)

    And in many cases I suspect that when people get rid of their cars out of necessity, they find that they never actually needed it in the first place, and end up happier and better-off without it. That’s what happened for me, anyway: I stopped driving due to circumstance, and once I adapted to it I chose to remain carless when my financial situation improved.

  5. What’s the cost of the Palmdale-Bakersfield section of CA-HSR? Because that’s something close to the cost of a ~6 hour LA-SF express train. The San Joaquins making all stops are currently scheduled at 5:33 from Bakersfield to Richmond (for a BART connection to anywhere in the Bay Area). Shave off the stop cost and connect the existing Metrolink Antelope Valley Line to the BNSF line in the Central Valley, and you could probably walk off a Red Line train and walk on to a BART train around 6 hours later.

    And people would fill those trains, I guarantee it.

  6. I think there is more utility and a lot less cost in medium speed rail than high speed rail. One data point will happen in 2015, when Illinois completes upgrades of the line from Chicago to St. Louis to 110 mph – getting it to four hours or so with stops. Considering how popular Megabus and Greyhound is something in the middle zone at 4-5 hours from LA to San Francisco would provide the majority of the benefit for a fraction of the cost.

  7. Plus, when traveling by air, you’re almost certain to spend 2 hours and 40 minutes in JUST THE AIR TRAVEL OVERHEAD ALONE: checking in, checking bags that would be carry-ons for a train, going through security, loading and unloading the entire aircraft through a single hatch, and so forth. Then, too, if you’re headed to San Francisco, both SFO and Oakland are out-of-town airports (Sacramento is also served by an out-of-town airport), likely involving about the same ground transportation overhead as taking a train to Jack London Square or Emeryville, whereas both the San Francisco and Sacramento branches of the HSR are supposed to end up downtown.

    And even if the HSR ends up taking more total time than flying, what would you rather do? Go through security, spend the entire trip strapped into a cramped seat, and probably pay more for the “privilege” of doing so, or spend a little more time, and get a much more comfortable trip?

  8. I would still prefer to take a train from LA to San Francisco even if the train takes four hours to complete the trip. The flight from LA to SF may only take one hour, but you may spent one hour at LAX before boarding and one more hour at SFO after you get off the plane. Then how long is your trip to and from airport? If you live in El Segundo or Redondo Beach then it’s no big deal, but if you live in the SGV or SFV then it may be a quite painful trip to get to the airport. Also, I think it’s much more comfortable to sit in the train then to sit in the airplane.

  9. Erik,

    You do realize that trains can have multiple services? Just because it has many stations doesn’t mean all the trains have to stop there. Based on demand, trains can run express and limited services to skip some stations as needed.

    That’s how the Shinkansen in Japan runs between the 320 mi distance between Tokyo and Osaka. There’s the regular Kodama service which makes all the stops which takes about 4 hrs between Tokyo and Osaka. Hikari, is a limited service which makes less stops and does it in 3 hours. Nozomi, the express service makes even fewer stops along the way and the trip is done in 2:25.

  10. California should also look into how the Japanese Shinkansen runs with a perfect safety and ontime record since it started running back in the 1960s.

    Besides, how many high speed trains in the world has the top honor to pride themselves by saying “our bullet trains stopped perfectly, all safeties ran the way it should, and started running again with no fatalities despite a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck our country in 2011.”

    The most damaging earthquake in CA was the 1906 SF earthquake and that was a 7.8. 1989 Loma Prieta was a 6.9. Northridge back in ’94 was a 6.7.

    You want trains that run fail safe under an earthquake? Japan has everyone beat. Try topping a safety record in 9.0. A NINE-POINT-O EARTHQUAKE.

  11. By perpetuating a wrong number (that the California high-speed train will do SF-LA in 2.5 hours), you are setting up a bar that the project will likely fail. First of all, the official goal is is not 2:30, it is 2:40 (i.e., 2.7 hours) and that is only for non-stop express trains. Secondly, at least in my opinion, I feel that is optimistic, and that “less than 3 hours” would be a better characterization. But I do not think that the difference between 2.5 and 3.0 hours is important to ridership. What is important is schedule reliability and frequency. By providing frequent, reliable and comfortable service, I expect the California HST will be extremely popular and profitable. And, of course, many of the trains will make various stops along the way, taking more time, but providing more ridership. Overall, I predict the new train will be an economic winner.

    M. D. Mullen

  12. Especially a train that makes stops alomg the way and thus serves multiple city pairs, which the airlines haven’t done since deregulation. This is a lesson CalTrans has leared along the Surfliner Corridor.