Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 8

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Unfriendly skies: after years of progress are Southland skies still making us sick? (Pasadena Weekly) 

The top of the story:

The skies are clearer and cleaner now: The number of unhealthy air days in Southern California has been cut in half since 1976. And there hasn’t been a smog alert in over a decade. “We have done miraculous things through cleaner cars, better fuels, cracking down on refineries,” says Joe Lyou, who heads the nonprofit Coalition for Clean Air. The progress comes despite the region’s topography and growing population, both conducive to smog.
But — cough, cough — many of us are still breathing bad air, and changing that will require even greater efforts to clean up the way we live, commute and do business in Southern California. The metropolitan L.A./Riverside/San Bernardino area continues to have the nation’s most severe air pollution problem (tied with the San Joaquin Valley). In 2012, the region exceeded federal health standards for ozone on 111 days. The state estimates that, every year, Southland smog — primarily ozone and particulates — causes 5,000 people to die prematurely, shortening some lives by as much as a decade. The monetary cost in lost lives, hospitalizations, lost workdays, etc., is estimated at a hefty $14.6 billion.
As the article goes on to note, the big challenge is that officials here can’t directly regulate “the diesel-spewing goods-movement industry” whose trucks, ships and trains are considered one of the region’s biggest sources of pollution.
I think this is one of the best articles yet on the re-emergence of downtown Los Angeles as a place that is beginning to matter. It’s a long story that I think manages to capture the nuances — the fact that some of DTLA has come around, while other parts haven’t and some of the reasons why.
The story also eloquently makes the point that downtown L.A. pretty much has to make a comeback — that endless sprawl and the traffic/pollution it has produced has not served the region well. Curiously, however, the article makes little mention of transit and the fact that it works better in dense urban areas such as downtown. Of course, it’s also a pertinent topic because DTLA is the transit hub of Southern California.
A nice look at some big transit and water tunnels being built across the country. Metro should be joining the ranks soon when tunneling gets underway in the next few years for the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector — all three projects being funded in part by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

15 replies

  1. Chris C;
    The honor system was never a good idea, I knew it when it was implemented and now gates are being installed after many years. If you read my recent post about the Orange line you would see I advocate the installation of fare boxes’.

    Let me make something perfectly clear. There have been two competing camps at the MTA. I formally worked for the RTD. The other camp is those who worked for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. They had no operating experience and built the Blue Line. Shortly before it was completed they discovered they were unable to hire and train operators. So they came to the RTD and contracted with it to provide operators and training. One of the stipulations was the RTD employees could not wear RTD uniforms, they had to wear LACTC uniforms. After the merger former employees of the LACTC gained overall power. Experienced upper management with transit experience were terminated. Personal in operations were terminated so as to make room for former LACTC employees who’s positions being abolished. Light Rail has all been designed and built by former LACTC employees and their cohorts. All to many times I had to contact these uninformed employees and point out their misdirection. But all to many times my advice was disregarded. A glaring example was during the building of the mixed use project at the Red Line Hollywood/ Vine Station. We had lost our terminal and were forced to park on the street. I ordered the movement of the on street layover’s adjacent to the construction to new locations. One layover was across the street but was constantly blocked by construction equipment. This person from scheduling, never operated a bus, stated: “If you would not have moved the layover they wouldn’t have dug a hole in the street where the buses were before.” Another person from scheduling at a meeting with division managers made the statement;” If no buses pull out from the division there are no service delays.” A service delay is the time from one bus on the line until the next bus arrives when a bus breaks down. ( bus 1, 12:00; bus 2, 12:10; bus 3, 12:20. Bus 2 breaks down, there is a 20 minute service delay.) When the department manager made the statement everyone looked at each other in amassment. We were all former RTD employees. These schedule managers were brought in from the outside by LACTC former employees. The TAP Card start-up was another fiasco that left heads shaking. I may have worked there but my last years were filled with disbelief.

  2. mike dunn

    “I have transit experience, how about you?”

    So you worked at Metro? The same Metro that said the honor system was a great idea, that fare evasion was not a biggie, fare gates was stupid, and that building rail right smack in the middle of the street with bunch of at gate crossings?

    That pretty much gives enough reason to discredit your “transit experiences” and instead makes taxpayers to demand our money back for all the taxes we wasted on paying you.

    People who worked at Metro in the past and present, people like you, who made all these dumb decisions are enough to make us realize that you are complete novices and just a bunch of bureaucratic idiots when it comes to building and operating mass transit.

    If it’s you, the “awe-aspiring Metro expert” (As Nelson would say from The Simpsons: “HA-HA!”) versus what I see happening over in Europe and Asia where their experts actually get things done fast and efficient, actually are able to operate transit for profit, and they get it right the first time when they are built, I’d take the what the experts can do over there than Metro novices, past or present.

    “Many years ago it was decided at the MTA subways were not the answer and no more lines should be built.”

    And many years ago, people believed that man came spontaneously from God, that the Earth was flat, that blacks and women can’t vote, and that only man and woman should be allowed to marry.

    And your point is?

  3. Well I am glad that the you read the “internal reports” since you worked there (and were probably required to read anyway), but I am speaking of public record reports that their own engineers and consultants have produced regarding the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor.

    You must be an exemplary civil engineer. It is a great shame that you are not working there today, you would have taught so much to those that worked on Metro’s report.

    It’s too bad that people can’t support transit projects all around the county.

    • From that report it appears it was still up in the air and a decision was to be made in 2013. It’s two years later and apparently they chose Concept one, Buses as proposed in they’re Regional Council Meeting by creating a new bus line over Sepuvada Pass and having Line 761 fallow a new route.

  4. mike dunn,

    “What I am proposing is to bring it into the airport instead of making passenger transfer to another form of transportation that would have to fallow a similar route”

    And how much do you think your idea is going to cost? You say tunneling under Santa Monica Mountains is going to be expensive. I agree and never stated that it’s going to be cheap, but I say it should be done because if they were able to dig a tunnel underneath the mountains for the Red Line, they can do the same for the Westside.

    But, when you argue that digging a tunnel underneath the Santa Monica mountains is expensive, you also come back with an equally, perhaps more expensive idea to make rail directly go to LAX.

    So it’s like you’re contradicting your statement by replacing my expensive idea for your equally expensive idea.

    You’re right about one thing though. LA is so screwed up thanks to decades of poor planning. Ideally, we should just wait for the Big One to strike LA and flatten all the pre-1980s structures that weren’t built to earthquake-proof codes so that we can get to rebuild this city the right way it should’ve been.

  5. @Chris C

    Please re-read my prior post as I was responding to @mike dunn for writing “A subway under the 405 would be to expensive and a short sighted endeavor. When this hopefully final widening project was proposed a Light Rail addition should have been proposed. Subways in Los Angeles are to expensive to build and should be avoided.” My criticism is that Light Rail or any other kind of rail could not follow the freeway lanes and make it up the hill due to physics. I never criticized a subway as that IS the thing to do.

    @Mike Dunn

    I am sorry to be so harsh, but you do not know what you are talking about. The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor Project has released reports that looked at how to build train tracks through the pass and they looked at a series of bridges but decided that it would be very complex engineering and are concerned about the risk of earthquakes. Moreover have you ever heard of railroad switchbacks?????
    How about the steepness of hills and mountains i.e. “GRADE” some useful info here

    Trains are not cars and understanding some physics would be nice.

    I am not critical of Metro projects in your neck in the woods but for you to deny the population of an area that would on it’s own be one of the biggest cities in USA by itself and the population of people that live beyond it but must also share the same roadway due to geography or are even in the same County is naive and shortsighted. Same with re-playing political battles from 30 years ago. I rehash what I said earlier, it is easier to criticize when you do not read reports, attend meetings and learn something but I fear I have given you more information already than you care to learn from or even admit to.

    • I have probably read more internal reports than you have. I worked there for 31 years. I have transit experience, how about you? Many years ago it was decided at the MTA subways were not the answer and no more lines should be built. The only reason the Subway is being extended to Westwood is that was the original plan. I have read far to many “Pie in the Shy” ideas where both Light Rail and Subways should be built.

      You talk about the Sepulvada Pass being to steep but buses with less power and traction do it everyday. The Southern Pacific and now the Union Pacific transverse the Donner Pass without any switch backs. It could have been done but instead those who still are not satisfied with the enlarged 405 demand another expensive project which means less monies for effected commuters in other parts of Los Angeles.

  6. In the valley;
    Just the construction of a double tunnel subway would be very difficult and costly and would have to be connected to the Purple Line so as to avoid the problem the MTA is currently experiencing with the Gold Line physically separated from the other three light rail lines. All the buses in the fleet were retro fitted with new engines in 2010 that are far more powerful than the ones originally installed. Light Rail Vehicles are far more powerful since all the wheels on the cars provide traction. With this latest widening project many bridges were replaced. With a bit more widening Light Rail tracks could have been laid adjacent to the right lanes in each direction or down the middle of the freeway much like the Green line , the Gold line and at one time down the middle of the Hollywood Freeway over Cahuenga Pass.

    There are millions living in other parts of the Los Angeles area that have been short changed due in part to the numerous widening projects on the 405. The 2 Freeway abruptly ends at Glendale Bl. although it was planned along with the Hollywood Freeway to have a interchange at Vermont Ave and continue to the 405 freeway. Governor Brown killed the plan when he was previously governor. Property had been purchased and construction was about to begin. Instead those of us living on old highway 2 must commute via service streets east and westbound thru Los Angeles. And all we hear is about the heavy traffic, can’t go 70 mph from the valley to West Los Angeles.

    The MTA even went so far as to removing the old Pacific Electric right of way along Santa Monica Bl. from West Hollywood to the 405 freeway thereby abandoning any proposal to put Light Rail along there.

  7. in the valley,

    The Red Line is able to go as a subway underneath the Hollywood Hills between North Hollywood and Hollywood.

    I do not see why the same can’t be done for the Westside.

    Earthquakes? Hilly regions? Bunch of lame excuses not to get anything done I say. We live in LA, there’s bound to be fault lines everywhere. If we worry about hidden fault lines, nothing ever will get built.

    Besides, an island country right across the Pacific called Japan have the same nature’s problems as we do, earthquakes and hilly regions. But they somehow get things done by having the world’s best transit system criss-crossing their entire country.

    So whatever “LA is different” excuses there are, the fact that Japan’s can build and run a transit system while having the same nature’s problems as we do pretty much puts the debate to rest.

  8. Some people just do not understand physics, demographics, or traffic patterns. First, a train (LRT etc.) would not be able follow the traffic lanes and make it up the hill. A very complex series of bridges and other structures would have been required and this is a earthquake area. Geez, The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor Project has even studied it. Even 1000 Horsepower buses strain to make 50-55 mph in the pass in clear traffic. The SFV has over 2 million people and that doesn’t include commuters from Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster, Thousand Oaks, Ventura etc etc.. There is a reason the 405 is hell on earth. Traffic patterns geez if I have to explain that one……

    It is easier to criticize Metro projects than to read the reports, attend meetings and actually learn something.

  9. mike dunn,

    You contradict yourself by saying building subways are too expensive, yet fail to consider how expensive your idea of connecting to LAX is going to be.

    • Chris C; As planned the Green Line extension will terminate right outside of the Airport. What I am proposing is to bring it into the airport instead of making passenger transfer to another form of transportation that would have to fallow a similar route. Tunneling for a subway under the 405 would be extremely expensive and could not provide service to the Getty Museum and the complex at Molholland Dr. due to the extreme depth. Poor planning has been a continuing problem with 405 improvements.

  10. When is this never ending demands by those in the San Fernando Valley going to end. A subway under the 405 would be to expensive and a short sighted endeavor. When this hopefully final widening project was proposed a Light Rail addition should have been proposed. Subways in Los Angeles are to expensive to build and should be avoided.

    The only real reason why the Downtown connector is being built is to connect the Blue Line and Expo Lines to the Gold Line. It’s a redundant subway that goes from Seventh and Flower to Union Station. The Red Line already provides the same service. Lack of proper planning is costing us billions. A more cost effective route would be from Long Beach and Washington north to Union Station passing thru the eastern boundary of the Red Line yard.

    When discussing the LAX connection it would be far more convenient to have the Green Line continue from it’s original plan north into the airport perhaps down the center of the parking structure or underneath them to a terminal. Just prior to entering the airport connecting with the Crenshaw line. In addition alternate Blue Line trains originating in Downtown should diverge on to Green Line tracks at Imperial Station thereby providing the much needed single seat connection from Downtown Los Angeles.