Transportation headlines, Friday, April 11

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Garcetti offers back to the basics in first State of the City speech (L.A. Times) 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the new carpool lane on the northbound 405 over the Sepulveda Pass would open next month (Metro said there’s no date set yet), reiterated a pledge to build a rail connection to LAX (the project is still in the study phase) and offered more details on the city’s Great Streets Initiative, saying Reseda Boulevard, Gaffey Street and Crenshaw Boulevard would be among those on the list. Of course, work just started earlier this year on the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will run both along and under parts of Crenshaw between Exposition Boulevard and 67th Street.

Some thoughts on near roadway pollution and L.A.’s future (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Interesting post based on a forum held this week about pollution from roads that spills over into neighborhoods and cities. Streetsblog’s Joe Linton:

As I was listening to all this, I felt like there was too much emphasis on dealing with our car-centric system as a given. Car-choked freeways are just part of the way god made our cities. We, health professionals, are just doing our best to adjust to the system we find ourselves stuck in. The discussion was all about how to keep people out of the way of pollution, but not to look at reducing or eliminating that pollution at its source. It’s as if health professionals looking at the tobacco problem just assumed that smoking happens everywhere, and then spent a lot of effort studying gas-masks for non-smokers. Taking on tobacco is a great public health success – because health professionals were able to ban tobacco from many places, and to stigmatize tobacco based on its threat to health.

(I also think that an overly narrow focus on near-roadway-air-pollution makes us miss other huge health risks associated with cars. Every year, driving kills 30,000+ people in the U.S.1.5 million worldwide. There are greenhouse gases, water pollution, noise pollution, obesity, and plenty more issues.)

I was glad to hear Occidental College’s Mark Vallianatos, commenting from the floor microphone, suggest an important alternative. Instead of moving people away from roads, let’s change our roads to be safe for people. If we have schools, playgrounds, housing, etc. adjacent to a road, then, for the sake of health, let’s design and regulate that road to limit vehicle emissions to safe levels. Let’s traffic-calm and road diet our arterials, downgrade our freeways, hopefully get rid of, at least, some of them.


Good post, tough issue.

Have U.S. light rail lines been worth the investment? (The Atlantic Cities)

The reporter, Yonah Freemark, says the overall answer is ‘yes.’ But he also offers sobering news about five light rail systems built in the 1980s in five different cities, four of which are on the West Coast — San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Portland and Buffalo.

The bottom line: none of the systems increased transit use in their regions, although they have shifted more people from buses to trains. In addition, only San Jose saw a slight growth in its central city population. What to make of this?

Even this relatively positive outcome doesn’t compensate for the fact that regions that invested in light rail in the 1980s largely failed to increase the share of workers commuting by transit, or to increase the vitality of their center cities with respect to the surrounding regions. Does this mean we should cease investment in new light rail lines? Certainly not; in many cases, rail has provided the essential boost to reinvigorate communities, and in some cases it has also resulted in higher ridership than before: just look at Rosslyn-Ballston in the D.C. region or Kendall Square in the Boston region.

But spending on new lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period (I-990 in Buffalo, I-205 in Portland, US 50 in Sacramento, CA 54 in San Diego, and CA 237 in San Jose), and each continued to sprawl (including Portland, despite its urban growth boundary). These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail’s mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.

Paid parking fees coming to Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink lots (Daily Bulletin) 

The city wants to impose a $4.50 daily fee or monthly charge of $25 to $30 to off-set maintenance costs for the two lots. The San Bernardino Association of Governments isn’t thrilled — it worries that the move may drive people away from transit — but approved the city’s request. Others are concerned that riders will instead drive to nearby Upland and park in the free lots there.


8 replies

  1. It seems to me that the 5 cities that were studied were all medium-sized locales where there is neither the expense of parking nor the gridlocked traffic that is required to make rail transit successful. Poor planning may be another reason — I used to live in San Jose and their light rail took circuitous routes that made them impossible to compete with the car. Therefore only people who had no other choice would take the new system — which would be bus riders.

  2. And of course, people can just ditch both the car and say good bye to Metro with their ever increasing fares and go buy a cheap scooter.

    Even at the rising gas prices today where the average gallon of gas is $4.29/gal, a 100 mpg scooter with 1 gallon tank will enable you to go 100 miles with $4.29. Most people who live in the city, live and work nearby do not need to waste $75 a month in bus passes or spend $20,000 on a hybrid car when they can get by a week with less than $5 worth of gas and can buy a cheap scooter on craigslist for less than $1000.

  3. Why is the subway so popular in Manhattan? Because it is the fastest and cheapest way to travel up and down Manhattan. In certain parts of Los Angeles, the density and layout of the city does allow rail to favorably compete with the automobile. But most of Los Angeles would require radical re-zoning as well as massive rebuilding in order for it to be rail-friendly to the pont that a new line would do more than simply siphon off former bus riders. Transit planning in Los Angeles should recognize that this is a multi-modal city. And one of those modes is the automobile. Transit planning should include the automobile in conjunction with trains, not always in opposition. Car share, parking at urban rail stations, ride sharing services such as Lyft, electric car charging stations, CNG stations, connections from the freeway to the rail station….all these could be promoted by the MTA to encourage people to consider using their car primarily for local and “last mile” trips, and using the train for cross-city commuting and other expeditions.

  4. I remember once I had read an article here, saying that public transport is about networking. I think this is why in many cases that the light rail doesn’t really increase the overall ridership. For example, if I live in Alhambra and I want to go to some sort of event in Hollywood at night, the event ends at 9:30 PM, I take the red line back to Downtown, and then what? Wait 30 to 60 minutes for Line 76 to take me back to Alhambra? You may say I can drive to Union Station, and get on the Red Line there. Yeah. But if I can drive to Downtown, I can also drive to Hollywood directly, why should I bother to take the subway? Parking? Come on, you can always find some place to park. The point is, if the whole network is weak, by strengthening one or two lines in the network, the network won’t get any stronger.
    The problem is we are always short-sighted and we are always thinking inside the box. If the traffic on a corridor gets worse and worse, then we build a light rail line along that corridor; if the bus gets slower and slower, then we add limit-stop service or Metro Rapid along the bus line. These practice are like when we get sick, we are only thinking about taking medicines to cure the sickness, we never think of changing our life habits to build a better immune system so we don’t get sick in the future.
    Yes, a light rail line will serve the people who live and work near the busy corridor very well. But what about those people who travel on this corridor everyday but live or work far from the corridor? Unless they can make easy transfers, they won’t use the light rail on this corridor.
    As for the slowness of the bus, is limit-stop the only thing we can do to make the bus faster? How about set the stops for local bus every 0.2 miles apart instead of every 0.1 miles apart? How about making the red curb bus zone longer so it’s easier for the bus operators to pull the buses back into the traffic? How about locate the bus stop at the further corner instead of the nearer corner of the traffic signal so the buses are less likely to be stopped by the red light? How about changing the fare structure to favor pass over cash so more people will use TAP card then cash then boarding time could be shorten? If these are done, local buses will be much faster and we will no longer need some of the Rapid lines. For those corridors with Rapid bus and local bus both run at every 20 minutes, we could discontinue the Rapid bus, and run the local bus very 12 minutes. Thus, one trip is removed per hour, the operating cost will be lowered by 1/6 (actually maybe more than 1/6 since the local bus is faster) yet people will also spend less time waiting for the bus.
    Rather than adding something new, we should focus more on how to utilize what we’ve got in a better way.

  5. Rosslyn-Ballston and Kendall Square are served by heavy rail, not light rail.

  6. Yes, let’s make government more intrusive by introducing more regulation that restricts the freedom of the people.

    Let’s all give more power to big brother so not only they can tell us what to do and what not to do with our bodies, we give them the power to regulate our roads that we taxpayers pay for.

    Seems like freedom is dead in California because more people are becoming mindless sheeple accepting the life of living in a nanny state.

  7. If Mayor Garcetti is for “back to basics,” we should be also looking at reducing sales taxes instead of increasing them.

    People buy more things when taxes are lower. Overall, since more people buy things local when taxes are lower, the city government gains more revenue from lowering sales taxes than raising them.

    When sales taxes are higher, people refrain from buying from local businesses and instead, end up buying things online from out of state vendors where no sales taxes are levied.

    In theory, everyone is supposed to report out of state purchases when they file income taxes, but who really does that when they enter in their taxes on TurboTax or HR Block Online?

  8. “Investment” usually comes with the word “profitability.”

    People don’t make “investments” to lose money. They invest so that they can make money down the road.

    In that context, no light rail “investments” in America have been a complete failure. None of them have made any form of profit. They all have been big money losers.

    A lot has to do with the blind faith that the honor system was going to work which a lot of light rail projects ended up doing, when in fact, they have been a complete disaster with high rates of fare evasion.

    Sort of stupid really. Didn’t anyone planning out these things back in the 1980s realize the flaws of running mass transit under the honor system?