Transportation headlines, Wednesday, May 14

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Hines repealed (Santa Monica Daily Press)

The development approvals for a massive residential and commercial project near the future Expo Line were rescinded by the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday — just three months after narrowly approving the plan. Excerpt:

Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who criticized the vitriolic nature of the public discourse, opted to abstain, as did Mayor Pam O’Connor. Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day cast the lone vote in opposition to the project’s repeal, lauding the residents’ referendum drive but noting that he believes in the policy of the plan.

The Hines project consists of five roughly 80-foot-tall building and 765,000 square feet of office, housing, retail, and restaurants.

Opponents point first to the estimated 7,000 daily car trips that the project could add to an already congested area. They say, among many other things, the project was ill conceived and needs more housing.

Advocates point to the $32 million in community benefits over 55 years and the city’s current shortage of creative office space. They note that the land is private and that the developer could simply choose to reoccupy the space. The proposed project, they say, is better for the city.

It will be interesting to see what happens as there is certainly room for development in Santa Monica and, in particular, near the second phase of the Expo Line that will have three stations in the city (the project is current forecast to open in early 2016). The city surely could use more housing — the big westbound traffic jams on the Santa Monica Freeway each morning are due, in part, to a big workforce descending on the city that has built relatively few residential units over the past several decades and has seen rents for new units and home prices skyrocket.

5 things to know about cash-free toll roads (OC Register) 

Goodbye cash payments on The Toll Roads in Orange County. As of this week, all vehicles using the toll roads need a FasTrak transponder. If you have a transponder issued through Metro’s ExpressLanes account, it will work on the Toll Roads in the OC.

Biking to work increases 60 percent over last decade, Census Bureau reports (U.S. Census Bureau news release) 

In raw numbers, the number of people riding bikes to work has gone from 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2012. Some highlights from the Census Bureau:

  • The West had the highest rate of biking to work at 1.1 percent, and the South had the lowest rate at 0.3 percent.
  • Among large cities, Portland, Ore., had the highest bicycle-commuting rate at 6.1 percent.
  • The median commute time for those who bike to work was about 19.3 minutes.
  • Men were more likely to bike to work than women were. The rate of bicycle commuting for men was more than double that of women, 0.8 percent compared with 0.3 percent.
  • Those with a graduate or professional degree or higher and those with less than a high school degree had the highest rates of biking to work, at 0.9 and 0.7 percent, respectively.
  • 1.5 percent of those with an income of $10,000 or less commuted to work by bicycle, the highest rate of bicycle commuting by any income category.
  • African-Americans had the lowest rate of biking to work at 0.3 percent, compared with some other race or two or more races who had the highest rate at 0.8 percent.

LAX Transit Plan Part 2 — people mover and ground access (Let’s Go L.A.)

This blog post looks at the ongoing studies by Los Angeles World Airports for the people mover at the airport and how it will connect with the future Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will have a station at the intersection of Aviation and Century boulevards. The blog doesn’t believe the connection problem has yet been solved and is particularly critical of one alternative that would build an addition to the Crenshaw/LAX Line that would connect with the people mover at a planned transit hub. The complaints: it would slow trains, dead-end the Green Line at the transit hub, split the Crenshaw/LAX Line between two routes and require expensive modifications to the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction.

Obviously, not everyone agrees. Proponents say the transit hub would offer an easier and more seamless connection to Metro Rail. While LAWA continues to study people mover routes, Metro and LAWA continue to work together on studies for the ongoing Airport Metro Connector project, which will determine the best way to connect Metro Rail to the LAX terminals.

Houston: transit, reimagined (Human Transit)

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker writes about a plan that he helped produce. Without adding operating costs, it would dramatically increase the number of bus lines that have frequent service. It would also cut down on bus lines that are duplicative and routes that are expensive to run but serve few people. In other words, Walker suggests, transit planners in the Houston region have been willing to make some hard choices.


The huge no-cost expansion of useful service may remind you of a plan I worked on two years ago for Auckland, New Zealand, where it was also possible to massively expand the frequent network by redeploying duplicative services.   Not all  transit agencies have this much waste, so your city’s mileage may vary.  But if you suspect that transit could be doing more in your city, read all about the Houston plan.  You’ll be amazed, as we were, about how much is sometimes possible.


Metro CEO Art Leahy has certainly spoken about the issue of better integrating the rail and bus system to create a more efficient and useful system for customers. Click here to read his message to riders from this past January.

To stave off transit cuts, Seattle plans to go at it alone (Streetsblog Network) 

And the battle between cities and the ‘burbs continues. A recent regional transit measure failed at the polls. It received enough support to pass in Seattle, but lost in the suburbs. City officials in Seattle are now prepping another measure that would only go to city voters to spare cuts from happening in Seattle while starting a fund to help preserve routes that cross city lines.

Free metro travel spreads the peak load (Railway Gazette) 

Travelers who exit the transit system in Singapore ride for free, which has encouraged seven percent of riders to shift their commutes to an earlier hour. That has reduced crowds during the peak morning rush after 8 a.m.

8 replies

  1. In Los Angeles, and it’s municipalities, people care about their immediate area. So much to the point of dillusion. LAX is 3rd world, let’s face it. No matter how much marketing or “facelifts” it gets, functionally, it is awful. Look at its evacuation scenario. Meanwhile, the surrounding cities, with the exception of those in the landing path, have let the areas into and around the airport ROT! Easy access should have been done by 2001. Century Blvd is a good example, a direct line to LAX with ZERO RAPID service, ZERO!! The fly away is decent, yet still LAX is not for the people that live here, it’s for the people to come he and it’s obvious, that should really change. It’s like the city is being built, we are voting, yet it’s for others to move in and vacation. That’s gotta change.

  2. The OC toll roads have been a fiasco, and only continue to get worse.

  3. GREG Badovinac: From the OC Toll Roads Web Site: “A monthly $2 account maintenance fee per transponder is assessed, but waived for each $25 incurred in tolls on The Toll Roads (State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261). Hybrid and electric vehicles are subject to standard toll rates on The Toll Roads.” Moreover, ever car pays the toll — there are no discounts for carpooling.

    The big difference between the OC toll roads and the Metro HOT lanes is that the former were built as toll roads, while the latter were converted from HOV lanes. Those of us who continue to use the I-110 and I-10 toll lanes in the manner for which they were originally built (i.e., as carpool lanes) are getting taxed the $1 “maintenance fee” just as if we were using these lanes as toll roads. That is the crux of the complaints.

  4. It seems to me at least that LA World Airports is going to drag on this business of having ANY type of mass transit connect LAX. So far, the lack of transportation to and from LAX is an embarrassment to the whole Los Angeles area. LAWA has dragged this issue on for a least a decade with no resolution EVER in sight. Unfortunately, even though we are the second largest city in the nation and a very desirable area to live and vacation, however, LAWA has made Los Angeles the laughing stock of the nation with the lack of mass transit to LAX. They need to get their act together.

  5. Uh, no you do not need a transponder to use the OC Toll Roads. They have cameras which can read your plates and then you can pay on line within 48 hours. Maybe Metro could offer this on the Express Lanes?

  6. Thank god Art has spoken out. He knows transit like no one else. Although he has more than one degree his hands on experience is what separates he from the so called college wonders. He knows what works and what doesn’t and this knowledge was not from some college text based on theory but real world experience

  7. Do the OC Toll Roads charge a monthly transponder fee like Metro? I love how Metro gives less than 30 days notice before imposing this tax, er ah, fee on the public. If a private business did that, the government would sue for lack of proper notification.

  8. i just can’t anymore with the LAX plan. LAWA and Metro are clearly on two separate paths here. It’s becoming yet another embarrassment, much like the Green Line’s failed connection to LAX when it was built. You’re losing the public’s trust and motivation to take transit to the airport. Why can’t both agencies work on this together instead of wasting time by developing two separate sets of plans which only add time and money to the overall project?!