Transportation headlines, Thursday, January 9

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!

Metro will replace and refurbish scores of aging Blue Line cars (L.A. Times) 

Coverage of yesterday’s media event to explain ongoing renovations to the Blue Line which will cost $1.2 billion. As the Times notes, the bulk of the money is being spent on new rail cars that will be shared by the Blue and Expo lines. They’re also getting a new paint job — goodbye the “mustard” stripe and hello train cars that are mostly gray with yellow fronts, a popular look in the United Kingdom. See below:

A rail car in Liverpool. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A rail car in Liverpool. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

As for Metro, the first of the new rail cars is scheduled for delivery in Aug. 2015 with all 78 rail vehicles to be received by Jan. 2017.

Washington Metro awards $184 million for futuristic fare collection system (Washington City Paper) 


The new system, according to WMATA, will be equipped to accept chip-enabled credit cards, federal government IDs, and cell phones for fare payment, as well as SmarTrip cards.

“While Metro pioneered the tap and go system we currently use, by today’s standards that system is cumbersome and the technology is not sustainable,” said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles in a statement. “The new technology will provide more flexibility for accounts, better reliability for riders, and real choices for customers to use bank-issued payment cards, credit cards, ID cards, or mobile phones to pay their Metro fares.”

Washington Metro’s current fare cards are similar to TAP cards. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and several other Board members authored a motion last year calling on Metro to study other fare payment systems, including smart ticketing using cell phones.

Mountain lions in Santa Monicas need more room, experts say (L.A. Times)

As evidence grows of inbreeding among the tiny population of mountain lions in the Santa Monicas, experts say the lions need more range. The challenge relates to transportation: the lion’s range is constrained by development and, in particular, freeways on all sides. Perhaps the most troublesome barrier is the 101 freeway that serves as a barrier between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills. Excerpt:

The California Department of Transportation has twice sought federal funding for a $10-million tunnel crossing near the Liberty Canyon Road exit. The area is part of a critical wildlife corridor that connects the Santa Susana Mountains and Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Riley and others working with DOT recently proposed what they consider a superior option: a landscaped crossing over the freeway. Such overpasses have been successful in Canada and Europe and are starting to be used in the Western United States.

“I’m arguing pretty aggressively for an overpass,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which owns much of the land near the proposed crossing. “It would be more inviting for the animals.”

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will consider next month whether to provide $200,000 so the California Department of Transportation can study alternatives. The cost of an over-crossing would far exceed the $10 million that has been projected for a tunnel.

The multi-million dollar question here: will it be too late for the lions by the time a crossing is studied, possibly approved and funded? Of course, the fact that lions have survived this long in the Santa Monicas is remarkable and a testament to their ability to adapt and the fact that lions can’t be hunted in California.

Christie fires aide in bridge scandal as U.S. opens inquiry (New York Times) 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he had no knowledge that his staff and appointees ordered lanes closed on the George Washington Bridge last fall as a way to punish the mayor of Fort Lee — who happens to be a Democrat and who happened to not endorse Christie in last year’s governor’s election. Recently released emails show otherwise — that Christie’s staff was directly involved. The U.S. Attorney’s office have launched an inquiry which should presumably show whether Christie was involved in any decision making. He has already fired one of his deputies who was involved, calling her “stupid.”

Jon Stewart has coverage, too. Warning: adult language/visuals, etc.

Hey, it’s almost Friday — so why not a song from one of Gov. Christie’s favorite musicians?


12 replies

  1. Well said, Progress!

    The issue of the website illustrates all the problems on how slow and unresponsive our government institutions are to do the most simplest and easiest of all tasks due to the lack of attention to how fast our world has become when it comes to technology.

    TAP and was released back in 2007. We’re now in 2014. That’s seven years and counting to fix the issues of TAP and to update the webpage. And in the same time, the iPhone had gone through 5 generations of new releases and upgrades.

    A multi-billion dollar corporation called Apple can engineer, refine, manufacture and sell 5 generations of iPhones in 7 years to millions of people, but Metro cannot update a single webpage despite all the millions of taxpayers dollars that are paid by Angelenos each year.

    Updating a webpage should not take forever to do, nor is it something that is so complicated it requires a PhD in software programming. It doesn’t require millions of dollars to do either. You can practically pluck out a web designer from the street in LA who’d do the job for $10,000 and get the job done in less than a month.

  2. I disagree with the commentator above who stated “it would be foolish to discard the equipment because it’s not the newest model.”

    No, sticking with older methods is foolish. We live in a fast paced constantly changing world. The more we don’t do anything, the more behind America becomes. Look at TAP. We’re still tinkering with it when the everyone else has perfected it. Metro can’t even update a the TAP website for crying out loud.

    Progress means constant and continuous change. Whether it’s a new version of Windows, or a new gaming system, it’s always out with the old, in with the new. But the difference is to ensure that the old technology remains BACKWARDS COMPATIBLE so that the old way can still be used alongside newer methods.

    Look at the new version of Windows. Any file created in older version of Windows is still able to be opened in the newest version of Windows. Same with gaming systems, you can still play old PS1, PS2, and PS3 games in the new PS4. You can still listen to CDs and play DVDs with Blu-Ray players.

    We don’t need to discard the equipment because it’s old. The important thing is making sure it’s upgradeable and backwards compatible so that newer technologies can be implemented along side the older technologies.

    That’s the mistake TAP made. They tried to replace the old with the new and it created this mess. They could’ve instead, implemented the new (TAP) while still retaining the old (paper tickets) like the rest of the world.

    So Washington Metro’s “new” isn’t futuristic and science fiction. People already know these things. It’s the old folks who are in complete denial of everything and stick to the “don’t fix what ain’t broke” idea which has no place in today’s fast paced ever-changing world.

    Nowadays, it’s about constantly making changes while retaining backwards compatibility.

    So the DC Metro’s “new” and “futuristic” thing is more like an upgraded feature like pay direct with a bank card or pay with a cell phone so that it still works alongside the old system.

    More options, more choices, better for all. That’s what progress is all about.

  3. The article on mountain lion overpasses brought back memories of our trip this past summer to Alberta. We drove under several bridges along the Trans-Canada highway that mystified us as to their purpose, since they were too “humpbacked” to be useful for automobiles. We finally decided they must have been built for either elk or cattle, so what is being proposed for mountain lions makes sense. Moreover, the Alberta bridges were architecturally quite striking; one can only hope that our builders might learn from our northern neighbors.

    You state the U.S. is behind in technology when it comes to Light Rail trains. Every mass transit system in the United States purchases their equipment from the same companies that foreign countries use. We have the same technology except like any other product new innovations do take place and it would be foolish to discard the equipment because it’s not the newest model.

  5. The WMATA story is a mostly decent article with a misleading headline. What they’re talking about is hardly “futuristic” — they’re just playing catch-up with Salt Lake City et al. The short version is: they got screwed over by Cubic, and decided to go with a different vendor. Open Payments will replace some of the current fare media, which they’ll promote as “progress.”

  6. The color of the train can be changed with a simple press of a button nowadays. You know those digital signages in front of buses that read what line the buses are? The letters can be in many different colors, red, white, yellow, green, blue, or whatever. Just install the same digital signages onto the trains.

    When the train is a Blue Line, change the text color to Blue. When the train is an Expo Line, change the text color to Teal.
    When the train is a Red Line, change the text color to Red.
    When the train is a Purple Line, change the text color to Purple.

    Problem solved. No need to repaint over and over again. The never-ending cost of repainting versus an one-time installing of digital signs that can show text in different colors with a simple press of a button.

    Do the math and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which is cheaper in the long run. Then Metro can save the money that were used to repaint the trains for something else instead.

  7. Metro unveiled the livery designs several years ago when they began repainting the bus fleet. Since the buses were updated to the new livery, it also makes sense to update the railcars or you’d continue to have the hodge-podge of liveries (at least 4 on Metro’s heavy-rail and 3 on its light-rail rolling stock) we have today. From a branding perspective, it’s best to have coordinated liveries, not just a mish-mash of old and new. (This is similar to what Metro did when they moved to the yellow-stripe livery across both their bus and rail fleets.) Hopefully, we’ll see the new livery on the Red and Purple lines soon as well.

    As for the yellow front of the railcars, that color is meant to both resemble the bus livery and to provide added visibility for the trains as they approach station platforms and at-grade crossings. Since there’s a decent probability that Metro will continue to move away from naming their lines after colors and may return to their letter-based names, the color of the front of the trains won’t make that much difference in the long term anyway. Also, since most of Metro’s railcars operate on more than one rail line, you don’t want to color a railcar dark blue when it will be used half of the time on the light-blue Expo Line (yet another reason I look forward to a return to letter-named rail lines).

  8. Why Yellow
    Both the Blue Line and Expo Line share the same equipment. some days for instance car 101 may be on the Blue Line and the next day on the Expo Line. Painting buses four different color schemes has lead t problems. When the Rapid Bus program was first introduced it was a no, no for a Rapid Bus to be assigned to local service and under no circumstances could a local bus be assigned to a Rapid Bus assignment. With the ultimate intergration of lines via the Downtown Connector lines such as the Gold Line could subliment service for instance on New Years day with equipment from other lines. Color schemes come and go. There have been times when the entire fleet of buses have not all been re-painted the same color when someone with authority decides a new color should be used.

  9. Washington Metro’s system isn’t “futuristic” nor is it “new technology.”

    Many cities all over the world has had the same thing ever since the turn of the 21st century. It’s America that’s stuck behind the times, the rest of the world just passed America by into the dust.

    It’s kinda sad that America has to consider things that have been proven to be successful in the rest of the world to be something like out of science fiction because they remain ignorant to what the rest of the world have been using for decades.

    And this is supposed to be the country that once developed the nuclear bomb, sent people to the Moon, practically invented computers and the internet, and brought up IT entrepreneurs like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Michael Dell (Dell Computers), Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook).

    Science and technology takes a back seat in America to conservative backward minded idiots who know absolutely nothing, cling on to cult-like religious beliefs, remain ignorant to what the rest of the world is doing and remain skeptical on what science and technological innovations can do. Thanks to them and their dumb ideologies, this once great nation that once put strong emphasis on science and technology is fastly spiraling itself down to a third world country.

  10. Why yellow? If it’s the Blue and Expo Line, doesn’t it make sense to color them Blue and light blue, respectively?

    Who makes these decisions and how did they end up with this color scheme? It’s like they make these decisions by drawing from a hat and go with it without any form of public input.

    BTW, out of curiosity, what does Metro plan to do with the old train cars they plan to retire, if any? New York sinks old subway cars into the sea so they become artificial reefs to enrich deep sea wildlife.

    LA could do the same off of our coasts too.

  11. While I like the gray color and the large “Metro” word mark on the new design, it’s so plain without the yellow stripe. There’s a few cars that have been painted gray but otherwise still have the old design scheme, and parts of them (like the yellow stripe on the side) actually look better than the new design. I think there’s definitely some mixing of the two schemes that could occur and end up with a better result.