Transportation headlines, Monday, March 17

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Buildings slated for tear-down were rich part of Little Tokyo’s history (L.A. Times) 

Nice article about the brick buildings on 1st Street between Alameda and Central that Metro must demolish to build the Regional Connector’s new Little Tokyo station. One of the buildings dates to 1898 and the once well-known Atomic Cafe was on the site. Senor Fish, one of the current occupants, is moving to 7th and Mateo in downtown L.A. The article concludes with this nice quote:

“That’s the thing about L.A. It constantly tears itself down,” [Sean Carrillo, one of the Troy Cafe owners] said. “The building has been here a long time. It’s a great building. And it’s done its job.”

Can L.A.’s streets be great? Deputy Mayor Rick Cole opines (The Planning Report)

The answer is yes, says Cole, although the city doesn’t have big amounts of money to spend on making the city’s streets more pedestrian, transit and bike friendly. The more likely solution will involve the city putting some seed money into streets that lure private investment.

Muni route overhaul speeds up, with route changes ahead (S.F. Chronicle) 

San Francisco’s city buses and trains average eight miles per hour for a variety of reasons — frequent traffic signals, stop signs, traffic and operating on busy streets. The agency is in the midst of trying to create more bus lanes, increase train speeds and create different levels of service (express, rapid, frequent, etc.). But some residents complain that will lead to less service in their neighborhoods, thereby betraying the Muni’s mission to bring transit to every corner of the city.

Although the particulars may not mean much to readers here, the story hits on some themes that are universal to transit planners. Namely, what’s the best way to serve a big city?

Should cities reject bad transit until something better comes along? (Next City)

Provocative last graph:

Those promoting certain transit plans often argue that it’s either now or never: Best not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But Zurich has shown that holding out for better, more cost-effective projects that leave money for more expansive networks can sometimes be the best decision. Or, at least, not a totally irredeemable one. The key — whether in Zurich, New Jersey, Austin or elsewhere — is making sure that something better does indeed happen.

The post never really answers the question posed in the headline. But it offers a few interesting examples that suggest that perhaps it’s better to do something right than get it wrong and suffer through the consequences.

Biking by the numbers (San Francisco Bike Coalition) 

The cost of one mile of protected bikeway is $455,000, according to the Coalition — far less than one mile of roadway, bridge or subway. The idea is to counter criticism that new bike infrastructure costs too much. It’s sort of a no brainer that bike infrastructure is, in fact, relatively cheap when it comes to transportation spending. That said, the more troublesome criticism that bike advocates likely will have to deal with is the allegation that some bike infrastructure is not being used much compared to vehicle lanes and transit. My own three cents: if a bike lane is not being used much, I want to know why and what can be done to get people to use it.

8 replies

  1. Joaquin,

    You need to realize that Metro does not work for the best interest of the public. They work for the best interest of themselves – maintaining the status quo and their job security.

    “Doing something right” is usually expensive for taxpayers and they push that agenda. Grade separation is a lot more expensive than building them at grade. So are installation of gates. So is starting off with a distance based pricing model instead of a flat rate system. And it costs a lot of money to get TAP right.

    But in the best interests of Metro, they would rather “sell” the cheap way out first to the public and let the taxpayers pay for the expensive upgrades later when the system has expanded and the problems arises. Doing upgrades later when the Metro system has more stations, more rail lines is in the end, more people using the system ends up becoming more expensive to taxpayers than getting it right from the start. This way, Metro employees has a valid excuse to raise fares, raise taxes and make service cuts so that they keep their job security and the peons will be forever beholden to Metro.

  2. “Perhaps it’s better to do something right than get it wrong and suffer through the consequences.” Yes, like not grade separating the entire Expo Line. Its lack of speed and signal priority means that you’re riding a really really really expensive bus.

  3. True riding folks can use their off road/mountain bikes and traverse a Metro bike trail that does not have to be made from concrete and yuppie design. Half a mil to make a few folks w/high end bikes happy? Nada.

  4. @Daywalker: True, but the term “agenda” is often used as jargon for some evil plan.

  5. The union station downtown is not a people friendly place to visit anymore since
    metro rail has taken over. You build fences to keep people out. Where do you
    sit if your waiting for someone to come in by train?

  6. Nothing wrong with an agenda. Without one, you get chaos. Look what happened to Seattle with its exploding toilets. Do we have to have sewage running through the streets before we decide to build an adequate sewer system?

  7. One mile of Bikeway is $445,000 which is much less than one mile of roadway. Most bikeways are on roadways. So how can it be cheaper? And any agency that spends $445,000 for a mile of bikeway needs to re-evaluate it’s priorities.