Transportation headlines, Monday, July 7

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Thanks for riding on Friday, everyone! How was transit service to the various firework events around town? Comment please.

California screaming (New Yorker) 

A good story — albeit behind a paywall — about the ongoing gentrification and spectacular rise in real estate prices in San Francisco due to a booming tech industry in the Bay Area. If you can get your paws on a July 7 edition, it’s worthy of a role. Transit plays a role as the article discusses the controversy over private tech industry buses ferrying workers between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Proponents say the buses help get commuters out of cars while opponents argue that tech firms should have never been allowed to use public bus stops for free and that the buses make it too easy for wealthy young workers to drive up housing costs in the city of San Francisco while working outside the city.

The median household income in S.F: $73,802. In L.A.: $49,745, according to the Census Bureau’s latest numbers. That’s a big difference!

A very interesting story because some of the things happening in San Francisco seem to be good and enviable: jobs are being created, infrastructure is being improved upon. On the other hand, and as the article makes clear, there remains serious debate over much the tech industry workers — with their new wealth — are really contributing to the city where they reside. And it’s pretty clear that San Francisco’s leaders efforts to build and encourage the development of affordable housing are, at best, painfully slow.

City of Pasadena studies protected bike lanes (Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition) 

The city hired a contractor to look at the possibility of protected bike lanes — i.e. ones protected from traffic by more than a thin white stripe of paint — on six east-west streets. A couple could help cyclists reach Gold Line stations, most notably on Del Mar and Villa. Del Mar is a bit of a bad joke at present: the city has it marked as a bike route even though car traffic is very heavy and there are stretches where cyclists have no choice but to take a whole lane because space along the curb is either lacking or used by parked motor vehicles. Pasadena has been talking about improving bike infrastructure for quite some time now but that hasn’t resulted in any real action. I should know. I live and bike there.

Cash free buses (Transport for London) 

Buses in London no longer accept cash fares. Riders can pay with an Oyster card (their version of Metro’s TAP card) or use contact-less cards such as debit or credit cards. The transit agency says very few people were using cash on buses anymore and the move will save the agency money.

Riverside: streetcars may roll in the city’s future (Press-Enterprise)

The city is studying a potential 12-mile streetcar line with a first phase that would connect downtown to UC Riverside. I haven’t been to Riverside in forever; would this work, readers?

Hell must look like this: a grueling year for a train-struck town (NPR) 

A look back at the tragedy in Lac-Megantic, where last July the brakes of an unattended train failed. The 72-car train — complete with tanker cars filled with oil — rolled downhill, overturned and exploded in Lac-Megantic’s downtown, killing 47 people. Much of downtown is still abandoned due to rubble and contamination from the fire. An unbelievable story of neglect. The New York Times Magazine also published a short piece in December about those in a tavern next to the tracks when the train derailed.

8 replies

  1. The real problem with LA is that there’s no metabolism. Once a structure or home is built, it just stays there forever. There’s never been a build-and-replace-it-with-new mindset. You see condemned homes in LA that are over 100 years old but nothing can be done about it because there’s no buyers for a home that’s riddled with asbestos and lead paint. The house is worthless, but the land it’s sitting on is more valuable. But there’s also the bureaucratic nightmare just to demolish that home and more bureaucracy to rebuild a new home.

    Fortunately, most of those single story wooden homes were built before stringent earthquake building codes were in place. When the big one happens, and soon enough it’s bound to happen, those homes and structures built pre-1980 will be flattened down to rubble. Let nature take care of the demolition and you take care of half of the costs right there.

  2. I don’t think it’s great to make blanket statements about what a certain generation will or won’t do. I am a millenial and I own a single family home in a 50’s era neighborhood. In a condo, you have to pay the HOA fees, there is little control of your neighbors (in an attached condo), and there is reduced freedom to rent out portions of your property, or conversely sell if there are too many renters in the complex, depending on how the HOA agreements are written. My neighborhood has no HOA fees, I pay the gardener some money to do basic yard work, and more importantly it is still a transit accessible neighborhood served by three bus routes in a half mile radius, plus very bikeable with lower-traffic streets.

    There are places which can densify, near rail lines – and some of the TODs are still three story buildings when they can support five and six stories fairly easily (the limit for a cheaper wood framed building is five stories, or six if a concrete podium is used). But there is still a demand for single family development in transit oriented areas, especially on the smaller average lot sizes common to Southern California.

  3. Housing is expensive in LA. It’s called supply and demand. Lots of demand, no supply. Look around LA and all you see are one story buildings, strip malls and homes, all spread out throughout the nation’s largest county that just surpassed 10 million. And people living in LA are completely oblivious to the fact that the population is going to keep on increasing with no more room to develop anymore. The suburbs have extended out of the city that it stretches for over 100 miles now. It’s stupid.

    What’s needed is to re-write the zoning laws (no more parking requirements, get rid of height restrictions, stop the unitasker mindset of using the land just for residential or commercial properties), cut through the confusing red tape so as to make it easier to demolish old blighted homes (no more you need an inspector for this, you need a fee for that, gotta pay a bribe to the tax assessor, must be personal friends with a politician to get stuff done, etc. etc.; you want to tear down a property, get a bulldozer and knock it down, it should be that simple!), and rebuilding these lands with new mixed commercial/residential affordable condo projects.

    We need to fix the poor urban planning LA has been doing for decades. Outdated 1950s zoning laws and regulations have no place in an increasingly fast paced, technology loving, urban living is cool environment in 2014.

    Besides, Millenials today have no interest in living in the suburban environment as their past generations have lived. No one in our generation has the slightest interest in wasting the weekends mowing the lawn, planting a garden, and spending money to do house upgrades. Give us a spacious condo right in the urban area where everything is nearby with lots of electrical outlets for our technology gadgets and that’s fine by us.

  4. Other than the OC Register – Inland Empire Edition (my name for the new PE) disturbing confusion of “streetcars” with “light rail” (as evidenced by the intro photo showing an Expo Line train described as a “streetcar”), the article gives a correct amount of skepticism to the project. The streetcar would supplant a bus that is rarely full, and would likely be slower than the bus that it replaces. In the past RTA had proposed BRT along the Route 1 corridor (which this is) and that seems more in line with the area. San Bernardino recently opened their BRT line so there is an example next door of what quality transit looks like.

    • Hey Calwatch;

      Good of you to note the confusion in the accompanying photos between light rails and streetcar — I should have noted that. Thanks for your insight. Sounds like the skepticism is well founded.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Gentrification is happening in places like Silverlake and Echo Park too, pushing away the poor working class due to rising rent prices, and no new housing are being built. You either have the extremely rich or the extremely poor and no strong middle class anymore.

    And you can’t shove one for the other because once everyone living in that area is wealthy, who’s going to be the ones that are going to be filling up their $5 lattes and serve them their $20 Kobe beef burgers?

    What’s needed is a balance. LA can avoid the pitfalls of SF by making more affordable high density housing projects so that rich, middle class, and the poor can live in the same community. Easier said than done though, especially in an arrogant society like LA where everyone has their own agenda.

    As for TfL (Transport for London), it also helps that using an Oyster Card is cheaper for the transit rider than paying in cash. See London, unlike the amateurs working at LA Metro, were smart: promote the usage of Oyster Cards by making transit cost less for transit riders when they use their Oyster Cards.

    When it’s cheaper, faster, and easier, you create a successful contactless environment. Better for transit riders and better for the agency (huge cost savings)

    It has brought up over and over again that this is what LA needs to do to promote TAP card usage. Make fares by TAP cards cheaper than paying in cash. Once there’s the “it’s cheaper that way” factor built right into using TAP, people will move to TAP than paying in wrinkly old bills and coins.

    When is LA going to stop wasting money by trying to re-invent the wheel and just learn how to do things from the best transit systems in the world?

    • Hi Josh;

      I agree. I think there’s certainly room for development in L.A. — most of which is ultra low-rise — although development will be controversial here no matter where you put it. My hope is that the region succeeds in really building up housing near transit sites and fully exploits the tons of space available to build interesting things in and around downtown L.A.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. Hey Steve

    I just noticed This embed is invalid after I clicked on.  Hope this is not a hacker.   Sam

    >________________________________ > From: Metro’s The Source >To: >Sent: Monday, July 7, 2014 2:24 PM >Subject: [New post] Transportation headlines, Monday, July 7 > > > > >Steve Hymon posted: “Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison!  Thanks for riding on Friday, everyone! How was transit” >