Transportation headlines, Thursday, Nov. 6

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A little #ballroomdance getting underway at #UnionStation! #MetroPresents #LAUS #dancing #DancingClassrooms

A video posted by Metro Los Angeles (@metrolosangeles) on

L.A.’s past and future railroad heydays (Zocalo Public Square)

The event Monday night in downtown Los Angeles featured authors Tom Zoellner and Ethan Elkind. Tom’s book “Train” looks at some of the world’s most important railroads while Ethan’s book “Railtown” focuses on the building of the modern Metro Rail system.

Excerpt from the Zocalo write-up of the event:

Elkind says he credits Mayor Tom Bradley—who made rail a campaign issue—for bringing trains back to L.A. A number of ballot measures to fund big rail projects failed to pass in the 1970s. But on 1980 (the same day Ronald Reagan was elected), thanks in part to a marketing campaign led by L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Angelenos approved a sales tax measure to build rail here.

Why the delay? “It took decades of perseverance and a lot of consensus-building to get a county this large to come to agreement about what a rail system would look like,” said Elkind. He explained that pleasing people from Palmdale to Palos Verdes in order to achieve over 50 percent approval at the ballot box was a tremendous challenge.

And, added Zoellner, there was also hostility from vested interests across the city, including the Los Angeles Times, which “never met a rail measure it didn’t oppose for many years.” Zoellner asked Elkind if he thinks there might be “something in the Los Angeles DNA that’s inherently hostile to rail?”

In fairness, The Times endorsed Measure R in 2008 (which won) and the proposed extension of Measure R in 2012 (Measure J, which lost). Of course, The Times was hardly the only skeptic of past ballot measures — four of them lost before the passage of Prop A in 1980 that got the modern Metro Rail system finally under construction.

Ethan’s book is excellent, btw. I interviewed Ethan for a podcast that we’ll post on the blog soon.

Santa Monica Council to consider 500-bicycle bike share (Santa Monica Daily Press)

While Metro works on developing a countywide bike-share program, the city of Santa Monica is thinking of jumping ahead of other cities in the county and beginning its own bike share with 65 to 75 bike rental stations across the city. Metro is also looking at Santa Monica as one of the station locations for the first phase of its bike share along with downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach and Pasadena.

L.A. County sets record for low turnout (Daily News)


Los Angeles County set a record low turnout for a nonprimary election: Only 25.2 percent of the more than 4 million registered voters took the time to cast ballots in Tuesday’s election. For California, it was slightly better, but not by much. Of the state’s more than 17 million registered voters, 5.3 million went to the polls — a turnout of 29.9 percent.

That’s in stark contrast to recent statewide elections. President Obama’s elections brought out 79.4 percent in 2008 and 72.3 percent in 2012.

Four years ago, when voters returned Jerry Brown to the governorship after nearly three decades, turnout was 59.6 percent in his election over Republican Meg Whitman.

It’s worth noting that Measure R passed in 2008 with 67.9 percent approval from county voters and Measure J failed in 2012 with 66.1 percent approval. Was turnout a factor? Almost certainly one factor, I think.

Turnout will presumably rise in 2016 with the presidential election and one of California’s U.S. Senate seats on the ballot. If Metro pursues a ballot measure in 2016 — as always, an emphasis on the word ‘if’ — turnout is something to consider given that the ballot measure would need two-thirds approval unless the Legislature changes the threshold for victory. There has been talk about that — and even a bill to that effect — but little movement thus far in Sacramento.

Quasi-related: McClathy newspapers call transportation mostly a winner in Tuesday’s elections across the U.S.

Also worth reading: this op-ed headlined “The Midterms were not a Republican Revolution” by Republican pollster Frank Lutz. The op-ed equally applies to previous Democratic victories at the polls. “This isn’t about pride of ownership regarding American progress; this is about progress, period. Americans don’t care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They just want common-sense solutions that make everyday life just a little bit easier. But they can’t get their houses in order until Washington gets its own house in order,” Lutz writes. Hard to argue with that.

Driving in Los Angeles in the 1960s (Lost Los Angeles)

Among the things you see in this video: a bus, the old (and awful) exit and entrance ramps at the 405-Wilshire interchange, a partially developed Century City, the difficulty of making a left turn in Los Angeles and free-flowing traffic on downtown freeways. The funny thing: much of what you see doesn’t look much different than present day.

8 replies

  1. Re: Driving in Los Angeles in the 1960s (Lost Los Angeles)

    The “Lost Los Angeles” channel on youtube has a lot of great stuff for the Los Angeles History aficionado (what few of us there are).

    This particular video has the look of stock footage for some sort of “New Los Angeles” promotional film. The focus of the footage is on the new infrastructure that was built during that time. The new Los Angeles being built. Unseen is the old Los Angeles that was being discarded.

    For the old Los Angeles, one particular piece of film footage on youtube is particularly compelling. Just some film footage of a car driving through the Bunker Hill area and Downtown Los Angeles before urban renewal leveled and erased all of it. Do a youtube search for “Bunker Hill Los Angeles” (avoids all the “Battle of Bunker Hill” stuff on youtube). It appears in three different entries. The “Lost Los Angeles” version isn’t the best. A lot is missing and the “Psycho” music soundtrack just didn’t work for me.


  2. I think a lot of people don’t vote because, at the end of their second long commute of the day, and with traffic getting worse by the minute, they’re done with driving. Luckily, I could walk to my polling station!

  3. A thought: when you describe transit measures as having “lost,” many readers may assume that they received less than 50%. It’s crazy that state law requires 2/3 approval, so it’s important to remind people that the measures were overwhelmingly popular but not quite overwhelmingly enough. That way, they may push their state legislators to amend those crazy requirements.

  4. According to the California Secretary of State, as of October 20, 2014

    LA County has close to 6.1 million eligible voters (out of 10+ million residents), in which 4.9 million are registered voters.

    As an indicator of how many registered voters actually came out to cast their ballot this past Tuesday, this is how many LA County voters voted for Governor and Lt. Governor from the LA County Registrar’s office in Tuesday’s election:
    Brown 732,606
    Kashkari 372,745
    Total votes: 1,105,351
    Newsom 695,633
    Nehring 380,679
    Total votes: 1,076,312

    So average out the total number of voters between the Gov and Lt. Gov race, the average number of registered voters that actually went out to vote was around 1.1 million

    So let’s run the facts here:

    LA County has 10+ million residents
    Out of which 6.1 million are eligible voters
    Out of which 4.9 million are registered voters
    Out of which only 1.1 million showed up to vote

    1.1 million out of 10 million is 11%

    Only 11% of LA County cast the ballot for politicians who’s supposed to represent all the 10 million residents living in LA County.

    If 11% call the shots, then that’s not voter apathy. It’s at the point of the “voting elite” who run things. And the stupid thing is anyone can be the “voting elite” if they bother to register and go out and vote!

    Voter apathy in LA County is beyond pathetic. The people in LA County who think they’re making a point by NOT VOTING are nothing but lazy people who are basically saying they’re okay that 11% “voting elite” get to decide the fate of 10 million residents in LA County and the future of the State of CA.

    • A small dispute: you can’t blame the 30% of the county ineligible to vote because they’re too young, not citizens, on parole, or otherwise unable to vote. Nor can you blame people who work long hours and struggle to find time to vote. Many of them would love to vote, and we’d get much better politics if they did.

      But it certainly is disappointing that so many people who requested mail ballots didn’t return them. They have little excuse.

      • “Nor can you blame people who work long hours and struggle to find time to vote.”

        Unable to vote because “they don’t have time to vote” isn’t really a valid excuse anymore, especially in California when our state has the easiest permanent mail-in ballot registration system compared to other states. It’s simple to register oneself as a permanent mail-in ballot voter at the LA County Registrar’s website, through Covered California, at the DMV, etc. etc. All it takes is less than a minute to register to vote. Then you get the ballot in the mail weeks in advance and you send it in just like any other mail.