Transportation headlines, Friday, November 15

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ART OF TRANSIT: I hope the ultra-skinny models next stop was for a double-double, large fries and a seven milkshakes. For each of them.  

Westwood bike lanes connecting Wilshire and National killed by council office (L.A. Streetsblog) 

Actually the stretch of road in question is Westwood Bouelvard between Pico and Santa Monica. The city had been looking at a floating bike lane concept for that stretch of busy road in hopes of preserving a peak hour general traffic lane. But Damien Newton reports that concept is opposed by the local council office. Here’s the thing: Westwood Boulevard offers a key connection between UCLA and future Purple Line Extension and Expo Line stations. Good bus and bike infrastructure on that corridor is super important.

Starbucks to test store on a Swiss train (USA Today) 

Photo: Starbucks.

Photo: Starbucks.

Looks like the Swiss will soon be able to enjoy overheated coffee that doesn’t taste quite right while traveling between Geneva and St. Gallen. Excerpt:

It was a serious challenge to design the Starbucks store on a train, says Liz Muller, director of concept design for Starbucks. “We had to take into account the constant movement of the train, space limitation and stringent safety regulations.”

It’s one of the smallest espresso bars and stores that Starbucks has ever designed, she says.

The exterior of the sleek red and white car is branded with Starbucks’ siren logo on both sides, including “Starbucks” text. White icons representing menu items, including beverages and muffins, and an image of Starbucks espresso machines are on train windows.

Inside, the colors are the familiar Starbucks browns and whites — but no orange or green. The car’s two levels provide seating for 50.


Wow, if Swiss trains could just add Victoria’s Secret, an Apple store and a Cinnabon…

Los Angeles is not a sin (Zocalo Public Square) 

This amazingly intelligent article by Joe Mathews is not about transportation per se — rather it’s about the gushing and often lacking-in-insight coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Big excerpt:

The biggest currents in the flood of commentary are these: that the aqueduct is a singular, only-in-L.A. engineering accomplishment; that it was responsible for the creation of the city; and that it was the city’s original sin, committed by a few powerful people who held L.A. in their sway. All of this new commentary is seasoned with the spice of self-congratulation over finally having a conversation about water after 100 years of supposedly ignoring it.

It’s not just that all of this is wrong. (Has there ever been a time when L.A. wasn’t talking about water?) It’s that it all reeks of the disease that might be called “Los Angeles exceptionalism,” the notion that this is a place different from all the rest, as if skullduggery or deception or imported water makes L.A. unique.

For the record, imported water has been a feature of cities since Roman times. Even places wetter than L.A. take the water of others. New York built its first two aqueducts in the 19th century, decades before the L.A. Aqueduct. San Francisco, for all its environmental self-regard, still relies on water taken from the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, part of a project that began the same year that the L.A. Aqueduct opened.


Of course, it is the banality of L.A. civic life that makes the conspiracy theories and cinematic narratives so powerful. We’d rather believe in shadowy power than reckon with the fact that no one is in charge. The Chinatown narrative—it’s the powerful guy’s fault—absolves us not only of blame for L.A.’s problems but also of responsibility for solving them.

The bigger question is this: Can L.A. ever stop thinking of itself as an exceptionally unnatural or corrupt or fallen place? You can try to debunk the conspiracy theories. You can try to argue that we have the power to write our own history, just as we did in the past. You can try to convince people that we’ll never get our act together as long as we believe that a few powerful people control everything. You can … Ah, forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.



A lot of the things that Joe writes about the aqueduct can also be said about the way transportation has been written about here. First, there’s the myth that our traffic and our commutes is spectacularly worse than other places. It’s not; our commute times are pretty typical of major metro areas in the U.S.

And then there’s the notion that still rears its head from time to time that L.A. is too sprawling, too different and too car addicted for transit here to work. Of course, that’s bunk. London is sprawling. So is Paris. And Moscow. And transit works there. But as with coverage of the aqueduct, that kind of context is often missing. 

Going forward, the Los Angeles area can be whatever it wants to be, people.

3 replies

  1. We had great transit and got rid of it. Not only was this the fault of priviare enterprise but also the government. P.E. wanted to elevate it’s lines leaving L.A. The city said no. The state of Calif. built new freeways cutting off all the lines going east out of L.A. The old MTA discontinued all the remaining lines in 1963. Long Beach was closed down in 1960, The Blue Line fallows almost the same right of way except in downtown L.A. and Long Beach. It only took Henry Huntington six months to build it and the LACTC three years. Is there something wrong with this picture?

  2. “ART OF TRANSIT: I hope the ultra-skinny models next stop was for a double-double, large fries and a seven milkshakes. For each of them.”

    Now, now. Body-shaming isn’t cool, no matter what shape the body is.

  3. From what you wrote above: “And then there’s the notion that still rears its head from time to time that L.A. is too sprawling, too different and too car addicted for transit here to work. Of course, that’s bunk.” From another article that you wrote: Diane DuBois: “I love our freeways and I use them regularly. That does not mean I’m anti transit. On the contrary, I am a staunch supporter of our strong and developing public transit system. Because the way I see it, highways and streets and buses and trains are all part of the same solution. They are a mobility team. They are connected … which means we are connected to what’s essential: education, healthcare, plentiful jobs … and one another. In a compact Eastern city, I would argue, it’s easier to build a comprehensive bus and rail network. But in a 1,400-square mile service area like L.A. County — and those of you from Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties know exactly what I mean — it’s nearly impossible to navigate life without a car … or occasional access to one.”