Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 6

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Here are two plans for an airport people mover (Curbed LA)

The Curbed post is based on tweets from L.A. Times transportation reporter Laura Nelson, who attended the Los Angeles World Airports Board meeting (if you’re not following Laura on Twitter, you should be). As Laura’s tweets show, it appears that LAWA is looking at two alternatives for getting an automated people mover into the terminal area and neither would be a loop.

As many of you know, Metro’s Airport Metro Connector study is also underway and Metro is working with LAX to identify the best way to connect the Crenshaw/LAX Line with the airport’s people mover and the location for a possible connection between light rail and a people mover. There are several possibilities, including a connection at the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century station or the new transportation hub proposed by the airport that is west of the Crenshaw/LAX Line. Metro staff are expected to give their latest report to the Metro Board of Directors in June.

The L.A. Airspace blog by Brian Sumers that is published by the Los Angeles News Group also has an item on the LAWA Board discussion, as well as the full LAWA report with visuals on everything that is on the table including the people mover, future roadway changes and a consolidated rental car facility.

WeHo to consider efforts to lure a Metro line stop (WEHOville) 

The city of West Hollywood is considering hiring a lobbyist to help secure a Metro Rail line that would stop in West Hollywood. As CurbedLA notes, the timing is obvious as Metro considers pursuing a possible ballot measure in 2016 to raise money to accelerate the construction of transportation projects or perhaps secure funding for projects beyond the Measure R expenditure list.

The Purple Line Extension project did study a subway segment running from Hollywood through WeHo to Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. With funding limited, the Metro Board decided to pursue a subway alignment mostly under Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood that performed better in terms of expected ridership. A northward extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line is in Metro’s long-range plan as an unfunded project and some activists have proposed that line run all the way to WeHo, Hollywood or both. Metro has not yet drawn up any firm plans for such a project.

Meanwhile, two Los Angeles City Council members — Joe Buscaino and Tom LaBonge — are urging that a light rail line be built that that connects Wilmington and San Pedro to the Blue Line, perhaps via the Harbor Subdivision right-of-way that is owned by Metro, according to Build Los Angeles. That project has been talked up by Move LA, the activist group urging Metro to pursue a “Measure R 2” in 2016.

The bigger story here — and it’s a good one, reporters — is that with the possibility that Metro will go to the ballot in 2016, many cities and other stakeholders across the region are starting to push for their projects to be included. There is certainly no shortage of projects that have been talked about for years that are not funded. Look at the funded and unfunded list in Metro’s long-range plan (pages 30 and 31). The interesting part, of course, is that the Metro Board has not made any decision yet whether to go forward with a measure, nor do we know what the Board may even pursue or whether there would be any money for projects outside Measure R.

Climate change study finds U.S. is already widely affected (New York Times) 

A wide range of scientists overseen by the federal government developed the report, including representatives from two oil companies. Here’s the first graph:

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects. [snip]

And, more notably, here are the last two graphs — which perhaps are two of the most important graphs in the story:

Historically, the United States — with its large cars, large houses and high per capita consumption of energy — was responsible for more emissions than any other country. Lately, China has become the largest emitter over all, though its emissions per person are still far below those of the United States.

The report pointed out that while the country as a whole still has no comprehensive climate legislation, many states and cities have begun to take steps to limit emissions and to adapt to climatic changes that can no longer be avoided. But the report found that these efforts are inadequate compared with the magnitude of the problems that are coming.

Of course, you don’t have to wait around for the government to do something if this is an issue you care about. Walking and biking are emissions free! And taking transit has been shown as a way to reduce your carbon footprint when compared to driving alone or even with passengers. Please see this UCLA study on how the Gold Line and Orange Line both produce fewer greenhouse gases in the near- and far-term than driving, especially driving alone.

The Federal Transit Administration also published this report in 2010 on public transit’s role in how the country responds to climate change. To quote the report: “National level data show significant greenhouse gas emission savings by use of public transportation, which offers a low emissions alternative to driving.” And a graphic from the report:


Did Metro build a perpetual motion machine (Streetsblog L.A.) 

And on the subject of clean energy….this is a critical look at the MACE project that we posted about recently. The $600,000 test project aimed to determine if energy could be captured by placing a wind turbine in a Red Line tunnel. The idea is that wind from a passing train would turn the turbine and then create energy.

Experts interviewed by Roger Rudick on Streetsblog, however, are dubious. They say that passing trains likely meet resistance from the new turbine and thus must use more power to maintain their speed — meaning that any energy captured is canceled out by the extra energy needed to push trains down the track.

According to the test, the wind turbine could capture $6,000 in energy annually. Streetsblog says a turbine that could be switched on and off may perform better but that Metro may reap more energy by regenerative braking similar to what hybrid cars use (and this is something Metro is pursuing).

Good article and I encourage you to read. I think the question really comes down to whether the wind turbine is something worth pursuing and whether it can be improved to the point where it’s economically useful.

7 replies

  1. A loop is not needed. LAX’s long term expansion plans involves building a new terminal west of TBIT. Building a loop people mover will only restrict what can be built at LAX in the future.

    Besides, is it really necessary that there’s a front door access to each and every terminal? This isn’t a bus, it’s a tram, a people mover. If one can access Terminals 3, TBIT and Terminal 4 within walking distance from one people mover station, then that’s all that’s needed. There’s no need to have a separate station one for T3, TBIT, and T4 when they’re so close to each other; it’ll just cause more stop-and-go delays for short distances.

  2. A loop making stops at each terminal is highly unnecessary and too costly.

    A single people mover path right down the middle is fine so as to have accessibility from both the north and south terminals.

  3. Metro, please take the initiative on the LAX people mover project, and put out some detailed plans to counter the nonsense being produced by LAWA. It seems like the best option is a straight shot down 96th Street connecting Century/Aviation to all the LAX facilities, with a loop to the terminals. And this should be doable for under $1 billion. SFO’s fantastic people mover cost only $400 million or so.

  4. I read the Streetsblog article with interest because the physicists were absolutely right in theory but have missed a significant point. Certainly, if trains only had to accelerate or maintain speed, they would be correct. But trains also must decelerate and currently this energy is dissipated via the braking system. If a turbine is placed where a tunnel expands into a station box, having a little bit of that backpressure to push against the train as it approaches a station could only help deceleration; sort of a regenerative braking system that isn’t attached to the train. Upon reacceleration, the backpressure effects are minimized since the train is leaving a station box with much more volume and can do so without creating too much of a pressure gradient. The concept could work; it is a matter of placing the turbines in the right place.

    One thing that absolutely would help would be to streamline all the protrusions where the pressure gradient is the highest, i.e. in the tunnels far from station boxes. I believe the Chunnel (Channel Tunnel) has cross-connecting air ducts that connect the two way tunnels at predetermined lengths to minimize air resistance.

  5. Fine example of wasteful government spending. Couldn’t they have spent $600,000 on more TVMs instead?

  6. Re: Wind turbines driven by trains – the story shows the prototype has a 100 year simple payback ($6000 energy recovered, for a $600,000 investment), even if it isn’t increasing operating costs. So far beyond rational that I’m astounded Metro even considered this.

    I’m also slightly incredulous that regenerative braking isn’t more effective. Is it that train frequency is so low, or the track circuits so small, that there isn’t another train using power on the line at the same time as a train is braking? Would not it be more effective to look at energy recovery in the substations (a flywheel, perhaps)?